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Jul. 21st, 2013

Sansa, Sandor, Blackwater

UPDATE of Beyond the Ice & the Fire: How Fragile is the Heart...

Beyond the Ice & the Fire: How Fragile is the Heart... UPDATE

Hello everyone! :D I just got back from my holiday (Thank you all SO much for your latest reviews, congratulations on the 1 year anniversary of the fic, and for wishing me good luck at the beach- it was great!).

I don’t know how to say this- especially after reading all your praise about how diligent I was with the weekly updates, and with your words about what you hope is happening to Sandor as he marches to Winterfell and war, as well as to the last remaining chapters of the story- and I’m really really sorry for it, but I’m afraid I won’t be updating chapter 54 tonight.

This is mainly happening for 3 reasons. I was away and couldn’t write much at the beach; the muse refused to return home with me; and due to some stuff happening in RL. I promise though that as soon as I can I will update the next chapter. I don’t know when that will be, but hopefully I won’t have to keep you all waiting for too long.

Sorry my dear faithful readers. This is hard to write because I hate to disappoint you L All I can do is thank you for your current patience and please ask you to wait for a bit more. I promise you all I am not deserting the fic (which would be pretty frustrating when I’m so close to finishing it with only like 10 more chapters left to write). But I do need just some days to settle back and write ahead what’s coming, before I can share it with you all.

I hope everyone is doing great. I’ve missed you all, and I both apologize for keeping you waiting, but thank you as well for understanding. Have a wonderful week and rest of the summer! (:

Jul. 7th, 2013

Sansa, Sandor, Blackwater

Beyond the Ice & the Fire: How Fragile is the Heart... Chapter 53b

53b. Bid Time Return

“What have you heard?” she inquired at once.

“It came from a good friend of mine’s in King’s Landing, so it was mostly about what has been occurring in the capital. It spoke of our current High Septon, whom I believe has earned the name the High Sparrow.”

How clever, Sansa thought, a little amused. The High Septon and the members of the Faith Militant had taken the name “sparrow” for themselves since the sparrow was apparently believed to be the most common of birds, and the Faith Militant was made up of the most common of those people sworn to the Faith.  

“The High Septon wasn’t a member of the Most Devout before he was elected, was he?” Sansa inquired, knowing full well that the new High Septon had only earned that title after the sparrows took over the selection process that the members of the Most Devout were conducting, bursting into the room with axes in their hands, and their leader on their shoulders.

“His Holiness was not,” the septon beside Sansa admitted after a brief pause. “And he does not seem to indulge in the traditions that the Most Devout had practiced for years. My friend tells me the High Septon has an iron will.”

Sansa shared that opinion. From what she had heard the current High Septon was very different from the ones Sansa had met in King’s Landing, not only because he had been humble enough to sell his crown in order to feed the poor, but for his more drastic actions and decisions, such as vouching for Cersei Lannister to do a walk of shame through the streets of the capital, and refusing for days to release Margaery Tyrell and her cousins from their arrest due to the various accusation against them and their virtue.

From what Sansa had heard, King’s Landing was now being ruled by Lord Kevan Lannister, and by Mace Tyrell and Randyll Tarly, the former of which had been named Hand of the King, and the latter the Master of Laws. Sansa had not been as surprised as others to learn that Queen Cersei had allowed the Faith Militant to be restored once again after being disbanded from Westeros by King Jaehaerys I- an order which was compromised of the Sparrows or Poor Fellows, and of the knights who called themselves the Warrior’s Sons.

The Poor Fellows were mostly poor peasants, and were similar to the Begging Brothers, since they both wandered the realm and escorted smallfolk through the land, but they, unlike the Begging Brothers, were armed. Lightly in comparison to the Warrior’s Sons, but still, they carried axes and cudgels, and wore star badges, red on white. The knights who joined the Faith Militant were expected to give up their lands, titles and possessions, and wear hair shirts underneath their amour. You could recognize them by the rainbow cloaks falling down their shoulders, and the swords which they carried, since their pommels were star-shaped.

Sansa’s lessons on the Faith Militant had been a little rusty, and she had difficulty in recalling what Maester Luwin had taught her years ago about them, aside from the fact that Maegor the Cruel had repressed them after they started causing trouble to many members of Westeros’ most noble houses.

Sandor had had little love for the Poor Fellows, calling them “bloody fanatics” when The Onion Knight had first told them about what was happening in the south weeks ago, yet that hadn’t stopped him from listening with interest to what Lord Seaworth had learned about them.

“Why do you think Cersei restored them to power if they caused the Seven Kingdoms so much trouble?” Sansa had asked her big man later that day, as they walked side by side down the Waterway Stairs.

“The crown owed the Faith thousands of dragons, little bird,” Sandor had replied, shrugging. “That bitch isn’t the smartest of women, and I bet she thought it wise to have the sparrows on her side rather than risking them all joining someone else who was willing to listen to their sodding cause. Bet Cersei didn’t remember though why Maegor the Cruel put a bounty on the sparrows’ heads in the first place.”

Sansa knew Sandor was probably right, but she could not help but wonder what she would have done had she been the queen in such a situation. She knew of the horrors that had assaulted the countryside- whether it was despoiled septs, or the many brutal killings and tortures many holy men and women had endured- and which had led to the sparrows forming up the Faith Militant, but Sansa didn’t really think that the Seven Kingdoms were any better now that the Poor Fellows and the Warrior’s Sons were once again in the world.

Not wishing to dampen her spirit with the memories of her time in King’s Landing, or with the Lannisters, Sansa was only too glad when Septon Justin interrupted her conversation with Septon Brent, and she quickly excused herself, slipping outside the Old Mint with her faithful yet silent protector Donnel following close at her heels.

They made their way to the back yard, hearing at once the shouts and commotion that were happening as Osha tried to train many of the orphan boys along with Rickon on the best ways to stand when holding a sword.

Many children around Rickon’s own age had gathered around him and the wildling woman, holding wooden sticks and fallen branches of several sizes in their hands as they tried to pay rapt attention to Osha’s instructions. Besides their party, there was a donkey for heavy load, packs of food and goods standing nearby, and three soldiers were cutting lumber. Ser Marlon Manderly, Wyn and Wylla’s uncle, had made it clear to the barracks that they were to send ten men to the Old Mint to help in any way they could during each day.

Sansa waved at Rickon as he showed a bruise on his elbow to a older boy, only to realize a moment later that the older boy was no other than Wex, the mute ironborn boy who had been the one to follow Osha and Rickon all the way from Winterfell to the eastern cost of the north, before the latter fled to Skagos. Sansa waved at the mute boy as well after he bowed his head in her direction, and she then made her way to where Wylla was sitting on a bench at a corner of the yard, stitching clothes from a basket. Donnel’s brothers were also present, Sansa was relieved to se. Domeric was keeping his eyes on Rickon, while Damon stood behind Wylla.

“Where have you been?” Wylla called out to her by way of greeting as Sansa sat down beside her.

“I just escaped Septon Brent,” Sansa confessed, and she proceeded to tell Wylla everything that had just happened with the holy man.

“Poor thing!” Wylla exclaimed, patting Sansa’s hand. “He shouldn’t have mentioned that unfortunate incident. I still can’t believe we fell asleep during his reading last week.”

Sansa was ready to blush all over again at the memory, but she just giggled and shook her head in resignation, hoping dearly that the Seven would not hold their behaviour against them. Her eyes then fell on her wild little brother as he ran and laughed around the yard, and a big wide smile appeared on Sansa’s face at that. It had been too long since she saw Rickon laugh so much, and spending his days here at the Old Mint were proving to help him just as much s they did with her.

For though Rickon no longer had Shaggydog for company, he was at long last spending time with boys and girls his own age, playing and laughing and running, the way Sansa remembered seeing Robb and Jon and Theon doing.

I guess Osha could take the place of Ser Rodrik here then, Sansa gathered, and before she knew it a laugh had escaped her.

Wylla looked quickly at her at that, and smiling commented, “It’s good to hear you laugh again like that, Sansa.”

Sansa knew what her friend meant. Ever since Sandor had left White Harbour, she hadn’t been laughing as much as she was used to. Fisting a corner of her skirts, she returned Wylla’s knowing smile before shrugging silently, trying to keep her mind from straying down the path that her mind was dangerously trying to start to brood upon.

“You know,” Wylla said suddenly, with a careless gaiety that Sansa envied. “I was just thinking moments before you appeared and joined me that it would be wise of you, Wyn and I to ask Osha if she would willing to teach us a little about the best way to defend ourselves should the need ever arise.”

That caught Sansa’s attention.

“Do you mean it, Wylla?” she asked, turning around to look at Osha, her eyebrows raised.

“Yes of course! I- well, I suppose it would be prudent to learn that, and if Osha doesn’t mind… I’m sure that as a spearwife she is one of the toughest women in the north, and has a lot of scars well earned. Who better to teach us than her? All the men have gone away.”

“If Osha doesn’t mind it, I’m sure we could all end up learning much from her.”

“I already started learning from her. She has the most interesting stories from beyond the Wall. Sometimes I fear that I bore her with so many questions, but I just can’t help myself. If she accepts, I think Uncle Marlon would certainly approve of this.”

Sansa nodded, recalling the afternoon long ago when her big man had shown her the best places where she could stab someone, and pointed out with a smile, “Sandor would as well. He would be surprised but more than pleased, I dare say. The poor man tried showing me how to use a dagger for over a year, but it was never really something that interested me enough to practice constantly.

I- I remember the first time he taught me. It was while we were in the Kingswood, shortly after we had escaped the capital, and I was so scared and unsure of what I was doing that I kept on trembling and dropping the blade…”

She must have fallen silent after that, for the next thing she knew Wylla was reaching out to give her hand a squeeze, but Sansa didn’t even feel it. It was too late now. She had allowed herself to remember Sandor for longer than she should’ve during the day, and now there was nothing else for her to do but let her emotions overcome her.

With a sniff, Sansa tried to smile bravely at her friend as she retuned her gaze to Wylla, who opened her mouth as if she were about to say something. She never got the chance to do so though, for a heartbeat later a little girl came running out of the Old Mint to tell Wylla that Septon Justin needed her.

Wylla groaned and stood up reluctantly, ready to follow the girl, but not before she turned to look at Sansa and said, “We’ll make them proud, Sansa. When Sandor and Grandfather and the rest return, we’ll surprise them by showing them how much we’ve practiced.”

Sansa nodded, unable to express how much she hoped that would indeed be the case, before Wylla winked at her and walked away. Left alone to her thoughts, Sansa stared for some moments at her brother and the older children still gathered around Osha, before she abruptly stood up from the bench, feeling the urge to be alone.

That wouldn’t be completely possible though, since in the blink of an eye Donnel was by her side, inquiring solemnly, “My lady?”

“I- I think I want to go look at the sea now,” Sansa informed her guard. “But would you stay here? I want to be alone.”

Her words made Donnel uncomfortable at once. He shifted his weight from one leg to the other, and said uncertainly, “Lady Stark, I- it wouldn’t be wise to-”

“All right,” Sansa interrupted softly, knowing there would be little use in arguing. “Come then.”

She began to walk away from the training yard with Donnel close behind her, towards the pebbled path between the white washed stables and the small groove of trees that led to the flight of wooden steps that had been erected over the small steep slope behind the Old Mint.

Halfway through the wooden stairs Sansa began to feel a little tired, the now familiar feeling of having her lungs squished due to her corset appearing, and though she didn’t say anything about it, Donnel must have noticed her difficulty in breathing, for the next thing she knew he had taken her by the elbow, silently asking her to allow him to support her.

Sansa mumbled, “Thank you,” and side by side her guard and her made their way to the top of the slope. Once they had reached it Sansa sighed, taking in the simple beauty of this place. The snow covered slope stood in the middle of the loud busy city, yet Sansa always managed to feel at peace in this place. Her eyes took in the sight of the many narrow winding streets of White Harbour below her as the sails of the old windmill that stood on the other side of the slope began to creak noisily.

Donnel escorted her to the richly carved archway that had been erected long ago on the slope, and carefully helped her sit down on its pedestal, before he told her he would give her some privacy and go stand guard a short distance away.

She thanked him again as she leaned back against the tall wide column behind her, finding a measure of relative comfort for her aching back at once. Sansa tilted her neck backwards, glad for the shade that the big tree to her right offered, and stared up at the old rusted bell that was hanging from a peg in the middle of the archway. She closed her eyes for a moment, gaining back her strength as she sat in this quiet corner of the world, and when she finally opened her eyes again, Sansa fixed her gaze on the horizon, staring at the distant harbour to her left, not really seeing anything or taking in the beauty of the sight before her, for her thoughts kept her from concentrating on anything that was not Sandor.

During the day Sansa had found that she could keep her mind from brooding about him by keeping herself busy with her tasks at the Old Mint, yet there were moments most days- just like right now- when the overwhelming feelings of loss and loneliness and longing unexpectedly overcame her, and Sansa had to flee to quiet places where she could give herself to her feelings and the memories of her husband without having someone from the Old Mint noticing her pain.

I wish Sandor rather than winter was here, she sighed for the hundredth time this week, wondering what her big man was doing in this very moment, and where he was. The first days after her husband’s departure had been hard for Sansa. She had felt desolate, and had silently cried herself to sleep for three nights. That had stopped after the night when she had accidentally woken Rickon up though.

Since she was now sharing a bedroom with her little brother, she shouldn’t have been so surprised that he had heard her in the end, yet when he had silently crawled into her bed and put his arms around her, trying to give her as much comfort as any boy his age could manage, Sansa had realized that having Rickon see her like that could not do him any good.

I can’t let my grief get the better of me when it’s only been a few weeks since Sandor left me, she had told herself. This is just the start, and even if the old gods and the new are good and heed my prayers, it may still be months before a raven from Sandor even reaches me.

If Sansa was honest with herself, at first the main reason behind her agreeing to come daily to the Old Mint and help the people out had not only been to keep herself from succumbing to restlessness, but also because Sansa needed to distract herself from the ache she felt at not having Sandor beside her. Of not being able to talk to him as he held her hand in his calloused one, or having the rough rasp of his voice be the last thing she heard at night and the first sound she heard in the mornings; or kiss his half scarred lips, and running her hands and lips over his burned face and body all the while taking in his strong male scent, and of so much else.

Sansa turned her gaze to the unclouded sky when she felt the faint breeze of the evening on her face, and she unconsciously raised her fingertips to her lips, brushing them softly as she remembered the way Sandor liked to do this very same gesture to her.

The little things that one usually overlooked in the moments you were with the person that you cared about so much were painful for Sansa to recall these days. Things like being called “little bird” or the way Sandor’s warm breath would feel like against the back of her neck in the mornings when she woke up in his arms. Sansa even missed sharing a cup of wine with her big man at night as they told each other how their day had turned out, or seeing the proud and approving light in his dark grey eyes as she showed him how she looked wearing a new gown.

She had recalled everything they had lived together since they had first met again and again during the weeks since Sandor’s departure in an attempt to tell her tortured heart that it could go on beating even if the man she loved had gone away, and surprisingly, Sansa had found out that with time that life did get easier after a while of getting used to this new way of living.

Over the weeks her old vigour had returned to the point where every day she could hold her head high and come down to the Old Mint with a ready heart and a brave face, but nights were still a different matter, for it had happened more than once lately that Sansa would be resting on her bed after a long day at the shelter, when all of a sudden her baby would start moving inside of her.

The first time Sansa had woken from her sleep due to her child, she had smiled excitedly, and had even turned around to reach out for Sandor, only to recall a moment later that he was not sleeping beside her. Sansa hadn’t been able to go back to sleep at once, preferring to lay back down and silently relish and reflect on what was happening in her tummy where it felt as if butterflies were strongly fluttering around.

It had taken a long time for her sleep to claim her back, but Sansa had spent that night between uselessly bidding the time she had spent with her big man to return, and imagining what lay ahead for Sandor and her and their child once the war and the long winter were but a memory, and they were back in Winterfell.

Sansa was used to waking up in the middle of the night by her child by now, since the baby seemed to prefer to move around whenever she was resting, and Sansa had to remind herself to get used to the lack of sleep, since when her little boy or girl was finally with her, it was probably going to go on waking her, only this time with its cries.

She always giggled when she gathered that at least she would have practice with this custom of waking up in the middle of the night because of the babe, but her big man, if he was here by the time she had given birth, would probably snarl and grumble that the wailing of the child was just as bloody annoying as being woken up by the bells of Norvos had been.

A healing woman had told Sansa that babies were lulled to sleep by the constant movement mothers made during the day, and Sansa could only suppose she was right, because during the day she rarely felt the child or the fluttering feeling.

Carrying a child without her husband beside her wasn’t easy, and being unable to share with him the joy and nerves and excitement that the prospect of having a baby made one feel what she had dreamed of as a girl made it worse, but at least Sansa wasn’t completely alone, since Wylla and Wyn and Osha and many other women, both from the New Castle and the Old Mint, were always asking her how she and the child were doing, offering their assistance whenever Sansa required it.

Even little Rickon had shown he was interested and aware that there was a little person growing inside his sister’s tummy, since he always wanted Sansa to tell him when she felt the baby moving, and after she gave him an encouraging nod he would place a hand on her belly, only to retrieve it quickly, looking at her with wide awed eyes.

The ghost of a smile appeared on Sansa’s face as she remembered that, and she placed her hand on her tummy, staring at the far away mountains in the distance as she sat below the archway on the slope beside the Old Mint in White Harbour.

“I told your father to come back to us soon,” Sansa whispered to her baby, recalling her and Sandor’s parting words as a tear slid down her cheek. “We may have to wait a while, but at least we have each other while we wait for him, and we will keep each other company in the meantime.”

She sniffed and went on looking at the horizon for some moments, only to be interrupted when she heard heavy footsteps behind her, and saw a shadow fall across her face. Sansa turned her head around to find Donnel standing beside her, looming over her like a cliff.

He looked down at her as he said hesitantly, “My lady, I- it’s getting late. We should probably get back to the Old Mint.”

Donnel’s eyes lingered on her face, and Sansa almost shied away from his gaze, not wishing to let her guard see the tears that were about to fall from her eyes, before Sansa realized that something in the man’s voice gave away that he was concerned for her welfare. That made her give him a small smile, and she nodded in agreement and took his hand when he helped her once again get to her feet.

This time she didn’t refuse him when her guard offered her his arm, and as they made their way down the wooden steps on the steep slope, Sansa realized that she was grateful for the man’s quiet discreet presence after Donnel didn’t remark anything regarding the tears she had wiped away from her eyes. Her new sworn shield didn’t make her laugh as Hagen Edar could, and Donnel was certainly not Sandor in any way, but at least he was here to keep Sansa from being alone in moments such as the one she had just had.


My lovely readers, I hope I didn’t make it too painful to you all with this first chapter of Sandor and Sansa’s separation. Thank you for reading and for letting reviews and all. It means a lot, and your encouragements is fuel for the muse (:

- Next week it’ll be a year since I first posted the first two chapters of the fic. It’s been a great journey so far, (one which I am honoured to have been sharing with you all), and I had no idea the story would turn out to be this long or take many of the turns it did in the past back when I first started coming up with the initial plot back in November 2011. Whenever I imagine myself in the future looking back to my first year of college, I smile at the knowledge that I managed to write such a long story at the same time. It makes it memorable, and hopefully helped me improve as a writer a bit.

The reason why I’m saying all of these this Sunday rather than next one is because I’m going to the beach in a couple of days for a week, so I won’t again be able to post next Sunday. Sorry for this when I told you all a little while back that it wouldn’t happen again (I shouldn’t have said that during the summer holidays!). In two weeks though I will be posting chapter 54, so I must thank you for understanding and for your patience once again. At least I will be able in this trip to have internet connection, and won’t be away from the fandom (:

- Also, I guess it’s as good a time as any to let you all know that I’m hoping on having this fic end when I reach chapter 63. The plan is 60 chapters for the story & 3 epilogues that will deal with matters which I can’t yet reveal ;)

& now, sorry for rambling on so much. Thanks once again for your time and for reading!!



Sansa, Sandor, Blackwater

Beyond the Ice & the Fire: How Fragile is the Heart... Chapter 53a

Title: Beyond the Ice & the Fire: How Fragile is the Heart
Author: caroh99
Summary: Sansa escapes with Sandor during the Battle of Blackwater, little guessing that it will change both their fates forever. Far away lands and a journey of self-discovery for both of await them.
Disclaimer: Characters belong to the mastermind that is GRRM. & I guess since this could also apply for tv-show canon then it also belongs to HBO... The story contains dialogue from the books and the show at times. The title for this fic is inspired by Loreena McKennitt's song Dante's Prayer.
Rating: Not suitable for under 16. The rating will become more restricted later on into the story.
Characters/Pairings: Sansa Stark/Sandor Clegane
Word Count: 8, 829
* onborrowedwings , you've been helping me out for 12 months now!! I am so in your debt, and so very grateful to you for your constant support and help. I had no idea this fic would turn out to be so long and all, but I can sat with certainty that it was my lucky day when you told me you wanted to be my beta. The biggest THANK YOU of all, chica!! x)

*The title of this chapter is taken from the book by the same name by Richard Matheson.

“It’s an odd feeling, farewell. There is some envy in it. Men go off to be tested for courage and if we are tested at all is for patience. For doing without. For how well we can endure loneliness. But I had always known that. It didn’t require a war…”

- Quote from the movie Out of Africa.

*I have always loved those words, and I think they capture what women must feel like when they watch their husbands, brothers, sons, fathers and relatives go away to fight, leaving them behind to wait for them. I just wanted to include this at the start of the chapter cause those words kept running in mind over and over again as I wrote chapter 53. (:

53a. Bid Time Return

The baby was wriggling in her young mother’s arms, her little arms getting tangled with the cloth they had wrapped her into, her face starting to turn red from so much restless movement.

“Can I?” Sansa dared ask after a moment, smiling at Ter.

She could tell that her words surprised little Gilly’s mother by the way Ter’s eyes widened, and she looked at her baby and then at Sansa twice before she gave a hesitant nod, and said with ill concealed alarmed, “If- if you like, m’lady, but- you don’t have to.”

“But I want to,” Sansa quickly assured Ter, carefully taking Gilly in her arms, cradling her gently to her chest. “I’m sure she is a charming baby.”

Sansa looked down at Gilly with amusement as the baby rubbed her face with her little fists, before she started hiccupping. Sansa began to hum a tune she hoped would soothe little Gilly, and it thankfully seemed to work, for the baby began to tenderly grab Sansa’s long lock of hair in play.

“She likes you,” Ter said shyly, rocking where she sat at the edge of her pallet on the ground beside Sansa.

Sansa met the young mother’s eyes with a raised eyebrow, and asked, “You really think so?”

Ter nodded in reply, reaching out to brush her child’s soft scarce hair. Though she wasn’t much older than Sansa, there was a shy manner in the way Ter carried herself that made one feel as if the little girl she had been not so long ago was still hiding behind her black bright eyes.

Maybe it was because the age difference between them wasn’t very big, or because both Sansa and Ter were meant to know love and motherhood at such a young age, or maybe it was because Ter’s husband had gone away with Sandor’s garrison to Winterfell, but whatever the reason, there was something in the buxom plump and short young woman with the apple-red cheeks that appealed to Sansa, and which made her wish to become her friend.

“You should be proud,” Sansa told the woman. “Your daughter is very pretty, and I’ve found out that not all babies are so easily calmed.”

“Aye, she takes after Rawney’s side of the family,” Ter replied humbly.

“Rawney is your husband’s name?”

“Yes, m’lady.”

“And are you here with your family, or- ?” Sansa began to enquire, before Ter interrupted her with a shake of the head, and spared her the need to go on with the question as she explained, “No, I’ve got no family no more, m’lady. My mother died when I was little, and father cast me out from the house when I told him I wanted to be with Rawney.”

“I’m sorry to hear that,” Sansa said sincerely.

Ter shrugged carelessly, huddling further into the blanket she’d been given, and went on with growing confidence as she became more at ease in Sansa’s presence, “I expected it, to tell ye the truth. He always wanted me to marry a knight, but no knight ever looked my way, so when Rawney came along and we fell for each other, I never even remember to ask him if he had a ser before his name. Never cared that he was just a soldier till the day he had to leave me and the girl.”

Sansa nodded in understanding, for she knew that even if in the north knights and their vows, along with the Seven and other traditions from the south were of little consequence to its people, here in White Harbour such customs and beliefs were of far greater importance.

We also have this in common then, Sansa thought, realizing that neither Sandor nor Rawney were knights. But a man’s worth is not marked by a ser before his name. She of all people knew that better than anyone after knowing someone like Sandor so well- a man who was disdainful of knighthood and everything it represented, yet was a better man than many of the knights Sansa had known in the past.

“So you are all alone here then?” Sansa asked after a moment, sparing a look at their surroundings as she gathered that Ter had at least been lucky enough to have her child’s father by her side when the time to give birth had occurred.

“Oh no, m’lady,” Ter answered. “Rawney left me with his mother and sisters.”

At least there is someone, Sansa was glad to learn. It was a relief to hear that yet another woman or another orphan were not fending for themselves here in the Old Mint.

“I can tell by the way you speak of him that he is a good man,” Sansa pointed out, recognizing the warmth in Ter’s voice as she spoke of her husband, since it sounded just like Sansa’s own voice did whenever she spoke of her big man.

Ter blushed at that, and confirmed Sansa’s words, encouraging the latter to remark, “Well then, I think both of us are very lucky to have such brave husbands. Our men have gone off to protect us all and save not only my home but the whole north from the horrible men that think to steal it from my brother and me.”

“The Hound-” Ter began, before she realized what she had just called Sansa’s husband, and quickly started stammering, “Oh! I- I’m sorry- I- Lord Clegane, I meant- is- I’m sorry, m’lady.”

“It’s all right,” Sansa told the young woman, used to the fact that despite the Manderlys open support of her husband, and her clear love for him, it was going to take years before the north stopped thinking of Sandor as anything other than the Hound. “What were you going to say about my husband, Lord Clegane?”

Ter still looked deeply sorry for her blunder, but after Sansa smiled kindly at her, the young mother answered, “I was just going to say that- that Lord Clegane must be very proud. For- for your own baby, I mean.”

“Oh yes, he is,” Sansa confirmed at once, her smile widening confidently. “I don’t think I will ever forget the way he looked when we learned we were expecting our first child.”

The memory of that whole day would never fade in Sansa’s mind, and even now the knowledge that she was carrying the child of the man she loved so much overwhelmed her. Still smiling, Sansa lowered her face to stare down at little Gilly in her arms, and she delicately shifted the girl so she could reach out and pat the baby’s smooth cheek with her thumb, before she met the child’s eyes as Gilly gave her a long soft look.

Sandor would certainly be awkward when it came to handle the baby, Sansa found herself thinking. But it would only be at first. I’m certain he would warm up to our child soon enough, and the baby to its father as well.

“You’ll be a great mother,” Ter said some moments later, breaking Sansa from her reverie.

Sansa’s smile faltered a little at that. She wasn’t even sure yet what was she carrying, despite Sandor’s certainty at their baby being a boy, but everything so far was so new to Sansa, and Wyn and Wylla could not really help her, since they had never been with child themselves: driving her to seek the help of the septas and the healing women of the New Castle and the Old Mint. It’s just a little hard sometimes, to be all alone in this of all times.

“You are too kind,” Sansa replied at last, handing back little Gilly at last to her mother. “I certainly hope so, but I would feel more at ease were I to know that if the moment ever came, I could count on your help for any question I may have about the birth, or how to deal with being a mother at such a young age.”

Sansa didn’t think by the look on Ter’s face that she could have said anything else that would please the mother so much. She seemed surprised yet genuinely honoured to have Sansa seeking her advice, and was quick to assure her that she would be here for anything she needed.

“You and Lady Wynafryd and her sister the Lady Wylla have been so generous to us all here,” Ter told Sansa. “And anything I can do to help ye, don’t doubt asking me, m’lady. Thank you so much Lady Stark.”

“It’s nothing,” Sansa replied, content.

She made Ter promise to come to her or Wyn or Wylla whenever she needed something for herself or her baby, before she shifted around on the little stool where she had been sitting, looking for Donnel, one of her and Rickon’s sworn shields, and finding him standing guard some steps behind her.

Donnel noticed what Sansa wanted to do at once, and in the blink of an eye he bent down and was helping her to her feet. Sansa thanked the big man as he offered her his arm, which she declined, bidding Ter and Gilly farewell before she began to make her way down one of the many narrow rows of straw pallets and little fires that had been accommodated on the ground of the Old Mint.

She could hear Donnel’s heavy footsteps behind her despite all the noise around her, and sighed, not only because the man following her wasn’t Sandor, but because it wouldn’t be that long before she grew big with child, and would be unable to refuse Donnel’s assistance if she meant to continue her visits to this refuge shelter. She wanted to continue at least until the point where she would have to start her confinement in the New Castle in order to avoid falling ill, and risking her child’s safety. Sansa had already started gaining a little weight after all, and her clothes felt as tight as ever, to the point where the dressmaker had been forced to take away most of her gowns so she could re-adjust them around the waist line.

Sansa nodded at the people who gave her a bow or a curtsy, calling her “Lady Stark,” when she passed them by. As she walked over the woollen carpets that covered the ground of the cavernous high ceiling long wide building, amongst the cloisters of people all around her, she could not help but feel pleased to see that the Old Mint was as busy and as crowded as ever. It was full of smallfolk, amongst them women, children and old men, and though many had died in the time Sansa had spent so far in White Harbour, many arrived daily from the lands around the White Knife, desperately seeking the shelter that the thick whitewashed walls of this place afforded from not only the war now, but from winter.

At least they no longer have to eat by begging or stealing or selling their bodies, Sansa gathered, as a group of little children saw her walking near them, and ran to hold her hands and hide in her skirts, laughing with her. There were many children being fostered in this shelter, and though most of them were underfed and had lost loved ones or seen horrible things at a young age, they were always ready to trust and grow fond of you once they got to know you.

And getting to know the northerners seeking shelter in the Old Mint was what occupied most of Sansa’s days now. Less than a week after Sandor and his garrison had left White Harbour, Wylla and Wyn had proposed to Sansa that it might do them all good to increase the time they were spending in helping the poor, offering any help they could possibly give to the refugees.

Sansa had accepted at once, grateful for the distraction, and pleasantly surprised when Osha admitted she wanted to lend a hand, encouraging little Rickon to offer his help as well. Maybe they want to feel useful just like I do, Sansa had supposed when she had first heard her brother telling her that he was planning on accompanying her.

But whatever the reason, it didn’t really matter. Coming here to the Old Mint and getting to know the people living here was the best thing that could have happened to Sansa at this moment of her life, when she stood in a position where many looked up to her, yet felt so alone at times that even the encouraging prospect of becoming a mother failed to cheer her up during Sandor’s absence.

There was much to be done in the Old Mint aside from lending the coin to buy food supplies or giving the shelter provisions, Sansa had discovered quickly. So far she had spent days looking after children, cooking, washing, supervising the mending, stitching and hemming, or aiding the healing women with the sick. Having work to do felt refreshing to her, even if sometimes Sansa would only end up assisting someone else in these tasks; since not only had she never in her life learned how to scrub a floor, among many other things, but the people in charge said that they did not think it fit to have the Manderly ladies or Lord Eddard’s daughter meddling with such tasks.

Yet the favourite thing Sansa enjoyed doing so far was getting to really know the people of the Old Mint. It wasn’t only that Sansa felt somehow responsible for them all since they were her brother’s people, but the knowledge that she was actually not only helping them by sharing their workload, and making their hard lives a little easier, but by becoming their friends, humbled and strengthened Sansa both at the same time, reminding her of how important it was to be a good ruler to the people you were meant to look after.

Maybe I cannot go and fight for Winterfell, and rid the north of our foes, Sansa had realized some weeks ago, but I can get to know the northeners in a way that would make Father and Mother proud of me; a way she hoped she could teach her own child when the time came, if they all managed to come out of this war on the winning side, and they survived the long winter. Even Wyn and Wylla had remarked at how easily it was for Sansa to win over the smallfolk, earning their trust faster than others did.

Sansa had quickly discovered that she was a good listener, and didn’t mind spending hours each afternoon learning about the lives of the women who had lost and learned just as much as she had during the past years, or about the stories the old men that were also living at the shelter had to tell. I feel useful here, and I’m occupied from morning till dusk.

She especially liked hearing the tales about the men who had fought alongside her father during Robert’s Rebellion or Balon Greyjoy’s First Rebellion, and Sansa would encourage everyone to share with her their hopes and histories, answering the questions the smallfolk ventured to ask her from time to time with a smile and a readiness that startled yet pleased them.

As Sansa reached the wide room at the back of the cavernous hall where Wynafryd was supervising the cooking of the meals for later today, Sansa asked her friend if there was anything she could do, but was told by Wyn that there wasn’t.

“The food is almost ready,” Wynafryd told her, looking pointedly at her tummy. “And in any case, shouldn’t you go and seat down and rest, Sansa?”

“I’ve just spend almost an hour sitting down,” Sansa answered, covering her bump unconsciously with her hand, and sparing a look behind her to see if Donnel was still following her. “I was with that young mother Ter and her little girl. Are you certain you don’t need me to go see if the table is already being set at the common room?”

Wyn actually laughed at that, and with a shake of the head replied, “I am certain, I assure you. Everything is almost ready as I said. The butter has been churned, the bread will soon be taken out of the oven, and you can probably tell by the smell of the crab stew that dinner will be ready in less than an hour.”

Sansa’s tummy tightened as the smells of the food reached her. She looked over at the boiling pots above the fires, glad for the fact that even if the food of the Old Mint was quite plain, it tasted good and was fulfilling, even if there wasn’t too much variety in what the smallfolk ate here, some days alternating between a thick stew of crabs or mussels, and several different kinds of fishes.

With a reluctant shrug and a long sigh Sansa turned around and walked away, gathering that in this spare time she should then go and pay a visit to the Old Mint’s sept, since she hadn’t yet prayed today to the Seven for Sandor and Hagen and Shaggy and all the other brave men who had gone away.

The sept in the refuge wasn’t really what one would call a proper sept, since it only consisted of a little room in one of the corners of the Old Mint being turned into a modest altar where wooden carved figure of the new gods had been placed- a room that was lightened up by candles at all times, its only decoration being the stained glass windows set in pointed arches to either side.

At this hour it was empty when Sansa arrived but for an old man with a bent back who was whispering a prayer before the altar of the Smith. Sansa’s eyes fixed on the figure of the Warrior at once, and she stood there on the threshold of the sept for a long time, her thoughts and prayers on her husband, before all of a sudden she gave a little start when a heavy hand was placed on her shoulder and a rough voice said, “My lady.”

A shiver ran through her body as Sansa heard that, but it only took her a moment to come out of her train of thoughts and realize who the voice and the hand belonged to. Not Sandor’s, she thought quickly with a heavy heart. No, how could it be? Of course it couldn’t be his.

Donning a smile on her face, Sansa turned around, exclaiming, “You startled me, Septon Brent.”

“I apologize for that. Yet is good to see you here with the gods, Lady Clegane,” Septon Brent said with that rough voice of his, giving Sansa the shadow of a bow.

Septon Brent was one of the few people in White Harbour who called Sansa by her married name, and she never cared to correct him, since she enjoyed hearing herself being addressed like that by others.

“I was praying to the Warrior for my husband’s welfare,” Sansa admitted as she began to walk away from the little sept in order to avoid her conversation with the septon’s interrupting the old man at his prayers.

“Ah yes, Sandor Clegane,” the septon replied, walking beside her. “I have included him in my prayers ever since I had the honour of meeting you both.”

“Thank you for that,” Sansa said, trying to hide the little smirk that came to her face as she imagined the expression on Sandor’s face and the remark he would have rasped were he to learn this. “I greatly appreciate it.”

Though Sansa knew that Sandor had never cared much for the man, Sansa couldn’t really find any fault with Septon Brent. He was a learned man who knew the Seven Pointed Star by memory, and had been a wandering septon for decades before the war, alternating between visiting the scarce market towns, small villages, and holdfast in the north, and living on the smallroads, unmapped tracks, and caves in the wild, all the while naming newborn babies, performing marriages and absolving sins.

The children had confided to Sansa that many were a little scared of him due to his appearance, and his stern expression. The man had a heavy jaw, a veined red nose, a wind burnt face with grey bushy eyebrows, and a shaved head. He always wore brown woolen robes that went down to his ankles, with wide bell sleeves and a pointed cowl.

The cowl was thrown back in this moment, Sansa noticed, and recalling that Ter had told her earlier that she was also a little frightened of this man, Sansa decided to remark, “I was just with Ter, the young woman who had her child a fortnight ago.”

“Ter..? Ah yes, I know of whom you speak. One of our young mothers. Her husband went away with yours to Winterfell, didn’t he?”

“Yes,” Sansa answered, leading the way out of the cavernous room, and stepping into the cool narrow corridor that led to the backyard outside the building where she knew her brother and Osha and Wylla were at. “He left her with his own family because Ter’s father made it clear he never wanted to see her again after she told him whom was she marrying.”

Septon Brent sighed and rubbed his face twice before commenting, “A sad tale, but I’ve just heard of a sadder one today. Brother Robin just informed me that the guards down at the Seal Rock ended up hanging that poor boy who attacked the beggar three days ago.”

“Oh no,” Sansa said, remembering the incident. “How old was he?”

“Fourteen, I believe,” the septon replied, waving his hand. “I can understand why it had to be done, but still, he was a boy.”

“It is horrible,” Sansa agreed, thinking back on her own siblings and the possible horrors they had all been made to endure.

“And it’s just the beginning,” Septon Brent commented darkly. “Brother Owen, Brother Justin, Brother Robin and I are doing the best we can to avoid disorder, but there is so much to do. We are busy with a hundred duties, and there is more to do with every passing day.

Though we are really grateful to you and both Lady Manderlys’, I’m afraid of what will we do when winter is truly upon us. How will we feed so many mouths? I can only beseech the gods to have mercy on us all, and keep this city from being stricken by some plague or disease.”

“If there is anything I can do,” Sansa began to say, recalling the coin Hagen Edar had saved for her in the Iron Bank, before the septon interrupted her with, “You are doing enough already, Lady Clegane, as are Lady Wynafryd and Lady Wylla. I expect that the time of your confinement will soon arrive, but when it does I will ask of you to keep on praying to the Seven- and not only for your husband, but for all of us.”

“Of course,” Sansa promised, entwining her hands before her. “I will do so daily, and by the Old Gods as well, you can be sure of that. I trust you know how much the people appreciate all that you and the brothers are doing for them.”

The hint of a small smile betrayed Septon Brent’s face for a heartbeat, before he remarked, “I shall try and remember that tonight during readings.”

She could not help but blush at that, and looked down at the floor in shame, remembering what had happened last week, when the smallfolk had invited her and the others to stay and dine with them in the common room.

Everything had gone well at first. Septon Robin had pronounced a prayer before the food was served on the long trestle tables, and a woman had even played for them all on a little harp she had managed to bring with her from her home. She had filled the room with its soft sweet sounds for a time, before Septon Brent stood up and announced he would continue his nightly reading of the The Seven-Pointed Star.

Sansa had listened at first with rapt attention, easily remembering nights long ago spent in Winterfell with her lady mother reading out loud to her the same words, and had therefore been just as surprised as everyone else in the hall when she realized about an hour later, along with everyone else in the hall, that Wylla, Wyn and herself had fallen asleep where they sat, missing more than half of Septon Brent’s reading.

The hall had erupted in laughter at that, and Sansa and her friends had giggled until they met Septon Brent’s stern cold expression, regarding them with reproach.

They walked in silence for some moments now, Donnel’s heavy footsteps following close behind Sansa and the holy man, before Septon Brent remarked thoughtfully, “War has not yet truly reached us here. Yet tidings of the events happening in the Seven Kingdoms do. Even this morning a raven arrived from the south, with some news that surprised me.”

The second part of this chapter can be foudn here :)

Jun. 30th, 2013

Sansa, Sandor, Blackwater

Beyond the Ice & the Fire: How Fragile is the Heart... Chapter 52b

52b. The Girl I Left Behind Me

“If you do not mind, then I would now like to take a brief moment to bid farewell to some of the brave and gallant knights that ride out today,” Sansa told the people of the New Castle, earning even more of their love than she already had.

Sandor had grown up with the Lannisters, and knew what the smallfolk and nobleborn thought of the lions of the west, so it was not difficult for him to catch the sharp contrast between people who actually seemed happy and proud of their rulers, and the way everyone had hated or at least disliked Tywin Lannister and his sick offspring.

With wary eyes and a loosened sword inside his scabbard after the little bird asked him to please remain on the dais with her brother, Sandor watched his wife descend the steps and walk over to the first line of knights, flanked by Hagen Edar and Donnel and Damon, two of the three brothers the Manderlys had assigned to guard over Sansa and Rickon and Lady Wynafryd and Lady Wylla after Sandor had at last decided to accept those men near the people he cared for most in this world.

The little bird greeted fifteen knights, and whenever she was done with one idiot, the man would call out a blessing in her honour. If they’ve grown to love the Starks n the weeks we’ve spent here, they’re going to go mad for them now. Yet what surprised Sandor was to see how Sansa decided to stop and talk to the fucking knights who had wanted to draw steel against him after they had first arrived at White Harbour.

Seven hells, she wouldn’t dare, Sandor thought in alarm, even as Sansa actually turned to look at him with a smile after she left her place before Ser Arron and the sodding Manderly brothers, Ser Rickard and Ser Rorn. Sandor knew by his wife’s smile and the expressions on the knights’ faces what his mad little bird had just interceded for him to those sons of whores. She probably told them how much we mean to each other and how she is sure that by entrusting me to their bloody care she is certain no harm will come to me, Sandor gathered, a suspicion that was confirmed when Edar looked over at him and gave him a look that defy him to question his wife’s actions or the naïve reasoning behind it.

But when the little bird climbed back to the dais and walked over to him as the crowd began talking momentarily amongst themselves about everything that had happened that they had just learned, Sandor wasn’t able to reproach Sansa for what she had just done for him, and only rasped roughly when she stood before him and he had regarded her with an annoyed frown, “I didn’t know you were going to do that.”

“Are you angry with me, Lord Clegane?”

Sandor shrugged, but also gave a brief shake of his head to let his wife know he wasn’t. If only for Sansa’s sake Sandor wished her pleas about him to the puffed up knights would work better than the ones she’d done for her father to Joffrey.

Looking thoroughly relieved that he was not angry with her for asking the sodding knights to stop resenting him, Sansa chirped prettily, “I’m glad, then. I actually feared I would give myself away to you at any moment and you would then find out about it and ask me not to do it.”

“Why?” he growled.

“Because I’m a terrible liar, remember? You’ve said so yourself more than once in the past. And it-”

Sandor cut her off before she could finish by snarling, “You’re not as bad as you used to be, Sansa. And you did well with your speech. Better than well.”

“Thank you,” Sansa said, as he reached out to give her hand a quick squeeze, mindful of all the eyes that were on them as they stood upon the dais. “I was so nervous at first, but your child gave me the strength and courage that I needed.”

Fuck. The little bird couldn’t have said anything better to make him feel as if his heart had lodged in his throat. Sandor had already bid his farewells to their child last night, marveling at the taut firmness of his wife’s belly, as he tried to gather his thoughts to see what exactly he could tell his child, because even if Sandor knew how bloody stupid talking to the bird’s tummy must have looked like, he wanted his child to know who its father had been. Had I said nothing to him- or her- I would have regretted it forever.

Sansa’s Tully blue stare was piercing as Sandor took a step forward, and gently yanked her closer to him. He would have cursed the crowd before them to burn in seven hells and not even turn to look as he took Sansa in his arms and kissed her long and deep, but just in that the moment between them broke as Rickon’s voice cut through the air as he said, “My sister Sansa and I can’t fight because she is going to have a baby and I am not big enough yet, though we both wanted to go home very much. I agree with everything she said because I know our men will win. Even if I can’t go, I’ve chosen for my direwolf Shaggydog to go with Sandor to win Winterfell back for us, and kill the bad people that stole it from us, for even if Sandor was born in the south, he’s a northerner now.”

Sansa and Sandor turned to look at the men and women before them as they all drew in their breath as one. They all looked as shocked as when Sansa had told them about their babe, but Rickon had faced worse thing that disapproving stares or unbelieving whispers, and despite his age, he was already their lord, and the northerners didn’t dare contradict him- at least not to his young face- about this decision.

So the boy, who looked the part of a lord after his sister had made sure he was washed and his hair was cut, went on saying after the tumult had died down a bit, “Sandor’s horse Stranger will be going as well. Stranger and Shaggy will frighten anyone who comes upon them. You can all trust me on that. You’ll see. Shaggy, come!”

And then, without another moment to lose, Sandor saw how the big black direwolf who had squatted on his hindquarters this whole time at the back of the dais, his green eyes observing everything and everyone, bounded to his feet and stalked towards his masters side.

“Sandor, you must come here too,” Rickon told him, looking back at him and Sansa.

Sandor strode forward after Sansa gave him a little smile of encouragement, but he didn’t really like doing this, since he hadn’t even wanted to take the wolf with him in the first place, but if the little bird’s brother didn’t do this, then Shaggy wouldn’t to part from the boy’s side.

“Shaggy, you must go with Sandor now,” Rickon told the direwolf as if the animal was a person as he cupped the wolf’s head in his hands and looked deep into his eyes. “You must protect him because he’s your brother now, too, but also because the North needs you. You know I’m too little and can’t go. So you must go and fight in my stead, for the Starks, for your brother Grey Wind and your sister Lady.

I want you to obey Sandor in everything. That’s an order. You can’t leave him alone, not in the day or in the night. Follow him everywhere just like you follow me. Do you understand? You can’t fail me, Shaggy, because if you do then me and Sansa will be alone again, and you too, cause then how could Summer and Nymeria and Ghost have a home to return to like Jojen promised? I will meet you again here but we must each hunt alone for a time now. Promise me you’ll return too, Shaggy.”

The wolf looked his master in that moment as if he understood every word, Sandor thought. A deep growl came from Shaggy’s throat as Sandor caught Sansa’s stare then, and though the little bird looked moved by what was happening, she didn’t cry. She only stared at him as if he was the only man in the world left.

A sniff caught Sandor’s attention though, and when he turned around to look back at Rickon and the direwolf, Sandor was surprised to see that the boy was not staring at Shaggydog, but was actually looking at him as he said, “Promise me by the old gods you’ll return.”

He’s asking me to promise him I’ll not fail and will return alive, Sandor realized quickly. And the boy was doing it by asking him to swear by his gods! He’s pretending to talk to Shaggy to appear brave, but he’s talking to me.

With a brief curt nod he hoped not many noticed, Sandor had no other to choice but to silently promise Rickon that he would come back, disliking it because he knew there was a chance he wouldn’t, and lying to the boy was not going to do him one bit of good, but Sansa’s brother was looking at him the way Sansa always did just before she was about to cry, and thinking about his little bird crying was not something Sandor needed in these trying moments. I have to be strong for her sake.

After he had nodded in Rickon’s direction, the boy started crying as he threw his arms around the direwolf, but Shaggydog was so big Rickon couldn’t really even wrap his arms around the animal’s neck. The wolf nuzzled at his master first, before he decided to instead roughly lick the tears that were falling down the lad’s cheeks, but when Rickon said loudly, “Go now,” Shaggydog twisted free of the boy’s grasp, his ears pricked up, and bounded to Sandor’s side as he stood upon the dais before several dozens of people.

Feeling conscious of his every bloody move, and of the whispers and the stares that were directed at him, Sandor went on one knee beside the direwolf and scratched the thick black fur on his neck, remembering that morning back in Braavos when this very wolf had thrown him to the ground in the middle of Ragman’s Harbour. His eyes remind me of the wildfire every single sodding time I look at him.

“Shaggydog,” Sandor rasped, as the wolf observed him, his hot breath rising in a white mist before his face. He could have laughed right there and then as he wondered if he was the first man who was not a Stark who had ever had a direwolf- even if only for a while. Yet Sandor’s laugh would have been a bitter one, for he had just gained a wolf, but would be leaving his wife and child behind.

When he raised his head to look at the little bird, Sansa was smiling softly down at him because she knew that was better than letting the crowd see her grief. When the Manderlys started walking towards the steps so they could get down from the dais, Sandor, Sansa, Rickon, the direwolf, Hagen, Donnel and Damon followed. Sandor and Sansa both did it with a heavy heart though, and the moment their feet touched the ground the little bird reached out to grab his hand in a tight grip as she stared for a moment at her brother as Osha said to him, “Say your goodbyes, little man,” when Hagen and The Onion moved forward in their direction.

His beautiful Sansa turned around to look up at him after a moment only to find him already gazing down at her with longing in his eyes.

“You have the dagger with you, don’t you?” Sandor asked her in a serious tone.

Sansa’s eyes widened a bit at that, but after a moment she nodded and patted a pocket of her skirts.

“Yes,” she assured him, already drawing it out to show him.

Sandor reached out to stop her, glancing to his side before he shook his head and growled, “Keep it hidden. At all times. And don’t forget that I’ve thought you how to use it if the need arises.”

She opened her pretty mouth to say something, but didn’t get the chance to get the words out for in that moment Davos strode over to them so he could bid his farewells to Sansa. Reluctantly they turned away from each other, though they were close enough so that their backs kept on grazing against the other as the Manderlys stepped beside him so they could bid him farewell.

Sandor tried to pretend that he was listening to what Wynafryd, Wylla and Ser Marlon were telling him, but all he could think about was his little bird, and how these were truly the last moments they would be together.

When the Manderlys moved off to talk to Seaworth after he had asked them to look after his family, Sandor turned around and looked at his wife as Hagen hugged her like a long-lost sister, while she chirped, “Please make sure he takes care to keep warm. Please keep him safe, Hagen. He means the world to me.”

“I will,” Hagen replied, meeting Sandor’s eyes, amusement etched over his bloody face. “You are an extraordinary woman, Sansa, and I hope that as your sworn arrow I do not disgrace you in the trials at hand.”

“I know you won’t, my gallant sworn arrow” Sansa said, leaning her head on Sandor’s chest as he walked over to her side, settling his hands on her waist. “Take care as well, my dearest friend. And please, remember to be careful with Stannis.”

Bloody hells, Sandor thought sullenly when Sansa and he had to part sides once again while he bid farewell to Rickon once he was finished with Osha and the Lorathi had stepped forward to shake the wildling woman’s hand, thanking her for all her patience when she had taught him about the Common Tongue and the customs of the north. She’s sending Edar as my sodding wet-nurse. That annoyed him greatly.

“Back when I was at Winterfell,” Osha told Hagen with a wry smile. “I thought there could not be a better archer than that smiley Theon Greyjoy, the old gods curse him. But you’ve proven me wrong. You’re better, and those whole bunches of kneelers you’re taking to war with you are lucky to have you teaching them.”

“Ah my dearest lovely Osha! I thank you,” Edar exclaimed, laughing and giving the startled wildling woman a hug.

When Hagen moved away Sandor stepped forward so that he could ask Osha to please protect and look after Sansa and Rickon both. And my child too.”

When Sandor was done warning Dammon and Donnel to be on their guard, he walked over to young Rickon, who was standing all by himself, looking at him as Shaggydog followed his footsteps.

“I don’t want you to go,” Rickon said, lips trembling and eyes still shining bright with tears once Sandor had reached him. “Nor Shaggy. Do you think you will have come back by my name day? Sansa says it’ll be soon, but I don’t remember when it was.”

“I don’t really think we will be able to make it when you turn eight,” Sandor admitted. “But what I can promise you is that I will take care of your wolf, and will do my best to return to your sister’s and your side as soon as possible. You believe me?”

Rickon sniffed and nodded vigorously. Good, Sandor thought, considering for a moment if he should risk it before deciding that he should. Fuck, I’m going off to war. I have to ask someone trustworthy this even if that someone is only a seven year old.

“Now it’s my turn to ask you to do something for me, boy,” Sandor rasped, squatting before Rickon as he put a hand on the boy’s shoulder to steady himself. “Rickon, you’re the Lord of Winterfell. You’re the man in your family, and have to take care of your sister. If- Rickon if something were to happen to her-”

“Sandor, she’s my sister,” Rickon interrupted, sparing him the need to go on. “I’ll protect her like Robb and Bran did with me, and her baby too. Like you and Osha have, and I will keep on practicing my training too.”

To have Rickon say these things, and to hear how certain he seemed that just because the little bird was his sister, it was obvious he was going to protect her, surprised Sandor more than anything that had happened this morning. The sharp reality between the relationship between the Stark siblings and the one he and Arwyn had had with Gregor had never been clearer.

Trying hard to hide his smirk, Sandor reached out to ruffle the boy’s hair, and snarled, “You’ll be a good Lord of Winterfell one day, Rickon. I’m proud of you.”

Rickon looked at him with big wide hopeful eyes- eyes that looked too much like Sansa’s. Looking quickly around him to make sure no one saw, Sandor leaned over to give Sansa’s brother an awkward hug. He had meant for it to be brief, but Rickon clung to him as a drowning person would a raft in the middle of sea, so Sandor had no choice but to give the lad a couple of pats on the back, before Osha moved forward and said, “There there, Rickon. Let Lord Clegane go bid your sister farewell now.”

After Rickon and Osha had walked away, Sandor sighed long and deep, and stood up slowly. His eyes met Shaggydog’s as the wolf kept on staring at him and Rickon with the head tilted to one side, as if he was still trying to understand that he was meant to leave the boy’s side for good. With a shake of the head, Sandor turned around to see where his little bird had flown to, knowing with a heavy heart the time had come for them to bid their farewells.

Sandor was not surprised when he saw moments later that Sansa was standing by her own a little distance ahead looking at him as she hugged herself. Her eyes said so much there was no need for her to even chirp for him to understand or feel what was going on behind the beautiful composed masked she had donned on as an expression.

Slowly, Sandor walked up to her in five long strides, and when he’d reached her he took one good look at her before snarling quietly, “Will you come with me?”

With a little smile Sansa nodded, and then they started walking side by side, she followed him towards the shadow of the castle walls where he had tied Stranger up earlier. Before they had even reached the horse they were already holding hands. Once Stranger saw them and gave a loud neigh of recognition, Sandor led the little bird around his warhorse so the animal could conceal them and give them some sort of privacy in these moments.

Everything that he had lived through with the little bird was running through his mind as he pushed Sansa against the wall, making it harder for him to say everything that he wanted to tell his wife now. So instead Sandor looked Sansa over top to bottom, before taking her in his arms, holding her close to him, his hand buried in the hair at the back of her head, his scarred lips pressed to her forehead. She smells so good, so sweet. She always has.

“I don’t want you to go,” Sansa told him in a hoarse voice, as she started trembling in his arms.

“I don’t want to go,” Sandor admitted roughly, as his bird raised her face, tilting her neck back.

Sandor lowered his face, and at first Sansa kissed him lightly, but the merest brush of her lips on his only made him claim her mouth hard, and before long his little bird was pressing kisses on both sides of his face, lingering on his burns a heartbeat more than she did on the stubble that grew on the other side. Sandor could feel his eyes burning, and overwhelmed, he suddenly dropped to one knee and grabbed Sansa’s gloved hand, kissing the ring he had made for her.

He raised his eyes to look at the woman before him, noticing with pride how Sansa wasn’t weeping in these moments. Young as she was, she truly was a princess born. Her smile was a little tremulous, but she was bearing herself with courage and dignity.

“Come back to me, big man,” Sansa told him, cupping his face with one hand, as she grabbed his hand with her free one and placed them both over her tummy, looking up at him with such intensity that Sandor felt his insides tightened. “Come back to us both.”

Sandor quickly stood up and pulled the little bird back for more kisses, refusing to let her go just yet as he growled, “I love you,” kissing Sansa’s face in between every word. “And don’t worry about me.”

By then Seaworth and Edar were mounting, and grooms and squires were coming forward to give their mounts to the knights and bannermen. When Sandor got up on Stranger, he gave his little wife a smirk and ran his finger down the bridge of her nose as she came over to place her hand on his knee, asking him with ill concealed concern, “You aren’t missing anything, are you? I made sure you had food in your saddlebag and water in your skin, a blanket for Stranger and three for you, but I feel as if there’s something else that-”

“I haven’t forgotten anything, little bird,” Sandor assured her, smirking down at her. “And I’m certain neither have you.”

Sansa’s eyes left him momentarily when Shaggydog appeared before them all of a sudden, staring at Stranger as the warhorse lowered his face to him. With a weak chuckle Sansa ran the fingers of her free hand over Stranger’s dark mane, telling Sandor’s horse, “We’ll take care of Nan and Horse for you, but you must also take care of my husband, you know.”

Stranger gave a loud neigh at Shaggy as the wolf turned around, alert, and with resigned laugh, Sansa turned back to look at Sandor again.

“I love you too, Sandor,” she said softly, giving his knee a squeeze.

Sansa,” was all Sandor could rasp, as he leaned down towards the little bird for one last kiss. Take care of yourself, and- and of the babe.”

The little bird nodded, promising him silently that she would do so. It almost felt to Sandor as if the hardest thing he’d ever done in his life was ride away from Sansa’s side afterwards...


They poured out the castle gates in a river of white, grey, blue-green, and polished silver as Shaggydog, who was flanking Sandor’s side along with Hagen, gave a long howl, to Stranger’s snort of approval. Sansa had told him that she would climb the walls of the New Castle to watch him leave, and Sandor could not help himself and kept turning back to stare at the distant figure of his little bird as a strong northern wind caught in her loose long auburn hair.

He was glad to notice the hulking figures behind Sansa, since it meant Damon and Donnel had already taken their place as his wife’s guards. Sandor knew that his neck would be hurting by the time dusk fell and they settled down for the night, but he didn’t care about that one bloody bit as he and his men made their way west, to a land not only full of enemies on all sides, but which was been stricken by the worst winter that the north had seen in decades. Sandor was relieved at least that his wife would be spared all of that, as he imagined the day when he would be riding in the opposite direction- on the day he came back to White Harbour to the little bird.

A/N: A big thank you to everyone who reads, reviews, leaves kudos or bookmarks this chapter/story. I couldn’t write this fic without your constant and encouraging support :D
Sansa, Sandor, Blackwater

Beyond the Ice & the Fire: How Fragile is the Heart... Chapter 52a

Title: Beyond the Ice & the Fire: How Fragile is the Heart
Author: caroh99
Summary: Sansa escapes with Sandor during the Battle of Blackwater, little guessing that it will change both their fates forever. Far away lands and a journey of self-discovery for both of await them.
Disclaimer: Characters belong to the mastermind that is GRRM. & I guess since this could also apply for tv-show canon then it also belongs to HBO... The story contains dialogue from the books and the show at times. The title for this fic is inspired by Loreena McKennitt's song Dante's Prayer.
Rating: Not suitable for under 16. The rating will become more restricted later on into the story.
Characters/Pairings: Sansa Stark/Sandor Clegane
Word Count: 7,043
* onborrowedwings is the beta behind this work, and I am so very grateful to have her helping me!! x)

*The title of this chapter is taken from the book Vanity Fair: A Novel without a Hero by William Makepeace Thackeray.

52a. The Girl I left Behind Me

Snow eddied around them all, making skirts and capes snap noisily. Sandor had never seen the New Castle so crowded. Cooks, servants, blacksmiths, stable boys, ladies, bannermen and knights, among many others had all gathered together in the castle’s yard to watch the garrison depart, and outside soldiers were ranked up in lines waiting. They won’t have to wait for long though. Everything was ready, only the usual speeches and formalities had to be done, and then the little bird and he would say their farewells together with the others, and then they would depart.

They were fifty strong, yet none of the men that would be joining them in the march to Winterfell had been allowed to be free riders or sworn swords at Ser Marlon and Sandor’s decision. Over everyone’s heads, banners emblazoned with the direwolf of Stark and the merman of Manderly whipped back and forth in the wind, but as soon as they reached the outskirts of the city Sandor was going to have the Stark banners pulled down, since the north could not yet know about the bloody vengeance he and the others in their host were taking to Winterfell.

Sandor took a deep breath of the crisp morning air, glad for the plain but warm clothes on his back. He was wearing high leather boots and leather gloves, and beneath his chainmail and armour roughspun breeches and tunic, and a sleevless leather jerkin. The heavy woolen cloak that the Manderly sisters had given him as a sign of their good will towards him was fastened with the wooden clasp in the shape of a dog and a direwolf Rickon had given him yesterday.

His little bird meanwhile confirmed what he had always known all along- that she was the most beautiful woman in this world. She stood beside him in the dress she had been meaning to wear on the day she stepped into Winterfell’s grounds again, her cheeks flushed due to the cold and a glint in her eyes. Sansa claimed that she had gained a little more weight since her last fitting for it and felt a bit uncomfortable in it, but Sandor couldn’t agree less, for to him she had never looked more beautiful.

“Everyone is looking at us,” Sansa whispered to him as she stood tall beside him, her head barely reaching his shoulders, fidgeting on the spot with the skirts of her gown with her hands.

Sandor glanced at her sideways, raising his eye in amusement and muttered, “No, little bird. They’re looking at you.”

Sansa understood what he meant, and gulped. It’s time. Everyone that had come to see the men ride off to war, from the lowest kitchen scullion to the ladies dressed in velvet, had their stare fixed in their direction, yet for once the reason for them looking at Sansa was not out of resentment at having married him, but because they were waiting for her and young Rickon to climb the dais and say some words of encouragement and hope to them on this morning, since such formalities had to be observed.

The Manderlys had just told the crowd that Sansa and Rickon would be staying behind in the city, and the people of White Harbour looked honoured to be the ones that would be keeping the last Starks safe. Ser Marlon had just finished his speech by commenting to the shocked bunch of idiots before them that Sandor was the best seasoned commander he could have ever wished for to lead the garrison to war, and therefore hoped everyone would treat him with respect.

Sandor hadn’t liked the old bloody knight saying that, for he could deal accordingly with any bastard who thought he was still a spy for the Lannisters, but he had been forced to mind once again that now as Sansa’s husband he could not do something so sodding disrespectful.

With a nervous smile Sansa turned to look at him as Osha lightly pushed Rickon forward, and Sandor gave his wife a wink of encouragement before the little bird followed her brother up the raised dais in the middle of the yard, with Osha and Hagen Edar at her heels, the former wearing her new spear, shield and armour to show she was ready to guard the Starks at any moment.

The latter though, against Sandor’s wishes since if the madman sunk in the snows, how the hell where they meant to find him, was wearing white from his bow and quiver to doublet and down his boots, topped by that heavy white cloak Sansa had made a gift to him, and which Sandor didn’t really like since it reminded him too much of those days when he had been a member of the Kingsguard.

And what a fucking empty jest Joff’s little surprise turned out to be, Sandor thought, as he watched the Manderlys step aside to let the Stark siblings stand at the front of the dais side by side, with the former outlaw and the wildling woman standing guard behind them.

And yet, now that he remembered, the day he had been appointed to wear the white cloak he had remarked sullenly how he had nothing or no one to forsake, unlike now. That was also the day when Sansa had pleaded for mercy and her father’s life. But today she was going to plead for a different man. For me. Sandor knew Sansa could never understand how he felt about that, for he didn’t know it himself. He didn’t like anyone doing his battles for him, but Sansa was not doing this for him. Not really. She is doing it for our child’s future.

It’s strange, he mused fleetingly, for he had gone to war and fought in battles before, but never had there been someone- and a wife he adored at that- whom he knew would miss him and long for his safe return. Even his trial in Norvos had been different, for back then Sandor’s fate was decided in the matter of days, whereas this separation could take months, and even a couple of years.

Yet there was one thing that was the same though. Sandor was going to feel conscious of his every move for what he was about to do next, just as he had back when the Council of Magisters had judged him before the eyes of their city.

Clenching his jaw, Sandor finally strode over to the raised dais, and his boots tore ankle-deep holes into the smooth surface of the snow as he had passed frosted shrubs and think dark trees. He climbed the steps and went to stand behind his wife, not wishing to anger the people of White Harbour by putting himself beside the Stark siblings, remembering all the while that Sansa wanted him near her as she announced to the world for the first time about their child. He was only too glad to do as she asked him though, for he wanted to see everyone’s reactions, and see how they all would take the news. Sandor could not help but notice how the northerners before him were still regarding him with fear and suspicion and resentment.

His eyes scanned the crowd, noticing the resentful, angry, sullen and fearful looks everyone was giving him, before he settled his stare on his wife as she pulled back the hood of the cloak trimmed with grey fur and winter roses she was wearing, her auburn hair blowing in the wind, and streaked with sunlight. Sandor felt the urge to reach out to touch his bird’s hair, but held back, positioning his hand on the pommel of his longsword in warning to anyone who cared to take it as one.

Sansa was nervous, but she nodded reassuringly at Rickon before she cleared her throat and said in a loud and clear voice, “Good people of White Harbour, today is a special day. A day to be remembered in memory by the north for years to come, since it is on this morning that hope is born once again in our hearts as our brave men set out to recover what has been stolen from us…”

The little bird gave a speech fit for the queen she had been meant to be, rallying the morale of the loyal Stark bannermen by proclaiming that the North would fight to the very end to recover Winterfell from the clutches of their enemies and avenge their murdered Lord and Lady Stark at long last, along with their King of the North, Ser Wendel Manderly, and all the relatives and bannermen slaughtered by the Freys, and in the south. And when Sansa talked about how all the thoughts and prayers of every woman in the north would be about the men who were leaving them behind to fight for the lord and lady of Winterfell, and for the land they had all been born on, Hagen could not help but remark to Sandor in a whisper, “She’s besotted them all.”

Sandor agreed with pride swelling inside his chest at the current sight of his bird before him. White Harbour looked upon Sansa and what they saw was the daughter of Ned Stark, a beacon of hope in the dark times that had settled in the north lately. But all Sandor could see right now was his little bird as she had been last night after she had fallen asleep with her head resting on his shoulder, her soft skin pressed against him for her hand had been thrown across his chest and her long legs had been in his even longer ones.

What Sandor was seeing was his lover, his wife, his best friend and the only person he had ever trusted and the only one he would die for in an instant without a second thought. As she slept beside him a while ago, Sansa had looked so young and innocent, so defenseless and pure, that all Sandor could do was wrap his arms around her and listen to her quiet soft breathing, no longer wondering how such a girl could love him despite knowing exactly what he had been like in the past, just grateful for having had the opportunity to get to this point in his life with the little bird beside him, unable to even think of what a life without Sansa at the end of the long road would be like for him.

Sansa, the woman who had changed his life like he had no bloody idea someone ever could, proving to him that she could accept the good and the bad and the worst of him and even let his seed grow inside her with the proudest smile he had ever seen; the girl who had grown from the proper little bird trapped in a golden cage that managed to survive the pit of vipers that was King’s Landing on her own, to the young woman who stood before a city, not for the first time, and showed the direwolf inside her.

It had been true what Sandor had told her last night, after he had watched Sansa trying so hard to guard her emotions. Yet when Sandor had seen sadness and anxiety and worry etched so clearly on his little bird’s beautiful face due to the feeling of loss and pain Sansa was enduring because of their separation, he had reminded her that she was stronger than what he could ever hope to be.

For when Gregor had fucked his life up, Sandor had grown into a broken man who expected the worst of the world, and was therefore not disappointed when fate wasn’t fair. But Sansa had remained as good and kind on the inside as she had always been even after the Lannisters or the High Sheep, and had even been able to change some of his ways with time by testing everything he’d thought he knew about himself, for he was really only himself when he was with Sansa. Sansa, the strong woman to whom he really meant something, and who he was forced to leave behind as she carried his child inside her.

I’m leaving them both behind, Sandor thought, still disliking it to the point where he hated himself, since being unable to decide what to do always made him angry. But he knew it was of no use to go down that road of regret again. Not anymore, not on this day. All he could do was hope, and deal every day with the ever present knowledge that the consequences of his and Sansa’s decisions could either turn out to be good, or deadly for them both.

“Winter is our best weapon,” Sansa pointed out as Sandor brought his thoughts back to the present, gaining confidence with every word she spoke. “And if used to our advantage, that and the righteous justice to our aims, will be what shall keep our brave men going in the time they are to spend fighting in the bitter cold. My husband, whom most of you have met, or at least heard of, I’m sure, will help us all if you allow him in reaching our goal, for Lord Sandor Clegane is a legendary fighter.

He knows about formations and trenches and crossfire and camps and counterattacks, on the move or not, as well as how to build necks and tramps and delay defenses. It is partly because of my lord husband’s skills that he has been made commander of our brave garrison by Ser Marlon, but also because as part of my family, he wants fight for the honour of House Stark more than anything, and is ready to prove it to anyone who cares to allow it.”

Sansa’s words about him made Sandor’s mouth begin to twitch, and he shifted his weight from his right leg to the left one as all eyes were turned to regard him under either suspicious or uncertain frowns. Silly little bird, Sandor thought, shaking his head, not really surprised she would do this. He had never doubted that when the moment came Sansa would face anyone unflinchingly about how matters stood with him, never wavering in her respect and affection for him so that the world had no choice but to accept him, however grudgingly. But Sandor knew she hadn’t yet accomplished that, not that it was her fault.

They want the best for you so long as it’s something of which I have no part. They hate me for being lowborn and the Lannisters’ former dog, and because I outrank them all as your husband. They still think of me as an upstart who took you for my own ambitions.

He could never get angry at his wife for what she was doing, but Sandor couldn’t help it if one part of him still considered that her words about him to the northerners were useless since they were falling on ears that didn’t wish to hear anything that was not bad about him.

“If you still doubt my words about Lord Clegane,” Sansa was saying with determination now, “there is something he and I can do to give you all hope for the future. Hope for victory and for the spring, because in this winter of our revenge, a child will be born of the blood of Winterfell- the Winterfell broken and burnt and usurped but still standing strong- who will be Eddard of the Houses Stark and Clegane if it is a boy.”

Sandor didn’t look away at all from the crowd before him as Sansa finally revealed that she was carrying his child. He wanted to register how everyone reacted to the news as the memory of the little bird’s reasoning to announce this publicly ran through his mind.

Sansa had told him that using it would be extremely uplifting for the northern people’s spirits if they knew that the Stark line would not perish since she was carrying a little direwolf pup in her tummy, because even if there was Rickon, the boy was too young and there was still danger to the bloodline should any harm befall him.

“It will be good for the people of the north to hear about our child, and will also help us secure my family’s hold on Winterfell,” she had assured him as they broke their fast the other morning. “And help Rickon’s bannermen and all the rest respect you too, as gods forbid, the father of a possible Lord Stark, regardless of how little we would actually want that to happen in the end.”

And Sandor was relieved and a little surprised to see that Sansa had been right, for once she stopped talking about him and spoke the tidings of their babe, the crowd began to cheer and clap in honour of Lord Rickon, little Lord Eddard and Lady Sansa. He could not help but feel relieved then that he had at least done something right in the eyes of these people by naming his son- if it was a boy- after Eddard Stark- a deed which would not add insult to injury thankfully.

They can’t say Sansa is going to have my bastard and call that truth. Not for the first time Sandor was glad he had waited to fuck his little bird for so long back in Essos, despite them both going mad with anticipation and frustrated pleasure. If anyone dared called her the Hound’s bitch behind her back, questioning her honour…

Yet when the excitement at the news of his son or daughter died away, Sandor was taken aback by what the little bird did next, for she had not told him she had been intending to do that.

The second part of this chapter can be found here :)

Jun. 23rd, 2013

Sansa, Sandor, Blackwater

Beyond the Ice & the Fire: How Fragile is the Heart... Chapter 51b

51. Sandor & Sansa

Her eyes went as wide as saucers a moment after, realizing what had just come out of her mouth. Sansa’s eyes met Sandor’s as she dropped the tunic to the ground and raised her hand to cover her mouth, almost wincing as Sandor recovered from the first moment of shock, before he broke out in one of the longest and loudest barks of laughter Sansa had ever heard him have.

Gods be good, Sansa thought, blushing fiercely in embarrassment. She wanted to crawl to the bed and hide under the bedcovers and never look at her big man again, but all she seemed able to do was stand there and watch Sandor laugh until he clutched at his stomach in pain, as she started to suck on her hurt thumb.

“Seven hells, little bird,” he rasped between breaths. “Now I know that you’ve spent too much time beside me if curses like that are coming out of that pretty mouth of yours.”

Neither Sandor’s voice nor his look was mocking, and the sound of his rasping, raucous laughter filled Sansa with such warmth, that she finally managed to stammer, “It’s not funny,” before she began to giggle as well.

They laughed together despite it all, and when Sandor had unbuckled his scabbard and longsword and placed them on the table, he strode across the room in her direction, snarling, “I’ve ruined you, Sansa. If you go on like that you’ll stop being the courteous proper little lady I knew.”

Sansa chuckled as Sandor stopped in front of her, saying softly, “I’m going to try and pretend that was a compliment.”

“You should,” her husband agreed, bending down so he could pick his shirt off the ground, and handed back to her. “Here, you dropped this.”

Sandor handed her his shirt, his large hand brushing against hers before he grabbed her hand in his and raised it to his lips. Sansa could only watch with widening eyes as Sandor parted his mouth and grazed her pinched thumb with his teeth, before he sucked at the little wound there, his eyes caressing her.

When he released her thumb and asked, “Better?” Sansa lowered her eyes, and nodded, saying, “Thank you,” in a tremulous voice.

“That’s the pretty little talking bird that minds her courtesies I know,” Sandor observed with a snort.

That he would say those words, echoing the night when he had first told called her by her pet name as well as telling her of Gregor and how half his face got burned, made Sansa catch her breath. They had spent the last couple of days worrying and wishing things were different, but even if tonight was their last chance to do anything but that, she couldn’t stand it. It was too much.

Sansa really wanted to be brave, and keep a happy face for Sandor so that he could remember her just like that, so rather than let him see her trying hard not to cry, she looked away from him, clasping her hands together nervously.

Time seemed to stop still then, since neither said another word for long moments. Sansa didn’t move. She knew that since her husband could read most people’s thoughts as plainly as if they were open books written on their faces, he could understand the reason behind her hesitation to face him, even if he was not regarding her expression. He knows me too well not to know what is going through my mind.

Without breaking the silence, Sandor laid a large heavy hand on her left shoulder and gave it a squeeze. Sansa closed her eyes and took a deep breath, willing herself to be strong and not break down once again, as her big man gently took her face in his warm calloused hands, kissed her lightly on the forehead, and rasped, “Sansa, look at me.”

With her head tilted up, Sansa had no other choice but to lift her eyes to her husband’s burned face. Sandor’s grey eyes clung to hers, and she finally found the strength in their grey depths to whisper, “It’s not fair.”

Why did they have to part now of all times, when they had just learned of the baby born out of their love?

“No, it’s not,” Sandor agreed with a grimace, as some emotion flickered momentarily in his eyes.

“I’m going to miss you so much,” she said, attempting a smile. “I don’t know how I will ever make it through the coming months without you. Without you waking beside me- or- or without knowing where you are, and with our baby- I- I just”

Sandor took one good look at her as she tried to get those words out of her, and drew her to him at once by wrapping his arms around her in a silent hug, sparing her the need to go on when he already knew better than any words she could think of now just how much she was going to need him, for it was exactly the same for him.

Sansa sniffed and buried her face on his chest, her arms going around Sandor’s neck as they clung to each other. Sandor groaned as he lifted her from the ground, burying his face in the crook of her neck as she fisted the hair at the back of his head between her long fingers, hugging her tightly to him in a bone-crushing hug.

“I love you, little bird, do you hear me?” Sandor pledged in a voice that sounded like two woods saws grinding together, “I love you both. More than anything.”

“I love you too,” Sansa whispered back honestly, fighting back her tears as she clung to Sandor’s neck, gathering that the time to face the fact that these were the last hours they were going to spend together had arrived. “You mean the world to me. That’s why this is hurting so much.”

“This time with you, Sansa- you made my life have a bloody meaning, little bird, when I had no right to expect anything from you after the way I treated you at the start. I’ve always known I don’t deserve you, and yet it still kills me that I can’t stay or bring you along. I want you to know that the only thing that will keep me going after today will be the thought of you and the babe.”

His words only served to make the first couple of tears that had been threatening to fall down her cheeks appear, but Sansa couldn’t do much about it at this point. She turned her face to him and met her husband’s stare and felt overwhelmed in that moment, for his eyes seemed to bore right into hers; right into her very soul and the core of her being. Sansa had been frightened of her big man’s eyes once, but it had been a long time since those bygone early days in King’s Landing, when Sandor’s stare had been compromised of a pair of sullen grey eyes, full of anger. But that was forever ago.

His heart was in his eyes as Sandor gazed down at her, and the pain he alone could understand and share with her in such a poignant milestone in their lives as the shadowy crossroad of tomorrow’s parting loomed over them both, was so deep that all Sansa could do was let her tears fall, knowing that the man who had her in his arms would love her more than anyone ever had or would till the day she died. This is too much- too unbearable. Her previous resolution of not letting her tears fall couldn’t matter anymore, for a woman can only stand so much on a night like this.

“Oh gods, Sandor, what are we going to do? I’m so afraid of never seeing you again,” she cried, stroking back the black hair that fell forward and hid half of his face from view as she went on trembling in his arms like a leaf, for they had arrived at a point in their relationship where they hardly were two different people no. “We always thought we would be facing the world together, whether it was my mother and Robb, or Stannis and the rest of my brother’s bannermen. But now you are going to have to go to war on your own, surrounded by enemies or knights and soldiers who dislike you. How will I ever let you go?”

Having lost every member of her family but for Rickon and Jon, it was really hard for Sansa to ignore just how easily could it be for fate to suddenly decide to take Sandor from her for good, and that was something Sansa knew would just kill her.

“You are like no one else I’ve ever know, Sansa,” Sandor said, chuckling at her words, and looking so grateful to her for some reason. The sound of his chuckle was a sour sound, part a rumble, part a snarl, but it was far from unkind. “You are the bravest of the two here, my strong courageous, little bird, and when the time comes, it’ll be harder for me to walk away from your side than the other way around.”

“No, it won’t,” Sansa exclaimed at once, shaking her head, tears stinging her eyes.

Sandor didn’t say anything else. He just bent down and kissed the tip of her nose, her wet cheekbones, her eyelids and finally her mouth in a deep slow kiss.

  When Sansa broke the kiss so she could catch her breath, her big man moved his half-scarred split lips to her neck, licking at her skin, and driving a little moan from her when he stopped nipping at her shoulder only so he could bit down on it, marking her as his.

As if having his baby didn’t already make me his, Sansa gathered fleetingly, once Sandor returned his attention to her waiting mouth. Their hands were tugging at each other’s clothes not long after that, their grief turned to need, as they urged the other on for with every moment that passed by, passions increased for Sandor and her both.

When Sansa’s dark green long cloak lay in a puddle at her feet, and Sandor had unlaced the front of her nightgown, he moved his hand to her back, sliding it from her shoulders to the small of her back, pressing her as close to him as he could, and bucking his hips, making her gasp at the feeling of his hardness against her.

The past and the promise of their child in the future was all they had now that the stakes were thrown and their lives once again hung in the dangerous precarious line that was the game of thrones. But in between the past and what was to come, Sandor and Sansa still had the opportunity to make the most of tonight, and they made sure they did, both of them aware that this could very well be the last time they could make love and be together.

Sometime after midnight Sandor was panting as he lay on his back on the bed, as out of breath and spent as Sansa was. He had his head on a pillow and was running his hands up and down Sansa’s bare back, for she was sprawled on top of him, resting contentedly on his hairy chest after her ragged breathing had subsided into soft breaths that came out of her slightly parted mouth. Sansa was tucked tightly in Sandor’s arms, her shaking subsiding, and their bodies glistened together in a mist of sweat.

Sandor’s mouth was pressed against her forehead, and he was kissing her there now as she buried her face deeper into the crook of his neck, willing herself to breathe in the way he smelt so she did not forger it in the coming months. Their hearts were beating in almost the exact same rhythm, Sansa was glad to notice, as the thumping subsided at a slow pace, the signs of their intense lovemaking still freshly branded in her mind and body.

Sansa couldn’t even move long enough to stretch in these moments, since her legs still felt weak and her thighs were bruised, and her breasts hurt, feeling extremely tender and sensitive after the way Sandor had pressed and sucked and bit on them. Light stabs below her belly disturbed Sansa as well, but even the tender ache between her legs was one she welcomed wholeheartedly. Sandor had given her whatever that she had wanted.

Raising her head, feeling drowsy and still in a sort of haze, Sansa started tracing with her lips a path of kisses on her husband’s chest, noticing how the shifting flames of the fire and the candles painted Sandor’s scarred muscled warrior’s body with orange shadows. Sansa left a little wet trail on her husband’s warm skin as she placed kisses over it- the remains of the tears she had shed as Sandor took her, first roughly and desperately and then slow but deep, overwhelming her and her senses even now in its aftermath.

I want to stay here forever, she wished longingly, considering how good it would be if just by wishing something it could come true. That very thought made her feel even more detatched from the present somehow, because if there was something Sansa Stark had learned in this life, it was that life didn’t always turn out the way one wanted.

The moment Sansa raised her head to look at Sandor’s face, they both gave the other a weary-half smile, and Sansa could not help but recall for some reason there and then the night when emerald fire had lit up the dark sky above, the night when the journey Sandor and she were meant to live through together had started. And now, when fate meant for them to start down different paths, they were back in a bed in a room that was illuminated by the fire’s glow, though tonight it was due to a dark golden luster instead,.

The room was too dark for her to see every detail of his features by now with total clarity, but Sansa had every single detail of Sandor’s face engraved in her heart and in her memory and in her soul, whether it was the craters and cracks that twisted the scars the burning coals of a brazier had left in his face long ago, to the little bump on his large and hooked nose, or the little crow feet around his eyes, and the couple of grey hairs among his thin dark shoulder length hair that he always brushed sideways.

When Sansa lay her head on top of Sandor’s chest after he had kissed her, a smile on her face, neither of them moved again, and they both fell asleep eventually for a much earned rest, her long auburn hair washing over both their bodies as they held on to each other closely.

Sansa woke up before Sandor did about an hour later, or so she gathered due to the darkness outside the window. She smiled sadly as she saw her husband snoring beside her, and slowly, so as not to wake him, Sansa left the bed so she could go and clean herself in the bathing room, leaving Sandor to his dreams, thinking that she was going to miss this room almost as much as she was going to miss sharing it with Sandor.

But I couldn’t stay here even if Wyn and Wylla hadn’t proposed for me to move to the one next to theirs. Without Sandor in the room, this chamber would start to feel like a prison, of that Sansa was certain.

When she stepped inside the bedroom once again, she tip toed to the place where Sandor had thrown her jade green nightgown to after he had managed to pull it off her. As Sansa bent down and reached out for the nightgown her eyes fell on Sandor’s longsword. Candlelight and the glowing embers from the fire rippled along the smoke-grey steel, making the blade look so dark that it put Sansa in mind of Ice, her father’s greatsword. Father would have liked it if one of his grandsons was called after him, she thought, smiling sadly as she placed a hand absentmindedly over her tummy.

Sansa slipped on her nightgown and went to sit on the bed’s edge for a moment so she could trace the muscles on Sandor’s arms and chest, stroking them before she raised her hand to caress the scars on his face lightly with her fingertips and knuckles. I should let him rest, Sansa gathered, since her big man and the others would be leaving the city early in order to cover more ground, but the truth was that it was too hard for Sansa to sleep away these last moments with Sandor, rather than spend this time talking and kissing and letting him know just how much she loved him.

Her big man’s mouth began to twitch at that, as Sansa knew it would, and as he started to steer from his slumber, Sansa quickly lay on her belly on the mattress, her arms buried underneath the pillow she was hugging as she turned her face around to look at her husband waking up.

She could not help but smile at the way Sandor let out a long sigh and stretched out his powerful body beside her, still as naked as his nameday, blushing as she recalled that he had warned her that he would take her again in the morning before it was time to get ready. He turned around to stare at her when he felt her gaze on him, and with a small sleepy grin he shifted on the bed until he was lying down on his belly in the exact same position as she was.

Sandor reached out to grab one of Sansa’s hands from beneath her pillow then, and he silently brought it to his mouth, and gave it a kiss. Sansa’s mouth opened in a little O as her husband then covered her hand with both of his, and held it there between them, warming it.

Her Tully blue eyes locked with Sandor’s grey, until he raised his eyebrow in amusement at her after they both failed to say something, and growled in a thick voice, “Seven hells, your hair looks like a bloody nest, little bird.”

A weak chuckle escaped Sansa against her will at that, but when she failed to say anything, her husband asked her. “What were you thinking of?”

“Of you and the baby and the past of course,” she finally replied with a sigh, her heart feeling heavy on her chest. “Of the war too, and of Winterfell.”

A fierce northern wind shook the shutters then, making Sandor and Sansa both raise their heads to stare at the window until it had flown away.

“It must be freezing cold even inside your castle tonight,” Sandor remarked, slinging one of his long legs over her thigh.

“No,” she pointed out, as her husband drew her closer to him by the waist.

Sansa snuggled closer to her big man’s body quickly, feeling the warmth of his body as he threw one of his legs over hers, and wrapped his arm around her.

“It isn’t always like that,” Sansa continued after a moment. “I know they say this will be the longest winter in living memory, but I can still recall that it was always warm inside Winterfell, even when it snowed during the summer. Water from the hot springs used to be piped through the walls to warm us, and inside the glass gardens it was always like the hottest day of summer.”

“If we win, it’ll be a rough life moving back to Winterfell and restoring some life to its walls,” Sandor pointed out to her, reaching out to run his calloused hand down her bare leg. “But after we are done re-building the castle, it’ll be just like you remember.”

“I hope so, Sandor,” was the only thing she could answer, but it was all right. Her big man knew how much taking back her and little Rickon’s home meant to her more than anybody else in the great wide world.

Sandor and Sansa fell silent after that, but neither of them seemed able to stop reaching out to touch or caress or kiss the other everywhere, whether they were talking or not. It is probably because we won’t be able to do so for who knows how long, Sansa gathered with a smile when all of a sudden her big man surprised her by snarling, with brooding eyes, “We’ve done rather well, you and I, haven’t we, Sansa?”

She frowned in confusion, so Sandor quickly explained, “Given where we started, I mean.”

Sansa smiled, running her fingers through Sandor’s dark hair, and nodded. It’s been quite the long journey indeed, and I wouldn’t change much of it, otherwise we would never have arrived at the point in our lives we are at now.

“Yes, we certainly have,” she admitted, hesitantly. “Though I must confess I miss Essos more than ever right now. I- I even wonder if it wouldn’t have been wiser if we had remained in the east somewhere.”

At her words Sandor propped himself up on his elbows and said in that rough voice of his, “You know you don’t mean that, little bird. You belong here in the north with your father’s folk. Even a blind man could see it.”

“I know,” Sansa was forced to admit, looking away from him as she rubbed her hands together. “But- but this would have been avoided had we stayed in Essos. We would have been happy.”

Out of the corner of her eyes Sansa saw Sandor shake his head as he leaned forward to kiss her shoulder. She looked back at him at the gesture, and when her eyes met his, Sandor rasped, “Because we haven’t been happy here, Lady Clegane?”

Of course we have, Sansa knew, smiling again at the way her husband had addressed her. Sansa loved for Sandor to call her Lady Clegane. It never failed to cheer her up, and at least now, as she remembered the memories from when she had first touched northern soil once again to this moment, Sansa felt a little better.

“Yes, you are right, we have been happy here,” Sansa had to admit, thinking about her baby, as she leaned down to close the gap between her and her big man. “And hopefully we will continue to be so once you return to me.”

Sansa kissed Sandor back with all her heart after he claimed her mouth, hugging him, refusing to let go. They spent the following hours thinking back on everything that had ever happened to them, since their first meeting in Winterfell, to King’s Landing, the Kingswood, The Summer Bird, Pentos, lonely Valyrian roads, the High and Low cities of Great Norvos, the caravan through the Hills of Norvos, Hrolf’s castle by the sea, The Fat Whale, Lorath, Montufar’s Dance, Braavos, The King of the Seas, the wilderness of the North, and finally here to White Harbour.

Sandor and she knew that they wouldn’t change much of the extraordinary journey that led them to the end of the world and beyond, and back to the north had Sandor and Sansa completely absorbed, and made them pass their remaining hours together with laughter, to Sansa’s pleasant surprise. They cleared out and said everything that needed to be said between them, in case they never got the chance to do so again.

“After everything that has happened,” Sandor snarled at her, the rising sun streaming through the window as he kissed his way up her leg as he knelt on the bed beside her, “I don’t think that when I come back to you anything will ever change between us, little bird.”

He sounded thankful for that, and Sansa echoed the sentiment, but she could not help but point out as she raised her hand to wipe the fallen tear from her eye, “How wrong you are, my big man. Of course things will change.”

Sandor raised his burned face to look at her with a scowl, silently reproaching her for contradicting the reassurance that had settled deep down in his heart as a certainty, so Sansa sat up and cupped her husband’s face gently, the burns and scars rough underneath her palm, as she explained, “Things have to change, Sandor. After all, if all goes well we will be parents, remember? Our child will change us, but for the better.”

Little Eddard or little Arwyn will do us more good than we could ever make each other, she knew, and by the way the frown on the forehead of the man she loved disappeared at her words, Sansa knew that Sandor agreed.

A/N: Hope you all liked this chapter! If you feel like it, please review xp

Sansa, Sandor, Blackwater

Beyond the Ice & the Fire: How Fragile is the Heart... Chapter 51a

Title: Beyond the Ice & the Fire: How Fragile is the Heart
Author: caroh99
Summary: Sansa escapes with Sandor during the Battle of Blackwater, little guessing that it will change both their fates forever. Far away lands and a journey of self-discovery for both of await them.
Disclaimer: Characters belong to the mastermind that is GRRM. & I guess since this could also apply for tv-show canon then it also belongs to HBO... The story contains dialogue from the books and the show at times. The title for this fic is inspired by Loreena McKennitt's song Dante's Prayer.
Rating: Not suitable for under 16. The rating will become more restricted later on into the story.
Characters/Pairings: Sansa Stark/Sandor Clegane
Word Count: 7,043
* onborrowedwings my lovely beta, a thousand thank you's forever for all your help!! :D :D

*Hullo!! I’ve missed you all these last 2 weeks, but now I’m back (: thank you so much to everyone for your patience and understanding and for your well wishes regarding my trip. It went great :D

Sooo.... this chapter was originally quite long, so I’ve decided to split it in two. Chapter 52 will deal with Sandor and the morning after the events on this one (: Thanks for reading!!

51. Sandor & Sansa

Sansa lit the last tallow candle in the bedroom with a soft sigh and looked behind her, content with the way the large chamber and the furniture that decorated it looked. There were sweet-swelling rushes spread all over the floor, and two bottles of wine that were placed on the surface of the table to her right; one was a sweet Arbour gold and the other one was a strong Dornish red. Everything was ready, only her big man was missing.

All the necessary belongings Sandor would need to take away with him were already also packed not only in his saddle, but also on bags and bundles attached to it as well. It was painful not to see her own saddlebag beside Sandor’s now after all the months of their travels in the east where they had crammed everything they had owned back then in them, but at least Sansa had the memory of having helped her big man pack his clothes this afternoon.

“I’ll help you pack,” she had offered, as Sandor knelt down beside his saddlebag to make sure it was still fit to take on the journey with him and she brushed her hair.

“No need,” her big man had snarled, turning around to look at her. “You don’t have to help me, little bird.”

Sansa had almost rolled her eyes then at that, and stated clearly, “But I want to, Sandor.”

Her husband had looked as if he was about to snarl something, but he didn’t, and in the end Sansa had tried to be of as much help as she could to her big man.

And I succeeded, she knew with a grin, for Sandor had ruffled her hair when they were finished, and packing side by side had turned into wrestling and tickling each other on the ground. Sandor had remarked with a proud and amused laugh as they went on fooling around, “What am I going to do without you in the following months, bird? Without you both?” before he shifted on all fours until he was looming above her tummy as she lay on the ground on her back.

Sansa had stared with a slightly parted mouth at Sandor as her big man ran a long finger over her belly button, before he lowered his face and placed a kiss on her tummy. And somehow kissing her tummy turned into talking to the unborn child they were expecting, the baby he would leave behind with her.

All Sansa had been able to do then was try to recall everything Sandor told their baby in case her child’s father never returned to them. It was a hard task, not because Sandor ended up having a lot to say to their baby, but because Sansa was overwhelmed by the vulnerability Sandor was allowing himself to show; a vulnerability which she had only been witness of scarce few times in the past.

They had stayed there laying on the floor, with Sansa stroking her husband’s back as Sandor rested his head on her chest and ran his huge hand over her tummy and their baby until dusk approached hours ago.

Presently padding barefooted across the room to tend to the crackling fire in the hearth, feeling the cold floor beneath her feet as her eyes gazed at the flames that were shivering due to the fierce gusting wind outside, Sansa wrapped her dark green long cloak trimmed with fox fur tighter around her.

It had grown colder since the sun went down on this wintry evening, but Sansa knew that the cold northern winds would knife through Sandor’s warmest cloak, freezing his blood right in his veins soon enough, and she was not about to remark, let alone complain, even in her thoughts about tonight’s weather. The winters are hard in the north, and everyone agrees that this will be a winter that will last years, but the Starks can endure it. We always have. White Harbour is a warm bath in comparison to what awaits the poor brave soldiers and knights in the long march to Winterfell. In contrast to what awaited Sansa’s sworn arrow and her big man.

With a shake of her head, Sansa walked across the room to sit on the chair by the hearth where she had left one of Sandor’s warmest tunics at. The sleeve needed to be mended, and now that everything was ready, Sansa returned to her work, picking up the tunic and her string and needle. I have to mend it before Sandor goes away.

Yet it was no good. As soon as she sat down her thoughts kept her from focusing her attention on the big shirt, and before long Sansa was staring outside the window at the night sky. Up above the treetops there was a crescent white moon floating in a dark jet sky and thousands of stars scattered across it, shinning bright. But the moon and the stars were half-obscured by mist, like eyes peering through a veil of black silk.

“It’s so beautiful,” she whispered to herself, closing her eyes, and smiling as memories of countless nights spent outside beside Sandor on their bedrolls in the Hills of Norvos overtook her.

That made Sansa recall what had followed after Sandor and she had announced to the Manderlys that she was with child in the middle of their small feast at the Merman’s Court. It had been during their journey with the caravan that Sandor and she had first met Hagen Edar, her sworn arrow and the one who had been decided at long last would accompany Sandor to war, while Osha remained behind with Rickon and Sansa in White Harbour.

Some of the reasons behind this outcome were that Hagen as a prominent member of a wealthy merchant family, if only his past as an outlaw was ignored, stood a better chance when the time came to stand beside Sandor and in front of Stannis Baratheon, than a wildling woman did, regardless of whether Stannis had been the man that agreed along with Jon to let the Free Folk settle on this side of the Wall. In result to this decision, Osha had to make Sandor memorize, a map of all the secret ways underneath Winterfell, so when the time came it could be easier for the men and soldiers to enter the castle if the opportunity presented itself.

After that difficult matter had been settled and there was no going back from the choice they’d all come to conclude should happen, Wynafryd, Wylla and their Uncle Ser Marlon had proposed that as soon as the men left the city Sansa, Rickon and Osha should move together to the bedchambers next to the sisters, for safety. They had also assigned, with Sandor’s approval, temporary men to serve Sansa and Rickon as sworn shields, guarding them at all times.

Wynafryd and her uncle had been debating with Sansa’s husband and Hagen Edar whom they could they consider for such an important task, but none had been decided until Wylla remembered that there was a man in the New Castle called Duncan who owed Lord Wyman his life and place in the world. Duncan had three big sons who had all been born in the castle and were quite trustworthy, and appointed them herself to Sansa and Rickon’s care, under Sandor’s watchful eyes.

“It’s going to be known soon enough that the Starks are alive, and that we are hosting them. There’s danger for all of us, but I will really feel at ease if I know Donnel, Domeric and Damon are with you at all times,” her friend had told her.

Sansa had been speechless when Wylla offered to have so many men protecting her, since it had not only backed up her desire for Sandor to take Osha with him for his own safety, but had ended up proposing that they shared the guards among them.

“Wyn doesn’t need any of old Duncan’s sons to look out for her when she has handsome Ser Rodrik already doing that, you know,” Wylla continued in jest, laughing behind her elaborate fan as her eldest sister overheard her.

But these new arrangements hadn’t been the only things the Manderlys had done so far for Sansa and her pack. They had also prepared a visit to the Sept of the Snows so that they could all go and pray to the new gods for Sandor, Hagen, Lord Davos, and the rest of the men’s lives and welfare as they marched off to war to face the enemy, and even though Sandor had gone through the whole ceremony with little good grace, Sansa was thankful that he had at least gone to the sept.

White Harbour still didn’t know about her baby, but that didn’t stop Sansa from wishing to start seeking the gods’ blessings for her child. And the moment she had told Sandor that she had also wished to go so that they could thank and pray for their little Arwyn or Eddard, Sandor’s angry scowl had at least disappeared into a brooding frown, and he’d relented without too much arguing.

She had lit candles to the Seven, knowing that the day after her husband was gone from her side she would be visiting the building every day in an attempt to pray and ask for Sandor’s protection and life. But Sansa had not forgotten the old gods, and nor had the Manderlys or the rest of her pack, for yesterday they had also all gone back to the godswood in the Wolf’s Den to pray to the gods of the north to have mercy on them all in the winter wars.

The godswood had also been a happy occasion for Sansa since it had been there where she had finally bestowed on Edar a white cloak to prove to the world that the Lorathi was her sworn arrow and protector. Since that was most commonly known as a practice done by believers of the Faith, Sansa had asked Hagen if she could present him with his gift in the Sept of the Snows, but the former outlaw had reminded her that he was not a believer of the Seven.

“Oh yes, you’re right,” she had been forced to admit, trying hard to keep the disappointment from her voice or her face since she really did want to gift her friend with the white cloak.

Yet he had surprised Sansa when he continued by saying with a hint of amusement, “Don’t look so sad faced, Sansa! I am not saying I won’t accept the cloak, you know, even if I don’t think I deserve it. I may not believe in your Fighter and Stranger and Grandmother, but I think I would not object to going through the ceremony under a heart tree. To be honest, I’m glad that your new temporary sworn shields haven taken over my place.”

Sansa had giggled at the jest, taking Hagen’s hand, and replying with complete honesty, “That could never happen, my dearest friend. Really Hagen, how can you of all people say that? There’s honour in faithful service and honesty, and those are two words I would think about straight away were someone to ask me about my gallant sworn arrow.”

A serious expression had fallen on Edar, and the Lorathi had looked at her with something Sansa could not recognize in his eyes before her friend said solemnly, “I promise you Sansa that I will make sure Sandor doesn’t get into too much trouble. I swear to you on my wife’s memory that I will keep my eye out for any trouble with the knights that accompany us, and that when we meet this famous stag king who loves R’hllor, we will both try our best to mind our manners.”

Sansa had half chuckle and half cried out at those words, for she knew Sandor more than Hagen did, and it was hard to imagine that things would go smoothly when her husband was brought before King Robert’s brother, despite Edar’s undying optimism.

Yet it wasn’t only Stannis Baratheon and the knights who had had that awful encounter with Sandor in the training yard what worried Sansa. There were little things that made her worry sick for her big man’s welfare, like what her husband would do if his boots wore out? Or if his feet got wet and he caught a cold that could so easily turn into a much more serious illness?

If only Sansa could go and either fight or follow Sandor herself, everything would be a little more bearable for her, for her husband had been fighting his whole life, ever since he was born under the same roof as Gregor.

I wonder if this is how mother felt when Father left her to go fight in Robert’s wars, or when we all went south to the capital after the king named father his Hand. Lady Catelyn had been such a strong woman, that Sansa hoped some of her strength had passed on to her, otherwise how would she ever live through the upcoming months with her head held high, not giving in to despair? How could she learn to live with forbearance every day of her life as she waited for news of Sandor when such a future seemed bleak to her?

Wars go on forever, Sansa knew, looking down at the tunic on her lap, still grabbing the string and needle between her trembling fingers as she remembered how long ago it seemed since the war of the five kings had started, and even though so many people had lost their lives and many of the players were different to the ones who had started, the outcomes of the previous war had led into this one with the Boltons and the Freys; the cycle repeating itself, going on and on and on for who knew how long for a certainty? Only the gods, I suppose.

So it was to the old gods and the new that Sansa prayed for her husband’ welfare tonight. For Sandor was going so far away from her side in the morning, and even before he reached Winterfell and the enemy, he would have to suffer many pains and hardships like hunger, and long marches in the sleet and the snow, his life at risk at every moment.

Sansa was so lost in her thoughts that she did not even hear the sound of Sandor’s footsteps outside in the hallway announcing his return until he barred the bedroom door behind him, the heavy lock sounding like a battle horn to her; a sound that sent a shiver down her spine and made her stand up quickly, startled.

She met his grey eyes at once, and saw in them the same conflicting emotions that were warring inside of her, though it was evident that Sandor could master to hide them better than she ever could. For one, his hands were not shaking like hers as she stood there across the chamber from him, clutching his tunic and the string and needle tightly against her chest, and her big man even looked amused as his eyes left her and settled on the decorations around the bedroom.

“What’s all this?” he said amused.

“I’m- I’m mending your shirt,” she replied, even if that was not the answer to the question he’d asked her, and what she had really meant to tell him was, “I could not bid you farewell without at least making something special of this night. Our last night.”

“Mending my shirt?” he repeated, grey eyes settling on his tunic, a smirk betraying him even as his lip began to twitch. “I see.”

“Yes, I- I don’t want you to catch a cold,” she explained, trying really hard to keep her voice from breaking. “You have to keep warm.”

Sansa must have been gripping the needle too hard, for the next thing she knew she felt a sharp stab on her thumb as she pinched herself, making her cry out, “Bugger!”

The second part of this chapter can be found here :)

Jun. 9th, 2013

Sansa, Sandor, Blackwater

Beyond the Ice & the Fire: How Fragile is the Heart... Chapter 50d

50d. The Merman's Court

A sharp intake of breath from the Manderly sisters greeted the little bird’s revelation, followed by a stunned silence as they looked at Sansa, then at him, then at the others, and then at each other, before returning their gaze to Sandor’s wife, all the time staring with eyes as wide as saucers. Ser Marlon’s reaction was the one Sandor had been more interested to watch, yet the man just blinked at first, but didn’t really seem surprised at the news, nor angry. Sandor reached out for his wife’s hand under the table in those moments, giving it a squeeze.

Sansa turned to look at Sandor for a moment before Wynafryd finally remarked as she clasped her hands together, “Oh Sansa! That is so wonderful!”

The little bird sighed in relief, and smiled a little as Wylla Manderly remarked excitedly, “We have been wondering when this would happen ever since we’ve known you, but of course we couldn’t ask you, since it wasn’t our place. But Sansa, this makes us feel so happy for you and your husband both. What a happy night and tidings!”

“My most sincere congratulations,” Ser Marlon expressed, bowing his head in respect in Sansa and Sandor’s direction, as the Onion actually stood up and walked over to shake Sandor’s hand, laughing and shaking his head in disbelief.

“I don’t know what King Stannis will say about this,” Seaworth remarked, not at all offended that they had held back the news from him as well. “But I am glad for you both. I think I know what this must have meant for you two.”

“Thank you, Lord Davos,” Sansa told the former smuggler, as Sandor snarled with a grin, remembering the time when he had had to convince Seaworth that he meant no harm to Sansa, and truly did love her and had her best interests and well being foremost in his thoughts, “I appreciate your well wishes, smuggler.”

Sandor liked the Onion well enough, but no matter what he thought of the smuggler-turned-Hand, or how much his opinion of Seaworth had changed in the past months, the fact remained that Davos was loyal to Stannis Rigid Baratheon and him alone at the end of the day, and so neither Sandor nor the little bird had wanted anyone who was not those closest to them to know about the child.

Sansa started thanking the Manderlys again, so Sandor had to joining her, and a moment later they were all toasting in honour of his child, wishing him good health and a long life, while Sandor stared in awe at Sansa, wondering even now after such a long journey beside her, how the little bird could be carrying his pup.

Eddard of the Houses Stark and Clegane, Sandor thought, grinning as he raised the cup of sour red to his lips, remembering that were they to have a little birdling, then Arwyn would be her name, after his long lost little sister. Sandor knew that he would never be able to find the right words to tell Sansa just how much that meant to him. How in awe he was to this day that she had ever been willing to let him have her, and share so much with a man like him.

His little bird placed her hand above the one he had on her knee right in that moment at such thoughts crossed him mind, and as she gave him a beaming smile, Sandor could not help but consider that maybe there was no need for him to tell her. Maybe she already knows. Fuck, how was he ever going to leave her?

“I am sorry we did not tell you sooner,” Sansa told the sisters as soon as the toast was over, and she looked away from him. “But we wanted to keep it a secret between us for just a little while.”

“Oh, it’s all right, Sansa. Really, don’t apologize,” Wylla assured the little bird, even as her sister asked with a frown, “Forgive me, but I just remembered, I- surely you aren’t thinking on joining the men in the march of Winterfell anymore, are you? You have to take care of yourself. I’m sorry if I am being imprudent, but we’ve grown to care for you Sansa. You are quite young, and I really don’t think you should risk it. Won’t you consider remaining here with us?”

Sandor gulped and reached out to place his hand on Sansa’s knee, as the little bird allowed Wyn to take her hand, and chirped, “I confess that we had hoped you would ask me to stay here. I do wish with all my heart that I could go back to Winterfell with Sandor and my brother’s troops. It’s been so long, and I was so close, but we have to think of my child now. So Sandor and I came to the agreement that if you were all willing, it should probably be best that I didn’t leave White Harbour.”

“Oh we would be so happy to have you stay here with us for however long you wish,” Wylla Manderly promised Sansa, nodding vigorously. “You have been such a support to us in our visits to the poor and have turned out to be a great friend. You’ve made the days in this city more fun, to tell you the truth. You all have. And with a baby- Wyn and I used to love taking care of all our little cousins before the war, so we are not completely ignorant where children are concerned.”

“Wylla, they understand,” Wynafryd pointed out, shaking her head as Sansa chuckled. “They’ve seen us with Lord Rickon often enough to know that.”

“They’ll be great parents, won’t they?” Edar remarked, laughing. “Just imagine, a Stark baby born in the midst of winter. From what I’ve learned so far of northerners, that will certainly raise everyone’s spirits, I think.”

“Yes,” the Manderly girls agreed, nodding at the same time. “The child will also strengthen the Starks’ hold on Winterfell once we seek to reclaim it in your name too.”

“Talking about Lord Rickon,” Wylla remarked, frowning. “Well, what will happen to him? Surely he’ll remain here with you, Sansa, will he not?”

“Yes, my brother is staying here with me.”

That got the Onion’s attention, Sandor was quick to notice. Davos straightened in his chair, and almost spilled the wine he’d been drinking. But before he could even get a word out of his mouth, Sansa arched an eyebrow in his direction, and stated what Seaworth was having such a trouble understanding, “Yes, Davos. Rickon will remain by my side. After everything my family has been trough I trust you will all understand why I cannot part from my brother.”

  “But- but my lady, King Stannis won’t like this-” the man began to stammer, before Sandor cut him off by pointing out, “It wasn’t Stannis the one who asked you to bring the boy back. It was Lord Manderly, and I reckon the old man wouldn’t get angry at us for leaving Rickon under his family’s care. It won’t be safe for the boy out there, and you know it just as well as I do.

The bloody Onion was not very pleased with this, but after staring at Sandor with growing annoyance, he said nothing. Sansa hesitated for a moment before continuing.

“There is more yet,” she told their hosts, returning her attention to the Manderlys after sparing a look in his direction.

“It has also been decided though that Shaggydog should follow the men to war,” Sansa announced.

“But is it wise to separate Lord Rickon from his wolf?” Wylla commented at once, looking in disbelief at Sansa after she had recovered from her surprise at the news. Good, they don’t like it anymore than I do. Maybe they’ll manage to make the little bird see sense.

The little bird raised her head high and straightened her shoulders as she replied confidently, “My brother would have gone to war in Shaggy’s place if he’d had his way. As it is though, what would be wise would be to prove to our enemies that they should fear most terribly for their lives now that the direwolves are back, Wylla. They have to suffer the consequences of the words you told me when we first met. The north remembers.”

“Indeed,” Ser Marlon nodded in agreement, making Sandor stare at the man in fucking disbelief! This is so bloody stupid.

He had been counting on the knight to be the most likely to back him up, but the sodding knight only said with a fucking nod, “The north remembers, Lady Sansa, and I don’t think there is anything more uplifting in these troubles times for everyone’s spirits than the tidings that you are carrying a direwolf pup, and that the Stark line is not only coming back with a vengeance, but will not perish.”

Sandor’s eyes narrowed as he heard those words, knowing what they would mean in the long run after what he had overheard Edar mentioning to Sansa the other day to him.

At least this proves that I was right in wishing my son to be called after his Ned Stark, Sandor gathered, rubbing the back of his neck tiredly, as he shot a look of anger in Ser Marlon’s direction.

“The men who despise Sandor now may end up respecting him not only for his reputation in the battlefield,” Sandor remembered Edar telling his bird. “But because he could very well be the father of a possible Lord Stark in case something happened to Rickon, you know.”

Sandor and Sansa had talked about that and had both agreed that that was not a prospect they liked for their firstborn, but neither did Sandor liked to think that the Manderlys were already considering his child as a future pawn in the game, since that only made him even more suspicious about what that family would choose to do were the little bird’s life at risk during the birth. They could decide to let her die in favour of the babe. They may like her well enough, but was it enough to spare her were the worst to come to pass?

Seaworth was looking thoughtfully at Ser Marlon after the knight had stated his thoughts on this matter, and finally the Onion asked, “So let me see if I understood correctly. Lady Sansa will remain here with Lord Rickon while you go off alone with the direwolf to the wars, Sandor?”

“Yes,” he nodded, wondering if Davos was going deaf.

“But what will happen with Osha and Hagen?”

Sandor’s mouth began to twitch in distaste as the reason behind the fights Sansa and he had had was finally brought up. He tried his best not to look in the little bird’s direction now though, since it was one thing to argue amongst themselves, and another for the Manderlys and Seaworth to learn that the bird and he were not of the same mind in this bloody mess.

For when the time had come for them to talk with Hagen and Osha about whom would be staying in White Harbour and who would be going to war, Sandor and his little bird had had one of their worst fights, since neither of them was happy with what the other wanted.

It had been a long time since Sandor felt the seething anger he’d lived with for so long from the days when he was still serving the Lannisters. But the moment Sansa proposed with a confident smile that it would be best for both Osha and Hagen to go with him, leaving her, their child, and her brother, all alone in this city, Sandor couldn’t help himself.

Even if Sansa and he had agreed that the Manderlys, a house not only powerful and wealthy, but valuable in the game for the loyalty they were supposedly prepared to show to Sansa and Rickon, were the best option they had, since if they couldn’t really rely on them, then the cause of House Stark was truly fucking lost, Sandor could not even consider the bloody possibility of leaving Sansa and Rickon to fend for themselves with the Manderlys.

Had this bloody matter not been one of life and death, Sandor may have even laughed when his stubborn little bird proposed it, but since that was not the fucking case, the fact that Sansa didn’t even seem to be joking, had only angered him more.

Sandor had asked Sansa what would she even do by herself if their enemies learned where she was and attacked White Harbour, questioning her about how she even proposed to get herself and their child and Rickon to safety and out of a city under siege, making it clear that he would prefer it if both Osha and Hagen stayed behind in the city with her, while he went away with only Shaggydog for company.

“If things get fucked up I don’t want you to stay behind waiting for me, little bird,” he had snarled at his wife, in a voice that was rough and hard as an iron grasp, clenching his fists at his side. “I know I told you I would take you home, but I also said that I would keep you safe, Sansa. So I’ll be damned if the day ever comes when I walk away and leave you alone and unprotected.

If we lose, I want you to flee White Harbour and take everything with you that you can and sell it. Anything that can get you and your brother on a ship back to Essos. But you won’t be able to do that on your own. Why the fuck do you want me to take away any protectors you could have in this damned city?”

Sandor had been shaking with anger by then, since he could remember well enough what had happened to the Targaryen children after Robert won at the Trident. They had fled Dragonstone with help, but if Sansa was on her own, what then?

Before Sansa was even able to reply, Sandor had continued, questioning her by snarling, “You could flee to Lorath or somewhere with Hagen, and instead here you are asking me to take away from your side the only sodding hope that keeps me going. The only sort of reassurance that I bloody well have of knowing that you won’t be completely alone when I can no longer keep you safe!”

But Sansa had made it clear that she was not going to give up on her case easily, and had gone on and on about how much she feared that he was not well protected when he left White Harbour to face the Boltons and the Freys and Stannis Baratheon.

“Sandor, just listen to me!” the little bird had exclaimed. “You are going to be completely surrounded in the march to Winterfell by men and knights who resent you for marrying me. If Hagen and Osha go with you, then at least I am sure they can keep an eye on you and make sure that you don’t make even more enemies.”

“So you want me to take three wet-nurses in case I scratch my knees?” he’d spat back angrily, thinking about Shaggydog, Osha and Edar.

“Gods be good,” Sansa had answered, trying hard to keep the anger in her voice in check, Sandor had managed to register. “You know it’s more than that, Sandor. Stannis may seek to hurt you in some way when you are brought before him. He burns people, remember? How can you even think that I will let you go meet that man on your own?

Whether it is because of the man you were when you served the Lannisters, or because you married me, or won’t bend the knee to him or his red god, it doesn’t matter. I have as much right as you do to want to keep you safe! I know that asking Hagen and Osha to join you could not end up mattering much if the red god has turned Stannis as mad as Arman and Quallo were, but I have to do something. I have lost nearly everyone I’ve ever loved, and couldn’t stop them from being murdered. But now I do have the choice and the chance to do something.

“Little bird,” Sandor had replied as patiently as he could in those moments, trying to keep calm, since he was moved by Sansa’s concern and the tears that were threatening to fall from her eyes made him feel as shit.

“I know how to behave around men like Stannis,” he’d explained to her, thinking back on Gregor. “I’ve survived worse men than him after all. If that bloody fanatic isn’t as stupid as I remember and actually listens to me, I still stand a chance. Trust me.

I’ll do everything I can so that the fucker ends up accepting us and our terms, even if he hates them. I don’t care. King Rigid Baratheon will just have to sit and grind his teeth to powder, because Westeros will end up just like Norvos if that bloody red god is tolerated here.”

But no matter what he said, the little bird was not convinced. When it became clear that neither of them was going to get exactly what they wanted, they had decided that they would let matters rest for the meanwhile, but until today neither had mentioned it again.

Sandor knew why Sansa was trying to pretend that they still had time before they could decide what to do, since she had behaved similarly back in Essos whenever he wanted to discuss what Robb Stark and Sansa’s mother would think of them getting together, and probably because she didn’t wish for them to spend their last days together fighting- the only thing in this bloody mess Sandor agreed with, and the reason he suspected, if he was honest with himself, was behind him agreeing to play this game along with this game with the little bird.

“We have not yet decided who will be going with Sandor and the men and who will be remain here with me,” Sansa was answering the Onion, as Sandor reached out to take a drink of the Dornish red before him, shaking his head.

But shouldn’t Hagen remain here as your sworn arrow, Sansa?” Wynafryd wondered, looking at a loss.

Yes, he bloody well should, Sandor thought sullenly, but knew better than to actually say those words out loud in these moments.

“Osha would be just as capable of taking care of me and Rickon, as Hagen would. Yet my sworn arrow’s skills and knowledge would be wasted if he were to remain here in White Harbour, for he is the best man with bow and arrow the north has seen in a long time.

On the other hand, Osha would be valuable to the troops due to her knowledge of Winterfell and the hidden ways beneath the castle that could be useful to them once they reached my home. So you see? I am afraid it is not so simple. But we value your opinions on all matters, my friends, and wanted to ask you all what you think should be done with in this situation.”

The Manderlys and the Onion were all more than ready to make it clear what they thought should be done, and it took them well past midnight for them, along with Osha and Edar, to agree on what should be done. The final decision still had to be taken by Sansa and he though, and Sandor and his little bird could tell that neither of them was still happy with what had been proposed during dinner in the Merman’s Court.

A/N: Thank you all so much for reading!! Hope you’re enjoying the story, and if you feel like reviewing please do. Your comments are some of the best highlights of my week :D

I have some news for you all. I am like 90% sure I’m going to go away for a week this Thursday, so I won’t be able to update the fic next Sunday. I apologize for making you all wait 2 weeks for chapter 51, but this is the first time this sort of gap would be happening, and I promise it won’t happen again. I’ll probably be away from the fandom during that week, but I’m going to miss you all! Take care and enjoy the final episode of season 3 (,;



Sansa, Sandor, Blackwater

Beyond the Ice & the Fire: How Fragile is the Heart... Chapter 50c

50c. The Merman's Court

She could see that Sandor had not been expecting that, and in that first moment after she had uttered those words her love’s scarred face- that face which had mastered the skill of hiding its true thoughts behind a mask of indifference- was like an open book to Sansa; a book which contained surprise, unease, and a hint of some emotion she could not quite discern.

“You want to call her Arwyn?” Sandor rasped incredulous, his arms dropping to his sides as the corner of his lip started to twitch. “Are you sure, Sansa?

The shadows of his past were coming back to haunt Sandor’s mind at this though, and Sansa did not care for her husband to dwell in them, so she just nodded in complete certainty.

Ever since she first began to imagine a future in which Sandor and she could be married and have children together, naming one of their daughters in honour and memory of the long lost sister Sandor had known when he was just a boy, and which the horrible Mountain had murdered, had been something Sansa had wanted to do, and she was not going to back out of it now.

“Yes,” she told her big man, assuring him that she was not joking. “And I’ve never been more certain about anything in my life, my love.”

“Seven hells,” Sandor muttered under his breath, running a hand through his hair. “I always thoughts you’d want to name her after your mother or something, little bird. Though certainly not after that wolf girl of a sister you had.”

Oh Arya. Sansa looked away, not prepared to hear her sister brought up in those moments. She closed her eyes briefly, making sure the pain that crossed her expression was hidden from Sandor’s view, before she said in tremulous hoarse voice, “Sandor, could I ask you to do something for me, please?”

“You know you can.”

Straightening her shoulders in determination, Sansa said in a strong clear resolute voice, “If- if Arya ends up being the girl they married to Roose Bolton’s bastard, and is being held captive in Winterfell, please bring my sister back to me, big man. Please promise me you’ll do your best to make sure she lives through it all.”

Sandor reached out to clasp her chin with his large hand, and as he made her turn her face around so he could regard her intently, her big man ended up snarling roughly after a long moment of consideration, “Yes, Sansa. I promise to bring you your sister back if I find her.”

“Thank you,” Sansa replied, smiling sadly as she supposed that one day, if the old gods and the new were good ad willing, one of her girls could very well take after Arya, since Sandor shared the characteristic traits of a man of the north.

Maybe that is what Sandor has that reminds me of Father. The dark hair and grey eyes, and quiet nature. And Sandor once told me the Cleganes were descendants of the First Men after all. He’s already a Northerner, and we should all care to remember that. Sansa would make certain they did.

“I know that it would mean to you just as much as it would for me to have our first girl called after your sister, or our first son after my father, Sandor,” Sansa told her husband now, wishing for the first time that rather than just one, she was instead carrying twins inside her.

“My bird,” was all her big man told her, clearly moved as he leaned down to kiss her forehead.

“Neddie and Arwyn Clegane,” Sansa whispered her heart full of hope once again at both at the pleasant feeling of Sandor’s mouth on her skin, and at how those words sounded together.

“Bugger, there’s this other thing though,” Sandor told her, meeting her eyes once again. “I don’t think the children should be called after me alone, little bird. I think they should be named Eddard or- or Arwyn of Houses Stark and Clegane.”

“But,” Sansa objected at once, taken aback. “But- but Sandor, you are their father. Surely you cannot wish for them to bear your house name after mine? Shouldn’t they be just Clegane?”

She had understood the necessity behind Sandor’s inclination to encourage her to call herself Sansa Stark rather than Sansa Clegane ever since the days when they had crossed the Narrow Sea, leaving Essos behind them, but she had not expected her husband to share a similar view when it came to their children.

“Under the circumstances, little bird, I don’t think so,” Sandor snarled, reaching out to grab her hand. “The world has to know that the Starks were not defeated, and our pups and birdlings should therefore all be called after both of us.”

“But- but dear, in the north that’s not the custom-”

“It surely isn’t, but it isn’t outlandish either, Sansa,” Sandor pointed out. “Bugger the custom. Are you forgetting who you are and who I am? You’re as highborn as they come, and my family were just landed knights. You know every house and every sodding sigil in Westeros, but do you know why are the Dornish called Nymeros Martell and not just Martell?”

Sansa nodded, remembering against her will Prince Dorna’s stranged wife, Mellario, and the woman’s connection to Arman Nervere.

“Because Queen Nymeria was of the higher birth, and Prince Mors was just a lord at the time they married,” she answered.

“Aye, clever bird,” Sandor agreed, reaching out to stroke her hair as Sansa gave his hand a squeeze. “And while Martell had an army to offer the queen and the Rhoynish who were mad enough to follow her to Dorne, I only have my sword and my love to give you and your brother and the babe. The least I could do for our son, or our little bird, would be to allow the Stark Clegane line to be born.

They say your brother lost the north because he married the wrong person, among other things. They won’t be saying things like that of you, Sansa. Or of our child if I can help it. You two are Rickon’s heirs now, and-”

“Sandor, please stop,” Sansa interrupted in a quiet voice, shaking her head and digging her nails into her hand. She could feel the fear in her tummy twisting and pinching in response to how worried Sandor’s words made her. This isn’t right. He doesn’t have to prove anything to me. The men of the north may be another matter, but Sandor was her husband by her own choosing after all, wasn’t he?

“Don’t say such things. If- if you really think it would indeed be better for our children to be Stark Clegane, then I agree...”

Later that day, when night had fallen, Sansa’s big man escorted her to the Merman’s Court, her hand on his arm, and a nervous smile on her face as Sandor kept assuring her that all would turn out well in the meeting, and Wyn and Wylla would not object at having her remain in the New Castle with them.

“You know they won’t mind you and Rickon staying here with them, little bird,” Sandor muttered, looking ahead of them down at the empty corridor. “So stop fidgeting.”

Sansa could distinguish the anger that lay behind Sandor’s rough rasp as he answered her well enough, but chose to pretend that she did not, not wishing to get into another argument with her husband regarding something that they had been arguing about for days now.

Neither of us will be happy with the outcome of it once we settled it in any case, Sansa gathered, thinking once again about who would it be best to stay with her in White Harbour between Hagen and Osha, and who should go join Sandor on the road to war. Only time will tell if the choices we end up deciding will be the right ones. Sansa wanted both the wildling woman and her sworn arrow to accompany Sandor to Winterfell, but her big man wanted them both to remain here behind with her.


With a shake of the head, Sansa began to smooth down her skirts in an attempt to distract her nerves. She was wearing a dark blue velvet gown slashed with silver that woke all the colour in her eyes. The fluttering feeling in her tummy was too much, and Sansa even hit her hand once with the hilt of Sandor’s longsword beside her, and was somewhat relieved when they finally reached the thick oak and iron doors that had been erected at the entrance of the New Castle’s great hall.

Wylla and Wyn greeted her at once with open arms, and even smiled and curtsied at Sandor, asking him how he was doing. Sansa saw that Ser Marlon, Osha and Hagen and Lord Davos were already in the hall, all of them with a cup of wine in their hands.

“Osha told us that little lord Rickon could not manage to stay awake,” Wylla told Sansa, as they joined their friends beside the roaring fire that was blazing in the great hearth.

“He was looking forward to it,” Sandor commented, looking about the hall, taking in the beauty of the Merman’s Court now that all of its decorations had been brought in, with a smile.

The candles had all been lit; the hall smelled of nutmeg and other costly spices. The long trestle table and the heavy-oak-and-leather chairs were waiting for them.

“My lady,” Ser Marlon said, kissing Sansa’s hand, making her return her attention to the people before her. “Clegane.”

“Lady Sansa,” the Onion Knight mumbled, giving her a modest smile before he started looking at his feet, and raised the hand that lacked the joints of his fingers to his neck as if searching for something.

Sansa tried hard to keep herself from chuckling as she recalled that ever since that morning when Davos had walked in on her wearing nothing but her corset and skirts, The Onion Knight would turn the most embarrassing shade of red when he was around her. Her big man had told Sansa that Lord Davos had confessed to him that he had been certain Sandor would hit him for having stumbled upon her in her undergarments.

“Good evening, Lord Seaworth,” Sansa greeted Stannis’ Hand with a smile, winking up at her husband beside her. Sandor returned the gesture by discreetly caressing the small of her back.

“So Clegane,” Ser Marlon said without preambles. “Ready to face our northern winters, are you?”

“I am,” Sandor replied without a trace of hesitation or fear in his raucous voice, crossing his arms about his chest as Sansa looked away from him, taking a deep breath as she remembered that she was not meant to face the long winter with her husband by her side.

“We are ready to leave as we had planned,” Sandor was saying. “The men are as ready as they will ever be. There is no point in delaying the date we decided any longer.”

Yes, there is no point in delaying, Sansa silently agreed, lowering her gaze to the floor lest her face betrayed her secret or her pain.

She and Sandor had actually considered him remaining in White Harbour for just a few more days, but when they’d asked Hagen’s opinion, their friend had replied, “Just for a few more days you say? And what then? What will you do when those days are over? You can’t run away or avoid stumbling with what the future has in store for you.”

They could see the wisdom in Edar’s words of course, and so now Sansa and Sandor only had just a few more days together and that was it.

“How many men will you be taking with you?” the elderly knight was presently asking Sansa’s big man.

“Around thirty,” Sandor answered, gulping down his wine and wiping his mouth with the back of his hand. “The ones who won’t so readily drop their blades and piss themselves at the first blow of a war horn.

“And I’ll keep on training the ones that stay behind, as well as the ones that arrive from the other towns and villages. And then I’ll send a few to you as soon as I see they are fit for the task. But most must stay here to guard White Harbour.”

“Is there any word of where Stannis is or how he’s faring?” Sandor enquired.

“There haven’t been any new tidings of the king’s whereabouts,” Davos answered sadly.

  “Yes, well, regardless of Stannis, you’ve won my respect, Clegane, I have to admit,” Wylla and Wyn’s uncle expressed, as he raised his cup in Sandor’s direction for a toast. “And I’ll tell the men as much before you set out for Winterfell. I’ll tell knights and soldiers alike that you’ve earned my respect, and that they are lucky to have acquired such a seasoned commander as yourself to lead their garrison to war. A toast to Lady Sansa’s husband!”

Sansa smiled and raised her wine cup along with the others, and they toasted to the health of a very uncomfortable Sandor.

Afterwards they all made some small talk before heading over to the long trestle table, sitting down on the heavy-oak-and-leather chairs. Sansa and Wynafryd took the seats at both heads of the table, with the others settling to their right and left.

Sandor sat down beside to her right, and Sansa could not help but smile as he reached out and place his hand on her knee, for it somehow felt fulfilling to know that the days were long gone where her husband had been her sworn shield, and rather than being expected to share her table he was supposed to stand guard behind her chair.

They began their little feast with a warm tasty stew of mussels, cods, crabs, winkles and whitefish, accompanied by white cheese, olives and bread. There were three different types of wine for them to drink, and a variety of elaborate plates, compromised of lobster, salted fish, lamprey pie, and vension roasted with chestnuts. As they ate and drank, Lord Davos and Sandor asked about the news the ravens had brought in the afternoon, and were told by Ser Marlon of the events that had occurred in the past weeks in the Seven Kingdoms.

Sansa was startled to hear of Cersei Lannister’s walk of shame through the streets of King’s Landing, but since almost everyone in the table seemed to notice her discomfort, they quickly turned the talk to Euron Greyjoy and his attempts to invade the Reach, and of these holy brothers that called themselves sparrows that had been taking power all over Westeros after the Iron Throne allowed them to have an army of their own once again.

Sandor turned to look at Sansa with discretion more than once during dinner, and Sansa knew that her big man would wait until she thought it best to finally announce the news about her baby, but so far, Sansa hadn’t found the right opportunity to do so.

Or maybe I’m just fooling myself, Sansa considered. It has nothing to do with the reason behind it, but maybe I just don’t want to confirm that Sandor and I will be parted soon.  

The right moment to announce the tidings of her child arrived when Sansa would have least expected it. It was when the talk around the table turned to the hundreds of wildlings Sansa’s brother Jon had allowed to cross the Wall, and the rumours of giants been spied near the shores of Eastwatch-by-the-sea. Ser Marlon had asked Osha to comment on her opinion on this, and they all listened attentively and considered what the wildling woman had to say about the Free Folk.

  Sansa had been thinking about Jon and the way she had once treated him, hoping that he would not hold her behaviour from when she was a little girl against her, when Wylla suddenly turned to look at Osha, saying excitedly as she reached for the wildling’s hand, “Don’t worry, Osha. We are all taught when little to fear the Free Folk, but now that I’ve come to know you I see how not all of those tales we were told by our wet nurses and septas can be true. I am sure that the Northern troops will come to appreciate you and your people’s efforts once they see how skilled and courageous a spearwife like yourself can be during battle.”

Those words managed to break Sansa from her reverie, and she straightened in her chair, shifting around in immediate self awareness. Osha had looked with a raised eyebrow at Wylla Manderly even as Hagen and Sandor turned to look at Sansa. It was then when she met Sandor’s grey eyes that Sansa knew the time had come. If I don’t say it now I never will.

So she folded her hands on her lap and coughed politely, breaking the momentary silence that had settled on the Merman’s Court, drawing everyone’s attention to her. Sansa covered her tummy with her hand as if just by touching her child she could find a secret source of strength within her from which where she could draw strength, and said softly, “We are not sure yet if Osha will have the opportunity to fight in some battle, for she may not be going to Winterfell.”

The Manderlys looked at her with raised eyebrows, silently asking her what she could possibly mean by that. So Sansa, shouldering her reserve, continued with, “And the reason for that is because I am with child.”

The fourth part of this chapter can be found here :)
Sansa, Sandor, Blackwater

Beyond the Ice & the Fire: How Fragile is the Heart... Chapter 50b

50b. The Merman's Court

It had all happened yesterday around midday. The stable boy had come running to meet her as she walked the walls with Hagen Edar and Sandor, and told them that her horse’s time had arrived. They had all run to the stables then, and had seen the whole birth’s process from beginning to end. Stranger didn’t seem to know he was becoming a father, snorting loudly in annoyance at having so many people disturbing the tranquility of his stall for so long, but besides that, all had gone well.

Sansa was so proud of her strong Nan, and tears of joy had slid down her cheeks as she watched the foal come into this world, wondering if she would live through her confinement and the birth with the same quiet determination her Nan had. Sansa had not even realized she’d been crying until Sandor raised a hand to wipe her tears away with his thumb.

I can’t believe it’s been almost a year since we went to that paddock in Great Norvos, when Nan was in heat, Sansa had thought then, sniffing as she stood on tip toe to kiss Sandor’s cheek.

Her and her husband’s lives had been so different in those days. Back then they had pretended to be Edric and Alysane, and had spent their days with dear Vintos and Frema, and their nights in their little house at The Three Bells inn and boarding house, trying to pretended that the High Magister of the city had not taken a painfully acute interest in them- in her.

We’ve lived through so much since then, Sansa remembered. From Arman Nervere’s memorable ball, to the horrible days that had followed that event, made unforgettable not only because of the first kiss that had occurred between Sandor and she, but because of Sandor’s trial and the near brush with death during the duel with Arman.

And then there was the caravan journey through the Hills of Norvos, where we met Hagen before we took shelter at old Hrolf’s castle by the sea. Their stay in Lorath followed after that, and then Braavos, their voyage across the Narrow Sea, their time in the wild northern lands, and finally their current time here in White Harbour.

But it was even more astonishing to realize that it had been around a year and a half since Sansa had been a hostage to the Lannisters, before Sandor fled the city, taking her along with him on a journey that would see them survive the Kingswood, Pentos and the long and lonely Valyrian roads. Yet through it all, there is one thing that remains as constant as ever, if not stronger. The love Sandor and I have for each other, and which has only been growing stronger since we first became more than just Joffrey’s abused future queen and his Hound.

“I want to play with him,” Rickon was exclaiming beside her, standing on a stool so that he could see inside Nan’s stall.

Sansa looked down at her little brother with a sad smile, remembering how she had told Sandor the other day that her brother must feel lonely, since there were no boys his age he could play with.

“Not yet, Rickon,” Sansa replied kindly. “He has to be with his mother.”

“Do you think he’ll get scared if he sees Shaggy?”

“Yes,” Sansa answered at once. “Stranger’s the one who who’s become Shaggydog’s best friend, you know. Not Nan, and certainly not her foal. At least not for a long time.”

“Oh,” Rickon replied, frowning as he returned his attention to Nan and the dark colt.

“We can train him to not fear Shaggy later, but we can still change his name right now though,” Sansa dared proposed, though she already knew what her brother would say.

“No, I like the name Horse,” Rickon answered, making Sandor chuckle as he stepped outside his destrier’s stall and strode over to stand beside Sansa, drawing her closer to him as he casually wrapped his large hand around her waist.

Sansa sighed deeply, shaking her head in disapproval of the name, regretting having accepted her brother’s proposition to be the one who named the foal yesterday afternoon.

She had been thinking on naming the coal Strider, while Sandor tried to come up with another blasphemous name for Stranger’s foal that could match his sire’s, and both of them had been curious enough when Rickon asked them if he could be the one to come up with the name. Sansa had nodded in agreement; thinking her little brother would say something like Longlegs or Highhooves.

But Rickon had ended up coming up with names like Fang, Darky, Horse and Shaggydog the Second of His Name, making Sansa’s mouth drop open and her eyes grow wide in horror, and drawing throaty raucous laughter from Sandor. What had left Sansa speechless was not the fact that in the end her little brother had settled for the name Horse, but the fact that her big man had actually sided with Rickon, and told him that was a good name for the colt.

  Sansa wasn’t quite sure what to make out of a horse called Horse, and just as she had began to imagine how proud she would be to see her child one day riding Nan and Stranger’s foal, Sandor had made the colt a gift to Rickon, saying that he wished for her brother to have a horse now that he would be parting with his direwolf, since Sandor would be taking Shaggy to war.

“How is the feast coming along?” Sansa’s big man asked her, leaning down to kiss her forehead while he placed a large hand over her tummy.

Sansa closed her eyes for a moment, relishing the warmth and smell of her husband’s body, despite the strong smell of horse to him, and ran her hands up Sandor’s stained leather jerkin, fisting the fabric of his green tunic beneath her hands, as she replied, “Splendidly. Wylla and Wyn can run a castle as well as my lady mother ran Winterfell’s household.”

“You could do a better job with that than any of them any time,” Sandor rasped in her ear, making her giggle as the rough stubble of his cheek brushed her earlobe.

At the sound, Sansa’s little brother turned around, and when he saw the way Sandor was hugging her, and the way she was trying hard to keep from laughing in her husband’s arms, Rickon made a sound of disgust and quickly ran away, seeking the other’s company outside the stables.

Sansa could not help herself and laughed happily at that, shaking her head at her little brother’s behavior because that was just the way sweet Bran or Arya would have reacted, while Sandor only snorted and held her closer, commenting, “He’ll like girls soon enough.”

“I suppose he will,” Sansa agreed, as Sandor chuckled, a sour sound, part rumble, part a snarl, and Stranger’s head suddenly appeared from above his stall’s door to stare and neigh at them, calling his master back to him, for all the good it did the poor new black coated father, since in those moments Sandor had slid his hands to cup Sansa’s bottom, making her squeal between her giggles, and stammer, “Sandor, don’t do that here!”

Yet her husband didn’t listen to her, and even slapped her down there, earning him a punch on his forearm from her fist. When she raised her eyes to Sandor’s grey ones once their laughter had died subsided, her husband lowered his head forward until his forehead was resting on hers, their noses touching and kissed her quickly, before he asked, “How have you been feeling today?”

Sansa could not help but smile at that, a little amused because ever since they had found out that she was expecting their child, Sandor would always ask her about twenty times a day how was she feeling.

“I’m all right,” she told him, giving him another kiss as they rubbed their noses together. “Earlier today I felt that pain near my ribs I was telling you about, but it quickly went away.”

“Bugger, little bird, why the seven hells-” Sandor began to growl at her in a voice that sounded like two wood saws grinding together, laying his heavy hands on her shoulder.

She interrupted him by placing a finger on his scarred lips, saying, “I am feeling much better now that I am with you, so please don’t start telling me that I should take a seat or go lie down, love. It’s sweet of you, but you have to trust me when I tell you I’m fine.”

Sansa’s big man looked like he was about to protest, but something shifted in his eyes as he regarded her with a frown, and in the end he only snarled some protests but didn’t go on about the mild cramps she had started to feel of late near her ribs and chest, but which she had been assured was not an uncommon pain.

Wrinkling her brow as Sandor started rubbing her shoulders, Sansa turned around to look at Nan and Horse, saying once again, “They are so beautiful, aren’t they?”

Sandor stare didn’t follow hers. He remained looking down at her as he rasped, “Yes you are,” and reached out to brush her cheekbone with his knuckles.

“I was talking about the horses,” she muttered, already feeling herself blush at the compliment.

“I wasn’t,” Sandor replied.

Sansa returned her gaze to Sandor. Her smile grew wider at the look on his face as he went on staring her with a calm grin, and opened her mouth to thank him, but no words came out. He knows already what I feel and want to thank him just by looking at me, Sana knew.

“When will I be able to-?” she began to ask, reaching out for Sandor’s hand with her own.

“You could right now,” he answered with a shrug. Sandor had spent enough time already with Nan and Horse, so the foal could start trusting him at once. “But I think its best that we wait till tomorrow morning when we take him outside. Nan won’t mind your presence, but the stall is too small in case Horse tries to run.

“All right,” Sansa agreed with a nod.

“He’ll know you soon enough if you keep at it, Sansa,” Sandor told her moments later as they started walking down the middle aisle of the stables, after Sansa remarked that they should really start getting ready for the feast. “So make sure to talk and touch him a lot the way I taught you, and I reckon that by the time I go away, you won’t need me to be around anymore.”

Sansa stopped walking at those words, letting go of Sandor’s hand, and causing him to stop talking and turn around to look at her with a raised eyebrow.

“That’s not possible,” she whispered, looking at her husband with wide eyes that were as full of love for him as they were of concern and care. “I am always going to need you, regardless of whether you are here with me or not. We both will.”

“Sansa,” Sandor rasped, his eyes leaving her face to settle on her tummy. “Do you know how much I’m going to fucking miss you, little bird?”

“Yes,” she answered, truthfully.

She could tell just how much those words meant to him- how grateful he was to her for them too. Sansa could as well he feel the strong beating of his heart as they left the building side by side, her arm going around Sandor’s waist even as he placed his own arm around her shoulders.

“Sansa, there’s something I wanted to talk to you about,” her husband continued as they walked out of the stables, frowning.

“What is it?” she asked him, braiding a strand of her auburn hair.

Sandor looked around for a moment, and rasped, “Let’s not go meet with the others just yet. I don’t want to be around anyone right now.”

“All right,” she agreed, and they started walking around the grounds of the New Castle.

“What is it you wanted to tell me?” she wondered, once they were far away from where Rickon, Hagen and the others were at.

Sandor’s turned his head to his sides to make sure there was nobody around, before he answered, “We haven’t yet talked about how we should call the babe.”

Sansa blinked up at her big man, her mouth hanging open in a small O, before she stammered, “Oh- yes. Yes, you are right.”

If she was honest with herself, she had not expected that Sandor would bring this matter up himself. She had thought about what names their child should be called, but the thought of her husband spending his time doing the same was quite a pleasant surprise for Sansa.

“Have- what names have you thought of?” she asked Sandor once he failed to say anything else himself, as they walked past the currently deserted training yard.

Nodding, he replied, “I’m running out of reasons why we shouldn’t call him after your father, little bird.”

Sansa could not help but draw a little intake of breath at that as she stared up at her love with wide eyes. Over the last couple of days she had found herself wondering what name their son should bear, alternating in her decision between either her lord father’s name, or one of her brother’s, but the moment her big man growled the former, Sansa knew it was just right.  

Not for the first time the intrigue of what exactly Sandor really thought of her father crossed Sansa’s mind then. He came to mock him and his honour to my face, but that was long ago, and we were so very different back then, Sansa reasoned. Father can’t remind me of Sandor in more than one way at times for nothing.

“Our child will be born in winter, Sansa,” Sandor suddenly snarled, stopping beside the shade of a tree, making Sansa realize that she had been so lost in her own thoughts she had forgotten to voice what she thought of Sandor’s proposition.

He grabbed her hand and led her towards the hidden grey bench behind it. Once they had sat on it her big man cupped Sansa’s face under her jaw, and lifted it upwards so that she could look at his burned face.

“He’ll be a proper little northman of an old line, and I reckon that Rickon’s bannermen would like it,” her husband further explained. “They can go on the way they always do, hating me all they like, but my son is going to be one of them, and they should do best if they never forgot that, and stopped dwelling on the fact that it is going to be the former Lannister Hound’s pup. Calling Eddard Stark’s first grandson in his honour will make sure no one ever does.”

He may not be here for the baby’s birth, but he can at least choose its name, Sansa told herself, her heart beating a little faster for the bittersweet meaning of that thought, her tummy already clenching painfully, twisting into knots, at the memory that these were her last days with her big man. He must see me happy in these last couple of days, so that the memories he takes with him to war are of my smiles and kisses, not my tears and worries.

And so Sansa smiled, her dimples appearing in both cheeks, and reached out to encircle the wrist of the hand Sandor had on her face, saying softly, “I could not agree more, dearest. It would mean a lot to me, not only the north, to name our son after my father.”

Her big man could tell that she meant every word, and therefore grinned as he let his eyes roam over her with a sudden hungry light shining in the grey waters of his eyes. Sansa returned his grin with a raised eyebrow, and suddenly teasingly asked, half in suspicion, and half in amusement, “But big man, wait a moment. You’re speaking as if you were completely and utterly certain that our baby is going to be a boy, my love, but what if we have a little girl? Shall we go ahead and call her Eddara then? It’s not an uncommon name here in the north. If I recall correctly I think that’s how Ser Helman Tallhart’s daughter is called, you know. ”

“Fuck no,” Sandor answered at once, with a sour chuckle. “Please not Eddara, little bird.”

Laughing, Sansa shook her head and moved her hand below the sleeve of Sandor’s heavy woollen tunic, caressing the hairy skin of his wrist and arm there.

“I would like if it was a girl,” Sandor admitted casually a heartbeat later, with a shrug as he let go of her chin only to move his large hand to rest on her neck, his fingers encircling her neck as his thumb started brushing her cheekbone back and forward. “But I’m bloody certain we’ll have a son.”

“But how can you be so sure?” she insisted.

“Because boys are more common in my family than girls,” he answered with a shrug. “And apparently so are in the Starks, seeing as you had four brothers and only one sister.”

“Oh,” she said, realizing there was truth behind Sandor’s words. Father had two brothers as well. Uncle Benjen and Uncle Brandon. “Yes, I suppose you could be right.”

Sansa wasn’t completely sure yet what her baby could end up being, but she wasn’t going to let this opportunity pass now that the moment had presented itself.

“We’ll call him Eddard if it’s a boy,” Sansa agreed. “But only if we can call our baby after your sister if it’s a little girl.”

The third part of this chapter can be found here :)

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