(Hello all! Sorry for the delay; I was moving countries!)
Crunch. His lance impaled one of the straw men through the gut, causing it to sway where it stood. Sandor checked his horse, retrieving his weapon before taking off down the field at the next target. So intent was he on his goal and the thundering of Duncan's hooves that he failed to see Meryn Trant coming in from the right. Without warning, the knight's lance flew mere inches from his steed's nose, hitting the dummy in the hip.
"The fuck you playing at, Trant!" Came the bellow, spooking his own damn horse.
"Didn't see you there." A sneer, and the git put a boot to the straw man at he yanked the lance free.
Three. That was the third time that cocksucker had crossed him in one afternoon, leaving the Hound fit to kill. He urged Duncan after him.
"Like shit, you didn't see me!"
"You said it, not me." Trant remarked over his shoulder. Somewhere behind him, Boros sniggered.
"Oi!" Catching up, he yanked the cunt's cloak. Meryn jerked back in his saddle and almost fell, cursing.
"Take your filthy fucking paws off me!"
"My arse I will!"
"I won't ask again."
Ser Meryn swiped his hand away. "Who are you to give me orders! Remember your place, Dog!"
"I'm the one who's about to put a lance through you."
"Lay off it, Hound!" Boros chimed in, appearing at his other side. "You can't take the both of us,"
He snorted. "Like hell I can't."
"Clegane." It was Ser Barristan's turn to comment. "Leave him."
Growling, Sandor released Trant, watching him trot off with Boros in tow to the far end of the field. Selmy rode up beside him.
"They're not worth it."
"Not worth what?" He rasped. "Not worth killing? Everyone's worth killing."
"You and I both know the consequences of killing such men far outweigh the benefits."
Sticking his lance into the ground, he adjusted his stirrups. Damned boy had put them too short again. Head down and face concealed, he conceded: "Fine."
"Hm." Selmy agreed. "And stop sticking your elbow out every time you make a thrust."
He nodded openly at this. Advice from Ser Barristan was not to be snubbed.
Ser Meryn had tried to trip his horse shortly after his chat with Selmy, and then 'accidentally' bonked him on the head messing with his lance.
In spite of the elder knight's words, in Sandor's mind the idea of spilling the pig's blood was becoming ever more appealing. As he handed the last plate of armour to the squire Jaime had leant him, he decided he needed to busy his hands for a while, and set about cleaning and polishing his saddle. There were servants around to do such things, but Sandor found the task somewhat relaxing, so he stood there well after his training, scrubbing grime from the seams in the soft leather.
Fucking Boros. Fucking Trant. He channeled his agitation into elbow grease, chipping at the dried mud caught in the foot of his stirrup. Trant in particular was a swine. He thought of Rowan that evening, with her cheek blue and swollen. I'll kill him. He turned the seat down and worked at the underside. She had been frightened when he tried to set it. Had looked on the verge of tears with the pain. Arrogant prick. He heaved the thing over and dipped a clean cloth into a tin of black polish. The sharp odour assailed his nostrils. He hated the smell of polish.
Another saddle hit the ground at his feet. Trant's. He knew by the fancy gold stitching on the flaps, and the plated stirrup irons.
"Another one for you, boy."
Oh, he was really trying, wasn't he? Sandor flattened his own flaps out and treated them to a generous coating of polish.
"Didn't you hear me?"
He set his jaw, thinking of Selmy. Not worth it. Not worth it.
"Hey! As deaf as you are ugly, is it?"
This time, Ser Meryn emphasized his remark with a shove.
His elbow got the shit right in the face with a satisfying crack. The puffed up knight staggered back, clutching at his cheek as blood dribbled from his mouth.
The Hound's fist launched at that smug face. This time the cunt was ready, and twisted his hand away. Sandor bared his teeth, snarling, letting the rage burn through him. When Trant looked in his eyes, he quailed.
But he had chosen his fate, hadn't he? Out of nowhere, a knife flashed in the Hound's hand. Meryn moved only just in time for it to leave a scratch across his breastplate, rather than sink into the soft flesh of his underarm.
"Are you fucking mad?" The coward yelped, staring wide-eyed at the blade.
"Yes." The Hound barked back, straining as Trant caught hold of both his wrists. "And I'm going to fucking gut you."
Fear. Real, unchecked fear now in those beady little eyes. The Hound laughed, bringing his knee up into his opponent's crotch. He hit metal with a jarring pain, but he way beyond that now, veins singing with the thrill of the hunt. The other man wheezed and retreated, narrowly avoiding Sandor's blade as it cut the air in front of his face.
"The fuck's wrong with you, Clegane?"
He laughed. Plenty.
Trant was big and mean, more than a match for him in strength. Not in speed. When he leaped at him, he barely found the voice to cry out. Still, he caught yet another attack, attempting to turn the knife against Sandor who, still grinning, blocked it with his own arm. Blood spattered down onto that crooked nose, those tiny black eyes, and that flaccid mouth - no longer smirking or sniggering.
"Get the fuck off me!"
Again, the Hound cackled, wrenching his hand free. Trant floundered, seeking to seize it again, but was hindered by Sandor's bleeding - and ever so slippery appendage. Death had found him and there was no escape.
Except a boot to the ribs, administered by Boros. Sandor's breath was forced out of him with a sharp oof. He made to face the newcomer, but hands were already on him, at first several, and then only Ser Barristan's.
"Enough, lad." The old man breathed, eyes fixed on Trant, who was bleeding out around the knife embedded in his thigh. "That's more than enough."
Sandor shrugged him off and stalked away.
He found her in the passage leading to the kitchens. At first she failed to see him. Then she looked, and a hand flew to her mouth.
"Don't make it out to be more than it is." He grumbled. "A bandage and a flagon and I'll be good as new."
Unconvinced, she grabbed his arm, tugging it straight in a movement he could only describe as 'excruciating'. Once she peeled his sodden sleeve away, she fell silent, shoving him rather roughly into the pantry and onto a squat step stool. She then sprinted away.
"Wine won't fix that." A small silver box slammed down onto the shelf beside him. "Show me."
"Not sure I trust Wildling medicine."
"Then why'd you come to me?"
"I came for a drink."
He shut his mouth, allowing her to wipe his arm with a liquid that smelled similar to his saddle polish. Stung like hell, too. She apologised when he hissed, but refused to release him. So he sat obediently, observing with unveiled amusement as she dug through the bandages and various bottles, finally extracting a needle. "You can't sew!"
"No." She agreed, threading it. "But this isn't sewing, is it?"
"I can go to the maester."
"I know that. I also know you won't." Holding his arm firmly, she pinched the wound shut. As she moved the needle into position, he shut his eyes.
Sandor allowed himself to peek. Intent on her work, she sat bent over the cut, tongue sticking out ever so slightly. The scent of roses wafted up from her thick hair.
Her stitches would make a septa weep, but they were tight and strong. She tied them off with a flourish, using the same stinking potion to clean him more thoroughly, slipping her little hand into his as she did so, not even feeling when he gave it a squeeze. Her thumb absently traced the line of his finger bone, sending a pleasant tingle down his spine.
She released him to pick a length of pristine cloth from a steel cylinder.
"I don't need-"
His mouth snapped shut. Anyone else might have gotten a slap for addressing him so. From her he found he rather liked it.
Again, her fingers closed around his hand, moving it this way and that as she wound the bandage around it twice, and caught it in place with a closed pin. Released while she cut the cloth, he allowed his hand to fall open upon his knee. Hoping, perhaps...dreaming.
Today she wore a sleeveless Dornish gown, and as she turned, he found himself faced with a vast expanse of white back. Before he was aware, his hand raised to touch -
That little mouth quirked upwards, and she tucked a loose strand of hair behind her ear in what he might have called a coy gesture. Letting his imagination run amok, he caught a hint of pink in her cheeks.
Emboldened, he let his thumb float over the line of her spine.
He jumped a mile.
She giggled. "Sorry, I'm a bit ticklish."
He tucked this tidbit of information away in the recesses of his mind.
Defying all expectations, she faced him now, propping one elbow on his knee as she toyed with his blood stained fingers. Of a sudden, she rose up, ad placed a palm to his disfigured cheek.
He stopped breathing. Surely, she would cringe when she felt that uneven, twisted flesh. Ah, but her finger was tracing his jaw now. It would make her retch.
Yet there was nothing like revulsion in her eyes, merely intrigue. She was so close now. Did she realize? She should move away now. He was not used to this.
Just as he considered standing up and walking out, she kissed him.
Is she mad?
His eyes went wide, but he found hers were shut, so he followed suit.
The fuck am I supposed to do?
People did not kiss Sandor Clegane. Did they? Somewhere in his labyrinth of memories, he saw his mother leaning to touch her lips to his head. Smell of lilacs. And his sister. At times she would have pecked him on the cheek. Those damned lemon cakes she had loved so much.
Not like this, never like this. Everyone else, they punched him, shoved him, stabbed him, loathed him, feared him. He could not recall the last time he had been shown affection.
Is that what this is? In face of all these thoughts he remained frozen to his seat.
And then it was over, as soon as it had started. She closed the tin with a bang.
"I'm sorry." She blurted. "I shouldn't have done that. I thought..."
He never got to learn what she'd been thinking; the slamming of the pantry door drowned it out.