All the talk in the tavern that night was about the riot. The bartender wiped another glass, listening with half an ear to the same rumors, rehashed over and over again. No doubt less than half of them were true.
"The High Septon in bits all over the square…they say children were eating him before the City Guard chased them off…"
"The prince tried to set his dog on us, that's what set it off, we weren't going to take that…"
"Damn the Lannisters – Damn the Lannisters all, I say, they killed the wrong Hand…"
"Lord Stark was a decent man, at least, heard one of his own servants praise him as being always fair, be better than the Imp, anyway…"
One of the men slammed his glass down, bigger than the rest, and laughed. "Fuck the Lannisters, fuck Lord Stark, did you see the boy's little princess? They say half-a-hundred men had Stokeworth's daughter, how many do you bet would be willing to do for the little redhead?"
"You know what they say about redheads," said another, with a broad wink. "Spicy top and bottom." The bartender heard a quiet noise from the corner he had taken to be empty, and realized that there was someone sitting there, hand wrapped white knuckled around an empty glass.
"I'm sorry I didn't get my hands on her. Lush little thing and probably tight as hell, maidens always are and I hear highborn ladies even more so…"
"Ser," the bartender called to the man in the corner, feeling an inexplicable lurch of uneasiness. "More ale?"
His voice rasped unpleasantly, and a deaf man could have heard the rage there. "Don't. Call me ser."
The men were still talking. "You don't think she's a maiden anymore, not living in that castle, if every serving boy hasn't had her once…"
"Oh, shut up. If you want her so bad you should have dragged her off her horse and taken her right in the square, isn't that hard to get past a dress."
"And get my arm chopped off by the fucking Hound? No thank you, not worth that much."
The voice surprised all of them from the corner they too, had thought was empty. "Perhaps," it rasped, too quietly, "You should consider what it would be worth."
The sudden silence was surprising to everyone, and a moment later they were all looking at the man who had stood from his corner, flipped a coin to the bartender, and was leaning against the hearth.
"For example," the man continued, and the babble that had started to grow again vanished as if it had been snuffed out. "Would it be worth your balls, or whatever pass for them? Or both your hands? Or possibly your head?"
"If you're aiming to pick a fight," started one of the larger men, boldly, and the laugh was a harsh bark.
"As a matter of fact, I am." He stepped out of the masking shadows, the burned half of his mouth twisted upward, eyes bleak and dangerous. "As is everyone else, it would seem."
"Fuck," someone muttered, and someone added, "It's the fucking Hound," and louder, "What are you doing here?"
Sandor shrugged. "The same thing you are. Drinking."
"You cut off a man's arm today!"
He bared his teeth, one hand resting on the sword hilt at his side. "I could do yours too. You'd match."
"You fucking bastard," snapped one of the men, and the Hound looked at them and grinned more menacingly.
"Yeah. And what does that make you lot? Raping a twelve year old girl for sport, that's not a bastard's job at all…"
The one who'd mentioned the saying about redheads jerked hotly to his feet. "You just say that because you want to fuck her yourself, dog," He said, sneering.
No one quite saw the Hound move, but a moment later the boy's head rebounded off the wall and Sandor's right hand was closed around his throat. "Say that again," he said, and all the calm was gone, his voice a vicious snarl. "Say that again, you fucker."
The boy didn't speak, choking for the hand on his throat, but someone else did. "Is it true? Joffrey's Hound fucking Joffrey's little princess? Tell us what she felt like, then, was she wet when-"
He let go of the boy and spun, fist slamming into the speakers face. There was a violent crunch, and then dead silence. Sandor looked up, his eyes blazing. "Anyone else have anything to say?" He growled, as the man on the floor moaned weakly.
"You fucking bastard," whispered another man, edging back from the table. "That wasn't fair. He didn't—"
"Oh, yes, and dragging a girl off her horse and raping her half-a-hundred times is fair. You have an interesting scale there, ser." Sandor snorts. "Don't tell me you're any better than I am. Because I don't like liars any more than I like idiots, and you look to be both." His eyes swept over the small group of men, but no one stirred, though they all looked mutinous. His mouth twitched, bitter amusement plain in his eyes. "Good," he said, after a moment, "You are learning," and strode out without another word, slamming the door behind him.
No one brought up the riot again.
Joffrey's Hound stalked through the darkness back up to King's Landing like a shadow, half hoping someone would be stupid enough to try and robb him, just so he could kill them. Rage made his heart pound and the drink made his head spin.
Joffrey's Hound fucking Joffrey's little princess? Tell us what she felt like, then…
He swore, quietly, and stopped to lean on a building, trying to let his stomach settle. Idiots. Blasted bloody idiots. And by turns he thought of the look on her face when he'd found her, terrified out of her wits, and the way she hadn't looked at him even after he'd dragged her away from that, the way the Imp had walked her away with his arm around her shoulders when he'd been the one that saved her from rape or worse like some kind of bloody true knight…
Not fair. Fuck their not fair. Nothing was fair, Sandor knew that well enough and too well, and didn't let himself forget it.
He should go back and kill them all. Run them clean through. And drop their bodies at the little bird's feet. How would she like that?
He straightened and continued his staggering way up to the castle. For a moment when she'd seen him he'd thought he saw a flash of sheer gratitude, relief as he hauled her up in front of him, and then the terror was back. Did she have any idea what he'd saved her from? Likely enough she didn't, likely enough it didn't even occur to her to think that sex was something that happened outside of love much less violently.
Sansa Stark owed him more than a song now, that was for sure. And he'd make sure he got it, dammit.
If every serving boy hasn't had her once…
Damn. Damn. Just thinking about it made him want to beat the shit out of something. She was his little bird, his, not some pretty serving boy who'd take her once and tell the tale to everyone in the castle – not that she was ever his, the practical part of his brain murmured, she's Joff's, everyone knows that.
He swore again and slammed his fist into a wall. He could take her out. He'd seen her face, riding today, even before the mob, scared stiff. She didn't want to be here.
As if she would go anywhere with you, the malicious voice in his head murmured, the sensible voice, and he spat and cursed again and shoved the thought away. He could take her away, yes. And get dragged back and hung as a traitor within three days, not to mention probably her as well.
No, better to stay and give her what protection he could.
Coward, said the other voice, the stupid one, and he tried hard to shut it up, but it didn't listen. Coward, you could kill them all for her if you wanted to.
Stupid little bird. Stupid godsdamned dog.