Beta: A huge thank you to Weshallflyaway for taking time out of her crazy busy schedule to go over this for me! You are utterly brilliant!
Author's Notes: This is the first of several tales I actually wrote several months prior while at work. So I apologize for any and all misinterpretation of characters.
Sandor Clegane was nine, his little sister was four; two children out to play.
'You be the knight true, and I will be the princess,' said she. Sandor knew better, knights were handsome; they did not have faces burned by fire. Then again, princesses never played with swords either. It mattered not; for together they slayed dragons, captured rebels, and saved the smallfolk from wicked witches.
Sandor made his sister a crown of ice blue roses, as every princess needs a crown. With a smile and a word of gratitude, she kissed his burned cheek, much to the boy's immense horror. Quickly wiping away girly bugs, he announced in disgusted tones that kissing was gross.
Poking out her tongue and laughing in his face the little girl happily declared that she had dreamt of him kissing a pretty girl with hair of fire. 'You were happy,' she announced with a sage like nod. Their grandmother said that the little girl had green sight. Sandor knew better than to believe her words or her dreams; he was young, but not so young that he still believed in happy endings.
Rolling his eyes, he mocked her before scampering off in laughter, the little girl hard on his heels.
Sandor Clegane was a newly made young man, the royal princess was but a little girl; a lion, and a dog trapped in a pit of vipers. All feared the giant boy, now turned man; the little lioness feared nothing. She was his only friend.
To the kingdom he was the Hound, to Myrcella he would always remain as Sandor. Though he did not know it, the towering young man loved the little girl for it.
Clad in a gown, once lovely, now filthy and tattered, she beamed up at him in joy, with a childish smile that was shy of two front teeth. He stared back at her in disbelief. The princess' arms and face was covered in scrapes, bruises and dirt.
'Today, I saved a kitty,' said she. 'It was stuck in a tree in the royal gardens so I saved him before Joff could find and hurt him! I did it all by myself!'
With a smirk on his scarred lips, and laugh in his throat, Sandor teased her for having fallen on her bottom after having saved the kitten from its certain death. With pursed lips and cheeks of bright red, Myrcella lifted her chin a little higher to hold his gaze. For the briefest moment he saw not the blonde haired princess, but a dark haired innocent. His little sister too, never feared his marred face.
Then she gave him a mischievous grin that was far too Lannister to be denied, and lifted her skirts revealing her knees; both covered with deep scrapes and gouges. The skin was starting to scab but the cuts were deep, and there was still much blood, even pus to be seen. Such wounds were certain to leave scars, the sort she would carry for the rest of her life. Sandor had never seen Myrcella more proud, or more excited at the prospect.
'When I fell, I didn't even cry, not a once!' said the princess with all the solemnness a four year old could muster. She was every bit the King's daughter, yet not a drop of stag's blood flowed beneath her skin; it was not his place to say.
Holding her gaze he spoke the only truth he was able. 'You have courage. Far more than your brothers, I'll give you that.'
Suddenly tiny arms wrapped around his neck as little lips briefly pressed against the puckered flesh of his burned cheek; an innocent and entirely unexpected kiss.
With a gentle whisper of gratitude the little lioness scampered away. She left Sandor, shocked and speechless, in her wake.
'Do you like what you see?' The woman of coin asked as she approached. She was indeed a beauty; with hair was of fire, and skin of fine porcelain. When she spoke, Sandor knew she was not of the south, but of the north. In his drunken state, the notion thrilled him more than he dared admit.
She was neither his heart's desire, nor was she one of the few whores he sought when his belly was full of wine and his blood up. She was new, and considered one of Littlefingers's finest. With a fistful of dragons well earned from a tourney that served no purpose, he paid the woman.
The woman called him the tourney champion, and the Hound. He called her nothing, for he had no interest in her name. She was not the illusion he desired; she would have to do. She approached him with a serpent's attempt at a wolfish grin. He gave her a dog's scowl. Taking his coin, and his hand, she led the way until they were alone.
With a look of curiosity, then a sickly smile she slipped her hands around his broad shoulders. Rising to the balls of her feet she kissed him full on his scarred lips. The Hound froze as though he had been struck. He could almost hear the voice of his late sister whispering in his thoughts.
You kissed a girl with hair of fire. You were happy.
Years of training under Lord Baelish's tutelage had taught the women to create the illusion of a bond; that much he already knew. It was as much for the whore, as it was for their patrons.
Drunk, confused and rapidly growing annoyed, he did his best to properly respond. The warrior was experienced in many things; kissing was not one of them. There was no joy felt, nor pleasure; only emptiness. Whatever his sister may have thought, clearly she had been mistaken.
The kiss was over almost as soon as it had begun. The whore was swift to regain her composure, just not enough for Sandor to miss her obvious revulsion. The confusion, promptly gave way to anger. There was no room left for shame or sorrow.
'What would you like?' asked the woman as though nothing had transpired. She spoke with all the pleasantry of a skilled seductress looking to ply her trade.
"This is a whorehouse, and you're a whore. What do you bloody well think I want?" The Hound growled in disgust and disbelief. The pretense immediately ended, along with the woman's subtle japes.
'You don't get around much do you?' the red-head mocked with a raised brow and a hint of a smirk. 'Very well then, let's get on with it,' she concluded. Sandor nodded his assent.
She had enough sense not to call him Ser or milord.
Sansa Stark was a lady of winter, the eldest daughter born under the sigil of the dire-wolf. Sandor Clegane was a man of autumn, the youngest son born under the sigil of the hounds. Two canines freed from the cages of lions.
To most Westrosi nobles, Sansa Stark was little more than a highborn widow, trapped in a castle too far north for most southron comforts. To her small folk and free folk alike, she was the beloved Queen of Winter, for which many a song was sung to her beauty and kind-hearted nature. To Sandor, she would always be the little bird who had unwittingly stolen his heart so many years ago.
Sandor Clegane was not the young man he used to be, nor was he the same ferocious Hound the seven kingdoms once feared. The Quiet Isle had soothed much of his rage, even quelled his inner demons. Yet no amount of prayer, or faith, could ever rid him of the fierce love he bore for the maiden he once knew.
Ten years had passed since that fateful night when he had last set eyes upon her, when he heard of her return. It was another year of facing snowstorms, monsters, and age old demons, before his eyes settled upon her beauty once more; just beyond the gates of the ancient walls of Winterfell.
The little girl he once remembered had clearly died many years ago. From her ashes rose a woman both strong and noble, with a heart as pure as the snow that fell all around her. With eyes of water and hair of fire, she remained the most beautiful woman Sandor had ever seen in his life.
With a smile that warmed him in a way that no amount of dornish wine ever could, the Winter Queen wrapped her arms around his waist. Her body lightly rested against his own. 'I've waited so long for you,' she whispered, as he pulled her closer. 'I knew one day you would return to me.'
She whispered his name, and then called him her beloved. Rising to the balls of her feet, Sansa kissed his marred mouth with such innocence and passion that it stole his breath away. Her lips were sweet and inviting; when she parted them to deepen their kiss, the spark in his belly ignited into fire.
The warmth of her embrace, the sincerity of her kiss and the soft scent of wildflowers in her hair overwhelmed his senses in a way he had never imagined possible. Between passionate kisses he spoke her name, and then whispered words he never imagined to speak. While all around them heavy flakes of snow drifted lazily to the ground until the godswood was glistening with a new blanket of white.
In the rustling of the naked trees Sandor heard the sound of his sister's gentle laughter, as the winter winds whispered her words, once long forgotten.
You kissed a girl with hair of fire. You were happy.
Sandor finally understood, and believed.
Sandor and Sansa Clegane's daughter was born a child of spring. Conceived in love, their child bore her father's strength and carried the purity of her mother's heart. She was their little pup, the first of many to follow.
'Papa!' she called, her tiny feet softly pattering against the aged stone floors of the castle. Sandor already knew what their young one sought. His little princess could never sleep without her mother's soothing lullabies, or her father's tales to tuck her in.
The idea of being a father had never come easily to him. Born the second, and thus lesser son, to a man unfit to be a parent, Sandor had few illusions when it came to parenthood. After years of witnessing the Lannisters tear each other apart, he took solace in knowing that he never need worry that he would one day have children to fail as the fathers around him had.
No matter his fears, Sandor never could say no to his little bird. Shortly after their wedding, Sansa's womb quickened, and she was with child.
With gentle kisses, and loving words of assurance, his wife did all she could to wear away his worries and doubts. He would be as fine a father as he was a husband, she promised with eyes that shone with joy, and a smile that lit up the room. If she felt no fear, than what reason did he have to worry?
Yet worry he did; his fears were no longer for himself, but rather for his little wife and the unborn life she carried. Sansa, a child of the north, was strong, but she was also small, and the life she carried within her belly was very large, leaving the midwife confident that she was carrying twins. Unsuspecting whispers reached his ears, filling his heart with dread. It was common knowledge that few lived to birth healthy twins, especially in the cold months of winter.
Yet nine months later, spring came to the land, and Lady Sansa Clegane gave birth to a healthy, if not large, baby girl. At the insistence of the old midwife, they refrained naming their daughter until she was two years of age. To Sansa, she was their little pup. Sandor instead, called her princess.
The simple joy, and immense responsibilities of having a child of his own, did not come readily to Sandor, who knew nothing of being a father. Though he was wiser than he once had been, he had much to learn. It did not stop him from trying to do right by his young family, to be the man his own father had never been.
A dog will die for you, and never lie to you, his grandfather so often said. In the name of family, he would do so much more.
It took a game of find the pup and several fairy tales later before their little girl was finally ready for dreams. With a sleepy smile, the toddler pulled her father into one of her bear hugs; showering his marred cheek with little kisses as she always did. With a mighty yawn, and a murmured good-night, she was fast asleep. Her tiny arms wrapped around her favourite toy, a stuffed hound; made by her mother.
With a kiss to her brow, and a blanket gently placed over her tiny shoulders Sandor joined Sansa's side at the entrance of their daughter's chambers. His little bird looked radiant in a way that only she could. With a contented sigh he slipped an arm around her waist. Together, they watched their daughter sleep.
Peace had never looked more inviting, or more laden with responsibility.
Not all dreams must end in nightmares. Not all fairy tales are folly. Sansa had once said. His little bird, like his late sister, had always known the truth.
It had taken a long journey filled with suffering and hardship, but Sandor Clegane had finally found a happy end of his own.
Avid Reader Guest: I'm glad you liked this piece and I just wanted to say kudos to you for picking up on my Ros reference =D I admit this tale was actually meant to be set in the book!verse despite the fact Ros was never in the novels. Unfortunately for the scene I had in mind I wasn't able to find a canon character who fit the bill so I did use a doppelganger!Ros for the scene simply because of her very very loose appearance to Sansa. Then again maybe behind the scenes Petyr with all his connections did acquire a copycat!Ros? You never know with that one _