Disclaimer: I do not own A Song of Ice and Fire/Game of Thrones nor its characters. They belong to GRRM, HBO, and whoever else has the rights.
Note: This is the final part of the story. I want to once again thank everyone who reviewed, messaged me, favorited, and subscribed to this story. I am overwhelmed by the amount of feedback I got for this story. I never expected this to be so popular - I am absolutely overwhelmed! Thank you all so much, and I am so glad you have enjoyed this story, and I hope that you enjoy this potentially wayyyyyy too sappy conclusion. :D
Part Seven (Epilogue)
When she sees him step out of the dinner, everything stops. Time slows down and nothing else exists; it is exactly like in a movie. Only better. Better than any movie, any book, any story. Because it is real, it is life, and he is alive. Sansa Stark breaks down underneath the shell of Alayne Stone and cries, because he is alive.
Five fucking years, and countless deaths later, he can finally disappear. Fade into the background, find some place peaceful and quiet. Retire in comfort. Some place warm and sunny and breezy. That had been the plan, once. Nowhere obnoxious, some place calm - but where there weren't extremes in weather, in cold or heat.
He'd live in a shack by the sea. Maybe get a dog; he misses the greyhounds from his childhood, the ones that would come and go in brutal blurs yet somehow he always wound up attached.
Instead he finds his way to Alaska, to a small town that isn't even on most maps. There's a tight feeling in his chest, in his gut. He can't shake it, no matter how hard he tries.
It's been five years. She might have moved. She might have stayed and...but she made him swear, and he told her what would happen if she found someone else.
But it's been five fucking years - he couldn't have been expecting her to wait for him forever. He honestly doesn't know what he will do if he finds his little bird here with some other man's jacket hanging over her shoulders, another man's hand touching her hair or holding her close or sleeping in her bed.
He knows what he'll want to do. He knows his fingers will twitch with the need to strangle or beat the life out of the lousy fucker. He knows he'll want to snuff the man out and then have his little bird again. But he's not Gregor, though he's possibly bathed in more blood than his brother by this point.
Sandor parks his motorcycle in front of a small diner and looks around for any glimpse of a girl that could be her - what if she's changed her hair? What if it's red or blonde or black? Short or long? A day like today, she might wear a hood or a cap. He strides into the diner and glances round briefly before taking a stool at the bar. He feels huge and cumbersome, but there are a few other men that aren't too much smaller than him - several far rounder than him - so he doesn't feel too out of place.
The waitress behind the counter looks a few years older than Sansa - no, Alayne - would be now. Her name-tag reads 'Mya.'
He orders a coffee and waits until she's set the mug down before asking, "I'm looking for someone. Her name's Alayne Stone."
'Mya' studies him hard before snorting. "Can't say you're what I expected."
"Alayne is at the vet right now. Right across the street," the Mya girl tells him, still giving him a hard look. "You better be sticking around this time," she mutters before taking the mug of coffee and walking off to see another customer.
Swallowing and wondering what the hell his little bird has been telling people, Sandor walks back out of the dinner - and freezes.
It's her. Instantly he knows it's her. Chestnut brown hair that reaches past her shoulders and blue eyes staring across at him. Tall and slender and pale, it's her. Despite the slightly fuller curves and the touch of age to her features, it's her.
With an obviously pregnant dog and a small child clutching her hand.
Sandor feels that tightness in his chest and his gut constrict, almost suffocating him. For a brief, painful instant he thinks that she's married. That she's started a family. That she found someone good for her, someone good, and realized that was what she needed.
But then she's stepping towards him, dog following and child skipping along beside, and it hits him how old the child could be.
They weren't careful that first time.
He has no fucking clue what to do - so he just takes a step towards her, and then another, until she's only a few feet away. He looks at the dog - an Alaskan Malamute he's fairly certain - and then the child - a girl with grey eyes and auburn hair. He then stares at her, his little bird with tears in her eyes and that shy, sweet smile - only he thinks it isn't shy anymore, but hopeful.
"Alayne." He doesn't know what else to say.
She swallows and then laughs, maybe to keep from crying, he isn't sure. "Michael," she whispers after a moment, the fake name he gave her five years ago when she insisted she needed a name for him because she insisted she needed him in Alayne's life somehow.
"Momma?" the little girl questions very softly, her grey eyes darting back and forth.
The dog at Sansa's side is sniffing his hand.
His little bird swallows and then crouches over and picks the child up. Her face is full of worry and hope when she looks at him again. "Michael, this is Lilyanna. My daughter. Lily, this is Michael. He's...he's a friend."
Sandor stares at the little girl with a round face and her mother's cute, little noise, his grey eyes staring from the child's face.
The girl beams at him. "You're the biggest man I ever saw!" she whispers, waving small fingers at him.
He doesn't know what to do. He sees his little bird's face, watching him with fear in her eyes when he doesn't react, doesn't speak, doesn't even mind the dog sniffing at him insistently. He looks at Sansa, at the girl - Lilyanna, such a Sansa name - and thinks he should leave. Because he'll ruin this. He'll destroy the happiness she's found, he'll destroy this little child, he'll hold her and soak her in blood.
But he swore, and his little bird is about to cry.
"Likely the biggest you'll ever see for a while, too," he says. He smiles at the child, hoping that the burnt side of his face doesn't twist too badly, doesn't frighten the small girl, but she just continues to grin.
Sansa bites down on her lip and blinks; he can tell she's trying not to cry, sees the way her body visibly slumps in relief. She then remembers the dog that's sniffing all over him, inspecting him. "Lady!" she says sternly.
The dog whines and sits obediently at Sansa's side.
Lilyanna - Lily, her mother called her - giggles. "She just likes him, Momma."
Sandor smirks at that. "I'm pretty good with dogs."
Sansa smiles back, laughing a little. She sets her - his, their - daughter down. "Lily, I want you to wait in the car while I talk with my friend, okay?"
The child pouts - he swears he sees a bit of the other Stark girl in his daughter for a moment - but nods. "Okay, Momma." She does not protest when Sansa guides her to the car and gets her in the back, 'Lady' carefully climbing in as well.
He swallows at the sight of the child and the dog in the car, the little girl watching him while Sansa walks back over. There's a pecular feeling in his chest; not unlike the tightness but different. Something foreign and unfamiliar, something that scares him when he watches Sansa smiles at the little girl and the dog in her car.
It surprises and even overwhelms him how natural it all looks for her.
Sandor meets his little bird's eyes and finally gives in to the urge to brush his fingers through her hair. "Lilyanna?"
His little bird blushes and shrugs. "I always liked lilies. And it's a way to remember my family, even if I never knew her."
"Did you find the extra cash in my jacket?" He'd given her several thousand to get started, cash he'd set aside from old jobs. He'd stuffed another five hundred in the inside pocket of the jacket he'd given her.
"Yeah. Thank you. I...I'm not sure I could have gotten by without...everything you gave me," she whispers. Abruptly, she surges forward, her arms encircling him, and presses her face into his chest.
Sandor inhales deeply and wraps his arms around her like he's wanted to since seeing her from across the street. He buries his face in her hair and breathes her in. He's shuddering, he knows, but he doesn't fucking care if he's obvious.
Five fucking years.
"You still want me, little bird? I warn you, I haven't grown any nicer these past few years, and I don't know the first thing about taking care of a child. Though I am good with dogs."
She laughs - loud and light - and pulls back enough to kiss him full on the mouth. "I want you," she tells him. "I've missed you."
Not the three words she said before they parted, and that sticks in his gut. Has his little bird grown wiser? Learned the gravity of her words, that some things can be said and fully believed in and not at all true? She cups his face, and doesn't add anymore - and he's scared. Scared that maybe she isn't saying them because she thinks he'll scoff at her again. Or that she doesn't believe them anymore.
But he smiles and kisses her forehead. "I missed you too, little bird." He sees their child - Lilyanna, his daughter - watching them with wide eyes while Lady barks. "And what do we tell her?"
Sansa pulls away and turns back to see their daughter and then blushes, burying her face against his chest again. "I always meant to tell her, but I wasn't sure how."
"Well, I think now we owe her an explanation."
"She'll love you," Sansa tells him. Her head lifts up again, and she cups his face. "I love you."
Like a fool, like a fucking, bloody fool, Sandor grins and kisses his little bird hard, cradling her head in his hands before blurting the words out. "Love you too, pretty bird." He feels her grin against his mouth and kiss him again - and he knows that this is the moment she convinced herself she'd get five years ago, when she thought of life as a movie.
He'll find work. Sleep in her bed, and watch their daughter and play with their dog, and try to give her the life she deserves. He'll be a father, and try not to fuck that up - because his daughter is beautiful and deserves the life that he never got, the one that Sansa lost.
And if his little bird asks, he'll get her a ring, and they'll put fake names on a marriage certificate.
Because she's Sansa Stark, and he really does love her.
She watches him let their little girl sit on his lap, and ask him if this means he'll be staying over tonight, and if he'll read her a story. She watches him scratch Lady's ears, and sneak her bits of meat during dinner - while Lily does the same and giggles at him. She watches as he promises Lily he won't disappear in the morning, and that Momma wasn't lying when she said that once Daddy came, he'd never leave again.
Alayne Stone watches the man who got her out of a bad home life, and sent her to a new beginning in Alaska awkwardly tuck his insistent daughter into bed, and then leads him to her bedroom that will never feel oppressively lonely again, she knows.
Sansa Stark got her movie. Now, Alayne Stone only wants her family to always be happy; together.