Short one-shot based on season 2's episode 6 with some book-verse thrown in. Sandor/Sansa very much implied.

Content notices: mentions of violence, harsh language

Disclaimer: G.R.R. Martin is the mastermind behind the series. This is merely a fan venture, I stand to gain no profit from it.

It was considerably late in the evening when Sandor Clegane returned to the Red Keep. He had found Stranger galloping the streets, the large destrier's hooves bloody, though a thorough inspection had showed the horse himself unharmed. The gold cloaks had wrestled the control of the city back but it was clear that the peace wouldn't last, not with the possible siege in the near future and a lack of food already showing, not to mention the hatred the masses held for the royal family.

Sandor wanted nothing more than to go to his room and drink a skin of wine or two or three, to erase the memory of the day, especially of when the bloody Imp had ordered him back to the city to guard the water wagons with the sellswords. He had ditched them as soon as he could and busied himself by looking for his horse but even so he could feel the phantom pains in his burnt flesh. He hated fire and feared it and the fucking dwarf that swaggered around as if the city was his had the balls to order him to where the city had been on fire.

Leading Stranger into his stall and tending to him gave him a brief reprieve from his dark thoughts, but they came back when the sellsword who was almost always with the Imp melted out of the darkness and approached him.

"Clegane," the sellsword called him. "Lord Tyrion requests your presence immediately."

Bugger the Imp and his request, was what Sandor wanted to say but more than a decade of service in Lannisters' employ taught him better than to speak his thoughts. He could get away with some impertinence now and then but not today. The Imp's temper had been even shorter than his figure and Sandor had heard some rumours of the Imp assaulting his nephew in the aftermath of the riot. The brat deserved it, no doubt but the fact that the Imp was still unpunished spoke volumes of where the true power laid.

"And what does lord Tyrion want from me?" Sandor asked instead even as he started walking towards the Tower of the Hand.

The sellsword only smirked, his usual confidence even more galling under the circumstances.

"It's not for the likes of us to question the Hand of the King."

Sandor snorted but didn't reply. The walk was silent afterwards and the sellsword left as soon as they reached the door to the solar where the Imp was waiting. There were remains of a dinner left on the table and a half-filled goblet of red wine. The Imp had his back to the door but turned around when Sandor entered.

"Have a seat, Clegane," he ordered before waddling over to his chair and sitting down himself. "You found your horse, I believe?"

"Yes," Sandor replied cautiously. He very much doubted that the Imp had asked him to come to exchange pleasantries and he waited for the true purpose of his summons to be revealed.

"Have some wine, Seven know we all deserve a drink after today."

Sandor poured himself a full cup and drained it quickly. It was a good vintage, much better than what was available to to the troops, even the exalted members of the Kingsguard. The perks of being in power. He poured himself another cup.

The Imp was watching him shrewdly but if he thought that a couple of cups would loosen Sandor's tongue, he was much mistaken. Besides, Sandor had no secrets worth telling. He liked to drink and gamble and whore, his charge was a spoiled, sadistic bastard and as for himself, his only redeeming feature was that he was no hypocrite.

"You saved Sansa Stark's life today," the Imp said suddenly and Sandor almost choked. He hadn't expected that one.

"I just happened to be there," he rasped but offered no further explanation because he couldn't and wouldn't explain himself. He tried not to think of Sansa Stark, futile as that endeavour was.

"And a good thing you were present. You're aware of how important she is to us. If any harm has befallen her..." the Imp trailed off but Sandor knew what he meant. Sansa Stark was a valuable hostage and as long as she lived, so did the Kingslayer. There was no hope to exchange her for the man, of course, but at least she kept Jaime Lannister alive.

"It's regrettable, the way Joffrey treats her," the Imp spoken again and he was watching Sandor closely for a reaction. He gave none but his thoughts were similar, though much harsher. Joffrey was a little shit and the girl didn't deserve it at all. Sandor sometimes wondered how Joffrey could be so cruel with those blue eyes staring pleadingly at him. But maybe that was that. The little bird's mouth chipped her pleasantries as taught but her eyes betrayed her still.

"I heard that Joffrey had every member of the Kingsguard beat her," the Imp was still prying though Sandor had no idea what he was getting at. "Everyone but you."

What did the Imp expect him to say? I can't beat the girl? I am the feared Joffrey's Hound but I pity the little bird and couldn't hurt her even if I was ordered to?

"If I hit the girl, she would be hurt much worse than usual," he settled for saying. "His Grace knows that."

It wasn't a lie. Sandor was the largest and strongest member of the Kingsguard. He could break the girl's bones just by gripping her tightly and the thought left him feeling strangely guilty.

"At least he shows some sense," the Imp muttered before once again changing the topic. "You called her a little bird today, when you brought her back."

Sandor almost swore out loud. He hadn't realized it at the time that he had called her by his nickname for her. He had been relieved that he had gotten them safely back and that a shallow wound on her forehead was the worst of her injuries. Seeing her besieged by the mob, being pulled down from her horse to be hurt or worse... he didn't want to think of what could have happened to her had he not been there.

"Did I?" he stalled for time. "What of it?"

"Nothing," the Imp spread his hands. "I just find it interesting, that's all."

"I am the Hound. You are the Imp. Varys is the Spider," Sandor leaned forward. "They are just names. They aren't important."

"I guess not," the Imp agreed amiably. "And yet the names bestowed on us by others seem strangely fitting, wouldn't you agree?"

Others take the Imp and his questions! Sandor had no taste for the court intrigues under the best of circumstances. The pleasantries that veiled malice, the politeness that hid dislikes... It was like being caught in a pit of vipers. Vipers pretending to be harmless and bereft of poison and the Imp was among the worst of them.

"What do you want from me?" Sandor rasped out, tired of the game. The Imp looked down at his own cup which he had yet to drink from.

"I wish I knew. You are many things, Clegane, but most importantly you are loyal, for all it's worth."

"Loyalty is a dog's trait."

"Yes, it is. Stay loyal then, Clegane. Protect your master like a good dog that you are," the Imp swirled the remains of his wine around. "And keep an eye on the little bird while you are at it. She needs looking after, I think."

The dismissal was unvoiced but Sandor stood up all the same. He was going to need that wine more than he had thought. Fucking Imp, fucking Joffrey, fucking mob. And fucking Sansa Stark, for being such a helpless little bird and having those large blue eyes that couldn't bear to look at him most of the time except when he was behaving like a fucking knight charging to her rescue. Fuck them all and fuck his life. And yet he knew he was going to do as the Imp had asked. Because dogs are loyal and he was the damnedest dog of them all.

A/N: Need to get ASoIaF plot bunnies out of my head before I can focus on DBZ fics again.