There is a brief description of Joffrey hurting Sansa in this story. I have placed an asterisk (*) next to the paragraph so if you wish to skip that part, you can still enjoy the story :)

It was exactly two months after the grand spectacle of her wedding to King Joffrey that Sansa discovered she was with child. When Maester Pycelle came out of the royal bed chamber and announced her pregnancy to Joffrey, he was both smug and thrilled he had produced a Baratheon heir so quickly.

"Finally, Sansa has done something to make herself useful! About time, isn't it Mother?" She heard him crow through the door, the sounds of wine being poured and crystal glasses clinking together echoing throughout the solar. Cersei, Tyrion, Tywin, and Jaime's voices all could be heard; the only voice she did not hear was Sandor Clegane. He had been appointed as her sworn shield, a wedding gift from the King.

She could faintly hear the sound of various people murmuring their congratulations, slapping Joffrey on the back and wishing the King and Queen the blessing of a son. The sounds faded as the party moved out of the solar and into the banquet hall. Sansa sighed and turned on her side. "A son!" she said out loud and at the very sound of the words she giggled to herself. Little did Joffrey know that this child was not his.

Joffrey always thought me a stupid girl, Sansa thought to herself. And yet it was Joffrey who couldn't discern the most obvious truth of all, that in no way by his feeble attempts could he have produced this child growing inside her.

* Their encounters together had been few, awkward and very brief. Even though he had barely reached his eighteenth nameday, Joffrey could not get aroused unless he hurt her or she cried out. He would pound into her relentlessly, always half hard, pulling her hair and biting her as he tried spurring himself on to completion. The last time he came to her was four weeks after their wedding, and he was so enraged at his inability to complete that he blamed her and left the next morning for a month of hunting.

Shae came in the next morning to see Sansa's swollen face and red eyes, her scalp bloodied and her shoulders bearing Joffrey's bite marks. Shae and Sansa had long since came to an understanding about her place in the Red Keep with Tyrion. Sansa was happy for Shae and never commented on it, covering for her whenever possible.

Without saying a word, Shae walked out of the room and returned with a pot of moontea. She silently poured it into a cup and handed it to Sansa, never saying a word or hinting as to what it was. Sansa sipped the tea slowly and over the course of the morning drank the entire pot. Shae smiled softly at her as she took the empty teapot away: now they would both hold secrets for each other.

Sansa spent the rest of the day in bed. Shae helped her bathe and get dressed for dinner, but Sansa had no heart to go and face the family after Joff had stormed off. Nausea washed over her as she replayed the last few weeks of their marriage in her mind.

"You will be glad of the hateful things I do someday, when I am all that stands between you and your beloved king," Sandor had said to her once, and he certainly kept his word to her, always managing to step in before Joffrey turned violent. As she pondered why he did this when he could have requested a more decorated position in the Kingsguard, she came to a shocking but moving conclusion.

He loves could I have not realized this?Upon searching out her own feelings, she came to the surprising conclusion that she returned his love in her heart. She had felt nothing but numbness since seeing her father beheaded and during her time with the Lannisters she had learned to buried her own feelings so successfully that her true emotions had become a mystery even to herself. Sansa was stirred out of her reverie by approaching footsteps followed by Sandor's familiar knock on her door.

Sandor gruffly came into her rooms bearing a tray of food and a whole plate of freshly baked lemoncakes. The sight of the confection was the first thing to make Sansa genuinely smile in a long time. "Lemoncakes! My kind of you to remember. Thank you Ser…oh, forgive me, my lord," she said.

"Just call me Sandor or dog like your beloved king does," he rasped his reply, not smiling, though Sansa saw a familiar twinkle in his eye as he looked at her.

"You are no dog, so I shall call you by your given name: Sandor. Tell me Sandor, I have often thought of the you've treated me as my sword shield and wondered: Why are you so good to me?" She spoke the last words in a whisper, shyly daring to look into his deep gray eyes and holding his gaze as his shifted on his feet.

The scarred man's expression softened and his struggle to contain his emotions became visible on his face. Sandor bent down beside her, saying softly, "Little bird, are you still such a child that you cannot tell what I feel for you?" He choked out, his eyes glittering warmly.

"Tell me," Sansa whispered, touching his hand lightly.

"Seven hells, saying this is bound to get my head removed, but you know I would never lie to you. Sansa, I...I have loved you from the moment I first saw you." He choked out, brushing a strand of her hair from her face. Sandor looked deep into her eyes, searching to know her feelings while he awaited her response.

A wave of deep emotion washed over Sansa, momentarily rendering her speechless. He has bared his soul to me; do I dare tell him of my true feelings as well? After several long moments of silence, Sansa turned her face up to him and gently pulled his lips to hers. "And I have loved you and only you," she whispered, caressing his cheek. "I was too much of a child to realize it until now, Sandor, forgive me. But no matter what our circumstances are here in King's Landing, I will always belong to you and you alone, my love." Sansa caressed the burned side of his face before she brought his mouth down to hers in a tender kiss.

Sandor eagerly responded to her, his kisses soft and yielding, reflecting his gentle reverence for their new-found intimacy. Soon the couple deepened their kisses on instinct, and their passionate caresses ignited the long-suppressed desire they each had concealed.

Sansa had been a married woman for a moon's turn but she had never been made love to and she trembled with anticipation as Sandor gently removed her gown and laid her down. He slowly kissed and tasted every inch of her body until she panted and trembled beneath his touch, savoring the love he was giving her body as well as her heart.

Sandor would have thought it impossible but she was even more beautiful than ever as she lay beneath him, with her ivory skin flushed with desire and her blue eyes dark with need. Sansa, overwhelmed with pleasure, begged him to come into her as he covered her body with his own. When Sandor filled her up completely with his manhood, Sansa felt a sharp tear and realized Joff had not even fully taken her maidenhead in his fumbling attempts at lovemaking.

Slowly, Sandor increased his movements, gently making love to her until she sobbed with pleasure and found her completion. Sansa's body tightened around him so powerfully that Sandor soon followed, his body trembling in her arms as he peaked. As they held each other sated after their lovemaking, Sandor gently stroked Sansa's belly. Sansa allowed herself to imagine what it would be like if she became pregnant with Sandor's child, how thrilled she would be to have his son.

They fell asleep in each other's arms, feeling the warmth of a deep abiding contentment neither of them had ever known. Sandor awoke her with his kisses and made love to her again in the early hours before dawn. Begrudgingly he tore himself away from her as the light of early morning filtered in through the windows, knowing he had to leave before her maid arrived. Sandor kissed her and promised he would return that evening, looking back at her longingly as he closed the door.

Sansa snuggled down in her bed, relishing his lingering scent on the bed linen. She longed to make the most of the time she had with him alone while Joffrey hunted. They had so much time to make up for and she ached for Sandor to teach her all she had missed. Her sole desire was for him, and their lovemaking filled her body as well as her heart with the love she had wished for in her soul. She couldn't wait for night to return, for it would bring Sandor back to her bed once more.

The next morning when Shae arrived later than usual. Sansa was all smiles, and Shae couldn't help but laugh seeing her mistress so contented. Giving Sansa a knowing smile, she handed her a cup of moontea. "No, thank you, not this time," she told Shae, who raised an eyebrow at her and grinned. "There may be a wolf in you after all," Shae said and they both erupted in laughter.

Sandor bolted the door of the solar and rushed into Sansa's bedchamber as soon as he could no longer hear the party. "How do you feel, Little bird?" he asked gravely, knowing full well Sansa did not want any part of Joffrey or bearing his offspring. Sansa excitedly drew him close to her and whispered, "I am thrilled my love! Just imagine, our first child is on the way!"

Shock and disbelief filled Sandor's eyes. "The child-the child is mine?" he stammered, hardly daring to hope her words were true. He had never allowed himself to dream of being loved by such a woman as Sansa, let alone becoming the father of her child. "Yes, my beloved," she drew his good ear to her lips, remembering Lord Varys had spies everywhere. "The only time I didn't drink moontea were the times we made love. Dearest, I would never risk our future child!"

Sandor's face twitched into a proud smile which quickly disappeared as his mood darkened once more. "Sansa, I…you should have told me. What...what if the child has my look?" His heart swelled with equal parts of love and fear, knowing the great danger for his beloved, now carrying his child.

Sansa took his face in her hands. "What if the baby does have your looks? My father and your mother both are of the north and if our child is blessed with your beautiful black hair and grey eyes, it could just as easily be said that it has the look of my father."

Sandor looked down and nodded sadly; not being able to acknowledge his own child openly was already deeply painful for him. Sansa understood his sorrow; she shared his pain as well. Sansa tenderly caressed his cheek and felt the wetness of his tears on her hand.

"Sandor, I love this child with every ounce of my being because it is ours, yours and mine. Our baby was brought out of our love and passion for each other. I am forever grateful to the Mother for this chance to have a family with you. I will gladly have our family in any way I can," she whispered, smiling through her tears. Sandor looked into Sansa's beautiful eyes and allowed himself to return her beaming smile, pulling her to his chest as he held her close.

Cersei predicted accurately that Joffrey would not be as devoted as her beloved Jaime, and instead took to the hunt as her time drew close, as Robert had done before him. Sansa gave birth with very little difficulty and Sandor never left her side while she labored. A few of the septas twittered about the impropriety , but Sandor gave such menacing glares to all who dared say anything that only the maester stayed with them during the delivery.

"Two beautiful boys-twins!" Maester Pycelle exclaimed. "This is a good omen for the king, praise the Seven." But Joffrey was not there to hear his words, nor did he return until a fortnight later.

On his return he showered Sansa with furs from the hunt, saying word was brought to him in the wood of his twins' birth. "True Baratheons to be sure!" He crowed to anyone who would listen. "Just look at that golden hair."

More like true Lannisters, Sansa thought, remembering the gossip she had heard from the maids about Cersei and Jaime. But Sansa was so filled with her own happiness she said nothing. The happy new mother contented herself thinking how Sandor said both his father and sister had blonde hair. The infant boys' eyes were not typical Lannister bluish-green; in fact, the only discernible difference was Edmond had true Tully blue eyes, while John had deep steel grey eyes exactly like Sandor, much to Sansa's delight.

Time passed, and Sansa was able to spend much of her time away from Joffrey now that the twins had grown big. He enjoyed them as infants but as toddlers he was annoyed most of the time, eager for Sansa to remove them from his presence after spending only a few minutes with each of them during the morning hours after the family broke their fast.

For her part, Sansa had been using the excuse of nursing the twins as a way to keep Joffrey's amorous attention at arm's length. She wasn't surprised when word reached her that he found comfort in the arms of Ros and the other whores Petyr Baelish regularly provided for the court. Better them than me, she thought to herself. Joffrey wasn't exactly subtle, always hurrying her out of the castle at midmorning and Sansa was only too happy to comply with the Kings' wishes.

She spent her days in the lushly appointed gardens of King's Landing with Sandor and the boys, watching father and sons play together as she embroidered. Sandor spent more time with her than ever before, never leaving her or the boys' sight. Even during his time off he stayed close by, always careful to watch them from a distance and even took to moderating his usual intake of wine, much to the surprise of his men.

Sansa loved him for it and during their time in the garden she would pretend for a moment that this was their home, their garden, and they were far from King's Landing. Oftentimes the couple stole kisses while the boys played nearby. Sandor never failed to come to her when Joffrey was off with Ros or on the hunt. He would often caress her belly after their lovemaking; he was in awe of his sons and deeply grateful to Sansa for the joy they brought him. They enjoyed more peace together at this time than either of them had thought possible.

It was not long before Sansa began to notice her belly becoming round once more. Two moons had passed without her moonblood and Sansa excitedly began to hope she was once again pregnant. When Sandor noticed her body was beginning to one night, Sansa nodded yes and laughed joyfully as he bent his head and reverentially kissed the swell of their unborn child.

Noticing Sansa's figure, Shae again offered her moontea and again Sansa refused with a smile, the two women laughing together at their shared secret. Cersei, however, did not fail to take notice of Sansa's glowing happiness nor of the fact that she had not yet become pregnant with another child.

Concerned, she mentioned it one day as Joffrey and Sansa broke their fast with her and the children. "Joffrey, my love, pray tell me when I can expect the pleasure of another grandchild? The twins will be four in less than a month, and there have been no little brothers or sisters for them. It's a pity don't you think?"

"We have two Mother...don't you think that is adequate? It's more than enough for me, quite frankly. As it is now, it is all Sansa and my dog can do to keep them out of my way. I have more important business than this to attend as king. I wouldn't expect you to understand this as a woman." Joff laughed smugly.

"Actually your Grace, I do have reason to expect a blessed event as we speak. I need to be examined by Maester Pycelle of course, but I do believe I am with child." Sansa said calmly, daintily wiping her mouth with a napkin and smiling widely. Sandor coughed loudly and cleared his throat.

Enraged, Joffrey glanced at Sandor first and then gaped at her. "How is this even possible?" he screamed, glaring at Sansa. "Please, my love, your excitement has overwhelmed you," Cersei interjected. "What is the King trying to say, Little Dove?"

"I believe he means he is remembering our coupling with difficulty. It was after the feast in honor of his nameday, and he was feeling the effects of the wine he had been enjoying. And what a fine, strong Dornish wine it was...the finest to be found. I had it brought in for the occasion especially for Joffrey, knowing how much he favors the vintage." Sansa said, keeping her eyes down as she drank her tea. She could hear Sandor draw in a deep breath behind her and cough again, threatening to make her laugh in spite of her precarious position.

"This is stupid, stupid...what kind of women's foolishness is this? How could I not remember...our coupling?" Joffrey sputtered in rage, glaring at Sansa and his mother by turns as though the queen's pregnancy was some sort of woman's conspiracy against him.

Cersei sighed and said, "I fear you share similarities with Robert that I had hoped would end with him. Your father also could not remember the occasions you and your brother and sister were brought. Do you think Varys hasn't told me of your preferences for Dornish red...and red-headed whores that let you beat them? You are shaming your family and bringing humiliation on your is not to be borne."

"A king can do as he likes," Joffrey muttered haughtily. "I will not claim this child as mine, or keep Sansa as Queen under false pretense. We shall see if this child resembles my sons and I will decide from there what shall be done. Do you understand?" he enunciated at Sansa, and throwing down his napkin he stormed out of the room.

Sansa spent her second pregnancy much as her first, left alone to her own devises by Joffrey. Sandor secretly thrilled at the idea of becoming a father again. Sansa was so complete in her happiness at having another child with Sandor that she grew more beautiful each day, leaving Sandor so deeply in love and longing that he his heart ached whenever they parted.

He despaired at the thought of what cruel lengths Joffrey would go to punish her if the unborn child didn't resemble him. Sandor kept his thoughts to himself, however; he did not want Sansa upset in her delicate condition. Never a man to believe in the gods, Sandor found himself praying to the Mother to keep her safe and to the Warrior to help him protect her from Joffrey.

Joffrey spent his time alternating between antagonizing his mother, taunting Sansa and staying in his cups with Ros. He moved Ros into a room next to his private residence in the castle, much to the outrage of his mother and grandfather. Joffrey succeeded in even alarming his uncles with his open debauchery, both men fearing tales of his behavior would reach beyond the castle walls and turn the smallfolk against their King once and for all.

The brothers at the Sept of Baelor lectured him as much as anyone dared reprimand a foul-tempered boy-king. But despite her husband's horrid behavior, Sansa could not be made unhappy, completely consumed as she was with love for Sandor, the twins and the new baby on the way. She secretly felt their unborn child was a girl, and in her heart she named her Catherine. When Sansa's time for delivery drew close, Joffrey left for the hunt just as he had done before.

This time, however, Sansa labored much harder and after many hours of struggle she birthed a beautiful baby girl with a head full of Tully-red curls and beautiful slate-gray eyes. As Maester Pycelle lifted up the baby with a smile, Sandor laid eyes on his beautiful daughter for the first time. Tears of happiness rolled down Sansa's cheeks as she smiled up at him, laughing happily.

Sandor's joy turned into a sinking feeling when he noticed her lovely red hair, so reminiscent of her mother, thinking Joffrey no doubt would be more cruel to this child. His daughter's beauty took his breath away, and even as he despaired the fearsome Hound was completely smitten with her.

Firstly, as a female and blessed as Catherine was with Sansa's red hair and creamy skin, she undoubtedly had already earned Joffrey's scorn once the report was made to the absent king. Her large grey eyes were so very much like his own; he prayed Joffrey wouldn't recognize the similarity between them. Sandor knew Joffrey would be indignant. He stole a glance at Cersei, trying to decipher her thoughts as she held the baby, and by the look on her face he knew she shared his fears.

"Sansa, Little Dove, this baby girl has grey eyes and red hair," Cersei said haltingly, hating to spoil the moment by mentioning the obvious. "Yes," laughed Sansa, "Catherine has the look of her Uncle Robb and Uncle John both. They will be so excited!" Just then the door of the solar slammed shut and Joffrey barged into the royal bedroom with two members of the Kingsguard in tow.

"What is the meaning of this?" Cersei demanded, handing the baby to Sansa. "You overstep entering the private quarters of the Queen. My son, this behavior is beyond contempt, entering your queen's private rooms with soldiers in this way when she has just given birth!" Sansa instinctively clutched Catherine close to her breast, fearful the guards would try to take her baby from her.

Sandor instantly reacted to Sansa's obvious distress, stepping in between Sansa and Ser Meryn and Ser Boros. "You heard the Queen Regent. Remove yourselves from Queen Sansa's quarters," Sandor rasped ominously, his right hand gripping the hilt of his greatsword while his left hand took hold of his shorter fighting sword. Sandor's ability to wield a sword in each hand during battle was well-known throughout Westeros, and even in the training yard not even one of the members of the Kingsguard were willing to test his fighting skills.

"We are Kingsguard, Clegane, serving at His Grace King Joffrey's pleasure," Ser Meryn answered. "Fuck the Kingsguard, Toad. Get out I said, before I cut you both down right here and now." Sandor growled low and threatening. Stunned at the Hound's sudden ferocity, Joffrey took a step back from Sandor. As the scarred man moved forward between the knights and Sansa, he roughly backed the members of the Kingsguard out of the room slowly. The baby began to cry, and Cersei glared daggers at them while Sansa gently soothed her daughter.

Joffrey stared at his mother and Sandor before glaring at the baby. "You gave me a girl? I do not produce girls!" Joffrey spat the word out like it was a curse word, pointing at the baby in disgust. "Look at her. A redheaded grey-eyed girl? Humph, definitely not mine, just as I suspected. She'll be a whore like her mother, no doubt. What do you expect me to do with it? This one should finish things rather nicely for the High Septon to dissolve our union." Joffrey mocked, pointing toward the infant once more.

His haughty laugh ending abruptly when Cersei slapped him hard across the face. "You may not approve of the match your father and I made for you, but Sansa is your queen and she labored very hard to bring you a beautiful daughter into the world. The only thing in this life you must do, even as King my son, is love your children. It is your duty and you owe it to your family." Cersei spoke through gritted teeth while staring Joffrey directly in the face, daring him to move.

At that moment Tyrion and Jaime came into the room. "Goodbrothers! How kind of you to come. Meet your niece, Catherine," Sansa smiled nervously. Tyrion handed a large bouquet of roses to Sansa. "Are we interrupting another beautiful family moment, Sansa?" Jaime jeered as he cooed at the baby, picking her up so Tyrion could see her. Noticing Sansa's nervous look he added, "It's nothing personal my dear-births always seem to bring out the best in Lannisters, goodsister. Joff takes after Father, no doubt."

"Why in Seven hells is the Kingsguard here? Tyrion asked, his eyes darting from Joffrey to Cersei. "Is Clegane trying to keep Sansa and the baby for himself? I don't blame him at all, really-what a lovely girl you are!" Tyrion said to Catherine, stroking her cheek and grinning at Sansa.

"Your nephew," Cersei hissed, glaring at Jaime, "Your nephew wants to end his marriage to Sansa because she had a girl. He's enraged the baby takes after the queen's brothers." Jaime turned to Joffrey and mirrored Cersei's disgusted look as he handed Tyrion the baby.

"Oh really mean because the baby takes after the Young Wolf-the King of the North, as they say, and the bastard born brother of the Night's Watch. Is that so?" Jaime shook his head, unable to resist goading Joffrey. "Most fortunate for my beautiful new niece! Sansa, you have given our family the loveliest girl I've ever laid eyes on!" Jamie went on.

Tyrion nodded gravely, "Well, dear sister, it seems your eldest son doesn't share your singular redeeming quality of loving your children. He will be Robert's son after all. More's the pity."

"Damn straight I am! I killed his bastards, and I'd kill hers too, if only it could be proven!" Joffrey shouted like a spoiled child. The baby began to cry, as did Sansa. Sandor glowered at him and he took another step back. Puzzled, Tyrion watched the Hound closely as he carefully handed Catherine back to Sansa. Sandor took two steps forward, never taking his eyes off Joffrey, so filled with rage his knuckles turned white gripping his sword.

"You fool!" Tyrion growled vehemently at Joffrey. "You will give up all your rights as King if you seek to end this union. No amount of your mothers' conniving or Father's money will prevent the Septon from disavowing you. You do realize you have much bigger worries, don't you? Your Uncle Stannis is approaching as we speak and Daenerys Targaryen has her dragon hatchlings in the east, just to name two." That is, if Clegane doesn't cut you in half first, Tyrion added silently to himself, noting the rage that glittered in Sandor's eyes as he watched Joffrey.

"You are wrong again as usual, Uncle. It seems the High Septon and I have reached an agreement that mutually benefits BOTH of us. The High Septon will annul my marriage to Sansa in exchange for a hefty contribution from me as well as making the Seven the sole religion allowed in Kings Landing. Refusing to convert will be punishable by death," Joffrey smirked.

Cersei stared incredulously. "You marriage annulled? Based on what?"

"Queen Sansa keeps to the Old Gods and therefore could not truly be held to her wedding vows in the Sept of Baelor. As King, I could not be expected to have a wife who keeps to the Old gods of the forest, and her adherence to that pagan superstition invalidates the union. Sansa and her children will be sent away and even though they may or may not be mine, they no longer will inherit the Iron Throne, simple as that," shrugged Joffrey as though it was a problem easily solved, not involving his own flesh and blood.

Sansa was puzzled; Joffrey knew full well she kept to both the Old gods and the New. Sandor had overheard her prayers many times in the godswood as well as the sept; he also knew of her devotion. Looking at her beloved, she could see Sandor was thinking the same thing but he pressed his finger to his lips to indicate her silence. She nodded once to acknowledge his suggestion, all the while her mind raced with questions.

They were to be sent away? Where? Would she be able to return to Winterfell? What about Sandor? As she thought over what Joffrey's words meant she noticed Cersei and Jaime exchanged worried looks with Tyrion before all three stared at Joffrey, at once amazed and sickened by his cunning.

"And just what makes you think your subjects will accept this? Sansa is well loved by the people, and many people in Kings Landing worship the Old gods," Tyrion asked.

"And what of the red god R'hllor? Many of the immigrants in King's Landing worship him. You are essentially waging war on their god. What makes you think his red priests and priestesses will just ignore such a decree? I hear they practice a dark magic, one not to be underestimated," added Jaime.

"Peasant superstition," scoffed Joffrey. "Lions do not concern themselves with the opinions of sheep. Besides, I have already chosen my new bride: Margaery Tyrell Baratheon, Uncle Renly's widow. She arrives in a fortnight and I expect her brother Loras' arrival in two weeks' time to accept my proposal. Dog, as your King, I command you to take my former wife and her things and get her and her bastards out of my sight, as soon as she is able to travel! Your job from now on is to make sure they never return to King's Landing!" Joffrey roared before turning sharply, slamming the door behind him.

Sansa was aghast, struggling to process the sudden turn of events. She felt weaker with every word from the King and after he left all of the color suddenly drained from her face. Sandor growled at Jaime and Tyrion to give her some room to breathe while Cersei just stood staring at the door Joff had slammed shut, speechless. After a few moments she left the room without a word and Tyrion handed Sansa a glass of wine while Jaime took the baby into his arms, cooing at his niece.

"Don't worry my dear sister, we'll find a place for you and the children. You might consider the seat of our father, Casterly Rock. I'm sure he won't mind his great-grandchildren staying for a while. He is at Harrenhal with Gregor Clegane presently, possibly indefinitely since he is fighting both Stannis and your brother Robb," Jaime offered.

Sansa turned even paler at the sound of her brother's name. "Haven't you buggering bastards done enough?" Sandor snarled at them, causing Tyrion to stare at him with a long questioning look. "Or perhaps you would prefer a royal escort back to Winterfell along the Kingsroad. No need to decide now, my dear, just try to rest and we'll work it out later," Tyrion suggested kindly, patting her shoulder. Both Jaime and Tyrion kissed Sansa and Catherine before handing the baby back to Sansa and leaving the room.

Little Catherine fussed in her distressed mother's arms and Sandor reached over to take her from Sansa. "Those bastards had their turn; now give me my lovely daughter. It's your father's turn to hold you, isn't it, Catherine?" Sandor said softly, offering her his little finger to hold. "You could not have given me a more perfect little lady," he said, and Sansa laughed to herself at the sight of the fiercest warrior in Westoros totally reduced to mush by his daughter.

"Oh Sandor, my love, can you believe it? We will be free in just a short time! It is all I have prayed and dreamed of for five years. We can all go to Winterfell together as a family!" Sansa cried with tears of joy, the first of many to come.

"I don't think the Young Wolf will welcome me with open arms. The king in the north will be none too pleased to see Joffrey's dog with his sister and her children," sighed Sandor.

"Our children," Sansa gently corrected him."Just wait till he hears about that," Sandor snorted. "My family will be proud to welcome you once they realize all you have done for me, for us. When they see how deeply I love you, how happy we are together, and how much you love our children, there is nothing they would deny you."

"There is only one thing I want, and that is you, Little bird, you and our children together as a family. I dare anyone to try to deny me that. I'd fight the Warrior himself before I'd give up my family," Sandor answered, bending down to kiss her tenderly.

Two days after the birth Sansa was able to walk on her own. As soon as word of her recovery reached Joffrey, the High Septon called her to the throne room for his formal declaration of annulment, ending her marriage to Joffrey. Sansa was overjoyed but tried to look solemn as she listened to the proclamation read aloud, forcibly keeping the smile off of her face by biting the inside of her cheek.

When the ceremony was over, she returned her marriage cloak and ring and in so doing a huge weight was lifted off her shoulders. She felt she was truly the happiest person alive and silently gave thanks to the Old gods and the New for the strange turn of events that bought her and her children their freedom.

During the next two weeks, Sansa was so busy packing and preparing to leave that the time went by very fast for her and Sandor. Several days before Margaery was due to arrive, her brother Loras came and formally accepted Joffrey's offer of marriage on her behalf. Let them play the game of thrones all they want, thought Sansa as she and Sandor made final preparations to leave. We're going home.

It took a moon's turn and a fortnight beyond to reach Winterfell from King's Landing. Sandor made sure the going was slow to give Sansa and the children time to rest. Tyrion had provided a retinue of his own soldiers to keep them safe and while their presence made her nervous, Sansa was grateful that Sandor had plenty of help should trouble come.

When at last they reached the northern territory, they were met by Greatjon Umber along with the rest of the northern bannermen who served her father, Ned Stark. When word reached the minor houses that Ned's daughter and grandchildren were journeying north, the loyal men eagerly rode out to welcome them home. Sandor wisely sent Tyrion's men away rather than arrive at Winterfell with Baratheon soldiers in tow, and the northmen escorted them to Winterfell without incident.

Sansa immediately went to the godswood and there Sansa and Sandor were married under the Heart tree in the sight of the Old gods, holding their children close and wrapping their arms around each other as the first snowflakes of an early autumn storm began to fall.

Catelyn and Robb met them at the giant iron gates of Winterfell, eagerly embracing Sansa and the children as tears of joy flowed freely among the reunited family members. Sansa introduced her husband and children to her mother and brother, and she delighted that despite his fearsome reputation they embraced Sandor unconditionally, so grateful they were for the return of their family. At the celebratory dinner, the children were doted on, passed around for everyone to admire, and showered with presents by all in attendance.

Afterward Robb and Catelyn listened carefully as Sansa and Sandor told of their experiences in Kings Landing, the circumstances surrounding her marriage to Joffrey and its dissolution, and how they came to be free to return to Winterfell. At hearing their story, Robb was more determined than ever that the Lannisters would pay for their treatment of his family.

The Young Wolf stared at his sister, now grown into a woman, standing alongside the scarred Hound. For several long moments the king remained quiet, lost deep in thought. Rising from his seat, Robb then sincerely thanked Sandor for his service to his family and expressed his willingness to grant any request Sandor might have.

Clearing his throat, Sandor asked for a place for himself, his wife and children in the Stark household. Kneeling before the startled young man, he then laid his greatsword at Robb's feet, swearing fealty to him as King in the North.

When Sandor rose to his feet, Catelyn took Sandor's hand and placed it in Sansa's with a smile and for once in his life Sandor understood what it really meant to have family, to love and to be loved wholly, and to feel home at last.