Warning: This chapter contains a flashback of sexual assault. Please be aware it is retelling of the HBO episode featuring the attack on Sansa and I have not added any further detail. I still feel it is safer to advise my readers of the content and that I have put an asterisk (*) next to the trigger paragraph so you can avoid it altogether and still enjoy the rest of the chapter :) I have done the same throughout this story as the welfare of my readers is my first priority. If you have any suggestions please let me know and I will incorporate them.

This chapter has been completely rewritten as of 3/30/13 so if you have read it before I hope you find the flow is much better now! Concrit is always welcome :)

Sansa is running through an alcove and down a dark corridor...and then suddenly reaches a dead end. I am a wolf, I am a wolf, she tells herself, her heart pounding loudly in her ears. For a brief second she wishes she had played more with Arya; she would know what to do, she always managed to best the boys at home. Thinking of her sister fortifies Sansa with bravery and turning to face the men chasing her, anger and fear floods through her as she slaps the man closest to her with all her strength. As soon as she feels her hand strike his greasy cheek, she realizes her blow isn't hard enough to dissuade him and her stomach sinks with fear.

*The poxy peasant is barely fazed by her blow and the gleam of hatred in his eyes sends a chill through the young woman before he returns her stroke; striking her just below her eye, the man sends her sprawling to the ground.

Where am I? Sansa no longer can see in her panic; only blackness surrounds her and she is assaulted by her other senses all heightening her terror. Several pairs of hands grab her all at once: her ankles, her dress, her shoulders and breasts...she hears the fine material of her gown rending while her small clothes and the bodice of her dress is ripped away by filthy, meaty hands.

Hot drunken breath assaults her nose as the man hisses into her ear. "Have you ever been fucked, little girl?" Tightening into a ball, Sansa whimpers as she feels herself flipped onto her back and her legs being pried apart, despite her kicking and struggling.

*Surely Joffrey sent the Kingsguard for her...would anyone know to look for her here? Sansa once again tries to find her voice to scream but panic robs her of strength and renders her unable to fill her lungs with air. Gagging at the stench of unwashed male bodies, terror consumes her, sickened with the knowledge of what is to come. One of the men reaches into his pants...

"My lady! My lady, wake up!" Sansa gasps and suddenly Shae's arms are around her, holding her tightly. Sobbing in relief, Sansa discovers she is violently trembling and tears streak down her cheeks. "You were having another nightmare, Sweetling. Shh, there there, my lady, no one can hurt you here," Shae soothingly runs her hands over Sansa's hair while cradling her in her arms.

The frightened young woman glances up to see the door to her bedchamber is destroyed, with large pieces of splintered wood scattered all over the floor. Peeking at her tentatively from the hallway is the Hound; his normally keen grey eyes soften with concern as he looks at her. His massive right hand grips his sword hilt with such strength Sansa notices his knuckles have turned white.

Sansa casts a questioning look at Shae but her fear leaves her unable to form words. "You were screaming, my lady," Shae explains as she nods toward Sandor. "The Hound kicked the door open to get to you. If there had been an intruder I would have pitied him."

Frowning, Sandor nods curtly at Shae while casting another worried look at Sansa. Shyly, Sansa gives him a small smile before he quickly disappears into the hallway of Red Keep.

Once Sansa quiets down, Shae fills the bathtub with steaming water and adds lavender petals to calm the shaking girl. Sansa gingerly steps into the bath, sinking in up to her neck and the young woman enjoys feeling her sore body immersed in the hot water. "I should have gone to him already, Shae. I've waited three days and I'm afraid I have offended him."

Shrugging, Shae nods casually; highborn thanking the help is a new concept for the woman. Tyrion regaled her with tales of the Hound's brutality in battle and she also knows Sansa's lady mother put Tyrion on trial for her son's injury. She cannot help but giggle thinking what Sansa's mother would say if she knew her daughter's handmaiden is also a former camp follower and now Tyrion's kept woman. Even more laughable is imagining what Lady Catelyn would say if she discovered her highborn daughter cares what the Hound, the fiercest warrior in Westoros, thinks of her.

"The Hound is a killer. He gets called dog by a fourteen year old boy king who orders him around all day long. I don't think he'll take offense that a traumatized maiden forgot her courtesies for a few days, my lady. After dealing with Joffrey, it's no wonder he always looks sour!" Shae and Sansa both giggle at the thought of the Hound being offended after what he endures on a daily basis.

"Still, I'd feel better if I at least thanked him," Sansa whispers, staring off into space. Sansa still can feel the Hound's intense gaze upon her and wonders at the dramatic change in his eyes; and the memory makes her warm and fluttery inside her stomach.

Closing her eyes, Sansa replays the feel of his strong arms when he gently lifted her over his shoulder after the attack. She had leaned against the massive muscles covering his shoulder blades while tightly gripping his cloak, the velvet soft against her cheek and hands. The Hound smelled of armor, sweat, horses and wine, just like her father and brothers. She remembers her waist curved right into the side of his neck and her hip brushed his jaw as he carried her to safety; the memory causing Sansa's cheeks to flush bright red with embarassment.

Shae eyes Sansa carefully as she lathers her hair. "As you wish, my lady. First, let me wash and brush your hair and we'll pick out a lovely gown for you. Then you go to him; maybe it will bring peace to your sleep to speak your thanks to him."

Has Sansa perchance developed a crush on her rescuer? Shae wonders to herself as she rinses Sansa's waist length hair. Experience has taught her those things often happen but with Sansa and the Hound? She shakes her head, summarily dismissing the farfetched idea while toweling off the young woman with care.

When Sansa finishes bathing, she dresses in her best gown which is similar in color to the one she wore on Joffrey's nameday. It reminds her that on that very day Sandor backed up her story about it being bad luck for Joffrey should he kill on his nameday; Sandor's words were the only reason Joffrey believed her and saved her from a terrible punishment.

It is the same gown she wore when she moved to push Joffrey off the battlement after he forced her to look at her father's head. The Hound intervened then too, tenderly lifting her face and wiping the blood Ser Meryn had left on her lip with such care it surprised her.

Whatever motivates him to continue to do such things for me? Briefly Sansa allows herself to think he might actually care for her; she has noticed him staring at her when he thinks she cannot see him and never seems very far away from her. But he's the Hound, he doesn't care for anyone, she quickly dismisses the wild thought from her mind.

Sansa discovers she is surprisingly nervous at the thought of speaking with the fearsome man. Trying on several of her best shawls, she rejects them one by one and instead choses a wrap Shae had given her. Stepping closer to the mirror, she notices she still has a dark bruise and cut below her eye. No way to hide that from him, she shrugs, wondering to herself when exactly she started caring what the Hound thinks of her appearance.

Wandering the halls of the Red Keep, Sansa tries to imagine where she might find him. He is usually on duty at this time of day still...where can he be? Suddenly Sansa notices a large figure turn around the corner and sees the Hound is now walking straight towards her.

Sandor has wandered aimlessly during the last hours of his guard duty shift in the Red Keep. Except for a few drunken lords returning from a night on the town, nothing much has happened until he heard Sansa's scream.

Hearing the blood curdling sound from her rooms recalled the day of the riots and the Hound felt the same black rage return to him. His heart pounded in fear and anger as he raced to her and he vented his feelings on her door, fairly ripping the solid oak structure away from its iron hinges in his eagerness to help her. Sansa's maid burst in right after him and flew to Sansa's side, rocking the crying girl in her arms.

Glancing around, the Little bird appeared safe, in one piece and alone in her room. He stared at her as she sobbed, his heart breaking; Sandor saved her physically but was helpless to protect her from the nightmares that haunted her sleep.

As he looked on, he couldn't help but notice her bed gown had slipped from her shoulders, exposing the tops her breasts and her perfect creamy skin setting off her fiery hair cascading down her back. Even in her distress and crying her eyes out, she was the most beautiful woman he has ever seen.

Suddenly he felt himself go hard and the laces on his pants tighten so he averted his eyes and backed out of the room slowly. How can you look at her like that when she's suffering, dog? He growled to himself, disgusted at his body's response.

As her sobs continued, he dared to peek around the corner at her once again and the Little bird looked up as her maid whispered something to her. Her surprised expression transformed into relief and her lips curled in the smallest whisper of a smile at him. Sandor thrilled at the sight of her sitting in bed with her gown falling off her shoulders smiling at him sadly, her beauty mesmerizing him body and soul. He wanted to say something to her but the words wouldn't come and so the Hound only nodded at her maid as he turned to leave.

Sandor knows she wants to go home to Winterfell. She doesn't belong in this place. He wishes he could steal her away from Joffrey and the misery she has endured in King's Landing. The man longs to go to her and take her in his arms; he could keep her safe. No one would dare try to hurt her or he would kill them.

Secretly he worries about how badly he must have scared her when he killed her attackers. Sandor turned them away from her when he dispatched them but he knew that did little to blunt the Little bird's experience of seeing four men killed at her feet.

Sandor even turned his own face away from her, trying to still the black rage and blood lust from his countenance before facing her once again. "You're alright now, Little bird, you're alright," he said, trying to affect a calm tone to his rasping voice. It is the first time he ever tried to comfort anyone, even using his secret pet name for her out loud in hopes it would reassure her. Still, he fears his efforts did little to help her and the very sight of him will bring back frightening memories to the delicate young woman.

As Sandor walks toward Sansa, the sight of her unaccompanied surges his heart with anger. What is she doing out here by herself? Why doesn't she have her maids with her? Don't they realize she shouldn't be left unattended in her state? As she draws closer, he notices she is wearing same gown she wore when he kept her from killing Joffrey. She smells of lavender and her beautiful deep auburn hair is hanging loose. Briefly he wonders what it would feel like to run his hands through it, to hold her in his arms and inhale her scent.

Must've had a bath after I left. Sandor allows his mind to replay the glimpses of her body he had seen the day Joffrey had her stripped. Disgusted at the king's actions, he tried not to notice the sight of her flawless skin, perfect round breasts tipped with pink nipples and a perfectly shaped backside curving out from her tiny waist; he averted his eyes but everyone in the throne room had seen her that day and he has overheard the men discussing her ever since then.

He wishes he could see her naked willingly, her perfect mouth tilted up to kiss him. His mind goes back to the sight of her bare skin and bed gown earlier...he would love to have been in bed with her, touching and tasting her beautiful body. Her cries would come from his pleasuring her and not from fear...and the man feels himself harden for the second time that day at the thought of her.

So lost in his thoughts of her, is Sandor that he walks straight past her, only slowing when he hears her soft voice, "I beg pardon, Ser."

I'm no ser, he grouses bitterly as he slowly turns to face her. Bloody hells, the girl has turned me into one her buggering knights; she needs a dose of reality before she gets hurt.

Sandor overheard Tyrion imploring Ser Meryn to look for Sansa the day of the bread riots; his bastard nephew wanted to leave her to the crowd to be raped and refused to command the man to go after her. You should be grateful I'm no ser, or you would've ended up like Lady Stokeworth's daughter, the words sit on the tip of his tongue but instead he pauses, reminding himself how very young she is and what she has been through.

Shyly she looks up at him, a faint smile playing on her lips. "I should have come to you after, to thank you for saving me. You were so brave."

"Brave?" He mockingly repeats, unable to stop himself. For killing a few horny half-starved peasants? Sandor wants to laugh at her naiveté and though he hates to hurt her, he knows he must shatter her delusions about knights. "A dog doesn't need courage to chase off rats." He angrily spits out, regretting the change in her demeanor as soon as the words leave his mouth.

Disappointment mixed with anger stirs in her. Why is he being so awful? Can he not see I am merely trying to thank him and allow me to express my appreciation for what he did for me? "Does it give you joy to scare people?" Sansa retorts icily, bristling as she turns to face him.

By her sudden change in expression Sandor discerns he has quelled her illusions of him being her knight in shining armor. Safer for her to learn from me than at the hands of Ser Meryn. I can't believe she still thinks well of those buggering bastard pretty boys who prance around the castle in their Kingsguard armor who are as likely as any to rape her. Sandor has pummeled them mercilessly many times for making filthy comments about her as they practice in the yard. They are all cowards, he seethes inwardly. Meryn is even afraid of Tyrion's small but feisty sellsword, much to Sandor's amusement.

If Sansa was very unlucky she may come across another monster like his brother Gregor, though he doesn't personally know anyone else who lives up to that description in King's Landing or anywhere, for that matter. Sansa needs to learn not to trust any knight or anyone in the Kingsguard, not even me, if she is to stay safe.

"No, it gives me joy to kill people," he rasps while stepping toward her menacingly for emphasis. Confused, Sansa's eyes widen and she steps back a few paces, looking around as he speaks. "Spare me, you can't tell me Lord Eddard Stark of Winterfell never killed a man."

"It was his duty! He never liked it!" She sputters furiously, finding her voice at last. She is angered not so much by his words but in realizing he is right; her father loyally served his king without question, no different from the Kingsguard, in her mind. Over the years he earned King Robert's trust and friendship, eventually leading to him becoming the Hand of the King.

Why is he saying this to me? Why is he behaving so differently? Sansa fumes until her anger is abruptly halted by the realization that he wants to protect her. Sandor knows the other knights better than I do. He wants me to fear and avoid them-even him, so as not to draw any more attention to myself.

Quickly Ser Meryn comes into her mind; she knows he becomes aroused by beating her. Sansa has been on eye level with his groin enough times as he raised his sword to strike her to have seen evidence of that and every day the repulsive knight leers at her right in front of an oblivious Joffrey, his beady black eyes saying all that he wished he could do to her, what he will do if given the chance alone with her.

Sandor apparently has noticed this too and being aware of the danger to me, he is trying to make me understand the peril of my situation. He would teach me to be cautious at the cost of sacrificing my trust and good opinion of him.

Gratitude swells in her heart as she suddenly draws another conclusion. He loves me; his eyes cannot hide it. It touches her deeply and Sansa can feel her heart fluttering in her chest as she gazes straight into his eyes, noticing for the first time they are beautiful deep gray and remind her of the pool in the godswood at Winterfell.

He makes a striking figure in his armor, his broad back and chiseled chest visible underneath his doublet. The thought of having the love of such a large and powerful warrior excites Sansa in a way that Joffrey's wormy kisses or Loras' flowers never did. The young woman is even more surprised to feel herself returning his love. Sansa has choked down her feelings and chirped her courtesies for so long she is never rightly sure how she truly feels anymore. How long have I loved him and not known it?

Sandor watches the transformation in her eyes; Sansa suddenly went from angry to another look he cannot name, having little experience with women outside of brothels. It isn't like women are lining up to look me in the face. Sansa is now looking him straight in the face with a softened expression, her Tully blue eyes darkening with increasing intensity as she unabashedly gazes at him.

Puzzled by her behavior, he notices her ample breasts straining the neckline of her gown as her chest quickly rises and falls and her cheeks are flushed clear down to her neck. Bloody hells, she's even more beautiful when she's angry, he thinks, swallowing hard. He knows he must stop this alteration in the tone of their conversation if he expects to succeed in teaching her to be wary of knights. Just put an end to this right now, dog; her safety depends on it. Mentioning her father again should do the job.

"Is that what he told you? He lied." Sandor emphasizes his words in an effort to hide his emotion. Seeing the passion in her eyes, the man cannot resist taking a step closer, narrowing the distance between them. Their close proximity and the lavender scent of her hair intoxicate him, bringing him dangerously close to kissing her.

"Killing is the sweetest thing there is," he rasps, careful to avoid any hint of emotion in his voice. But nothing would be as sweet as having you as my wife, being able to kiss and taste every inch of you. The feeling of your beautiful body beneath me, hearing you cry out my name in pleasure would truly be the sweetest thing I have ever known, he adds silently, the hunger in his eyes unmistakable.

Sandor's passionate gaze betrays his emotions as he allows his eyes to roam heatedly over her body; little does he realize he is mirroring the desire blazing in Sansa's eyes. Suddenly he is aware of the silence between them and is suddenly brought back to the present by the sound of her voice.

"Why are you always so hateful?" Sansa asks vehemently, passion seeping into her voice, all the while trembling under the Hound's heated gaze. She doesn't mean her words; he has always been kind to her, but it is the first thing that pops into her head, warm and dizzy as she is from being so close to him. She cannot tear her eyes away from his and finds herself barely able to think straight in his presence. A rush of arousal spreads warmth through her belly, making Sansa hunger for his touch.

"You'll be glad of the hateful things I do someday, when I'm all that stands between you and your beloved king." He speaks slowly, emphasizing the word beloved as though it is a curse word rather than a term of endearment. The very thought of Joffrey having his Little bird as his queen-and in his bed-sickens him with jealousy and his words come out far harsher than he intends.

Sansa licks her lips as he speaks and subconsciously she moves still closer to him, shocked by his promise to protect her from Joffrey. He is telling me he would risk his own life to keep me safe from the king; it is his way of saying he loves me as I love him. Now that she understands his feelings and returns them she knows her life would be totally unbearable without his love, distant though it is...she would not be able to survive without him there.

She longs to reach up and caress his cheek and tell Sandor she knows he loves her; he all but admitted it outright. She desperately needs to let him know she loves him too, and her hand aches to reach up and draw his face down to hers. Every instinct inside her desires the feel of her mouth pressed against his lips, brushing her tongue against his and allow his hands to roam her body.

More than anything in the world she yearns to show him physically how much he means to her and feeling his passionate gaze, she realizes she wants him to make love to her and take her maidenhead, not Joffrey. Sansa tilts her head to him shyly, her thoughts interrupted by the sound of the changing of the guard. Turning away sadly, the young woman knows their moment is over.

Sandor looks down at her, his eyes reflecting her thoughts. He expressed his love for her in the only way possible, vowing he would stand between her and Joffrey and keep her safe. His love for her gives him a better understanding of Jaime Lannister now; Sandor knows he too would do anything, even become a Kingslayer, to keep his love safe.

Now that she opened her heart to him, he would never be the same. Sandor would give his life a thousand times for her and go to meet the Stranger gladly with the knowledge that she loves him, too. Overwhelmed by this unexpected revelation, the man finds he cannot tear his eyes away from her as she slowly makes her way back to her rooms.

As Sansa walks away from him, she feels Sandor's absence acutely in her heart. Tears threaten to spill from her eyes and she hurries along, desperate to be alone with her thoughts. Once she is in her rooms and free to express her emotions, Sansa cries herself to sleep, only this time she dreams of walking with Sandor along a river in the north holding hands.

It is the first time Sansa hears her father's voice since his death, and the young woman feels a rush of love for him. In her heart, she listens in astonishment as he tells her the time will soon come for her to leave with Sandor, to trust him and that they will be safer and stronger together. When Sansa awakens, the dream feels so very real, so true that the young woman is filled with hope and the first measure of peace she has known since arriving in King's Landing.