PLEASE NOTE: Sorry for the grammar errors, I did my best but English is not my native language!

Please be gentle!

Thanks to catiepie182002 for inspiration and help!

Sansa looked at the huge royal carriage leaving the Red Keep from the window. A thin layer of winter snow was covering the landscape. Winter had come, in the end.

Joffrey, Margaery and half the court were heading towards Highgarden, to attend Willas Tyrell's wedding. They would stay away from the city for about a month.

Sansa loved wedding ceremonies (they were so romantic, after all!) but this time she was happy to have an excuse to stay in King's Landing. Tyrion, her husband, the Master of Coin, had to stay in the city to sort out some problems with a Braavosi bank, and she caught the chance the stay away from Joffrey as much as she could.

He was getting insistent.

She thought that his marriage would have set her free from his unwanted attentions, but she was wrong.

He was scared of Margaery. Well, maybe not scared of Margaery herself, but of her family. The Tyrells were everywhere: Loras was in the Kingsguard but he seemed to care more about the queen's wellbeing than about the king's safety. She had her handmaidens, her informers, even her soldiers. Joffrey couldn't mess with her.

So, he wanted to turn to Sansa, the poor Sansa, the traitor's daughter, who had no influence, nor men, no little birds who whispered her secrets at court. No protection.

True, she had her husband: his presence was still effective in making Joffrey stay away from her. The young king was afraid of Lord Tywin too; but both men were busy ruling the country, setting taxes, waging wars. She didn't see them on a daily basis.

Margaery didn't really let her join her groups of cousins from Highgarden as she had when they thought she was going to marry Willas, even if she would be gracious enough to invite her in her rooms from time to time.

But still, most of the time, she was alone.

-I know you're still a maiden- Joffrey had whispered to her the day before. She shivered when his plump, wormy lips touched her ear. Even his breath was disgusting. -I guess I'll have to take care of it myself, when I'll come back from Highgarden-.

She panicked: she couldn't let this happen. She'd rather give her maidenhood to The Hound (who fled the city during the Battle of Blackwaters), or to Ser Dontos (who disappeared the day of Joffrey's wedding), or even Moon Boy. Anyone but Joffrey!

She paced the room, nervously, like a lion (a wolf?) in a cage. She had to find a solution before Joffrey's return.

Sansa knew she had only an option: her lord husband, Tyrion Lannister. The Imp.

She shivered at the very thought.

She remember their wedding night: he was nervous, even scared, hurt at her rejection. And ugly, so ugly!

Sansa had grown more or less used to his scarred face, his brutal brow and his mismatched eyes; after all, she couldn't avoid looking at him at all times. But thinking about his stunted legs under his breeches, his disproportioned body and especially his revolting manhood still made her feel nauseous.

But she didn't have much of a choice. He was still the lesser evil, compared to Joffrey: she couldn't bear the thought of becoming the king's paramour, and lose what little dignity and respect she had left at court.

Besides, the Imp would probably be gentler; he wouldn't hurt her, at least not on purpose, and hopefully he'd be quick about it.

Anyone but Joffrey, she thought again, hysterically.

That night, she decided to wait for him awake.

She hadn't really talked to her husband for many months.

Tyrion spent all of his time meeting taxmen and bankers, buried in his solar or in the crown's vaults, trying to make the crown's budget balance. She knew he was having a hard time replacing Littlefinger, who seemed to make money appear out of thin air. But Petyr Baelish had borrowed millions of dragons and now the creditors were starting to demand a payback. The Imp was racking his oversize head trying to find money. A Lannister always pays his debts, or so they said.

He tried to get to know her better, during the first months of their marriage: he insisted they supped together and tried to make her talk about her day, but Sansa was too miserable and depressed. She didn't want to have anything to do with him.

She was feeling less desperate now, but her husband and she had found out that it was easier not to talk.

They went to feasts together and she was by his side at any formal occasions. But other than that, they seldom met. They had learned to avoid each other, sliding through their shared rooms as if in an awkward dance.

He came to bed only late at night, when Sansa was already asleep and he left very early in the morning. When she woke up, only the creased pillow by her side bore witness of his presence.

Sometimes, it was easy to forget that they were married at all.

She waited for him for what seemed to be endless hours, growing more and more nervous as time passed.

Her handmaiden, Brella, had helped her bathe and brushed her hair. Sansa wished she could confide her secret anguish, but she didn't trust anyone. Besides, Brella was not very talkative. Sansa remembered another handmaiden, Shae, who was more witty, but she married a knight, Ser Tallad, the year before and left her service.

What if he refused, she thought. No, he would never refuse to claim his rights. He probably didn't have a lot of alternatives, ugly as he was. She was more worried about the actual deed.

The Imp entered the room almost two hours after midnight, when she was half thinking that he wouldn't come at all: he opened the door very quietly, carrying his boots in his hands, careful to make as little noise as possible. Sansa was in bed, reading a book she couldn't concentrate on.

He looked surprised when he saw the candles lit.

-Oh.- he said –You're awake.-

-Yes.- Sansa replied, putting the book away. She wanted to add something, but she didn't know what, so she simply stared at him.

He changed his clothes for a night shift. His movements were stiff and Sansa realized that he probably was feeling self-conscious undressing in her presence. She kept looking at him, wondering how she could introduce the subject.

"My dear husband, would you mind taking my maidenhood tonight? Quickly, please? Then we can go back ignoring each other. Thank you.". It didn't sound very ladylike.

-Can I help you, Sansa?- he asked eventually, sounding perplexed. Sansa realized that she had been staring at him the whole time.

-No, my lord… I mean, actually yes. You can.- she stuttered, lowering her gaze.

He waddled across the room and climbed onto the bed. Why can't he even walk properly, Sansa thought, feeling even more miserable.

-I'm at your service, then.- he said, and looked up at her quizzically, waiting for her request.

Sansa took a deep breath:- Joffrey says that everyone knows that I'm a maiden and this cannot be anymore and he says he will do it but I don't want to but he's the king and he's crazy and I don't know what to do so I think we should do it before he comes back from the wedding because we are married and we'll have to do it sooner or later and you said we should wait and we waited so I think it should be tonight.- she paused- If you please, my lord.-

Tyrion blinked and looked at her in disbelief. The lack of nose and the open mouth made him look a bit like a fish, Sansa thought.

-What..?- he said eventually.

Isn't he supposed to be the smart one? Why did it have to make it more difficult than it already was?

-I need you to take my maidenhood- she repeated.

-Yes, I gathered as much, but what does it have to do with my nephew?- she noticed an angry note in his voice.

She felt tears prickling in the back of her eyes:-Joffrey, he… he said he will… he's crazy, you know?- she blurted out at once, regretting it immediately.

-I know he is- he nodded.

Sansa remembered Joffrey's wedding. The young king destroyed her husband's wedding present, a book, then mocked him in front of the whole court. She thought that Tyrion would have done something stupid, like slapping his nephew or treating him like a foolish boy as he had done before, but that time her husband managed to control his actions and his tongue. She didn't forget what she saw in his eyes that time, though.

-Joffrey is a lunatic- Tyrion said- but you mustn't be afraid of him. He won't hurt you. I will…-

-No. No, you won't.- she cut in - He's the king! He's not afraid of anyone, not even your father! He used to be but he's not anymore! And we can't leave the city, I can't go away and… I won't be safe until it's done.-.

Tears were now streaming down her face.

Her husband didn't say anything. She couldn't read his two-toned eyes.

-My lord- Sansa resumed- It won't be… like last time. I will try, I promise. I'll do what needs to be done to get through with it. Anything to get away from Joffrey, even…-

He didn't even try to hide his bitterness: -Even me? Why, you must be really desperate.-

Sansa didn't meet his eyes. She couldn't deny that .

Tyrion shook his head, but spoke more gently this time:-This is… it's not the way it should be. It's not something you're supposed to endure, you should want it…-

-But I do want to…-

-Not just rationally, as your best option. You should desire it. With your body as well as your mind.-

They stood in silence for a while. Sansa didn't know what to say. All the courtesies she had learned couldn't do in this situation.

-Let' go to bed- he said eventually. They blew out the candles and tucked themselves under the covers.

Sansa closed her eyes, but then felt Tyrion's arm embracing her, making her turn towards him.

He's going to do it, she thought frantically. She knew that she was supposed to be happy that she convinced him, but she was just feeling terrified.

He held her tighter, their brows almost touching.

-You're shivering- he noticed, and started to caress her arm and her back. Sansa was too nervous to move, so she just stood there, as stiff as a board.

-Relax, my lady- he said after a while- I'm not going to take your maidenhood tonight.-

-Oh.- she was probably supposed to protest, but she was too relieved.

He kept caressing her back, her arms and her hair. She wasn't used to being so close with Tyrion.

It was better in the dark. "In the dark, I am the Knight of Flowers" she remembered him saying.

He is so small, she thought. She could feel his feet against her knees. He was more or less as tall as Bran, the last time she saw him, when she left Winterfell.

Bran had always been her favourite brother. She remember cuddling him, when he was little, comforting him after a nightmare. His hair smelled so good, like milk and butter biscuits.

Tyrion smelled nice too, she had to admit. As all people in court he bathed very often (especially compared to Northern men, who couldn't spare a single drop of hot water during winter), so he always had a clean scent. She breathed in and smelled soap, ink, sea breeze and freshly baked bread.

She hadn't had much human contact since Jeyne Westerling was sent away: Margaery and her cousins hugged and kissed on the cheeks all the time, but Sansa always kept at distance.

She didn't understand why Tyrion wanted to be close to her, if he wasn't going to do anything, but it made no matter.

Soon, she drifted into sleep.

The morning after, Sansa woke up alone, as usual.

She broke her fast then took a walk on the walls of the Red Keep. The castle was so empty, but she enjoyed walking in the yards without fearing to meet Joffrey.

Later she went to the Sept and prayed. She did it out of habit, now. When her father was killed and Robb was at war against the Lannisters, she used to pray for his victory, and for the safety of her family.

Years had passed since then, and her prayers were never answered.

She didn't know what to pray for anymore. She wanted Stannis to win, because he was Joffrey's enemy and your enemy's enemy is your friend. But she was married to a Lannister now and she wasn't sure that Stannis would care about the difference between her and them.

She heard rumours about a foreigner queen who owned dragons, but they sounded more like legends than real facts. Sansa often fantasized about Joffrey being burnt alive and eaten by a dragon. She liked the idea.

She still liked going to the Sept, anyway: there was something strangely reassuring about the incense, the repeated prayers, the songs. It was easy to block all thoughts from the mind, and let the chants replace the actual thinking.

She didn't come back to her quarters until the evening and was surprised to almost collide with Podrick, Tyrion's squire, who was carrying a platter with lamb in a herb crust in one hand, and a big dish with what looked like pies in the other.

-My Lady. Sansa. Lady Sansa. Lady Lannister.- he greeted her, staring at some point between her feet.

-It's good to see you, Podrick. You've become very tall.- she said, politely.

It was true: since the last time she saw him, he had grown at least half a foot. He was almost 6 feet tall, but still very skinny and painfully shy.

-Is my lord husband supping in the solar tonight?- she asked.

Podrick nodded:- No. I mean, yes. In the solar. Waiting. For you. I mean, for mylady.-

That was unexpected: they usually had their meals separately, unless there was some event that demanded the presence of both of them. She remembered long, uncomfortable evenings from the first days of their marriage. There was a reason why they had stopped inflicting them to themselves.

Sansa entered the solar, and found the Imp sitting at the table, reading a thick roll of parchment, and looking worried.

He lifted his gaze when he heard her and he rose from his chair.

-I thought it we could sup together tonight- he said, sounding hesitant- to talk-.

-That's a lovely idea, my lord husband- Sansa replied, as it was expected of her.

Actually, she didn't think it was a good idea at all. She'd rather have some fruits, bread and cheese to eat by herself before spending the evening reading a novel.

Tyrion looked reassured all the same, so they sat and started eating.

-How was your day?- he asked.

Oh no, Sansa thought, here we go again. She half regretted talking to him the night before. She didn't want him to be her friend; she was perfectly satisfied in the way they had settled their household. Indifference was bliss to her.

-It was good, my lord- she replied- Very peaceful.-

An awkward silence followed.

-Did you manage to find a solution to the bank problem, my lord?- she made herself say.

Tyrion shook his head:-No, not really. We need to borrow more money, but we can't tax the smallfolk anymore. Winter has come, there's not going to be any crop for a while. The commerce is also at stake, because storms are blocking ships in the harbours. And now also the bank of Braavos is pressing the crown to pay its debts.-

Sansa had never been very good with numbers and figures; Arya was much more inclined to those practical aspects of managing a household, she remembered with a pang of guilt. She didn't think about her sister as much as she should.

But that, she could understand.

-Pardon me, my lord but...the Lannisters are the richest House in the Seven Kingdoms. Surely, your father could lend you the amount of money that the crown needs...- she objected.

Tyrion chuckled bitterly:-Why, yes, that's precisely what I thought too. Turns out that the most honourable lord Tywin is actually my fiercest creditor. He lent Littlefinger a fortune during summer, and now that it's winter he wants it back, with interests.- he gulped a glass of wine.

-Truth is, he wants me to fail. He wants to show everyone that he has been right all along about me. He's been trying to find a chance to get rid of me since the beginning.-

Sansa paused to gather her thoughts for a moment. Lord Tywin's contempt for his youngest son was impossible to ignore. He didn't make much of an effort to hide it, really.

Cersei downright hated Tyrion, and Joffrey... well, she often had the impression that uncle and nephew could easily kill each other, given the chance.

Sansa knew that Tyrion was a Lannister. One of her jailers. She knew she couldn't trust him.

But, now, she thought that he was a prisoner almost as much as she was. She remembered the way he was treated at Joffrey's wedding feast, forced to act as the King's cupbearer, laughed at by the whole court.

She wasn't particularly impressed at the time (she was waiting to escape with Ser Dontos, which didn't happen eventually), too lost in her own misery to care about anyone else.

But now, years later, the realization of how her husband's life must had been dawned on her.

He looked… lonely. She realized that he spent most of his time alone.

Except Ser Bronn and Podrick, who were at his service so didn't really count, and Varys, who made sure to keep in touch with everyone, she had rarely seen him befriend anyone.

At feasts, Sansa and Tyrion sat in a corner, and simply exchanged with the other guests the courtesies that were necessary. Avoided even by his wife, she thought with a pang of guilt.

That made her feel a little more well-disposed towards him.

The meal went better, after that. Sansa had never really talked to Tyrion before, and she realized that he could be very interesting. After years spent listening to the monotonous gossip of the Red Keep, it was like breathing fresh air. He had a gift for explaining complicated matters in a straightforward way, and Sansa found herself fascinated.

He doesn't think I'm stupid, she realized. Cersei and Joffrey had told her how thick she was so many times that she had grown to believe it.

She discovered that they also had interests in common. She had read all the novels that she had found in the Red Keep, and he... apparently he had read every story she had ever heard of. And he seemed to see them from a different perspective she had ever thought of.

-I think that Florian was a bit of a creep.- he said, causing her outrage.

-How can you say that?- she protested -That is one of the most romantic tales that were ever told-

Tyrion smiled at her indignation:- I've been to Maidenpool, and I assure you: you don't just pass by that pool. You have to go there on purpose. I wonder how many maids he had spied there. Perhaps it was a custom of his. Very creepy!-

Sansa giggled:- I don't believe you.-

He theatrically put his hand above his heart:-I swear it, on my honour as a Lannister! And if you ever see a fool spying on you, be quick and call the guards before he has time to pluck his… harp.-

-I gather you don't like romantic tales, then?- she asked.

He didn't say anything for a moment:-I guess I do, I just…. I think love should be... I don't know. More mutual, I suppose.-

Sansa didn't know what to say.

He looked out of the window:- We should be going to bed. It's past moonrise.-

She hadn't realized how late it was.

Sansa undressed nervously, without looking at Tyrion, shivering for the chilly air in the room.

I wager he's going to do it tonight, she thought. Nothing stopped him. She even showed that she could be comfortable enough in his presence. What more could he want?

Tyrion climbed onto the bed and blew out the candle. Then he embraced her again, just like he did the night before.

He's about to do it, she mused. She could feel her heart beating in her throat. She wasn't as scared as the night before, but she still felt extremely nervous.

-How much snow is there in Winterfell?- he asked, running his fingers through her hair.

Sansa thought for a moment that she had heard wrong:-Excuse me, my lord?-

He sighed:-My name is Tyrion, please. You can call me by my name, at least when we're in bed.-

She nodded.

-I asked you about Winterfell. I remember it as an imposing castle. I wonder what it would look like now, under the snow.-

Sansa was confused: Septa Mordane told her everything about the joining of man and wife, and she was pretty sure it didn't involve a lot of talking. What does he want?

-We used to have snow, sometimes, during summer too.- said anyway - I would wake up in the morning, look out of the window and find all the towers covered in white. It was quite beautiful.-

She had avoided carefully to think about Winterfell during those years. It was too painful. She would block all thoughts of home from her mind, otherwise they would make her burst into tears. But now she found she didn't mind. It was a comforting memory.

-It must be very cold-. His hand was rubbing her shoulder now. It would have been a pleasant feeling, if only she wasn't so nervous.

-Oh no. There's hot water in the walls. It's actually warmer than here.-

She could feel his brow frowning:-Water in the walls? How is that possible?-

Sansa tried to remember. She had never been very interested in the functioning of the heating system, as long as her chambers were warm.

-I think there's a pool of hot water in the foundations.-

-Where does the hot water come from? Is it heated with fires?-

-No, it comes from the ground, it's naturally warm.-

She didn't know if he was really interested in the pipes of Winterfell or if he just wanted to make her talk to ease her tension.

Tyrion kissed her on the brow, then on the cheek, and then lightly on the lips. Sansa froze. It was the first time they kissed after the wedding ceremony.

-Goodnight, Sansa-

She didn't answer for a moment.

-But… aren't we…?- she objected, feeling confused.

Her husband yawned:- Not tonight. Get some sleep now, will you?-

She heard his breath getting more and more regular, until he was definitely asleep.

Her heart stopped pounding too, as she lied in bed listening to the sounds of the night.

The air in the room was chilly, and it felt good to be under covers. She started to appreciate the feeling of warmth, and safety.

Tyrion's body was small but seemed to produce a quantity of heat, and Sansa found herself snuggling closer to him. He was warm and clean smelling.

How was it possible that someone so ugly felt so good to be next to?

Almost two weeks passed. Without Joffrey, Cersei and all their horrible family, the Red Keep was actually a good place to be in. It was full or rooms, corridors, covered bridges, hidden yards, gardens.

She had always been careful to avoid unknown paths (always fearing she might meet the King or one of his men that would bring her back to her rooms), but now she was curious.

She knew that she was watched (there were always servants and handmaidens around, and the Gods knew how many of Varys' little birds) but it still was a liberating feeling.

Tyrion was always busy during the day, but they always met for supper: the evenings were not bad as they used to be. In fact she was starting to wait for that time of the day.

She would ask the kitchen for specific dishes and choose the dresses that made her look prettiest.

She didn't mind being alone, but it was good to have someone to talk to, too. And Tyrion was funny, cultivated, interesting.

But he wouldn't have her maidenhood. He would kiss her on the cheeks and on the lips and hug her every night, but nothing more.

Each night left her with a sense of relief mixed with frustrated expectation, and that made her feel even more confused.

"Not tonight" he kept saying. But when, then?

Am I not pretty enough? she would think, considering her reflection in the mirror.

Why did she even worry? He was so ugly, he should have been more than content with such a beautiful wife!

But then again, maybe he wasn't so hideous after all. True, he was short and walked in that funny way, and his features looked somewhat squashed in, and then there was that gruesome scar… but sometimes, just every now and then, Sansa found herself mesmerized at how the candle light reflected in his hair.

He had really beautiful hair: lighter than gold, plentiful, soft like silk. She knew because she ran her fingers through it a couple of nights before… she just couldn't resist.

Then, he had a rich, low voice. Funny how that manly voice could come from such a small man. And also his eyes, on a second thought…

Sansa, what's wrong with you? He's the Imp! The ugliest man of the Seven Kingdoms!

She wanted to scream. Nothing made sense anymore.

He doesn't even kiss me properly, she thought, with annoyance and a hint of sadness.

Part of her felt uncomfortable at the idea (He's the Imp!), but she also wanted to know what it felt like.

Jeyne told her everything about her first kiss. She kissed a squire, a Baratheon man, during their journey to King's Landing. She told her about the strange feeling of his tongue and that it was awkward at first, because their noses kept colliding.

At least she wouldn't have that problem with Tyrion. Only a week before that thought would have made her feel miserable, but now it somehow made her laugh instead.

Suddenly, a sinister thought crossed her mind: maybe he couldn't perform his marital duties at all. He was all deformed, even his legs didn't work properly, so maybe what was between then had issues too.

She remembered that their wedding night he looked definitely… able, but a long time had passed since then. Who knew?

She could still have her kiss, she decided. A real kiss.

That night, she drank a couple more glasses of wine than she was used to, feeling bold and a bit wicked.

When Tyrion kissed her goodnight, she placed a hand on the back of his head and held his face closer to hers, feeling his beard against her chin. Then she opened her mouth against his and hesitantly licked his lips, feeling the scar where a piece of his lip had been cut off. She wasn't sure of what she was supposed to do next and hoped he did.

He stood still for a moment and Sansa panicked: what if he had never kissed anyone, either? What if he didn't know what to do next? Who would kiss the Imp, he is so hideous!

But then she felt his tongue sliding inside her mouth: it danced with hers and tasted so sweet … Her own tongue was stiff at first, but after a while she relaxed and started enjoying the kiss.

Sansa felt flushed and dizzy. Tyrion was a unexpectedly good kisser: well, actually she didn't have much basis for comparison, but it felt so good… Instinctively she pressed her body against him and felt an unmistakeable pressure against her belly.

He can!

The realization made her feel part scared and part excited.

Tyrion pushed her softly on her back and then shifted his weight over her. He wasn't very heavy, really.

It's going to be tonight, she was sure. Maybe it wasn't going to be that bad, after all.

Tyrion kissed her on the neck and near her ears, sending a shiver down her spine, and he pulled him closer.

There was something more urgent about his movements now: she could feel his heart beating louder than hers, while his hand traced a line from her neck to her arm and cupped one of her breast, grabbing more than caressing.

Sansa let out a gasp and Tyrion rolled away quickly.

-I'm sorry- he muttered, sounding breathless.

-No. No. It's fine, myl… Tyrion- she replied, not knowing if it was just a courtesy or if she was actually sincere.

His touch had never been anything but innocent before and the sudden change had surprised her… but it hadn't been completely unpleasant, either.

He didn't say anything, and Sansa started regretting her reaction.

-Are you going to take my maidenhood now?-she said eventually.

Tyrion sounded surprised:- No. Not tonight.-

Sansa didn't know if it was good news or not.

-Can we kiss some more anyway?- she asked.

She couldn't see him in the dark of the room, but there was a smile in his voice.

-As mylady commands.-

Later, when she was about to fall asleep, she thought that she'd like to tell Jeyne about her first kiss, but she hadn't heard from her for years, since the King had sent her away.

Then she realized that she hadn't thought about Joffrey for days.