Chapter Five

When Sansa spoke the words, she must have given life to all of the violence of the elements; the storm picked up, a tremendous swelling of sound and movement that seemed to make the stones of the keep shake. It was as though the order of oppression in her life had been irrevocably changed and the earth was sounding her fury. The sound of rain blasting the windows immediately turned to hail smashing against the pane glass, the thunder increased and the winds low moaning turned into a cry. The dark was stunning—alive and unwelcoming; her only ally was The Hound. He stood so close to her that she could nearly hear his heart beating, could almost feel the blood as it coursed through his veins. So terrible and alive he seemed, so terrible everything was.

Her eyes could not focus, her mind couldn't cut through the dull sting of her strange state—half panic, half sublime calm bisected by the running of her mind and the wandering of her thoughts. They were changing sides like traitors, no emotion prevailing. For what felt like a generation her hand remained on his cheeks, and the storm swirled about them.

The Hound said nothing of her request, and she said not another word. They only stood, facing each other in the thick velvet black, unspeaking. The silence was overwhelming, if not horrible. It gave audience to the storm that raged, substance to the unearthly.

She was his in every sense of the word, marriage intention or not—whatever cruel trick the Gods had played notwithstanding, whatever strange fate that put her before him cast aside. Cut off from every avenue of recourse or help she was the embodiment of vulnerability, and yet was completely untouchable. He could do what he pleased with her; yet inversely he was as obedient as the dog he was, as loyal as any mutt to the hand which it longed to eat from. The effect that she had on him was that of serenity—she muted the rage that shot through him, causing him to feel nothing but a tremendous gentleness towards her. He took his hands and moved them through the darkness, finding the gentle curve of her hips and rested them gently upon them. He could feel her body react to his touch and was amazed and gratified that she didn't shrink away.

"Keep me here for the night." She whispered again, lingering on the feeling on his hands upon her. She was shaking, still trembling from the excess terror the keep gave her and the storm.

"Keep you?" He whispered in response, his voice a rasping whisper. Keep her? From what? His hands moved involuntarily, pulling her into him. The last time he'd seen her he'd stolen what he wanted from her—the taste of her lips against his, her body close. "Keep you from what, Little Bird?"

"From everything. The storm, the dark."

Sandor considered what she said—he could keep her from everything. The slightest thing which would swoop down to harm her he could do away with—his entire life could be based around keeping her. He turned the idea around in his mind, but could only concentrate on her lips. He'd break his back to keep those pressed against him. Keep her from the storm and the dark? She was a stupid little bird sometimes—a storm couldn't hurt her when she was indoors, and the dark was nothing to fear. He sighed audibly, thinking of her trembling at the storm and not his hands bearing down on her hips, pulling her into him. It made a shock of guilt course through him—he'd practically manhandled her a moment ago.

"Forgive me for hurting you." He rasped, lowering his face so that it would be close to her ear. She smelled like the outdoors, yet sweetness clung to her. She was like a flower growing in a swamp—she was made even more delightful.

"Of course…"

"I'll keep you here for the night." He agreed, dropping his hands from her hips and lifting his head up again. She was too much to bear. He tried to step away from her, but she caught him by the hand. Without thinking he pulled her towards him again, scooping her up and near his chest.

"Stay close, don't let me go." She asked of him, burrowing into him. She pressed her body onto his, as the hail battered the windows and the wind screamed its lonesome cry.

He didn't say anything, only pulled his arms around her. She'd lived with the entire world out for her destruction. He'd keep her from everything.

He thought on her walking through the dark halls towards him and it broke his heart. He wished that he would have known that it was the Little Bird that was being sent to him—he would have ridden out to get her, found her on her journey. He wouldn't have let her stay cooped up in that horrible room, wouldn't have thrown her things on the ground. He'd have made arrangements for her, given her something to come home to. Instead she was shivering in his arms, all too aware of the vicious world outside. He was too drunk to think clearly, and holding her made it worse. The thunder was splitting his head open; the wine was clogging his brain. His emotions were amplified. If he hadn't been beside himself and intoxicated he wouldn't have been able to take her into his arms. He was just disconnected enough from himself to do the stupidly impossible.

"You need sleep, Little Bird." He offered her, knowing that she must be exhausted. He could feel her nodding against him.

"You mustn't put me into bed and leave me there. I cannot be left alone in here—you have to stay beside me." She ordered him, her voice sounding oddly strong for a girl so fearful.

"You don't want to sleep with a dog in your bed."

"You aren't a dog, any more than I'm a wolf." She replied, sadly.

Lightening flashed across the sky, the world echoing its sentiments.