AUTHOR'S NOTE: I was pleasantly surprised by the rave reviews I received. I'm glad some of you are enjoying it and thanks to all the follows! I'd love to hear what you all think and hope to continue to please you with this chapter.
DISCLAIMER: All hail the mighty Martin and his genius works.
Sansa couldn't recall a time that she had had her mother to herself in ages. When she was a little girl, her parents' first (they had had only a boy before her) she had been spoiled rotten with her mother's attentions, but when her brothers and sister were born, the babes needed her more than Sansa had. But now, the morning of her wedding, which was only hours away, Queen Catelyn was busy weaving little bits of winter rose into her wavy red hair.
"Mother, tell me again how Lord Clegane saved Father." She looked up at her mother who was frowning in concentration with pins clenched in between her lips. Her matching blue eyes met her daughter's and she smiled.
"Ah, my pet, you want to hear the story I have told you a million times over? Very well, settle back and let me finish your hair and I will tell you."
Sansa sighed softly as she felt her mother's nimble fingers sorting her hair into little braids at the sides to loop behind her ears. She allowed her eyes to close as she inhaled her mother's scent for possibly the very last time as a young maid.
"You were just a toddling babe, Sansa, and your father hated to be away from you for long, but this was before he had become King and he had duties to his own father. To his brother. These often carried him across the lands and far from us all, but I was never very lonely, I had you and Robb to keep me company." Her hands continued to lightly tangle into her daughter's flaming hair as a softness came over her face.
"One time, he was gone for a very long time. It wasn't supposed to be that way, but that's how war is, it keeps you from the ones you love. Well, I didn't hear from him for ages it seemed before a messenger arrived, dirty and out of breath from riding for days on end, with a message from Lord Clegane himself. He had been fighting alongside your father in what was supposed to be an easy battle, but they were deceived. Half of your father's men were slaughtered and he nearly was too, but your husband-to-be managed to get between him and a sword that had been meant for his neck. He took a wound for your father, but your father was gravely injured."
The time had come for Sansa to walk down the aisle, to meet the man whom would become her whole world. She hoped there would be happiness in their marriage and many children. Laughter if she was lucky and love if God deemed them deserving. But she was prepared to give anything this man wished of her because of the things he did for her father so many years before. He had been a young man new to battle but had come out of it a young lord with a King's devotion.
Her mother's words echoed in her head as she adjusted the train of her dress before staring down the church's aisle. She could see a massive man, bigger than she had remembered even though she was taller than the last time she had seen him. Would he be happy with his little wife? Would her looks please him?
'He took your father to his modest home, then little more than a shack really, and nursed him back to health with the help of a local innkeeper's wife. They helped him through his fever and then Lord Clegane helped him regain his strength. He also accompanied your father all the way back to the castle walls and tried to refuse any form of payment for his kindness. He told your father it was simply his duty to his fellow man. Your betrothal was settled that night. Your father felt there was no other way to thank the man who saved his life than by pledging his beloved little girl as his future wife. Lord Clegane tried to refuse the title and lands his father decreed to him, but you know your father, he can be very persuasive when he needs to be.'
A small smile starts on Sansa's pink lips as she placed one slippered foot in front of the other, letting the candles guide her way. Her eyes were trained straight ahead but she did not miss the glowing pride her father had in the front row. Her mother's eyes were not entirely dry but she was composed as was expected of a Queen.
Somehow, she made it up to the stairs where the priest and Lord Clegane- Sandor, she had to remind herself, that's his real name. That is the name that she could call him when they became familiar with each other-stood. His broad back was turned to her, but she could see the fine clothing he was in, a gift from her father, one of many, with his house's colors, yellow and black. She tried to take in all of him, but found she couldn't as she stepped up one stair and then another.
All too soon, Sansa heard him vow to take care of her, protect her, provide for her and even love her. His voice was raspy as she remembered but there was something oddly entrancing in it. Then the priest turned to her and it was her turn to swear the same things, vowing to give him a family and make him happy. There were no tears in her eyes, despite the emotions she was feeling.
Then, the rings were presented and she nearly gasped at how pretty hers was. She was expecting a simple band of some sort but on closer inspection, after the rings had been blessed, she saw hers was engraved with a little bird perched on a tree branch. He touched it to each of her fingers before sliding onto her ring finger. His hands were shaking. She did the same, swearing all of the same things to him.
Then the entire church was praying for them, lead by the priest and a gold chalice was presented for the couple to drink from, furthering their bond. Sansa let her eyes meet Sandor's dark ones and she was shocked to see a little smile twitch on his lips. They had been blessed and now were truly wed.
Her stomach fluttered as her husband (what an amazing thought!) leaned in close to her to press a quick kiss to her lips. One half of them was rough and the other tender and smooth. She closed her eyes and sighed softly before she was being lead back through the church towards the feast that was to be held in their honor.
Sansa looked up at her tall husband, admiring his large stance, how powerful and scary he must seem to some, but she had seen something in his eyes, heard something in his voice, that told her that he would keep her safe, this day and every single one after it. He wouldn't meet her gaze, but she saw the same twitch on his lips.
She had never questioned her duty before, as a daughter or a princess. Now, she wouldn't doubt her duties as a wife, no matter how unpleasant they may become. If she could have the love of this man sitting beside her, taking only a few sips of wine unlike he normally did, well, Sansa decided there was a reason for duty after all.