A/N: This is the end result of my part of the SanSan Secret Valentine on tumblr. My prompt was this from wolfheartedqueen: "Reunited Sansa and Sandor have dinner full of sexual tension, mildly insulting banter, and wine, and somehow, he goes down on her." This was supposed to be a fluff piece; however the muse had a fit and got all serious on me. But I think I covered all my bases and hopefully didn't stray too far out of character in the process. Willing suspension of disbelief, people!

Beggar's Banquet

"Why are you doing this?"

They sit across from each other at a table in his chamber. A grouping of candles sits at its center, their dancing flames reflected upon the rounded silver trays he'd seen brought up from the kitchens not long before she had summoned him here. Sansa has placed a cup of wine close to his hand and is filling another for herself.

"I thought you might enjoy a quiet supper in the privacy of your room. They are all good men, those gathered in the hall, but they can be quite noisy. And I …" she trails off and lifts her eyes, allows them brief contact with his before looking away. "I suspect you're not one for making idle conversation."

"Might be that's true. But you're assuming they've seen fit to speak to me," he retorts. "Most won't even look me in the eye."

His words have the desired effect of drawing her gaze back to him. She has read his challenge and meets it, looking him straight on, her delicate features practiced and composed.

"Give them time. They do not know you."

"You don't know me."

Her lips part as if to speak but she soon closes them and stares down at the table. Long moments pass as he waits in silence, unwilling to ease her discomfort.

"I don't believe that's true," she finally murmurs. "I feel I know you better than most."

"That's where you're wrong, little bird. You remember who I was. You think because you're fucking me, you know who I am now?"

She has the grace to blush. But, of course, she would. That is who she is. Though she has grown fully into her womanhood and wears the mantle of her station well, she is not so much changed as matured, a more layered version of the girl he came to know in King's Landing some ten years past. He has discovered that much in the month since he presented himself at the gates of Winterfell, seeking either redemption or condemnation – it hadn't mattered which, so long as it came straight from her, from his little bird all grown up.

She learned the gift of polite subterfuge well, there within the walls of the Red Keep, and honed her skills ever more sharply in the years that followed. But her innate goodness remains; tempered by loveless marriages and inevitable widowhood, but still the bedrock from which she was sculpted. Only now, as he has found of late, her desires are those of a woman's; she is no longer a child with a head stuffed full of dreams. Now she can have what she wants – whatever she wants.

"Don't speak," she'd whispered that night, the first time he'd woken to find her crawling into his bed. The shock of her naked skin against his had stilled his hand as he reached for the dagger at his bedside, frozen the air in his lungs. "If you speak, I'll leave."

Being weak of flesh and unable to find reason to deny her, the only sounds he'd made had been growls of discontent when, under the same threat to go, she'd ordered he not touch her and had tugged his arms above his head, wrapped his fingers round the spindles of the headboard and quieted him with a look. And then she'd lowered herself onto him, sheathed him deep, and ridden him until they were breathless with it. He willed his hands stay locked round the spindles, not reach for her, as she'd slipped away as quietly as she'd arrived, and he'd lain awake through the rest of the night, certain he'd only imagined it and was going mad.

But she'd come again two nights later and then again and again, each coupling replete with warnings breathed warmly against his skin. He must not try to kiss her, nor gaze too long into her eyes, nor try to stop her when she moved to leave his bed, made messy and fragrant with their unique scent. And he had obeyed, loyal dog that he was and would ever be for her. He would take what she offered him and try not dwell on the gnawing hunger he was left with.

But she had broken her own rules just the night before, and when he'd lost his senses and grasped a teat in one hand and the curve of a hip in the other, she had not pushed his hands away but instead had arched into them, covering them with her own and moaning low in her throat. Completely undone, he'd flipped her onto her back and pounded into her, his cheek pressed tight to hers. It was instinct sent his scarred lips skimming up her jaw and to her mouth, finding it plush and wet and open for him. And finally he had tasted her and found her sweeter than any dream. But she had left him soon after just the same, with nary a word and him as starved as before.

Now she raises her eyes and studies him intently over covered dishes and candlelight that shimmers upon her hair and makes of it molten copper. "I owe you an explanation, ser. It is past time I gave it." She goes to say more but he doesn't let her.

"Don't bother. I am sworn to your protection. Here to serve you, whatever Your Grace requires of me."

She flinches at his acerbic tone and whispers, "W…whatever I require? Is that what you think this has been; some aspect of your new position? Why ever would you think that?"

"Is that an answer you truly needs hear?" When she does not respond, he takes the opportunity granted him. "You come to my chambers uninvited and climb into my bed. You take your pleasure and then slip away like some buggering thief and leave me covered in you; you're all I can bloody smell for hours after. You do these things and then summon me to dine with you like you would one of your bannermen, like it's some sort of favor you're doing, and dare call me ser? I'll not have it. Not so long as you keep visiting my bed, girl. So whatever this is, whatever you hope to accomplish, have done with it so you can be on your bloody way."

Her voice is tremulous. "You have mistaken my intent."

"Have I, now? Then you meant to do something other than fuck me and leave me all these nights, and then offer food and wine as recompense? Or is this how the Queen in the North is supposed to welcome the newest head of her household guard? I'm ignorant of the customs this far north. Should I be thanking you?"

Her open hand slaps against the table and they both jerk at the sound. "Stop it! Why are you being so hateful?"

He leans across the table and locks eyes with her. "Why are you using me like a common whore? Seven hells, girl, what are you doing? Why are you doing this?"

"I told you I owed you an explanation. Will you hear it or would you rather listen to the sound of your own voice?"

"Unless it's the truth that'll be leaving that mouth of yours, I'm not interested."

"The truth," she quickly agrees.

He pushes away from the table and slumps back in his chair, crossing his legs and lifting a hand in invitation. It is several moments before she speaks. Time he spends looking her over with a hooded gaze, his eyes doing what he'd rather be doing with his hands. Recalling the taste of her, all too brief, and yet so vivid a memory that it lives in his bones and makes him ache for more.

"I had to be sure, you see. I had to know that I could trust you," she finally offers.

"Trust me? It never occurred to you to talk to me? Instead you chose as your method this bloody torture you've been putting me through?"

She waves dismissively. "Words are wind."

"I've never lied to you, Sansa."

"There is more to being trustworthy than one's words." She laughs softly. "Cersei told me something once. She said that tears were not a woman's only weapon. In that, at least, she was truthful. I cannot wield a sword, but I have learned other ways to lay a man on his back and see him for true, strip away his defenses."

"Aye, you have at that," he murmurs.

"I had to know that you would hear me and respect my wishes. That you would not be brutish or cruel. I had to know that I am safe with you."

He sits up and extends his hand across the small expanse of the table, lays it there a hair's-breadth from her own. And he thinks to himself that he has learned her lessons well. Even now, he will not move to touch her. Not without her say-so. "I would never hurt you, little bird."

She pins him with an astute look. "Twice you laid a blade at my throat, Sandor Clegane. The Hound may be dead, but his ferocity remains - I see that clearly. I dreamt you at peace these last ten years and hoped that so long as we both survived, we might find each other again. I needed to know if you had become more than the man you were in King's Landing; the honorable man I once glimpsed beneath the rage."

"So have I, then?" Slow as sap from a winter tree, the implications are beginning to coalesce in his mind. And he discovers he cannot draw a deep breath.

"Had you not, I would be sitting alone in my chambers and you would be sulking in some dark corner of the Great Hall."

"More likely I'd be right here, waiting for you to come back."

She smiles and lifts her hand to cover his. He turns it until her palm is cradled within his own and allows himself a ghost of a smile in return. "So now … what?"

"Now," she says peering up at him from behind thickly fringed lashes, "now we talk and begin to know each other anew. But first, it is your turn." He gives her a sharp glance and takes in the placid set of her features. But the glimmer in her eyes gives her away.

"My turn," he repeats.

"It seems only fair."

"Just so there's no bloody misunderstanding … I want to hear you say it."

She curls her hand in his and the soft scrap of her nails against his palm sends a shiver racing down his spine. "Whatever you want; whatever you ask of me. Do with me as you will."

"Just this once?" he asks, ready to negotiate.

"For the sake of expediency, let us assume so."

The laughter bursts from him and he studies her, pleased to see her mirrored amusement so poorly masked. And then he pushes out of his chair and rounds the table. She giggles as he lifts and settles her over his shoulder, carrying her through the doorway of the inner chamber and straight to his bed.

Clothing is quickly shed and soon she is beneath him, all pale skin and warmth, and he takes his time and tastes her as he has wanted to for as long as he can remember. The delicate arches of her feet and the solid caps of her knees. The saltiness of the sweat that gathers at the hollow of her throat. The sweetness of her mouth and the puckered tips of her teats. Ribs and waist and backside, thighs and shoulders and belly – there is no place on her that goes neglected, save one. It is not until she cries out and grabs him by the head, steering him where she needs him most, that he gives them both what they want. He settles between her thighs and dips his tongue into the musk and ocean of her, draws her scent deep into his lungs and takes his fill. Shimmering and writhing, she arches to meet him, drawing him closer, fingers twisted in his hair and scrabbling at his scalp.

It occurs to him much later that he never had to say a word. Though he was prepared to direct her, take up her offer and demand she obey, in truth it was she who led him all the while. Another man might've been angered by the realization that he'd been had in such a way, but he merely chuckles and holds her tighter against him. And when he wakes to bright sunlight streaming through the leaded glass windows of his bedchamber and she is there, sprawled across his chest and soundly asleep, he knows that he will never go hungry again.