A/N: This is my second ASoIaF fanfiction dedicated to my friend, Paula. They center on the budding platonic and eventually romantic relationship between Tyrion Lannister and Sansa Stark. The events in this work, as well as other details in canon, are loosely based on George Martin's material, but some of them have deviated from the original source. The chapters themselves are named from the sigils of various Houses in Westeros. Also, the premise of this story is during A Clash of Kings and A Sword of Swords. The story will compose of twelve chapters and each chapter ends with lyrics from songs that depict the essence of the story at hand.
I would like to thank TheLastPhenom as my beta.
Review are very much appreciated.
Unbowed. Unbent. Unbroken
Tyrion saw the flash of Ser Meryn's hand as he struck Sansa Stark on her left cheek. Her body slammed against the wall behind her and then she slipped to the floor. She stood up as quickly as she collapsed but Ser Meryn grabbed a fistful of her auburn hair then, pulling her close to him before he slapped her on the other cheek. She collided against the wall again and fell to her knees. This time she stayed down and her whole body shook as she sobbed in silence. He saw the cracks in her lips where the blood burst through.
A second passed. And then another.
Sansa Stark pulled herself up and tried to stand straight as she met the knight's gaze. She didn't flinch when he struck her for the third time. Her feet found their place at last.
She did not fall again.
Tyrion always struggled to walk. His legs are heavy underneath him that oftentimes when he would shuffle his boots against cobblestones, he swore he feels the ground pushing back.
Still, it was riding horses that displeased him more than anything, and when there was no travel expected of him, he avoided horseback as much as he could. When he was nine, Jaime had once offered a mule to accompany him on journeys and Cersei laughed—cackled like a witch—at the thought. She was probably imagining how utterly stupid he would look. Tyrion had to blink away the tears as he shouted at Jaime that he will not be the laughingstock of Casterly Rock. Cersei insisted that his birth, his very existence, is itself a cosmic joke. That was the last time Tyrion got angry and cried in front of his siblings. He knew at that moment that Cersei will forever want him dead.
It also occurred to him that Jaime, in spite of the way he seemed to cherish Tyrion, will never quite understand what it was like to be incomplete.
His brother is perfect. His sister is beautiful. And he is a dwarf—an imp—and he never felt big enough to be anything else.
"WHAT IS THE MEANING OF THIS, YOU BLOODY FOOLS?" Tyrion had shouted then, and he felt the weight of his outrage in his throat. Anger always made him feel bigger. He walked with every confidence he could muster as he demanded his nephew—king of all seven kingdoms and protector of the realm—to back down.
"She is to be your queen! Have you no regard for her honor?"
"The king can do as he likes!" the little shit Joffrey screamed back, his crown falling to the side slightly. He nodded towards Ser Meryn and the knight pulled hard on Sansa's gown and tore the laces behind her back with his sword. She still didn't make a sound as she put both hands on her chest to cover what was left of her. Ser Meryn made a grab at her hair again.
This time Tyrion hit his nephew and when the little shit tried to cuss at his face, Tyrion hit him again. Ser Meryn would've intervened but the captain of his guard Bronn already had a knife on his neck. Joffrey squealed and tried to look dignified as he picked up his crown which fell the third time Tyrion chastised him.
"Mother will hear of this!"
"Go run to her then." Tyrion spat back. He looked behind him and saw Sansa Stark standing still with eyes downcast and not uttering a single sound.
With his chest heavy with guilt, he walked to her.
An aging singer once stayed at Winterfell when Sansa was seven. Every morning, he sung about giants moving boulders away from the clouds so that the sun will be at its peak; of rainfall blessed with magic that when it poured on flowers, they began to talk like people. In the afternoon he sung about a flightless white bird dying at the edge of a snowy cliff, until a merciful warlock took pity and turned the snow around him into wings. He sung to Sansa every night about a princess named Jonquil, imprisoned in the high tower somewhere far away and singing to a knight who will come for her one day. Before she could hear him finish the verses a week later, he left. She begged to her father to bring him back. She cried and shouted but her father only took her to the side and told her that there is no need for her to fret about giants, talking flowers, snow-winged birds and Jonquil.
He kissed her on both cheeks and told her she was a living song and that her world will always be as pretty and happy as she was. Sansa believed him.
He had lied to her about the monsters though. She learned that too late.
When the beatings were over, Sansa's knees gave out and she knelt to the ground. Her cheeks stung while the rest of her body felt as if it was going to disintegrate. She only looked up to where the Iron Throne was when she saw Tyrion Lannister approaching, his short-stacked legs wobbling a bit. When he was near, his hand stretched towards her and there was an edge to his voice when he said. "Do not be afraid."
Sansa did not trust him. He was a lion like the rest of them.
He didn't take another step as his hand remained reaching for hers. Sansa looked at his mismatched eyes and took some comfort in the fact that they were not tainted with cruelty.
Without thinking about it, she was reaching back. When their palms touched and his fingers closed around hers, she felt a jolt of repulsion because he was an enemy…but there was something else too.
He was strong enough to pull her back to her feet. "Take her to my chambers. Get her washed and dressed." He told her handmaids.
As her handmaids wrapped a cloth around her bruised body, Sansa risked a glance at Tyrion Lannister and they ended up looking at each other in the eye.
She turned away first as if burned by his slightest gaze.
Tyrion noticed Sansa Stark during the feast at Winterfell and couldn't stop looking her way initially. She was a child but very beautiful that it's almost impossible not to imagine her blooming into womanhood anytime soon. He stopped watching her once he had his fill of wine and felt sleep taking over him.
He left the banquet then and fumbled his way through the staircases. He had to drag his legs when he did and once or twice he fell and laughed.
"My lord?" he heard a voice from behind him and knew it was the girl.
"Do you know which of these doors lead to my chamber?" he asked, snorting out a laugh. "I never should have consumed that much ale and mutton all at once."
He heard her approaching and she stood in front of him, lithe and pretty.
And quite tall…
Without another word, she leaned close and placed her hand under his arms. "With your permission…?" she began but Tyrion was already holding on to her, forgetting how ridiculous and embarrassing this would look if another person were to see them. Once she got him on his feet, she coolly pointed a door at the end of the hallway. "Would you like the servants to bring you more candles, my lord?"
"No." He grinned clumsily at her placid, beautiful face. And then he reached out a hand and patted her on the knee. When he did, his fingers tightened around it for a while and then he let go. "Thank you."
Sansa Stark curtsied, a faint smile touching her lips. He smiled back. And then he giggled. Like a giddy child. He couldn't stop himself. Sansa watched, her eyebrows knitting together in confusion. When he managed to get his giggle fits under control, she was smiling wider than before. It made him sheepish all of a sudden and so began to walk away from her.
"Goodnight, my lord." She called out. He was tempted to look back, and when he did, she was already heading back downstairs. Tyrion stood there outside the door, his hand on the knob. The sight of her leaving made him anguished for no reason at all.
Sansa looked around the chambers and couldn't stop shaking even now that she's fully-clothed and all that blood had been scrubbed off her. They called these rooms the Tower of the Hand. This was where her late father had slept. Sansa was almost tempted to smell the sheets but decided against it. She did not understand why the Hand took her here. It doesn't matter, though. She will not be made a fool of. If Tyrion Lannister would ask about her family, like they always do, she will reply the same as always. My father was a traitor. My mother and brothers are traitors too. I am loyal to my beloved Joffrey.
The door opened and Tyrion Lannister stepped in.
"I'm very sorry, my lady." As soon as he reached her, he stopped to hold her gaze. She nodded stiffly, never once forgetting who he was.
She cautioned herself with what she was going to say next. "I thank you for the kindness, my lord."
He raised an eyebrow. "You are most courteous to say so."
Tyrion Lannister stood close to her now. Since she sat, they were of the same height now. He was watching her for a while and it occurred to her that he must have been looking at the cuts in her lips and the bruises on her forehead and cheeks. Most of them were from a week ago, during the riot in the streets. If he wanted to see, then who am I deny him?
Sansa tilted her chin up so he could look at everything.
His face softened as he spoke. "You should not have to endure all of this, my lady. If you wish to end your engagement with my nephew, I could find a way to prevent it."
Liar. "I'm loyal to my Joffrey. My one true love."
He flinched at the statement as if her deception personally injured him. Sighing, he walked to the table to their right. He slightly struggled to get on the chair. As soon as he sat, he rubbed a hand on his thigh and answered her. "You don't have to trust me." Sansa looked at the hands on her lap and realized she had formed them into fists earlier. "I will never give you a reason to doubt me either, my lady," he added.
She couldn't look at him, not even when he called for her to sit on the table with him. When they were on either side, Tyrion Lannister pushed the basket of fruits towards her and because she did not want him to think she was disrespecting him, she picked an orange and slowly pushed her thumbs on its surface, getting ready to unpeel it. When the juices spilled on her fingers, it was almost as sticky as blood and it made her cringe. She hurriedly licked it and forgot that he was still watching her closely. She kept her eyes down now as she unpeeled the fruit.
"I'm familiar with Northern tradition," he began. "I believe that a lady is required to practice her needlework and dance every day before she turns sixteen."
Sansa was not sure where the rest of this conversation was going and she was taught not to interrupt a person, especially a noble lord, when he had yet to finish his point. She waited.
"I could arrange for your lessons, find you a proper septa to keep you occupied with activities you grew up with and loved," he smiled at her and she knew he was waiting for a sign of gratitude. She did not hesitate then.
"I thank my lord for the kindness."
"You think me kind? Truly?" he chuckled. He paused and then. "Can I have a slice of that orange?" She looked at him at last, trying to read what he intends to accomplish from mocking her but there was only a soft smile on his lips the whole time. She was able to watch his face better at this distance. His mismatched eyes, one green and the other grey, magnified her distrust. She felt as if he was probing her with them. His hair was a disarray of faded golden locks and he was never as handsome as Joffrey or his brother the Kingslayer. Sansa never truly thought him ugly, though. The Hound's features were more terrifying and it has probably more to do with the bitterness in his every look. Tyrion Lannister's face was inscrutable even as he smiled, so she was never so sure how to handle herself around him.
She was able to hand him a piece from across the table. When he took it, he was very gentle that she did not see his other hand appeared from the other side and grabbed her by the wrist. He lifted the sleeve and exposed the knife wounds which were still fresh. She trembled in his grip but did not move, afraid that he might chastise her the same way he did Joffrey earlier.
"Did you do this to yourself?"
She replied. "Yes."
Tyrion Lannister scoffed, tightening his grip but not enough to hurt her. "That means you didn't. Did Joffrey command one of his knights to do this?"
"No, my lord."
"That means 'yes'." He let her go and squeezed the orange inside his palm. He looked…angry. It puzzled her. She pulled her wrist away and rolled the sleeve down.
A moment of silence passed between them.
"Unless you speak up, I cannot help." His fingers drumming on the table.
She watched his fingers. "What would you have me say, my lord?"
"Whatever your heart needs to sing for."
Sansa blinked, confusion almost swallowing her up. "What…do I say?"
"I don't need to tell you that."
"But I…I only aim to please you, my lord."
"You're doing a bad job at it then, because I am certainly not pleased."
I don't understand what he wants me to do and what he wants me to say to make him happy. Sansa licked her lips. The cuts in them tasted like copper.
If he doesn't get what he wants, he might hurt me.
"I suppose I should start then," Tyrion Lannister interjected. He stopped drumming his fingers. The look he gave her was chilling. "You have never known anything rotten in your life and so every time Joffrey and his knights beat you, all that pain doesn't change what you are and what you believe in. But you can't run away from the things inside your head, Sansa."
She just stared at him in silence though she understood what he meant. He's calling me a coward. Joffrey called her stupid and shoved her to his knights so they could break her. The queen had told her that she was blind and pitiful to wish for any man who was gentle, brave and strong to marry her for love. Everyone in the seven kingdoms said that she was a traitor's daughter and she must suffer for his treason. She understood everything better than they thought but she buried all of it at the depths of her heart and readied herself for another smile the next time they tell her she was weak. She will not lash out or fight or scream or die. She was a lady and she remembered all her lessons well.
A lady's armor is her courtesy.
"Your turn," he said.
"My lord should tell me what he wishes to hear."
Sansa had peeled away the rest of the orange. Its insides were soft and smooth to touch and its frailty almost made her want to smash it on the table.
She looked at Tyrion Lannister again and his mismatched eyes were probing her once more. She waited for his response and when he smirked a little and asked, "Tell me about your dream wedding then." Her stomach wanted to burst.
She placed the orange on the table, keeping her eyes on it as she answered. Tell him a lie. "I pray for the glorious day I will see my beloved Joffrey in the Sept of Baelor and pledge my eternal love and devotion for him in the sight of the gods."
"Is that what you pray for in Godswood every night then? That Joffrey will put a ring in your finger and own you forever? That he will be the one person in the world you will lie in bed with and wake up to?"
Sansa could hear the disbelief in his voice and she didn't know how to react to that. To neutralize the conversation, she found her voice and asked him.
"And what of your dream wedding, my lord?"
That took him aback but he recovered fast, laughing. Sansa remembered the first time she heard him laugh back at Winterfell. When she thought of home, she tore her gaze away from the orange and tried to think of something else before her eyes could water.
He had gotten quiet afterwards. He picked up a goblet from the table and stared down at it for a very long moment as if he was waiting for wine to appear.
When he answered, he wasn't looking at anything else but that goblet.
"Just a quiet place with only heaven and earth to bear witness," his voice was oddly calm. "I will be standing with someone who loves me."
Sansa could hear Queen Cersei inside her head.
Do you want to be loved, Sansa?
Everyone wants to be loved, she said.
"That's all I want." Tyrion Lannister turned to look at her now, his mismatched eyes reeling her in. "Everyone wants to be loved."
Their gazes lingered on each other for what seemed like forever. Sansa could hardly breathe as she now felt the sting of tears. He watched her thoughtfully and opened his mouth to say something else but stopped himself. He must have realized that there was no need for words this time. As she cried softly, he climbed down the chair and walked to her. He reached out his hand again and rested it upon her shoulder. He didn't smile but his mismatched eyes, sad and knowing, held so much warmth she hadn't recognized until now.
"I thank you for the kindness," she said and meant it for the first time.
"Your handmaids will escort you back to your chambers then."
He motioned towards the door and his squire entered and helped her to stand. They went out of the room together and two of her handmaids were already waiting outside. As soon as she reached the threshold, she risked a glance behind her where the door was still open.
Tyrion Lannister watched her.
The sight of him made her chest twinge.
Robb gathered yellow flowers before he left and had strewn them in her hair as he said goodbye. "The South will do you good, sister," he said, rubbing a gloved hand on her cheek.
"Will you come to see me off?"
"I have to watch for Bran and mother." He kissed her forehead. "I'll follow you as soon I'm able."
Sansa waved at him as he walked back inside the castle. Septa Mordane reached a hand to help her up the carriage.
Before she climbed up, she saw Tyrion Lannister grabbing the ropes of his horse. The animal bent down slightly as he stepped onto to the footstool to lift himself up. He managed to get on top of the horse by putting one foot on the stirrup and rising up quickly to the saddle while his other foot found the other stirrup to step on. It was not the most graceful thing to watch but once he was sitting atop, he looked like he belonged there.
On horseback, he towered over everyone else.
"We don't go breaking down. I feel like nothing ever will" ~Tourist, Athlete