Chapter 14

The Hunter had offered to bring Sansa home since it was getting dark. "No reason for you to wander blindly around in the woods at night," he'd rasped. "Probably find a cliff a walk right off it." Despite his begrudging attitude, Sansa appreciated the favor. It had surprised her that she had stayed at his place for so long. The sun had begun to set, casting long shadows from the trees. Somewhere an owl had begun hooting, announcing the coming twilight.

Sansa had never spent much time along with a man before. She had been on a couple dates here and there with some of the boys in town, but they all turned out to be jerks who wanted only one thing. So she gave up dating and focused on work. Hanging out with Sandor at his house was something completely unexpected. It wasn't a date, Sansa told herself. It was silly to think so. Who took someone on a date to their house? No, they were simply two…friends? Sansa wasn't sure if they were or not. She really did not know much about him, not to mention the fact that he was older than her. He had to be in his early thirties. But did that really matter? She was eighteen, an adult. They were both adults. And adults should be able to be friends without it being weird, right? Right.

During her internal struggle over whether or not they were friends, Sandor remained quiet, drinking occasionally from a beer and staring off into the trees. They had not said much to each other, and normally that would have made Sansa feel awkward, but somehow, with him, silence was ok. She wondered if he enjoyed her company or wished she would leave, but he didn't say anything about her needing to hit the road, so Sansa stayed, curled up on the porch bench.

He offered her a beer and she looked shocked. "I'm not old enough," she said, suddenly feeling even younger. He smirked at her. "I won't tell anyone," he sneered. "Don't be a goody-two shoes." Sansa narrowed her eyes and grabbed his beer and took a sip. She had never drunk beer before, so the taste that washed through her mouth and down her throat was very unexpected. She coughed and wrinkled her nose. "That's awful," she commented. Then she realized she had actually taken his beer. Drank from his bottle. She set it down quickly, feeling embarrassed at her boldness. It wasn't like her at all. She thought he might be upset, but when she looked up at him, he was smirking at her again, and even chuckled.

As the shadows grew longer, Sandor mentioned driving her home, and Sansa accepted. The cabin of the old pick-up truck smelled like him: pine trees and leather and grease. The drive back to town was quiet again, but it wasn't a bad quiet. Sansa turned to him at one point and asked, "Do you go to the Fall Festival? It's coming up in a few weeks." Sansa loved the festival; it was one of the few times the entire town got together and just had fun. There were games and cookouts and contests, and the smell of autumn was everywhere. Cateyln always closed the diner for the day, so the two girls got to go every year. Sandor shrugged. "Never bothered with them. Too many people." He glanced at her. "What would I do there anyways, girl?" "Well…" Sansa answered slowly, "There's always a shooting contest. I bet you'd win for sure!" She smiled at him. "And there's prize money." That seemed to catch his attention. "Shooting contest, hmm?" He scratched the dark stubble on his chin. "I'll think about it." Sansa smiled broadly at him again and settled back in her seat.

As they entered town, Sansa suddenly remembered that she had told Arya she would come to the diner later, and asked Sandor to drop her off there instead. He obliged, but to her surprise, shut the engine off and got out of the truck. "What are you doing?" she asked, confused, joining him on the other side. "Getting something to eat, of course," he remarked. "You being at my house all day, I didn't make any dinner." Sansa's eyes grew wide. "I'm sorry," she said meekly. 'I didn't mean to intrude…" Sandor grabbed her arm. "Would you stop being so damned polite all the time?" he rasped, his hot breath hitting her face. "It doesn't matter much, I was only stating a fact." He let go of her arm slowly. Sansa bit her lip and searched his scarred face with her eyes. "At..at least let me make it up to you," she said softly. "I could buy you dinner…" The Hunter sighed. "Buy me a drink and we're even, girl," he said finally, his mouth twitching. Feeling relieved that he wasn't really upset, Sansa turned and walked up the stairs to enter the diner, Sandor following behind her.

When they stepped in, the atmosphere of the diner shifted slightly. Everyone always glanced at the door whenever the little bell rang, and to see Sansa, of all people, waltzing in with the Hunter, was not a usual sight. The loud chattering in the diner changed to snickers and whispers. Sansa was only thinking of the conversation she had just had with Sandor ad strode to the bar counter, unaware of the stares. The Hunter followed her, his grey eyes glaring menacingly at anyone who's gaze strayed on them a little too long. He caught the eye of Sheriff Jaime, who was sitting at a booth with the mayor and her son. The Sheriff looked surprised, then his eyes narrowed suspiciously. Sandor snorted and turned back to take a seat next to Sansa. Screw him, he thought.

"So!" Arya appeared out of nowhere, startling Sansa so much she almost fell out of her chair. "Where have you been all day?" The younger girl placed her hands on her hips. "I was hiking," Sansa said lightly, trying to act calm as she glanced over a menu, even though she had every item memorized to the T. "Hiking," Arya repeated slowly. Her eyes darted to Sandor, who raised his lip slightly to sneer at her. "The what's he doing here?" She glared back him. "Arya, can't we talk about this later?" Sansa pleaded. She did not want her friend making a scene again like the other night. "Fine," Arya answered, tight-lipped. "But you're going to tell me everything." "Ok, fine, whatever!" Sansa was feeling the heat rise to her face. "Can we have two sweet teas?" "Sure," Arya muttered and stomped off.

"Tea?" The Hunter's voice broke through her thoughts. Sansa grinned at him innocently. "You said I had to buy you a drink. You didn't specify what kind," she said sweetly. Sandor's gaze locked onto hers, and a slow smirk spread over his features, his scars twisting slightly. "Sneaky. Fine, girl. But next time, I expect a real drink."

"How's everything, Sansa?" Sheriff Jaime came to lean on the counter, the check in his hand. He smiled at the girl in front of him, but his eyes darted warily to the hulk of a man next to her. "Fine, thank you," Sansa answered politely, not feeling the tension between the two men on either side of her. "Sandor," Jaime said, nodding his head a little. "Sheriff," Sandor rasped in a low voice. Jaime paid the bill and walked to the door where Cersei and Nathan were waiting. Sansa followed him with her eyes and met Nathan's. The boy gave her a small smile, which she returned before he pushed the door open. Her eyes then met those of Mayor Cersei. The mayor did not smile at her, but rather her cool green eyes regarded her with iciness, before she too turned and followed her son outside. Sansa's brow furrowed. What was up with that? She swiveled in her seat back to the counter. "Everyone's acting so weird tonight," she muttered, taking a sip of her tea.

At the other side of town, Tyrion and Sam were locking up the library for the night. Sam was droning on excitedly about a book he had found earlier, and while Tyrion would normally have entered the discussion gladly, he found his thoughts drifting elsewhere. Sam had told him about Nathan and Arya visiting the library earlier that day, asking about the magic book. Tyrion was not sure why he had felt compelled to lie to the mayor about what book her son had checked out, but for some reason, he felt the urge to defy her. There was no friendliness between he and the mayor; in fact, at every election, Tyrion actually voted against her. He knew that she had spies all throughout town, and that she manipulated many people.

Thunder hummed above them, and Tyrion glanced up at the sky, searching for a sign of rain. As he did so, his eye fell on the clock tower, and he almost dropped his keys. "Sam?" he asked. "Yes, Tyrion?" the fat young man answered. Tyrion blinked a couple times. "When did the clock start working?" Sam followed his gaze and saw that the hands of the clock had moved. "I…I don't know…" he stuttered, clearly as surprised as Tyrion. They glanced at each other, confused. The clock had never worked, the entire time they were on Crimson Island. Tyrion had once commissioned someone to fix it, but they had said they could find nothing wrong with it. So it was left to itself, the hands never moving from where they pointed at 3'oclock. Now, the hands had moved to the big black Roman numeral VI.

"How could it be working?" Sam asked, in a whisper. "No one has been in to fix it." Tyrion's eyes narrowed. "I'm not sure," he answered slowly.

Jaime drove Cersei and Nathan back to the station, since the mayor's car was parked there. "Goodnight, Jaime. Thank you." Cersei hugged him, while Nathan looked around, trying to focus on something else. "No problem," Jaime said and gave her a quick peck on the lips. "'Night, Nathan." "Goodnight, Jaime," Nathan answered distractedly. He just wanted to get home so he could plan some more for Operation Cobra.

After Jaime went back into the station, he and Cersei walked over to where her sleek Mercedes was parked. Cersei dug out her keys and unlocked the car, and as she did so her eyes roved over the town and she froze. Her eyes widened and she stared down the street, the blood seeming to drain from her face. Nathan saw her and, puzzled, he followed her gaze. Over the rooftops of a few buildings, he could see the clock tower that adorned the library. Surprise and disbelief washed over and through him, but instead of looking terrified like Cersei, he let a smile creep over his face.

A/N: Not a long chapter, but I hope you liked it! Also, feel free to follow me on Tumblr if you want! My username is charisamae