CHAPTER ONE

The night fell quickly over King's Landing, but the darkness did nothing to hinder the bright amber flames that framed the city. Sansa watched from a mile or so away, sitting on a dark horse, wearing an even darker cloak, lingering somewhere between admiration and horror at the destruction of her former prison city.

"Why have you stopped?" A rough voice asked her. Sansa turned and looked at the Hound, who rode back to her after noticing she was no longer with him.

"I just wanted…to watch," she responded lamely, struggling to describe the feelings of freedom and pity that swirled inside of her. "I wanted to make sure…"

"Wanted to make sure it burned down?" Sandor asked, giving a humorless chuckle and turning his horse back towards the road. "Rest assured, Little Bird, King's Landing will burn. Burn to the ground along with all the pathetic souls trapped inside." Sansa nodded wordlessly and gently spurred the horse onward, falling into tread behind Sandor.

"And Joffrey?" Sansa asked tentatively, though she did not know why. The boy king was miles away and probably charred by now while she rode away from the destruction, away from the danger. He could not harm her where she was. Still, the Hound noticed her hesitation but did not turn back to look at her.

"He will burn too." He responded after a few long moments. Sansa sighed and followed him away from the blaze, continuing down a dark path towards an unknown fate.

It wasn't that she didn't trust the Hound. He had saved her life many times and in the smallest ways, and she was thankful, but something about him was deeply unsettling. Whether it was his scarred face or gruff manor, when his eyes fell upon her, she could feel goose bumps crawl up her skin.

"How long shall we travel tonight?" she asked him.

"Until I say we stop." He responded curtly, putting an end to further conversation. Sansa stifled a yawn and tried to remain wary of her surroundings. The darkness surrounded them as the last flicker of flames from King's Landing disappeared behind them. The silence did nothing to ease Sansa's anxiety. Her mind raced with images of robbers, rapists, and thieves hiding amongst the forests. The Hound will protect me. She told herself. He promised.

They traveled for what seemed like hours, covered in darkness and silence. Sansa felt her eyes drooping, and twice she slapped herself hard across the cheek to wake up. Sandor never glanced back to see if she was still behind him; he knew that she would not abandon her only chance of safe passage to the North.

"Please, Sir, please may we stop?" she begged when her exhaustion became to overwhelming to bear. Sandor stopped to look at her, biting his tongue when he wanted to snap at her weakness. He had to remind himself that he was travelling with a lady, and an especially frail one at that.

"Fine," he gave in, swiftly dropping from his horse with ease. Sansa nearly fell off her own mare; she was too tired to do it with any ounce of grace. Relieved, she opened the pack attached to the saddle and pulled out a small tin that carried the only thing about King's Landing that she enjoyed; the castle's lemoncakes. She had smuggled two small cakes from her untouched tray in her room as she packed, the Hound waiting for her in the doorway with a pack of his own. He had objected, saying the tin would do well sheltering some other form of food, but Sansa insisted. The lemoncakes from King's Landing rivaled any she had tasted before, and more importantly, they were one of the few things that kept her from cutting her own throat while imprisoned with the Lannisters.

"Take out your tarp, give it here," the Hound commanded, and Sansa pulled the large covering out of the pack with her other hand and gave it to him. "Light a fire," he told her.

"I do not know how," she responded, standing before him with her little tin. The Hound stopped and looked at her angrily before spitting to the ground.

"Seven Hells," he muttered, pushing past her into the trees at her back. "I knew I was carting a lady out of that damned city, but alas, I did not realize you were such an insufferable brat."

"It's not like I ever had an excuse to learn to do these things," she retorted. "Lighting fires, setting up camps, eating off the wild, fighting, running…Arya used to like to play and act like she was a Wilding. She would know what to do but I…I do not. I never needed to." The thought of her little sister brought tears to Sansa's eyes and she sat on the ground, suddenly angry at the stupid desserts she carried. It was Lannister sustenance and it was the Lannisters who broke apart her family; murdered her father and chased her sister away. How could she eat from the table of her jailers, those who were responsible for her misery? Disgusted, she threw the tin at the ground in front of her and buried her face in her arms, humiliated by her tears.

Rough hands pulled her arms away and hauled her to her feet, but she could not meet Sandor's eyes.

"Little Bird," he said, in a voice that was startlingly soft, as he gently dabbed at her tear-stained cheeks. "You have been strong, my Little Bird," he told her, tipping her chin up to look at him. "Now you must be stronger still."

Sansa nodded, and his hand dropped away from her all too suddenly. He turned his back on her and continued gathering sticks for the fire while Sansa elected to tie up the horses and make herself useful. Her chin seemed to burn where his hands had touched her, and Sansa felt that strange nervous feeling rise in her chest. After she tied up the horses, she picked up the tin from the ground and placed it back in her saddlebag, and pulled out two sticks of dried meat and two apples. Sandor had finished building a fire and had tied up the tarp around four trees, creating a makeshift roof over a soft bed of grass when Sansa came to him with the small dinner.

"What's that?" she asked him, eyeing the tarp.

"You sleep there," he responded, grabbing the dried meat.

"What about you?" she asked, trying to hand him the other apple. He pushed it away and grabbed the other meat stick out of her hand.

"Why does it matter?" he asked her, biting into the beef. Sansa stared at him, wondering if he was mocking her or trying to be gentlemanly. The Hound mistakenly took her confusion as mistrust and held up his hands, backing away.

"Don't you fret, Little Bird, I won't touch you. I won't even come near you." Giving her a dark half-smile, he turned away, biting into the meat again as she watched him walk to the other side of the fire, take off his cloak and lay it on the grass before following suite and finishing his meal. Sansa bit into one of the apples and placed the other back into the saddlebag before retreating to her own makeshift shelter. The Hound watched her duck under the tarp after spreading her own cloak and didn't roll away from her until she had lain down. Sansa turned to say goodnight or thank you, but he was already turned. She wrapped herself up in her cloak and looked up at the dark ceiling of the tarp, said a quick prayer for short and safe travels, before her desperate longing for sleep was answered.