OOC: Sorry about the wait, folks! I've re-written this a few times, and I had a bunch of presentations to do- as well as a short story, which my teacher LOVED (sorry for the brag, I'm just so proud of myself! Hell yeah, creative writing degree!).And I planned out the whole next story arc! This isn't ending any time soon 3
Also, I need a book cover for this! If anyone's interested in helping me out, I'd appreciate it a lot. I have basically no money, but I can give you a oneshot if that'd do!
The queen had brushed her hair and changed her dress, but she still smelt of the sickroom. It was likely as much Cersei herself as her time by Joffrey's side; she obviously hadn't bathed. Her hair was so greasy it still bore marks from her comb, and she'd been picking at her mouth. The pimples had become scabs, and she was scratching at them as Sansa came in, one coming loose and leaving a faint smear of blood on the Queen's chin.
Sansa had curtseyed, ducking her head to hide whatever disgust she couldn't mask immediately, but Cersei scarcely seemed to notice. All she did was wave one hand at a chair, her eyes almost entirely vacant. "Has he told you?"
Before, Sansa would have blurted something out. He said he wouldn't try to kill Joffrey or the like, being an idiot child again. Instead, she shook her head, unable to trust her tongue. It had destroyed enough as it was. No need to let it run free, even if it meant she had to bite it.
"No? Idiot dog. I should have made Joffrey give you to someone else. Someone with half a brain."
Cersei leant over, sending a waft of stale stench toward Sansa, pouring herself another cup of wine. She sipped it, brow furrowed faintly, before she smiled. Her teeth and tongue were stained; the expression no longer dazzling as it had been in the past. "You're to leave King's Landing, little lady Sansa. I'm sending you to Casterly Rock. It's not... safe here."
"I don't understand, your grace."
It was the safest answer she could think of. Protesting, while Cersei was so unlike herself, would probably end badly. Even the thought of rebelling summoned the faint scent of rot, and once-familiar features made indistinct by tar. Her head would join them, her hair matted and greased black. If Cersei wanted her head, then she'd just call Ilyn Payne here and now. Sandor was her protection now, not that Cersei and Joffrey had ever truly protected her. They'd feigned it and then their gold had tarnished before her eyes with the death of her father. But Sandor was not here. He was either abed, snoring faintly, or out in the training yard. If he was training, Sansa felt sorry for whoever faced him. She'd seen him at tourney, clashing swords with his brother; somehow she couldn't imagine him treating anyone gently, not even with blunted blades and no true threat. The only kindness he'd ever shown was to her; she'd heard the gossip from maids bustling past, talk of how cruel he was and always had been.
"You little fool." Cersei's eyes rolled, reminding Sansa of a mad horse. She was already scrabbling for the jug of wine, fingers clumsy and nails bitten to the quick, and it took her a few tries before she gave up. "Pour me some wine, it's all you're good for- aside from your claim to the North, of course. It's why Joffery chose to wed you to Clegane, although Loras would have been a better option... Too late now, of course, now that The Hound's had your maidenhead, but that can't be helped. No, King's Landing is not safe, not for my family, and so I'm sending you to Casterly Rock. Once Joffrey is well, we will join you, but he's too delicate to move."
Somehow, Sansa doubted Joffrey would ever recover enough to be moved; he'd likely be taken to Casterly Rock by the Silent Sisters, if he ever went. But Cersei was beyond reason. She'd seized her wine goblet, and a thin stream of red trickled down her chin as she gulped it down, staining her bodice. It looked like blood.
"There are fewer poor people, and even fewer idiots. I'm sure all those lords and ladies will be glad to go home to their poxy little keeps, and there are ships in Lannisport that can actually be used. All of ours were destroyed on The Blackwater by my idiot brother's wildfire..." The cup was empty; Cersei rolled the stem between her fingers, words trailing off as if she'd forgotten that Sansa was there. She was staring upwards, tongue running across her teeth, before her gaze shivered back. Her eyes were as cold and green as emeralds; there was nothing behind them. No hint of emotion, just bitter green and bloodshot white. "Sansa, are you with child?"
The question, so... untoward and so brash, brought the blood to Sansa's face, and she ducked, hands winding together on her lap. "I do not think I am, Your Grace."
"Then perhaps you needent suffer a lifetime with the dog." Cersei's brow furrowed slightly, tongue sliding along her upper lip. Spittle shone behind it, a slugtrail, and Sansa felt bile rise in her throat. What did she mean? It was widely known that Sandor had bedded her. Joffrey had made sure of that. Cersei couldn't dissolve their union, not now. Not even if the High Septon agreed to it, Sansa doubted Sandor would just... let it happen.
"I- I am perfectly happy with Sandor, Your Grace."
"There you go again. Foolish girl saying foolish words. Do you think I'm so stupid as to think you love The Hound? Or that he cares for you any more than he cares for his ale or his whores? Marrying you to him was a mistake, one I let Joffrey make because... He doesn't learn from the lessons, only the doing, my poor sweet boy. Still, it was stupid to marry you off to someone not of house Lannister." The Queen busied herself pouring another cup of wine, although the stream swayed from side to side as she poured, and occasionally sent a few spatters onto the oaken table. "He's hideous and brutish. So. I'll send the two of you to Lannisport, and when you get there- I'll have him dealt with, and then I can find you a more suitable husband- when I get there. You can recover from whatever debased things he's probably made you do; I'll send one of my maidservants with you, so if he does fuck you, she'll make sure you don't bear him a litter."
She chuckled softly to herself, before blinking expectantly at Sansa, obviously expecting... some reaction. Gratitude, maybe? The offer was... unprecedented and wholly unwelcome. Even if she didn't have some feeling for Sandor, the thought of having him killed so she could be shuttled off to another Lannister was awful. Still, Cersei had her lioness gaze upon her, still close to feline despite her drunkenness. Sansa lowered her eyes, before nodding. "It is very kind of you, your grace."
Cersei's eyebrow twitched, then her smile returned, broad and smug. "There. That wasn't so hard, was it? Don't fear, child. He may be a demon with a sword, but poison is a more dangerous foe than he's ever faced."
That was true, perhaps. Sandor had faced man and fire, and won; Sansa had no idea if he'd ever been near drowning, but it seemed to her that a death by water was one harder to come by if you weren't a sailor or fisherman. Sandor was neither, and so perhaps he'd bested that enemy too, simply through not being in any danger from it. Yet poison? She'd seen what it'd done to Joffrey, so quickly, and Cersei's casual manner made it seem almost... normal for her to be threatening that way. In Casterly Rock, every maidservant and kitchen boy would belong to her. It'd be easy to slip something into the wine, and they couldn't not eat. That was death too, just slowly. But what if I don't drink the Moon Tea- if I have need of it? What if I bear him a child? Would that spare him?
The idea was, of course, stupid, but there was no way out of this situation that she could see. They'd be under guard from the second they left, and probably throughout however long they stayed. Maybe a child with him would not be such a bad thing.
Cersei's mind had turned to other matters, and it was easy for Sansa to nod along as the queen raved about how her monstrous brother had poisoned Joffrey. To disagree meant death, as some loud drunks found out down in some inn; their heads were dangling above the gate now. Still, Sansa didn't think Tyrion was behind the killing. He had saved her from Joffrey in any case, and he was even uglier than The Hound- but in King's Landing, fair seemed foul and foul seemed fair.
Her notice to leave came in the form of Cersei rising abruptly and striding from the room. Evidently this business was not important enough to stay apart from Joffrey any longer, and a small escort of goldcloaks walked her back to the chambers she shared with her husband, leaving her at the door. As they walked away, their voices carried- 'He's one lucky son-of-a-bitch, the things I'd do...'- and Sansa was reminded that in order to get with child, you had to...
She flung the door open, twisting in and slamming it behind her, hands pressed to her face in an attempt to hide the guilty blush on her cheeks. Sandor and her, doing... It was not proper to think about. The room was empty, and she moved to sit on the bed, rubbing the side of her neck anxiously. To save Sandor, there was no other way but to bear him a child. None obvious to her, at least. Yet she'd likely be unable to persuade him to it; her dream was probably just a dream, not a premonition or some bizarre connection, and he'd told her that he didn't love her. That they were pack. They hadn't even kissed- well, they had, but not the way her parents had kissed, back home. Back before Rickon was born, she'd heard the cook gossiping about how 'Lord Stark's as giddy as a green boy around his Lady these days', and she'd seen it- the way they stared and smiled at each other, in the warmth of summer. Then Rickon had appeared, first as a bulging stomach, then a squalling baby. But winter had come, and with it came worries and although her parents still loved each other, there was less and less giddiness until they were all scattered apart.
Still, could she maybe feel that way about Sandor? It was difficult. Sansa had no reference to love of the romantic sort, other than her tales, and those weren't true. She knew that. What she felt about her husband was confusion. She needed him, almost as much as she needed food, because he was her safety- and then there was that strange heat, that made her thighs tighten and her skin come up all bumpy. And the old pity, and gratitude, and still a touch of fear. She bunched her hands in her skirts, wondering, before flopping backwards with a deep sigh. The bed smelt of him, and her, their scents mixed, and Sansa closed her eyes.
The Blackwater, and his mouth was so cruel it almost made me cry, but when he bit me- that was cruel too. Thinking back to his teeth on her neck made her stomach clench, cheeks heating again. A feeling nobody had explained to her seemed to be growing, as slowly as an acorn, but she wanted a name to it. And he has so many scars. Not just his face, but his arms and back and chest too, like someone tried to write on him. He might have one more because of how I cut his arm on our wedding night. And maybe, when he thinks of me, he sees me sleeping, and he calls me his Little Bird. Yet he won't want to, and he's tried so hard to not have to. But it's the only way to bear a child. The only way to keep him safe.
She'd have to persuade him, somehow. The thought of him choking as Joffrey had rose unbidden, and it almost hurt to imagine him desperately trying to inhale, hands drumming a rapid beat on the wood of some table. If having to give up her maidenhood to him was the price, then she'd pay it. Having the baby too, I'd do it. He's protected me. I won't let Cersei kill him.