Note: I've always had a pesky soft spot for Tyrion/Sansa, and I really love what the show does with their dynamic. In particular, I was so surprised by (and super into!) how friendly they were for their brief happy period in the season three finale, so this is a bit of speculation re: what might have brought their relationship to that point, and where it might go. (Forget all that book canon stuff!)
All that I have are these bones
And all that I want is a home
And all you can do is promise me bold
That you won't let me grow dark or cold
As long as we both shall live
(Laura Marling, "Rest in the Bed")
'Then you had better master the rules of the game until you play it better than they can.'
'You don't recommend I find a husband to play it for me?'
'I should find one to play it with you, not for you.'
(The Young Victoria)
"Good morning, Lady Sansa."
"Good day, my lord."
"I suppose it is rather late in the day to keep on saying 'morning,' isn't it?" Tyrion pulls a charming face as he shuts the door to their quarters. Shae is off doing whatever handmaidens do when they aren't with their ladies. (Sansa still doesn't know quite what that is, but imagines it might involve laundry.) It's only Sansa and her lord husband. It doesn't make her as nervous as it would have a few days ago. "You'll never believe how much I've already accomplished."
"Really?" Sansa sits at the table. Shae arranged lunch there before she went.
"Oh yes." Tyrion clambers into the chair beside her and helps himself to a peach. "I've annoyed a great many people. All for the good of the kingdom, of course. It's remarkable how energetic one feels in the morning when they had only a modest half-cup of wine the night before. You appear to be doing me a world of good."
"That is a wife's duty."
"Ideally, yes, but so seldom in reality." He looks at her, a certain tenderness in his eyes. When she was younger, Sansa used to dream of a man looking at her like that. "I count myself very lucky."
"You flatter me, my lord." She lets the smallest bit of playful accusation sneak into her words.
Tyrion catches on, smiling slightly.
"Yes, well. I've heard you ladies like that," he tells her in conspiratorial tones. Sansa laughs.
She knows most of his kindness comes from guilt, but true courtesy is so rare in this place that she'll settle for his. (Especially now that Margaery must spend so much of her time with Joffrey.) The trick is never to believe in his kindness too much. Sansa is getting very good at never believing too much. When she's with Tyrion, she almost enjoys the practice.
"You look well, Sansa," Margaery says during one of the rare afternoons they get to spend together. They stroll to the seaside, arm in arm like sisters. Margaery is beautiful and confident as ever. If Joffrey's company is wearing on her, she doesn't show it. Sansa can't imagine being so brave. "So much better than you did a few weeks ago."
Sansa gasps, pretending to be offended.
"Not like that," Margaery chides, laughing and nudging Sansa's side. "Oh, come now, you know you're always a great beauty. But you do look less weary. Is Lord Tyrion proving a better husband than you expected?"
"We're getting used to each other," Sansa says carefully.
"I thought you might." Margaery smiles. She looks rather triumphant about her own gift of prophecy. If it were anyone else it would be annoying, but Margaery makes everything charming. "And ... what about that other thing we discussed? His husbandly duties?"
Sansa knows she can't tell anyone that Lord Tyrion hasn't shared her bed, not even Margaery. It's impossible not to yearn to tell Margaery, though, with her staring at Sansa like that.
"Oh, don't be shy, sweet girl," Margaery urges. She brushes her fingers across Sansa's arm. "You can tell me." Her mouth twitches in that irresistible Margaery way. "I promise I won't be shocked."
For some reason, it's this that makes Sansa resolve to keep the secret.
"He's gentle with me," Sansa says, truthfully.
Margaery nods, considering Sansa with thoughtful eyes.
"I thought he would be," she says at last. Whatever's between them passes, and they go back to gossip and laughter.
Tommen graciously asks Sansa to join him (and his uncle) on a walk in the gardens. It's obvious that Tyrion put him up to it, and Sansa can't quite hold back a smile as she accepts.
Tommen is perhaps the loveliest company you can have in King's Landing, and Tyrion is wonderful around him, all affection and good humor. Between that and the flowers and the fresh air, Sansa feels – well, not happy. But almost peaceful.
Until Tommen asks, "Do you like being married?"
Tyrion and Sansa look at each other.
"I have no complaints," Tyrion says, valiantly rising to the challenge first. "But poor Lady Sansa has to put up with your grumpy old beast of an uncle. I certainly got the better end of the deal."
"But you're always nice," Tommen says. Turning to Sansa, he insists, "He's always nice."
Tyrion's face turns wistful. "Not always."
"You're always nice to me," Tommen protests.
Sansa sinks down onto the ground so she can match Tommen's height. (And Tyrion's.)
"He's always nice to me too," Sansa tells him, smiling.
Tyrion meets her eyes. The smile he gives her is different than the ones she's seen before. He looks hopeful, she realizes, and it twists her heart strangely. Hoping is one thing when you're a silly girl, but he is older and ought to know better.
And yet he looks at her and hopes, and Sansa wonders (as Tommen takes her hand in his and drags her along merrily) if maybe she and Tyrion are a little alike.
"Don't get any ideas about stealing my lady wife, boy," Tyrion calls jovially after them. Tommen laughs gleefully, speeding up; Sansa runs alongside him, laughing too, and for a moments she feels very nearly free.
"I'm worried about her," Sansa confesses to Tyrion after Shae leaves.
Sansa is newly and very finely dressed. They're dining with Queen Cersei, Joffrey, and Lord Tywin tonight. As soon as Tyrion came in, Shae curtseyed (she's getting much better at it) and slipped out of the room. Sansa wonders if maybe she doesn't like him. She's threatened to cut him up in all sorts of creative ghastly ways if he ever hurts Sansa, but that's just Shae being Shae. Or at least that's what Sansa thought at first.
"Your handmaiden?" Tyrion asks.
"Shae," Sansa corrects him. She knows Shae would hate being called by her position instead of her name. "She's seemed so tired lately. But whenever I ask her what's wrong, she says it's nothing. What do you think it could be?"
Tyrion is quiet for a moment, thinking. Sansa likes that he takes the time to truly think about servants; he understands that people who aren't as grand as the Lannisters are still people.
"I don't know," he says eventually, taking a few steps nearer to her. "It could be any number of things. We all have secret burdens that plague us, though we try our best to hide them."
Sansa knows that very well.
"I hope she isn't mad at me," Sansa says to her reflection in the looking glass. The idea of Shae not caring about her anymore – deciding she's too prissy or too whiny or too cowardly – is a thought so awful it turns her stomach. Shae is all she has.
"My lady, who could be mad at you?" Tyrion demands gently. After a moment he adds, in the sort of voice he usually uses with Tommen, "She'd have to be mad to be mad at you."
Sansa smiles a little at his attempt at humor. Mostly for his sake.
"I don't know," she sighs. "She always takes care of me, but I don't think she likes doing it. Not that she's not grateful for the position," Sansa adds hastily. She doesn't think Tyrion would tell anyone, but the idea of Joffrey finding out that one of the maidservants has been complaining about life in the Red Keep is too awful to bear. "It's just that she's so clever, and brave, and I think she wants more from life than just brushing my hair. I can't blame her."
Tyrion just stares at her; Sansa's not sure what she said to make his expression change like that. He looks sad.
"You're very smart, Sansa," he says abruptly then.
"My lord?" she asks, confused.
"I know everyone here treats you like you're nothing but a pretty bargaining chip," he says. "A lovely courtly lady with nothing worthwhile in her head. But I've always been impressed by your presence of mind. You have good instincts, and you learn fast how to adapt to an unsavory situation. You know your way into the hearts of others. It's a formidable skill. Surviving Joffrey for as long as you did was no small feat, Sansa. Many grown men haven't managed as much."
"Why are you saying this?" Sansa asks. Her heart is pounding hard, turning her head light.
Tyrion takes a breath, then reaches for her hand.
On instinct, Sansa gives it.
"I know this isn't the kind of marriage you wanted," Tyrion says, peering earnestly into her eyes. "Perhaps we're not even quite friends. Not yet. But as a favor to a bitter little imp who would be honored to be counted among your friends one day, please remember what I've said, and ... and carry that knowledge with you. You're a brilliant young woman – you're ... clever, and kind, and good, and I am wholly unused to knowing people like you."
Sansa can think of nothing to say. The words soak into her like sunlight.
"Thank you," she finally says, and brushes her thumb over his stubby fingers.
He nods, looking a little embarrassed. As if he was carried away by his feelings, and has only just come back to himself.
"Duty calls. Shall we face the lions together, my lady?" He offers his arm grandly.
"You're a lion too," Sansa reminds him, taking it.
"And you're a wolf," he counters merrily. "Gods. Just imagine the children! A sight to be seen, they would be, don't you think?"
Sansa giggles; despite herself, there's a happy glow inside her.
Brilliant, she thinks, hearing the words in his voice, and quick and clever and good.
"The disgraced daughter and the demon monkey," he jests one day – turning them into a team, the two of them against the world. "We're perfect for each other."
The idea doesn't quite horrify her any longer. She's happy to talk to him. She likes it when he makes her laugh.
And then the news comes. The wedding, and Robb, and her mother.
She tries so hard to keep it all neatly inside.
Be nothing, she tells herself over and over. Be a statue. A doll. Don't show them what they've done to you.
When Tyrion comes to her, she only looks at him. After a few seconds, he leaves her be.
So it must have been a very commanding look. Her mother has always been able to do that; stare at you with such dignity and disapproval that you curled in on yourself, knowing exactly what you'd done wrong.
Her mother. Her mother.
Sansa starts to sob and the sound is so ugly. She would be embarrassed under other circumstances. It isn't ladylike.
She hopes that Margaery will come, but she doesn't. Maybe she can't get away. Maybe she doesn't care about Sansa at all, not when it comes to real things, the things that matter, life and death and pain and blood.
Or perhaps Joffrey will visit. He must be thrilled. If he comes, Sansa won't be clever anymore. She'll scream and howl and claw his eyes out with her fingernails. She'll push him to the floor and kick him 'til his blood is everywhere and his bones snap like branches. Robb was going to give her Joffrey's head, but now he's dead and so it is up to Sansa to do the killing or maybe the dying. Maybe she will die of a broken heart, like in a song.
Shae helps Sansa out of her fine clothes and into her nightdress and bed. She kisses Sansa's forehead and runs her hands through her hair.
"Oh my girl," she says quietly. Shae doesn't sound like herself when she's quiet. "You know I love you. I'm here. I'm here."
But Sansa can't say anything back.
She loves Shae, she knows she loves Shae. Shae is all she has left to love. But now all she wants is her mother, and Shae's embrace only feels like an echo of it. It makes it hurt worse.
Sansa pretends to sleep so that Shae will leave her. Eventually, it works. And now she has lied to Shae too.
When the door opens again, she thinks it will be Shae, but it's Tyrion.
"Sansa ..." His handsome voice is heavy.
He's quiet a long time. Then: "If you're sure you want to be alone."
"I don't want to be with you," she says. She sounds so stupid. Like when she used to get in fights with Arya. (Arya, who is dead too. There's no point in hoping.) What a stupid, stupid, stupid child she is. Not a true lady at all. Not at all like her mother.
"I understand." He goes silent. Finally, he offers, "Can I bring you anything? Something to eat, or ..."
"I don't want," Sansa says, "something to eat."
Even the idea of food is the daftest thing she's ever heard. He's supposed to be cleverer than that.
"I know." He sounds ashamed of himself, at least. "I'm sorry."
Still, he doesn't go.
"If you're going to stay, then close the door, please," she tells the stretch of wall she's staring at. She has the stupidest fear that Joffrey will come barging in, victorious, unless the door's barred shut against him.
There is the obedient click of the door closing. Then her husband's footsteps. She thinks he might sit down at the foot of the bed, but he doesn't.
Still, he stays. He stays with her.
The thought strikes her: "You're the only family I have left now."
"I know, my lady." His voice is quiet and soothing.
What an idiot she is. A stupid little trollop, falling for Lannisters and their pretty words at every turn. "But you're not mine," she says sternly, to herself more than him."You're never going to be mine."
"I am your husband—"
She shakes her head furiously. He's said it himself (more or less) – she's just as smart as he is. And yet here he is treating her like a little fool who doesn't understand anything.
"You're one of them." She keeps her eyes on the wall. She can feel herself starting to tremble. "I'm a—a Lannister by marriage. But you're a Lannister by blood." She starts to choke on her words. "You can't just ... can't just get different blood, you'll always be one of them—"
She's crying again. She must look hideous.
Good. Good. She wants to be hideous. To make them all see that she's not what they thought at all.
"Can I touch you?" Tyrion asks softly.
"No," she snaps.
He keeps a careful distance away. When she looks at him, his face is so pained it startles her. What happened? she wants to ask, and then it dawns on her that it's for her, this pain.
He looks so small and sad and weary. And just like that, she knows she's not afraid of him.
And so she changes her mind.
"Yes," she says.
He looks wary. "Are you sure?"
"Yes." She moves to the side of the bed, making room for him. Of course he doesn't need much. "I – you can hold me, that's all."
"That's all I meant. What sort of monster do you take me for?"
"We can't help how we're born." He climbs up beside her, exhaling as he settles against the headboard. He doesn't look at her at first. "Believe me, Sansa, if we could ..."
"What?" She's not in the mood for his self pity.
He laughs, a dark dry sound that's more like a cough. "I don't know."
"Good," she says, sniffling. "You always act like you know everything."
"And you always act like you don't know anything," Tyrion retorts gently. "We're a pair of excellent liars."
He lifts his hand like he means to touch her but he's not quite sure how to begin. She doesn't know what to do either.
Finally, after staring hopelessly at each other, she drops her head onto his shoulder and closes her eyes. Very carefully, he puts his arm around her shoulders.
It's easier than she would have thought, lying down with lions.