"Hound, to me."

The summons were quietly spoken, but like a dog with a highly-pitched whistle Sandor responded immediately. Regardless of his task beforehand, the tall, darkly-clad man slipped into the throne room, and at once his muscles tensed as if he were preparing to cleave someone's head from their shoulders. As was the routine, he sank to one knee in a uniform bow. "Yes, my lord," he growled raspily.

"On your feet, dog, how are you supposed to follow my orders if you're kneeling all day?"

Sandor followed the order, once more returning to his towering height to meet the young prince eye to eye. In King Robert's absence, it was obvious the boy took some liberties that he would have never gotten away with otherwise - he lounged comfortably in the Iron Throne, or at least as comfortably as one could without getting stuck full of blades. One leg was propped up in the seat with him, the other swung from the edge, like the paw of a cat laying in the branches of a tree; his expression was one of calm bore, with lifted brows above half-lidded green eyes.

Joffrey resituated his lithe, graceful form so that he sat up, moving his leg off of the seat and leaning slightly forward in his acquired company. Even though he was young, surely no more than eight, he already looked fit to be a king as he sat in the Throne...his thin arms fit perfectly between the cruel, sharp sword edges of the chair, and although his feet couldn't reach the floor, he was obviously practicing for the day when King Baratheon met his end. "Go and fetch my father," the young lion-prince said musingly, waving a slender hand off in some direction. "He promised to go out in the yard with me to practice my sword fighting. Well, what are you waiting for? Go on."

The Hound didn't move, but not out of refusal. "The king isn't present, my lord," he answered simply. That morning, the queen herself had very broodishly alerted him that her husband would be bed ridden all day from the previous night's rampant debauchery, and that if her son, or anyone, were to ask of his whereabouts, Sandor was to artfully excuse him as left in another manner. "He's gone hunting. I was told he'd taken a lunch as well...he plans to be gone for the larger part of the day."

However artfully the Hound had crafted the lie, Joffrey, even in his youth, saw through it as if it were glass. Several expressions flashed through his face in just a few moments of silence: the slightly furrowed brow of anger, the forward-tilted jaw of disappointment, though he tried to hide all of it. "You mean he's sleeping off his wine and whores," the prince said, his voice thick with malice and anger and...something like hurt, and for a moment, he almost sounded human. He fell into another long pause, then waved his hand in abrupt dismissal. "Just go away, dog. And take your bad tidings with you."

Sandor nodded and turned away, moving back across the room to his post outside of the door. But then...something made him stop. The same something made him turn around, giving the prince another half-burned glance. "...My lord," he said lowly.

Green eyes snapped onto him, telling of the dark clouds before a righteous storm. "What is it? I told you to begone, are you deaf?"

"If you ever lack a sparring partner," the guard said, "I'm sure I could make a worthy adversary."

At first he feared that the comment was over the line...but he felt relief as Joffrey assumed a small, sly grin, and once more spirit came flickering into his green eyes. "I accept the challenge," he replied easily, seeming at once to bounce back from the letdown his father had given him. "Come, then, let's spar!" The boy jumped from the throne and descended the steps, his expression alive with excitement. "Then after I beat you, we can have lunch. Let me go grab my sword..." The boy exited the room with vigour.

The Hound was left to follow, and, despite himself, grinned. A boy might never have the companionship of his father, but at least he could rely on his hound.