Sandor strode through the castle, his cloak trailing behind him, as he searched for the little bird. He found it maddening having to stay on the other side of that door throughout the day knowing Sansa lay on the other side. Sandor wanted to see her; he would find an excuse later.
He walked through a corridor on the first floor, paused, and walked back slightly. There was a large open door frame with a black gate separating the palace from a small garden. Sandor's breath caught in his throat slightly as he saw Sansa sitting on the grass wearing that dress he had grown so fond of; revealing her slender, pale back. Her auburn hair was piled into a plait embroidered with tiny flowers, and put to the side, exposing her delicate neck.
Sandor smiled slightly and walked into the garden. Sansa spun round and smiled at his approach. He sat down next to her and stretched out on the grass, raising an eyebrow at the crumbs littering a silver plate beside her.
"Still fond of your lemon cakes I see," he grinned.
Sansa giggled. "Of course."
"Your hair's different."
Sansa blushed. "Ah, I forgot about that."
Sandor watched as she began to unravel the plait; the tiny flowers falling into her lap as her delicate fingers threaded through her auburn locks.
"How are you finding the dragons?" She asked, keeping her gaze on the plait.
Sandor frowned. "They haven't taken a liking to me."
Sansa laughed, tilting her head back slightly as she did so.
"Still, they make my job of guarding her grace a little easier."
"That's true," Sansa said, smiling.
"You seem fine around them though."
"You're forgetting I had a direwolf as a pet when I was younger," Sansa said, smiling wistfully into the distance for a moment.
They sat in silence and after a while it seemed to Sandor that Sansa was trying to ask him a question, but was unsure of how to come about it. He watched with amusement as she opened and closed her mouth several times, seeming almost frustrated.
"Why did," Sansa paused. "Why did you come to my room that night?"
Sandor stared at her, his mouth tight.
He scratched his head and looked away. "I had too much to drink, I don't remember," he muttered.
But of course, he did remember.
How could Sandor ever forget the way he had stared up at those twisted, green flames. It wasn't usual fire; it wasn't candlelight and it wasn't a campfire; the flames seemed to be almost reaching towards him like some fearsome creature crawling out of a nightmare. He had stood there, incapable of movement. Suddenly he was that little boy again; helpless against the raging fire once more.
Sandor had tried to drown his fears in wine but the flames and the fear had begun to choke him. He had looked up and seen the little bird's cage swinging above the flames and knew where he could go. He couldn't let his men see him like that so he had climbed the stairs to the little bird's tower, away from the flames, feeling safer with each step. Sandor opened the door and found she wasn't there. With a sigh he had collapsed onto the bed, finding peace in Sansa's smell. He longed for that gentle presence to be beside him; to calm the storm raging inside him, or at least distract him from it. He had closed his eyes and clung to her presence like a small prayer.
Sandor had never dreamt that he would meet Sansa ever again and yet here she was, more beautiful than ever; her red hair like cinnamon in the evening light. She was beautiful, unafraid and sat beside him like it was the most natural thing in the world.
Sandor looked down at his lap. "Do you resent me for not trying to protect you more back then?"
Sansa looked at him, a sad expression etched on her face. She reached out and put a hand on his arm. "Don't say that. Don't ever say that," she said, giving a feeble smile.
Wordlessly, Sandor put his other hand on hers and held it there. He watched as a small blush began to creep across Sansa's cheeks and she broke away awkwardly. She then suddenly glanced up at Daenerys's room for some reason. As she did so, with her other cheek revealed, Sandor noticed that there was a cake crumb on her jaw line.
He chuckled. "You have a crumb on your cheek."
Sansa squealed and brushed furiously at the opposite cheek, her blush deepening.
Sandor laughed at her attempt and sat closer to her. "Come here," he said in his low voice.
Still smiling, he wiped the crumb off; holding her jaw between his thumb and forefinger. Sansa held her breath as Sandor continued stroking her cheek slightly.
He admired the way her blush fell prettily on her snow white cheeks. Sansa looked up at him with her blue eyes that seemed darker than usual and licked her lips ever so slightly. She then leaned up towards him and kissed him softly on the lips, breaking off with a small smile, looking away shyly.
Sandor stared at her, barely able to register the kiss before it was over.
Sansa fiddled with a strand of hair, her gaze downcast. "I don't want us to be separated, I don't want you to leave again," she said.
Sandor looked at Sansa sadly. She was afraid to be abandoned again, to be alone again, to have her happiness dragged from her again. He would not let that happen.
He gently cupped her cheek and brought her face close to his.
"I'm not going anywhere, Sansa."
The intimacy of Sandor using her name made Sansa gasp slightly and to Sandor it felt like the last remaining wall between them had fallen away. The girl in front of him was not a bird, nor wolf, nor Stark, nor Safaya, nor Lady nor handmaiden. She was Sansa and that was all he wanted.
Sansa smiled up at him as if this man with the blood stained hands and scarred face was her saviour. Sandor brought her to him and kissed her deeply, putting his other hand on her neck. For a moment Sansa seemed immobilised by his lips pressed against hers, but she then rested her hand on his chest, feeling his heart beating against her.
Sandor realised with a far away thought, that Sansa tasted of lemons.