Author's Note: Let's just pretend that The Hound had been staying in Winterfell for like a week or so leading up to the arrival of Joffrey early in Season One. Just playing around. Thoughts are much appreciated. Thank you!
The air was warm and a soft yellow glow lay across Winterfell, tinting the trees and grass a brighter green and making the river that Sansa stood by sparkle prettily. Ever since discovering that Joffrey may soon be her darling betrothed, Sansa was unable to sit still and the glorious day had beckoned her out to the greenery. She had walked out and away from the buildings, escaping the company of others for just a little while.
Strolling the whole way alone, she headed down to the river with a sweet smile fixed across her dainty face, fantasising about her future days with Joffrey. She thought of the beautiful clothes she would wear and beauty of Kings Landing that she had begged her father to describe to her. Sansa felt positively blissful, as though the warm glow from the sun was filling her with pure joy and nothing, absolutely nothing, could touch her. Collecting pretty flowers along the way, there was not a single thing she didn't appreciate about her picturesque surroundings.
Holding a beautiful white flower, Sansa eventually emerged out into the clearing by the river, she let her eyes follow the butterflies dancing about and the birds soaring above the trees, occasionally dipping down at the river in pursuit of a fish. Sansa paused for a moment. She shut her eyes and promised herself she would never forget this perfect day. A day without troubles and with the absolutely heavenly prospect of a betrothal to Joffrey to look forward to. The sunny day reminded her of him, his yellow hair and brilliant eyes were vivid in her mind. With eyes closed she listened to the faint rustle of the trees in the light breeze, the songs of the birds and the buzzing and clicking of the insects around her.
Opening her eyes, an unexpected rush inhabited her, as though she had absorbed the sun's energy that beamed warmly down upon her, bathing her in its light. She wanted to see more, the world had proven so beautiful that day and she would not miss a moment of it.
Turning around towards the trees, Sansa tottered back along the leafy ground that was pleasantly spotted with specks of light peeping through the canopy above. Neck twisting left and right, she searched around her for a tree with plenty of sturdy branches. Sansa had never particularly been one to climb trees, it was entirely un-lady-like and she was disinclined to heights, but today was special and nothing would have persuaded her otherwise. Sansa was determined to see the world from the tree-tops - and nobody would have to know, it would be her special secret.
Stopping by a tree on the outskirts of the wood, Sansa examined its standard height and the simple branches calling to be climbed upon.
Taking a moment, she looked down at her lengthy blue dress and hesitated for a split second before hitching it right up above her knees, revealing her petticoat. She tucked the hem of her skirt into the bottom of her corset, hoping it would hold for now and with a firm grasp Sansa hitched herself up onto the first couple of branches.
The climbing quickly became rhythmic and she completely forgot herself in the course of it, almost thinking she was Bran for a strange and dreamy moment. Her heart would beat the rhythm and her limbs would pull her another bit closer to the top. She felt wild and impossibly free, forgetting her manners and the ways of a true lady that she had so often abided by. Her heart was soaring with anticipation and she drew ever closer to the top, closer and closer. As her hand reached out for the next branch, in a single split second, before she could grab onto something, her boot had lost its grip.
The world seemed to stop momentarily, as if everything were holding its breath.
She had been so caught up in her ascension that she had failed to notice the hem of her dress break loose from under the grasp of her corset. Her body became rigid, but her limbs became loose and wobbly as her heart pounded a thousand beats per second with shock. She began scrambling and clawing at the bark to regain her grasp, but with a whoosh of her blue dress and a scream that got caught in the back of her throat, unable to be let out, she was plummeting towards the ground.
A pang of pain rippled through her body, but not the kind of pain that comes with a thud and a broken leg on the ground, it was a sharp pain, a bruising in her side and upper arm.
"Trying to fly, Little Bird?" A gruff voice asked in an almost nonchalant manner.
Blinking away the shock of the moment she stared blankly back at a dark face, shrouded by stringy black hair. For a moment she meant to scream. His face was as gruff as his voice, with light stubble shadowing his jaw and - an almost impossible sight – his face was only half formed. A terrible mess served as the right side of his face. He ought to cover it up, Sansa thought. Yet, as she stared back at him, mouth agape, she detected a soft, camouflaged smile that hid beneath the surface. His dark eyes were illuminated a little and his mouth was curved at the edges, twisting his distorted side ever so slightly, but it lifted his cheek bones faintly which rounded off his face. And Sansa found in the most unlikely of people a feeling of comfort.
With an unanticipated gentleness, the large stranger lowered her feet back onto the ground, letting her grasp onto him before her wobbly legs caved in. As Sansa regained her stance, she stared wide-eyed into the face high up above her. To look still made her afraid, but she could not look away either.
"I – um, well I…" Sansa took a breath and curtsied, "Thank you, kind Ser." Her manner's felt strange, like putting on an old pair of boots that hadn't been worn in a while and were becoming too small.
"Save your Ser's for another who deserves it." He scoffed in return "You can just call me Hound." Her face twisted into distaste at such a title. "All right, Sandor, then." He stated finally.
Sansa, shaking, was becoming more aware of her surroundings and her body. She placed her hand at her rib, feeling a tender bruise where Sandor's armour had dug in. Still, it was better than a broken leg.
"Why don't we get you back to Winterfell." He indicated the way ahead.
As they headed back to the castle in silence, Sansa couldn't help but realise the incredibility of his timing. Had he been a second later, he would instead be carrying her home and she would have much explaining to do to her family.
"If you don't mind-"
"It was lucky-"
They both began at the once, stopping awkwardly to allow the other to speak first. Sansa remained silent, still somewhat intimidated by his demeanour.
"Lucky for you," Sandor continued, "that I noticed you skipping off into the woods alone." Fearful his intentions may be misinterpreted, he continued, "I didn't mean to follow you, but no one had seen you go and if something had happened to you, well, you would have been in trouble then, with no one to help you or know where you were." His voice remained gruff and Sansa smiled a little at the sweet heart he was trying so hard to cover up. "You shouldn't go wandering off into the woods alone, even on a day such as this." Sandor's gaze remained ahead, only peeking quickly and ever so slightly to the girl he was talking to.
Sansa felt her cheeks redden and she looked away shyly, not replying.
Arriving at the gates of her home, Sansa gave one last expression of gratitude. She considered planting a sweet kiss on his good cheek, but thought better of it.
"I cannot thank you enough, truly. I will ensure you are rewarded duly." Turning away from him, she grimaced at her words, thinking about having to tell her parents what had happened. He watched her return to the Stark's home. Lingering for a second, she swung back around to him. "H- How did you know where I lived?" Her voice was soft and timid.
"You don't think I know a Stark when I see one?" he replied, and as she turned away his face dropped, thinking how he had gone unnoticed all this time, yet he had never ceased to notice when she was around.