The last chapter already! To all of those who have followed this story: thank you! I hope you have enjoyed the ride and also, that the ending will be to your liking.

Sansa

The night was slowly approaching its end but Sansa had still not heard a word from the Hound. Nevertheless, she was not overly worried yet; the man had told her that he preferred leaving only slightly before dawn as he believed a last minute escape had more chance of succeeding. There was no denying though that Sansa felt increasingly nervous. Her stomach was pulled into a tight knot and she kept sweeping her gaze across her room as if she was searching for something while in truth, she simply didn't know what to do with herself. While she had been agitated since the previous evening, her state had considerably worsened through the long sleepless hours of the night. For an eternity it had seemed she had rolled between her covers, growing more restless with every breath she took until she decided she had had enough and rose from her featherbed to prepare herself in the dark of the night. With such an early start, Sansa was left with naught to do and thus, installed in a large cushioned chair with her warmest cloak wrapped around her, she bided her time, shivering in anticipation and feeling more useless than ever.

The wait was made even more agonizing because morbid curiosity compelled Sansa to try to figure out every single manner in which her escape could go wrong - and there were millions evidently. Her dark exploration was far from over and it was with a bustling energy in complete opposition to the physical exhaustion she felt that her mind kept rolling faster and faster, seemingly adamant about exploring its darkest and most hidden recesses.

And what if Sandor Clegane has played a cruel joke on me? What if he never comes and just laughs at me when he sees me next? Sansa wondered not for the first time, a sudden chill going down her spine. No, he wouldn't do something like that, she hurriedly countered. After all, the Hound hated liars more than anything else. Besides, he had already sold some of her jewels and given her the gold he received in exchange when he last went to her chamber. Why would he waste his time wandering across town if he didn't genuinely mean to help her out of the Red Keep and lead her to the Travelling Titan? It would make no sense.

Sandor Clegane had used the same scarf she had to carry her gold and remaining jewels and Sansa had been slightly taken aback when she opened the bundle after he left. Out of all her earrings, necklaces, rings and bracelets, he had sold only those she had been given by the king and queen while leaving her the jewellery she'd already had before stepping foot in King's Landing. Could he really have noticed and remembered precisely what she had worn while they travelled to the capital? That was hard to believe coming from such a brutish and unsophisticated man. Yet the idea that it might be so brought a smile to Sansa's lips and warmed her heart anytime it touched her mind. As she clasped a necklace around her neck and slid on a pair of discreet earrings a few hours before, she had even thought of the Hound instead of the loving parents from whom the jewellery had been given, as if they were his presents and not theirs.

Holding the stone pendant in her fist, Sansa felt her lips curl into a shy smile and let herself be imbued for a few heartbeats by the queer fluttering that so often assailed her belly lately but then, she abruptly stood from her chair and shook herself. There was no reason to feel anything but thankfulness for Sandor Clegane and yet it was getting harder every day to ignore the warmth that flowed through her body whenever she thought of him. The mere memory of the intensity of his stare whenever he set it on her and of the feel of his touch was enough to make her blush furiously. His hand on my ankle that time in the glade, at once firm and gentle… and the way he gazed at me… Sansa mused, just as far less appropriate images began sprouting in her mind. Her cheeks burning like wildfire, the girl frowned and shook her head in an attempt to chase it all away. The man occupied a far too important part of her daydreams of late and this would have to stop very soon. While for now her interest in him was partly excusable by the fact that she depended so much on him and that he would help her fulfil her greatest wish, finding more befitting subjects to fill her reveries would be crucial once she left the capital.

Sighing, Sansa tried to ignore the pang she felt at the idea and walked to her window to look outside. The night sky was still very dark but a faint pinkish hue could be discerned at the outermost eastward horizon. What is the Hound doing? she wondered once more, turning her head to glance at the door as if he could appear on the threshold on cue.

The other day, Sandor Clegane had gone from her chamber in a foul mood and Sansa was torn as to how she should feel about it. It seems to me as if he always leaves me in similar dispositions, as if he couldn't stand me… It was strange considering that the man was always the one who sought her and that his desire for her was now incontestable. Paradoxically, it was the knowledge of that lust that had triggered Sansa's nervousness as she waited for his visit. What if he wanted more from her and threatened that unless she undressed and let him do as he willed with her, she could forget about his help? And what if he forced himself on her, no matter what she answered? Thankfully, Sansa's forebodings had soon been proved wrong; Sandor Clegane had not seemed interested in her at all to say the truth. The man had obviously solely come to tell her about the good news of her upcoming escape and give her the few instructions she would need to follow in preparation.

From that moment, Sansa had been overjoyed and had hardly been able to stop herself from grinning like a fool but for some reason she couldn't conjure, Sandor Clegane had appeared annoyed by her happiness and grown harsher by the instant. Worst of all, he had even gone as far as to choose to remind her of … the intimacy they had shared in the crudest manner possible.

The very recollection of the words he had used still made her flush in shame and frown in frustration both. It's in his nature to be coarse. Despite that, he's not a bad man, she quickly justified, forgiving him his outburst just as soon while caressing her pendant between her fingers. Still, she was at a total loss when it came to understanding him and the awareness left her more dejected than logic commanded. It seemed anytime she was starting to feel slightly more at ease with him, he did something to cow her; it was highly confusing and-"

Knock! Knock! "Little bird, you're awake?" a raspy voice was heard from behind the door.

At the sound, Sansa jumped and gasped. That she hadn't heard the footsteps of such a large man was somewhat surprising but it was true she had been deeply absorbed by her reflections. "Yes, my lord. I am," she replied, striding to the door and feeling her pulse quicken.

Once it was open, the Hound entered the room as abruptly as a burst of air and began looking around him as if inspecting the place. He was wearing light armour of hard leather and chainmail with his olive green cloak draped over his shoulders and his longsword sheathed at his hip. From the moment she saw him, Sansa's already taut frame became even tenser and yet, she couldn't avert her eyes and kept following his every movement.

"These are your things?" he asked, nodding at where Sansa's satchel lay on the featherbed. Before she had a chance of acquiescing, the man grabbed it and put it under his arm. "No time to waste, little bird. Let's go," he urged, settling a strong hand on her shoulder.

Her heart threatening to burst out of her chest, Sansa walked out of her chamber. Furtively, she gazed one last time behind her and sighed in relief as she saw Sandor Clegane shut the door on that gods-forsaken place. The golden cage the Lannisters had kept her in for so long would become naught but a bad memory from now on.

"Let's hope your handmaidens have a lie-in this morning," the Hound muttered as they began to move down the stairs.

At that, Sansa let out a short, nervous laugh. "They never wake me so early, my lord."

"Good," he grunted, grasping her hood and raising it over her head. The gesture was innocent enough, nevertheless it brought a deep blush to Sansa's cheeks and the girl was thankful for the cover the garment offered.

Descending ever faster, they continued down the stairs until they finally reached the floor. The long corridor before them was dark and gloomy – lit only by some dim candles hung very sparsely on its walls - and Sansa was glad for Sandor Clegane's presence behind her. There was no questioning that she would never have managed to escape by herself. Even with him, she was terrified. The keep was always so murky at night and yet it was made even worse that a guard could be hidden in every shadow she saw, ready to denounce them to the king. The Hound won't let anyone stop us, she reassured herself. He was dressed for battle after all. Did he believe he would need to use his blade?

Another alley was now visible some distance before them and as they strode steadily toward it, the bright light of a faraway lantern abruptly glared - illuminating the floor almost to their feet. At the sight, Sansa jumped and took a step backward, certain that disaster was about to unfold. An eye blink later though, they were once more swallowed by darkness, the walker having apparently continued straight ahead without noticing their presence. Trembling, Sansa stayed in place, unable to move for a few seconds.

"Some lowly servant or guard stuck with the graveyard shift, most likely. We'll meet others. Be prepared," the Hound whispered.

Sansa nodded at hearing his warning, only now realising how her back was pressed flush against his torso. Although heat immediately rushed to her face, the girl couldn't deny that the contact with his solid body had a soothing effect on her. Still, they couldn't stay like that, in the middle of the corridor forever and so she began walking again, shortly followed by the Hound.

"This way," Sandor Clegane told her, his hand circling her upper arm, when they arrived at the intersection.

As they took the new, smaller corridor, a thought suddenly struck Sansa. "My lord," she whispered, slowing her pace and turning around to lay worried eyes on him. "What should we do if we meet someone again?"

"Hide in a dark corner," the Hound replied, a small smirk pulling at his lips. "Or if the bugger sees us, kill him."

Sansa gasped at his proposition, eyes grown wide with dread. "And what if it's a woman?" she asked, halting completely.

Apparently as amused as he was exasperated, Sandor Clegane exhaled deeply. "Kill her. It's all the same buggering thing, girl. I told you before, remember?" he explained in an undertone, approaching her face with his. "If you keep quiet though, mayhap we won't get caught and my sword will stay in its sheath. You'd like that, wouldn't you, little bird? Hush then."

From then on, they walked side by side in total silence, their bodies brushing almost constantly and the man's hand often settling over the back of Sansa's shoulder or arm to guide her when they changed direction. They were taking a path she had never used before, one that was unquestionably longer but also apparently not frequented at all at this hour and the girl was infinitely grateful for the Hound's knowledge of the castle's warrens.

For hours it seemed, they wandered through endless mazes, parts of which were so dark that Sansa could barely see where she was setting her feet while others were so narrow that she could have easily touched both walls by spreading her arms. Thereby, she was simply astounded when one of those forgotten passages unexpectedly merged into a long and large alley with a high engraved wooden ceiling and walls covered with ancient tapestries displaying epic battle scenes.

"The stables are not too far now. Once we've crossed this one, we'll be there," Sandor Clegane murmured as they began making their way through the new, much more airy corridor. "We've been lucky not to meet anyone. Yet."

For a couple of minutes, they walked in an eerie silence only disturbed by the sound of their boots rubbing against the ceramic floor. All around, warriors and heroes of other eras glared at them from their eternal poses, seemingly displeased at being prisoners of the threads from which they were made. Soon though, the echo of footsteps coming from the opposite direction reached their ears.

"Fuck," the Hound muttered under his breath. For a nerve-racking instant, he swept his stare around him but then, his eyes fell over a dark slit visible under an old tapestry hanging about ten yards before them. "This way," he said, seizing Sansa's upper arm so tightly that she almost cried out.

At the pace he flew, Sandor Clegane all but dragged her behind him, still Sansa managed to follow him without tripping and they shortly reached the hollow he had spied. Wasting no time, the man promptly pulled over the dusty tapestry and uncovered an alcove in which brooms, brushes and other cleaning supplies where stocked. They both entered at once but as they blindly made their way inside, a few brooms lost their balance and fell onto the floor, the noise reverberating loudly all across the alley.

"Seven Hells," the Hound hissed between gritted teeth, his annoyance plain.

"Who's there?" a booming voice demanded, coming from the other side of the corridor. It's Ser Meryn! Sansa realised, panic-stricken and trembling all over.

Despite the darkness of the alcove, Sansa could discern Sandor Clegane's imposing shape looming next to her, motionless as a great sculpture. She watched him for the space of a seemingly eternal second and was nearly startled when his head turned toward her, a queer gleam passing through his eyes.

"Come here, little bird," the Hound rasped almost threateningly while grabbing her by the waist. Confused, Sansa squirmed in his hold but the man didn't appear bothered at all by her reaction, for he yanked her to him and lifted her against the wall, pressing some of his weight onto her to keep her pinned well in place.

"We'd best look as if we were up to something," he breathed in her ear, plunging his face into her hair.

Unbidden, a yelp escaped Sansa's lips. She had not anticipated his move at all, nevertheless as his plan became clear, she raised her arms and laid them over Sandor Clegane's robust shoulders, her heart hammering madly in her chest.

"Mmmm, you smell sweet, little bird," the man murmured as calmly as if they had been alone in a chamber with all the time in the world before them.

Disconcerted, Sansa's eyes went wide. How can he think of such things when we are going to face Ser Meryn at any instant now? she wondered, slightly indignant - but then, he did something even worse. Mouth slightly open, the Hound pressed his lips against her neck and let his tongue trail lazily over the soft skin he found there. At the feel of it, Sansa's breath caught in her throat, however her attention was quickly pulled back to Ser Meryn's movement in the corridor. She could hear his steps getting increasingly close and her body tensed at the awareness, so much so that she was certain she would break into pieces if she fell onto the floor.

Her fear didn't go unnoticed by Sandor Clegane. "Shhh, little bird. Keep calm," he gently whispered, lips moving against her flesh.

Sansa shut her eyes, adamant about at least trying to heed his words but her efforts were shortly distracted by his hands going down to her backside to cup her cheeks firmly. Although she gasped very audibly, the Hound didn't seem to care in the least and lowered his palms even more until he was circling her thighs and raising them over his hips. Sansa was completely abashed that he would put her in such a position, and yet she was well aware that if they were to play lovers in need of privacy, she had better look the part. With that in mind, she closed her legs around his hips and arched into him, all the while feeling her face burn so hot, she was sure the man could sense it. Satisfied with her new position, the Hound brought his hands back under her bottom – fondling it through the fabric of her dress – but less than a second later, the brusque sound of heavy fabric being moved was heard.

In a heartbeat, their little alcove became filled with the orange light of a lantern and just as soon, Sandor Clegane raised a hand from Sansa's behind to lay it over her head, pushing it into the crook of his neck as if he feared she might otherwise turn and reveal herself.

"What the hells is that?" Ser Meryn asked, obviously taken aback at finding one of his Kingsguard brothers in such a position.

The Hound snorted. "What the fuck does it look like to you, Meryn?"

The other man started snickering with unhidden contempt. "Are you a squire to take your whores in the dark corners of the keep? Don't you have a room of your own to do your dirty deed in, Clegane?"

"I don't see any buggering reason why I should fuck solely in my bedchamber. I love taking my pleasure anywhere and a dusty cupboard full of brooms is as good a place as any other, if you ask me. Don't you agree, you…ah…woman?" the Hound grunted while brusquely grasping Sansa's behind.

At that, the girl squeaked but she was too petrified to utter a word. Did Sandor Clegane really expect her to answer?

Thankfully, Ser Meryn spoke before she had a chance of opening her lips. "I don't want to know what you need to get it up, Clegane," he spat in a disgusted tone. "You sick bastard, I'm going,"

The light became less bright and Sansa could hear the tapestry being pushed back. She was about to sigh in relief when the knight stopped in his movement and abruptly pulled it open again.

"Hey wait! I know that dress. And that hair!"

In an eye blink, the Hound dropped her and took a step toward Ser Meryn. Sansa fell onto the floor – seeing stars at the impact – and jerked her head just in time to glimpse the tapestry fall in place, leaving her in utter darkness. Outside, she could hear the sound of swords being unsheathed and of something metallic rolling over the ground. In total panic, she advanced toward the alley on all fours, stumbling against fallen brooms on her way and struggling to push them aside.

"I'm surprised, Clegane. The little wolf-bitch? Is the city so cruelly lacking in quality cunts that you need to bed the king's own betrothed?" Meryn exclaimed with evident astonishment, before laughing heartily.

"Didn't you just tell me you didn't care to learn about my buggering fancies?" the Hound growled.

Then, the clatter of steel meeting resounded, followed by the hissing of blades grating.

"Well, as long as your cock doesn't interfere with the realm's political matters, that is. Your choice of partner changes everything, Clegane. I'm sure every member of the small council will agree with me, tomorrow morning when they learn that you've got yourself a new room in the black cells."

Having finally passed over the brooms, Sansa nervously seized the thick fabric of the tapestry and opened it very slightly – too frightened of what she might behold - before sneezing at the dust.

"Pffft, no chance of that," the Hound snarled.

Both men were facing each other and turning around an imaginary pivot as they exchanged blows. Behind them, Sansa noticed that Ser Meryn's lantern had rolled to the wall and was now resting against a large tapestry, thick black smoke emanating from its shattered body.

Fire! Sansa thought, her heart jumping into her throat as she saw the old fabric begin to blaze.

"Oh, don't get too confident, dog. Either I make you a prisoner, or I kill you," Ser Meryn hissed.

Their blades were now kissing and for an instant, they both stood in a nearly motionless contest of strength but then the Hound pushed hard enough that the knight lost his balance. Her lips parting in a grin, Sansa cheered inwardly yet in the same instant, Ser Meryn somehow managed to regain his feet and thrust at his opponent, hitting him over the arm.

"No!" Sansa cried aloud. Thankfully, the Hound didn't seem half as disturbed as she was and took a step backward before attempting another attack.

Behind them, the flames were getting higher by the second, engulfing the work of art from which they had been born while reflecting off both men's swords in blinding flashes of orange and yellow.

"Didn't think you loved them so young and highborn. What did the little slut do to you that you're willing to risk so much?" Ser Meryn asked with the same smug tone, although a little less energetically than previously.

"Shut up, you bugger!" the Hound answered, panting.

Then, they both increased their speed and became a blur of steel, armour and leather. Sansa had never been so anxious of all her life; she was breathing so fast and her pulse was pumping with so much force that she was nearly made deaf by the sound of her own body. What if Sandor Clegane lost and she was dragged before the Iron Throne to be judged for her treason? And what if Ser Meryn pushed the Hound into the fire and he died burnt to ashes as was probably his greatest fear? Sansa couldn't stand to look at their struggle any longer and thus, she lowered her head against her joined hands and began praying. Mother full of mercy, please! Let Sandor Clegane win this fight. Let him save me. Give him the force to-

The sound of a man moaning loudly abruptly interrupted Sansa's pleading to the gods.

Terrified of what she would see, the girl turned her head and was instantly relieved when she set eyes on Ser Meryn falling to the ground, his head almost severed from his body. Hurriedly, she stood up and ran clumsily to the Hound. The smoke was thicker at this height and so she began coughing all the while gazing in horror at the fire. Its tall and hungry flames had now reached yet another tapestry and were roaring very loudly, licking the wall almost to the ceiling.

"Are you hurt? Did he wound you?" Sansa asked frantically, grasping Sandor Clegane by the arm.

"I'm fine," the man answered, catching his breath while coldly staring at his dying foe. His upper arm was bleeding but it didn't seem too bad. "We need to go now. Where are your things?"

At a loss for an instant, Sansa remembered. "They must be in the alcove."

Nodding, the man crouched and wiped his blade against Ser Meryn's white cloak. "Start running, I'll get your satchel and catch up with you in a few seconds."

Over the sound of the fire, she could barely make out his words but she exchanged a look with him and gave him a nervous little smile. Seizing her skirts, Sansa then began sprinting towards the stables, only now noticing how her backside hurt after her fall in the alcove. Still, she didn't care. All she could think about was that her escape was not over yet and that if the gods were not on their side in this, they might both very well be dead before the sun was up.

"Fire!" Sansa heard, coming from far behind her. "Fire!"

People were rushing into the alley to extinguish the flames already. Would they intercept the Hound? Had they already? Just as she was starting to truly worry, she felt the man's hand on her shoulder.

"Faster!" he urged her.

She tried to obey but wasn't able. Still, they shortly arrived at a large wooden door. Sandor Clegane kicked it open and they both stormed into the stables.

"This way!" he directed, grasping Sansa's arm and dragging her behind him.

The stables were dark and quiet at this hour and the only source of light was that of a faraway lantern. The Hound knew his way and despite the gloom, they soon reached a box where a huge black war stallion was anxiously waiting for them, already saddled and ready to leave.

As Sandor Clegane checked that naught was amiss, the dim light became suddenly brighter and the man swiftly turned toward it, obviously relieved when he saw a sleepy looking stable boy standing at some distance – lantern in hand - seemingly utterly puzzled at being disturbed in the middle of his sleep.

"Go back to your pillow, boy. We don't need you," the Hound snapped even before he had a chance to say a single word.

Obedient, the boy immediately left, giving them a few questioning backward glances.

"Come," Sandor Clegane told Sansa once he had stashed her satchel in his saddlebag.

The girl let him circle her waist and he settled her sideways in the saddle. A moment later, he had jumped behind her and the horse was moving out of his box.

"We've only one door to pass. It'll be guarded of course, so we'd best look relaxed and cozy," the man whispered, himself not sounding calm at all.

Yet, Sansa understood and pulled her hood over her head as much as she could - taking care to hide her hair this time around - and brought her arms around the Hound's large torso.

"Oh," she breathed, when she noticed the drops of blood that were splattered over his cheeks and chin. "Your face…" Without asking, she gathered some of her cloak in her fist and began wiping the blood away.

The Hound didn't complain and let her do it, all the while gazing down at her with narrowed eyes and bringing one of his arms across her waist to hold her closely.

An instant later, they entered the courtyard and began advancing at an unhurried pace. Sansa couldn't help but wonder if anyone had seen Ser Meryn's body yet. It was almost inevitable of course but still, with the fire, would someone be sent after them so soon? She was petrified at the idea and held onto the Hound tightly, eager for some comfort.

"Going out, Hound?" a voice asked just as the man's stallion halted.

"Aye. We've had fun all night and now the wench has nothing left in her and was begging for her bed when last she was conscious," Sandor Clegane rasped in a voice so laid back that he might have just woken up from a full night of sleep.

"Oh, please. Be more merciful with your whores in the future," the guard answered, snickering in a way that made it evident he didn't mean a word he had said. Others were laughing with him also. "Go! We won't detain you a moment longer. The poor sweetheart!"

Steadily, they went down the drawbridge at a maddeningly peaceful pace, still Sansa understood that it was for the best. When they reached the solid earth at last, Sandor Clegane didn't hasten and continued just as slowly.

"Shouldn't we hurry?" Sansa whispered, shifting uncomfortably.

"Not yet. When we have reached another street, I'll go faster. We're almost there though, little bird," he answered, tightening his arm around her.

At that, Sansa snuggled into him, her need for safety too great for her to care anymore.

As Sandor Clegane had promised, they shortly turned and hastened, although not too much either.

"The port is only a few minutes away. No need to alert the whole neighbourhood," he explained before Sansa had a chance to voice any complaint.

They had already alerted a lot of people though, before leaving the Red Keep. The castle must have been in pure frenzy at the moment, with the fire and the body of Ser Meryn lying lifeless on the floor, Sansa reflected, her heart skipping a beat as an idea suddenly struck her.

Wouldn't the Hound be suspected if he came back after all that had happened? His clothes were bloodied, his arm cut and he had been seen leaving with her not only by a stable boy but by a few goldcloaks too… He couldn't go back; he'd be killed!

"We're there now," Sandor Clegane announced.

Her train of thought interrupted, Sansa raised her head and looked around her. The quiet and narrow streets they had followed had now given way to the large space of the harbour and the place was already filled with animation and noise despite the early hour. Many vessels were docked but from the movement on its deck and surroundings, Sansa could easily guess which one was the Travelling Titan. The ship was very big and elegant, exactly as she had hoped.

"There's your ship, little bird," the Hound rasped as he jumped from the saddle and began leading his horse over to the docks.

Men were running all around them, most garbed in the traditional sailor striped tunic, some with golden earrings and all with skin so tanned it looked like leather. A few of them were busy unwinding the long ropes that kept the ship in place from steel poles and one of them – dressed more richly than the others - stopped in his work to stride toward Sansa and the Hound when he noticed them.

"Hello, m'lord. This is the young lady you told us about, I reckon. She's just in time. We're leaving in a few minutes," he exclaimed in a voice that sounded rough from having shouted orders all night. Then turning to gaze at Sansa, he continued. "Hurry up and get on board, m'lady. The anchor is already up and the captain won't wait for anyone."

Seeing her nod, the sailor returned to his work, leaving her alone with Sandor Clegane once more.

"Heard the man, little bird?" he asked, laying his hands around her waist. "Time to go."

Once she was out of the saddle, Sansa gazed at the Red Keep, hovering over the city and then at the Hound, her eyes grown wide with worry. "But what about you, my lord? You can't return to the Red Keep after all that has happened!"

"I know that," he said, snorting a short, dry laugh. "I never intended to go back either."

At seeing her puzzled expression, Sandor Clegane's mouth curved into a mocking half-grin and his head tilted to the side.

"You think I didn't predict some bugger would see us and gather I was the one who helped you flee? It was written in the bloody sky, little bird. My safe return to the keep was doomed from the start."

"But why did you say yes then?" Sansa asked, totally unsettled by his admission.

"You damned well know why, little bird," the Hound rasped lowly while eating her with his gaze. A moment later though, he became serious again and glanced at the streets behind him. "I've packed my things in advance. I could still ride Stranger to a gate and save my hide… unless…" he trailed off, fixing his stare on Sansa again.

"Unless?" she breathed so softly that she was certain he had not heard her.

"I could go with you," the man began, taking a step toward her. "There's nothing safe about you embarking on this ship by yourself. It'll be filled with a bunch of bloody sailors all yearning to get a taste of your sweet flesh. And afterwards, once you get to White Harbour, who's to say how the tide will have turned? Perhaps you'll be surrounded by foes, even worse than here in King's Landing. You need a protector, little bird, one with no political ties and that'll do anything you ask without a fucking question. I'm willing to be that to you."

"Hurry up!" the sailor they had met earlier exclaimed from the deck, waving at Sansa to embark.

The girl nervously gazed his way but she was too stunned by the Hound's words to think straight. Her lips were opened in a small 'O', her eyes wide with confusion.

Seizing her upper arm to grasp her total attention again, Sandor Clegane brought his face close to hers and continued. "Say yes, little bird, and I'll cut to pieces anyone that bothers you. I'll kill any beggar, soldier, lord, lady, or even bloody queen and king that'll stand between you and any of your goals. You won't find anyone more devoted than me." Snorting softly, he released her arm and narrowed his eyes on her. "I won't lie and promise that I won't try to get into your bed again but since you can be certain someone will claim the place, I'm not the worst bastard you could get. At least, you've known me already and you can be sure I'd never hurt you…"

The flow of promises the Hound had just poured over her was a little too much for Sansa to cogitate and she kept her stare glued to him for a moment after he had finished, completely overwhelmed. He wants to serve me, she mused at last, butterflies filling her belly. Still, at the thought of the last implication, she felt a pang of annoyance. How could anyone be so forward, so coarse and ill-mannered, so impudent...? And yet, why wasn't she more outraged by his proposition than she was?

A small smile pulling uncontrollably at her lips, Sansa sighed and took Sandor Clegane's large hand in hers. Without a word, she led him up the ship's gangplank and less than a quarter of an hour later, the Travelling Titan had left King's Landing's to sail towards the great Northern city of White Harbour with an extra passenger on its deck.

THE END