(Happy Birthday, Sweetrobin! I know it’s still the 21st here, but it’s a little late, your time…)
It was a complete surprise to most people, that she and Sandor Clegane were drift compatible. But Sansa thinks it makes sense; they may not know everything about each other, but their time together in the King’s Landing Shatterdome is a complicated secret in and of itself. Even still, people look at the slender, poised daughter of the martyred Ned Stark and Joffrey Lannister’s old trainer, and think they don’t quite fit.
It would upset her more if it mattered less. But they’re inside each other’s heads now, and know that they’re not fragile. They have their demons, and they fight them. She knows what goes on in his head the nights she hears him shudder awake from a nightmare, and he lets her touch him in gentle, soft, ways that she knows he’s never let anyone else do, before.
(She’s his first drift. He spent years working on bringing up and serving the Lannister piloting dynasty, running away from letting anyone else inside his head. A kind of self-preservation that she can understand, but times are desperate. And with Arya’s leg broken in four places, she’s run out of choices as well.)
(She thinks she would have chosen him anyway.)
He knows what bends her smile.
Sansa ignores the looks Arya throws her, hobbling around the control room, deciding instead to smile wanly and say, “You know how it is.”
“But him? Really? Why not Gendry? Or not Gendry—”
Sansa makes a noise that might be a snort, if it wasn’t tamped down on. Sansa Stark does not snort. (Sandor Clegane knows otherwise, but he likes to keep her “unladylike” qualities to himself. How a jaeger pilot could be so… delicate, he’ll never really understand, and Sansa thinks he may never stop teasing her about that and she doesn’t really mind, not when she knows what’s inside his head.) She crosses her legs in a way that might convey condescension, if Arya hadn’t spent two years crawling around the inside of her head.
“I don’t like it.”
Sansa smiles cheerfully. “You don’t have to. I’m the one who has to be inside his head, not you.”
Arya scowls. “I’m sure it’s a lovely place to be.”
It’s no, not particularly, and Sansa remembers the first time in neural handshake with Sandor, how they both struggled not to chase the rabbit—how she first chased him down the hall of a small, rattletrap house to a warmly-lit room, a small boy playing in the dim light with his older brother’s Christmas toys, looking around nervously, and then the snap of fear Sansa had felt go down her spine, how she had begged him to come back, that it wasn’t real, that it was over, the little boy screaming as the flesh burned away from his face.
“Come back,” she’d whisper. Again, and again, stroking his hair while he shivered into the skin of her neck. “Come back.”
He’d seen her dark spots too, in person, and then from the inside. She’d seen his time with Arya, on the run, was inside his head while Joffrey beat her. Forgiveness is a funny thing, but Sansa thinks the good outweighs the bad, and at the end of the world, she’d rather let go of the hurt where she may.
He strokes her hair too, sometimes, just because although she smiles more it doesn’t mean she needs it any less.
And then calls her “little bird,” because he was there, even before she found him in the drift.
He made a queer sound, and it took her a moment to realize he was sobbing.“And the little bird, your pretty sister…”
Sansa is obsessed with their daughter. Out of childbed and back to attending her duties as Lady of Winterfell, Sansa misses her babe so during the day. As the Warden of the North she recognizes the practicalities behind a nurse and what Sandor has told her several times—only half seriously, the other half to make her laugh—is a veritable army of attendants, but even still, she drags him out of bed every morning before any sort of decent hour to the little Lady Catelyn’s chambers before any of Sansa’s maids can make an appearance.
Not that Sandor minds, of course. He’s just obsessed with their daughter as she is. It’s just that the Captain of the Guard and Lord Commander-of-whatever-the-bloody-hells-Sansa-made-up-to-suit-him has the time to see his little girl in the daylight hours…
If you bought the 2012 ASOIAF calendar, illustrated by John Picacio, you might recall that October was the month for Sansan!
In retrospective, here’s John Picacio discussing the evolution of his Sansan illustration. From storyboards, using a real life model for Sandor, greyscale version, to the finished final color. Some things I thought were interesting:
- GRRM suggested that a Sansan illustration be included in the calendar
- Picacio’s loves Sansa’s hair because of the “Starry Night” quality that emerged unexpectedly from the composition.
Final words from the artist:
And what better than the month of Halloween for a face like the Hound? It was a no-brainer that this artwork would be October’s. I look forward to seeing lots of scary, scarred Hounds roaming the streets on Halloween this fall.
He does not shy away from her touch, not now, the morning the Stark retainers are going off to fight Black Walder Frey’s men, going off to scorch the snake’s nest to keep little Walda Frey on her seat. His intent is to sack the Riverlands again, and with children occupying half the lordships in the Trident, it falls to the little bird, the de facto head of House Tully, to respond.
Which means it is his duty to once again act as her Commander, to help protect her mother’s lands as he had helped her win back her father’s.
(Sansa already gave him her favor the night before. But he does not scoff when she pulls a ribbon from her hair and ties it around the leather strap securing his pauldron, cups the burned half of his face. Calls him ‘love’ in the company of others, when she should not.)
This is the first time they will be parted, as lovers, by the war. His lady is sadder, but wiser, and the Warden of the North; Lady Stark can only show her affections, but not her fear, in the face of any of her men, him most of all.
He will show her the same courtesy.
“Wind and words. We are only human, and the gods have fashioned us for love. That is our great glory, and our great tragedy.”
a particular Chinese philosophy crept into my mind while making this.
SANSAN MODERN AU | Years later, they both drift into the same working class town. She gets a job as a waitress, he as a construction worker. Sometimes he sees her after shift. They see, and say nothing. Time has taught them to keep their mouths shut.
She took the first train up the Northeast Corridor, landed in some tiny New Jersey commuter town. The diner had been within walking distance, across the highway from a shopping center that was being put up. It was a small place, with warm red walls and white-speckled linoleum tables and floors, grey leather booths. Pastries and cookies in a glass case, an out-of-date cash register. Paper placemats, dented silverware. But nice enough, tidy.
The owner had only asked for her driver’s license.
Much of fandom bemoans how Sansa’s arc seems stubbornly rooted in the Southron realpolitick story line, instead of the Northern mythical and magical arc. However, I think her story may have already started turning towards the mythical and the magical, as evidenced by one thing: Sandor’s being saved by the Elder Brother.
It was maintained, during her lifetime, that Sansa Stark’s wedding to her bannerman Sandor Clegane was a private ceremony, not a secret one. The witnesses of the wedding (many historians have debated the exact date, and some the mere existence of it, the latter due to claims made almost a hundred years later by the grandson of Roose Bolton and Walda Frey to validate his claim of control over the North), however, have been lost to history. Some say that it was Jaime Lannister himself who walked the bride to her ceremony, but that seems doubtful. Others claim Brienne of Tarth or Randa Royce, one of Sansa Stark’s ladies-in-waiting, were possibly in attendance.
Regardless, the wedding, which took place in 303AL, between the seventeen year old Lady Stark and thirty-four year old Clegane, was political in nature, designed to ward off any Southron lords with Northern ambitions for the de facto head of both House Stark and House Tully, as well as negate any claims that a husband would rule in Lady Stark’s place, what with Clegane’s political standing being so poor.
Many would go on to say that the match was one made of love, although historical accounts of the relationship between Sansa Stark and Sandor Clegane during her time as King Joffrey I’s betrothed and his as a member of his Kingsgaurd would be inclined to disprove this notion. The song The Bird and the Hound, detailing a fictional account of Clegane offering to spirit the young Lady Stark away on the night of the Battle of Blackwater (299AL) has only bolstered the claims of this popular romanticized narrative. The new popular movie The North Remembers depicts their relationship as one of equal partnership, shared trauma and true love, is a more recent example of popular culture softening the likely truth of what seemed to be a largely political, not romantic or sexual, relationship.