“What have you done? By the all the gods, what have you done to the poor girl?”
“Dearest Uncle, I’ve made her a present for you! I’ve made her worthy of you! I’ve conquered her, as we will conquer her brother!”
She lies as still as she can in the bed, naked, broken, shaking. There is no blanket, no coverlet, and everyone is looking at her. Her body aches, but she does not scream. When the monster had gotten off her, her voice seemed to have melted away somehow, somewhere between her giving up the fight and him threatening her with a sharp shard of glass against her throat.
He assumed that he’d slashed her face with it in the struggle, and she knows he sawed off a lot of her hair, to mark her for his harlot. She felt warm liquid dripping into her eyes, and felt warm blood trickling down her legs. She doubts she can even move if she wanted to. And there is a crowd surrounding her, a crowd that watched the assault of the little captured wolf, and did nothing to stop it. No, they had reveled in the sport of their king, and he had promised them their turn in it when he had finished with her.
There is laughing; everyone is laughing at her, and her face is turning all red. She moves her hand up to shield her bare breasts, knowing at the same time it’s all in vain. She is stripped now; her virginity taken. There is nothing sacred left to protect or preserve. She wants to die. She closes her eyes for a long, long time, and wishes to fall asleep forever.
She is Sansa Stark, the daughter of Eddard and Catelyn Stark of Winterfell, sheltered and loved and nurtured and protected like a beautiful little flower in her own home…
And now she is away from everything home ever meant, ripped out of her at the core.
And the dream of death is her only dearest desire.
She hears someone yelling for the cruel audience to disperse, hears that someone wants to be alone with her. She feels so cold without her clothes, she starts shivering naturally. Then she feels…touch. Cold touch, hot touch, she doesn’t know. Cold feels hot against her skin, and hot cold. She recoils. Oh, oh, is it happening again? Oh, yes…they will all pick up where the boy king left off…
“Lady Sansa…” It’s the Imp’s voice. “Sansa, child…”
Oh, it’s him…the demon monkey…he’s looking at her, all naked, she knows he is…and he loves to touch women, everyone knows it…he’s a dirty-minded little man…
She can feel the glass shard still with her, in the bed. She clutches it, cutting her hand, and on an instinct, she slashes at him. It’s all a futile effort; she has no control over herself, and she is held down, and the weapon yanked away from her.
The rebuke from him chastens her, freezes her. Strange how she suddenly feels guilty for trying to hurt another, after she had just been so sorely hurt. She thinks he will make her pay for it in his rage that she has surely aroused. He is a man of temper, everyone knows that. She meets his eyes in the dark, waits numbly to feel glass bite through her neck, as Joffrey had threatened. She lifts her chin a little to make it easier for the sharpness to slice.
Then she hears the half-man exhale and cast the glass onto the floor. She shivers at the clang it makes. Again she tries to meet his eyes, miss-match in color, tries to read them, through the glassy sheen of them, barely visible in the light of the dying candle. They keep darting, from her body, all open, to her eyes, all open, as if tearing him from one side to another of his own nature. It unnerves her.
“What…what would you…have me do, my lord?” Her voice shakes like the wind beyond the window. “How should I…please you?” She is defeated, she knows she is. And she is too broken to keep fighting against it. She has nothing pure left to preserve. Better learn how to make it less painful, at least…learn to be a pliable little toy…and try not to scream…
“No, my lady…no…” Now she is surprised to hear that his own voice is shaking. And she feels a sheet being wrapped around her, covering her up, shielding her, like a mantel of protection.
“But you are…” She tries to define him by what others have told her, the trauma wearing away her sense of what to say and what not to say. She just doesn’t care anymore. Whatever comes out of her mouth will be unfiltered.
“I know what I am, but I am not this…” His voice breaks, an intensity rising to the surface. “I may be a bad man, a very bad man…but I am not…not like this…I am not…this…”
He is a Lannister; he could be lying. But somehow, she doesn’t think he is. She wants to believe him. She has no choice but to hope she can believe him…
“Ohhh…” She doesn’t know why she says this, but it also breaks, for her into a flood, rushing down her cheeks, and then she’s half-weeping, half-screaming, and she’s pulled tight against the small frame of a man, who’s trying very hard, she thinks, to comfort the uncomfortable.
And before she knows it, she has thrown her arms around his middle, and is clinging on for dear life, simply because she cannot think it all out, and he is the only one she has to cling to. Maybe if she clings tight enough, long enough, he won’t be able to turn on her, to hurt her…
She wonders how long she cries into him. She feels his heart beating, pat-a-pat, pat-a-pat…an enemy heart, a little lion’s heart, beating softly inside. Such a strange thing. She couldn’t feel Joffrey’s heart, when he was on top of her. But she can feel this man’s. It’s warming her up.
“He didn’t even…kiss…kiss me…I thought…I thought that’s how…how it’s done…I thought…” She is rambling, she knows she is, she is not making sense, she is a stupid, foolish little bird, gushing out to an enemy who will surely attack her as soon as he has the chance. But she keeps going anyway. “It wasn’t anything like…like they said it would be…”
She feels his hand run through her shorn hair, and he is quiet, so quiet, for there is nothing fitting to be said. Then he whispers in her ear, “Is it important for you…to be kissed?”
She imagines Joffrey’s first kiss, when he was still her courtly romantic knight, and she shudders. The Imp cradles her more closely, trying to warm her more, warm her and thaw her out from the horror icing her over.
“Sansa, will you trust me, hmm? Will you lean back a little, and close your eyes for a moment? I won’t hurt you, I promise I won’t.”
She hesitates. She doesn’t want to move or do anything, lest he take advantage of her, the Lannister lion’s claws coming out and tearing her to shreds. But perhaps disobeying him will bring about the same thing. She is afraid, unsure of the outcome, but does as he says.
She feels her eyes throbbing under eyelids, waiting for something…she knows not what. Then a touch, lips’ skin touching lips’ skin, and she’s afraid, she trembles and blinks. Then somehow…she trusts. She doesn’t know why she does, but she’s not afraid for the passing of moments, and her mouth lingers on another mouth that isn’t hurting her. He’s kissing her like she was still all whole…an innocent, a virgin, a lady…
And then she’s crying again, crying all over him, and slipping her face down onto his shoulder. She feels sweat on his neck, and the way his body is waxing and waning, the way suppressing sobs wracks the one trying so hard to conceal the torture.
“Talk to me,” she chokes. “Talk to me about…anything…all night…oh, oh…don’t leave me alone and quiet, I…I’ll go mad…”
“I’ve never had a problem with talking,” he mutters trying to make light of it. “Except for doing too much of it. Want me to tell you how I tried to run away from home, once, when I was your age, on a horse too large for me?”
And he goes on like that, on and on and on, telling little drabbles of nothingness that make her feel safe, and finally, quietly lull her to sleep with her head on his breast.
She wakes up; she is still alive, but in a different bed. She wonders how she got there. She supposes she was guided, but her memories are so splintered she doesn’t know. She sits up, and feels a silky shift on her body as she wraps her arms around it. It’s light, and doesn’t hurt. That’s all she cares about in the moment. She just doesn’t want to feel hurt.
She blinks at the light, and stares at it for a long time. She wonders if she’s able to breathe, or if she’s stopped, and she’s died somehow, and time stopped, and everything has become all light and glass. She gulps, and puts a trembling hand up to her face, feeling the cut the glass made. How bad is the scar? Is it terribly, awfully bad?
She turns half-way in the bed, and gasps and startles, seeing her face staring back at her part ways in a hand mirror. The cut across her cheek is an ugly red, and her hair is sheared off, like a boy’s. She could cry over seeing herself that way. She turns and pulls the covers back over her face, whimpering softly. All the memories of the night before wash over her, and she feels unable to move.
After a little while, though, she begins to feel a growling sensation in her stomach, and her nose is tickled by the scent of something sweet and buttery. She peers out from under the covers, and sees a table a little away…and she knows there’s food there. She is frightened, but also very hungry, in spite of herself. She might well have gone a whole day and a half since her last meal. It starts to lure her out of her hole like a little mouse, wary of a trap but desperate for crumbs.
She sits down before the table, and starts to nibble on a piece of rosemary bread with butter and jam. Then she starts to eat what tastes like some sort of pastry with soft cheese and powdered sugar. She finds herself forgetting all the terrible things that have happened for one blessed moment as the tastes delight her senses. She’s about to reach for the golden apple in the bowl of fruit when she hears footsteps and jerks around, preparing to run.
“Oh, good, you’re awake.” It’s the half man, observing her good-naturedly.
But she begins to panic, thinking she will be branded for eating palace food, now that is nothing but a piece of street trash, a prostitute. “Please…please don’t tell him, please…” She wrings her sugar-stained hands. “I…I don’t want him…come back…not so soon, please…”
“Lady Sansa, there’s no need,” he calms her kindly. “He’s not coming back. And the food is for you to have. It’s…for both of us. It’s our breakfast.” Carefully, he takes his seat across from her.
At first, she keeps her eyes turned down, but then she starts to watch him, eating and talking at the same time, in a way that might normally have turned her off. He is a messy eater; he licks his fingers, spills the wine as he drinks it, and is babbling on and on at a rapid, breathless pace. She watches it all, with wary eyes, feeling as if she is very, very far away, as if it is all a very distant dream.
Then she feels a desire to touch. Numbly, dumbly, she fumbles her hand over to his and clutches it. She has no particular plan behind it, no clear intent. It is for its own sake. She doesn’t know why, but it feels good, and she keeps wanting to feel it. He looks at her quizzically, and her own propriety returns. She blushes bright, and pulls her hand back across the table, biting her lip.
But his own hand has quickly reached after hers, and is holding it in place. “It’s alright, Sansa,” he tells her gently. “You don’t have to be afraid to touch.”
“I…I didn’t mean to…to be…”
“It doesn’t always hurt,” he cuts her off, and squeezes her hand tenderly. “It doesn’t, see? You can touch me like this, and I can touch you back, and it doesn’t hurt.” She sensed in him a trembling, of guilt, of sorrow, of loneliness. “I won’t ever let anyone touch you to hurt you again. You must…must believe me. I’m more powerful than I look. I’m smarter than the people who hurt you, and I can keep you safe. You’ll never be hurt by a man’s touch again.”
She looks at their hands together, an odd pairing, no doubt. It’s strange, but he’s right, it doesn’t hurt. He’s her enemy, as his blonde Lannister hair makes abundantly clear, but she feels like he’s the only one she can trust, almost like a helpless child automatically trusts a parent. It’s silly, it’s very silly, but she lets her logic fall by the wayside, and lets herself pretend she’s sure of being safe.
“But Sansa…Sansa, dear…I must tell you…”
He hesitates, and her senses prick up. She swallows, ill at ease.
“I may convince them to let me keep you, keep you here and away from him, but only…” He paused.
Her eyebrows knit. “You would have me…in his place?” Oh, he was like all the others. This is what men always wanted. “You want me…for your whore?”
“I would tell them that, yes, and they may give you to me, to disgrace your family name,” he conceded. “But…I will not touch you. I swear it.”
She stares at him, disbelieving. “Why…would you not…touch?”
“Because…” His look is shamed. “I want us to be…friends.”
“Yes, Sansa. You need friends. I can be a friend to you. I can be good…” Again, that look of severe guilt. “Would it not be better to pretend disgrace then live it, with Joffrey?”
She bites her lip. “I don’t want to…to see him…ever again.”
“Then it’s settled. You’ll be under my protection, and I won’t let him near you again, understand?”
She doesn’t completely, but she nods reluctantly. Even if he breaks his promise and wants her all for himself, she can’t see him being nearly as cruel as his nephew about it. Otherwise, he surely would have made use of her the night before. But he just doesn’t have that sort of evil in his eyes. Indeed, at the moment, she doesn’t see any lust in them either, just a certain yearning to be given a chance to prove himself. And even if her judgments had been appalling in the past, she seemed to have no choice but to trust them now.
When the meal is done, he goes out about his business, but tells her to stay, and knows it’s for her own safety’s sake. So she stays, spending most of the day in bed, drifting between uneasy sleep and uneasy waking. But the sheets and mattress feel nice and safe, and she tries to dream.
Later that even, when it’s dark, she hears the music from a party. Her mind drifts back to Winterfell, and she curls herself tight, bunched up like a ball in bed. She whimpers like a little wolf cub, left all alone in a cave, without father or mother to protect her or other cubs to comfort her.
Then she hears someone come in, and tightens more. But it’s just him. She wonders why he’s returned early from a party, and from the steadiness of his steps, not even drunk. She shifts and meets his eyes watching her.
“Sansa,” he whispers her name. “It’s alright; you can sleep. He’s not coming back here.”
“You’re right, no one will come…come looking for me,” she shudders. “Two years ago, at Winterfell, I…I had my coming out. Father was so proud…I was pure, I was a virgin…he said I was prettier than any princess. But I…I’m all used up now, and ugly…I’m so ugly, no one would touch me, oh, oh, I wish he’d torn my whole face off, and I’d have bled out and died…”
“You’re not ugly,” he says softly.
“You expect me to believe…you?” She catches herself only after the words are out, and turns red seeing the way it makes him blink, as if she had scratched his heart.
“They say ugly men can beauty best,” he responds steadily.
She curls up again, burying her face in her knees. She’s quiet for a long time, and then manages, “I…I didn’t mean…to be rude.”
“Sansa, it…it doesn’t matter. Truly. I’m not delusional about myself.”
“But…you’re the only one here who hasn’t…” She rubs her knee cap distractedly. “I should…be nice to you…”
“You don’t owe me anything,” he blurts. “Hell, child, you don’t deserve anything that’s happened to you. Common decency does not deserve reward.”
She looks at him for a long time, somewhat puzzled, somewhat suspicious, still curled up, and starts shivering. She doesn’t know what to do with herself, or with him.
“Would you like me to leave?” he asks gently.
“And go where?” she rasps. “This…this is your room…your bed.”
“Can always buy myself a bed,” he chortles, and she knows what he means. He’s surely had more than enough experience at how brothels work. But…for some reason, she doesn’t want him to go there. Not tonight.
She closes her eyes. “I’m afraid to sleep…all by myself…”
His look softens. “Would you like…me to climb in?”
She doesn’t answer, but moves over to make room for him all the same. She doesn’t know way, but she needs someone else in the bed, and she imagines it’s partly because the aloneness with drive her mad and partly because as long as he’s there, Joffrey won’t be. But she still worries nevertheless.
“Will the king…try to take me back…just because…just to…to hurt me?” she queries.
“Not with this dwarf in your bed,” he assures, half tongue in cheek, half deathly earnest. “He knows better than to try me too far for all his vile cravings.”
She quiets, and without half thinking about it, finds herself nuzzling her face into his chest, resting it there. She doesn’t know him, doesn’t know this little man, and all she’s heard of him from her side has been ill. But she needs him, and for some reason…she trusts him. She’s beginning to think he couldn’t bring himself to harm her, even if he tried.
“Why are you kind to me?” she murmurs. He’s running his fingers through her hair as he talks. “Broken things,” he whispers. “I’m one of them. And I can’t…turn away from them. I do what I can, when I can, to help them mend…”