Sansa stood against the wall of the small room, trying to summon up the courage to say something and make her presence known. So far, Sandor Clegane had not noticed her, as he was too busy throwing himself against the door and yelling obscenities, quite a few of which involved unflattering assumptions about the parentage of Arya's little gang. At a particular crude exclamation - a suggestion where Gendry might put the stolen bookbag - Sansa let out something between a gasp, a shriek and a giggle. Sandor spun around, and she could just stop herself from stepping back at the look of unbridled fury in his eyes. As soon as he realised who she was, his face softend."Oh. It's you."
"And it's you." Okay, maybe not talking had been better afterall. Sandor didn't seem to mind her stating the obvious, though. Somehow, her mouth kept going without consulting her brain."And a broomcloset. You and me. In a broomcloset."
The second the words left her lips, she heard them the way he must have heard them and slapped her hand over her mouth with a gasp. The unburned side of his mouth lifted into a teasing smile."Aye, little bird. You and me, in a broomcloset."
The way he said it sent an entirely too pleasant thrill through her, and she knew her face was likely glowing red.
She desperately wanted to say something, preferably something witty, but all she could manage was incoherent stammering. His eyes sparkled with mirth; a year ago, he surely would have mocked her. A year ago, her heart would have been racing with fear and not excitement. She cleared her throat and made herself take a deep breath.
"I'm sorry Arya's being a nuisance,"she said, settling for taking them to a more neutral topic. Sandor shrugged, looking as if he had almost forgotten already how they had ended up here."Well, it's not like she'll just leave us here." He didn't sound entirely convinced."What did you do to make her throw you in here?"Sansa frowned."I don't know, actually. We were just talking and then she said -" She trailed off as the pieces started coming together. She looked at the locked door, at Sandor, and back again. Her sister had obviously taken offense to Sandor's patronus. And then for some reason forced them into close quarters, where they would almost certainly have to talk about it. That... seemed a little tranquil for Arya's tastes. Almost helpful, in a weird way. The last puzzle piece fell into place."Oh, this reeks of Gendry! He's not supposed to encourage her. That little shit!"
His raspy laugh interrupted her.
"Well, that's some new attitude, little bird." She couldn't help but to respond to his grin with one of her own. He stepped a little closer and tilted his head to one side, and for one wild, wonderful moment, she thought he would kiss her. Instead, he just gave her a curious look."So, why are we here, then? Since you've figured it out."
"Oh." She considered making something up, but she knew he would be able to tell."Uhm." He would know if she lied, damn him. She blurted it out before she could change her mind. "Arya seems to have gotten her wand in a knot over your patronus."
His face fell, the playful twinkle gone, replaced by a guarded look that could not quite mask the hurt."Oh. I see."
He said nothing else, and turned is back to her to try and wrench open the door again. Sansa took a step toward him."I don't think you do." He just kept rattling the door."Sandor, I really don't think you understand."
"Don't." He said it so softly she almost wasn't sure he had spoken at all."Don't make a pretty song out of it, little bird. I'd rather not hear it."
"Just listen,"she insisted as she grabbed his arm."Look at me, Sandor."
As usual, the words brooked no dissent, even if the speaker was a different one. He turned, his face burning with embaressment, and looked at her. It seemed to be a challenge, almost, to see if she could hurt him. Her heart ached for him, and she realised no mere words could wash away what years of torment had done. She pulled her wand and cast her patronus.
The look on his face was almost comical.
"Shouldn't Sansa be threatening to kill us all right about now?"Hot Pie aksed, checking the time. Arya, who'd been silently wondering the same thing for ten minutes already, shrugged."I dunno. Maybe she went to tell on us instead."
"Pretty sure she'd not go to a teacher with that story. Or your parents, actually." Gendry frowned."But either Sansa or maybe Robb should be doing their Banshee impression by now. Did you do something wrong with the room?"
"Like what?"Arya demanded."It's not exactly hard!"
They fell silent, the boys knowing that Arya had to be the one to say what they were all thinking. It was all her scheming, anyways. Finally, she sighed and admitted defeat."Fine, we'll go open the stupid door ourselves."
Gendry and Hot Pie waited at the end of the corridor. Running from the Hound once a day really was enough. They waited with baited breath, ears pricked up for any sound of danger to tell them to make use of the headstart.
They heard a girl's shriek, a different girl's shriek, a slamming door and hurried footsteps.
Arya looked distinctly queasy as she made it back to them, eyes wide as if she had just seen an Other.
"The door opens just fine,"she spat, and refused to say anything else on the matter.