Prompt 9: snow

The Lady of Winterfell is never alone. So many people at her court, so many demands on her time. An unmarried woman, she cannot even stir from her rooms without a female escort. It is stifling her, he can see that, but she is nothing if not dutiful, his little bird.

It is with a strange reluctance, then, that he follows her to the godswood. It is midwinter and the nights are dark. When the sky is moonless, and the dark is near-perfect, this is when she dismisses her maids and blows out her candles, and waits as patiently as a predator for the castle to slip into silence. Then she leaves her room to prowl the corridors with the same urgency of any wolf on the hunt, down to the midnight godswood.

He, her silent shadow, has no choice but to follow - guarding her, he tells himself.

The snow is thigh deep and crisp with cold, and he wonders idly what excuse she gives her maids in the mornings to explain away her wet cloak and skirts. She knows he is there, he is certain – not the naive little bird she once was – but she never orders him away, or speaks of it at all.

She never acknowledges him in any way, but it is their secret. He thinks he likes that.

Usually, she goes to the heart tree. He stands as far back as his vision will allow in the pitch black of the new moon, but still he can just make out the way she touches the ugly carved face, brushing snow from the ancient grooves left by some First Man's knife. He supposes she prays, as she does not attend the sept any more, but he never hears her, and most of the time he would not wish to – she deserves what little privacy he can give her.

Tonight is different, though. She does go to her queer weirwood tree, pausing in the clearing to gaze upon its face. But then she turns, searching him out in a way she never has before. When her eyes find his, glittering in the dark like an animal, she gives him a long, steady look before turning back and walking on past the heart tree.

He takes it to mean he is to follow.

Neither of them carries a lamp. Sansa knows her way through familiarity, and he has always just followed her trail through the snow. She has never trod this path before, though - at least not in his company - and he finds his senses on edge, extending forwards into the night like outstretched arms. Now he is a predator, too. Part of her pack.

It's slow going with the snow, and so bloody cold, but he follows her faithfully, silently. He stops when she stops. They are in another clearing, smaller than the first, with less snow. In the centre is a large, flat expanse of black - a pool? He can feel the warmth radiating from it from where he stands on the tree line.

Before him, standing on the edge of the pool, Sansa remains motionless for a moment. Then, there is the rustling of fabric. She is a faint, grey shape against the dark of the pool and the white of the snow, and so it takes him a moment to realise that she has disrobed. Entirely. Without conscious thought, Sandor takes two steps forwards, unable to trust his eyes. But it is true.

She looks over her shoulder at him again with those glittering, animal eyes, trembling slightly in the cold. Then she steps fluidly down into the pool until all but her head is hidden.

No longer the predator, but the prey, Sandor realises. One who wants to be caught.

He does her the courtesy of not questioning why, and unfastens his swordbelt and everything else, and follows her in.