Note: This follows my previous Sansa/Tyrion story, give me hope in silence.
Your face was simple
and your hands were naked;
I was singing without knowing the words
(Josh Ritter, "Wolves")
I just - just want to say I know how you feel.
I doubt that very much, my lord.
You're right. I have no idea how you feel and you have no idea how I feel. But I promise you one thing, my lady ...
Sansa wishes she could rest a hand on Tyrion's arm. They cannot walk together like a husband and wife would ordinarily; the difference in their heights won't allow it. Still, before they enter the dining chamber, Tyrion reaches for her hand and squeezes it.
"You know, we don't have to do this," he tells her.
Now that they're here, Sansa can't afford to dread it any longer. All she wants is to get it over with, and to go back to their chambers and sleep. She isn't sleeping very well, but she would rather try to sleep than do anything else. Sometimes she dreams, at least a little. She forgets her family is dead in her dreams.
"Yes we do," she tells her husband.
"We could always run away," Tyrion jokes in that low voice he uses to be kind to her. It makes Sansa feel like he's telling her secrets. "Wander the world as wayward minstrels."
"Minstrels?" Sansa says, doubtful.
She's decided she is grateful for his jesting. It's better than his promises that he is different, that she can trust him, that she can speak to him from her heart and it will never come back to hurt her. He seems to have realized that she knows better than that. Now, he gives her jokes. She's almost happy to receive them, even if her heart will never be light enough to truly tease back.
"Well," he amends, "you'd be a minstrel, and I your humble squire. I fear my singing would do us no favors."
"Do minstrels usually have squires?"
"Perhaps not. But then again, these are unusual circumstances. Might as well break with tradition."
"I'm very hungry."
"Yes, there will be a lot of that on the road. Tell me, Lady Sansa—" He puts on a very serious face. "—are you willing to sing for your supper?"
She sighs. "I wish it was as easy as singing."
Just like that, the joke ends.
"So do I," he says gently. He squeezes her hand once more, then lets go.
The king, Queen Cersei, Ser Jaime, Margaery, and Ser Loras are already seated. They all look up at the sound of the door opening. Their gazes remind Sansa of the gleaming eyes of forest animals in the dark. How savage they all seem in the dim candlelight.
Sansa meets Margaery's eyes briefly. A flash of sympathy darts across her friend's face, quick but so strong it makes Sansa feel like crying, and then the look is replaced by one of docile courtesy.
Joffrey grins and rises.
"Lady Sansa," he says, practically hopping over. He's such a child.
"Your Grace." Sansa bows her head.
Joffrey presses a finger to her cheek. Sansa tenses. Tyrion huffs in protest but doesn't move to protect her. Not yet, at least.
"You've been crying," Joffrey says, even though Sansa hasn't wept for hours and knows her face looks as fair as it ever has. "You look terrible. I think I'm insulted." He wipes her imaginary tear on his doublet. "You know, you ought to at least try to look beautiful in the presence of your king. You're going to ruin supper for everyone if you spend it weeping all over the table."
Sansa knows she could make him cry. He's spoiled and weak and would have no idea how to fight. She's sure about that. She was spoiled and weak once, too. When the time came to fight and she didn't know how, it ruined everything.
He looks displeased at her silence. His eyes glint in that way that makes her sick. "Well?"
"I would never dream of ruining supper for Your Grace and the guests," she answers cordially, finding herself. "It would be unforgivably rude."
He's frustrated by the flatness of her voice. She can tell. Well, let him be. He won't shake her.
The chamber is big enough to create the illusion that this conversation is private. Still, Sansa knows very well that the others hear every word. That's what you do in this place. You listen and pretend not to hear.
"I had planned on giving you a present," Joffrey says.
"How kind, Your Grace," says Sansa.
"Do you know what it was? Your brother's head. I was going to serve it to you at the wedding feast. I promised you his head once and you didn't believe me. Do you remember that?"
Tyrion takes a step forward; Sansa pictures him slapping the king right across his smug face and puts her hand on her husband's shoulder.
Stop, she tries to tell him with the grip of her fingers.
"I was young and very foolish then," Sansa says politely.
"Yes you were," Joffrey agrees. His face twists in a new smile. "Do you know why I can't give you your present, my lady?"
"Enough," Tyrion says sharply.
Joffrey ignores him.
"They beat me to your brother's head." The words all spill out fast, like Joffrey can't stand the idea of being silenced before he's had the chance to say them. His voice is so loud now that it rings in the ceiling. "They cut it off and sewed his wolf's on to replace it. Had you heard?"
Sansa knows this already. When more detailed reports of the massacre began to reach King's Landing, Tyrion brought the news to her, not wanting her to hear from someone cruel. Sansa cried a little while he spoke, and even more when he left her alone to bear the news in private.
Now, hearing Joffrey tell it, she doesn't flinch.
"A fate befitting a traitor," she says. She decided to say that earlier, and it's a small comfort to pull the remark from her head like a coin from a purse. Maybe Tyrion is right and she is a minstrel of sorts, kept alive by her well rehearsed lines.
Joffrey glares at her. She knows he hates it, the dead look in her eyes and her flat voice. She's glad he hates it.
"And your bitch mother's throat was slit," he adds, more vicious, "but not before she went mad watching your brother die. She slaughtered a dozen innocent girls before she was killed."
It hurts worse than when Joffrey used to make his gallant knights beat her.
That's not true! Sansa bites her tongue to keep from saying it aloud. She knows how her mother died, but the part about her going mad—about her killing—
"Joffrey," Queen Cersei says, in that voice that comes out when she is impatient and tired and (Sansa suspects these days) maybe even a little scared of him.
"She deserves to know the truth," Joffrey insists angrily.
"And you've given it to her," says the queen. "Let's waste no more time on the subject of dead traitors."
Ser Jaime says, in jaunty tones a bit like Tyrion's, "If you want tales of suffering and dismemberment, nephew, I happen to have brought back plenty—"
"Uncle, no one cares about your hand," Joffrey snaps.
"Charming," Ser Jaime mutters to himself, just loud enough for everyone to hear.
"Isn't he?" Tyrion agrees with a disgusted snort.
Joffrey opens his mouth, furious.
"Lady Margaery," the queen interjects firmly, putting a stop to it. "The wedding draws ever nearer. How is our blushing bride?"
"Very happy, Your Grace," Margaery swoops in, as graceful as a dancer. "Counting down the days until I can call your dear son my husband." She throws a fond glance at Joffrey.
Sansa looks at Joffrey. His eyes have moved to Margaery. When he watches her, all of the cruelty disappears from his face, and he only looks hopeful and stupid.
Why couldn't I make him like that? Sansa wonders. It makes her envious, in a strange way. She is glad she won't be his wife, gladder than anything. She may not love Tyrion, not really, but sometimes she feels like she does just because he is not Joffrey. He's not Loras, either, but Sansa was stupid to think she could ever have a pretty romance.
What she envies is how strong Margaery is. How she can transform Joffrey from a monster into a boy, whereas Sansa was forever turning the boy into a monster. She thinks it is because Margaery came here already knowing how to lie. Sansa is still learning.
"I too count down the days, Lady Margaery," Joffrey says; he sounds so jittery and awkward when he tries to be sweet.
"I'm so pleased," Margaery fawns.
"I'm sure you are," the queen says, her voice very dry.
"Of course, I'm not the only blushing bride," Margaery continues beautifully, shifting her attention to the queen. "I fear we've spent too much time discussing one upcoming wedding at the expense of another."
"I make it a habit not to blush," Queen Cersei says.
Ser Jaime scoffs.
"Is that right, Loras?" Margaery asks playfully.
"I wouldn't dare speak for Her Grace," Ser Loras replies dully.
"Joffrey," the queen says. "Come sit down."
Joffrey grimaces, displeased to be ordered about.
"Do, my love," Margaery urges warmly.
That decides it.
Joffrey casts one last glance at Sansa, then down at Tyrion. Sansa can't see her husband's face, but she can tell that Joffrey doesn't like whatever he finds there. Still, a new fight doesn't begin. Joffrey takes his seat at the head of the table, Margaery at his side.
"It's still not too late," Tyrion mutters as he escorts her to the table. "What do you think? A minstrel and her squire ..."
"We're already here," Sansa murmurs back. "We might as well eat."
"Anything for lemon cakes," Tyrion laments under his breath. Sansa bites her lip and doesn't laugh.
Joffrey notices them. "What are you two whispering about?"
"You aren't the only one allowed to make your bride blush," Tyrion retorts.
Sansa allows herself a small smile. For once she feels like a courtly lady, entitled to her secrets.
That night, Tyrion settles on the sofa like he has every night since they married. He's only shared her bed once, and even then not really; he let Sansa cry on his shoulder there on the day she found out about her mother and Robb. He's never asked to sleep beside her. Even though he was horribly drunk when he made it, he's kept his promise.
She sat on the sofa once when he wasn't there, just to see what it was like. It's very hard and unyielding. She wouldn't want to sleep there.
Still, she doesn't do the proper thing and invite him to sleep with her. She can't quite let go of the small space she has left that's only hers.
When she blows her candle out, he keeps his burning. He's reading; as far as Sansa can tell, it's a nightly habit.
Sansa closes her eyes. Sleep doesn't come. She tries to trick her mind by thinking the lines of lullabies, but they all come to her in her mother's voice.
When she can't take it anymore, she asks, without opening her eyes, "Are you tired?"
"Always," Tyrion answers. "But I think that may just be a side effect of age."
"You're not so old."
He laughs. "How comforting."
"It's this place. It's exhausting. Maybe not to him, but for the rest of us." She could sit up and look at him. It would be courteous. She keeps her cheek resting against her pillow instead. It's easier to talk without looking at each other.
"You conducted yourself very well at supper."
"I was proud. Not," he adds hastily, "that making me proud should be any concern of yours. But—it was very well done. I wouldn't have been able to remain so calm. I nearly didn't, in fact. His face just makes such a very satisfying sound when colliding with my hand." He sighs like a maid pining for her sweetheart. It's funny.
But Sansa doesn't want to talk about Joffrey. She still remembers all too keenly what happened the last time she let herself talk about him, that time in the garden with Margaery and Lady Olenna. If she starts, she may never be able to stop. She can't give everything away.
Instead, she says, "I feel sorry for Ser Jaime." She's careful not to call him the Kingslayer. Not to his brother.
"It was only a hand. Barely a loss, compared to—" He stops himself, even if it is too late. She thinks he must be tired.
She keeps her mind on Ser Jaime.
"It was his sword hand." Sansa has learned enough about knights from stories and songs to know how important that is.
"Yes," Tyrion agrees.
Sansa thinks back to Ser Jaime's brief remarks at dinner. "You two seem alike."
"You both make fun of things."
"I suppose we do," Tyrion says after a moment, laughing a little. "Maybe we are alike, in a way. Especially now that he isn't quite the paragon of perfection he once was."
"Do you get along very well?"
"He's always been my favorite member of the family. Aside from Tommen and Myrcella, of course. He's— not a bad brother."
Sansa doesn't mean to think of Robb, but she can't help it. She swallows hard, waits a few seconds to make sure, and then finally says, "You must be so thankful he made it back to you alive." Her voice still wavers, but only a little.
"I am," Tyrion says. There is a deep sadness in his voice that lets her know he's thinking of Robb too.
She feels it coming on, that feeling she tries so hard to bury; it's so big and awful, it feels like it's clawing up her insides, like she'll stop breathing if she doesn't scream. It's exactly like a bad dream, the feeling, but without the waking up. She'll never, never have the waking up feeling again.
Maybe her mother did go mad. Sansa would go mad, if she had to see—
"Sansa," Tyrion says, as if he can somehow feel it too.
She opens her eyes at last to the dark room. The candlelight casts an orange glow on his familiar face.
She forces her mind desperately to something, anything besides what she's lost.
"Are you comfortable sleeping there?" she asks rather bluntly.
"Oh," Tyrion says, surprised. After a moment, he wryly says, "Blissful."
"I sat on it. It's not very soft."
"It will do very well for the likes of me."
"All right," Sansa says. It would be polite to invite him into the bed. It's what a good wife would do for her lord husband. But even the thought makes her so nervous, and she doesn't want to dread him too.
"Do you want to keep reading?" she says. "I'm sorry I interrupted you."
"It was a welcome break," he assures her.
She breathes in and out, and can't think of anything else to say.
"Goodnight, Tyrion," she tells him.
He gives her a small, tired smile. "Goodnight, Sansa."
She falls asleep to the sound of his breathing and the quiet rustling of pages.