Note: This follows give me hope in silence and skin and bones of love.
Shae and Sansa sit outside like they used to, watching the ships. Sansa needs fresh air, Shae has decided. Something to bring the color back to her face.
"Do you want to play your game?" Shae asks.
"You hate it," Sansa says.
Shae gives her a look. Sansa just looks right back.
"What about that one?" Shae nods out to sea.
Sansa says nothing.
"What if you and I got on a ship, hmm?" Shae urges. "Went to some place far away."
"I have nowhere to go," Sansa says. Her voice always shakes lately when she's with Shae, like it takes all she has not to cry. "No one who ..."
"Neither do I." Shae grips her hand. "But at least we would be gone."
Sansa sighs. Shae wonders what she is thinking of.
"He could come too," she tests. "Your husband."
"He wouldn't want to."
She's right. Shae has tried to pull him out of this place herself. He will stay until it kills him.
"Perhaps he'd come if you asked," Shae suggests. She can't tell if Sansa likes the idea. The girl has gotten too good at lying.
Sansa dreams of Margaery naked and bleeding, twitching on the floor while Joffrey sits on the Iron Throne. Sansa rushes to her, but it's too late; she pulls Margaery into her lap, runs her hands through dark hair that's wet and matted with blood. Margaery's eyes are still open. Her mouth twists in its lovely way, but there is nothing lovely about it now. 'Sweet girl,' she says, and Sansa realizes that it's not Margaery at all, but her mother.
She wakes with a cry.
"Sansa?" Tyrion says, his voice groggy but panicked from across the dark room.
"She can't marry him," Sansa says aloud, though she doesn't mean to. "She can't."
She breathes in and out, trying to slow her heartbeat.
Tyrion's footsteps shuffle across the floor, and then he is standing beside the bed. "Lady Margaery?"
"Do you think she'll hate me?" Sansa looks into his face, fighting back tears. "I was the one who was supposed to marry him. Now she'll be with him all of her life, and it's because of me."
Tyrion rests a hand on her shoulder. The touch helps her feel steadier, just a little. "She'll be queen. If you ask me, Lady Margaery is willing to make a good many sacrifices for that."
"It's not worth it. He'll turn on her, too. He'll hurt her."
"I think we'll all discover that Margaery Tyrell can withstand Joffrey."
"How can she? I couldn't."
"You were different."
"Not as smart."
"Not as prepared," Tyrion corrects firmly.
Sansa hugs her knees to her chest. "I don't want her to get hurt. She's been so kind to me."
Tyrion looks at her sadly. "I know."
"Whenever I love someone," she whispers, looking down, "they always get hurt."
Tyrion has nothing to say to that. Probably because it's true and for once he can't think of a way to make it any better with his clever words. Sansa decides she likes the silence. At least it's honest.
He remains by her side, his hand on her shoulder, until she's calmer and tired enough to sleep again.
She is pulled from her stupor when he begins to walk away.
"Tyrion?" This bed is supposed to be his, too, and it feels so big and lonely tonight.
They look at each other. Something in his eyes makes her certain he can tell what she means to ask.
He will say yes, she knows.
And so all she says is, "I'm so sorry I woke you, my lord. Goodnight."
Tyrion hasn't lain with Shae since he married. It's not that he doesn't want her. Entirely – painfully – the opposite. But the idea of touching her has become so foreign. He half-expects that if he tried, she would slip out of his grasp and disappear for good.
And then there's Sansa. She has no interest in him, not in that way, and he isn't about to broach the subject, no matter how many times his father makes ominous pronouncements about the urgent need for a son and heir.
He is quite sure Sansa's ideal husband wouldn't have a penchant for whoring. He is already so very lacking when it comes to being an ideal husband. There's no sense in heaping on yet more deficiencies.
One morning, Shae comes in before Sansa's awoken.
"I'll come back," she says at the sight of Sansa still asleep, and turns to go.
"Shae." Keeping his voice low, Tyrion follows her to the door. "Wait."
Shae stares down at his hand on her arm.
"Poor little lion, forced out of his big fancy bed." Putting a mocking hand to his face, she coos, "Are you lonely?"
"That's not the—" Her fingertip curls around his earlobe. It's very distracting. "I mean, yes, a little; aren't you?"
"No," Shae says bluntly.
"Liar," Tyrion accuses.
"You are not a free man and I am not a fool." Shae scowls at him. "Don't expect me to cry over your poor neglected cock."
"Believe it or not, my cock is not why I'm talking to you."
"That's a change."
"Oh! You wound me, my lady."
"Fine." Shae folds her arms. "Why are you talking to me?"
He stares up at her. She glares down at him, and his heart aches with how much he loves her and how little it matters.
"How are you?" he says at last, lamely.
"Wild with happiness," she sneers.
"All right. I was asking for that."
"Yes you were."
"Have you given any more thought to ... what you might do?"
"What's the harm? I am not yours anymore. Your big bad father has no reason to hurt me. Besides, Sansa needs me."
"You would stay just for her?"
Tyrion looks back at Sansa. Her eyes are closed, her mouth slightly open, her red hair fanned across the pillow in a disarrayed fashion she would never permit during waking hours. Despite the nightmares, she looks serene when she sleeps. It's good to see the anguish gone from her face. For a moment, there is only the lightness of her breathing, a sound he's grown used to.
Shae catches him off guard. "She likes you."
There's no accounting for the sudden lurch in his stomach, a feeling both guilty and pleased.
"She has few friends and can't afford to be picky," he answers reasonably, a moment too late. "That's all."
"No." Shae shakes her head. "You are alike. It makes sense, that you would get along."
"I haven't done anything with her," Tyrion protests.
"Believe me, I know. And I'll know if you do."
"At which point my dear cock and I will swiftly part ways forever, courtesy of your handiwork." He lets his eyes trail significantly to her ankle, where he knows she keeps a knife concealed.
"On whether she wanted you or not."
"You're taking this very well." He keeps his voice light. "Are you sure you don't want to throw something at my head?"
"I love her, and you are her husband," Shae answers simply. "But don't worry. I always want to throw something at your head."
Tyrion chuckles. Shae rolls her eyes at him, but he's rewarded with a brief flash of a smile. Then she goes, leaving him with his wife.
Joffrey's wedding to Margaery is in three days' time, and at the Red Keep there is talk of little else. The mere mention of wedding feasts makes Sansa go even more pale and quiet. Tyrion would dearly love to silence all of King's Landing on her account.
The least he can do is steer the focus to a different wedding. It's not a story he often tells, but he feels as if somehow she has earned it.
And so he finds himself telling her one evening, "I was married once before, you know."
They're out on a stroll, watching the sun set over the water.
"I didn't." Sansa looks over at him, genuinely curious.
"Well, I was. In a way."
"How can you be married 'in a way'?"
"It did not precisely stand the test of time."
"What was she like, your lady wife?"
"She wasn't a highborn lady. Far from it, in fact." He strains to remember the exact details of Tysha's face. The face that comes to mind is rather more familiar. He finds he can't resist it. "But ... she was bright and bold, and very beautiful. In the habit of speaking her mind. She drove me mad on a regular basis. And I ... loved her. Very much."
"Where is she now?" Sansa seldom looks so interested in him. He can't help enjoying it.
"I don't know. We met by chance; she was being bothered by a group of ruffians, and I helped her away. We spent the night at an inn together. Supped and drank and, well." He smiles slightly. "Got to know one another. The wedding was not a formal affair. Overly hasty, some might say. And as soon as my father found out, I discovered that I was ... mistaken in her interest in me."
Sansa is enthralled. "How?"
"Jaime thought it was time I had a woman, and so he concocted a scenario wherein I found one. The chance meeting wasn't so chance after all, and her willingness to fall into bed with me was ... well."
"So she was a ... that sort of woman, then?" Sansa says, stumbling delicately over her phrasing.
Oh, seven hells.
"One day, my lady, I shall teach you how to swear," Tyrion vows, shaking a finger at her.
"You will not," Sansa protests.
"We'll see," Tyrion says ominously. Sansa bites her lip; Tyrion recognizes the movement as a means of keeping back her smile. "Yes, then, if we're to speak in cryptic terms. She was that sort of woman. I was only sixteen, and in over my head. By the time morning came after our first night together, I was certain I'd love her for the rest of my days."
"You fell in love in one night?" Sansa asks. Unless he's mistaken, she sounds rather charmed by the idea. It makes him absurdly pleased, and even more absurdly nervous.
Nonchalantly, he replies, "At the very least, the wine did its damndest to convince me I had."
"What was it like?" There is something like yearning in her voice. "Being in love like that?"
He thinks of being young, being drunk and smitten, feeling lucky and on fire with Tysha in his arms. (She is more an idea than a person, all these years later, but maybe that is the point of whores to begin with.)
He thinks of Shae with a smile on her face, stretched out on his bed in the sunlight.
"It was wonderful," he admits. "Like something in a song."
Sansa smiles sadly at him. Then her countenance turns weary.
"I felt that way once," she says, sounding older than any girl of fourteen should.
Joffrey? Tyrion almost asks, but doesn't. It's plain on her face, and needs no confirming.
"Funny, isn't it?" he says instead. "How we're always so eager to think our own lives will be the stuff of stories. What need would we have for songs in the first place, if real life were that sweet?"
"If we didn't have songs and things to hope for, why would we bother at all?" Sansa replies dully.
He doesn't know what to say to that. He means, at first, to give her some comforting lie. It isn't all misery, or some such rot. It will get sweeter. The look on her face stops him. She may be young, but that is no excuse to treat her like a child. She deserves more respect than that.
"Which song are we, would you say?" he muses instead, trying to lighten the mood. "The Bear and the Maiden Fair?"
For a moment, her face keeps its customary blankness. She looks very beautiful and at least a little dead. Then, to his relief, Sansa scrunches up her nose.
"Rather a small and lionish bear, I grant you," he adds.
"I've always thought the ending is so strange," Sansa says, growing animated. It immediately makes Tyrion wonder why he doesn't discuss songs with her every day. "Why does the maiden decide she loves the bear just because he licks honey out of her hair? It sounds very messy. Who wants a bear slobbering all over them?"
"I believe it's, um. Symbolic."
Tyrion lifts his eyebrows at her.
"Ah," Sansa says, looking quite world-weary. "A bedroom thing."
"Yes," Tyrion agrees; his own voice sounds very nearly prim. "A bedroom thing."
Sansa makes a face. "Does that mean she ... with a bear?"
"Perhaps the bear is symbolic too," Tyrion suggests.
"Maybe." Sansa looks thoughtful. After a moment, she asks, "What was her name?"
"The maiden fair? I don't believe she has one."
"You know what I mean."
"Tysha," Tyrion says. It is almost the truth.
"And she left when you found out what she really was?"
Tyrion won't tell her exactly how he and Tysha parted. It is too much like Joffrey's brand of cruelty. And in a way, how little things have changed: Tywin Lannister, making demands that Tyrion's wife be soundly fucked.
He looks at Sansa. She's awaiting his answer, her blue eyes full of sympathy.
He has never been much for promises, but by the gods, he's keeping this one. He will not, cannot hurt her. If it means his father's wrath, so be it.
(It's one thing to think this and another to live it, but just for now, he chooses to believe that he means it.)
"Yes," Tyrion says. "She did."
Sansa nods, and they stroll on in silence. After awhile, she begins to sing under her breath, quiet and lovely.
"I called for a knight, but you're a bear, a bear, a bear ..."
He listens and watches the last of the sunlight catch in her hair.
The song is in her head that night when Shae comes in to tend to her. Tyrion is visiting Ser Jaime; Sansa has never told him, but he seems to understand how much she needs to be alone sometimes.
She is thinking about the bear – the symbolic bear. (She doesn't ponder symbolism and that other thing. She will not wonder exactly what it is he meant; she won't blush over a silly song. She's not a child.) Once, she never would have chosen a bear over a dashing knight.
She thinks of the Hound, wherever he's gone, who snarled and said frightful things but helped her all the same. Of Shae, with her insolence and her foul mouth and her fury, keeping Sansa safe.
She thinks of Tyrion, too.
"You're singing," Shae says, sounding pleased as she reaches for the hairbrush.
"So?" Sansa almost blushes; she feels caught, though she doesn't know why.
Shae kisses the top of Sansa's head. "It's good to hear. That's all."