Two more weeks. Just two more weeks and he won’t be my responsibility anymore. She was at yet another painful dinner with her brother, Osha and Sandor. She felt horribly guilty for getting frustrated with Rickon. He was her baby brother, and she was so completely thrilled that he was home. But he was impossible. She knew she shouldn’t have expected him to be able to assimilate into regular life in a castle so quickly. But she never expected him to be so hard to handle. Maester Luwin claims that his behavior had improved from the time he left all those years ago. At least he wasn’t vicious and angry. He was just viciously excited. All the time. He and Shaggydog had taken to romping through the castle, around the grounds, laying waste to anything or anyone in their path. Sansa and Luwin tried to have him come to court, just to see what it would be like, but it was a complete disaster. He was restless, just sitting there in a chair. He kept getting up to follow Shaggydog around the room. They both scared all of the people who came around, Rickon with his wild eyes and mess of roped hair and Shaggydog, the beast that he was. Nearly half of the people waiting had left before their time came to speak to Sansa. She and Luwin agreed that she better just continue with the arduous task on her own until Robb returned.
Rickon was still dead set on eating every nightly meal with Sansa, Osha, and Sandor. Sometimes, Maester Luwin would join them. But Sandor was always there. Sitting next to Sansa. She felt guilty that she was drinking again, but Rickon’s behavior and Sandor’s proximity had almost forced her into her cups.
She’d not said a word to Sandor. He stopped trying to talk to her after a few days of complete silence. It was awkward, but she felt that it was better than every addressing what had happened in the godswood with him. She couldn’t look at him. She wouldn’t look at him.
He’d been irritable toward her after a while. The same as I am toward him, she realized. But it made her feel- uncomfortable, watching him laugh with Rickon, joke with Mallory. He ignored her at dinner, just as she did him. Instead of passing dishes or wine toward her, he would put it back in the middle of the table. Once, she had to stand to reach over the table to the wine. It was almost like he was trying to keep it out of her reach, or to make her ask him for something. Make her speak to him. But she wouldn’t.
They were eating chicken again tonight. Rickon found the wishbone in the meat. He ripped off a piece of his sleeve with his teeth. Sansa just watched him with wide eyes, afraid to say anything. After a minute of fiddling with the bone and the fabric, he made a slingshot. He took a piece of chicken and flung it across the room. Shaggydog loped after it and gobbled it up. Rickon slammed his hands on the table and let out a burst of laughter. This is just too much. Sansa knew now that it was better to just let him do it. It was easier than fighting with him. From the corner of her eye, she saw Sandor smirking. She knew how Rickon looked up to him. Seeing him encouraging this behavior would not help anything. Sansa gritted her teeth and went to pour herself a third cup of wine. Rickon was moving on to carrots now, aiming to Shaggy’s mouth. Rickon roared with laughter whenever Shaggy caught one. Sansa brought her cup to her lips and closed her eyes. Two more weeks. Just two more weeks. She took one, very long sip. Suddenly, the room was quiet. Sansa opened her eyes over the glass, and watched a carrot as it soared across the table and hit her right between the eyes. She dropped her cup. Wine went all down her chin, her neck, the front of her dress before the cup landed in her lap.
Rickon looked at her from across the table, his mouth wide, wishbone slingshot in his hand. Sansa pushed out her chair and stood, looking down at her ruined dress. Rickon started laughing, harder than ever. He dropped his wishbone and pointed at her. And then Sandor started laughing. The only time she had heard him laugh like that was in the godswood, in the snow. Sansa looked at Osha. She was even chuckling under her breath, trying to hide it and failing. Rickon doubled over in his chair. Sansa’s face must have been as red as the wine. She had the cup in her hand. She wanted to throw it at one of them. Sandor or Rickon. She couldn’t decide who deserved it more. She threw it on the ground with as much force as she could muster and she stormed out of the room.
“Sansa!” Rickon yelled between his laughing. “Don’t be so sore!”
Their laughter echoed and followed her through the halls to her room.
Sansa slammed the door and started to rip at the laces of her dress. She pulled and pulled, until it almost felt like her shoulder was going to pop out again. She loosened it all the way until the dress fell to the floor and she stepped out of it. She stomped over to her wardrobe to get a nightshift. She saw it as soon as she opened the door. The edge of the white cloak peeking out from under the rest of her things. She remembered him laughing at her. She bent down, grabbed the cloak and dragged it out and turned around. There was a fire in the hearth. She crumbled the cloak up in a ball and walked over to the hearth. She was breathing heavy, in and out, standing over the fire, his white cloak in her hand, the sound of his laughter in her head. But then the memory changed. He wasn’t laughing at her anymore. He was laughing with her, in the snow, breathless as she had been. She remembered the smile that lit up his whole face.
Sansa dropped the cloak and collapsed to the ground on top of it.
She hadn’t let herself think about that day yet.
She tried to focus all of her attention on Rickon for the past two weeks. She told herself that he was the most important thing right now. That she shouldn’t think about anything else. But just thinking about dealing with Rickon was exhausting.
Sansa still couldn’t explain why she kissed Sandor. She didn’t think about it when it happened. She just looked at him lying there in the snow and she knew she wanted to kiss him. Wanted him to kiss her. She went back to how she felt, with him over her, staring at her after he broke away from her mouth. The look of shock in his eyes, the way he pulled his hand away from her. It almost looked like disgust. Was he disgusted with me? Or with himself? She shook her head. Maybe you would know if you let him talk to you about it, stupid. And then she cried. She felt like such a fool. To kiss Sandor and then cry about it in front of him. Why had I cried? Was it the way he pulled away? The way he looked at her? The confusion? The shock of it all? Sansa closed her eyes. It was all of it. She decided. Everything.
In the morning, she met with Maester Luwin.
“I think I have an idea. Something to tire Rickon out.” Luwin suggested.
“Oh please, anything.”
“Its been quite some time since Ser Rodrick has had anyone to train.”
Sansa nodded so hard it felt like her head was about to pop off. “Yes. Oh please yes.”
Maester Luwin chuckled at her. “I’ll go ask Rickon right away.”
The next day, Sansa went to the practice yard to watch Rickon train. Sandor stood to watch with her. Shaggydog stood near her. Once Rickon had gotten comfortable with life in the castle, Shaggy had too. She still dared not touch him. But at least she could stand near him without feeling threatened. She thought it might be Sandor’s proximity too. The beast had taken to Sandor like a young puppy, rather than the fierce direwolf that he was.
Rickon didn’t want to learn to fight in the Westerosi way with a longsword and armor. He made it clear that he could do enough with daggers or a spear, in the way that Osha had showed him. Sansa and Maester Luwin convinced him to try, claiming that Robb might have need of him and his sword someday. Making him think of Robb made him cave. But seeing him here holding a tourney sword with Ser Rodrick made Sansa nervous. She could feel the uneasiness coming off of Shaggydog in waves.
She watched, with baited breath as Ser Rodrick tried to explain some things to Rickon. He didn’t look like he was paying any attention to what he said. He looked ridiculous, in that practice armor, his roped hair halfway down his back.
“Alright, Rickon. Come at me. Let’s see what you’ve got.”
Rickon held his tourney sword in his right hand, raised high over his head. He ran at Ser Rodrick and shouted while doing so. Rodrick met his sword with ease, they clashed, and Rickon went flying back into the dirt.
Shaggy bounded right over to him. Rodrick reached his hand out to help Rickon up. But Shaggy got there first. He put a paw on Rickon’s chest and snapped at Rodrick’s outstretched hand. He backed away just in time, but Shaggy growled at him. He looked like he was about to attack.
“Rickon!” Sansa yelled. “Stop him!”
Rickon sat up and grabbed Shaggy by the scruff of the neck. “Come on, Shaggy. I’m alright.” The wolf didn’t change.
“Maybe we should put Shaggy away while you practice, Rickon.” She suggested.
Both he and Shaggy turned on her. “No!” Rickon stood up, he pushed Shaggy. “Go back by Sandor, now.”
Shaggydog reluctantly loped over to Sandor’s side. Sandor put his hand on shoulder.
Ser Rodrick gave Sansa a look. She just closed her eyes and shook her head.
“Let’s give that another try.” He rolled his shoulders back and held his sword. Rickon ran at him again. And again Rodrick knocked him into the dirt. Sansa gasped and her hand flew to her mouth. Shaggy ran at Rodrick, but Rickon got up fast enough and stood in his way.
“Rickon.” Ser Rodrick said. “This is not working. You need to put him away.”
“No! I wont!” He sounded like a baby, whining like that.
“Well how do you expect to get any practice done then?”
Rickon shrugged. “I just don’t think he likes you, Ser Rodrick.”
Rodrick looked at Sansa. “I don’t know what to do.”
This is absolutely hopeless. Sansa thought.
Rickon looked thoughtful for a minute. He looked at Shaggydog, then he looked at Sandor.
“What if Sandor trains me?” Sansa looked at Sandor. His eyes were wide. “Shaggy likes him. He wouldn’t think that he was trying to hurt me, right Shaggy?” The wolf’s tongue slid out of his mouth as he panted.
Rodrick shook his head. “He can’t Rickon. He’s your sister’s sworn shield. His place is by her side, not by yours in the training yard.”
Sansa shouted before she could stop herself. “I’m safe as I’ll ever be here. Sandor can help you for a few hours a day.” She looked at him. “As long as he wants to, of course.”
Sandor looked at her. It was the first time they looked each other in the eye in a long time. His jaw was taught. He gritted his teeth.
“Sandor would you really?” Rickon shouted excitedly.
Sandor turned back to him. “Of course.”
Sansa sighed in relief. Thank the gods. It was the answer she had been waiting for. In one fell swoop, she found a way to tire out Rickon and be free of Sandor, even if it was only for a few hours a day.