Chapter 1: The Job
The opening shot of the interview was wide, but Tyrion Lannister wanted it that way. It served to make the size difference between him, with his feet dangling over the cusp of his overstuffed purple velvet chair, and his interviewee all the more apparent. Being a dwarf, the youngest of the Lannister clan was used to feeling physically small, but this time was different. Even slumped, in what most would consider an impolitely comfortable position, the man across from him was large. His long arms draped over the sides of a matching purple velvet chair, his massive legs were open wide with an ankle crossing his knee in an uncouth gesture.
All Tyrion could think as they settled in was, ‘That’s one big son of a bitch.’
Final makeup completed and softball questions out of the way, the lifestyle journalist known as the “Lion of Lannister” began to find his rhythm. Every person who sat across from him was different, not necessarily unique, but Tyrion prided himself in quickly figuring out what type of a person he was talking to.
The Mad Dog of Metal, however, was a different story.
“So tell me, Dog. May I call you, Dog?” Tyrion stared down his glasses at the long haired rebel sitting opposite him.
The Lion of Lannister knew he had to both unnerve and gain the respect of his interviewee. It was imperative to show he could stand toe-to-toe with the big boys, even if he was only half their size. ‘It’s still early in the interview,’ Tyrion reminded himself, ‘There’s plenty of time to find out what makes the big man tick.’
“If I can call you Little Man, then sure.” Sandor Clegane, the lead singer of the metal band Fuck the King, stared daringly into Tyrion’s eyes. It wasn’t a nickname that the dwarf liked, and Clegane clearly knew that. Grinning and inclining his head, Tyrion knew this interview wouldn’t be easy, and had prepared for verbal skirmishes like this one. It was a small concession upfront with the hope of big returns later. The experienced journalist just needed to buy his time.
The infamous front man was visibly uncomfortable under the strong lights of the interview salon. Tyrion’s years working for various newspapers and magazines had given him a keen eye for those seeking attention, and those shrinking away from it. If anything, the very idea that the Mad Dog, The God of Metal, the most sought after man in music couldn’t stand the lights of his interview room, endeared him to Tyrion in a way the dwarf had not anticipated.
‘He also doesn’t take shit from anybody,’ the journalist reminded himself. Sandor Clegane, like few who had reached his level of stardom, lived his music and had yet to be consumed by greed or money. It was admirable, if Tyrion had to say--but it didn’t make for a good story.
His readers were ravenous to know more about the notorious bad boy, and Tyrion would be loath not to give them what they wanted. Thus, the Lion of Lannister inhaled deeply, waiting for the right moment to pounce.
“So, Dog. What attracted you to the musical genre of metal?”
A snort emanated from his monstrous counterpart and it made Tyrion wonder if Sandor didn’t think the question was worth answering, or if he was just buying himself some time.
After what seemed like an eternity, even to an experienced journalist as himself, Sandor spoke.“It wasn’t a ‘thing’ that attracted me to the music, but the other way around.”
Clegane shifted in his seat, but his eyes were steady. They were almost scary, their cold greyness filling the space between them aggressively. He was an imposing man, the kind of presence that made bands famous, even infamous.
‘He’s not the kind of man I’d want to meet in an empty alleyway,’ the dwarf reasoned, an eye glossing over Clegane’s muscular frame packed tightly into a plain grey T-shirt. At 6ft 8in there were very few stupid enough to pick a fight with Fuck the King’s front man. Sandor was known for personally leaping into the crowd and removing disrespectful moshers and fans. Hell, he’d even drop-kicked an aggressive fan who had jumped up on his stage with a broken bottle, in the middle of a guitar solo--and never broke his riff. The charges were dropped, but the press around the incident had been huge.
‘Bigger than huge,’ Tyrion thought, ‘the stuff of legends.’
The very thought that Clegane could punt him like a rugby ball, made Tyrion settle back in his chair subconsciously, a vain attempt to make more space between them.
It was only after a long pause that Sandor spoke again. “I write my music for all those out there who look at themselves in the mirror, in the dead of the night, and wonder if they’re gonna watch the world burn or give themselves to the daemons inside. Music, words, life, death, pain. That’s not a music genre, it’s me.”
“When you wrote Save Your Last Breath, you were speaking directly about suicidal thoughts,” Tyrion eyed Sandor, unable to make out what he was thinking. “Don’t you think that’s a bit dark for the subject of a multi platinum single?”
The big man cleared his throat, signaling Tyrion that he’d found the right tone and way to discuss this difficult subject.
“I’d just lost my mother and my sister in a car accident, and got this to remember it by,” he pointed to his face, his burns fearlessly displayed over handsome features. He had been the only survivor of the fiery crash, which happened right at the beginning of his career. Sandor was thoughtful, if not slightly vulnerable when talking about a night that changed his life.
‘The fans will love this,’ Tyrion grinned to himself, watching the tough metal singer contemplate his next words gingerly.
“I wasn’t in a great place in my life, turned to drugs and alcohol to ease the pain. I thought about my own mortality often--all the fucking time actually. Music, putting the darkest side of me on paper, and seeing that I wasn’t the only one, saved me from my demons. I was being true to myself, going down my dark journey publicly, and the fans could see that.” He scratched his nose in a nervous twitch.
“Well clearly being you has paid off,” Tyrion passed a sly grin, trying to see if he could poke the bear on his financial success, “you and Fuck the King have enjoyed two double platinum albums…”
The monster of a front man cut him off, sitting up in his chair abruptly, “It’s not about the fucking money, Little Man. I don’t give a shit about money, and don’t give a rat’s ass about fame. My music is for all those out there who play with the darker side of themselves, who think about things that offend the very nature of our society. I’m their slave, not the King’s.”
---Snippet from Tyrion Lannister’s Interview with Sandor Clegane, Singer and Guitarist for Fuck the King --- Playgirl 20th Anniversary Edition
The tap, tap, tap of Sansa’s fingernail on the solid wood table did nothing to calm her nerves. Nursing a coffee in a trendy cafe simply known as Hotpie's, the blushing redhead did all that she could to cover her growing anxiety. It’s been over half an hour, and Brienne is never late.
The ability to finally put her fear into words, only added to that sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach. Did I dream our phone conversation last night? Am I so on the edge that I’m imagining jobs instead of actually getting them?
She glanced at her phone, Nothing, not even a message.
Ordering a coffee had not been her best move, the caffeine in her double latte only serving to make the tapping of her fingers quicker, and her paranoia more acute. Stop tapping, she scolded herself, making a concerted effort to grip the cup in front of her.
Sansa scanned the patrons of the coffee shop in a bid to see if she was drawing too much attention to herself. To her mixed delight and sadness, most of the people there were engrossed in conversation, blissfully unaware of her lonely presence in a table situated so she could see, and be seen, from the front door.
She’ll come, Sansa reasoned. Traffic is always hell in King’s Landing and Brienne won’t park that Tesla near any vehicle that isn’t worth at least 140,000 Dragons.
Her manager, Brienne of Tarth, was well known in the modeling industry. She had scouted some of Westeros’ top models. Names like Cersei Lannister, Margary Tyrell, and Shae were only some of her clients who had made the big time under Brienne’s watchful eye.
And I so want to make it big! The aspiring model sighed, praying she was not about to get stood up by her own manager.
Three years prior Sansa had, rather hubristically, packed up her bags, and what little savings she had, to make her way to the big city. Her home of Winterfell had become small, and she was tired of doing catalogue shots for outdoor camping attire. If she saw plaid one more time in her life, it would be far too soon.
If you wanted to make it in the modeling world you went to the capital, you found a good manager, and you waited for your break. The first two steps had come relatively easy for the pretty young red-head. Her beautiful smile and blue piercing eyes had gotten her some minor traction. However, fully realizing step three had seen her bussing more tables than standing in front of a camera. It was beyond frustrating.
Sure, Brienne had found her some work. It had always been just enough to wet her appetite, but never the big contract she had hoped for. Sansa had walked down the runway for a couple of top designers, graced the middle pages of a few well circulated magazines, and had been in the background prop in some commercials--but never the star. Playing second fiddle in a cut throat town like this, wasn’t going to put food on the table, much less make her famous.
I’m this close to packing it up and going home with my tail between my legs. It had been apparent to Sansa for quite some time that she wasn’t actually going anywhere in her modeling career. It was hard to ignore the signs. Her life was an existence that consisted of a closet-like apartment, which took up a large part of her wages, and the occasional moment where she got to dress up and pretend she was somebody else for the cameras.
Brienne’s call last night about “the job” had woken Sansa from her sleep. She had hastily wiped the gunk from her eyes, coughed once, then picked up the phone--fingers shaking. The ensuing conversation, or at least what she hoped had been real and not some strange waking dream, had led her to this spot, in this cafe, a bundle of nerves waiting for her manager to break the news on “something big.”
The door to the cafe clanked, making Sansa’s eyes shift toward the sound. Relief washed over her at the sight of the tall, blonde, immaculately dressed woman she had entrusted her career to.
“Don’t get up, darling,” Brienne made air kisses from afar, “I don’t have much time. As you can see, I’m already behind in my schedule and it’s not even ten o’clock.”
Sansa tried desperately to match her manager’s enthusiasm, but found it difficult because she still had almost no idea why they were here, and why they needed to meet outside of the agency. Her ears were perked, her senses sharpened.
“A flat white,” Brienne motioned to the waiter, who nodded and scuttled off before Sansa had a moment to blink.
Exhaling deeply Sansa’s manager sat down across from her and put her attaché case on the table. Her manager’s excitement was palpable, which was extraordinary given that the woman had literally seen it all in the modeling industry. Brienne’s demeanor naturally fed Sansa’s curiosity about “the job”, while at the same time leaving her with a sense of apprehension.
Just smile, nod, and listen to what she has to say. Take a deep breath, Sansa.
“How are you, dear?” Sansa knew Brienne was far too busy for a long answer, her smile hinting at impatience. Questions like this were merely a polite opening so they could get down to what really interested her manager--contracts.
“Fine, thank you,” Sansa smiled, doing her best to downplay the incessant tapping that had moved from her fingers to her right foot. She folded her hands in her lap and did her best to look interested without seeming as desperate as she felt.
“Excellent. Now, I’m sure you’re wondering why I asked you to meet me here.” Brienne didn’t wait for an answer, “Well I got a call from one of the biggest magazine companies in Westeros yesterday evening. A long story short, on a whim they sent your headshot out to an affiliate of theirs,” Brienne was trying to build suspense, but Sansa was far too nervous to feel joy at being strung along, “... and… they got a hit!”
Sansa beamed. This was an exciting development, yet even with the joy she felt welling up inside her, she couldn’t help but feel a twinge of reality too. Just stay calm, you’ve been here before and sometimes these things don’t work out. More often than not things don’t work out, grrrrr!
A mischievous grin on her face, Sansa’s manager continued, “Well it’s more than a hit really, it’s a steal. Basically,” Brienne leaned in, “the affiliate said they didn’t even post the job to other modeling agencies, because you’re the only one they want.”
Sansa’s heart almost lept out of her chest, its over-caffeinated blood making it beat twice as fast as it normally would have. The result was that she nearly crushed the coffee cup in her hand at the very thought of what Brienne had just told her.
Modeling was all about look books, casting calls, and return interviews. Just because you were picked from a book of photos, then called in to audition for the spot, didn’t mean you would get it. The whole slew of artists, photographers, creative designers all had to choose you -- and the competition was fierce. The result was that Sansa had always come close to landing big spreads in magazines, but had failed to garner complete support from the creative teams. It was beyond frustrating, almost heartbreaking after so much time in King’s Landing.
The fact that she had gotten the job without even showing up, was both exciting and extremely unusual. Unusual enough to have that little voice inside her head let her know that something was afoot. Sansa tried to calm the sound of her blood pumping in her ears. “So what’s the job?”
The wry smile that crossed Brienne’s face didn’t put Sansa at ease, if anything it almost made her recoil--almost. “It’s a lifestyle piece.”
That’s an unusual way to put it, Sansa inhaled deeply so as to free up some thinking space in her overly stimulated, excited brain.
Digging in her attaché case, Brienne pulled out a couple of folders. “Do you like Heavy Metal, or metal music of any kind, Sansa?”
The question had come from left field, making it impossible to hide the surprised look that sprung onto Sansa’s face. She quickly moved to smile more neutrally, but all the while her brain was in overdrive.
What kind of a question is that? She found herself asking.
Her only association with the musical genre were the metalheads at her highschool, which she never ran with. They were a click of darkly dressed boys and girls, who enjoyed wearing chains and T-shirts with graphics depicting demons, blood, and gore. All the boys had worn their hair long, which Sansa had never felt attractive, and used their flowing locks to move their heads to the loud droning music. Having been a cheerleader, and all A’s honor roll student, Sansa had never paid much attention to them. They were just not in her orbit, and she never felt like she missed out on anything.
“I wouldn’t consider myself a connoisseur,” Sansa said, trying to keep an open mind despite not liking the sudden change in the conversation.
“So you don’t know who this man is?” Brienne took out two photos from a folder and placed them in front of Sansa.
The first picture was of an album cover, mostly black, Of course . In the background, if she squinted enough, Sansa could see a shirtless muscular man with his head tilted back. He had long hair, like many of the boys at her old high school who followed this genre of music. He was playing a guitar with his eyes closed and his mouth slightly open, I guess he must be the singer. If you can call what they do singing.
Sansa had never considered herself a good singer, but she had always received compliments on her classical voice. Her music teacher in Winterfell had often praised her for her pitch, and her friends had always been jealous of her talent. But it had never gone anywhere, Sansa had never been bitten by the music bug. The little she had heard of the metal music genre, gave her the impression they were more into screaming than singing.
The second picture was much clearer. A band of four men were in some kind of burned out warehouse. They were dressed in black T-shirts, and all wearing listless expressions as if their lives didn’t matter. They were literally grown of versions of some of the people she had steered away from in high school.
The one man Brienne was pointing stood out from the bunch. The left side of his face was scarred, though she couldn’t really say how. He had a face that was a metal shirt graphic brought to life, though somehow he wasn’t ugly. From all the guys in the picture, his personality and confidence exuded off the print. It was hard not to be drawn to his face, and the amazing color of his eyes.
The subject of their conversation was also, by far, the tallest of the bunch. Assuming his bandmates were an average male height, he towered over them at, what Sansa estimated, was a whopping 6ft 8in. His hair was long, well past his shoulders, his dark beard in contrast to those of his bandmates. Colorful sleeve tattoos were inked up and down both of his exposed muscular arms.
Sansa stared at him a while. He was not her kind of guy, not by far. She preferred clean cut men, well dressed with well fitting clothing. We’re complete opposites, so why would somebody put us in a photoshoot together?
Brienne wore an amused expression when their eyes met again, Sansa shook her head, “No I don’t know him.”
“Do you have your head in the sand?” Brienne had meant it as a joke yet somehow Sansa could tell there was more than a hint of truth in her words. Apparently she’d missed out on something big in the music industry. “This is Sandor Clegane, front man for the biggest metal band in the world right now, Fuck the King.”
Sansa’s blank expression only made for her manager to push further, and more insistently.
“This guy, right here,” Brienne pointed again to Sandor Clegane, “has done more for Heavy Metal music than any other musician in a generation. He’s big, Sansa. He wrote two double platinum albums and the third is sure to be a hit.”
Before she could speak, Brienne continued, “The magazine is on the cusp of signing a huge deal with him for their anniversary edition.” Something in the way Brienne emphasized the last two words made Sansa cock her head ever so slightly to the side.
Her manager kept her momentum going as if she didn’t detect the growing perplexion revealing itself on Sansa’s face. “They will dedicate every page of this edition to an interview with Sandor…..and pictures .”
Finally she’s getting to the point. Then it dawned on Sansa, I don’t even know the name of this magazine, could it be Rolling Stone? Excitement began to rise in her once more.
“And they want me to pose with him for some of the shots?” Sansa probed, trying to regain some control in the conversation, and a better understanding of what the mystery job consisted of.
“No,” Brienne answered, a devilish grin on her face. “It’s not the magazine per se, Sandor wants you to pose with him. He demanded it actually.”
When Sansa didn’t appropriately gasp in admiration, Brienne huffed in frustration, “The magazine gave him their look book, like I told you.”
Now she was repeating her words to Sansa as if she had not understood them the first time, “All the models they had on call were in that book. This man,” Brienne pointed to him again, “flipped through hundreds of pictures and could have chosen anybody. Any woman he wanted .”
Her heart was pounding as the meaning of Brienne’s words became clearer. There would be no interview, there would be no elbowing girls out of the way--this was it.
The sudden feeling of a hand enveloping hers brought Sansa’s attention back to Brienne, “I got a call from the magazine CEO in a panic last night. Clegane was clear, he wouldn’t do the spread without you. He won’t sign the contract until you agree.”
Sansa took a moment to let that settle in. “What kind of magazine is it?”
Brienne brushed off her question, “My dear, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity.”
This constant beating around the bush was getting on Sansa’s nerves, but she kept her eyes trained on Brienne. “The magazine has assured me they look to sell over a million copies.”
Now Sansa gasped, One million copies that was more than any fashion magazine in Westeros. Whoever is doing this has international reach. Oh My God it’s my big break. It's staring me right in the face.
“And what kind of lifestyle will we be portraying?” Sansa would have basically said yes to anything at the moment, but she wanted to know the name so she could call her mother and tell her the good news the minute the contract was signed.
“An erotic one,” her manager finally answered, “You’ll be doing an exclusive shoot for Playgirl,” Brienne’s face betrayed no emotion, while nearly all the color drained out of Sansa’s.
“You mean the porn magazine?” Sansa blurted out, affronted. The shock of what Brienne had just said nearly making her fall out of her seat.
Her manager made a motion to quiet Sansa, looking around the room nervously. Bringing Sansa in closer to her, she whispered, “Shhhh, nobody knows about this shoot, which is why we couldn’t do this meeting in my office. It’s a secret and should be kept that way.”
Their eyes locked, and Sansa felt panicked. Brienne didn’t seem too interested in calming that emotion though, correcting her, “And it’s not a porn magazine, it’s a lifestyle magazine.”
Sansa’s mind was going at a thousand miles an hour. Playgirl was the female-targeted sister magazine to Playboy. They were the kinds of magazines you hide under your bed, that dirty little secret you kept from your parents. Magazines, or literature of that nature, were never discussed in polite company. For Sansa to pose for such a spread, even for a female audience, would make her a pariah in the modeling industry.
Brienne could see Sansa backing away and took her by the wrist, “You don’t have to sleep with him, Sansa. You just have to pose naked for some racy pictures,” there was a pause, “it’s softcore. The theme of the whole article is his music, his life on the road ….and you would kind of be a groupie, as they say.”
Sansa was very close to leaving, throwing it all in the bin. The flush rising in her neck and cheeks didn’t go unnoticed by her manager. “Sansa, just listen to me and think about your career. This man is a sex symbol. He might not be yours or mine, but there are millions of women out there who worship the ground he walks on. You’ll be that bitch they all hate, but at the same time all want to be.”
“That doesn’t exactly put me at ease,” Sansa finally managed to say, hot tears of anger and frustration welling up in her eyes. She’d been a good girl all her life, the thought of stripping down with a man she hardly knew to do a shoot for a genre of music she didn’t even like, was just preposterous.
Sitting back in her seat Brienne smiled confidently. It seemed the wily talent manager had one more ace up her sleeve. “The photographer is Oberyn Martell, the best of the best. So think of it as edgy, erotic art. Getting out of your comfort zone and getting into the good graces of somebody who will make your career.”
Now Sana’s mouth did hang open, The biggest name in rock photography, and he’s doing a full edition of a raunchy magazine? Nothing made sense, the only thing that kept running through Sansa’s head was the fact that modeling for Oberyn Martell, having the honor to be in front of his lens, was an opportunity given only to stars.
The two women stared at one another across the table, the flat white Brienne had ordered, what seemed like hours ago, only now arriving. Neither one of them looked at it, much less acknowledged the waiter who had put it there. Sansa’s mind and body were churning. This was wrong, all wrong and yet, she could see that it might be the opportunity she had been waiting for. I don’t have to have sex with him. I just have to act as if I want to.
There was no way she was going to be able to explain this to her mother or father, not even her best friends. There were times in life where you had to take a leap of faith, hope that you made the right choice even if you were uncertain of the outcome, And this is my moment.
“Ok, I’ll do the job.” Sansa felt temporary relief and even some excitement hearing the words escape her throat. “But I don’t even know anything about his life, or music, or what it’s like to be one of these band followers.”
“Do you think Daenerys Targaryen knew how to be a Dothraki Queen before she got the news of her big shoot with Khal Drogo? Of course not. She had to put the work in and do a bit of research .” An upturned corner of her mouth, meant that Brienne had how this conversation would go, and was three steps ahead of her.
Again, rummaging in her attaché case, Sansa’s manager pulled out a ticket and a pass on a lanyard. “The reason I was late.” Brienne pushed them across the table, “I was on the phone with Clegane this morning, and had to wait for the bike messenger to give me these.”
Accepting the tickets, Sansa looked at them but could barely read the font to understand what it was. There were some skulls on the pass along with other motifs she couldn’t quite make out.
“The God of Metal wants you to come to his concert this Saturday. He wants to get to know you before the shoot,” Brienne’s eyebrows implied more than Sansa was willing to accept at this moment, “and give you a glimpse into his life. That’s a crew pass Sansa, no fan gets those. You’ll be able to go right up on stage during the concert and go with him anywhere. I think after a night with him and the band, you’ll know enough to be emotive during the shoot this coming Tuesday.”
The air rushed out of Sansa’s lungs. It was Wednesday, the shoot was in less than a week. Everything was happening so quickly--too quickly. But that’s the whirlwind of fame I guess.
“I knew you wouldn’t say no,” Brienne continued. “It’s the chance of a lifetime, I wouldn’t have pushed you if I didn’t think it would be good for your career in the end.” Brienne slipped the contract across the table.
“No sex, right?” Sansa asked, cheeks burning.
“No sex,” Brienne assured her, “But you have to go to Oberyn’s studio tomorrow for a screen, lighting, and outfit check. He’s the consummate professional and wants everything to be perfect.”
Biting her bottom lip, Sansa signed the contract.
Before the ink had dried, Brienne was on the phone to her contact on the other side, “It’s done, she’ll be there. Yes, it’s going to be phenomenal. Kisses.”
The adrenaline coursing through Sansa's veins made her feel light as a feather, and made her shake with excitement. “See you tomorrow at 9am sharp, I’ll text you the address of the studio.”
With that, Sansa blew air kisses to Brienne and watched her very busy manager leave the cafe with a little extra bounce in her step.