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Trinity

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"This is what we must do," Jon whispered into the dark of the Godswood as they huddled as one against the heart tree.

"This is who we must kill," Arya whispered in the flickering candles of the crypt, as they knelt before the kings of old.

"This is where we must go," Sansa whispered in the soft glow of a new dawn, as they stared out at the fields around their home, Jon's eyes caught North towards the Wall, Arya glaring South towards King's Landing.

The three and no others they could find had come back. They could remember the smell of burning flesh, the green and red of fires. Jon and Arya walked as though there was the weight of a sword at their hip, Sansa walked like a queen through her castle.

The story they told was that Sansa had wandered off picking flowers, not noticing until too late that there was a clash of fighting stags nearby. That Jon and Arya were out riding, that they had saved her.

The story was that Jon had reminded Arya of stitches for sewing up wounds. That Sansa had told her that if she improved her pattern making, she could make her own trousers.

The story was that Sansa had realized Jon was good, and caring, and innocent of the crimes that her mother and Septa had placed upon him. That she had come to know that Arya was different, but that different wasn't bad.

The other changes in the three could be explained by each other--Jon's harsher life was comfortable for a bastard, but so much worse than Sansa's. Arya's suspicious nature could rub off on anyone after a time. And Sansa had a stubbornness to her sweetness, and enough skill to make dresses even her sister would wear, and clothing that made her bastard brother indistinguishable from her other brothers.

It was Sansa who asked Catelyn to have Jon legitimized, who spoke of the advantageous marriages to widows or old maids, or anyone else that they'd never match with Bran or Rickon. She'd slowly gotten her more used to the idea that Jon was not a threat and now it had paid off.

When the King road North, Jon was at the end of the line of Stark children, greeted awkwardly but truly by Robert as the three of them did their best not to laugh in the faces of these royal fools, completely unaware of Ned Stark's betrayal.

Bran did not fall because Bran did not climb, Jon praying at the heart tree for hours, promising his some-greats bastard uncle they'd take Bran North when the South was stable, that there was no need for the coma. But he did not go South, either. They had worked hard to pull him away from dreams of knighthood, filled his head instead with stories of warriors of the North, who would never have been knighted at all.

Instead it was the three of them, the three who KNEW, who rode South with their father, sharing secret looks as their game finally began.

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There had been very few amusements at the end, as the dead swarmed the Eyrie they'd managed to get to on dragon back despite the weather, and the fire raged around them. No, the end of the world had been stress, tinged with depression and tears, staring into the eyes of the few remaining Starks as they set off the wildfyre caches.

Coming back, Sansa felt half-mad. She SHOULD want to fix things, and certainly she'd try, but a part of her just...wanted to enjoy life, as well.

Jon, ever dutiful, had been hard to convince at first, but he'd eventually given in, as Sansa and Arya both reasoned with him. As a united front to their family, they were unstoppable.

And so, by the time the Starks journeyed South for a second Stark Hand and an eventual (second) Stark Princess, Jon was legitimized, squired to a Kingsguard as Bran may yet someday be, and coming with them.

The game of thrones was so much easier when Sansa knew what the motivations were of the pieces. And father, gods bless him, was so easy to move about.

But her favorite game had to be the one she and Jon devised, late at night, curled into one another in her rooms. They knew he was her cousin, after all, but so few others did.

And so whenever one of the Lannister twins were about, the two exchanged loving glances, became far more tactile, and gave every impression that they felt a bit MORE than siblings should. Even half-siblings (especially twins).

Arya was equal parts disgusted and amused, but helped them in their deceit by dropping hints that Sansa and Jon spent lots of time together whenever she was among Cersei's ladies, using her training as a Faceless Man to blend in with women she mocked and derided in their past life.

Jaime and Cersei were constantly unsettled in their presence--what could they say, after all? That they knew what it looked like when siblings liked each other more than siblings? And any attempt they made to remove the Starks was easy enough to combat by Sansa making simpering eyes at Petyr or Jon excitedly asking the King for another story about his time as a ward with their father. People LIKED Sansa and Jon, which was more than any Lannister could say.

If anything, Sansa would insist, any time one of the others asked if perhaps they should stop, this only helped their own game. Driving Cersei mad before Robert's death would be so much better for everyone involved.

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Of all the changes they'd been able to make to the timeline, it was the little ones that often caught his attention. It was a full year into their stay at the Red Keep, their father a put-out Hand, Sansa a soon-to-be princess with the little monster Joffrey wrapped around her finger, Arya a somehow even finer-tuned weapon...and Jon training with the best swordsman in Westeros. Who still had both hands.

It had been a playful suggestion, on Jon's part, that they train with their off-hands, and finally he was winning for once. In this world Jaime had never seen a need, but Jon had--he had in the last life, too, having been in too many desperate, awful situations not to. And Jaime had hung over every swordsman's head, the reminder that their enemies could easily take their skills and render them near-useless.

But here, now, Jaime was still the golden lion, the Kingslayer (though Jon had never once called him such--he'd learned over and over that sometimes the best thing to do was break one's vows, and damn the personal consequences), and through careful displays of respect and irreverent responses to his biting attitude, Jon had become a regular sparring partner.

Watching Jaime, normally a graceful, confident swordsman, fumble the fight, Jon finally took pity on him and disarmed him.

He chuckled at Jaime's outraged expression and didn't miss the slightest hint of a smirk on Barristan's face.

Neither did Jaime. "Oh, like you could have done better."

Barristan ignored the complaint, looking Jon over. "Even among Northmen, it's rare to train like this. You're not nearly as good, but you're better than any of us with your off-hand."

He sounded impressed, but also thoughtful, as he so often did near Jon. The three of them all knew why, why Barristan stared at him with distant eyes, why Jaime eventually stayed away and then latched onto him as if he might suddenly be gone (and didn't that give him chills, thinking of what happened to his siblings in this very keep while Jaime was in another section of it, killing his grandfather). The older Jon got, the more he looked like his birth father, the more the Kingsguard and Targeryan loyalists around King's Landing watched him.

Something, Sansa insisted, would have to give. Something, Arya hissed, that they could hurry along, because these games were growing dull and the North still needed them.

Jon took water offered by another squire with a nod of thanks, watching Jaime watching him. "It might not be common," Jon admitted, "but I feel like there's no such thing as over-prepared."

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Jon smiled across the hall at Renly, just the slightest twitch of his lips, before ducking his head. He didn't really have to pretend too much, at shyness--Sansa called him a blushing maid whenever this part of the plan came up.

He was like a shadow compared to shining Loras, but as sweet as love was, he knew well it rarely stopped a man's wandering eyes. And all they needed was Renly's favor, Renly's distraction. Jon did not have to lead him into bed.

At the balls, dancing with his sisters or a lady they recommended, he would exchange glances with Lord Renly. At tourneys, he would cheer perhaps a bit too loudly for him. At the feasts, he would find excuses to speak to him.

And if, perhaps, Sansa convinced their father to send Loras off on knightly errands while he was at court, well, it was simply because he was a great knight that everyone knew Sansa favored. And if that known favor made Joffrey also find ways to keep Loras occupied away from them, who could blame Jon?

"Lord Jon," Renly called him, on their first meeting, eyes so very obviously roving over his fit young body if anyone was looking for it.

"Jon," Renly called him, months into his stay at the keep, giving him a nod as he raised his training sword, ready for a bout he'd laughingly lose.

"Our wolf," Renly called him, a little more than a year in, when he'd bloodied himself against bandits and come back to Renly's wine and comfort, his arm thrown across Jon's body, pulling him closer.

Sansa chose Jon's clothing, Arya screened Jon's servants, and Jon did his duty.

They needed Renly, if not on their side, thinking they might be on his. A woman's seduction would not work here, but Jon had heard many a story from Satin by the end, and he knew he could not ask such things from his sisters without doing the same, himself.

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"Joff remains Joff," Sansa confirmed with a sigh, deep in the Godswood of the Red Keep.

Arya and Jon both stiffened at that.

"Has he hurt you?"

"Has he threatened you?"

Brushing down the slim skirt of her dress, Arya sat down beside Sansa, hugging her close. "We can...rush things along. We don't need him. Tommen likes me."

Jon knelt on the ground in front of them, nodding. "I know this is hard for you, being here, doing this. You're the strongest person I know, Sansa, but everyone has their limits."

Sansa glanced between the two, disappointed in herself despite their words.

"But it's too soon."

"Who cares? Plans change, Sansa. We adapt." Arya leaned back, hand straying to where one of her daggers hid. "We'll be fine."

Jon nodded, solemn, before a playful light filled his eyes. "If you want to be Queen so badly, sweet sister, that can be arranged later."

She laughed, thrust out of her mood. "I don't know, dear brother, black and red aren't really my colors."

"Not grey and white?" Arya countered, laughing, too.

Grinning, Jon leaned back, raising his hands in defeat. "Hand is second only to the King, Sansa."

Now she was grinning back, imagining her father's look of relief when he no longer had to be Hand, followed by his shock when she took up the position. "Hmm, Lady Sansa, Hand of the King. It does have a nice ring to it."

Arya stood, eyes dark. "Strangler, then?"

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Of the women, noble or not so noble, currently at court, Elia Sand was Sansa's favorite. Arya found it hilarious, teasing her sister for falling for a girl as wild and boyish as her, but Sansa could not help it. She'd known Arya, and Brienne, and Val, and so many other women in the last life who fought as well as men, why would she hold the skills of Lady Lance against her?

It was Jon who introduced them. He was one of the few men who would train with her without mocking her and had gained something like a tentative friendship for it. Sansa thought there was a deeper meaning to that, to him befriending the namesake of his long dead stepmother, but as with all such topics, wouldn't comment until he brought it up.

Arya, who Sansa would assume would favor Elia, in fact could not stand her. Which led to just as many jokes from Jon, about the two dark haired girls being TOO similar.

Admittedly, Sansa was, at first, skeptical of the Sand Snake (the Dornish had their own agenda, one that would not mesh well for theirs), but couldn't help being charmed.

"Would you give me your attentions if I named you Queen of Love and Beauty?" Elia would ask and Sansa would give lovely smiles in return.

"I'll already be your Queen someday, won't I, my lady?" Sansa would reply, eyes glinting with her own plots and plans. "Perhaps I'd like another sign of devotion."

"A kiss, perhaps, to prove my affections?"

"What use have I for kisses, my lady, that are so freely given?"

They would walk through the gardens holding hands, innocent maidens who surely did not need a chaperone. They would slip into one another's rooms, like any other girlish friends seeking to gossip.

Her siblings with her, of course, knew about it, and Sansa would not be surprised if all of the Dornish did, as well, but as long as no one else cared to put their minds to the creative exercise of what two girls might be beyond friends, she cared little.

This was not part of the plans, but no one would begrudge her a few moments of delight.

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They normally left Varys to Sansa--she had just the right way of dealing with him to seem like she was unknowingly giving him sensitive information--but now Arya was having to pick up the slack.

Oh, she didn't really blame her siblings for their diversions (well, not entirely), but Varys just always made her skin crawl. Plots within plots within plots, he could rival any Faceless Man.

But this Arya Stark was only a little rebellious. She wore dresses in public, curtsied, danced, minded her manners.

And then snuck away in men's clothing to train at swords with her beloved brother (they were careful, when someone was watching she was good, but not great--good because if she had to fight in the future they didn't want people to catch on to their lies, not great because they all held themselves back, reminded themselves daily they were supposed to be young and green).

This Arya was Not A Threat. This Arya was A Good Source Of Information. Oh, she didn't have the Queen's ear, like Sansa, nor the King's, like Jon, but what she had were minor ladies (and lords) who were always so honored to have the attention of even the second daughter of the Lord Hand. And that was even ignoring that their 'little birds' were little cats (literal cats).

So she cautiously accepted a sweet from Varys, acted surprised and worried as he praised her swordsmanship, and gave the tidbits of information he needed to get the ball rolling.

There were three Targeryans ("Targeryans") over in Essos and they had to do SOMETHING about them. Otherwise they might take advantage of the discord that Arya and her siblings were sowing, and they weren't about to have someone else benefiting from all of their hard work (no matter how much Jon wanted a bigger family).

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When Lord Tywin came to court, Arya found her normal schedule of pretending to care about the ladies around her and the fashion they simpered over during the day and lurking in the passages to overhear plotting during the night interrupted by having to keep Jon from losing himself in his anger ('waking the dragon', she'd heard Daenerys Targeryan refer to it as, once, but Arya always thought Jon had an anger more like their father's--slow to build like a gentle snow until suddenly, without warning, it turned into a blizzard).

Arya, on a whole, didn't care one way or another about Tywin Lannister. He'd done awful things in the last life, but they'd already tied his hands in ways he couldn't even comprehend (the very fact he was there for the funeral of his eldest grandchild, dead from a 'tragic accident', was proof enough of that). But for as much as the Red Wedding pulled at a part of Arya she preferred to suppress, the deaths of his siblings, left unavenged, drove Jon to distraction.

So it was Arya to the rescue, running interference. Thankfully their father had little desire to see Tywin beyond what was necessary, so even with Robert even deeper into his cups then usual (Arya wished there was some way to tell him that the sadistic little monster he mourned wasn't even his), Jon could be kept at bay.

It also seemed like she had help, which was... worrisome. Ser Barristan and Ser Jaime were not yet sure, they didn't think, but skeptical enough of Jon's identity to want other Lannisters no where near him. One false move, now, and Jon would just be another dead 'dragonspawn' (not that they'd allow it, Arya and Sansa would kill half the Keep before they allowed it).

Not that that was the worst of it--no, that was the Dornish. The Sand Snakes lounging in a garden, inviting Jon along (Arya on a rooftop near by, silent as a cat), giggling over what they'd like to do to the Lannisters. Prince Oberyn walking the halls after a spar with Jon, glaring towards Tywin and whispering stories of Elia and Rhaenys. Arya didn't know if they knew or only 'knew' the way Ser Barristan did, and she didn't think she wanted to see the fallout of that answer.

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Dear Robb...

Dearest brother...

Dear "Acting Lord of Winterfell"...

The amount of ravens being sent to Winterfell stayed constant, though their contents changed. The siblings had found a more trustworthy Maester in the city and Arya, disguised as the daughter of a wealthy merchant, had been making use of him. They would not send even the most innocuous ravens through Pycelle.

How are Bran and Rickon? Wishing father was there yet...?

I hope this letter finds you in good health....

I long for even the worst parts of home, trapped as I am in this city....

They tell their siblings (and the girls tell their mother) of the sights and sounds (and smells) of the city. Jon gives Robb detailed descriptions of moves he'd learned from the Kingsguard, Arya tells Bran of some of her weird hiding spots, Sansa waxes poetic to Lady Catelyn about the fashions.

To anyone who wasn't close to them, their letters would have become quite boring after a few months.

Dear doesn't return my ravens...

Dearest brother...

Dear favorite older brother...

They didn't stay that way. After they'd each taken turns warging randomly into the ravens to confirm their delivery, they began to write of other things. And to other people.

It was easy enough for Arya to claim a desire to hear of Uncle Benjen's adventures beyond the Wall. And then, of course, for Jon, expressing a secret interest in Targeryan history after hearing about them from Ser Barristan, to start a polite correspondence with Maester Aemon.

Uncle Benjen is off on another ranging, I think they're really starting to worry, though you know no one ever admits that to me.

I overheard father speaking with the King about giving land to Jon once he returns home. Maybe Queenscrown? Do you think that would be good for him? Have you ever been there to see it?

Maybe I'm the last person to end up a bookworm, but you always loved the old stories, too. And even the stories about the Wall that aren't by Nan trying to scare us are interesting, I'm finding it harder and harder to believe that it was built just to protect against people who would have been just like us back then.

Reading between the lines of all of the letters they receive, Jon starts piecing together what's happening with the Free Folk. And, reluctantly, admits that maybe they have to accelerate their plans even more. Because the King-Beyond-the-Wall can't be put off forever, and Jon refuses to let tens of thousands of people be slaughtered because of where they were born.

Dear least favorite older brother...

Dearest brother...

Dear twin...

This time they had a government that wasn't fraying at the seams, Sansa assured Jon. This time Cersei would have very few options for taking power. It wouldn't be a hobbled Stannis answering a call for help, ready to burn anyone he didn't like, it would be the actual King of the Seven Kingdoms, from the Iron Throne itself.

I can't believe you tattled to Father! That letter was just meant for Bran, not you! You better be willing to make it up to me or I'll knock you to the ground next time we spar so all the other 'men grown' can laugh at you!

Has it gotten much colder there? There's a bit of a chill in the air, causing all the Southrons to start wearing furs around court. We've been trying hard not to laugh, but it is difficult. I worry about how cold it must be at the Wall. Beyond the Wall, even. I've been working with the smallfolk here, they're so hungry and they lack so much, sometimes they steal or do other unsavory things to simply survive another day. I can't imagine what it must be like, to not have safe and secure homes, to not have the protection of kind lords.

I might try to visit soon. Father has been getting word from Lord Commander Mormont about increased activity from the Wildlings. I could travel to Winterfell to visit all of you, then head on to Castle Black to get a personal look for Father and the King. What do you think?

And, of course, they had Robb on their side. Even if he didn't know it yet.

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There is one copy of the List Of Important Happenings, Sansa keeps it tucked away in her sewing kit, where no one would really think to look. They had written it out over the course of three sleepless nights, slipping into Jon's bedroom, which were far enough away from others that none should notice, and trying to remember all they could.

They knew they were forgetting things and worse yet, knew there was information they'd just never had. At the Wall, Mormont had kept many happenings of the South from Jon, and the Lannisters had been even worse for Sansa. Arya had haphazard information, bits and pieces collected here or there, half of it hearsay by the time she had heard it. Sandor, and Jaime, and Daenerys, and Aegon, and others besides had told them other things before the end, but there'd been so much to keep track of, and despair made the past easy to ignore.

"And, besides," Arya had pointed out, after they'd begun to Change Things, "half these things WON'T happen. Like we're ever letting you take the Black, Jon, and we're definitely not letting anyone marry you off to the Imp, Sansa."

"No, and we're not letting YOU run off and join a cult," Sansa teased, mussing Arya's hair as Jon did.

As their plots progressed, they tried to figure out which events would never happen and which might just be delayed, or changed.

"The Spider's plots in Essos will probably be delayed," Jon said, thinking outloud. "He wanted the realm at war."

"We'll have to find some way to keep the Night Watch from getting themselves slaughtered by the Wildlings," Arya commented, scowling at the pages.

"You both realize," Sansa broached, worrying her bottom lip, "that we won't be able to take our direwolves South with us, right?"

The other two protested, even though they knew she was right.

"At least, if we leave them here, we might be able to warg into them, see what's going on." After his second life in Ghost, Jon had finally attempted to train up his abilities, and when the three of them had met again, he and Arya had traded tips. Now, though, they were young, and their direwolves, when they arrived, would be pups, and he hoped that meant it would be easier for them to master skinchanging.

After that suggestion, they began to consider other ways of using their abilities. "Varys calls the children who spy for him 'little birds'," Sansa explained, "but we could use ACTUAL birds. No one would ever know to look for us in the animals. Wargs are rare enough in the North, I doubt there's any in the Red Keep."

It's a full year before the direwolves come into their lives, allowing them plenty of time to try with whatever random animals they find.

That practice led to other planning, and carefully plotted out steps to check off on a new list, of Things That Must Be Done that they tore into three parts, lengthwise, and all kept a piece of.

Jon whispered into Bran's ears about skinchangers and dreams where he was a bird, and soon enough the boy had something to do that interested him more than climbing. Arya made a deal with Lady Stark to act more ladylike in front of guests in exchange for riding and sword fighting when there were none of note around.

Sansa convinced Robb that her love of stories had now led to a love of stories about battles and that she just HAD to know all about strategy and manpower, and things that the boys learned but she never would have. It was a good refresher for them both and Sansa's 'girlish' point of view had her stressing marriage alliances and politics just as much as troop movements and supply trains. If he ended up going to war again, Robb wouldn't be foolish about his allies.

And they all put in extra effort with Theon. It was hesitant and aggravating, the edges of anger from his betrayal still there, but that was one thing easily changed--making Theon feel like family, so he didn't need another one. Arya's wanderlust helped, as she pestered Theon for information about sailing and when he couldn't answer, dragged him to the library. Jon did his part by asking Theon for tips on using a bow, it had never been his preferred weapon and there were still some things for him to learn. Sansa, meanwhile, asked tentative questions about his family, manipulating him into admitting, to himself as well as her, that maybe he didn't really WANT to be like them. It was a start.

A month out from the direwolves, Jon started asking their father about his mother. Ned would grow angry and distant, and order Jon to stop. Jon would wait a few days, then ask again. Arya thought it was hilarious, Sansa just thought it was sad. Finally, fed up, Jon announced one night at dinner that he'd FOUND OUT who his mother was and stormed off, leaving their father looking terrified.

"He found me in the godswood," Jon muttered to them later that night, at their standard covert meeting. "He wanted to know how I knew."

"What did you say?" Arya leaned forward, wide eyed.

He shrugged. "That I'd dreamed of dragons and fire, and Lyanna Stark's tomb. And that I finally put together the only reason he could have for never telling me. I'm mature enough to be thinking of the Night's Watch, but not to know my mother's name?"

Sansa grimaced. "What did he say to that?"

"Aemon," Jon muttered, then gave a laugh, tinged with hysteria. "Aemon after Maester Aemon. I'd known the man I was named after, the relative I was named after, the whole time." He settled down, shaking his head. "He says there's some letters he'll show me, and...and Rhaegar's harp. Apparently they'd been here last time, too, just...."

"Lost to fires? Or wights?" Arya suggested. "Or just never discovered?"

"This...changes things, Jon. If we can prove your trueborn, that means we could press a claim for you," Sansa insisted.

"I've got an older brother across the Narrow Sea, it doesn't matter."

Arya smirked at him. "Except he can't prove who he is, can he?"

"That's...no. I'm not going to be king and you can't make me."

The way his sisters looked at each other, he had a sinking feeling they would.

The topic was dropped by the time their direwolves were found, they had more important things to worry about. Others. And what to do about the Others without, Sansa and Arya insisted, Jon taking the Black. And Jon Arryn. And the King's upcoming visit. And so many other things that even with a year's worth of preparing still felt Too Soon.

"We've got this," Arya insisted, the night before the King would come, as Jon laid on his stomach with his head buried in a pillow and Sansa read over their notes again and again. "Stop worrying."

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"In Dorne, we don't blame children for the actions of their parents."

Oberyn looked Jon over and Jon thought his heart might have stopped in his chest for a moment. This was it, then, the first of them to say anything.

"Even when those parents got others killed?"

The smirk slid off Oberyn's face and he gave a sober nod. "Even when mad men and adventurous girls don't think through the consequences of their actions."

Jon hunched in on himself and squeezed his eyes shut. He'd known someone would address it, eventually, but he'd been hoping that someone was a person he'd met in the last life, like Jaime, not this man. This man who might have been known as an uncle to him, in another life. Who surely would have doted on his half-siblings, at least, as much as he did his daughters.

"What are you going to do about it?"

A hand landed on Jon's shoulder, squeezing it in comfort. "I think the question is, what are you doing about it?"

As far as they knew, Oberyn knew of plots involving Viserys and Daenerys, but not yet about anything involving Aegon. Jon had to tread carefully, though, just in case.

"I didn't know them," he murmured. They were alone in the garden, with perhaps just Arya lurking around, but Jon still felt the need to keep his voice low. "But when I'm here, I can't stop thinking of them. Of what was done to them. Here."

The hand squeezed harder and Jon glanced up, catching the fierce look on Oberyn's face. There was death in his eyes.

"Is that why you're here?" Oberyn's voice was little more than a whisper. "Do you seek revenge, too?"

Jon swallowed, eyes flicking away as he thought of all the many, many reasons he'd brought himself to this point. "I seek many things. Revenge...revenge will come from them."

Curiosity flashed across Oberyn's face and Jon bit his lip to keep from smirking. This would need to be a carefully curated alliance, but it would be worth it.

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When Jon came North--from King's Landing to White Harbor, from White Harbor to Winterfell, and soon enough north to Castle Black (and beyond)--Robb was waiting for him.

They greeted each other, they had a small feast, they spoke of all the innocent things they missed as Bran and Rickon hung onto their previously absent brother and refused for hours to let him go. But then, finally, it was just Jon and Robb, and from the look on Robb's face, Jon knew what that meant.

He didn't guide him to the godswood, he instead went down into the crypts.

"Do you know why Lyanna Stark is the only woman to have a statue in these crypts as far as we know?"

Robb narrowed his eyes, thinking Jon was stalling, but deciding to play along. "Because of father."

"No. Because she would have been Queen of the Seven Kingdoms, had Rhaegar and she lived."

That was clearly not the answer that Robb had been expecting. "...Rhaegar was married."

"And he tricked, or blackmailed, or something the High Septon into agreeing he could take a second wife. Lyanna Stark. So that the child they had would be trueborn."

"...They had a child."

"Yes."

Robb was always so good at piecing things together, it didn't take him long to figure out what Jon wasn't saying. "But...that's...."

"I'll always be your brother, Robb. No matter what."

He sucked in a breath. "Father told you this? Is that why you were acting weird before you left? But Sansa and Arya were, too." He frowned, knowing that Jon wouldn't have told them (at least not Sansa) before Robb.

"Father didn't tell me. I already knew." There was no reply, just a curious look encouraging Jon to continue. "Sansa, Arya, and I died. And then we came back. Years later." Still silence, though Jon was fairly sure Robb was trying to work out why Jon would make a joke out of such a concept. "I had found out in that life. So had they. They were the only Starks left at the end, the three of us and a handful of others...." He didn't know if Bran--or, Bran's body, hosting the Last Greenseer--had ever made it to the Three Singers or if the refugees Asha took South ever reached the Summer Isles.

"This is...."

"It's why we changed so much, the three of us. We've been trying to fix things. Make it so what we faced doesn't happen, so that...that Sansa and Arya aren't the only Starks that survive."

"And you."

"What?"

"So that Sansa, Arya, and you aren't the only Starks that survive."

"Robb, I just...I just told you...."

"That your mother was a Stark."

Jon bit his lip, ducked his head, and felt something he couldn't quite define. It was one thing for Arya and Sansa to accept his birth and keep calling him Stark, after everything they'd gone through, for their father to agree, when Jon was his last piece of his long-dead sister, but having Robb--Robb who had been his best friend, his near-twin--agree with them was...something else.

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Thriving at court and surviving at court were too different things. Sansa was focused on making sure that the Starks, this time, did both.

She made alliances where she could, weaving together truths and lies in just the right mixture for just the right people. When the Reach decided to put in a showing at court after Joffrey's death, she started to have to truly watch herself.

Sansa's feelings about Margaery Tyrell were...complicated. She'd thought they'd been friends. She thinks, in her first life, she may have even been a little bit in love with her.

Now she doesn't know.

For one, Margaery is a piece in the game for Sansa to move, not the player she may have been (imagined she was) in the last life. Sansa was the cyvasse master and all of King's Landing was her board, and Margaery just wasn't anyone she was playing against.

Olenna...that was something different. It took all of Sansa's skill (and Arya's) to keep Olenna from learning a bit too much. It was like playing against Varys, in a way.

But Sansa wasn't alone in this. Even with Jon off in the North doing Jon-things, even while Arya skulked around the city in borrowed faces, Sansa had a surprising amount of help.

Sansa had Elia and with Elia came the other Sand Snakes. It almost made Sansa feel bad (almost) how unnerved Margaery was, underneath her courtly masks, by the other young women. Oberyn and her brother may have been friends, but Sansa doubted a friendship with the Red Viper was a sweet, cheerful thing, and Oberyn's daughters were all very different people.

Obara disdained Margaery, though she wasn't particularly found of Sansa, either (she liked Jon and Sansa thought if Jon wasn't still woefully inept he could have bedded her as much as he wanted, or until Obara broke his back). Nymeria, of course, was gracious and sweet. And terrifyingly so. Tyene at times could be mistaken for a septa, if not for her attire, and how everyone in the Tyrell party carefully watched her hands at meals.

When Margaery would try to descend on Sansa, it simply took a slight motion, or a off-hand word, and the Sand Snakes would converge. She brought Tyene with her when Margaery suggested they hand out food in Flea Bottom and, of course, had Elia as her own guest to any little party she attended.

If people thought it odd, that Sansa Stark was companions with a Dornish bastard, Oberyn didn't let them start any rumors of such.

Her own father, of course, was near-oblivious to what was going on. He spent almost all day in meetings or looking through papers, sometimes well into the evening, so that Sansa had to interrupt him and guide him to bed. When Jon was there, Sansa could convince their father to train a bit every few days, as exercise was good for him, and now Sansa found herself begging it of Elia and her sisters, instead.

They were all bemused, but Elia agreed. For as rusty as Ned Stark was, he was still a formidable swordsman, and Sansa cheered with every hit he managed to land with his blunted training weapon. It helped his reputation with the Dornish a great deal, even if her father seemed to not appreciate the sudden increase in flirtations from Prince Oberyn and Ellaria.

King Robert himself would sometimes come to watch Ned when he did train, and so Loras and Garlan did as well.

Soon Sansa's innocent old father was utilizing his blunt, honest Northern ways to such devastating effect that Sansa was honestly surprised. Jon could be like that, sometimes, but Sansa and the last life had trained too much of the South into him. Their father, though, would take all the backhanded insults and pretend he thought them honest. Would address offhanded comments as if they were true conversation starters. And he could get people to give up information they hadn't even realized they told.

She always made sure he was rewarded with desserts after such. And though Ned grumbled about how he was not a dog to be given treats for good behavior, he still gladly ate it.

Arya, when Sansa had brought it up, had been the one to point out the obvious--Ned Stark had hidden an unknown Targaryen for over a decade and not a single person at court thought he could lie worth a damn. In the last life, maybe all he had needed was someone actually watching his back.

Chapter Text

Meeting Maester Aemon while knowing who he was (while knowing he'd been named for this man) was indescribable. In the last life, the Maester had been dead long before Jon found out his real parentage and all Jon could do was cling onto the vague memories he'd had, wishing he'd paid more attention when he'd spoken of his family.

Now, he was not a black brother and they had never met before. Jon supposed he should be thankful for his excuse for being at the Wall--representing the King and the Warden of the North--for it gave him excuses to speak to these people, for them to pay attention to him.

Getting Maester Aemon alone, though, was surprisingly difficult. Meetings with him were simple enough, convincing the Night Watch he didn't need a chaperon was something else entirely. He was a Stark, he reminded himself, sent by the King who had helped nearly wipe out the Maester's family.

"I was wondering if you happened to have any books on dragons?"

"Dragons, Lord Stark?"

Jon looked around the familiar room, clenching and unclenching his hand, free from burn scars in this life. He had never gone to take his vows at the weirwoods north of the vow, so no one had been out there at that time, and Ghost had not been there to lead them to the bodies that the dogs and horses avoided, so no wights had been brought into Castle Black.

"They're back, you know."

Aemon gave a little start. "I had thought...those might be rumors."

"No, they're true. Three dragons, brought into the world by my Aunt Daenerys."

Maybe he should have been a bit more subtle, because the way Aemon startled at that couldn't have been good for him.

"Your...your aunt?"

"Aye. My father's younger sister."

"Your...father."

Jon moved over to him, taking his arm as he helped him sit down. "Rhaegar Targaryen."

Aemon seemed to be looking straight at him, though Jon knew he couldn't see him, and he cautiously raised his hand. Taking it in his own, Jon glided it to his face.

"My mother was Lyanna Stark. I have her hair color, dark eyes, a Stark's long face."

"Your grandmother's lips," Aemon murmured, "and your father's brow...."

"My father's build, as well." Aemon's hands wandered down to his shoulders. "My uncle, Ned Stark, raised me as his bastard to protect me."

"All this time, I thought I was the only one of us left in Westeros."

"I've wanted to meet you, for a long time, but there wasn't a reason to come here."

"And now you come as a trusted representative of King Robert."

Jon studied his face, but his expression was unreadable. "Except for the Greyjoy Rebellion, which could have happened under any king, we've had almost twenty years of peace under the Baratheons. It's not Robert who I worry about, it's who comes after him."

"I'd heard his heir died in an accident." Aemon's sightless eyes narrowed at him.

"Aye, Joffrey died. Tommen is a sweet child, ready to be manipulated by whoever happens to be around him most at any given time."

"Ah, I can see how that could be a worry. Although I wonder how long he will have a chance to be controlled, if there are dragons in the world once more."

Jon nodded, then gave a wry smile. "That's true. I just hope that whatever happens down South, we'll have a chance to solve the problems here at the Wall before it gets too bad."

"The problems with the Wildlings?"

"Do you really think that's the only problem?"

Aemon smiled, leaning back and letting his hands fall to his lap. "Ah. I suppose for a boy raised in the North who accepts that dragons are back, other magics are not so unthinkable."

For a moment, Jon thought of telling Aemon the truth, but he decided once again not to. The man had enough to worry about, without Jon's knowledge of things that could have been.

"I think there's always been magic in the world, no matter what certain people at the Citadel," he had to stop himself from saying grey sheep, unable to explain how he'd met Marwyn, how he'd known Sarella, Sam's own experiences, "choose to believe. And I think at least some of it has been north of the Wall. Did you hear that I came with a direwolf?"

"Ah, yes, I was told it was a fearsome beast--big as a pony, albino, silent."

"From the first direwolves seen this side of the Wall in a century or more. Their mother made it south and brought them to be found by Starks. That's a sign."

"Do you think of yourself as a Stark? You bear their name, were raised by them."

Jon shut his eyes, thinking of his last life, of this one. "I think I'm both. I think I'm wolf and dragon. Ice and fire."

Aemon jerked a little at that. "Ice and fire....Yes....Your father wrote about such things before. About a prophecy of the Prince That Was Promised. He connected it with another, one called the Song of Ice and Fire."

"Prophecies are traps set by the gods for their unsuspecting victims."

"Our family has a long line of prophetic dreams. And ones that have come true. That is how we survived the Doom."

"The Doom happened a dozen years after our family left. Something like that, there could have easily been warning signs. Maybe Daenys had dreams, or maybe she saw all the warning signs, put them together in her dreams, and our ancestors were low enough in society that they weren't deluded into thinking their rule would last forever."

Aemon was smiling at him as Jon finished talking and he felt himself flushing at the look. "You have spent a lot of time thinking of prophecies."

On the run, huddled in whatever cave or shack they could find, with endless darkness and frigid cold, there weren't many things to do but survive and think. Not that Jon could tell him that.

"I've spent a lot of time thinking about that, aye. And our family, in general."

"I suppose it's to be expected. You must have needed lots of time to come to terms with your parentage."

Jon almost laughed. He'd been given no time to do that, in the former life. It was only after his death and second chance that he had the chance to think it all through.

"I'm still a Stark, whatever else I am, that hasn't changed. And all Starks have a duty to the Wall, to the North. To the realms of men."

"Indeed." Aemon was still smiling, the expression one of fondness. "I thank you for seeking me out, Lord Stark--"

"Please, call me Jon. Or...well, it wouldn't be good to get in the habit...but my birth parents named me Aemon."

"Oh." Tears welled up in the corner of Aemon's milky eyes. "Oh, that is...I thank you for sharing that with me, Jon." He cleared his throat, continuing, "I would be most glad if we could have a correspondence, once you leave. We will not be able to discuss...such secrets, as my letters must be read to me, but I would greatly value some contact." He gave a wry smile, that Jon answered in turn. "A Targaryen alone in the world...well, it's a horrible thing."

"Aye." His voice creaked a bit, choked up as he was with emotion. Maester Aemon had no way of knowing how influential he'd been to Jon, how much he hoped that he could have his wisdom in this life. "Thank you, Maester. Uncle."

They hugged before Jon slipped away, the frail old man seeming so small in Jon's arms, so fragile that he was afraid any touch might hurt him. When they parted, Jon promised to seek him out again, whenever he could, before he left for the South once more.

Chapter Text

Jon returned to court with a half-dozen men of the Night's Watch and a crate that rattled and shook even when it was sitting by itself on the throne room floor.

"The throne room has seen more than enough horrors," he had commented, during his brief greeting to Arya before he headed inside, "I doubt this will even be the fifth worst."

She had smirked at her brother and slipped away to a side door, getting into a position to see the reactions of a few of the people she most closely watched. Regretfully, Varys was lurking in the shadows far away from everyone else, but not only were the Baratheons and the Lannisters at the front of the room, but the Tyrells and some of the Martells, as well.

When the crate opened and the wight clawed out, Arya soaked up the terror in the room, memorizing the expressions people made on the off-chance she might have to utilize them later.

Alongside the black brothers, Jon gave an impressive speech on what the wight was, what it did, and how they could slow or destroy it. He didn't fully kill it, waiting for the court, and the king in particular, to look their fill.

Arya slipped around the room, listening, watching. A few people still suspected it was a trick, somehow, and she took note of them in case they tried to spread their lies. A woman had fainted, some fool who had brought a small child to a session of Robert Baratheon's court was trying to comfort them without drawing too much attention.

Baelish was staring at the wight with a familiar, calculating look and Arya ran through the poisons she had access to in her head, just an exercise to calm herself down. She couldn't kill him yet, but oh did she want to.

She stopped next to Varys, who was clutching his hands together and couldn't quite hide his grimace. Magic had always been his weakness and what was more magical than the undead?

"Do you think the King will help?" she whispered, in her sweet, vulnerable voice. I'm a child, she thought, as she tore a fearful gaze away from the wight, I'm innocent and weak.

Varys gave her something like a reassuring smile, still not entirely in control of himself. "How could he not? The entire realm will help, now." He looked back, eyes darkening. "We cannot let an army of those destroy Westeros."

No, Arya agreed, though for a different motivation. She doubted Varys wanted Aegon ruling over a graveyard.

"Good. Our home is big, and there's lots of space between keeps, but...if every single dead person becomes one of those...."

"Yes, it would make things difficult." Wheels were turning in his head and Arya used the shriek of the wight as an excuse to slip away again.

Her Uncle Edmure was at court now, the poor fool, and as soon as he saw Arya he clutched her to him. "I'm so glad you're in King's Landing," he muttered, eyes wide, brow shining with sweat. He stank of fear, but Arya made herself cuddle close. "We'll have to--I'll write a raven to Cat, ask her to send your younger brothers to Riverrun. We can tell them father wants to see them again."

That was actually a good idea and Arya nodded against him. If Riverrun was prepared for an attack, had the stores for a long siege and the right forces within to keep it, there were few places safer for the boys. She wasn't sure if Bran's fate would force him to stay North, but Rickon at least should be sent further South.

"They'd like that."

He finally pulled his eyes away from the spectacle and gave her a shaky smile and a gentle tug on her braid. "Why don't we...why don't we go see if we can get some cakes from the kitchens? It's a beautiful day out, we can eat them in the gardens."

Arya gave one last look around, decided her task was complete, and gave Edmure an enthusiastic nod. "Yes, let's!"

She'd ask Jon and Sansa for more details when they met after dinner, she could trust them to do an adequate job.

Chapter Text

Breaking their fasts as a family was becoming a tradition at the Red Keep. Sometimes they invited someone else, with warning, but normally it was just the four of them.

Today Sansa thought her father looked so tense that she was surprised that no one but them was there--normally that tightness at the corner of his eyes, that extra straightness of his spine, signaled that a Martell was coming to call.

They ate and spoke of inconsequential things, the siblings shooting glances at their father, waiting for the hammer to fall. It wasn't until near halfway through the meal that Ned finally spoke.

"I...have a question for you two. Sansa, Jon."

Arya perked up, glad that whatever this ominous mood was, it had nothing to do with her. Probably.

"Yes, father?" Sansa gave him a sweet smile and out of the corner of her eyes she could see Jon's earnest expression as he waited, too.

Ned glanced between them, opened his mouth, then closed it. Finally, with a long-suffering sigh, he blurted out, "Are the two of you in love?"

He was answered, at first, by silence.

"Is...is this about Renly?" Jon choked out, mask cracking as he clearly wondered if Ned had gotten wind of the slow seduction of the Lord of Storm's End. "Because he is not--I wouldn't even--a man like him doesn't--"

"No, Jon, I think he means the two of us in love with each other."

Jon physically relaxed. "Oh."

"We were raised as siblings, father. We still think of each other thus."

That didn't seem to make Ned relax. "I know that...but..." his eyes flicked to Jon, who frowned back, "Targaryens."

"Oh, now I'm a Targaryen when--"

"Jon."

He immediately went quiet at her reprimand.

Sansa took a moment to assess the situation--Jon scowling, Arya near laughter, their father looking like he'd really rather be anywhere else. She supposed the truth would have to come out, eventually.

"We're not in love. We're pretending to be because of the Lannisters. I assume that's how you even found out," Sansa rolled her eyes, "Cersei making some nasty comment."

"Pretending...why would you do that?"

All three of the siblings let out a quick laugh.

"Father, you really haven't figured it out?" Arya looked at him with pity. "Cersei and Jaime have fucked."

Sansa would not have put it quite so bluntly, but she supposed it was better to be quick about it.

They all waited, watching as Ned processed that claim.

"But...that's...."

"And all her children are his," Arya added, just to be annoying, and the others glared at her.

Jon stood up and went over to Ned, who was leaning perilously to the side. "We can't reveal anything about it yet, the Lannisters won't react well and Robert...well...we know he doesn't have a problem with dead children." His face darkened as he remembered his half-siblings.

Ned shuddered, straightening up, starting to process what they were saying. "You're right, Myrcella and Tommen would be at risk...we'll have to get them out of the Red Keep before Robert is told." Now that the safety of small children was involved, their father seemed much more ready to plot. "I can see about having them warded, maybe one to Riverrun, another to...."

"Dorne," Sansa offered, remembering what had happened in their last life, but knowing there'd be little chance of Myrcella being hurt in this one. "Myrcella is about the age of Prince Doran's younger son."

"Dorne isn't...Dorne isn't a good place to send Lannisters."

Ned was giving Jon a look Sansa couldn't decipher, his hand wrapped around Jon's arm. Oh, he was probably remembering finding Jon in Dorne, she realized, and how fearful he was for the baby's life.

"I'll talk to Oberyn," Jon insisted, and their father narrowed his eyes, presumably catching the way that Jon dropped Oberyn's title. "Myrcella will be treated well."

"...Right. Well, I can't do anything about the Queen, but we could perhaps send the Kingslayer off on an errand."

"He's not so much of a problem."

"...Jaime Lannister, who is having sex with the Queen, his twin sister, is not a problem?"

Arya shook her head as she licked cake crumbs from her fingers. "Was. He stopped after he figured out who Jon was. He's been avoiding Cersei ever since, even though she's getting angry at him."

Ned's attention turned to her, then Jon again, then back to Arya. Finally, he looked at Sansa, knowing that she was almost always the best to talk to when he wanted sensible conversation. "How does Jaime Lannister know about Jon?"

"You knew Jon might be recognized, his Valyrian features have only gotten more obvious as he's gotten older. He practices with Ser Jaime often and, well, we may have let some things slip."

"Let? You wanted him to know?"

"Aye," Jon put in, "he's hung up on what happened to my siblings, to my father. He might not outright betray his family for me, but he's not going to go out of his way to harm me."

"But," Sansa stressed, glaring at Jon for butting in, "it would be best to get him someplace isolated. He doesn't always think before he acts to protect his family and those actions normally result in violence."

"Send him to the Wall."

"Jon, we can't just force him to take the Black without--"

Jon shook his head, interrupting Ned. "No, I mean, as a representative of the King. Send him with some of the forces who would be going, to reinforce it before others can get there to help. He'll be far away and isolated, and all the ravens will go through the Night's Watch before reaching him. Lord Commander Mormont will know how important it is to keep the troops at the Wall calm and focused."

Sansa patted his arm, giving him a bright grin. "That's a great idea, Jon. It will make him a non-issue for what happens with the Queen and he'll also be of great use to the Watch."

Their father looked between them again, slumping down in his chair. "Someday, you will tell me everything that's going on."

"Someday," the three echoed, promising him. In this life, they'd have the time they needed to keep all sorts of promises.

Chapter Text

It was finally Jon's turn to deal with Varys and he really, really wished it was a duty he could have handed off to his sisters. They actually enjoyed playing with the mummer.

"You've seemed a bit...down...lately, if you don't mind my saying," Varys started in, looking sympathetic, kind, even.

Jon looked away, staring at the tiles under his feet, glad for the excuse not to have to so closely control his expression. That had been one of the suggestions from his sisters, to try to avoid looking at Varys as much as possible. "I'm just thinking about...about my siblings."

"Oh? Not your...sisters who came with you, I assume?"

He bit his lip, glancing up at Varys, then away again. "No. I was," he paused, as if thinking how to word what he wanted to say, withouth lying, because Jon had a reputation of being a very truthful sort, "I was thinking about my older brother. And how much I wished he were here. He was--is," he fumbled the words, as if unintentional, remembering more of the lessons Arya and Sansa had given him, "the one supposed to be dealing with this sort of stuff."

Varys, he could see from under his lashes, was now watching him with a pointed intensity.

"It must be difficult, having to act as the eldest sibling, when that wasn't what you were meant to be," he finally said in way of agreement. "But aren't you enjoying it? Being the eldest of the children the Lord Hand brought to court has garnered you quite a bit of attention. Even from Houses who are not very fond of our current King or Hand."

Jon closed his hands into fists, then loosened them, shaking his head. "No, this isn't...." He looked up at Varys, pulling up all the feelings of loneliness and desperation from his previous life, putting them on display. "It's not supposed to be me," he whispered, hoping he seemed half as heartbroken as Sansa did whenever she didn't get the last lemoncake.

Varys tutted, patting his shoulders and giving him a reassuring smile. "Well, then, perhaps it doesn't have to be. You'd be a very good brother, I can tell from how you are with Ladies Sansa and Arya. Perhaps you'll find someday soon that you don't have to be anything more than that, if you don't want to be."

He made his excuses and simpered off. Jon kept up a despondent look until he reached his rooms, then collapsed on the bed face first.

"Great job."

Jon was too used to Arya appearing when he'd seemingly been alone to jump anymore.

"Thanks," he muttered into his pillow.

"I'm going to keep a close watch the next few days. He has to contact that cheesemonger sooner or later and then we'll know how long we have to wait until your 'older brother'," she said the term sarcastically, clearly believing it about as much as Sansa and Daenerys ever had, "makes his move."

"Keep us updated."

"Will do." She patted him on the back, ruffled his hair, and then he felt the slightest hint of air moving through the room that signaled she'd disappeared back through the secret door the spies used.

Chapter Text

Jon did not expect much from the delegation Robert ordered Balon Greyjoy to send to them. He was unsurprised to see Victarion as a part of it, a show of power, despite the fact that he'd been defeated in battle by the King's forces before.

But Asha...that did surprise him. She was a welcome sight, even if they did not know each other in this world he remembered her as being level-headed, determined, in the last. One of the few who they could rely on, in the end, though they had only started out as allies because of their mutual enemy in Euron Greyjoy.

He used the excuse of passing on a letter from Theon which had come with his own from Robb to meet her. She seemed disconcerted that he didn't allow the prejudice many had against the Iron Born to affect how he spoke to her. There was no way to say "I know you've done awful things but I also know you're one of the best highborn people I'll meet" without it looking weird, though.

"You grew up around my brother, didn't you?" she asked when she accepted the letter.

"Aye, I did."

"Were you...friends?"

Jon couldn't help the quirk of his lips at that. "Not exactly. We were both Robb's, my brother's, friends."

She nodded at that, looked him over once more, then seemingly dismissed him.

Four days later, he found an opportunity to ask her to come spar. She seemed skeptical, until she saw Obara coming towards them with her spear and shield. She only watched, the first day, and then on the second she came to them in practice clothes and axes.

Asha got on just as well with the Sand Snakes as Jon had expected, and with Arya, too, though Sansa kept her distance for the sake of appearances.

Soon she was dragging Jon into King's Landing, into shady taverns where she gambled and drank and he mostly observed. It gave him a chance to meet more people, to meet the smallfolk, and he took full advantage of it, buying rounds of drinks and losing graciously when he was talked into the games.

He thought they might be something like friends, or as close as an Iron Born would ever get to such with a greenlander. Which was good, because they needed her in charge of the Iron Islands, eventually, and she'd make a better ally than yet another enemy. And, well, he did genuinely like her, there was none of the baggage with her that he had with the Sand Snakes.

"I expected you to be more," Asha gestured around them, at the polished corridors of the Red Keep.

Jon chuckled at that. "I was raised a bastard, my lady," he said the title mockingly, dodging the swat she tried to give him. "You've met Arya, can you imagine one of the other ladies at court being raised like her? I'm of the North, even our lords are not the same as the Southron nobility."

She sniffed, clearly not thinking that Northmen were worth much more than any of the rest of them, but she didn't say anything, which was an improvement. "Still, you wear all this fancy dress, I'd mistake you for any of the other lordlings here."

"You've also met Sansa. Do you think any man is brave enough to stand against her in matters of fashion?"

That drew an outright laugh from her, as she slid her hands over the front of his tunic, tracing the little embroidered Ghost down the front of it. Black, and white, and red. He'd rarely been put in Stark grey since coming to the South. Black and red, his true house colors, and the white to offset it, to give people just enough doubt.

"I guess I don't blame her, you do dress up pretty."

"As you say." He smirked back at her, dancing away from another hit, moving further down the hall.

Distance, he reminded himself, even as he forced back a smile. There was no utility in being anything more than friends with her.

Chapter Text

Sansa couldn't quite believe that the combined powers of her father and Cersei's mockery didn't keep Robert in King's Landing. They'd thought that, while he liked to go on and on about his past as a warrior, he at least had realized he wasn't meant to be leading from the front anymore. Or could be dissuaded by the right prostitute and a fortnight of hunting.

They'd clearly been wrong.

"He's going to get himself killed," she hissed, stalking back and forth between two of the dragon skulls in the chamber they'd taken to using for their meetings.

Jon groaned from where he sat on Balerion's skull, head in his hands. "He is. And then it's Tommen in charge and you know Cersei will make Tywin Hand."

"And who knows what they'll do, at the Wall or when...the Essosi show up." Even having checked every corner of the room, none of them felt comfortable mentioning Daenerys or Aegon in the Red Keep above a whisper.

"It will be a slaughter," he muttered. "Even moreso than if Robert were in charge."

Robert, they'd figured, would be easy enough to get rid of...but on their own terms. Now he could be dead long before any of them knew, with Varys and the Lannisters possibly having more information than them if they weren't careful.

"...I should go," Jon stated, and Sansa's heart felt like it had stuttered in her chest. "I can guard him better than any Kingsguard, I know what's coming, how the wights and Others fight."

"No, absolutely not!" Sansa stomped closer to him, Arya at her side looking equally displeased. "We need you here. For father, for us. In case...one of them comes."

Having Jon, especially with Varys knowing who he was, would go a long way in getting whichever dragon took the throne to pay attention to the threat of the Others. It would keep Jon from possibly dying, as well, for none of them were sure if being at the Wall would always mean his death.

And Sansa just felt safer having him there. Even if Arya could be just as effective in a fight, people actually knew how good Jon was with a sword and he intimidated all but the most skilled, or the most foolish.

Jon had spent so much of their last life defending her, sometimes he was the only one she could think of who could.

He stared down at the floor, face more sullen than normal. "I just....He's so frustrating! If he had kept up half as much as he could have over the years, maybe I wouldn't need to worry so much, but you two know what it was like, facing the whole army the Others brought with them."

"Last time it was a broken North and whoever else we managed to persuade or blackmail into helping," Arya pointed out. "We were running out of food, barely had enough winter clothing and weaponry for people. This time they're fresh armies, they've got shipments coming in from the Reach, miners went straight from the Westerlands to Dragonstone to start collecting dragonglass."

Hearing someone listing some of the ways that their chances were already better than they'd been, the ways that they, the three of them, were responsible for, was surprisingly uplifting. For all they'd planned for this, it still surprised Sansa how well it had worked. And she could see Jon starting to relax, reacting to the accomplished feeling as well.

"And the free folk are being brought south of the Wall," he added, "that means far less wights than there were."

"Exactly. A united North, a united Westeros, an intact Wall, a better supplied Night's Watch...even if shit goes to hell in the South, as long as we can buy a few more months, we should be able to make things work."

"Arya!" Sansa muttered at her use of language, but knew it was a pointless endeavor.

Jon fell back, lying against Balerion's skull, staring sightlessly up at the ceiling of the cavernous room. Sansa had once watched him fall asleep in that position and thought only someone meant to ride dragons would be that comfortable on one of their skulls.

"If I don't go to the Wall, we still need to send someone we trust."

"Father will have to stay here, since he's Hand," Sansa pointed out, lips pursed in thought. "Robb may visit, but he'll most likely be coordinating from Winterfell, with father sending men he trusts who have experience at war, like the Greatjon, instead."

"What about Obara?"

They both turned to look at Arya, equally skeptical expressions on their faces.

"Oh, come on. She's one of the last people to actually be spying for the Lannisters, or Varys, or anyone else but her father or uncle. And what do we care if the Martells get the information at the same time we do?"

"If that information is the death of the king we care very much," Sansa insisted, but Arya just shrugged it off.

"They know who Jon is, if anything they'll probably let us in on more of their plots if we show some trust."

"No, Sansa, wait...I think...I think Arya might be," Jon made an overly dramatic gasp, clutching his chest, "right."

Arya stuck out her tongue at him, looking around for something that Sansa suspected would be throne at Jon's head, if she could find any suitable debris on the ground.

"Right? I feel like that's unlikely," Sansa replied, playing along, smirking at her little sister.

"As of now, we're friendly with the Martells, at least with Oberyn and the Sand Snakes who are here." He raised an eyebrow at Sansa on the word 'friendly'. "We have a tie to them, through me, but it's not actually by blood. We need a way to show that we're all on the same side, working towards the same goal, not just to keep implying it."

"Hmm, and you think Obara can be trusted with something like that?"

"I think she's the best choice of the Sand Snakes to go to the Wall. That attitude of hers is exactly what a woman would need in a place like that and she's the eldest, she'd probably go regardless if any of her sisters went. Or just to watch Robert die, she'd suffer any amount of cold for that, probably."

"...I'll run it by Elia. Carefully. We're not making this decision until we're sure."

If her siblings were looking at her like they thought she just wanted an excuse to speak with Elia in privately, well, Sansa could ignore that. Mostly because they were right.

Chapter Text

While sleeping, connecting with Nymeria, no matter the distance, was so much easier. Arya stopped being just herself and became Arya-and-Nymeria, girl-and-wolf, slotting together like what they were meant to be.

Winterfell was full of activity, even in the early evening, but everyone by now knew to leave the direwolves be. She slunk through the yard, amused by the wary eyes of the Southron knights and lords, sniffing the air until she caught a scent she was looking for through their bitter fear.

Rickon was covered in mud and laughing as his nursemaid scolded him, Shaggy looking just as bad and just as lacking of remorse. Arya let out a playful growl, nipping the air near Shaggy's tail and shaking her head at Rickon.

"Nym!"

He tried to grab her in a hug and she dodged his dirty hands. Nymeria didn't care too much, but Arya still had people to see and didn't want to be scolded.

"You're both here! Hello!"

She gave his face a quick lick and he laughed again, batting at her. The distraction let the maid grab hold of him and start the trip towards the baths. Arya chuckled in her head at his protests and continued on her way as Shaggy bounded after Rickon.

Her mother was in her solar, looking over letters. She seemed surprised to see her, but Arya figured it was more likely Lady was her regular visitor when Arya wasn't warging. She set her head on her mother's lap and closed her eyes in pleasure as she stroked her fur and went back to work, seemingly a bit more relaxed than before.

Robb came an hour or two later, meaning that Arya didn't have to seek him out, and gave her a nod and a smile that was reserved for his little sister, not a direwolf. He gave Nymeria a pet and a hug then ushered her out of the room, making Arya wonder what sort of things he wanted to talk about without her knowing (he really should have known by now she'd always find out).

That just left Bran, already asleep in his room. Or not, Arya realized, when Summer tilted his head just so. She grinned and butted her head against his, licking his face and being licked in return. After the greeting, they raced each other to the godswood and through the trees, playing as they used to play together in their human bodies.

Shaggy joined them, probably hearing their howls, then Ghost, then Grey Wind, and finally Lady, until they were all there--direwolves and humans, two minds in one form, racing through the snow under the watchful eyes of the heart tree.

Chapter Text

Cersei would be amusing if she wasn't so frustrating. Now that Robert was off to the Wall and their father was left in charge as Hand, Sansa and her siblings were having to counter more and more of Cersei's "clever" plots to gain control.

She tried to start rumors about Ned, like nasty ones about infidelity or odd things done with whores. He'd only ever had one bastard in people's minds (and then many believed it to be Ashara Dayne's and that he'd meant to marry her if the war hadn't started) and had never even set foot in a King's Landing brothel in this lifetime, so the stories of his "activities" with the local whores never took root. And certainly he was pushing for more frugality than ever--the number of feasts and hunts in court had plumetted with Robert's departure--and he was Northern on top of that, so the rumors that he was stealing from the crown never amounted to anything, either.

When that didn't work, Cersei tried to get spies in their midst to learn something to use against him. But Southron servants were much different than Northron ones, which made up the entirety of the Hand's household, and more to the point Cersei kept using ones from the Westerlands who looked like Lannister cousins. It was laughingly easy to figure them out and reassign them to places in the Tower they'd be lucky to come in contact with the Hand's chamber pot, let alone hear anything important.

The poisonings started about two months in, Arya claimed it was mostly substances meant to make their father ill, as opposed to kill them, but Jon was still enraged by it. His practices got more and more violent, specifically against Jaime, who finally called him out and, apparently, got quite the earful.

While Sansa didn't quite agree with bringing this particular version of Jaime into their plots, having him know that his sister was attempting to harm the Hand seemed to have helped them some. He ran interference as much as they did, serving to distract Cersei from the most dangerous of her plans.

Sansa wasn't entirely sure whether Varys was helping or hindering, at times the plots seemed just clever enough that Sansa could swear that Cersei had assistance, but she could never pinpoint them. The attempt to use Lysa Arryn to draw their mother to court, for one, had to be carefully defused. And if Varys decided now was the time he wanted discord, it wouldn't matter to him if Ned Stark had protected his dragon's supposed little brother or not.

Her father was also proving to be surprisingly adept with the Small Council. He hadn't needed to be told that Pycelle was a Lannister man, for one, and knew that he could rely on Ser Barristan, who the King had ordered to stay behind to guard Tommen. And Petyr, well, thankfully Sansa could talk him out of ever trusting him easily enough.

No matter what Cersei tried, people around court all seemed to be in agreement that Ned Stark, while maybe not the Hand they'd choose, was very good for a kingdom in debt going into war. He received high praise even from his rivals, even from the likes of Tywin Lannister himself (and Sansa wish she'd had a way to preserve the memory of look on Cersei's face at that, so that she could show it all around).

The kingdom wasn't going to collapse anytime soon. The war against the Others would be successful this time. And if Cersei tried too hard to interfere, well, she could go the way of Joffrey easily enough.

Chapter Text

"Dragons aren't a problem," Jon stated, plucking the letter from Ned's grasp and handing it over to Sansa.

Ned looked at him, shocked at how bold he was being. "Even if you can...with one of them...that doesn't mean that...."

The three siblings exchanged a glance, then looked pointedly back at Ned. "We know Daenerys, we know what she'll do. And she has months, yet, before she comes to Westeros."

"And by the time she does, we'll need her," Arya pointed out. "Dragons make quick work of wights."

"How...how do you know her?"

Sansa gripped his arm and led him over to the couch, pulling him down to sit beside her as Arya and Jon took chairs nearby. "Father...there's...something we need to tell you."

"It might be hard to believe," Jon cautioned.

"But it will explain a lot," Arya added.

"Exactly. But you can't interrupt, we need to get this all out." Sansa waited for Ned to give a small nod, attention focused back on her. "The three of us, why we've changed, why we know so much, it's because we already lived our lives. And died.

"The South had fallen apart, war ravaged the land for years before the Wall fell to the Others. Barely anyone had paid attention to it, it was worse off than it had been before we were able to get Robert to care about it. Between the free folk and the Others, there were barely any brothers of the Night's Watch left. And it was them and whoever was left and willing fighting or fleeing."

"I was at the Wall," Jon added, filling a gap when she took a breath. "I'd taken the Black instead of coming South, I was still just a bastard boy and it seemed like the best I could hope for." He gave a small, sad smile at the noise Ned made at that. "Stannis had helped, but he'd eventually died. Sansa and Arya found their ways back North and were coordinating the fight from Winterfell when Daenerys came."

Arya leaned forward. "She had wanted to just 'fire and blood' the whole South and take back her throne, but there was already someone on it, a boy pretending to be Aegon VI. So she came North, since we were independent at that point, and we convinced her that her real purpose was destroying the Others and saving Westeros."

"I'd like to think it was mostly my skills that accomplished that." Sansa smirked at her sister and then they both gave Jon a knowing look. "But having a second rider for one of her three dragons probably helped, especially since Jon was more than willing to accept that Aerys disinherited Rhaegar's line and he had no claim to her throne."

Jon snorted. "She was desperate, we took advantage of her. It wasn't our best moment, but we were trying to save the world....Not that it helped. She died, along with one of her dragons, the other was stolen by a mad man. And we barely managed to make our escape with a dozen others on the back of mine."

Ned was looking between them, expression torn between horror, wonder, and disbelief. Sansa didn't think she'd ever seen his face so open before and savored the moment, even if it wasn't really a happy one.

"We died. The last three Starks alive. And we woke up here," she finished.

"Right." Arya got up, sitting down on Ned's other side. "We're back to fix things. You can't even imagine how much better off we are right now, than we had been. How many more of the people we care about are alive."

"You said," Ned's voice was weak, uncertain, "that you were the only three left of us?"

"You went first. Then Robb and mother." Sansa grimaced, remembering the thing that had once been their mother, she wouldn't count that as living. "Bran...he...he was a powerful greenseer, he was lured north of the Wall by something called the Last Greenseer and...it possessed him. We don't know how much of him was left, in the end."

"Rickon died on Skagos." Jon's shoulders slumped and Sansa reached across to take one of his hands in hers, remembering when they'd figured that out. "Lord Manderly sent a man to find him, but he couldn't manage to get him back. By the time we found all that out...the Others had already taken the island."

Ned wrapped his arms around his daughters, pulling them closer to his side. "I know I shouldn't believe you, I should find this all mad, but...it explains so much," he agreed.

Arya gave a soft laugh and Sansa was tempted to join her, because their father didn't even know half of what they'd been up to. "Doesn't it?"

"And back to Dany and her dragons," Jon began, seemingly oblivious to the informal way he spoke of his aunt, though Ned gave a little start at it, "we've thought of a few ways to direct her North in this life. You shouldn't need to worry."

"I...you're still my children. I can't just let you do all the work, the dangerous work."

Sansa clamped a hand over her mouth, a few little giggles escaping, as she thought of all the things they'd already done. "Daenerys isn't all that dangerous, just complicated."

"And this...this Aegon pretender?" He winced, most likely remembering the real baby Aegon the last time he'd seen him.

Frowning, Jon glanced at Sansa, then away. "He's...that's complicated, too. Depending on how things play out, he may be our best choice for a king, though."

"But Robert--"

"If Robert dies," Jon hurriedly conceded.

Ned looked skeptical, but nodded. "I...really don't need to worry about the dragons? But the whole of the Small Council will be."

"Varys knows about Jon," Arya pointed out. "And he's backing the pretender."

Sansa shook her head. "Just say that Daenerys hasn't made any new move to come West, that she's settling into ruling Meereen, and that we have greater issues to worry about for now. We'll handle the rest."

He closed his eyes, took a deep breath, then nodded again. "For now," he agreed. "But...can you...can you tell me more, about your last life?"

Chapter Text

As the South sent their fighting forces to the North, the North began to send what vulnerable people they could South. Sansa had been able to convince her grandfather to have his bannermen take in the refugees, with the knowledge it would only be temporary until the War for the Dawn was won (or until it was lost).

But many of the noble houses sent their women and children further south, to King's Landing and the court being overseen by their Warden. Catelyn and Rickon were among them.

Sansa was happy to see her mother, of course, and even moreso to see the little brother she'd worried would forget her during her extended absence, but she was also nervous. Because as much as she had worked to soften her mother's view of Jon, there would always be that edge of resentment and mistrust there.

It did not take long to boil over.

Bran had stayed North both to act as the Stark at Winterfell for Robb, who often was at the Wall or in nearby keeps, and in case he had a greendream and needed to get information to the Wall quickly. But to Catelyn, who favored Bran above all of her children, it was preposterous.

"I let you make the boy a Stark! Send him to Winterfell!" she demanded of Ned while sitting at the very same table breaking her fast as Jon was.

Arya's hands were clenching and loosening around the handles of her silverware and Sansa wondered if she was remembering Lady Stoneheart, too, in that moment. The hateful creature that lurked inside their mother that Sansa would have rather never known about.

"I'll go to Winterfell," Sansa offered, in part simply to see the appalled look her mother gave at the suggestion.

All of the other people at the table, barring Rickon, protested and it took Sansa kicking Jon underneath it to keep him from volunteering instead. He knew why Bran had to stay.

"If the Wall falls, Winterfell will hear of it," Ned said, face stern, voice almost harsh--since learning the truth of everything that had happened in their last life, he'd grown a bit less oblivious of his wife's faults. "Bran will be evacuated. Robb was right to keep him there, there must always be a Stark at Winterfell."

Jon met Sansa's eyes, his face blank but there was pain in his gaze. He knew that Bran would most likely need to stay in the North, even as the Others began to overrun it. They were fighting hard to keep their little brother himself this time, but they might not be able to forever.

"He's just a boy!"

"He's nearly a man grown, Catelyn. And with the way of the world is right now, the gods only know what he may have to face in his lifetime. There's Others in the North, dragons in the East...we can't coddle him, we can't coddle any of our children anymore."

His shoulders slumped and Sansa gripped his arm, watching her mother. "It's true. We need to be ready to face the world and the dangers, new and old, in it. I hope you both live a long, long time, but we'll be expected to marry and leave home, to stand on our own feet." In the last life, her parents had failed to realize this, they had left all of them so very unprepared for life without them.

Catelyn was scowling, looking between them. "It won't be for years let, Sansa, you--"

"Mother, we can't know that. And this is King's Landing, even if I stay here for years more, it will still be dangerous."

"We're here for you, your father and I, and," for a moment she looked like she was about to choke on her own tongue, "Jon. Neither you nor Arya are alone. You don't have to feel like that."

Sansa sighed, shaking her head. "It's fine, mother, just forget about it." Turning to look at Rickon, she asked, "I heard you were going to be training with Jon and the others today, are you excited?"

Catelyn and Ned exchanged a look, frustration in Catelyn's eyes. Beside her, Sansa saw Jon and Arya doing the same, though their glance was knowing. She didn't know if she could ever trust her mother with the full truth, knowing how often she overreacted in the last life, but at least she wasn't alone.

Chapter Text

"Robert is dead."

Arya paced before them, arms behind her back, chin up, eyes narrowed. A commander readying her troops for war.

"We planned for this, even if we didn't know when it would happen. Sansa." She stopped in front of her. "You're to make sure Cersei and the Lannisters don't interfere with father's position as Tommen's regent."

Sansa nodded. "Since he's been acting as Robert's for so many months, it will be an easy transition, and much harder for Cersei to undermine him."

Arya shifted her attention to Jon. "Jon. You will need to prepare for the Targaryens' presence. And try to get everyone under our control."

Jon winced, but nodded. This meant interacting with so many people he preferred to keep his distance.

She took a deep breath, serious face slowly morphing into a smirk. "And I will use this opportunity to sow a little chaos."

They'd all been waiting for the moment she'd finally kill Littlefinger for years.

***

Jon had seen to the Martells first. They were, ostensibly, the easiest. In their own suites they were throwing a party. He drank, and flirted back with Oberyn, and gave into the contentment for an hour or two so they'd relax around him, as well.

And then he took Oberyn to the side (letting anyone who wanted to believe they were doing far more than kissing and talking) and finally told him truly about the mummer's dragon. If they weren't alone in the room and if Jon wasn't all but wrapped around him, he thought Oberyn would have found a way to get Varys killed within minutes.

He decided to go to Varys next, worried that Oberyn's hostility might chase him off before Jon had a chance to speak.

"The world is changing, my...lord," Varys put in after some talk of the Wall and the Red Keep, making it quite obvious to anyone that was listening he meant to address Jon as something else. "King Robert did not leave behind a strong kingdom or heir. There will be many divisions between kingdoms and houses...many people having to question where their loyalties lie."

"...Is that so?" Jon bit his lip, glancing down. "But...surely it's obvious which side people should fall on?"

"Is it? When not all the sides have yet to be revealed?"

With a pointed look and then a smile, Varys left. Jon managed to close his eyes before rolling them.

Then onto Renly. Soft touches, almost-kisses, reminders that the Starks and Baratheons were allies against the Lannisters.

Barristan after those two was almost a breeze, for all it was a stilted conversation about loyalties and vows. Then it was Jaime and...that was worse. He'd never gotten to be a father to any of his children and his regard for them was far less than most father's might be, but it was still his family that would be losing power. There was only so much Jon was comfortable leveraging on his guilt and loyalty to Rhaegar.

***

For Sansa, her work mostly consisted of staying near her father's side when she could and having social get togethers with the other ladies at court. Hers were more popular than the Queen Dowager's, as Sansa knew better than to be outright cruel to people.

She soon could reestablish her knowledge that Cersei had very few allies at court and that the death of Robert had in fact weakened her position, not strengthened it. Most expected Sansa and Tommen, or Arya and Tommen, to wed and that it would be the Starks who held the true power in King's Landing.

Tywin was the real threat, but no one liked Tywin, they only feared him.

Sansa could say, thanks to herself and her siblings, her father was liked, and loved, and feared. He was honorable, but not stupid. Not righteous. He was trustworthy where it counted, fair. But the Starks had their favorites and those people benefited from that, so people still wanted their favor.

It was a delicate balance, but they were managing it. Their father was no Cregan, but he wasn't the Ned Stark of their last life, either.

Now if only they could figure out just who they had to thank (or punish) for Robert's untimely death.

***

Arya didn't wear anyone else's face when she killed Petyr Baelish. She let him stare right into her Stark eyes as she cut him here and there, the blood from his severed tongue bubbling down his chin.

"I just want you to know," she muttered as she worked, grinning maliciously down at him, "that the world is about to change, that all of the players are about to find out that the board isn't even what they thought it was. And that you won't be around to do anything about it."

Hours later, after ditching the body and washing off, changing into the clean clothing and burning her soiled ones, she'd return to her room with a bounce in her steps.

Ned, with bags under his eyes and a slump to his shoulders, would smile at the sight of her and bring her in for a long hug. Even without knowing why his little girl was happy, the knowledge that she was would lift his spirits for the rest of the day.

Chapter Text

"It's odd," Sansa murmured, her head resting on Elia's lap as they watched the waves break against the shore.

"What is?" Elia's tone was amused, accepting, she was used to her Sansa's mind seemed to wander.

She reached her hand out, running it over the ground beside them. "How someone can go their entire lives thinking they know themselves and then find out they're someone else. I can't imagine what it would actually be like."

"...Jon?"

Sansa bit her lip, then nodded. "You know, we found out recently that...that his...his step-mother and siblings were supposed to meet them there? They'd been stopped from leaving. He could have...grown up with them."

Elia was tenser, now, a slight tremor in her touch. "They were?"

"They knew where he was. All three of them were supposed to get there. But...but the Mad King must have stopped it."

Maybe she should feel bad about lying to the woman she loved, but Sansa knew this was for the best. Elia, the Martells, had to be told somehow not to trust the mummer's Aegon. If throwing doubt on Elia's namesake giving up one of her children did that, then so be it.

"He would have grown up with them...probably in Dorne."

Elia's words caught and Sansa looked up in time to see her squeezing her eyes shut. She cupped her cheek, rubbing her thumb against the soft skin there.

"And you with three more cousins," she murmured.

"This is...." Elia shook her head and Sansa let her arm drop back down. "Poor Jon."

"He has family now," Sansa pointed out. "He has all of you. And us. And an aunt across the Narrow Sea."

Sighing, Elia, leaned over, pressing her lips to Sansa's in a quick, chaste kiss. "He does. I have just heard so much about my namesake, I wish we'd gotten the chance to know her. Jon deserved to have a mother growing up. Everyone does."

"We can't change the past," Sansa held back a wry smile at her own words, "we can only ever move forward. Avenge our losses, build a better world."

Someday, maybe she'd be able to tell Elia the truth of things. Sansa liked to think that Elia was the sort of person who'd understand why some secrets had to be kept. Until then, Sansa would lie as much as she had to in order to keep her family, including Elia, safe.

Chapter Text

Arya caught the assassin's wrist at the last possible minute. She'd known what she should do, but, oh, did she fantasize about not stopping it in those split seconds.

Everyone else in the room seemed frozen in place as she shattered their wrist with a blow from her free hand and Jon slammed the hilt of his dagger against the man's head. He fell to the ground, unconscious, hopefully still well enough for questioning.

Even if she couldn't get to appreciate his death (yet), Arya could certainly appreciate Tywin Lannister's expression. A girl just saved his life, a Stark one at that.

He finally managed to get out a formal, stilted thank you to her, and to Jon, and searched out their father's face in the room.

As Tommen's Regent, Ned ordered for the man to be taken to the black cells and guarded by no less than three men at a time. He offered for Tywin to send his own men and he immediately ordered a few red cloaks along. Everyone knew that whoever sent the assassin, because it was doubtful some servant took the initiative on their own to try to stab the King's grandfather, would want the man dead before he could be questioned.

Tywin didn't try to interfere even once as Ned gave orders to the gold cloaks, and the Kingsguard, and the other nobles. He even seemed to support him, agreeing with his orders and giving his own family pointed looks when they might have otherwise protested.

Whoever had meant to sow discord in King's Landing would have to do much better to get one over on Arya. Perhaps she would even thank them, when she finally sniffed them out.

A Lannister always paid their debts and Tywin owed the Starks his life, now.

Chapter Text

"A letter from Robb," Sansa called to Arya and Jon, distracting them from their impromptu grappling match on the floor of their father's solar.

She ignored their banter as they hurried towards her, Arya probably teasing Jon for how quickly he responded at the sound of Robb's name. While they settled into seats around her, she broke the seal and began to skim the letter.

"He's at the Wall, they've seen movement by the Others very close by...."

Sansa froze, eyes roving over the next passage again and again in an attempt to make sense of it.

"What is it?" Arya demanded, reaching to try to take the letter.

Pushing her away, Sansa shook off her daze and continued, "Daenerys is there." Arya let out a shout of surprise and Jon sank deeper into this seat, looking away from her. "With the news all over the Seven Kingdoms, she eventually heard of it, apparently, and flew by to see what was really going on."

"So she's helping?" Arya tried for the letter again, though Sansa knew if she really wanted it she'd already have it.

"...Yes. She spoke to Robb, Lord Commander Mormont, and some of the others and flew back to Essos to get her troops together. They're expected to start trickling in in a few weeks."

Jon rubbed his hand over his eyes, glancing at the letter. "That's it?"

Licking her lips, she continued to silently read, curses falling from her lips at the next passage. "That complete idiot!"

"Who?"

"It's Robb, stupid, who else could she be talking about?"

Jon stuck his tongue out at Arya and joined her in trying to grab the letter. Sansa stood up on her chair, keeping one hand out to ward them off.

"He told Daenerys about you, Jon."

He grimaced. "Everything?"

"Well...he told her who your parents were. I don't think he went into much more detail than that. At least the letter doesn't say that."

"Why would he do that?"

"Apparently he worried that Maester Aemon would let it slip to her and...oh, Robb." She rolled her eyes. "He wanted her to have a reason to speak more with him."

Arya wrinkled her nose. "He's got a crush on the Mother of Dragons? He has the worst taste in women."

"She's not that bad," Jon protested, deflating when they both gave him skeptical looks. "Still, this is a good thing. We hadn't really thought through who we'd match her with, if we want her to end up Queen."

"Robb's our brother, do we really want to do this to him?"

"Robb's the Heir to Winterfell," Sansa added, "it will complicate things if he becomes King Consort."

Jon shook his head. "Will it, though? Bran's still Bran. Rickon's here, safe and sound, being properly educated."

Tapping her finger against her bottom lip, Sansa considered that possibility. She would like a Stark on or adjacent to the throne and preferably not herself. Despite his lack of enthusiasm for it, Jon had been their fallback for a long time. But this...this could work.

"I need to think it over more," she muttered, "there's a lot of factors to work out. We'll reconvene after dinner."

They knew better than to protest, instead sharing a look that even Sansa could see was a question about sparring and leaving the solar so she could plot.

Chapter Text

Jon did not like ships, but as soon as he was told they neared White Harbor he managed to clean himself off, throw on clothes that didn't seem to smell entirely of sick, and get on deck. Well, with some help from Jaime, who had insisted on coming along to guard him under the auspices of checking in on Stannis at the Wall, as he was Tommen's heir for now.

When they finally docked, he thought he could honestly say he was experiencing the first time in his life he was glad to see Theon Greyjoy.

After a brief round of mocking Jon for being such a greenlander, Theon and their Manderly escort led him to the New Castle. It was an odd experience, the first time he'd been at a major castle in the North as a legitimized Stark and not a Snow. He'd somehow forgotten that, with everything else going on. Forgotten that to those around him, and especially those in the North, he was still Jon Snow, without any true accomplishments to justify his Stark name.

Theon, at least, treated him mostly the same, if with fewer "bastards" thrown into his insults. "I've been helping with the ships heading to Eastwatch," he stated, puffing up at the great honor he'd been given by Robb.

Whether Theon realized that the position kept him further from the Iron Islands and content, Jon didn't know. "Do that many stop here?"

"A lot of the Southron captains aren't prepared to go that far North in this weather, so they've been offloading supplies here and ships more experienced with the North have been ferrying them to the Watch."

Jon nodded, seeing the sense in that. Losing ships and supplies, and good men, in the Bay of Seals wouldn't be worth the few days saved. Even moreso if the white walkers managed to break through the Wall and start raising the dead in the water.

"Will you be joining us on our journey to Winterfell?" Jaime asked from the other side of Jon, where he had been enjoying a classically overdone Manderly feast in silence.

Theon looked torn, then finally shook his head. "I'm more use here for now. Robb's got a handle on what's going on and the Wall needs to be as fortified as possible right now." He leaned in closer to Jon, his eyes shifting between the two of them. "I've heard stories, from some of the captains, and some of the Wildlings that have been joining their crews or taking refuge here. What's beyond the Wall...it's something straight out of Old Nan's stories to scare us as children. We need to be as prepared as possible for when they finally make their move or none of us are likely to survive it."

Nodding, Jon was impressed by how serious Theon was being on the subject (and wondered just what sort of horror stories he must have heard to be so spooked). "I saw only the smallest bit of it, when I went to the Wall to get proof for Robert. But I agree. The war against the Others must be our priority."

Later that night, Jon prepared for bed and Jaime insisted on staying in the room, guarding him. But Jon could feel the weight of his gaze following him throughout his nightly routine and it wasn't long before he snapped.

"What?"

Jaime raised his eyebrows. "Your grace?"

"Don't, Ser Jaime. And what is the issue?"

"You know, Rhaegar was very interested in prophecy. In stories of magic."

"I know that, almost anyone who has heard more than the basics about him have heard that. What's the point?"

"You seem to know a lot about the Others. More than you're saying, at least in front of me."

He considered that for a moment, wanting to just tell Jaime the truth, to tell him of the war they'd fought together, of how well Jon actually knows another version of him. But he couldn't. It wasn't in the plan. Sansa would kill him.

"Ser Jaime, there are just some things that I can't tell you. Your still loyal to your family and I can't blame you for putting them first. But your father, during the Rebellion, he...."

Watching Jaime's face crumple for just a second before he got it under control almost made Jon second guess himself. "Of course. I understand. It's...I didn't know. You know that, don't you? I didn't know what my father had ordered. I would have never...."

Jon gave an awkward smile. "I know, Jaime. And if you could go back and stop it, I know you would. But it happened. And I can't just forget that. Not when no one has paid for it but the victims."

There wasn't much to say after that and Jaime soon left, agreeing that Jon would be safe enough in his father's (uncle's) territory, in the home of his bannerman.

He felt bad, bringing it up, constantly reminding Jaime of how he'd failed Rhaegar, but it was necessary. In order for Jaime to break fully away from Cersei, to become a more worthy man, he needed to face the hard truths of the Rebellion, not just hide behind his masks and bitterness.

When the time came, Jaime would need to choose between his family and his loyalty to the Targaryens. Jon might have done what he could to let Jaime avoid making that choice, but Daenerys would not be so kind.

Chapter Text

In Winterfell, it was harder to pretend.

He was not a true wolf to the spirits in the crypts, a dragon in wolfs clothing, an enemy inside the gates.

That was what the dreams said, urging him deeper into the crypts even as they pushed him away. Tearing him apart.

"I am a Stark!" he would cry out, knowing that in the past life he'd never dare say such a thing. "My mother rests within these walls!"

But it did nothing.

Awake, the push and pull was no better. He was constantly in planning meetings with Daenerys and Robb, who watched him and saw two different people within him.

He'd been a fool to think one short lifetime could be enough to move on.

***

In Winterfell, they knew to allow the direwolves where they wished to go.

Sansa "napped" whenever she could during the day so she might see through Lady's eyes, hear through her ears.

She stayed close to Robb and Jon when she could and, as the gentlest of the wolves, had endeared herself to Daenerys in a way. Daenerys who did not know of warging, who did not know to guard her words around the direwolves.

Everything she heard, Sansa considered, slotting into the places of their plans. The Others would attack the Wall in force soon, but the armies of men were not so unified.

Stannis and Daenerys, of course, despised one another. For all they both had foreign faith wrapping around them like cloaks, used to justify their actions, for all they had two common enemies in the Others and the Lannisters, they could never come to a true compromise. Stannis supported a Usurper and Daenerys would steal a Baratheon throne.

It meant Robb took control more often than not. Robb who was still so young. Who had to live in this world or Sansa would feel like everything they'd done had been for nothing.

***

In Winterfell, Nymeria hunted. Sometimes with Arya, though she knew enough now to not always need her human for such things.

Arya had taught her over the months, slipping into her body, sharing her head, showing how to find the spies, the traitors. How to root them out.

Sometimes it was simply that scrolls went missing. Sometimes poisons were spilt or weapons lost. Sometimes it was that bodies appeared.

Robb knew not to question it and the men of Winterfell, having seen enough now to suspect if not know, never questioned him on the matter.

She knew Sansa was taking care of the politics, and Jon the military, but it was Arya, and Nymeria, who ruled the shadows there.

Chapter Text

Others might think themselves masters of the tunnels throughout the Red Keep, but they could never know them as Arya did. She had traveled them in the night as a cat, as a rat, even once as a bird. She knew the secrets that human eyes could not find.

She knew how to follow one particularly paranoid spymaster without being caught. Until she wanted to be.

"Who goes there?" Varys demanded at the sudden sound, waving his torch to and fro.

Arya stepped out into the dim light, giving her sweetest smile. "Lord Varys, what a surprise to find you down here. It almost seems like you're leaving the Keep."

"Ah, Lady Arya. Yes, I have business that I must take care of."

"Really? When the political situation here is so tense? Can't your...little birds handle it?"

He was staring at her, now, with obvious suspicion. There was something just a little off about her, people would say when she was like this, something that felt wrong in a girl.

"I am the Master of Whisperers, my dear. I have many tasks to complete that might not make sense to those observing."

Arya chuckled, though there was no humor in it, and circled around him, a direwolf with her prey in sight. "Oh, they make plenty of sense, Lord Varys. Is it Pentos you're going to? Or elsewhere? Perhaps you're seeking out your little Aegon, now? Will it be Dragonstone? Or straight to the Stormlands?"

She liked to watch his mind race, he was normally so casual, so calm. Now he was thinking fast, because perhaps Jon could have figured out that Aegon lived and told her, but how could she know that's who he sought? And where he planned to be? Where he planned to start his invasion?

"You have...extraordinary sources, Lady Arya."

Her knife slipped into her hand, glinting in the flame. "Better than you could ever imagine, Lord Varys."

He was still too relaxed, but she figured he thought some of his little birds were flitting about. He couldn't know she'd cleared them out over the last sennight, that they were well and truly alone, now.

"Surely you'd support the brother of your beloved cousin, Lady Arya? The rightful king?"

"Robert Baratheon took the throne through conquest, Stannis is the rightful king, if anyone actually cares about that. And that mummer's dragon of yours is never going to get close to the throne, not when two actual Targaryens are still around."

Small beads of sweat were forming on his brow, his eyes moving all around them as if looking for an escape. Finally, just when she thought he might accept his fate, a determined expression overtook his features.

"You cannot possibly know everything you pretend to, child, and you will never be a master of this game."

And then, the fool shoved his torch into the dirt and sand of the floor, smothering the flame, throwing them into darkness.

Arya laughed again, this time with true mirth. "Poor little spider. Don't you know? Wolves are nocturnal hunters."

And no one would ever find his body, this deep under the Keep.

Chapter Text

There was nothing like riding a dragon. Jon felt free, powerful. Staring down at the world, tiny and vulnerable, it wasn't hard to understand why Aegon I thought he could conquer it.

Viserion banked and Jon held on tightly, shifting his body instinctively to stay in place. Half of it was the few flying experiences he'd gotten in the last life, but most of it was instinct and the impressions flowing through their growing bond.

When Daenerys had offered to introduce Jon to the dragons, he knew it was a test--a real Targaryen would surely not fear them the one others did. And they would surely not hurt him for no reason. She couldn't know how familiar he already was with her sons and he took advantage of that, giving her exactly what she wanted to see.

This particular dragon, though, had no time for his games. Viserion had shoved himself against Jon, tail and wings blocking him from view, declaring to the others watching that Jon was his.

Jon had never gotten the chance to just have fun with a dragon. In the last life his riding had been about desperation, a last ditch effort to kill some wights and flee.

Now he'd spent every free moment he could in the air, soaking up the contented feelings through their bond. Nothing had felt so right in a long time.

If they were lucky, one of the Baratheons they could trust would get Rhaegal. If it was the Aegon pretending to be his brother, there could be problems.

But now wasn't the time to think of such things. Aegon was an issue for the South and it was Sansa and Arya who would handle him. Daenerys and the white walkers were who Jon had to focus on.

And having the armies of Westeros and many Essosi forces, two dragon riders, and the reluctant cooperation between so many enemies, Jon couldn't help but hope that his job wouldn't be as hard as it looked.

He turned Viserion further north, catching a glimpse of the Wall glinting in the sun to assure himself once more it still stood in this timeline, then headed back towards Winterfell and the endless feeling planning meetings.

Chapter Text

"Please," Bran had started to beg, the little unbroken boy all but dropping to his knees to do it. "Please, I can't take it anymore. The dreams. The pull. I need to go."

Robb was vehemently against it. Stannis thought Bran might be going mad and his red woman, disliking the Children's magic that flowed through Stark veins, hissed that he was being drawn to the Great Other. Daenerys...Daenerys knew about dreams and magic. Daenerys agreed with Jon.

"We'll both fly him," she stated. "With guards that will stay with him so he is not alone."

"Free folk who might volunteer," Jon suggested, "who know the lands North of the Wall."

"And if the Others spot you? Follow you?"

Jon frowned again at the map of the North, thinking of Bran's pleading that morning. "The Others are set to attack soon, aren't they? If we go around them while they're distracted, we can drop him off and then circle back and burn their rare guard."

Stannis grumbled the whole time, but seemed to appreciate the whole endeavor more now that it could have some strategic value. Robb still seemed torn, though.

"Bran will fly with me," Daenerys stated. "Since I have the most experience. Our dragons are more than large enough to handle passengers and supplies. If this does give us an edge, like Bran thinks, like whoever is speaking to him in his dreams is promising...we should take it."

"Can your dragons even pass over the Wall? Wasn't that an issue with Alysanne?"

"It's true, they can't pass over it," Dany replied, looking at Robb with renewed appreciation. "But they can go around it. The Wall does not extend into the sea, after all."

No one was entirely satisfied with the plan, but it was enough of a compromise. They had their smiths and leatherworkers fashion bags for them to wear on the dragons and then set out not long after for the Wall.

After that, it was just a waiting game.

Chapter Text

It was hard to ride away from a fight. His former black brothers and so many other allies were at the Wall, fending off the Others, and he was safe on Viserion's back, flying into lands abandoned.

He had Bran in front of him so he could keep a firm arm around him, even though they were strapped into the saddle. The winds were harsh, but Jon barely felt the cold with Viserion's heat flowing through him. Bran, on the other hand, was bundled tight and could barely motion through his heavy cloak to direct Jon where to go.

He'd flown this route, he said, in his dreams. It was the best they could do, no one else sure where the cave could be.

Finally, Bran started to motion frantically and Jon circled down, down, carefully watching for any signs of wights. Behind him, Daenerys followed.

Altogether, they'd brought six of the free folk and four Stark men with them, as well as Summer (who looked as put out as a direwolf could when they strapped him to the saddle) and enough supplies to last them a few months if they were careful. Whatever Bran would face in that cave, it would hopefully be far easily for him than in the last life.

"This is it," Bran muttered, moving forward as if in a daze. "It really exists."

Daenerys let out a soft laugh. "I hope so, I would hate to think we're out in this cold for nothing."

"Pah!" one of the free folk replied, "If you think this is cold, wait until real winter sets in up here!"

The face Daenerys made drew laughter even from Jon, despite his nerves.

"I'm going in with Bran," he told her. "I think it would be best if you scouted around on Drogon, so we can have a warning if anyone approaches."

"I'll take Viserion with us. The dragons shouldn't stay still in this weather for too long, they are creatures of fire. Like Targaryens." She gave him a pointed look and he knew she was warning him not to linger, but he only agreed and moved to follow Bran.

The Children they encountered were nothing like Jon had expected. If he hadn't seen so much magic, if he hadn't come back to life, gone back in time, ridden two dragons, he might have even been awed by them, the way the others in their party were.

They watched him, though, as suspiciously as he watched them, and he was surprised when they bid him to follow deeper into their home.

"Bloodraven," he breathed out when he realized where they'd brought him, who was in front of him.

The man--what was left of a man--regarded him with his odd red eyes. "Nephew. It is good to see that our family has survived."

"Is it? It was my ancestor that sent you to the Wall."

"I knew I would be punished. I expected an execution, but Egg was always a soft hearted boy."

Kill the boy, Jon could almost hear Maester Aemon saying.

"I know Bran needs to be here, needs to train. But you've lived in these lands for a long time, among the Children of the Forest. Is there nothing more you know of the Others? Nothing else we can do to defeat them."

"Ahh, they will never be fully defeated, you know."

"I...no. What do you mean?"

"You would need to travel deep into the heart of their lands to destroy them. Even those during the Last Nights of the past only managed to drive them back."

Jon felt sick. "But they can be driven back! How?"

Bloodraven seemed to make some movement and one of the Children left, coming back soon after with a bundle in its hands. "I do not know. I cannot see it. Your cousin and I shall search for the answers. But, until then, there is one tool I can offer you. One that would have belonged to you, in another life, if I had not kept it."

He suspected what it was even before the Child handed it to him. Gulping, he unwrapped the sword, staring into the shine of Valyrian steel. "Dark Sister. It's been with you all this time, not really lost at all."

"Only as lost as I was."

Wrapping it back up, he glanced around, taking stock of the Children still with them, still staring, hostility seeping from them. "Why don't they like me? It can't be because I'm Valyrian, so are you."

"Ah, in some ways we are very similar. But in some ways we are not. There's power not just in blood, but in their bloodlines. In their names. I am Valyrian and First Man, my father was Targaryen, but my mother was not a Stark." He looked more intently at Jon and he found himself leaning in, closer to Bloodraven than he'd planned on getting. "Yours is the song of ice and fire, Aemon Targaryen. I do not know the full extent of what that means, but I know you were always meant to have a part to play in this war. You were created for it, born for it. Your parents died for it."

"What does that mean? What does their deaths have to do with this?"

Bloodraven gave him a look as though he knew Jon had far more information than he let on and was being foolish. Jon was not entirely sure he was wrong.

"Only death can pay for life. And you've lived two already, haven't you?"

His words were like a physical blow, Jon's mind struggling to comprehend them.

"Go on, then, nephew. Say goodbye to your cousin and go back to the Wall. There are far more important tasks for you than lingering here."

Chapter Text

"Stark!"

Arya called at the voice, raising her eyebrows as Asha Greyjoy strode towards her. She'd seen her sometimes with Jon and Arya had taken many opportunities to tease him about wanting to be the stone husband to the Lady Reaper of the Iron Islands, but she hadn't gotten to know her well. Not that they had in the last life, either.

"Greyjoy?"

"Where's that sister of yours? The smart one?"

Rolling her eyes, Arya turned back to her practice. "I have one sister and you know it, Greyjoy. And we're all smart."

"I need someone that knows politics, you barely pay attention."

Arya smirked as she turned her attention back to Asha. "I think I'd surprise you. Why don't you tell me why you need my sister and maybe, if I feel like it, I'll let her know."

Sansa had been holed up in the Tower of the Hand for a few days, working, though Arya knew that was her own way of trying to run from her fears. Bran and Jon were in the far North and anything could be happening to them.

After a critical once-over, Asha relented, seemingly too frustrated to bother pushing harder. "My father's dead, my uncle, Euron, has returned from his banishment and is going to try to take up the Lordship."

"Lordship that should rightfully go to Theon," Arya mused, eyes narrowing in satisfaction when anger flashed across Asha's face. "Or...perhaps...you?"

"The Iron Born have never had a female leader," she muttered.

"So? The world is changing. There's dead men walking and dragons at the Wall. Maybe everywhere should be taking it as a sign to make their own changes. And how could a woman truly be worse than a madman like the Crow's Eye?"

Asha frowned at her, tilting her head to the side in consideration. "How do you know about my uncle?"

Arya gave a mysterious smile and began to pack up her training weapons. "I like to stay informed of certain threats." And there had been few threats in their last life quite like Euron Greyjoy.

"He's been in Essos for years, why would you think him a threat?"

"Listen, Asha," Arya shouldered her bag and stepped closer, "we don't really know each other, but my brother likes you. So I'm going to trust you more than I probably should. What you see on the surface of this world? It's not what's going on underneath. There's magic out there that's biding its time. My family? We've got a type of it. But your uncle, he's been collecting his own."

"Madness," Asha muttered.

"Aye, he is mad. But don't worry, we have no desire to see him in charge of anyone." She patted Asha on the shoulder as she walked by. "Have your ship readied, we're sailing for Pyke on the morn."

Asha turned around quickly, but not quickly enough to see Arya before she blended into the shadows and swept through one of the hidden passages of the Keep. They'd hoped they'd get more warning about Euron before he attacked and it looked like this was their chance.

Sansa might not agree with her, but Arya was going to take every opportunity to shove a knife through that monster's good eye. No one in any world would blame her for it.

Chapter Text

The storm hit them like a physical blow, knocking Jon and Viserion off course. Down, down, Viserion pulling up at the very last moment and crashing into the trees of the forest.

Jon hurriedly unchained himself from the saddle, sliding off of Viserion and checking to make sure none of his wounds were anything but superficial.

“Stay here,” he muttered, giving him a few rubs under the chin. “The battle isn’t too far away and I don’t want to risk you by going back up into that storm. Only fly if you sense someone other than me coming. Those Others can kill you.”

He wasn’t sure if the warning meant much, but he hoped it would.

The trees blocked out the worst of the wind as Jon trudged on, thinking he was going in the right direction. But they couldn’t keep the wind from blocking out sound and he almost didn’t have enough warning to dodge as a crystalline blade came down where his neck had been a second before.

He brought Longclaw up, his ability to block the Other’s blade over and over without his blade shattering seemingly shocking it. Furiously moving in time to its strikes, trying to do his best to keep up with its speed, Jon found his worst opponent was not the white walker before him, but the memories that bombarded his mind.

Undead giants and mammoths, ice wyrms burrowing under their troops and caving in the earth beneath, the ice spiders near as large as Ghost with venom that froze a person inside out, the unrelenting blue stares of the Others as they watched from afar. The death, so much death, like the whole world was dying around them.

~You should just surrender to my blade, boy, you shall not win,~ the Other taunted, its voice musical and terrible, like the cracking of ice coating a lake.

“I will not surrender. I do not fear you, your kind can die. Will die.”

It seemed shocked at his reply, that he had understood it. He could sympathize with that. The first time he’d realized he could understand their language had been a shock to him, as well. That Sam couldn’t, that Arya couldn’t, but he could...he’d never actually found a satisfactory answer. But he’d kept it to himself in that life, concerned that it might be his last line of defense against the white walkers at some point.

The Other’s sword clashed with his, then it pushed out, making him step back, putting space between them again. ~You can listen, boy?~

“Aye, not that you’re saying anything worth listening to.”

~What foul magic have you used, human?~

Both of them danced around the other, sword at the ready. How long, he wondered, would he have to stall before Viserion could fly in to save him? Before Daenerys noticed he did not return to the Wall and came searching? How long, worse yet, before reinforcements arrived for this Other?

“I was born understanding you. Was born to fight you.”

Those bright blue eyes narrowed, then its sword was swinging once more and Jon was blocking, rolling under its reach, striking from behind only to be blocked. Over and over they moved, striking and countering.

~Born to fight us? How pretentious you humans are!~

“It’s the truth,” he hissed out, trying to hide how breathless he was becoming--unlike the Other, he had to breath, and the frozen air was doing his lungs no favors. “I was bred and born to fight in this war. Mine is the Song of Ice and Fire.” It did sound pretentious, he knew, but he had long ago accepted his birth father's ramblings as having some thread of truth.

The Other froze in place, not blocking his next strike, not even flinching as the steel of Dark Sister cut into its pale armor. He hesitated from striking again, unsure what it was doing, and that cost him.

Suddenly, the Other moved, plowing into him with no finesse, both their swords flying off into the snow. It clutched at his face, its cold hands burning his skin, its eyes searching for something.

~It can’t be,~ it whispered, the sound like tinkling glass in the back of Jon’s mind. ~After all this time, humans remembered that, but not the rest?~

“What are you talking about?” he demanded, trying to push it off, but it was too strong, too solid.

~You are the Prince That Was Promised.~

He glared. “Yes.”

~This changes everything.~

And then the Other was off of him, moving so fast it was almost a blur. It picked up their swords and then came back to him. He stood, stumbling away, and Jon thought it looked frustrated.

~We must hurry. We must stop the fighting.~

“What?”

~The fighting. We must end it, now. It is unnecessary.~

Jon stared. “What are you talking about?”

~You are the prince we were promised.~

“The Prince That Was Promised.”

~Yes.~

He felt like he’d been hit square in the chest, breathless and aching. They had always thought they’d known what that meant, had thought it was related to defeating the Others.

“...Promised for what?”

The white walker held out his sword to him and Jon hesitantly took it back, gripping Dark Sister’s hilt and watching it for any sudden movements. ~To marry our Queen. To unite our peoples against our enemy.~

And then it started to walk away, through the trees, towards the fighting, he realized. “Enemy? What enemy? You’re our enemy!”

~Why would we ever think of such weak creatures as an enemy?~ The question had a rhetorical note to it and he didn’t bother answering. ~We flee from the Great Enemy at the crown of the world, which reaches out for us even now. You are in our way now, as you had been before.~

Great enemy...the Great Other? Jon could hardly believe that the red priestesses he’d met may have actually gotten something right.

He continued after the Other, knowing that Viserion would find him when he recovered, hoping that it truly did mean to end the fighting. The lives that could be spared weighed heavily on his soul.

“How will you stop the fighting? Why would the rest of your people listen to you?”

The white walker glanced back at him, a laugh flowing through the air. “Because, my prince, I am their princess.”

He jerked in surprise, almost stumbling over a root. Sam and his Old Town friends had often speculated on the nature of Other society, but they’d never had anything concrete about it before. The most the stories ever talked about was the Night’s Queen and those were just stories.

Jon frowned. “Wait--what did you say about marriage?”

Chapter Text

Sansa stared up at the Iron Throne. In another life, she wanted nothing more than to be the woman standing beside it. Now...now she knew better. There were other ways to have power, safer ways.

“I think you may have spent too much time around Jon and I, you’re brooding habit is starting to rival ours.”

She turned, finding that somehow Ned had managed to get within feet of her without her noticing--dangerous, she would need to be more careful, retrain herself to not forget alone was never really alone.

“Father!” She grinned at him, there was always a part of her that was so relieved just to see him healthy and alive. “Other people are allowed to brood.”

“Ah, actually, that is not true. You must get a special writ from the Lord of Winterfell to be allowed to brood. Cregan Stark codified it into the law in--”

“Father!” This time she gave him a soft slap on the chest and he smiled back, pulling her in for a hug.

He just held her for a few moments and she felt her own mood sobering, the stress of the day melting away.

Finally, he let out a soft sigh, patting her head. “I know you’re worried. I am, too. But from everything all of you have told me, Jon and Arya are more than capable of dealing with the threats they face.”

“I wasn’t really brooding about that,” she admitted. “I was thinking...about what happens if we get through this. What we all do, after.”

Ned pulled back, gripping both of her shoulders and leaning so they were looking directly into each other’s eyes. “Whatever you want, Sansa. The three of you, whatever you want to do, I will do everything in my power to make it happen. You lost your childhoods, your lives, you deserve to have some peace.”

Hesitating, Sansa finally asked, voice small, “What if...it I want to stay with Elia?”

There was no judgement on his face, just the same look of intense love that had been there before. “Then that’s what you’ll do. For as much as Prince Oberyn and I don’t get along, I know I can trust that he wants his daughters to be happy, too.

”Thank you, father.” They hugged again.

“...You wouldn’t happen to know what would make your siblings happy?”

She laughed. “Trying to cheat?”

“Would I do something like that?”

“Arya will be happy with someone who lets her be herself. Who lets her train and fight, and wear what she wants. Jon...Jon I think wants a life where he doesn’t have to worry too much about politics, or people trying to put him on the throne, but where he can still see us when he wants to.” She almost mentioned his crush on Asha, but held back, knowing that Jon would never enjoy the Iron Islands.

“Were they with anyone, in the last life?”

Sansa frowned. “Jon had a few lovers...Ygritte, Satin, Val...but he was always too focused on the war against the Others to think of a proper marriage. Arya...well, you know how she is. There were two boys she had earlier crushes on, though. Gendry, one of Robert’s bastards,” she almost laughed at Ned’s grimace, “and Edric Dayne.”

“Ahh, I can’t say I blame her, it’s easy to fall for a Baratheon or a Dayne,” he murmured, looking thoughtful.

“But they’ll be different people in this life. All of them, probably, though maybe not Jon’s free folk. And I didn’t even know Elia last time. That means they both have a chance to meet someone new, someone different, too.”

“I always knew that none of you would be easy to find matches for, I shouldn’t be surprised.”

One set of the doors into the room pushed open and they both put their masks back on, readying themselves for the day at court.

No, she had no idea what had ever possessed her to want to be Queen.

Chapter Text

Arya had been a very bad Faceless Man. There’d been hints of that from early on in her training, but the deeper she fell the harder it became to truly escape Arya Stark and all her attachments.

Thankfully, there’d been reason enough for the Kindly Man to let her go in the Army of the Dead. What were wights, but slaves refused the chance to truly die? What was a greater blasphemy against the Many Faced God?

Jon was their ally and she was offered like a gift to him. His favorite sibling, a rejected Faceless Man, returned to fight against the Others.

In the last life, she’d hesitated to use any of her training, worried that they might decide she was doing too much for one they’d cut loose and allowed to live. In this life, she had no such qualms.

Let them come for her, she’d died already and had seen horrors they could not imagine.

That didn’t mean she’d perform their tricks with an audience, though, and stuck on Asha’s ship sailing to Pyke was one place she refrained. She did her best to sneak around the crew without any magic, dressing in tattered clothing, pulling her hair back in a way that made it look like it was cut short, speaking with their accent.

Some of them seemed to suspect her. Asha did, at least, who knew enough about strange happenings at the Red Keep to guess that she and her siblings had a hand in them.

To throw them off, sometimes Arya would find her way into the mind of a rat, crawling through the bowels of the ship, listening in on the crew. Once, even, she spent the night in the corner of Asha’s room as she fucked and let a few details out that she hadn’t yet told Arya.

By the time they reached Pyke, Arya had a plan in mind. It wasn’t a very delicate or intricate plan, but it would hopefully allow her to kill Euron and put Asha in charge.

“You’re unusually comfortable sailing with a bunch of Ironborn, for a greenlander.” Asha couldn’t help to point out nearly every chance she got.

Arya shrugged, like usual. “Am I?”

“Are all you Starks like this? Your brother never batted an eye even at the weirdest shit I told him about.”

She snorted. “Jon showing a reaction? Good like with that.”

“None of you do. I can’t believe I thought you and your sister were sweet little girls when we first met. You’re good, you’re all good. Even that father of yours--Lord Eddard Stark, we always thought he was some honorable fool, but he’s savvy in his own way.”

Cocking her head to the side, Arya studied Asha. “...Is there a reason you’re talking to me?”

“We’ve been at sea for days now, aren’t you bored? Lonely?”

“You don’t care if I’m bored or lonely.”

“No,” Asha admitted, “But I’m bored. You’re the only one here that I don’t know well already.”

Arya rolled her eyes, getting out of her seat and to the door in a smooth, quick move. “And I don’t care if you’re bored. I’m going to get some fresh air.”

Not having to be social as she did in King’s Landing was a huge relief.