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Beats Per Minute

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Jon let the smoke stay in his lungs until it felt like even his ribs burned. Then with a steady push, released it to join the haze that had accumulated in the cabin of his car. He could barely see the lights of the bar across the street. At the very end of his fag, the ash threatened to crumble onto his leather seats.

Sighing, he cranked down the window. Swirls upon swirls drifted upwards, until the Sann Nord was visible again with its horde of drunk patrons. None were suspicious enough to flare even a rabbit's instincts. Flicking the cigarette, Jon took another drag. The rhythm was calming. Gentle breezes held a killer nip that held promises of winter, and lingering heat from the tip of the cigarette clashed with a blast of the chill.

Jon contemplated. A drink before bed, or go to sleep running with Ghost in the forest on the outskirts of town? He could practically feel the shift of the Earth beneath the wolf's claws, his own fingers flexing instinctively. But, the thought of going to the shitty inn with the lumpy bed had him pausing.

Fuck it. Jon had a knot in his back the size of a football, and he needed a gin.

Hours upon hours of surveillance, and not a single Wight had shown their face. All the effort proved fruitless. Rumors of the immortal living this far into Norway had reached Jon in Italy; he had no doubt the sick bastards had caught the scent, too. Perhaps it was his screwy luck, but maybe he'd jumped the gun. Something stinging in his gut told him he was right to follow the lead.

It had gotten him through the last two decades of running, Jon hoped it wouldn't fail him now.

Shouldering out of the car, his legs felt like static as he stepped out. Every street in Nordfjordeid was eerily still except this one. The popular pub had left its patrons unsteady as they fell over themselves, singing out of tune. With one final puff of smoke, he threw the glowing cigarette butt into the nearest patch of snow. With only foot traffic to worry about, he pushed his way into the bar.

Music unfurled the moment he shoved the heavy wooden door open. People danced in the spaces between tables, while others watched, droopy eyed and loose jawed. The place was a mess of life and high spirits, making his skin crawl. Bobbing and weaving to the beat of the twangy melody flowing from the jukebox, Jon sat down at the last free barstool.

Like every pub in Europe, the room was cave like, low ceilings with dim lighting. Perfect for anyone looking to get blitzed, but not so much for him. The impaired visibility made his spine tingle, pulse thumping as it rose higher and higher.

Jon watched as the barkeep gave him a passing glance; one bushy eyebrow raised to his hairline as he wiped down a glass. Sorting through his memory, he couldn't remember the last time he'd spoken Norwegian. Words did not need to fly from his mouth to know he was about to butcher the language.

Swallowing past the weight on his tongue, Jon tried, "En gin vær så snill."

"You were pretty until you talked," a voice to his left said.

Turning his head, he spotted the woman. She had a litany of braids in her hair that glistened like blood in the low light, the color shifting as she propped her head to the side. A mix of shadows and highlights drew Jon's eyes to the long planes of her neck. The bartender rolled his eyes as he returned to making drinks.

Jon felt the corner of his mouth twitch, conscious of the way she spotted him up and down. As her eyes traveled, they twinkled like sapphires, full of mischief and the promise of forbidden treasure. Leaning forward, he rested an elbow on his knee, trying his best to conceal the subtle, but awkward bulge of the knife in his boot.

"Can't say I've had much practice," Jon quipped.

"You don't say," her sly smile was enchanting. He followed the movement of her tongue flicking over her canines, enraptured.

Feeling bold, he held out his hand, "I'm Jim."

Her eyelashes fluttered, gaze dropping to his outstretched hand before snaking her slender fingers around his palm, "Ygritte."


They exchanged smirks in their little dark part of the bar, far from the commotion. Her grip lingered on Jon's palm, manicured nails ghosting his digits before they wrapped around her bottle.

"Jim short for anything?" She asked.

Jon nearly missed the question, following the way her lips moved with every sip of beer, "James."

Every single thing she portrayed screamed kitten, but at the back of his brain, something flared. The same place that told him to block, or duck, when fighting Wights, with the exact same itch that told Jon to run when he would stay in the same place for too long. He looked over her one last time, pondering what he missed.

"So, Jim, what's a right Englishman like you doing in this small part of the world?"


Ygritte raised an eyebrow to her hairline, "Not too many sights to see around here."

Leaning back in the stool, Jon let an arm fall casually over the padding. Every person in the bar may have been two hours past drunk, but he felt the pressure of being amongst strangers. Cursing himself for not checking for all exits when he had come in, Jon kept the smile.

"I'm more of an outdoorsman," he explained.

She tipped her bottle to him, "A rare breed."

Their conversation was interrupted by the harsh crack of the Old Fashioned glass. The bartender had the strongest no nonsense glare he had seen since Jon last saw his father. Just the thought gave him a panging beat in his chest. Burly and broad, he glanced at the other man, tracing the outline of a powerful build underneath layers of clothes, all the while keeping an eye on his drink.

"Han gir deg problemer?" The man grunted, the baritone of his words soothing regardless of his stare.

"No troubles here, Tormund," Ygritte purred. "Right, Jimmy?"

Curling his fist around the glass, Jon distracted himself. Tormund, whoever he was, wanted him out of the pub, and he would be the moment he knocked back his drink.

"Just some friendly conversation," Jon murmured, taking a bigger gulp of gin than he intended. Another two of those and he could bag it before the clock struck the hour.

"See? Not a problem."

Reluctantly, the bartender returned to keeping the bar, rushing to fulfill orders. Ygritte leaned forward, her knee bumping into his as she dipped in close, their faces centimeters apart. Jon stared straight into her eyes, feeling a thrill by the fire that seemed to rage inside them.

When he tried to give his most nonchalant smirk, the muscles of his face would not listen. The grip on his drink faltered until his digits were twitching uncontrollably. Unable to focus on anything other than keeping himself upright, Jon berated himself for being so stupid.

Ygritte whispered, her breath catching the shell of his ear, "Uh-oh, looks like you can't handle your spirits."

Air had trouble seeping into his lungs, and the lights seemed to burn his retinas. As he watched her face morph, he felt the whole word flipping. Before he slumped forward onto the bar, Jon could feel his eyes rolling into the back of his head, and in the next moment, he was running through the forest.


Sharp stinging brought him to his body, but did nothing for the sweeping nausea. Limbs were lead weights Jon had no control over, both from the drugs coursing through his system and the fact that his half his mind was still hunting. The flickering light from a single exposed bulb in the room was icing to his fucked up cake.

Jon still tried to gather information, but he either couldn't focus hard enough to do so, or there was nothing that could help in the small space. His only tip was Ygritte standing in the same clothes he had met her in, noticeably more wrinkled, while the barkeep kept to a corner.

The second slap should not have been a surprise, but it shocked him. Stinging raced through his cheek, if it weren't for the binds keeping him in his chair, he would be eating concrete.

"How did you find us?"

Jon worked his jaw, "Find who?"

"Don't insult my intelligence," she spat, her fury redder than her hair. "Why did a Wight like you come here?"

Groaning, he weighed his options. Reverse interrogation or…

"The fuck is a Wight?"

It earned him a punch that had iron flooding his tongue. While the pain had him forgetting his need to blow chunks, Jon bit back his hiss.

"Don't play dumb," Ygritte growled, pulling out the knife he usually kept strapped in his boot. "No kneeler like you would have a Valyrian steel dagger."

She unsheathed it to drag the point across his cheek. It was a testament to will that he bit back a scream, the magic of the blade calling to his blood. If they knew its effect on him, Jon would find himself dead by morning.

"I kneel for no one," Jon threw the charade to the wind, feeling the insult deeper than he would admit.

"Of course not, instead you drink immortal blood for shits and giggles," she pulled the knife away from his face, and aimed it at his heart.

His pulse, slower than a long-lived's and glacial compared to a human's, sped up to the point of pounding in his ears. The room shrunk, smaller and smaller until the air felt too confining. There was no way she could know-

"Stop," Tormund grunted from his corner. "We still need to know how they found the Freefolk."

Pulling a chair up, the large man was an intimidating beast ready for the prowl. Jon gulped, the shocks still trembling through his body even if invisible to the eye. He slumped in the ropes, the fine skin of wrists tearing.

With Jon's streak of misfortune, he would die from chance, just when he found the courage to fight back. Closing his eyes, he thought of home. Soft breezes from the meadow outside his room, echoes in the hall from Arya and Bran playing. He would find every last person that hurt his family. A newfound resolve, he stared at the man opposite him down. They could torture him for days, but he would find a way out of here.

"You going to keep pretendin' to have a sack, are you mad enough to keep this up?" Tormund huffed.

"Don't know what you're on about."

"Keepin' it up, then," the man sounded almost disappointed. If Jon were to feel pity for his captors, he would say the other looked tired.

Feeling like a beast cornered, Jon struggled, trying and failing to loosen the bindings. The chair creaked, groaned like a ghost as he rattled the wood for all he was worth. Ygritte seemed pleased watching him thrash about.

"If you won't tell us anything, we'll just send you back in chains to the Wights," Tormund stood with the words, a smile curling under his flaming beard. "Let your White Walkers have their way with you."

Jon stopped, ice filling his veins.

Two decades of running would be fruitless, turned to nothing as the White Walkers used him as a blood bag for the rest of his days. Never to see the light of a new morning, or run with Ghost until the sun settled deep into the sea.

Flicking his eyes between the hate embedded in Ygrittes's cold stare and the calculating gaze of the man, Jon knew the desperation had wormed its way into his muscles. Could feel the way it worked over his tongue to release something he had not said in years.

"My name is Jon, and I'm here to kill the bastards that destroyed my family."

Chapter Text

Something bitter crawled its way up his throat. Jon struggled to breathe through the vice around his neck. Lungs begged for air, but the panic held fast. His captors had left hours ago, leaving him to the biting cold of the room as his wrists tore into the restraints.

Jon could barely think enough to seek out Ghost. The throbbing in his head blocked their connection, like a circuit disrupted. With the reassurance of escaping into the mind of the wolf gone, Jon's mind forced him to days long since passed.

Freezing metal, searing pain, the stench of decay.

Shaking his head, he thrashed again. Ignoring jolts of heat dancing up his arms, twists had him even further from escape and an ache settling into bone.

"Well, shit," the croak bounced from the pristine white walls to echo.

When he had set for this journey, a group of Wights had been on his trail like sharks to blood. Clawing at him across countries until Jon had shaken them off in Sweden. As good as he was at disappearing, they always caught up. Hands colder than the dead would find him, pull at his limbs until darkness was all he knew.

At least they always tried. Jon hadn't spent the better part of half a century fending off the damn leeches just to fall into their clutches. Yet, here he was, a pig to slaughter, defenseless and bound.

The door creaked open, and Jon stopped wiggling. Icy drips of sweat ran down his temple, as he kept deathly still. Only the slight movement in his eyes as he followed the duo that entered. Ygritte's gaze landed on the bloody mess of his bindings, her brows furrowed and mouth in a straight line.

But the man, Tormund, was unreadable. Jon wanted to buck and heave, break the ropes to wipe away the passive expression. He wouldn't, Jon couldn’t thrash and snarl just to insight a reaction from those icy blue eyes. Even if the raised bushy eyebrows that seemed to respond to the very thoughts running through Jon's head made him want to.

Done with the cloying silence, Jon spoke, "You should let me go."

Ygritte scoffed, hands settling on her hips. The pair made quite the picture, both bundled and intimidating in polarities. Where she was lithe, Tormund looked to be built. Jon followed the tension of the stretched shirt across the other's chest, defined muscles framed by black fabric. Jon gulped.

Desperately pushing the panic back as he tried to keep his face neutral. Catching scarred knuckles at the base of the Wildling's long fingers, Jon felt the bob of his own Adam's apple. If he ever found a way out, it would end with Jon stitching himself up in the back of his car.

He sighed, "I'm more of a danger in here than out there."

"Far as I can tell, you're not goin'to harm a fly like that," Ygritte growled.

The clench of his jaw ached as he ground his teeth. Molars pressed together, Jon could have sworn that they cracked under the pressure. Every fiber of muscle was taut with tension. He hadn't planned to stay in this shit town for more than a night. His internal clock screamed that morning had come, and the barely-there lead Jon had on his pursuers was cinching.

With a wave of a hand, the man quieted her, "Pretty story you've got, but it's not the first time we've heard it."

A rock planted itself firmly in his stomach. Creeping like an old friend to the forefront of his thoughts, Jon knew the wash of guilt that settled over him.

"Might trust you if you told us more than a name."

"Already gave away too much."

"Well since you've come this far," Tormund offered with a pucker to his lips.

Jon laughed, unsure why, "Awfully polite for an interrogation."

Tormund smiled sharply, "Had to try."

Before he had realized, a fist connected with his jaw. The crack in Jon's neck left him reeling as the bright burn of a solid left hook spread across his face. Ygritte was shaking out her hand as she leaned over his seat.

"Time for me to play then," she purred.

As much as he hated to admit it, Jon was used to the pain. When she gripped his chin hard enough to leave his bones to creak, they met eye-to-eye. Her blue eyes seemed to glow, lit by something more than sadism. In the blood coursing through his veins, a pull seemed to recognize something in her. Something that had his spine tingling and adrenaline rushing.

Impact from the next punch left Jon's lip split and iron to flood his tongue. Somehow, the second hit had been more powerful, filled with a rage that bled from her pores. Cogs turned in his mind through the onslaught.

A steady rhythm of hits to his face interrupted his thoughts. Not a moment later another jab would land, as an uppercut gave Jon whiplash. But, it was the blows to his torso knocked the air from his lungs, that left him nothing but his nerves blazing.

Jon spat blood the moment she took a step back, barely a heavy breath passing through her lips. Her frame was small, impossibly thin and deceptively frail looking. Unless her button up was hiding muscle, he came to one thought. Crimson teeth undoubtedly glistened in the dingy light as Jon grinned through the pain.

"So it's true," he felt a false confidence even as his right eye began to swell, "Wildlings descend from ber-serkir."

He should have known the retort to his words would have been a fist, but the punch sent him sprawling, chair and all. Bits and pieces of the room took turns in focus, while his equilibrium flew out the window.

Grinding in his shoulder pulled him from shock, only for his head to be knocked on the icy floor. One shove had him under Ygritte as her eyes radiated a cold, unfeeling cyan glow.

"All show and no go, aren't you, pretty boy?" She grunted, "Laugh all you want. But Wights took my forebears and bled them dry, ‘cause in greed, they wanted to live longer. Of the úlfhéðnar, I'm the only one left."

In the corner, Tormund seemed content enough to let her pummel him into a mess of broken bone. The older man's flared nose was more intimidating than the fist poised for attack only inches from Jon's face.

"Just never thought I'd live to see one of the old bloodlines of Føroyar." Awe slipped into his words without intent.

The berserkers of the Old North had been the heroes of his childhood. Along with the skinchangers and the giants from a time so long ago that even his father had known them as only legend. Jon had been taught that they had all died when the first of the White Walkers attacked. Yet here she was, a ball of righteous flame, ready to annihilate him.

Ygritte narrowed her eyes, their unnatural shine dimming. Lowering her prepared punch, she instead used her hand to pull him up.

"You've had an expensive education."

Opting for silence, Jon glared at her as best he could, but the swelling prevented so much as a twitch. The wonder duo had one of their silent conversations, while Jon focused on healing the undoubtedly broken cheekbone he sported. Not bothering to focus on whatever they planned seemed preferable to the headache of trying to decipher their exchange of expressive eyebrows and squinting eyes.

Jon felt a pop in his neck as he let it fall backward. Underneath his skin, sinews stitched together like a spider weaving webs. His ability to patch himself together had saved his ass on more than one run across borders.

A sharp schnikt snapped his attention to his suddenly free wrist. Ygritte looked ready just as ready to stab him as she cut the ropes at his other arm. Keeping still, confusion whirled his thoughts, but all incoherent nonsense settled on a clear, what?

“Don’t get excited now,” she mused, her tongue flicking over her canines, an anxious tell. “But no Wight would know of the home lands. I don’t give two shits who you are, but you’re goin’ to jet and never come back.”

Biting his tongue, Jon measured the lines of her body. To the untrained eye, Ygritte was calm, the statue of poised fury despite the blood on the cuff of her shirt. It was in the accentuated sinews of her neck that bobbed with her slow pulse, and a flick of her fingers.

Behind her, stood Tormund. The definition of a protective guard, even though the sense of authority and calm settled the turbulence of her warring emotions. Lost between the silences and glares, an answer to a question had been given. Jon rubbed his wrists, unsure of where to place stiff limbs as he glanced over them both. Finally, he took a lingering measure of the man.

Gulping, Jon pushed himself onto shaky legs. Muscles spasmed, but he powered through the cramps. With Ygritte leading him out, Tormund brought up the flank. Though his limbs were free, Jon felt like he was surrounded by two predators searching for a reason to attack.

His mind raced. Every wary thought worried him more and more as they led him down a dark corridor. But as they rounded a corner, through a heavy oak door, Jon paused in his steps. The bar was empty, only the tune from the jukebox playing in the corner.

Jon recognized the song, feelings rising in his chest unbidden. He could remember the sand between his toes while Ghost slept in brush. A lifetime ago. The warmth of Tormund's hand seeped through Jon's shirt, as the other pushed him forward. Walking through the space felt surreal, like wading through cold waters.

Relief washed over him the second he caught sight of his car, seemingly untouched in the early morning light. But a flare at the back of his neck, raising hairs across the length of his spine, had Jon stuck between hyper caution and a sense of freedom.

Ygritte tossed him his keys over her shoulder. The weight of the direwolf on the ring reassuring. Peering in through the windows, the inside was trashed, but then he caught his own reflection.

The face was bruised, blood trickling down from his nose and over his lips. He knew the damage was half of what it'd been less than an hour ago, but Jon couldn't recognize the eyes staring back. Exact same shade of brown, same sad eyes that Robb would tease him about. Even the way his black hair framed his face made him a shadow of who, or what, he once was. Taking a deep breath, he turned to his captors.

"Rumors have spread about an immortal in the region." Jon felt like his tongue was betraying him as the words spilled out.

But seeing the fear spread across both their faces, he felt reassured that maybe, just maybe, he made his first right decision of the century.

"I came here because I knew the piece of shits would follow any lead. You should leave before what you've worked for here is destroyed."

In her boots, Jon saw the tremble of rage in Ygritte's eyes. Tormund grabbed her wrist, squeezing it gently. Watching, he sees the way they lean into each other, and, in a part of him that Jon thought was long since dead, it aches. He couldn't remember the last time he'd felt the reassurance of a comforting touch.

Ygritte handed him his dagger, the double edged blade glistening like a breathing thing in the red sunrise. Delicately, he twirled the Valyrian steel between his fingers, the perfect balance feeling eerily like home.

Tormund stepped forward, boring into Jon's soul with untapped emotion whirling in a deep sea of ice as they met eye-to-eye. He took in the bridge of a nose that had seen its fair share of breaking, to the deep set frown hidden by a beard.

"You won't find allies for this suicide mission, boy." The words echoed in Jon's ear, the rough timbre jolting his senses.

As he opened his mouth to respond, Jon caught movement in an alley behind Tormund's head. With every ounce of strength he pushed the bigger man away, and the flash of a gun is all he needed to be throwing the weapon in his hand. Jon felt a tingling in his fingertips as adrenalin seeped into his veins.

Long Claw wedged itself deep in the Wight's throat before it had the chance to click off the safety. The three of them stood in the passing morning light, unsure of what had happened. Panic settled soon after. The morning had come, and normal human life would soon begin its buzz.

Ygritte spoke, breaking the silence and setting them into action, "Well, you're definitely no White Walker."