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Longing for home

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Jon

Jon dreamt he was standing in the courtyard of the Inner Castle watching a river of men pour through the gates of Winterfell. A pack of princes, knights, lords, even a septon, sworn swords, free riders and six silent sisters shrouded in grey, their faces cowled except for their eyes. At the head of the column was an old man atop a warhorse. Over their heads shifting shadows obscured the banners that swayed  in the north wind.

Inside the courtyard, a lord and lady, solemn as stone, awaited the party in front of people behind them. They were flanked by direwolves. The direwolves were not the ones that belonged to him and his siblings, Jon could see as much. Winterfell looked even better than it did in their father’s time, rebuilt and regal. 

Next to the lord and lady stood a slightly older warrior, red haired, blue eyed and fierce. The moment the old man got off his horse, the red-haired man, unexpectedly for a man so intimidating, threw himself into the arms of the old man, sobbing. The old man answered him with his own tears, all while the welcoming party bent the knee, heads bowed. 

A black direwolf with green eyes joined them. Shaggydog? Jon’s eyes widened. Rickon?

When the two parted, the old man, the...king he realised, greeted the grey-eyed lord and lady, before the party walked through the castle grounds, silent as the grave. They walked under the covered bridge that connected the Great Keep to the armoury and past Guards Hall before stopping by the First Keep, and at the old heavy ironwood doors of the crypts.

He followed them while the princes carried a casket down the spiral steps. Jon trailed behind them. The old king limped past the stone kings on their thrones. The grey granite eyes that once used to scowl at Jon as he walked past, smiled at the old man. He could hear their granite voices welcome him. The King of Winter, they called him. Daughter of the North they seemed to say to the casket that went past. A chill wind blew upon his neck, all while he heard the sorrowful howling of wolves. 

They went past his grandfather’s crypt, Uncle Brandon’s, Mother’s, Father’s, Robb’s empty one. This body went next to Robb’s crypt. Anguish was etched in the dejected old king’s face. 

When the casket was interred, Jon felt his heart overcome with a feeling of hollowness as he watched, what he assumed were, the woman’s sons and lone daughter mourn their mother. 

One by one, they all left. All but the old man. His face was shadowed by a profound sadness that made Jon’s heart ache. He reached out with a shaking hand to the statueless crypt. 

“Why would you leave  me?” he wept. “What will I do without you?” 

Jon moved to turn away. This man’s grief was his own. 

But then, the old man picked up a folded cloth and removed a rapier. 

Jon’s heart stopped.

Needle.

It was then that he noticed the Longclaw hanging from the man’s sword belt...The old man is me. 

Two direwolves came out of the shadows. 

 

He woke up with a start, the room was dark and the body next to him warm. Arya. He pulled her against his chest, crying. He didn’t know whether his tears were sad tears or happy ones. Sad that he outlived Arya or happy that they had so many children and had a long life together. Arya wanted nothing less than to be queen. King of Winter their ancestors said. I gave up my crown. Daughter of the North , they called her. 

“Hey, what’s this?” she asked, puzzled, after his trembling awoke her. She sat up when he didn’t answer. “Jon? What’s wrong?” She sounded alarmed. She tried to wipe his tears. “Jon?”

“I dreamt we were old,” he faltered.

“What were we doing?” she asked, moving closer. Ever the story lover. 

“We...we were in Winterfell.” He couldn’t lie, she’d know.

He heard the smile in her voice. “And why was that sad?” 

“We were old,” he croaked, trying to bite back the sorrow that threatened to flow out of his lips. Instead he tried to focus on the good things when he noticed her curl up against him, expecting more. He imagined the wide eyed look of wonder he used to revel in when they were children and he would parrot Old Nan’s stories to her in the cellars under the Great Keep where they’d hide away. 

“Rickon was with us and we had many sons and a daughter.” 

“How many?” She placed her chin on his chest, a smile in her voice as she looked up at him, curious as always. 

“We had five boys and a girl,” he confirmed. “Our boys were princes…”, he gulped, “and knights and one was even a septon.” Neither of them believed in the Seven. 

He felt her stiffen next to him. She inhaled deeply. Finally, “And you were a king,” she exhaled, in a whisper.

A sudden coldness came over him. 

“You dreamt the same dream?”

He felt her shake her head. “Father.”

“Father?”

She sat up, legs crossed. He followed her up.

“What does this have to do with Father?”

She inhaled again. “In King’s Landing...when Bran woke up, Father told me of things Bran could do when he came of age. He said he could build castles, become a king’s councillor, maybe even the High Septon. So I asked him if I could do those things too. He just kissed my brow,” she said with yearning. 

“He told me that instead, I would marry a king and rule his castle, and that my sons would be knights and princes and lords and, perhaps even a High Septon.”

Jon was confused, “And you believed him?”

“No,” she laughed, though he could hear the apprehension that lay underneath. “I didn’t. I told him it was Sansa who would do those things. And then when I came home, we went to the laughing tree. Do you remember? The night before the wedding? I heard Father’s voice there again. It said the same thing to me. And again, I thought it was Sansa. She was the one betrothed to a prince again.”

They sat in silence.

“Do you think this means the queen dies?” she asked in a small voice? “Jon, I don’t want to be a queen,” she added.

“We were very old,” he managed to say finally. “Perhaps it won’t happen for a long time.” He was trying to convince himself as much as her.

“I’d make a terrible queen,” she murmured. “Jon, you have to stop her from going to war with Braavos. I don’t want to live there.”

He tried to comfort her. “In the crypts, they called me King of Winter,” he told her. “And you Daughter of the North. Maybe we’d stay here.” 

“Daughter of the North?”

“Yes,” he breathed, unsure he wanted to know whether she’d heard that before. 

“Arya of Winterfell, daughter of the north,” she whispered, with tears in her eyes. “You told me you could be strong. You have the wolf blood in you,” 

She jumped out of bed. 

“Where are you going?” he asked, as she lit a candle and threw on a robe. She was still barefoot on her way to the door. 

“I’m going to find Bran.”

“Arya, it’s the hour of the owl!” he pleaded, trying to find his tunic. 

“It’s not like they’re asleep. The twins make sure they can’t.”

“Arya where did you hear that?” he shouted behind her. 

“Father,” she hollered back as she ran in a frenzy through the hallways of the Great Keep. 

And right she was. When they got to the Lord of Winterfell’s chambers, Meera answered the door with a wailing Lyarra on her chest, while behind her, Bran, on his wheeled chair, held a quiet but awake Cregan.

“Did they wake you too?” Meera asked politely.

Arya marched past her. Jon looked apologetically at Meera. 

“Is Jon going to be a king?” she demanded of Bran. 

“What?” Meera exclaimed.

Bran appraised his sister for a while before he nodded his answer. Jon stood there shocked. King. Again?

“Why did you not tell me?”

“It would not have changed things.”

“What do you mean?” she shouted. “I have never wanted to be a queen! You took the choice away from me!” Her voice was thick with emotion. 

Would you have refused me? he wondered, hesitant to know the answer, fearful.

“What’s going on?” Meera whispered, while Arya berated Bran.

“I’m not sure,” he conceded, he didn’t truly understand what was happening. 

“How long have you known?” Arya asked with her head in her hands. She was sitting opposite Bran now, all while Jon stood in the middle of the room, far enough from them to feel like a bystander. 

All the while Lyarra wailed. His niece’s cries reflected the tumult he felt inside. What if she leaves me?

“I found out a few days before you married,” Bran admitted.

“Why didn’t you tell me?” she asked again. “I have never wanted that life.” 

Would you leave me because of it?

“What is seen in a green dream cannot be changed,” Bran explained. “When we were still in Winterfell, Jojen saw the sea come to Winterfell and drown Alebelly, Mikken and Septon Chayle. I tried to warn them...keep them away from water, but Theon and the ironborn still killed them.”

“Why must every man in my life be tested with these dreams?” Meera mumbled to no one in particular. 

Jon finally found his voice. “What did you see?” 

“Not me,” Bran said, “The Children of the Forest. They saw you sit upon a weirwood throne with Arya by your side, while a giant guarded you.”

“Not the Iron Throne?” Arya asked, lifting her head from her hands. 

“It was a weirwood throne.” 

King of Winter.  Daughter of the North.

“Who was the man?”

“I don’t know,” Bran said. “They said he was a giant with a broken sword.”

The Children of the Forest had left Winterfell two months ago, the day after they oversaw Jon and Arya’s wedding at the Heart Tree. They sang for them in the True Tongue, dotting their faces with weirwood paste. They did the same for Cregan and Lyarra.

They’d had a flurry of weddings in the days after the council. The first was Lady Cerwyn and the Greatjon’s wedding which was followed by many marriages between northmen and freefolk. Then came the Dayne weddings to Jorelle Mormont and Harrion Karstark respectively. 

He’d started the day of his wedding at his desk, trying to put words to paper. In the end, he settled for a short missive. However it was received, it would still convey the same message.

Your Grace,

I previously shared with you my intention to wed Lady Arya Stark of Winterfell. By the time you get this letter, she will be my lawful wife in the sight of all who matter. I would like you to welcome my wife into your family. I will not live without her. I will gladly abdicate my position as your heir for this action if you require it of me. I hope it will not come to that. 

Your nephew and heir, 

Aemon of House Targaryen, Prince of Dragonstone.,

A thick morning dew covered the godswood, glinting brightly in the sunrise. He tied his letter to the raven’s leg and watched it fly, hoping it’s response would not be dark words harbingered by those same dark wings.

He made his way back to their rooms in the Great Keep. As he walked, he saw Branda flying past with a bunch of flowers in her hands. She reminded him so much of Arya at the same age picking flowers for Father who would always accept them from her with a smile. 

When he got to their rooms, the moment he opened the door he was ushered out by Lady Nym, “Out, out, the bride will not be bothered by you,” she nagged, wagging her finger at the door, all while pushing him. 

He tried to get a glimpse of Arya but all around their room were women. Branda was in a corner with little Loreza Sand, unaware that anyone else was in the room. Such concentration was etched on her face as she made a flower crown. The Manderly girls were making last minute adjustments to her cloak, while Allyria and Jorelle did the same to her gown. Meera was talking with Lady Cerwyn, while The Sand Snakes were busy in conversation with Alys. How they made such fast friends with Arya he could not say, but every woman in the room was as unconventional as his wife. The Manderly girls with their green hair, Meera the warrior with her three pronged spear, Alys was the once runaway bride, now wife of a wildling. There was the she-bear, now of Dorne; even Allyria, the most gentle of the lot, could still  wield a weapon better than most men. He had no need to list all the ways in which the Sand Snakes were different.

The day after the council he saw her ride out with them to Winter Town. She told him after, that Nym and Elia helped out in her self defence classes while Tyene worked at the infirmary. 

“Know poisons and you know healing.” she said while speaking to him of her day before bed. That was the night before the wedding. They’d been inseparable for the past three days at that point and for the next month of their stay she’d ride out to the Wolfswood with Elia, spar with Nym instead of him and sit in corners during the many weddings whispering with Tyene. But there was a deviousness he saw in her when she sat with all three of them that he found uncanny. 

“We hate the same people,” she said by way of explanation. “The Mountain killed their father and he took me to Harrenhal. I believe everything they say he did to their aunt because he did things just as vile in front of me. Amory Lorch killed their cousin,” she paused, “your real sister,” she added.

”I’m glad you’re not my sister,” he replied laughing.

She continued on with her tale. “Ser Amory and his men killed Yoren. I enjoyed telling them how he died,” she smirked.

“They hate the queen,” he warned.

“And I have no reason to,” she consoled him. “I’m not a leaf that blows in the wind, Jon. I can separate the hate of others from my own. The Sand Snakes lost their sister to the queen’s war and say their cousin died to her dragons, while she killed their king. I’d be even more hateful than them if that happened to me. But the queen has given me no reason to hate her. In fact, from the little I know of her, I like her.”

I hope it stays that way, he thought. Neither Arya nor Daenerys were likely to back down if they ever found themselves on opposing sides. 

As he looked around, he couldn’t see his bride in the group of women in the room until he spotted Beth and Sarra. She was walking out of the partition that concealed her bath with them when he saw her. She was only clad in a drying cloth, her hair still wet. He pushed past Nym’s way to run to her. Pulling her against him, he crashed his lips against hers, all but groping her curves to bring her closer to him. Such was the force of his desire, he heard her whimper against him.

When he finally let her go, he heard giggling from the ladies in the room but he only had eyes for the wife that was currently biting her lip, somewhere between bashful and hungry for more. 

“Being born in Dorne gave you a Dornish man’s passions,” Elia whistled. 

Arya lowered her gaze. 

“Now, out!” Meera commanded him. 

He compared his feelings that day to the dread he felt on a similar day eight months ago when Arya was newly home and he was getting ready to marry someone else. He’d confessed his feelings to her the previous night and she threatened to leave him for good if he broke Sansa’s heart. It was his own heart she broke in the process. 

Today however, he felt like a man who’d found his home, so happy was he, he felt his heart might stop. His heart. Suddenly, he remembered another time he felt his heart might stop, for a completely different reason. 

“Moat Cailin is taken. The flayed corpses of the ironmen have been nailed to posts along the kingsroad. Roose Bolton summons all leal lords to Barrowton, to affirm their loyalty to the Iron Throne and celebrate his son’s wedding to …” 

His heart seemed to stop for a moment. No, that is not possible. She died in King’s Landing, with Father. 

“Lord Snow?” Clydas peered at him closely with his dim pink eyes.

 “Are you … unwell? You seem …” 

“He’s to marry Arya Stark. My little sister.” Jon could almost see her in that moment, long-faced and gawky, all knobby knees and sharp elbows, with her dirty face and tangled hair. They would wash the one and comb the other, he did not doubt, but he could not imagine Arya in a wedding gown, nor Ramsay Bolton’s bed.

As he stood under the Heart Tree of their childhood home, a beautiful woman with a flower crown of winter roses upon her head walked toward him in a wedding gown. No knobby knees, dirty face, tangled hair or sharp elbows in sight. On either side of her were her brothers, Bran upon his horse and Rickon on her arm. He couldn’t help the smile that broke out on his face. My bride. Finally. 

As they said the words under the Heart Tree and then again in the sept, he could only hear the Old Bear’s words. 

“Robb will wed some beautiful princess and father sons. You’ll have no wife, nor will you ever hold a child of your own blood in your arms. Robb will rule, you will serve. Men will call you a crow. Him they’ll call Your Grace. Singers will praise every little thing he does, while your greatest deeds go all unsung. Tell me that none of this troubles you, Jon … and I’ll name you a liar, and know I have the truth of it.”

Arya told him how the faceless men told her she would be no one’s wife and no one’s mother. Yet here they were man and wife. Singers sang of his deeds now too, while he married a beautiful princess, even if her brother’s crown was handed over in surrender. And one day, he hoped, he’d hold a son of his own blood in his arms. One that he shared with his bride.

He cloaked her twice. He could not bear to remove the wolf from her shoulders so he cloaked her in his own arms of the wolf and the dragon. Together they were both. 

Neither of them knew the words for the wedding in the sept and had to rely on the septon. She laughed when she realised that they did not. “Septon Chayle would be disappointed,” she giggled.Her laughter still warmed him, even now. 

She’d remain Arya Stark. Brides of the royal line kept their own names, for which she was thankful. He carried her into the Great Hall, and in those moments they were the only people in the whole world. 

At their wedding feast, The Blackfish warned him again about hurting her before telling him that he approved of him for her husband. The thought threw him back. He remembered all the ways in which Catelyn Stark despised him. And here was her uncle declaring him worthy of her daughter. 

Rickon approached him to inform him that Arya said he could live with them wherever they went. Hearing that, Branda reminded him of his own promise to her. They had yet to decide on a home for themselves. They couldn’t live in Winterfell forever, they’d have to have a castle of their own to leave their children. With all the rebuilding, Arya was sure they’d have their own. Jon liked the idea of a rebuilt Moat Cailin. 

Tormund, ever inappropriate, approached the dias to loudly whisper, “Is she up the duff?” No doubt he was heard by everyone in close proximity. “When did you even manage to? Har!” he bellowed, spilling the fermented goat’s milk in his horn all over himself.

Then the music started. Tom O’Sevens sang The Queen Took Off Her Sandal, the King Took Off His Crown. Lord Umber picked up his homely wife as if she was as light as a feather, spinning her around in what passed for a dance. She cheered in laughter, turning red while her skirts swirled. Ser Andrey Dalt danced with Tyene Sand, Elia Sand, curiously, danced with The Weeper’s son, Dorin, who knew not the steps. Lord Manderly partnered with his granddaughter while Bran watched with a smile on his face. 

Jon turned to his wife, asking her for a dance. As they danced, the music slowed down. Tom introduced The Dance of the Dragons, a ballad about two lovers’ last moments during the doom of Old Valyria. With a Volantene mother of her own, Lady Nym sang the woman’s part of the song. 

They drank and feasted and danced late into the night, until the Greatjon boomed, “To bed with them!”

With pleasure, Jon thought, picking her up before any man could get to her. He made for the lord’s door to the rear of the hall while Ghost, Nymeria, Shaggy, Summer and the pups protected his back. 

When they were finally in their room, he continued to hold her in his arms, lost in the depth of her grey eyes. Ours. He moved his gaze to her red lips. Mine. Her brown hair hung freely across his back. 

“Are you going to put me down?” she teased.

“No. I want to hold you like this forever.”

She rolled her eyes at him but he couldn’t stop looking. “ Beautiful,” he whispered against her lips. When he looked back at her, she looked shocked. Of course, they made her think she was Arya Horseface. “You’re the most beautiful woman in the world to me,” he reiterated. She made a face and tried to hide her face in his neck. 

“Hiding won’t make a difference, love,” he told her, “I see your face even when I close my eyes.” 

“Shut up.” 

Ever nimble she moved her face up to his, brushing their lips, before deciding she’d be much more comfortable wrapping her legs around his waist. Lazily she kissed him. She broke apart from him only to stop and look at him with a look of love that made him want to cry. She’d beaten him to that. Tears glossed her eyes. “I love you,” they said at the same time, completing the other’s sentence just as they once had as children. She placed her forehead against his. They both closed their eyes. “I love you,” they said again at the same time before breaking out into a giggle. 

“I’m scared,” she confessed.

“Of what?” he laughed. “We’ve done this plenty of times before.” 

“Not of this,stupid,” she said, rolling her eyes. “Of what comes next. Do you think we rushed things? Shouldn’t you have told the queen first?”

“I did,” he told her, trying to bring his lips back to hers, “I wrote to her this morning.” 

“She was here for your wedding to Sansa,” she replied, moving down to stand on her own two feet. “You’re the Crown Prince of the Seven Kingdoms, Uncle Brynden said your marriage was a state affair. Your parents married without the king’s consent and look what happened.” She bit her lip when she realised what she said. “I meant-”

“I know,” he comforted her, holding her face. “I know, but Dany is not her father and without an heir of her own, there’s little she can do now we’re married.” He kissed her forehead.

“Jon, I don’t want to live on Dragonstone,” she reminded him.

“I know, and we won’t.” 

“You’re her heir! What if you have to sit on that throne one day?” 

“I won’t.” He remembered the words of her red priest, Benerro. “The red priests say that the Prince that was Promised would launch a dynasty that would last a thousand, thousand years. Dany will have her own children.” 

“I thought they called you that,” she queried. 

“It’ s not me,” he affirmed. “I did not wake dragons from stone. Now... are we going to keep talking about Daenerys on our wedding night?” 

The look of scepticism did not leave her face.

He held her face in his hands. “Arya, I promise you, I will not let any harm come to our family.” 

She nodded. “We won’t let it.” 

“Now, wife,” he smiled, “let me love you. I promised you three consumations.”

She responded with her own grin. “You did.” 

So he loved her, slowly.

“Jon, there,” she moaned against his ear, when he began slowly making his way to the spot she loved. He held her as she whimpered, fluttering all around him, tears streaming down her cheeks. Her heat engulfed him. He looked into her eyes as he spilled inside his wife, unfettered by the worry that he would father a bastard. Only trueborn children, born of love, would come from this. 

“I love you, so much,” he said as he poured inside her, hoping his seed would take root. 

Arya coaxed him inside her thrice more that night until they crashed into their bed, boneless and tired. She was keen to show him the things she’d learned in Braavos. Things that made him half hard even now, two months later. 

“We’re leaving tomorrow,” he told her. “There’s a hunting lodge near the Wolfswood, we’ll stay there.” 

“We can’t leave silly,” she said, “Meera is having the babes any moment now.” 

“Babes?”

“Aye, Bran says twins.” 

And right she was, again. That same night they awoke to banging at their door. “Arya!” The voice belonged to Sarra. “Come quick, Meera is having the babes!” Arya darted out of the door quick as a snake.

When he finally made it to Bran’s quarters, his brother sat on his wheeled chair, in the company of Lem, Anguy, and Harwin. Each of their women were in the rooms with Meera. The Blackfish and Lord Howland joined them later, before a sleep-dazed Rickon made his way out of the room to see what was happening. Tom O’Sevens was last to arrive from the people of their household. Slowly, the news then spread around the castle to their guests. Thankfully, guards were placed outside The Great Keep.

“Brandon Staaaaaark!” Meera shouted from the room. “This is the last time you put a babe in me!!!” 

They awkwardly stood there while Bran smiled, wringing his hands in nervousness. 

“Does it make you proud to hear me howling like one of your wolves?” she screamed. 

“I remember the nights the two of you and Lady Arya were born,” Harwin said looking at Bran and Rickon, “Lady Catelyn swore like a sailor.” 

On and on went Meera’s labour. Her screams were deafening. 

“I never thought this day would come for me,” Bran said in a whisper. “I never thought I’d have a wife or children.” His eyes glistened with tears. “I thought I’d be a broken boy left alone for the rest of my life.” 

Jon put his arm around his brother. “We all did,” he told him. “Rickon up in Skagos, me on the Wall, you beyond it, Arya in Braavos, I suppose even Sansa in King’s Landing. We all thought we’d be alone forever. And now here we are.” 

His brother smiled. “Sansa needs us.” 

“What’s happened to her?” 

“After the wedding...the lords of the Vale began to question her relationship with Littlefinger. If she can betray her own father, what else can she do? they started  to ask.” Bran inhaled deeply. “She regrets it Jon,” he said. “I understand Arya’s pain. Everyone who died was someone we knew as well. But Sansa is scared and alone. She tries to hide it in her letters but I see.” 

“See what?” 

“The lords of the Vale circling her, each one keen to have her for himself all the while threatening her with a fall. She doesn’t have many allies.”

“For what reason? She’s done nought to them! They escorted her to the wedding, supporting her.” 

“Nestor Royce and his daughter, Myranda, held her and Littlefinger responsible for taking away their chance to install Myranda as Harrold Hardyng’s wife. It’s a grievance they never let go.” 

“But they came with her here?”

“They play games in the South that we do not,” Bran said. “Seeing how she brought down Littlefinger by exposing his role in Father’s death, given her own role in those events, they began to question her relationship with Lord Baelish… and the sudden death of our cousin Robert.” Bran gulped. 

“The boy had a weak composition.” Jon had heard as much from Sansa and, when he died, The Blackfish. 

“They had the maester questioned in a trial. He said that Sansa had been giving him too much sweetsleep for a little boy to handle.”
Suddenly, Jon remembered Sansa’s implication of Lord Baelish. 

“You had me procuring sweetmilk for my cousin Lord Robert Arryn. You told me it was to help treat him but Maester Colemon told me the truth. He told me it would harm him so I stopped giving it to him but you didn’t care did you? Robert dying would be convenient for you. You’d replace him with Ser Harrold who you thought was more predictable.”

“Sansa said she stopped giving it to him, when the maester told her.” 

“The maester said at the trial that she did not stop, even after his warnings.” 

“Robert dying would be convenient for you. You’d replace him with Ser Harrold who you thought was more predictable.” It would make her Lady of the Eyrie. Jon tried to bury the thought. 

“What happened...at the trial?” 

“Sandor Clegane fought for her in a trial by combat and won.”

Jon, exhaled.

“But she lost the support of many of the houses of the Vale, who call her a kinslayer in barely concealed derision despite the fact that she was proven innocent-”

“Perhaps it’s as simple as the stronger man winning.”

Bran looked at him with resignation. “Do you think she poisoned our own cousin?” 

“I don’t know,” he said truthfully. “I don’t think she would but I’m not sure I know Sansa any more. I didn’t know her very well anyway.” 

Bran sighed. “The lords pay their taxes, but very reluctantly. Even then, they only pay them because she has Lord Yohn Royce as High Steward and he only supports her because he signed a betrothal agreement which would ensure his granddaughter becomes Lady of the Eyrie.” 

Bran sighed again, “And if that was not enough, the Mountain Clans regularly raid caravans.” 

Jon remembered asking her to make peace with them, just as they had with the free folk in the North. 

“I will not make peace with... wildlings ,” she said scornfully. “We will destroy them, once and for all. There is no place for them in the Vale.” 

“Their place is in the Mountains of the Moon,” he reminded her. “They were there before the Andals came.” The hill tribes were the descendants of First Men who resided in the Vale long before the Andals arrived. They were menacing when they only had pitchforks and stolen weapons. Tyrion Lannister had them trained for the queen’s war for the throne and gave them good weapons. Now they were more than an annoyance. They were a real force she’d have to deal with. He hoped for her own good that she learned when to fight and when to negotiate now. 

“What will you do for her?” Jon wondered. 

“I asked her to visit,” Bran huffed, “She refused. I thought that I could try and fix things between her and Arya. Sansa insists that she is the wronged party. She was a child and Arya didn’t try to listen to her at all was her response.” 

“Arya saw the bodies, Bran, after the massacre at the Tower of the Hand.,” Jon said in defence of his wife, he remembered her tears. “She was in shock and she suffered so much as a result of that one action,” 

“I know,” Bran said. “I know everything. Even Braavos.” 

He met Jon’s eyes with a deep sadness.
“Then you know why Arya did what she did.”

“I do,” Bran said. “I just wish things could be different.” 

“It’s not your job to make things different,” Jon reminded him, “They are both grown women. We have to respect whatever decision they make.” Ever since they were children, Bran was always the conciliator and there were no two people he reconciled more than Arya and Sansa. This time, however, Jon thought this too big a matter for even Bran. 

Meera let out a blood curdling scream, which was followed by the first cries of a newborn babe. Bran laughed and lifted his eyes to Jon’s, letting out a laugh of relief. Jon remembered the night Bran was born. Father let out a similar breath of relief. 

Jon hugged his crying brother. Rickon joined them. Then they heard the cry of the second babe. 

Outside, they all let out another sigh of relief when they heard Meera’s voice. 

The door opened. Arya and Beth carried a babe each. Arya was crying too. She sent him a teary smile. Beth placed the boy in Bran’s arms. He was brown haired and grey-eyed. A Stark if there ever was one. Arya held the girl. She looked identical to her brother. Jon wrapped his arm around his wife who held their niece. Lord Howland came to pick up his grandson, all while The Blackfish hovered to welcome the latest additions to the Tully family tree. Arya placed the girl in Bran’s lap then. Their brother let out a sob in place of laughter. Happy tears flowed freely down his face. 

“And Meera?” he asked.

“She’s fine,” Arya answered. “They’re cleaning her up inside.” 

They fell into an easy routine once the twins were born. Cregan and Lyarra they were named. Arya was never too far from them. He’d see one or the other wrapped around her chest as she saw to the Lady of Winterfell’s duties while Meera recovered. Seeing her swaddled with the babes made him want one of their own. So whenever he could, he’d try to get her with child.

“You’re insatiable,” she would complain but she’d always answer him with the same desperation. They even managed to get two days outside of the castle at the hunting lodge he wanted them to go to the night after their wedding. 

They spent more time together as a family as well. Jon would take Rickon fishing along the White Knife. She would race Rickon. His unicorn was always faster than her palfrey but she wouldn’t let that stop her.

“Your mother used to like riding like that,” Harwin told him once. 

Jon would also help Bran with his duties as lord, visiting holdfasts on his behalf and overseeing the progress that began after their council. 

Arya, on the other hand, would spend hours a day with Meera whenever she was in the castle. Once the Sand Snakes left, that time only increased. He’d never seen Arya have friends who were ladies even when they were children. She made friends with everyone as a child, but most ladies only visited briefly and those who lived in the castle preferred Sansa’s company to hers. 

Meera, Beth, the Sand Snakes, Jorelle, who travelled to Dorne with them to take her place as Lady of Starfall, and Allyria and Alys who went back to Karhold, were her new inner circle. He was happy for her.

Meera was different to them all though, Meera became to Arya, what Robb once was to Jon. 

And she became to Branda what their father was to all of them. The little girl idolised Arya and tried to be like her in every way she could. 

A raven from the queen arrived during this time. She welcomed them to King’s Landing for her own Great Council, to be attended by all the lords and ladies for the Great Houses of Westeros. She extended the invitation to Prince Aemon and his family. That was all the acknowledgement she made to his marriage, if that even counted as an acknowledgement. 

That night he went to his wife as always, desperate to sink into her heat. She was already in bed, unusual for Arya.

“Hey,” he whispered, gathering her into his arms. “What’s wrong?” 

“I’m tired,” she said, hiding her face in his neck. 

“What did you do?” He’d spent the day in Winter Town with Lem and Tom. 

“Nothing, that’s the thing,” she whined. 

He kissed her. 

The sides of her mouth pulled into a smile. She moved her hands to cup him between his breeches. He shivered. 

“Please,” she sighed, licking the sensitive spot behind his ear. One word, uttered so quietly, struck him like lightning.

“First, I need you naked, love,” he cooed.

She lowered her eyes to his breeches as if to say you first. He complied as did she. 

He wrapped his arms around her. “How should I love you tonight?” 

She watched him with dark eyes, heavy breaths moving her chest alluringly, inviting him to take her teats into his mouth. “Arya-”

She kissed him hard, fierce, hungry, a woman blinded by need.He groaned at the contact. She answered him with a needy moan, licking her tongue into his mouth. 

He lied her down to move above her, pinning her arms up with his own. 

“Jon, please, I need you.”

“I know, love,” he rasped. “Me too.” 

He trailed one hand down her stomach, past her bare mound. She did shave . She sucked in a sharp breath at the first touch of his fingers between her thighs. She was ready for him. “I love what’s between your thighs,” he declared. His mouth watered when he smelled her arousal. 

He climbed off from her. She whined at the loss of warmth, before throwing her head back in a relieved sigh at the moment he pressed his mouth into her hot, slick, centre. 

He loved the sounds she made whenever he sucked her into his mouth, licking and tasting her want. Her voice always grew tight whenever she was close so he sped up the movement of his fingers inside her and the spirals he drew with his tongue.

The sound she made whenever she came, was sweeter than any music he’d ever heard. This wife of his. 

She knew him just as well. She knew the spot under his jaw that sent him keening, and how he loved her fingers in his hair, and how her biting his lower lip sent a jolt of wildfire through his blood. It’s why she did all three things the moment he lied down next to her. 

She moved her hand down to his cock, all while rubbing her nose in that spot he loved, behind his ear, right before she licked it with the tip of her tongue. He bit his lip, swallowing  a groan.

Heat seared through his body  the moment she took him into her mouth. This nimble woman of his. He felt like his soul could fly out of his body when he looked down at her with his hooded eyes. Enchantress

He felt his  thighs tremble when she began moving her mouth in time with her hand, all while the fingers of her second moved between his balls.

“Arya-” he managed to rasp out breathlessly. His heels dug into their featherbed while his body arched up into her mouth of its own accord. She smiled against him. He could feel her breath against the curls at the juncture of his thighs. Her tongue felt so good on him, he did not want to stop her. He’d find his way inside her later he was sure, so for now he let her take him over the edge. He spilled inside her mouth seeing stars behind his eyes. It was only then that he noticed the tears that spilled out of his eyes in his pleasure. She saw them at the same time, licking them off his cheeks in a move that made him want to plunge inside her. 

She smiled at him and lowered her face to his for a kiss far too tender for what they’d done so far that night. 

He moved his hand  down to cup her breasts, her teats in his mouth were two of his favourite things.

“Oww,” she whined, moving his hand off her breast. “It hurts.” 

“I’m sorry, I must have not noticed how hard I squeezed,” he apologised. “Come here, let me make it up to you.” 

They fell asleep shortly after he did. 

---

Jon looked for her everywhere after she stormed out of Bran’s rooms. She didn’t even notice him standing there next to Meera, extending his hand out for her to take when she left. Or perhaps she did and decided she’d ignore him. He didn’t know which was worse. Perhaps this is the night I lost her, he thought, as he made his way back to their rooms. 

He sat on the window seat, watching the moon, desolate. He would have found The Blackfish who slept no more than four hours a night but he’d left to take his place as Riverrun’s castellan so that Lord Edmure could attend the queen’s council. 

She came back just before dawn wearing mismatched boots and one of his cloaks. 

“We can leave,” he blurted. “Anywhere you want. Just don’t leave me.” His voice was weak, desperate. 

She furrowed her brows. “Why would I leave you?” she asked, as if he was mad. 

“You said you don’t want that life, you don’t have to live it.”

“And you heard, Bran. He said those dreams cannot be avoided.”

“I will do anything for you, I will even make a green dream not come true.”

She smiled at him and walked to sit by him. When she did she took his hand in hers. “I made a vow, Jon. Whatever comes I’ll be by your side until I’m as old and grey as in your dream.” 

He let out a croak of laughter. 

“Where did you go?” he asked, looking at her robe, mismatched boots and cloak.

She let out another laugh when she looked at herself. 

“To see Father,” she replied.

“Why?” 

“In King’s Landing, Father told me it was a dangerous place. We have come to a dark dangerous place, child,” he said. “ We have enemies who mean us ill. We cannot fight a war among ourselves. This willfulness of yours,” she smiled while she said that, “ the running off, the angry words, the disobedience … at home, these were only the summer games of a child, he told me.”

But he said, “here and now, with winter soon upon us, that is a different matter. It is time to begin growing up . I promised him I would. I promised I’d be strong, strong as Robb.” 

Jon was confused, he didn’t understand what this had to do with anything. 

She gave his hand a comforting squeeze when she realised he was confused. 

“In Harrenhal, I prayed at the godswood there. I wanted guidance on what to do. I was dejected, a mouse. As I prayed, the leaves rustled and I heard Father’s voice,” she gulped, tears in her eyes once more. 

When the snows fall and the white winds blow, the lone wolf dies, but the pack survives , he said. So I told him the pack was gone. The Lannisters had Sansa and you were up at the Wall. Bran and Rickon were dead. I’m not even me, I told him. My name was Nan when Roose Bolton took over Harrenhal.”

“You named yourself after Old Nan?”

“I’ve worn many names,” she laughed. “I was Beth once too, but stop distracting me!” She slapped his chest lightly. 

“Alright, continue,” he conceded, holding the hand that slapped his chest.  

“I heard Father’s voice. You are Arya of Winterfell, he reminded me, daughter of the North. You told me you could be strong. You have the wolf blood in you .”

“That was my weakest moment,” she added, “and Father gave me strength. He reminded me I was a direwolf, strong as Robb, and done with wooden teeth. I left Harrenhal that same night... Whatever you dreamt, daughter of the north they called me, perhaps it was a reminder for me. Whatever is coming, I’ll be by your side, strong, just I promised Father. That’s why I went to the crypts, to remind myself of the promise.”

He never loved her more than in that moment. He pulled her to his chest holding her against him until the sun came up. 

“Besides,” she murmured against his chest, “you said we were old, perhaps you don’t get to become king of anywhere until you’re a few moments from death’s door. Now, can we sleep? I’m tired.” 

----

Arya didn’t want to take Rickon with them to King’s Landing. “We aren’t taking our wolves,” she griped. 

“They hate ships,” he reminded her.

“Then Rickon shouldn’t go.” 

“We promised him he’ll always have a place beside us, Arya and he’ll be miserable without the two of us.”

“I let Nymeria go and look what happened to me over there!” 

“I won’t let anything happen to you or Rickon,” he promised.
She finally gave in but insisted Osha come with them. “Osha will kill anyone who tries to harm Rickon," she rationalised. She also demanded a full complement of guards including Anguy, Lem, and Tom. Everyone had concealed daggers. 

With her daughter still so young Beth elected to stay in Winterfell but Sarra and Branda joined them as well. Branda had been excited for the trip for two months. 

“I want to see this Leona Tyrell too,” she added. “The woman who sought to claim my husband. Nym told me all about how devious she is.” 

She-wolf,” he laughed against her hair.