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Frayed Strings and Half-Mended Things

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I.

Ned stared at the mirror, watching as her handmaiden tugged her dark tresses into one of those pompous hairstyles of the South. Too many twists and braids for Ned’s northern taste. She sighed; she was not ready for this. She had not been ready to lose her father, Brandon, and Lyanna either. She waved her handmaiden away, quickly taking a few twists off and mending her hair at least a little to her liking.

Ned rose from the bench and quickly made her way to the crib across the room containing her one of two blood relations in King’s Landing. She picked up Jon, his small weight and presence a soothing balm to her nerves. Savoring the innocence in his sleeping face; she bent to peck a small kiss against his brows, inhaling the scent of sweet babe in her arms. For a moment, with her head against his and her eyes closed, she could easily imagine them both being in Winterfell. Warm and safe within the heated halls of their ancestral home, away from King’s Landing.

Her little bubble of happiness was burst at the knocking on her door. She turned to see Robert Baratheon in her doorway. With his hair in slight disarray and eyes red from lack of sleep. Ned’s mouth dried in more nervousness and her attempts at swallowing to clear her throat did not help.

“Your Grace.” Ned said, giving him a quick curtsy- slightly wincing at the frown he displayed at her use of his titles. The dynamics had changed between them whether he liked it or not.

Robert stared at her. From the intricate hairstyle to her wedding dress, from the top of her head to the tips of her toes in a heated glance of longing and sorrow.

“You can still change your mind.” He began. “You don’t have to go through with this. Just say the word and you can be mine instead.”

Ned glanced down at Jon, letting out a slight scoff. “It’s a bit too late, Robert.” She turned around to the crib, gently placing the babe back into it and tucking the ends of the blankets securely around him; her hands clenched the wood from the crib in a white-knuckled grip. “You have responsibilities to the realm now. Do you really think Tywin Lannister would allow a second king to cast his daughter aside? Besides, I don’t want to remain here either, the only place I truly wish to return to is Winterfell with Benjen.”

He strode across the room grabbing her arm in a firm grip to beckon her to face him. “But I love you,” he began. “And now-”

“And now nothing,” Ned finished, looking firmly at his bright, blue eyes. A flurry of memories of them at the Vale rush through her mind until it rested on one of a few days ago. They had argued over the death of Elia Martell and her babes, Ned inwardly shuddered at the rage and hatred in Robert’s eyes when he had spat out the word ‘dragonspawn.’ “Besides, do you really think the other lords will allow you to marry a ruined woman?”

“I am king, now. I can marry you and naturalize Jon if you wish it. I won’t allow you to marry that damn snake!” Robert thundered, his voice rising. Ned turned to Jon, watching as he continued his peaceful slumber despite the rising volume in the room.

“I will marry him.” She replied firmly, despite his grip on her arm becoming tighter in his anger. “I am a Stark and I will do my duty, and this is the only way some semblance of diplomacy could remain after what Tywin Lannister did! After you did nothing against the death of innocents.”

“Was your family not innocent as well, Ned?” He boomed, this time waking Jon up who let out a whimpering cry. “Did they deserve what the Mad King and Rhaegar did to them?”

“No!” She retorted, trying to loosen his grip which had become unbearable. Ned knew that it would bruise. She was not used to having Robert direct his anger at her like this. They had argued when they were younger but those had been childish fights that were mended with apologies and time. This one was different. “But neither did they.”

An answer that caused his face to flush with even more outrage and she understood now why he would boast that the fury of the storms was nothing compared to that of a Baratheon. Ned did not know what possessed Robert, as he forcefully gathered her his arms and planting a firm kiss onto her lips. Desperation or a last attempt to dissuade her from going through with the wedding, she pushed against him.

“No, stop, Robert!” Ned felt like she was pushing against a stone wall, immovable and hard. He tightly pressed her against him, and she felt his manhood pressing solidly against her belly. Jon’s cries grew louder. Ned quickly sank her teeth onto his lips. It was enough as he released her and drew one of his hands to his lips.

What she did not expect was the strike that crossed her face. She quickly drew her hand up to her stinging cheek in disbelief. Whatever wrath Robert had on his face dissipated at the realization of what he had done. His eyes grew wider and he soon dissolved into a forlorn, little boy.
“Ned. Ned, I didn’t mean to-”

“Get out, Robert.” Ned coldly replied. The frost of the North running in her stern, even tone. A wall had slowly been building between them that began when his betrothal to Lyanna was announced, to the murder of Elia Martell and her children, and finally here, to Robert striking her. Whatever friendship they had, felt like a breaking piece of glass at that moment and she did not know if it was possible to be mended or if she even wanted to try and pick up the pieces at all.

“Get out!” She repeated louder.

With a quick ‘I’m sorry’ he left, looking like a pup with its tail between its hind legs. She drew a sigh of relief when he didn’t fight her order and relaxed when her door shut closed. Her watery eyes blurred her vision, but she ignored them and the throbbing on her cheek. Instead, she turn her attention back to Jon, who had turned a shocking red and his cries reverberating throughout the room. Gathering him back in her arms, she murmured sweet nothings to hush him back into sleep. Lyanna had been right when they had argued over Robert. Ned’s love for him blinded her to his faults.

After her time with Jon, Ned allowed her handmaid to apply some powder on her cheek to cover the redness that would also turn into a bruise. She steadied herself, as she watched Jon Arryn enter.

“It’s time.” He announced, paternal affection blooming on his face. “I would have loved nothing more than for you to have joined some branch of my family.”

“If only the gods had willed it.” With a firm nod in finality, Ned stood up. “Best not keep them waiting.”

“Thank you, child,” Jon continued. “For fulfilling your duty.”

Ned nodded again. Inwardly, she felt her insides twist at having to even do this, but it was necessary for peace- to marry Oberyn Martell.

She was a Stark that did her duty after all.

II.

The wedding had passed without any incident. Unless the lords and ladies counted the vitriolic anger that exuded from King Robert as the ceremony kept going, words of promise and vows said. That anger had turned into a drunken stupor during the reception and by the looks of it, he was not close to ending soon to the displeasure of his betrothed.

Ned looked around at the people and she grew a bit despondent at the stark contrast her wedding day was to the one she had pictured in her childhood days. This one was too Southern and lacked her family that she sorely missed. She threw a quick glance at her husband, who sipped from his goblet of wine. She never knew someone could look so dangerous doing something so simple, but he did, sitting languidly in his chair and looking utterly bored at the crowd. She knew better though, seeing a spark of anger and hatred flicker now and then from his eyes-mostly towards Tywin Lannister.

“Time for the bedding!” Robert announced, with a loud clang of his cup against the table Ned stiffened at the announcement, the last thing she wanted was for him to be so close after what occurred in the morning. His lust-laden eyes were fixated on her and she grew uncomfortable as Robert did not care of his blatant display.

Her husband on other hand, straightened up. “There will be no bedding ceremony, Your Grace.”

He spit out the title with so much venom. Ned saw the fury in Robert rise at being denied.

“It is tradition.”

“A tradition not favorable in the North, from what I’ve heard from my new brother-by-law.” Oberyn replied, bringing his goblet down with a resounding finality.

All eyes turned to her younger brother. Ned still had to get used to the new differences the war had done to her little brother, Benjen. All the freshness of youth had been killed by whatever he had seen in the past year during the rebellion. Benjen, was not used to attention but she knew it was something he had to adapt to soon. To her surprise, he cleared his throat and stood up.

“That is correct.” He announced with the most authoritative voice he could muster. “Lady Mormont, if you can please help my sister.”

Ned was out, walking through one of the hallways with Maege, when she realized that her husband and Benjen had planned her escape from being stripped and paraded around.

III.

Ned was in a state of perturbation.

Left in nothing but a nightgown, the silence did nothing to help Ned’s nerves. And she was near a panic spell, sitting on the bed when her husband finally entered the room.

She gathered her nerves and strength at what was to come.

Ned preferred silence. Loved it, yet not here and right now.

“When did you and Benjen arrange on having me escorted to deter the bedding ceremony?” She asked, genuinely curious.

Oberyn had gone to the table laden with food and wine, and poured himself a good amount of Dornish Red. “Would you have preferred having to go through with it?”

“No.” She answered honestly.

He took a few sips before grabbing a cloth from the table and dipped the end of it into his goblet. Ned watched him warily as he approached her and stiffened at his proximity.

“It was your brother’s idea.” He said, taking a knee in front of her and gently wiped the powder off her face, more specifically the side in which Robert had hit her. “He had been to my chambers earlier today to kindly warn me against mistreating his sister only to return right after seeing His Grace, exiting your quarters with a haunted expression and a bleeding lip.”

Ned closed her eyes, warmth enveloping her at Benjen doing something so foolishly daring as to threaten her future husband. It was something that Brandon would have surely done, but not her sweet Benjen. She wanted to chide him for doing something so reckless but love for her younger brother won over at the thoughtfulness in him protecting her- it was always the other way around. But the circumstances had changed when he went off to war.

Ned’s eyes opened at the gentle caress Oberyn made at her bruise, fully formed and surely getting worse as the days went. He frowned at it and she watched as anger entered his eyes as he took note of the discoloration contrasting so profusely against her pale skin. “And who am I to deny a younger brother, who just wants to protect his older sister?”

He got up, to return his attention back to his glass of wine and plucked a few grapes from the bunch on one of the plates. Taking a seat on the chair next to the table, he shifted his focus back to her.

“Now, if I ask, will you answer me truthfully?”

Oberyn leaned onto his elbows.

“What was the reason behind him striking you?” He popped a grape in his mouth, following it with a small sip of wine. “Was it because he told you, he loved you, and you denied him?”

Ned’s gaze flickered immediately up to meet his, surprised he dove into the subject right away.

“He doesn’t love me,” she replied. Ned knew it was not convincing, since she had known it, seen it in Robert, but did everything possible to deter his fixation. It was a union that would never occur, for she, at the time had been betrothed to the heir of the Vale and him eventually to Lyanna. It was something that would have never occurred and so it was foolish to dream or nurse false expectations. She never saw him that way, only as a brother.

“Please, Lady Eddara. Half the realm knows that Robert Baratheon is completely besotted with you. Is that why your sister ran away with Rhaegar Targaryen? To marry the man that would never look at her the way he does her sister?”

Rage and agony seated through her and she winced again as if she had been struck a second time. Ned felt guilty that she had not done enough to dissuade Robert or not done enough to look over Lyanna in the small number of times they had seen each other but these were guilty thoughts of her own, not voiced aloud until now by her husband of all people. She focused her gaze onto her hands, clasped tightly on her lap, grief exacerbating her guilt.

“I apologize,” he murmured. Ned watched as he sighed and ran a hand through his hair and she finally saw what he had hidden the whole day. Grief that he avoided in displaying the whole day in front of his enemies, in front of the man who had ordered the death of his sister, his niece, and his nephew. “I should actually be thanking you.”

Ned furrowed her brows in confusion.

“For attempting to gain some approximation of justice from your friend for the death of Elia, Rhaenys, and Aegon.”

Ned didn’t know what to say. She just knew that what happened to them was unnecessary and utterly barbaric on Tywin Lannister’s part. And completely unjust. “Robert shouldn’t have commended that.”

“It seems your friend commends violence against those who can’t defend themselves.” Oberyn got up again and made his way over to her. This time he grabbed her hands to gently beckon her to stand before him. He slid her nightgown off her shoulders, revealing her breasts into the open air. But he wasn’t fixated on them, his focus was on the hand-shaped bruise on her left arm. “Even on those, he claims to love.”

He closed the gap between them. “It is a good thing then, that I don’t love you at all.”

IV.

Ned woke up to an empty bed space beside her. Her husband may not love her, but he also didn’t do what the Septa- that they had given her here- told her would occur in her wedding night.

She had warned her that her husband would take what was his by right. Although the Septa had made a snippy remark about how that did not really apply here since Ned had already given birth to a bastard and there was no point in going into details with her. So, Ned was in the dark, all she knew was that her husband was at liberty to take and she would do her duty to him by being docile about it.

But Oberyn had been the opposite. A blush rose on Ned’s cheeks at what happened the night before. From the minor kisses that he began with, always waiting for her to grow comfortable before introducing her to the next sinfully pleasurable act.

Her thoughts were disrupted at her handmaiden announcing Benjen, waiting for her in the other room. Ned quickly rose from the bed, grimacing a bit at the soreness between her legs.

She quickly dressed and went to the other room, were the wonderful sight of Benjen with Jon in his arms greeted her. There was a table ready for them, filled with various foods and delicacies.

“Morning, Ned.” He quickly smiled at her extended hands and her eagerness to have Jon within her arms again. “I had the servants serve breakfast up here for you, preferable than dining in the hall.”

“You shouldn’t have threatened Oberyn Martell,” she started.

Benjen simply rolled his eyes, knowing that it was typical of her to always begin with the lectures.

“Thank you,” she continued, as they sat down. “For helping to cancel the bedding.”

Benjen shook his head, grabbing one of her hands. “Hopefully, this marriage and Lord Arryn could deter His Grace from doing something again. I’m sorry, I couldn’t protect you.”

Ned looked at her brother. “It’s not your fault. We must all do our duty, little brother.”

“Give him back, now. So, you can eat.”

With a great reluctance, Ned gave Jon back to Benjen. She watched as her younger brother surprisingly maneuvered Jon carefully and with ease. He looked up, catching her staring.

“It’s great practice for when I meet my son.”

At that reminder, Ned’s grin grew wider at the heir of Winterfell currently residing with his mother, Catelyn Stark, waiting for Benjen’s return home.

“If only Jon could meet his cousin.”

“Hopefully, someday soon.” Benjen promised. “We named him, Rickon.”

The plates had been gathered and taken away a while ago, leaving Benjen and Ned to compete against the other in getting Jon to giggle. Their merriment was disrupted with her husband’s entrance. Benjen stood up with Jon in his arms, and politely excused himself, leaving her with her husband.

They stared at each other. Ned with embarrassment and wariness at the sharp focus his gaze held her in. Oberyn, on the other hand, with furrowed brows and a look of contemplation. The silence was eventually broken by him.

“Would you like to take a walk around the gardens?”

V.

They stopped against the stone railing in the garden that overlooked the ocean. It was a clear, sunny day with the sunlight dancing over the azure color of the sea making it look like glistening crystals.

Ned waited and watched as her husband stood facing her and yet his gaze was focused on sweeping their surroundings.

“Imagine my surprise at finding out my new wife, who has already birthed a baseborn son, is still a maiden. Well, was. Anything, to say about that, Lady Eddara?”

Ned glanced out towards the sea, fear enveloping her. To dissuade the panic rising within her, she focused on the waves lapping on the rocks out at a distance; the splash of water that splayed throughout the air after every hit. Her throat wanted to close up and new worries whirled through her head as he continued, while she remained silent.

“It is interesting that you left to find your sister only to return with a body and a babe. A babe that you lied about giving birth to. Sold your honor for and made everybody believe you a disgraced woman.” Oberyn grabbed her chin and directed her focus on him.

The only thing that Ned wanted to do right now was run to Benjen and Jon and flee North. But here she was. Trapped under the scrutiny of her new husband with no answer to his conjectures that weren’t simple musings at all.

Her frustration overtaking her, a few tears escaped her eyes. To her surprise, he swiped those away with great tenderness and she felt unnerved.

“Robert wouldn’t understand.” She murmured.

“No, he wouldn’t.”

She looked into his eyes beseechingly. “He is the only piece I have left of her. You have the right to not like her, but she was my sister and Jon had no part in this.”

Oberyn grew angry at that. “I wouldn’t harm a child.”

Ned stared at him.

“But...”

Ned’s heart sank, unsure of what he would say next.

“He’s to come with us to Dorne.”

Ned frowned. “Why?” She was skeptical of his intentions.

Oberyn looked out at the sea as if searching for the answer in the water. “Besides, Dorne being kinder to bastards...I don’t know.”

VI.

2 weeks later.

They were still in King’s Landing and Ned could see the longevity of their stay was making Oberyn go mad. The proximity to all his former enemies was not easy especially to her husband who she realized had a short temperament. Of course, anyone’s patience could be tested when the eyes and tongues of many watched and whispered.

Ned had taken to spending her days in their quarters, to which, he would join. She was wary in the beginning when Jon was with her-the constant worry of his true lineage being discovered by others was prevalent in her thoughts. Her perturbation causing her to eventually keep watch over him in the night. The lack of sleep caught up to her and resulted in her fainting due to exhaustion. She had woken up with Oberyn sitting on a chair by her bedside with Jon sitting happily on his lap with a wooden toy.

She was given a few seconds of opportunity to watch Oberyn’s interactions with Jon. Patient with him as the wooden wolf in Jon’s hands would slip from his chubby hands. Happy to conclude, that he held him with a gentleness she did not expect from Oberyn. Another difference between him and Robert. At her announcement of Jon being hers, Robert had looked at him with revulsion and horror. A physical representation that she had been with another man that was not him.

Today, they readied themselves for the royal wedding.

Robert cut a dashing figure. Decked in a yellow tunic and black pants, he cut a heroic figure. The hero that overturned a mad king’s reign for a better era. The repetition of ‘dragonspawn,’ instead reverberated in her head every time she saw his face. Cersei Lannister was a vision next to him. Long golden hair and curvaceous figure, she was the epitome of beauty. A goddess on land, some of the small folk had whispered.

Ned did not have many opportunities to speak with Cersei Lannister but she, like many, was aware of her father’s ambition for her to become queen. And she looked radiant on her wedding day and resplendent in her dress befitting her new status. Yet, Ned could not understand why, after finally acquiring what she wanted the most, Cersei directed her with a murderous glance full of hate the day after the royal wedding.

VII.

A.

Ned knew her duty. To marry a highborn lord befitting her station and producing children. She knew it would be her duty to allow her husband to take pleasure when he saw fit. She just never knew she would come to enjoy it too. And that is something that she never considered, she always thought that having a husband that would be kind to her would be enough. Oberyn was kind, gracious even, when they laid together.

B.

Oberyn never wanted to marry. The fact that he had to marry one of their former enemies was another matter. The sister of the one that fled with Elia’s husband. Although he took comfort, in the fact, that he now had something Robert Baratheon so ardently wished to have. But Oberyn knew, that Robert only coveted Eddara Stark because she was unattainable.

Oberyn felt guilty about their wedding night, remembering when he slipped inside of her, unaware that she was still a maiden. The sharp inhale of breath and her nails digging piercingly into his back, made him falter in his movements; her scrunched up face at the pain and the tightness she held him in made him realize that she had not born Jon into the world. He swiped the tears that had unwillingly slipped from her closed eyes and continued at a much slower pace.

He observed her as she slept. Her dark tresses of hair cascading around her, a sharp contrast to her pale skin. Oberyn frowned at the bruising on her cheek and arm, the purple an ugly mark marring her smooth skin. Eddara Stark had a lot more honor than the men her family fought with. He had heard the rumors, before their marriage, of her fight with Robert about the fate of his sister and her children- was one of the reasons their renowned friendship had fractured so deeply.

Oberyn was perplexed at the decisions she had taken; her sacrifice for her sister, to be seen and whispered about as a fallen woman, to protect her nephew. Not the reasons for, of course he would have done the same, with no hesitation, for his siblings. She was brave. Courageous even. Having to stand her ground in front of others, who looked down upon her when word had spread of Jon, her bastard son. He remembered the barely concealed haughtiness of Cersei Lannister whenever she laid her eyes on Eddara, a glee sprouting within her when she knew she had no fear of losing her fiancé to her. How wrong Cersei was and had Ned shown even an inkling of mutual affection to those of Robert, Cersei would never have that crown upon her pretty head.

Oberyn rose early, he didn’t sleep much since the news of his sister’s death reach him. A haunting that never let him slumber than only a few hours at a time. He looked over at his wife, a complex mystery that he had a lifetime to figure out. He grabbed a knife and cut out the pieces of sheet that had soaked her blood from the previous night. Her secrets were his secrets now, he supposed, he just wanted the answers from her now.

He made his way to his wife’s old chambers, where the babe was. Oberyn studied the boy who was peacefully snoozing in his crib, unaware of the unknown danger around should his true parentage be revealed. He took after the Starks, a blessing in disguise for any physical manifestation of the Targaryen in him would have been his doom. And yet, seeing him only brought Oberyn sorrow and anger at the boy’s careless father.

Oberyn had thought Eddara a dulled-out version of her sister but her quietness was her nature. The more they spoke, he realized that there was so much more, and he could see why Robert would want her. He feared that the marriage would be one of duty, solely for the procreation of children and that he would seek his pleasures elsewhere. But one of his favorite pastimes was on how quickly he could make his wife lose control.

A stern woman that was full of courtesies in the courts and yet a passionate one in the bed; he realized that she did have the sigil of her family within her after all. He enjoyed in extracting moans and whimpers from her, each one sending more fire to his loins. He quite liked how much he could do when they were in the presence of others, the blush that would spread across her cheeks at a hidden caress. Her stern glare doing nothing to discourage him when her eyes were laced with lust. He knew that she knew, he did it to infuriate Robert, but she did not say anything to stop him either.

Oberyn certainly reveled in taking such liberties whenever he knew the king would be in their vicinity. On the final feast they would be at, before they could return to Dorne, had them in a balcony; far enough that the revelry of the feast was a murmur. Overlooking the dark water, that looked like a dark abyss from the moonless night. He stood right behind her, one of his hands holding her waist and the other one slowly sneaking between her legs.

“We shouldn’t be doing this here.” Ned whispered, a hitch in her voice as his hand crept higher.

“And why shouldn’t we?” Oberyn replied, relishing her heaving breaths she took as he began his ministrations. “We’re married after all.”

Ned gasped out, lacing her hand with the one he had on her waist. Oberyn watched as she slowly descended into pleasure, watched her become undone. The Quiet Wolf, not so silent after all. Enjoyed the scene that it looked when Robert had walked in on them, Oberyn unable to stave off the smirk from his face. Ned looked a bewitching sight, face flushed from the sexual satisfaction, hair lightly mussed, and swollen lips.

“Excuse us, Your Grace.” Oberyn began. “But it seems that my duty as a husband are required.”

He guided her back to their chambers to continue where they left off, leaving Robert to choke on an apoplectic fit of anger and jealousy.

“You shouldn’t do that.” Ned remarked, as they entered their chambers. “Anger him.”

“He shouldn’t be getting angry in the first place at a husband doting on his wife.”

She merely raised an eyebrow. “Doting? Seemed a bit like taking liberties in an inappropriate place.”

“And yet I heard no complaints.”

VIII.

Their first born is a son born nine moons after their wedding. A son that favored his mother except for his eyes, instead of the storm grey of his mother and his cousin they were the black eyes of Oberyn and Ned loves him at first sight. She is constantly watching over him, studying his fingers and toes and his face for any expression that resembled an emotion. Delighted and absolutely besotted when he happened to curl his lips upward into a smile.

Eddara was out of her element in Dorne, a place with more leeway than the other regions of Westeros and so much hotter than anywhere else she had been to before. It takes her a while to get used to the climate, it takes longer to get used to Oberyn’s daughter.

She did not know what to make of them, each one gazing at her in curiosity. It didn’t take them long to enamor themselves with Jon and Maron and that extension was soon given to her as well. Maybe it became easier to be with them when she noticed that they held similarities to her younger sister. Lyanna would have enjoyed the liberty given to Obara, at being able to learn how to fight and choose her own weaponry.

“Why are you so quiet?” Tyene asked, one day sitting next to her as she tended to Maron. Eddara was sat underneath a tree, trying to escape the harsh heat from the sun with Tyene and Sarella sitting on either side of her. Jon was with Nymeria and Obara, trying to keep pace with them as he had recently learned to walk and reveled at finally being able to follow them albeit with an unsteady gait.

Ned often wondered that too, the boisterous ones were always Brandon and Lyanna. She just never had a tendency in herself to fill the silence. “I don’t know, my mother always said that I was quiet even as a babe.”

“Like Jon?”

“Yeah,” she smiled. “Like Jon.”