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Hour of the wolf

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I.

It was the middle of the night. The sun had set so many hours ago, leaving the moon to chase away the darkness, and he couldn’t sleep. Rest had eluded him for days and he couldn’t understand why. A feeling under his skin wouldn’t let him close his eyes and drift away in peace, something accelerating his heart and waking him up every time he tried, keeping him bound to awakeness.

It wasn’t nightmares. He could deal with those, having grown accustomed to them after the fire. No, it was something else. Something more akin to waiting, something more akin to expecting.

Something was supposed to happen soon, he could tell. And Jon suspected that, until it did, he wouldn’t get sleep. So he gave up looking for it and rose from his bed, wrapping a thick cloak around him. He took a sit in front of his desk and stared at the flames in the hearth.

You whisper secrets to that woman. Can you whisper secrets to me?

The flames danced together, moving from one side to the other in an elusive movement that said nothing to him, that showed him nothing. Just reds and oranges and yellows moving from one side to the other, cracking and breaking, rising and falling; no words, no images, no prophecies hiding among them. No truths, no lies, no warnings.

The door creaked open just when he was about to give up and when the flames grew slightly stronger he didn’t need to look to know who was standing at his door.

Did I involuntarily call her by looking at the flames? he wondered, bothered. That woman was strange and he couldn’t trust her. Yet he owed her. Oh, how much he had come to hate her.

“Jon Snow,” Melisandre called and Jon turned to look at her with narrowed eyes. She insisted in calling him that and Jon couldn’t help but be grateful, yet she still annoyed him, bothered him. Everyone else kept calling him Targaryen, sometimes monster under their breaths. He blamed the Red Woman for that. But Jon couldn’t blame the men that called him monster, not truly. He understood their uneasiness, their mistrust. He had risen from a burning fire after all, he had risen from death after Melisandre had found a way to pay for life. After she had found the blood, the sacrifice.

She was just a child. A sweet child. He blamed Melisandre for that too. Specially for that.

“What do you need, my lady?” he asked in what he hoped was a polite manner. She had, after all, saved his life. But his voice still held that icy hatred he couldn’t seem to get rid of.

“She’s here.”

The words were spoken with reverence, as if whoever Melisandre meant by ‘she’ was an incredibly important person. Essential for life, essential for him. His heart stopped for a second. It can’t be.

Who is here, my lady?” he pressed, his heart beating wildly in his chest. Please, Gods, please, Jon wasn’t sure what he was asking for. He kept asking, though. Over and over again in his head. Please, Gods, please.

Melisandre smiled. “Your heart.”


He had never stood up so quickly or walked out of a room with such despair. Not even the first time the Red Woman had claimed to have her in Castle Black. Expectation took hold of his heart, fueling him with hope even against his wishes. He couldn’t deal with such disappointment, not again.

Please, Gods, please.

He moved wildly through the castle, desperate to get to her. He could sense men following him, Melisandre’s men who had pledged themselves to Jon after his resurrection. Desperate men, eager to serve their Lord of Light. However, Jon had nothing to do with their God of Flame and Shadow. Nothing at all, even if Melisandre claimed he did.

The moon followed him too, lightning his path and making the snow in the floor shine like little drops of diamonds. Like the stars had fallen from the sky to make the floor they stepped on, the earth they lived on, more beautiful. More similar to a place where hope bloomed and lived and became facts and reality. More similar to a place happiness existed in. He prayed for it to be a good sign, he prayed for the stars not to lie.

Please, Gods, please.

Melisandre had said she was in the Tower of Guards since it was the closest one to the Kingsroad which was the road from which she had arrived. Though she claimed the girl was alive, there had been a storm the days before, torturing the land for weeks on end and travelling had been nearly impossible and terribly dangerous. She could be hypothermic, starving, wounded. She could be dying.

Please, Gods, please.

He hadn’t understood at first, when Melisandre said his heart was there. But then he’d remembered the words he had thought so long ago. What do you know of my heart, priestess? What do you know of my sister? At this point, it wouldn’t surprise him to learn that the Red Woman could read minds. He only hoped she wasn’t mistaken. She had been mistaken once, he wouldn’t forgive her a second error. Not when it came to her. Not after the possibility had make him feel so happy and desperate at the same time.

Please, Gods, please. Let it be her, let her be safe. I prayed to you before, a long time ago. Bring her safe to me. Bring her home.

He opened the doors of the Tower of Guards as soon as he reached them and heard a commotion coming from one of the rooms upstairs. Screaming and growling and curses travelling through the air, resonating in the walls, breaking the peace of night.

“Let go of me, you stupid brute!” the feminine voice was familiar, deeply familiar, and a shiver of hope travelled through his spine. It has to be her. It can’t be someone else, it has to be her.

“Stay still, my lady, you have a wound!” that was Sam, Jon recognize, sounding helpless and commanding at the same time.

“It’s just a scratch, stupid! And don’t call me that!”

Then a growl resonated through the walls and he heard men curse. “By the Gods, someone control that thing!”

“Let go of me and let go of her too! Now!”

The screaming and the growling only intensified as he climbed the stairs as fast as he could. By only the sounds he stipulated there were at least twenty men up there and what seemed to be a very feracious wolf. Or a direwolf, his mind whispered. As far as he knew, only the Starks had owned direwolfs.

Oh, please, Gods, please. Let it be her.

He reached the room and, even though he was expecting chaos, the situation still surprised him. Men were all thrown on top of a gigantic wolf with straps of leather keeping its jaw closed. The animal moved like a demon, claws clicking in the wooden floor, growls coming out of its throat; and the men just seemed to be annoying the creature further, trying to keep it pinned to the floor. In the other corner of the room fewer men were bent over a bed, but still a considerable amount of people, trying to keep someone still as Sam, with his Maester chain clicking with his every move, tried to clean a wound. A superficial wound, he noticed, but Sam liked to take care of every little scratch dripping blood. The sooner he covered the source, the less pale he looked.

And then he noticed Grenn with a bloody nose sitting on a chair, literally in the middle of the room, holding a piece of cloth to his face and looking really confused and kind of stupefied. And then Grenn noticed him.

“Oh, it took you long enough, Jon!”

As soon as his name was out of Grenn’s lips everybody stopped moving at once, silence and stillness taking over the room suddenly. Jon stood at the door, chest moving with his heavy breaths, his heart beating wildly against his ribcage and he looked first at the wolf and then at the person being restrained in the bed. Oh, dear Gods.

“Jon?”

Oh, dear Gods, thank you.

It was her. She was older and different, and more beautiful than he ever thought she would become, but it was her. Her grey eyes and her long face, her wild hair and her soft lips, her bright smile and her pale skin. It was her, there was no way of mistaking her, of confusing her for someone else, of not recognizing her.

“Arya,” he breathed quietly, almost without speaking at all. And then he noticed every single person in the room staring at him, waiting for him to do something and it was too much. This moment wasn’t for them, they weren’t allowed to see her, too see him, to see them together after so long. This was private, personal. “Everybody out,” he ordered suddenly, voice leaving no room for argument.

Nobody moved. He wasn't the Lord Commander, not anymore, and they weren't particularly tied to follow his orders. Yet he wasn't in the mood to deal with politics and he wasn't in the mood to not be obeyed.

“I said,” he stated again, with a deep growl, “everybody out!”

The room cleared in matter of seconds, men leaving the place as if it was infested with monsters, demons and scary creatures borned in darkness. Both the wolf and the unruly girl forgotten where they stood.

The last one to leave the room was Sam, who smiled at Jon and then closed the door behind him and they were officially alone. Completely alone but finally, after so long, together.

“Arya,” he repeated, just as she jumped out of bed and ran to his arms, calling his name over and over again, with the same desperation he had prayed to the Gods in his mind since Melisandre had entered his room. “Oh, Arya, it’s you.”

Her skin was cold, really cold, and he held her tighter. She had tucked her head under his chin and the smell of her hair made him sigh. She still smelled the same, a distinct smell that seemed to be only hers, and his breath hitched in his throat. She’s here. She’s here. She’s here.

The words repeated in his head without stopping, one after the other, again and again and again, till they lost sense, till they were just sounds that brought comfort to his mind, to his heart.

They had been apart for so long, wishing to find each other, wishing to be together. Relaying just in hope, waiting and expecting. Asking, hoping, wishing. After so long.

“We’ll never part ever again,” they promised at the same time into each other’s ears, voices breaking with emotion, shaky breaths mingling in the air.

“I’ll never let you go, ever again,” he elaborated, his voice still shaking. After so long. Oh, dear Gods, thank you. She laughed in his arms, a choked sound that warmed his heart and he followed her soon after with no apparent reason but pure joy. Their laughter grew quickly until they couldn't stop and until it turned to tears.

She pushed him away a little, just enough so she could look into his eyes. "I heard you were dead," she said quietly, her voice barely raising in the dim light of the candles. "I came here—" she stopped, suddenly looking afraid, "I came here to see if it was true and I—"

When her voice died in her throat again, he shook his head. "Don't worry, little sister, I am very much alive." He hugged her again, letting her hide her face in his neck, and took a deep breath. "I am very much alive and so thankful you are alive too. So happy you are here. So happy."

He didn't know how long they stayed like that, standing in the middle of an empty room with Nymeria in a corner, with leather keeping her snout bound. The candles started dying slowly and darkness took hold of the room yet they didn't part, they didn't moved not even an inch.

But then Nymeria started whining.

Arya pulled away from him and looked at her wolf with what seemed to be an apologetic smile. “I’m sorry, my girl, I forgot,” she whispered and moved away from Jon to release Nymeria from her boundings. When she was done she turned back to Jon and he took her hands.

“I’ll have rooms settle for you in the King’s Tower, so we can be closer. I’ll tell them about Nymeria too, so they leave her alone. As long as she doesn’t harm anyone.”

“She won’t, unless I command her to.”

“I thought you had lost her?” he asked. There were so many things he didn’t know about her now, so many things she had to tell him, so many things he had to tell her.

Arya smiled. “I did, for a while. But it’s a long story.”

“And we are both tired,” he finished for her and her eyes glinted as she nodded. “I’ll go to—”

“No!” she cried suddenly and he clutched her hands tighter. “Stay here for tonight,” Arya asked softly, “stay here with me. We can take care of the rooms later. Just stay with me for now.”

He smiled and kissed her cheek. Arya led him to the little bed in the corner and, without giving it much thought, they both lay down and stayed close in the darkness, their presence comforting the other.

For the first time in many nights, Jon fell asleep instantly and no nightmares tainted his sleep. For the first time in many nights, he slept with a smile on his face and without a care in his heart.


II.

Rain came hours before the thunders and the lightnings. It started on the early morning, just soft drops of water falling without consistency. One here, another there. Soft kisses from the sky to the earth, nothing more than pecks.

But as the day dragged on, the rain became more insistent. Raindrops fell more strongly, more closely, one after the other. And by the time night came, little rivers run through the ground, puddles covering the floor.

The soft rain became a storm and soon lightning announced the arrival of thunder, the sky shaking with every roar.

The first lightning to travel the sky waked Arya as she was falling asleep. The rooms given to her at Castle Black had big windows that allowed light to bathed the room in the early mornings and the moon to dance its way into the darkness. It had a nice view on clear nights, with a sky filled with stars. That night, however, it only showed dark clouds and a moonless sky. One of the darkest nights Arya had witnessed in her life.

The lightning danced up high, illuminating the dark firmament in shades of purple and electric blue. A streak of magic in the clouds. The light made its way into everything it could touch, eventually reaching Arya’s closed eyes and bringing her to alertness.

Thunder resonated through the empyrean clouds, coming to even shake the earth. She bit her lip and thought of the storms back at Winterfell. How she would get up and walk to Jon’s room, as quickly as her feet would let her, and climb into his bed. He would be waiting for her, knowing that in a storm night she would come to him.

It was not fear what drove her to search Jon’s bed. It was wonder and fascination. She loved thunder, the roarings in the sky, as if the Gods were fighting, parading their power, their rage. He would always tell her the best of stories, of battles and quarrels among the old Gods, turning every thunder into a new sentence of the ones fighting high above.

He would hug her tightly, his mouth close to her ear, his voice warming her heart. She would dream of the stories he’d told her and shiver in excitement with every thunder slipping from reality to her own fantasy, mingling with her dreams and thoughts. A new adventure every storm night, with Jon choosing the twists and turns.

He never chose calm, nice stories; like the ones Sansa enjoyed. No, he knew Arya and he knew what would thrill her and make her eyes come to life with awe and amazement. Stories about fervid battles and warrior queens. About strong women fighting their way in life, about brave people with kind hearts, about selfless gestures made in reckless abandon. About wild natures and noble traits, fearsome monsters and courageous decisions made in little time.

Not quite Sansa’s dreams, but a child’s dreams still; with the innocence of children, and the valiant hopes of one.

No, those stories would not suffice now. They would feel like a slap in the face, a reminder of what she used to love, what she used to expect from this world. They would feel like little lies and she had grown so good at spotting them, so good at hating them when they were directed at her. Deceive was something she had used to survive, not something you used just for the sake of it. A powerful weapon not meant to be taken lightly.

But the desire to run to Jon’s bed was there anyways. To go to him for the sake of memory, by force of habit. To cuddle into his arms and find sleep under the spell of his voice.

She scoffed at her foolish desires and turned in bed, facing the wall, trying to avoid the lights from the storm. Every new lightning reflecting on the wall and every thunder shaking the glass of the windows was a new shot of temptation running through her spine. Jon was so close, just a few rooms upstairs and after being so far away from him for so long, the temptation was even greater. It would be so easy to just go to him, as if they were children still.

But after all this years…

Strictly speaking, they weren’t even siblings anymore. And after all this years… After all I’ve done. She had drifted away from him, after having found him again, she couldn’t help it but try to run away. She wouldn’t leave Castle Black, she couldn’t leave him so definitely, but she could lock herself up in that room, in her mind. She could avoid him. Because once he knows the truth…

After all this years, after all I’ve done, after what I’ve become.

When she found him, she’d been so happy. She believed him dead but suddenly he was there, looking at her bewildered and suddenly smiling and calling her name as if nothing had changed. She remembered how she felt, how she had been feeling for the past few days, ever since she’d found Nymeria. How the memories from the past would come swirling into her mind, into her heart; one after the other in the most strange of times. How Arya was coming back after being No One for so long, how erratic it was making her act, how many feelings she had in the edge of her skin, ready to be triggered by the slightest things.

But then the high had started to subdue and her feelings had fallen into place, leaving her empty and full at the same time. Letting fear to step back up, the same fear she had as a child travelling through the Riverlands, the same ache and the hole in her heart. She couldn’t deal with Jon rejecting her, she wouldn’t survive it.

A knock at her door pulled her from her mind and brought her back to that moment. She was about to rise and walk to the door, to see who would need her at such a late hour and for what exactly; her old instincts from the House of Black and White telling her that it was an emergency, her old fear leaking through the cracks and warning her of danger.

Before she could do any of this, the door opened. Lightning exploded in the room, revealing Jon standing at her door frame. His brow was furrowed, as if he was in pain, and his eyes talked about uncertainty, his facial muscles showing confusion. He opened his mouth to speak but nothing came out of it and he closed it, and took a deep breath. Arya tensed even more as soon as she saw that it was him but smiled upon seeing his inner turmoil, much like the one clouding her mind seconds before. She tilted her head and stared at him a little bit more, mildly amused.

He’s here. After all this years...

She didn’t need words nor she didn’t need any more time to understand what he was doing in her room, and suddenly all her fears took a step back and all she could feel was longing. She had found him and she had willed herself away from him. But he had come looking for her now. He had come looking for her....

She threw the covers of her bed back, her body moving to one side, leaving space for him. Jon smiled and his face relaxed, his eyes glinting with melancholy, nostalgia. Memories probably flashing in his mind; how they always understood each other without the need for words. With calm gestures and movements that were so familiar to her, even after all this years, he took the big cloak warming him in such a cold place off his shoulders, leaving it in one of the chairs at her bedside, and crawled into her bed.

While lying there in bed, darkness as their witness, side by side, a cloud of intimacy stood above them; not only because it was them but because of the situation itself, something about the storm, the night, the room and the proximity. Something about all that time resting between them. The time they had spent together as children, the time they were apart, the time they took out of their daily lives to think of each other. A cloud of intimacy, a sense of trust, the breath of a secret.

In the darkness her sins didn’t seem so great. In the darkness she seemed worthy of his affection.

Grabbing the blankets she had pulled back, he covered them both, shielding their warm bodies from the merciless northern cold and under the comfort of covers, she crawled closer to him, seeking the familiarity of him, of his presence. Her feet touched his and he laughed.

“You still have cold feet.” His deep voice, contained in a whisper, made her smile.

“And you still have warm ones. Lucky.” She insisted then, pressing the sole of her feet to his legs and he winced, making her laugh. Soon the warmth slipped under her skin and she wiggled her toes, contented.

It felt different than those multiples times when they were children and they lay in bed staring at each other’s eyes. She supposed it was only fitting that it wasn’t exactly the same. They weren’t exactly the same, not after the war and the pain and the loss. They had changed so the situation changed. Arya wondered what else had changed.

“There’s a storm outside,” she whispered quietly, and it was stupid to mention such an obvious thing, yet it felt necessary. An explanation and a reason for him to be there. To lie there with her. Jon smiled.

“There’s a storm outside,” he confirmed. “Yet I don’t have any stories.”

“We don’t need any stories.”

Silence descended over them like a blanket and Arya bit her lip. He seemed to sense something, notice something, and resolution shone in his eyes. Jon inched closer then, his arm coming to rest around her waist and he dragged her closer, their legs entwining together. Arya sighed, letting go of a breath she didn’t know she was holding, and her whole body completely relaxed, her eyes coming to rest half-closed. She’d been nervous, she realized. Scared and slightly uncomfortable, the moment feeling out of place. Too similar to a memory but too different at the same time. But now, with his arms around her and her hands on his chest, and their faces so closed their eyes squinted a little; it felt right, comforting. Like it had been and like it now was.

The smell of wood, leather and snow clouded her senses and she smiled lazily. He always smelled of snow, even if it hadn’t snowed in weeks, as if his namesake was following him at all times. He smelled like the north, he smelled like home.

I’m home. She raised her eyes then, grey eyes like hers coming to greet her and time froze. Yes, I’m home.

They stayed like that for what felt like forever, the storm dragging on, time passing by, the night growing darker. He was outlining her features with the tip of his index finger as Arya stared at him through her eyelashes. A lightning illuminated the room and thunder roared in the distance. Jon smiled for the third time that night and she felt proud, her hands clutching his shirt in an involuntary reflex. Jon wasn’t a person that smiled much, but she made him smile as easily as she breathed.

“Make me a promise.” He asked suddenly, voice a mere whisper in the room but they were so close Arya heard him perfectly. Darkness cradled them like a blanket now that the light from the sudden lightning had dissipated and his warm body next to hers was soothing her into slumber. She battled the lethargy and clutched to him tighter.

“What would you have me promise?” she answered in the same tone of voice, just a soft whisper as if fearing to disturb silence, as if their words were precious secrets that no one else could hear.

“In storm nights, we’ll sleep together.” His voice held a strange quality, something that wasn’t common on him. Arya couldn’t quite place what it was. A certain hope, a sense of danger as if that promise was an improper one. A deep tone that spoke of secret affairs. A tang of fear under the possibility of rejection. As if she could deny him something. She hid her face in his neck.

“I promise.” His arms surrounded her frame and his breathing started to slow. “But you must promise the same,” Arya warned just before he fell asleep.

She heard the smile in his voice when he answered. “I promise.”  

Thunder roared like a sign that the promise had been sealed and they fell asleep with that reassurance as comfort.


III.

Sleep eluded him once more, just when he needed sleep the most.

That night the sky was clear, no clouds to hide the moon, no shadows to swallow the stars. The sky looked like a dark sheet of blue silk with little diamonds resting on it; sparkling like a field of jewelry. But the ground was covered in a mist that crept through the floor like the breath of a demon, a creature from one of Old Nan’s tales.

The castle rested in silence but he could feel the fear, the expectation in the air. Melisandre had said there was nothing to fear, she’d said the outcome was written. She kept saying he was their saviour. He didn’t feel like it.

But regardless of what she said and regardless of how he felt, the final battle against the Others was going to happen tomorrow and there was no way of changing that. It was time, thought, for it to happen.

For it to end.

Lords of all over the realm were at Castle Black and its surroundings, ready to engage in battle. The Starks among them. Bran had arrived with the army of Winterfell at his back, Sansa at his side with the army of the Vale following her and Rickon, who was not a baby anymore, nothing like it, with a few warriors from Skagos, so fierce they inspired more fear than a hundred knights.

The Targaryen Queen had showed up with her children, though she refused to approach the rest of them, only willing to fight for life but still holding the grudge against the ancient families in the realms who had played a part in the dragons downfall. An envoy in her name had spoken with Jon and the war council to know what would happen. Her dragons were at the disposition of the Night’s Watch, as long as they remained loyal to their vows, as long as they played no part in the war of men, and the Queen herself would ride the biggest one to battle, the other two flying at her side.

Even the Greyjoys had showed up, ready to fight every creature that approached through water. Tyrell, Lannister, Tully, Arryn, Martell, Targaryen, Stark; the most unlikely of banners had risen in the camps. the most unlikely set of families fighting together.

The battle was coming, there was no way of stopping that. But, finally, they were all fighting for the right thing.

The battle was tomorrow and he needed to sleep. He needed to rest.

With a groan he turned in bed, now facing the door, and he stared at it deeply. Closing his eyes was not helpful, images always flashing behind his eyelids, so maybe if he stayed with his eyes open, sleep would come. Maybe—

A faint knock on his door confused him for a moment. So late, that particular night, knowing what was coming tomorrow; who would be knocking at his door? He rose, briefly annoyed. If it is that Red Woman, I swear to the Gods I’ll kill her. Maybe her blood will give me powers.

He opened the door abruptly, with more force than necessary, and what he found at the other side immediately made his expression soften.

Arya was looking at him through her eyelashes, a thick blanket clumsily thrown over her shoulders, a nightgown underneath. Her feet bare.

He stared at her, grey looking at grey, and he drowned in the emotions shining in her gaze. So many things swirling like a hurricane, making her eyes look like a storm, like a clouded sky crashing against the sea, like wind sweeping everything in its path. Troubled, tormented; she stared at him as if asking for something.

Jon gulped and moved out of the door, leaving space for her to walk into the room. She did without hesitation and took the blanket out of her shoulders, throwing it carelessly in the bed. The nightgown was a little too big for her and it slid out of one of her shoulders, leaving the skin bare; porcelain contrasting against the obscurity. Her hair was down, a river of black waves falling down her back.

She walked to the middle of the room without facing him and he sat on his bed, curious. Arya then sighed deeply and turned around.

“I couldn’t—,” she paused, gulped and then kept speaking, “I couldn’t sleep thinking that we are going to war tomorrow and that we may die and that I may die without telling you this. Because I need to tell you this. All of this.”

He blinked several times, mildly confused. Tell him what? But she kept looking at him expectantly, as if waiting for a response, so he nodded in acknowledgement and Arya nodded too.

“Okay,” she breathed deeply, her hands rubbing against each other in a nervous gesture. “Okay.” She repeated, her breath turning uneven. Then, as if she couldn’t deal with all the nervousness cursing through her veins, she started pacing. Slowly at first, then more hurriedly.

The chamber was cradled in darkness but he could still make out her silhouette as she paced around the room, biting her bottom lip. Her arms were crossed over her chest to stop the nervous rubbing, her brow furrowed, words in a foreign language coming out of her lips, muffled by her unwillingness to correctly modulate them.

Jon just waited patiently sitting in his bed. Something was bothering her terribly, ever since she came to him that quiet night after the several days of storm, ever since she reunited with her whole family, and if he pushed her she would just run the other way. Even though she had changed, he still knew her. He still knew her mind, her heart.

Suddenly she stopped pacing abruptly and stared at him, her eyes glassy. Then she took a deep breath and kept pacing, murmuring words over and over again, now uttering them more clearly.

Valar morghulis, valar dohaeris, valar morghulis, valar dohaeris, valar morghulis, valar dohaeris.

“Arya,” he called, his voice cutting through her chanting like a knife through butter. She froze and turned to look at him again.

“Say it again.”

He stood up and walked to her. “Arya,” he repeated more firmly, as if reassuring her. She closed her eyes, a lonely tear rolling down her cheek. She murmured a few more words, again in whispers, again like a chanting.

He took her hands with one of his, the other coming to cradle her face, wiping the tear away with his thumb. She opened her eyes, the pupil blown in fear.

“Jon,” her whisper made him shiver and he gulped. And he waited. He couldn’t push her with this, he wouldn’t push her with this.

The silence dragged on as they stared at each others eyes and as her breathing evened. And then she spoke.

“I’m a murderer.” Her words were final, lethal, spoken like a death sentence. She shivered and then closed her eyes again, shutting him away.

“So am I,” he said softly and she opened her eyes, and then laughed softly. Almost a maniac laugh.

“No, you don’t understand. It’s not the same.”

“Help me understand, then.”

She pushed him away weakly and walked to the window, refusing to face him as she took a deep breath, and another, and another, and another. “I’ve killed so many people,” her voice held so much pain he had to fight the urge to hug her. Her breathing was erratic, sometimes deep, sometimes shallow. She was shaking. Slightly, barely noticeable, but definitely shaking. “So, so many people. Men, women, old, young… So much blood in my hands and I—”

Her voice drifted into silence and they stood there, in the middle of darkness, and just breathed slowly, softly, quietly. Jon moved, inching closer to her and when she didn’t flinch or walk away, he hugged her, his chin resting on her shoulder. He didn’t say anything and Arya slowly relaxed in his arms. Her eyes half-closed lazily and her breathing turned deeper one more time. Then, she kept speaking.

“When I was in Harrenhal, this man—a friend, gave me a coin. It was a weird coin, it wouldn’t be useful to buy a horse, or buy food and I thought it was so stupid that he gave it to me. But then he said that it would buy me passage to find him. That if I ever wanted to see him again I just had to give the coin to any man from Braavos and say the words Valar Morghulis. I guess that’s when it started.”

He waited patiently as she told her story, not even daring to interrupt her once. Words kept coming out of her mouth, as if Valar Morghulis had opened a gate she now couldn’t close. She told him about the Red Wedding, about hearing the singing, hearing The Rains of Castamere and smelling death in the air. She told him about travelling across the Riverlands, with a hole where her heart used to be. She told him about the Hound’s death and then about her attempt to find a way to reach the Wall, even after she had lost so much, hoping to still reunite with him, her last brother, in Castle Black.

And then she told him about Braavos. About Valar Morghulis and Valar Dohaeris. About the House of Black and White and the Many Faced God, about the Faceless Men, about forgetting herself and giving up everything that made her who she was. About changing faces as easily as she changed clothes, about choosing different names, different identities. About leaving behind her name, her home, her heart..

She explained how to the Faceless Men death was a gift. How it was supposed to be about mercy, about a drop of relief for the dying person, how it meant the end of pain and the end of waiting. How it was seen as a sacred service to the God of Many Faces, something to be praised, not something shameful or horrifying.

But then she told him about all the rules she had broken. How she never truly got rid of Needle. How she kept remembering Robb’s laugh, Sansa’s eyes, Bran’s curiosity, Rickon’s little frame, her mother’s hair, her father’s voice.

How it was him, Jon, what kept her being herself. Specially how she never forgot his smile. How she remembered him above everyone else.

She told him about Dareon and Raff the Sweetling. She told him about that thirst for revenge and how she took lives that she shouldn’t have taken, how she had stolen from the God, how she had craved blood.

She called herself a monster and called her acts as unforgivable. But the rage in her eyes and the way her hands were drawn in tight fists told a different story. He knew pain still fueled most of her motives, how she wanted all those who had wronged her family to pay for what they’ve done.

And he understood. Oh, he understood.

He saw how deep down she believed a few deaths were necessary, because she believed in justice with the same fervor Ned Stark had believed in it. She praised honor, though she knew when to shed it. She was her father’s daughter through and through, and her mother’s daughter as well. Jon had seen that passion before in Lady Catelyn, that unique ability to hold so much rage.  

Suddenly, something else came to his mind. He remembered her words when she had come back.

"I heard you were dead," she had said "I came here—"

To take revenge.

His arms held her tighter and she seeked his support, she threw her head back and took a shaky breath in to fill her lungs and release the pressure on her heart.

“Jon?” she called and he sensed the fear. Oh, my sweet, you don’t need to fear.

He answered with a soft kiss to her skin, the point where her neck joined her shoulder, barely a touch on naked flesh but he heard her gasp when his lips came in contact with her body, and felt the goosebumps rise on her skin. When he took a step back, she turned quickly to look at him, directly to the eyes.

“Come to bed with me, we need to rest.”

She licked her lips and just looked at him, waiting for something, but he stood unflinching, looking at her without fear, trying to tell her with his eyes that he would never leave her.

“You don’t hate me? You don’t think that—”

“I could never hate you,” he cut in, his voice firm and final. Arya bit her lip, a gesture so purely hers, Jon couldn’t help but smile. “Never.”

She nodded and he guided her to the bed, helping her get under the blankets to cover from the cold wind that slipped through the cracks of the walls and he crawled into bed right behind her, his arm resting around her waist to keep her close.

With a sigh, they settled to sleep though he didn’t seem able to stop nuzzling the back of her neck soothingly. Her hand found his on top of her stomach and their fingers laced together, holding tightly.

“Jon?” her voice broke the silence, her tone light as a feather. For just a second they were children back in Winterfell, awake in the middle of the night for the sake of mischief, holding hands in the darkness.

“Yes?”

“Don’t die.”

He kept silent, his hand tightening his grip on hers. That was a promise he could not make, something that escaped his control. A lie. But there was something else he could pledge. “I’ll do everything I can to stay alive.”

That seemed enough for the time being and her breathing slowed as she fell asleep, the promise luring her to serenity.


IV.

Jon woke with a terrible headache. The room was clad in darkness and the cold had settled in the chambers even with the fire burning in the hearth. His limbs hurt and exhaustion ran through his veins making him feel heavy and useless.

He turned his head to look at his right and then to his left. No one was there and the castle was under such silence he feared to be the only person alive in it. A bandage was covering his left shoulder and when he tried to move a shot of sharp, acute pain swam through his nerves making him close his eyes in discomfort.

The pain brought back the memories and he clenched his teeth tight as they flashed behind his eyelids. He saw the snow, the ice, the Others moving with an ethereal glow around them that made them look unearthly terrifying, unreal. Just a fantasy brought forth by fear.

But, oh, they were real.

The wights were no longer in their side, not after Bran had intervened, Jon didn’t know how, and returned them to their original state, and they couldn't raise more of the dead, to help them now. The battle was inclined to their side either way, though, because their power was like no other.

For a second, as Jon had stared at the magical creatures coming his way, he’d felt fear beyond compare and the urge to ran the other way. It had been a strong urge, one that seemed so logical and necessary. Yet he knew he couldn’t run, he knew he had to stay. So he fought his fear, ignored his urge to run.

He raised the sword covered in the fire Melisandre had awoken just a few minutes before—process she refused to explain—and with a cry to release the pressure on his chest, the burning fire in his veins, he’d ran ahead, and fought for life.

The battle itself was foggy in his mind, unclear. He remembered glimpses, flashes, nothing too clearly, nothing that made much sense. Just coldness, fear, hope, dragonfire.

Pain.

Those were the things he could recall, not much more.

The memories faded and he opened his eyes, half expecting and fearing to see the army of the Others in front of him again.

He was greeted once again by darkness and silence. His sight roamed the place, helpless. The ache in his head was decreasing and the room was gaining light as his eyes adjusted. Things started to gain focus and noise reached his senses. Barely sounds, but a few still.

Then the door opened and Sam was standing at his door frame with fresh bandages for his shoulder wound on his hands. His old friend smiled at him kindly and Jon smiled in return.

“For a moment there you got me thinking I was the only one here.”

Sam’s smile was a sad one, a tired one. “There are many wounded, Jon. So many.”

“How long have I’ve been sleeping?”

“A night and a day. The battle was a sunrise ago.”

Jon’s smile disappeared from his face and the one thing he didn’t want to think about, the one thing he feared the most, came to his mind like a lightning. He gulped, took a deep breath and tried to speak. His mouth opened but his voice was caught in his throat, the fear too great.

Sam just looked at him as if knowing what Jon was going to ask, but didn’t offer assistance. There was something in Sam’s eyes that made his heart ache and his breath tremble.

Jon tried again.

“Arya…” his voice couldn’t do much more and he waited, hoping Sam would answer with just that clue. His friend didn’t disappoint.

“She’s alive.”

Alive did not mean well. “How badly—”

“Bad,” Sam cleared his throat as he leaned in to remove Jon’s bandages. “Her injure is bad, but she’s alive and we managed to stop the bleeding.” Jon’s breathing accelerated quickly but he made no attempt to move, not until Sam could place the fresh bandages on his wound so he could get up without being dragged down back to bed. “Jon, there was so much blood…”

For a moment, Jon thought it had been his imagination. Sam’s voice had been so soft, so faint, he had hoped it had been his imagination. But his pale face told him enough and Jon opened and closed his hands with anxiety.

Suddenly, he couldn’t wait anymore. “I need to see her.”

“I know. That’s why I am changing your bandages. So you can go see her.”

“Is she awake?”

“At times. She wakes up, drinks a little water and then falls asleep again. She’s a little feverish too, but we have it under control. And it’s good,” Sam offered weakly, smiling softly. “It’s good that she’s drinking water, she’s keeping herself hydrated and it will help her heal faster. It also helps with the little fevers. She’s getting better.”

Sam’s body was shaking too much, his voice too hopeful. Jon knew how to recognize Sam’s fear. Even though Sam was always afraid, there were times where his fear meant specific things. Jon knew what his fear meant that moment.

“I need to see her now.”

“I know. I’ll be done in a few seconds, just wait a little.”

Jon knew it was useless to argue, so he clenched his teeth and waited in silence. Until a new question crossed his mind. “How did she get injured?”

Sam froze for a second, his hand resting mid air with the bandages swaying gently. He then blinked rapidly, his gaze coming to focus, and started moving again. He cleared his throat as Jon’s patience was wearing thin. “A stab wound.”

“Where was she stabbed?” His only answer was silence and Jon couldn’t take it anymore. “Sam, tell me the truth.”

“I haven’t lied. It’s a stab wound, she—”

“Tell me the truth and tell me all of it, Sam.” For a second, he was shocked by his own voice. It held an icy authority he had never used on his best friend, but the fear clutching his heart made it impossible for him to avoid it.

“Melisandre said you needed the bloody flaming sword.” Jon’s blood boiled with rage when he heard that, his mind connecting the dots. I’ll kill her. Sam kept on speaking. “So she stabbed her. Melisandre stabbed Arya with the newly forged sword, right in her heart, and took it out as swiftly as she had thrust it in. Minutes before battle. She made sure you weren’t around and none of us was expecting her to do such a thing. It caught all by surprise, especially Arya. She looked so shocked…”

I’ll kill her, I’ll kill her, I’ll kill her.

Jon’s heart was beating so quickly, so strongly, he thought it may burst out of his chest. “How is she alive?” he whispered quietly, as if dreading his words to inflict some kind of harm on Arya.

“We don’t know. It’s a miracle, truly. The sword caught on fire when it was still on Arya’s chest, so maybe the fire—” Sam’s voice drifted to silence as he adjusted the bandages to make sure they covered the wound tightly and applied the right pressure. “It’s a miracle.”

As soon as Sam stepped back, Jon stood up quickly. So quickly he got dizzy, but that didn’t stop him. He bolted to the door, not even bothering to grab something to cover from the cold. He walked aimlessly, realizing too late that he hadn’t asked in which room Arya was staying. So he just walked to the room she had been sleeping at, hoping she was there.

Sam hadn’t bothered to following him, so he walked alone. He ran into a few of the healthy man in the castle, but didn’t look at any of them twice. He needed to get to Arya. He took a turn and then opened the door to Arya’s room and his breath hitched when he saw her lying in the bed.

She was pale, paler than usual, her lips as white as her flesh. Her eyes were closed, her body frightening still. With abrupt movements, he rushed to her side and took her hand, his fingers desperately clutching her wrist, hoping to find any sign of a heartbeat. When he felt it, a breath of relief brushed past his lips.

She’s alive, thank the Gods.

His sudden exhale apparently woke her up and her eyelids fluttered open. Her eyes were glassy, her gaze unfocused. Her breathing grew a little faster, but not abnormally and a groan of pain left her lips. Her eyes closed again and she shook her head softly.

Jon stared at her with his heart clenched in pain. You cannot die. With his feet, he dragged a chair closer to her bedside and sat at beside her, raising her hand to brush his lips against the back of her hand. The contact made her eyes open again and she turned her head to look at him.

A soft, weak smile graced her face when she noticed him. “Jon,” her voice was barely a whisper, even less than that. A breaking voice that was hardly a sound. You cannot die.

“How are you feeling?”

Her smile grew slightly wider. “Like I was stabbed.”

“I will kill her.” Jon said out loud, rage making him shiver. I’ll kill her, that damned woman.

“Not if I get to her first. Crazy bitch stabbed me out of nowhere and I never made it to the battle” she shook her head weakly, her eyes looking like melt iron in her fury. “Probably the biggest battle of history and I lay in bed because a crazy fanatic stabbed me.”

“It worked, you know?”

Arya blinked lazily and he noticed with a little bit of happiness that her eyes looked more alive, more alert. “What worked?”

“She gave me a flaming sword that cut through them like cake. I just had to touch them with it, just a superficial cut, and they would caught on fire and burn down.”

She then surprised him when she laughed, the sound as precious as rain on a desert, and her brow furrowed slightly in pain. “I’m glad I was of help then. So crazy bitch is not so crazy after all. Should’ve known that since you told me she brought you back to life.”

He leaned in and kissed her forehead softly. Her skin was warm but not feverish and he thanked the Gods in silence. “I still want to kill her, though. I’ll never forgive her for hurting you.”

“I don’t need your protection.”

“But I do.” She tilted her head, looking at him confused and he smiled softly as he took a deep breath to explain. “I need to protect you. I thought I had lost you once, little wolf. I can’t lose you again.”

“I’m perfectly capable of protecting myself.” Then she looked down where her wound was and rolled her eyes. “Don’t use that as an example.”

“I know you are capable of protecting yourself. But a little bit of extra help can’t hurt.”

Arya seemed like she was about to argue again, but Jon silenced her with a shake of his head. He messed her hair and her eyes narrowed when she smiled widely, grey sparkling like silver. Jon brought her hand to his lips again, caressing her skin softly and silence comforted them gently, granting them a feeling of privacy and familiarity that made him relax. She was weak, true, but she was alive and she looked like she was to stay alive for a long time.

“Is it over?” she asked delicately. “The war of ice and fire?”

“I wish I knew. It seems like the Others are gone for good, at least for our lifetimes, but you never know what turn will the game of thrones take.”

“You are starting to talk like them.”

Jon raised an eyebrow in question, not understanding what she meant.

“The players. You are starting to talk like them.” She bit her lip and seemed to gather courage to keep speaking. “She wants you to be King.”

His breath hitched in his throat and he leaned back. “What Daenerys wants is not of my concern.”

“She’s your family.”

You are my family.” Now it was her turn to raise her eyebrow and Jon gulped. “And Bran, and Sansa, and Rickon. The Starks are my family.”

“You have as much dragon blood as you have wolf blood.” She was falling into lethargy again, he could tell. Her eyes were getting glassy again, her gaze losing focus. “They say your melancholy is like that of Rhaegar’s. He had that sad look on his eyes too, they say.”

Jon laughed quietly. “I’m not a Targaryen. Let’s leave it like that. I don’t want to talk about it.”

“As you wish. But you have to admit, you are not who you used to be. You’ve changed as much as I have.” Her voice was kind, light; but her words felt heavy. He looked at her sadly. “You are still my Jon, though.”

He raised her hand to his lips, but this time turned it over and pressed a soft kiss to her palm. “Always.”

“Good.” Her gaze drifted to the big windows where the moon was finding its way inside the room. His hand clasped her wrist tightly once more to feel her pulse.

“Arya?” he called, mimicking the form of her request two nights before.

“Yes?” her eyes moved back to his.

“Don’t die.”

She smiled gently, her eyes fluttering close. For a second, he panicked, but her chest rose and fell with every breath and her heart was beating under his fingers.

Her voice was naught but a whisper when she spoke and Jon leaned in to hear her better. “What do we say to the god of death?”

She had taught him the answer so they said it in unison, their voices joining in the darkness. “Not today.”


V.

Arya was staring at the window, not seeing what was behind the glass, just staring at her own reflection. And not recognizing herself broke her heart.

You’ve changed as much as I have.” she had said to Jon. But maybe she had changed much more.

Her eyes were the same color, that much was true. But what was inside them, what swirled and danced in their depths was something different, darker than what was there when she was just a child. Her cheekbones had grown sharper, higher, a little bit like her mother’s, as she had seen in Sansa, but that was the only resemblance she had with her. Everything else was purely Stark, or at least she hoped it was. Her only reference was Jon. Not even her father was an option, he had started to fade from her memory long ago. Her time with the Faceless Men not helping with keeping his memory alive at all.

Her lips were arched and fuller than she remembered from the past. Her skin was just as pale. She had also grown much taller, her legs had seem unable to stop growing. Her expression had grown much careful, guarded. What was staring back at her was a stranger compared to the little girl she had been. But it was what she now was. She knew herself, the one in the present, and she understood herself.

But when she tried to make the connection with the past, things fell away like a house of cards; and there was no logic in the drastic change. How could she have changed so much without realizing it at all? When had it happened?

A drop of water rolled down the cheek of her reflection and her focus changed to what was happening outside. The sun had set hours ago and the sky was clouded and dark, just a few cracks between the clouds letting the moon pass by. Rain was falling softly, almost tenderly, raindrops sliding down the glass, but she knew what was coming. A storm night.

The last one had been moons ago. Back when she had just arrived to Castle Black and Jon was still there. But he wasn’t now. He probable was on his way to King’s Landing at that moment.

He had left for Winterfell, with the rest of the Starks, weeks ago. She’d wanted to go but her wound had kept her bound to her bed, any kind of travel highly unadvisable. A stab to the heart was something delicate, after all, but she felt much stronger; and she wanted to see Winterfell. Arya had avoided the castle the first time she came back north, choosing to move quickly to Castle Black and reach Jon sooner. She believed there was nothing waiting for her in Winterfell but painful memories.

But now that her whole family was going back she wanted to go with them, to share the pain and overcome it together. Sadly, her request had been denied and her orders overruled. Everyone claiming that it was for her own safety, that they were worried and that they were taking care of her.

She didn’t feel like they were taking care of her. She felt left out, abandoned at the Wall because they’d finally realized she didn’t fit the part of the delicate lady and that she would never fit it. She had known for so long and there had been a time when she hoped her family would realize. But now that they had she felt hurt. She wasn’t useful to House Stark anymore. She’d never been, actually. And she was left alone at Castle Black, to heal and then to leave.

Maybe I should’ve kept my mouth shut. The thing about the Faceless Men… I shouldn’t have told that to anyone. Not even Jon.

She had trusted him the most. Jon will want me, even if nobody else does. She had been so sure.

And with a sigh, she shook her head and looked, determined, at the rain outside her window. She had survived alone once, she would survive alone again. But this time she wouldn’t forget her lesson: Everybody leaves in the end and father had it all backwards. Is the lone wolf who survives.

“I’ll survive,” she said to herself confidently, her voice breaking the silence like a blade breaking skin, drawing blood. Her reflection caught her attention once more and what she saw this time felt more familiar. Her icy, steely grey eyes greeting her with strength, her mouth set in a determined stance that made her look unstoppable, her body standing as tall as she could, her chin raised high.

She stayed by the window, staring at the outside, and when lightning broke through the air, and when thunder followed it shortly, she forced herself to smile and willed herself to feel nothing, even though the promise Jon had made, the one she had made too, stung like they had thrust cold steel into her heart, the feeling extending through her body like liquid metal till it reached the tips of her fingers and made her exhale a shaky breath. She forced herself to ignore it because she couldn’t gloat in self-pity when she was alone. Gloating in self-pity, being distracted by such a mundane thing, could get you killed; as unexpected as that sounded. It made her weak, she needed to be strong.

But she had trusted him the most. Jon will want me, even if nobody else does. She had been so sure.

Her eyes closed, her head tilted to the side and she listened intently to what was surrounding her. The rain, the thunders, the wind shaking the trees on the outside. She listened to her heartbeat and to her own breath. She forgot and remembered everything at the same time. She felt everything and nothing, knew it all and knew nothing, she was there and at the same time she wasn’t. She breathed, and breathed, and breathed. And time was no more, and pain was no more, and tears didn’t even existed in the world. Her body reaching a full relaxation that made her sigh in satisfaction. Silence and noise, such a beautiful combination, luring her to complete peace.

Footsteps climbing the stairs and heading to her room broke her concentration and her eyes opened in annoyance. She stood stubbornly staring outside the window, her body standing tall again, and she decided to ignore the knock she expected to come. She wanted no company tonight.

But the knock never came and she felt the air shift when the door was opened and she had to look over her shoulder, curiosity fueling her and stopping her from snapping in rage.

What she saw left her breathless.

“Jon,” she wasn’t sure if she had actually called his name or just thought about it; but it hardly mattered. She turned around to look at him correctly and confusion hit her like a wave. “You are here?”

He smiled. His hair was dripping and she noticed his clothes were drenched, the drops leaving a puddle on her floor. “It’s a storm night.” That was his whole explanation and she opened her mouth just to close it again. “Our promise, remember? I came as fast as I could, but winter breezes kept slowing me down. The journey from Winterfell to the Wall took me forever. I had just reached Mole’s Town when I noticed the clouds and I knew there was a storm coming. So I jumped back on my horse and came here against everyone advices.”

He laughed at that, shaking his head to get rid of the water dripping down his face and Arya’s heart warmed at his words.

“Jon,” this time she was sure she’d said it and he raised his eyes to look at her. Her gaze held a million question and his eyes answered them all. Arya had truly expected him not to come, she had truly thought Daenerys had convinced him to be King and leave for King’s Landing. But he had come back and he had ridden his horse in the darkness, under the rain, just to hold a promise made in the dead of night. A promise made like a secret, in hushed voices and stolen glances filled with the knowledge that it was not normal, though seemingly innocent, they both knew what it had truly meant, what they truly wanted, what they had asked under disguise. They both knew it was the first step to give up under desires that seemed so foreign yet so right.

A promise that was the opposite of innocent.

Jon will want me, even if nobody else does.

“You are here,” she whispered, the words barely leaving her lips. Jon said nothing for a few seconds, taking his time to just look at her, to drink the image of her; how the moon illuminated her frame, how her hair fell to her shoulders in dark waves, how her lips were parted in a silent breath. How her eyes followed his, how her words tangled in the air around him, pulling him towards her, making her undeniable.

He made a decision when he answered in a breathless whisper. “Yes. I’m here to stay true to my promise.”

She inhaled sharply, fully understanding the hiding meaning under his simple words and shivered as his voice clouded her senses, like mist covering the air. Her hand went up, a silent invitation and Jon took it without a hesitation.

With a confident movement, he pulled her to him and took a deep breath, his nose caressing hers in a brief touch, the promise of much more to come. His lips came so close, but not close enough, and she shivered in anticipation.

Slowly, she ran her hands up his arms, a soft touch with no other intention but to feel. She heard him take a sharp breath when they came to rest on his chest, and she inhaled as well in response, her body reactions mimicking his. His arms were around her, their bodies pressed tightly. They let go of the breath at the same time, her nails coming to dig into his chest in an attempt of self-restraint.

His lips molded her name, his voice carrying it out into the air like a prayer. And her self-control was lost. She raised her lips to brush them against his and he turned what was supposed to be an innocent kiss into a passionate contact that made her shudder. His mouth moved desperately against hers, his arms pulling her closer, his hands roaming everywhere. Her arms reached up to wrap around his neck, her fingers tangling in his hair, nails scratching his scalp in abandon and a groan left his mouth to be swallowed by hers, her heart fluttering at the sound.

The water from his clothes had soaked hers and the cold was biting her skin, but warmth was travelling through her veins and his hands were leaving a trail of fire on her flesh. He slowly walked her backwards till her back hit the glass of the windows and he supported her weight there as one of his hands found its way to the back of her knee, making her leg bent and raising it to his waist, his hand caressing now the naked skin of her thighs as it lifted the soft fabric of her nightgown.  

Thunders roared in the air and shook the glass of the windows but neither of them cared or paid any attention to it, different thoughts taking over their minds. His mouth moved to her neck, biting and sucking softly, and Arya supported her head on the glass, her whole body arching like a bow, her bent leg pulling him closer, his nails leaving marks on the soft flesh of her thigh. She bit her lip trying to stop the sounds from leaving her mouth but a whimper resonated in her throat even against her wishes. Jon then bit her earlobe and her mouth opened in a breathy gasp, a moan sounding loudly in the dark room and when the hand caressing her thigh came to touch her between her legs she no longer cared about whatever sound was leaving her lips.

He waited no more, took her in his arms and carried her to bed; his lips finding hers once again and swallowing her breath, the kiss tasting like uncontrollable desire. Everything turned to urgency then, bites and scratches driving them wild. Their clothes were ripped off, and their skin was marked with their lips and fingers. The sense of what was proper and any kind of fraternal feelings were thrown out the window in haste. Her legs wrapped around his hips and he stopped for a second, just to look into her eyes.

He kissed her once more, a tender motion that made her heart skip a beat as his tongue danced against hers softly, sweetly.

Once he was inside her, the urgency dissipated. Movements turned slower, almost like torture, and they fell into a cadence and a rhythm together, moving together easily, finding pleasure effortlessly.

Arya had danced this dance before, she had lay with a man on the past, but it had never been like this, never felt like this. His eyes held her gaze, and his hand found hers next to her head and her breath left her lungs as pleasure coursed through her nerves, overloading her senses with the feeling. When she came down from her high, she changed their position. Now she was above him, her legs straddling his hips and he reached up, lifting his upper body to press her chest against his, his lips on her neck.

She started moving at the same speed he had, rolling her hips agonizingly slow, using his shoulders for support. Arya arched her neck, her long hair brushing the small of her back with every sway. She’d intended to stick to that pace, force him to find pleasure like he had forced her, but it was torturous for her too and soon her self-control proved to be too weak when it came to Jon, and she started moving faster, the urgency once again driving her mad. Her breathed hitched in her throat as pleasure roamed through her veins.

Jon’s hand grabbed her by the back of her head, moving her face closer to his, bringing her eyes to look at him, and silenced both of them with a kiss. He met her every thrust with one of his own and finally shuddered in blinding ecstasy as his release travelled through his body. He bit her lip, hard, but the slight pain only made her sighed softly, contented, against his mouth. Arya threw her head again back trying to find space to recover her breath, without breaking their embrace, her hands still on his shoulders, his arms still around her waist.

Their breathing slowed till it was normal and deep again, and Jon’s head rested against her chest, his ear above her heart. Her fingers were lazily running through his hair, her chin resting on the crown of his head whilst his fingertips painted patterns on her back.

“Jon will want me, even if nobody else does.” Her voice, soft like a kiss, swam through the room like a snake above water. Slowly and serenely, making its way to Jon’s ears.

He shifted, moving her with him, and raised his head. She moved to rest her forehead against his and they stayed like that for a while. Their eyes locked together, his arms around her waist, her hands cradling his face.

“What?” he inquired softly, barely a whisper, a feather caressing skin.

“I used to think that,” Arya began explaining, her voice strained with memory. “Whenever I did something drastic, something awful, something a monster would do. It always got me thinking. How mother would recoil from me, how Robb would be horrified, how Sansa would judge, how Bran wouldn’t understand.” A sigh escaped her lips, distressed, and Jon’s arm tightened around her. She rejoiced in the support of his proximity, of such a small gesture, and drew strength from it. “I feared it. I feared rejection terribly and it kept wandering my mind. That I would be completely alone.” Her eyes half-closed in a lax gesture whilst her fingers slightly caressed Jon’s face. She was lost in her own mind, her words dragging her back in time to the heart of a lonely girl haunted by fears. Jon reached up, brushing his lips against hers lightly, nudging her quietly to keep on speaking, bringing her back from the darkness clutching her mind. She took a deep breath and spoke again: “But then I would think of you and the same conclusion always reached my mind: Jon will want me, even if nobody else does.”

He smiled and reached up to kiss her again, their lips melting together in a slow, lazy dance. As her fingers tangled again in his hair, she sighed happily into his mouth. When they parted, he stayed close and when he spoke, his lips pressed against hers whenever they molded a word.

“Listen to me very carefully, my love: I will search the light or hide from it to match your light and darkness, your assets and flaws, to match your heart and soul. Wherever you go, I’ll follow. Whatever you do, I’ll want you. Whatever you become,” he stopped and smiled, the gesture illuminating his face. Her heart staggered, her breath caught in her chest, hanging to hear what he would say next. He released the final words in a soft breath: “I’ll love you.”

“It’s that a promise?” she asked just because. She already knew the answer.

“An oath.”

They sealed it with a kiss, printing the words on their lips.