His lips were threatening to pull into a frown and he kept catching himself glaring at the groom. He at least had the decency to feel guilty at the irritation that kept threatening to show on his face as he watched the happy couple dance.
He had never put Arya for one to dance, at her wedding no less, but she looked happy enough as she twirled and stumbled into her groom's large arms. Watching her made him feel even more ashamed at the ill thoughts plaguing his mind.
It was his duty to be happy for her, for them, and he of all people knew something about duty. As he nursed the cup of wine in his hands, he forced himself to look at anything else but Arya and her husband.
His eyes roved over the people, seeing few familiar faces. Winterfell was no longer the Winterfell he knew, and at least in this sentiment he understood why Arya addressed the castle rebuilt as New Winterfell while the rest just called it Winterfell.
He noticed with slight amusement and annoyance as he watched the king, barely a year older than him, sitting at the head of the tables glaring holes into Gendry's back with burning violet eyes. The Targaryen turned to him then, quirking his brow at the attention. He shrugged in reply and observed the rest of the hall.
'At least I'm not the only one unhappy with this union.'
The thought unsettled him, forcing himself to think of other things other than weighing the possibility that history just might repeat itself and a marriage would do little to hinder a mad Targaryen in want.
'But I share his Targaryen blood apparently.'
He snorted into his cup as he drank. He looked no more Targaryen than Shaggydog looked like a kitten.
'I am more ice than fire.'
Dany was nowhere in sight. His dear aunt liked it here in New Winterfell. If he too had to choose between King's Landing in all its stench and rat-infested streets, and the northern fortress, Winterfell looked like paradise. He knew she liked it even more; the cold gave her an excuse to stay indoors and in her chambers guarded by a certain 'bear'.
He was startled out of his musings when a slender arm twined with his. He looked up to see grey eyes that were shining with joy on a face that had once been compared to his. He could not see the similarities at all, other than her eyes matching his own Stark grey, their milk white skin, and their dark hair.
Maybe once, they had teased her on her long face as they described his, but they would not say that now.
She was breathtakingly beautiful to him and his guilt twisted like a knife in his gut as she tugged at him to dance with her.
He allowed himself to be led to the dance floor, not bothering to hide the grimace on his face. As the singers changed songs, he slipped his arm around her tiny waist and breathed her in as she pressed close to him.
Memories came unbidden as they danced, she smelled of pine and summer snows and a hint of sweet essence that was unmistakably of winter roses.
She filled his senses, his eyes only saw her as she looked up happily at him, every part of him that came into contact with her was alive with fire, her scent reminded him too much of the home they used to share, his ears tingled as he listened to the words falling from her delicious lips, words meant only for him. Would her lips taste like what they once did, he caught himself wondering.
The thoughts had him standing frozen with her in his arms. He pulled away from her then, filled with shame and self-disgust, turning away from her concerned eyes.
'The drink's gone to my head.'
"Sorry, I'm stepping out to have some air."
He stalked away from her, feeling the eyes of those around him.
Her husband approached her then.
His feet carried him faster out through the kitchen, hating the ugly feeling that roared in his belly when he heard the southron's voice.
He found himself tracing the steps that lead to the room he used to share with Robb, now his chambers when at Winterfell. Thoughts of his murdered brother-no, cousin still pained him. Robb and Arya always did their best to include him in the pack and now he had no link to either. They did not share the same father but at least he still had the blood of a Stark in his veins.
He slumped down on the fresh covers. Arya had insisted he keep the room whenever he came by Winterfell. His eyes wandered over the stone walls and the ceiling. No amount of scouring could remove the scorch marks from when their home had been put to the torch.
The door creaked open and he grabbed Longclaw from under his pillows in instinct. A silver head poked through with purple eyes peeking at him. He forced his muscles to relax from the defense stance he unconsciously put on. He still had nightmares of cold-undead hands grasping for him from the dark.
"I thought you'd be here. Arya's been looking for you."
The Mother of Dragons stood on his doorway; hands on her hips, her usually exposed limbs covered in furs.
"Your Grace, I'm not much for company tonight."
He arched a dark brow at the large man glowering at him from the doorway as his 'aunt' slumped next to him on his bed. Jon was lost in thought as he observed, not for the first time, the other man's striking likeness to the late Lord Mormont, the Old Bear he knew.
"What's wrong? You only ever call me 'Your Grace' when something's bothering you."
He turned to her, meeting her violet eyes that twinkled with curiosity.
"Gods, I'm not sure."
He lay back, staring at the ceiling. A few minutes passed before he heard her huff and lie beside him. The silence stretched for a moment.
"When we were younger, Arya would sometimes come to my bed when she had nightmares and she was too stuborn to admit she was scared. I think Robb knew but pretended not to notice."
He felt Dany prop herself on her elbows to look down on him. He grunted in annoyance, knowing the smirk was already on her face. He had gotten used to their strange bonding during the war against the Others and felt her more like a comrade and confidant. It unnerved him how easily he talked about his feelings with her.
"One time, the rest had gone hunting and I stayed behind. I was alone here when she suddenly barged in, begging me to hide her from Septa Mordane. She had beaten one of the Karstark cousins bloody when she should have been practicing her skills at embroidery."
He closed his eyes as the memory played itself in his mind. She was barely eight then, all covered in dirt in Bran's stolen breeches. Her eyes were defiant even as he mussed up her hair.
"The boy had apparently teased her on being too unladylike for any boy to want to kiss. She broke his nose."
He heard Dany giggle and she agreed with him that that was so like Arya. He couldn't help but think the queen must be drunk.
"Then what happened? She demanded you kiss her?"
He flushed at the jape but stayed silent.
He could feel the amusement vibrating from the silver haired woman who was acting quite un-queenlike at the moment.
"She didn't demand it. She just-she just asked if I had ever kissed a girl and when I said yes, she asked how it felt."
He clamped his mouth shut and glared at the woman beside him choking back her laughter. He pushed himself up and stalked towards his trunk on the other side of the room. He almost groaned at how much he was acting like a greenboy.
He was a man, dammit, and reinstated Lord Commander of the Night's Watch at that. Lord Commanders did not go around gossiping with women, especially queens who had no one else to bother.
"Well? What did you say?...or should I say do?"
He glared at her who sounded deceptively twittery, then at her sworn shield who was looking at him with a strange mix of mocking and understanding. Dany sat up, signaling Jorah to leave and close the door behind him.
He fell silent, shifting uncomfortably. He remembered her eyes, grey and bright, looking up at him as he fought the warm feeling bubbling in his stomach after they broke apart.
"Your lips are warm."
He had wanted to say that her lips felt nice, too. That she tasted strangely sweet. That she was as kissable as any girl. That she should never try and ask for a kiss from anybody else before she got married.
But he had only patted her on the head, telling her to wash up, feeling sick to his stomach that he actually liked the way their lips brushed together and the strange warmth that spread all over his body.
She was his little sister, after all.
When he kept silent, Dany approached him.
"You know, I asked Arya why Gendry. Do you want to know what she said?"
He looked up at violet eyes filled with amusement and understanding.
He could not think of any reason why Arya wanted the Baratheon bastard, though he wasn't a bastard anymore seeing as Daenerys had legitimized him and restored his titles as the Baratheon heir against the counsel of some nobles who feared that Gendry would follow in the steps of a usurper. Gendry had preferred to stay an armorer for Winterfell but took the titles in considering marrying Arya.
"She said she chose Gendry because she made a promise to you when you were younger."
He was startled and confused.
He watched as the dragon queen sat beside him on the trunk while chuckling to herself.
"She told me of one time she was with Sansa and some other girls who were gossiping about boys and what kind of man they wanted to marry. The girls all talked dreamily about knights and princes and marrying lords or some sweet boy, and when they asked her, she just said, 'I want to marry Jon'."
He felt the memory coming back to him. Arya had pulled him away as he watched Robb and Theon practice swords.
"Sansa had scolded her, saying Arya couldn't marry you because you were siblings and only Targaryens did that sort of thing."
He ignored Dany's indignant huff as he frowned finally remembering Arya's promise.
Jon saddled his mount while the early rays of sunlight poked through the stable. Preparing for his return to the Wall, he felt her approach even before he saw her. He turned to her, breath hitching at the sight or her in only her shift. No one was up yet from the feast the night before and the servants had just begun stirring for the day's preparations.
Her dark curls tumbled over her shoulders in a wild mess, her cheeks pink from the biting morning air, her lips curled into a smirk, smug that she had caught him before he left.
"Leaving before saying goodbye?"
"Didn't want to wake you in your wedding bed."
She frowned at him, confused at his demeanor. He sighed before pulling her into a hug, breathing her in almost as if it would be the last time. He buried his face in her tangled hair as she wrapped her arms around him.
"Arya...how is he like me?"
He winced as she poked him in the side, causing him to look her in the eye.
"Is that what you've been brooding about all this time? I thought you forgot."
He saw her eyes glint with a mix of mirth and relief.
Jon stooped down to look at his little sister of seven years in the eye, wondering what was wrong as she pulled him away from the yard.
"What is it?" He noticed angry tears threatening to spill from her eyes.
"Sansa says I can't marry you when I grow up!"
The snarl in her voice surprised him before he smiled and ruffled her hair.
"Did she tell you why?"
"She says you're our half-brother and father would never allow it."
He chuckled at the whine in her tone as he wiped away her tears.
"Sansa's right, you know. You can't marry me. Who's going to bully the boys you meet if not your big brother?"
He watched as she chewed on her bottom lip, obviously hating that he had sided with Sansa.
"Fine, I won't marry then."
"Don't you want to give me nieces and nephews I can spoil?"
He waited for her to answer as she swiped away at her tears with her little fists.
"I promise-I promise I'll marry someone exactly like you, Jon!"
He had only laughed then at her stubbornness but as he remembered her promise, all he could think about was how Gendry was like him. Was it because of his birth? His life as a bastard? As far as he knew, he had nothing in common with the armorer who preferred a hammer to a sword, other than their illegitimacy and age.
As he broke their embrace, he felt ruffled as she laughed at his puzzlement. She still held onto him, catching her breath, before reaching up and pressing her lips against his cheek grazing the corner of his mouth.
He felt the heat rise from his neck as she laughed again at his expense. Once she calmed, she gently cupped his cheek in her hand, pulling him to look into her eyes filled with happiness and something unreadable.
"Gendry is like you in many ways, you know. Other than having been a bastard or being male for that matter. He was my pack when I lost you and the rest. He doesn't tell me to act like a lady. He makes me smile even if he is one of the most annoying people I've ever known, and says the stupidest things.
He holds me when I'm too stubborn to admit I'm scared. He tries to understand me and somehow he does…and he knows I belong to the pack first before I belong to him—I'm a wolf first before anything e-"
He cut her off then and sighed, cupping her face and pressing a kiss on her brow.
"I understand, little sister...Pay my leave to Dany and Sansa and to the rest, and of course to your lord husband."
He mounted his horse as she snorted at the title, Ghost stalking towards him from the godswood with Nymeria in tow. He looked down on her hand on his knee then to her eyes clouded with emotion.
He felt the squeeze of her hand on his knee before he trotted off, telling him what her lips could not say. He coud feel her gaze on his back and resisted the urge to look back.
He spurred his horse into a gallop as he passed Winterfell's gates with Ghost and Nymeria on his heels, leaving the latter as they reached Kingsroad. Focusing his eyes on the North, he drove his mount harder, muttering the words of his vow as a man of the Night's Watch under his breath.
Light snow swirled and danced around him as he pushed forward, smiling against the late winter winds as if in challenge, knowing no matter the cloak he wore or the duties he carried, he had a pack. He was a wolf and he was not alone.
He heard Ghost howl long and low behind him in reply to a call from behind him far away.