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The King in the North dreams that he wakes to a dream.

Of the breaths he’s known at his neck, few though they’ve been in kindness, in affection rather than in battle, in rage: of the breaths that he’s known at his neck, he knows this one less in his skin than in his soul, and the slow accidental drag of plush lips against the pulse in his throat is a blessing no God has ever given: just this singular mouth, just this one and only hollow in his heart, and it’s not true, it cannot be true. It cannot be true because Jon knows what death is, and it is empty—and this is anything save empty, here, he is full to the stretching of his flesh and the bursting of his veins, but death is empty, and dark, and so very lonely.

And these lips were claimed long ago by the empty, endless dark, and Jon cannot move, cannot breathe and Jon remembers that such a state means one thing alone, but it’s beautiful this time. It’s not quite so bleak.

Perhaps this is death, true death, the lasting sort as it all should be. And maybe, just maybe—

“For all their cruelty,” Jon mouths as oblivion comes for everything there is, save those lips, and maybe, maybe, impossibly:

“Perhaps the gods are merciful, in the end.”

__________________

The first thing Jon remembers is battle. Being struck, falling, losing, he—

He bled slow, the first time. Some of the maesters, the priests of one God or another—some said, when it was swift, there was a space where the last breath left the body in a rush, where between that moment and the impending, inescapable void as all things withered, there was the hint of light that seeped between the worlds for but an instant; for but the blink of an eye and the last beat of a heart that could stretch to infinities for all anyone knew for sure—and he thinks perhaps, of all the lies, maybe this was a truth. Maybe this is that space, maybe this is his infinite heartbeat: a blessing unwon and indefensible, for Jon to be given in this singular instant to the only heart he’d ever felt safest with, felt most himself alongside—for everything that’s gone, and done, and been done and lost; for all that’s changed and gone to ruin, he thinks he is most himself still, in this final breath of a netherworld, than he’s been for longer than he can fathom.

If that’s so, it is a tragedy, as much as it is a boon.

Else, at the least: he begins to know himself, here, with that breath on his neck, and hands. Hands he can feel at his hips in this warm place that emanates candleglow, ethereal and impossibly soft, impossibly steady: impossible.

Oh: Jon exhales, and it feels very real. Oh: but he thinks he understands, now.

“Don’t be so sure, love.”

Jon has said nothing. Jon shivers as the words break, cut through the thickness in the air.

There are hands on his chest, snaking across to cover each nipple as they harden, as Jon’s pulse leaps, or seems to—in the ether between, do the dead have blood left to hum quite so hard, quite so fierce?

“You’re more beautiful than I recall. I didn’t think that was possible,” the voice, that voice, his voice; his voice rumbles against Jon’s spine, warm body wrapped around his own as none has been in so long; as none have ever pressed and moulded to him anywhere, in any way, save this. Save between them. Jon doesn’t want to turn and be proven wrong. Jon doesn’t want to turn, and break whatever fragile thing this is.

Jon doesn’t want to turn, except that’s the only thing that he wants in every kingdom, every afterworld or life, every plane and place and pulse—that is the only thing he wants.

“This suits you,” the voice whispers along Jon’s jawline, the bridge of a nose against the stubble there, sending him into shivers. “Majestic, somehow.”

And then the hands slide across, up and low by hairs, and fingers fit into the scars that are less scars, and more open wounds that never closed, even now—even here.

“These, though.”

And Jon doesn’t want to turn, or to lose, but he will not fight when an impossible body that cannot be here, but is the only body who knows his enough to wrap thighs just so and turn him to his back, the only body Jon would allow such power: Jon will not fight that, and so he doesn’t, and if his eyes slip closed before he can see anything save curls turned too dark by shadows, it’s beyond his capacity to stop.

“These,” the voice, the breath glides across the wounds, each betrayal of Jon’s own heart and best intentions, and later: betrayals of the natural order itself. “These.”

And that, there. That is a lament, now. That is the sound of compassion over skinned knees or wounded pride that Jon was once, long ago, soft enough in his heart to permit; had grown to be weak enough to allow for one person, from one person, and when lips start to worship, start to will those wounds toward healing it’s a deeper benediction than flesh, and Jon starts to believe. Because whatever this is and wherever they are, it is them.

This cannot be a ruse, an illusion or a trick. This is not the sins of a woman in red, nor is it the magic of blood and fire, or the promise of ice encroaching and making the worst. This can be nothing and no one but Robb.

“I don’t remember much of the time that has past, you understand,” Robb—Jon thinks it, it’s the best he can do, he can’t say it yet, can’t believe it wholly, out in the world beyond his own mind, his own soul at the laying on of hands: Robb speaks prayers and presence against Jon’s hip. “But I know when I was aware, I willed my heart to beat,” and he sucks whimpers from Jon’s pulse at the crease of his thigh.

“I willed its beating, for its absence was proof of, of,” Robb’s voice breaks, and it’s instinct, carved in Jon’s bones that buries a hand in Robb’s curls and presses soft but firm with the pads of his fingers against the shape of Robb’s head: a touchstone. They’re here. Jon doesn’t believe that it’s real, or life, but they’re here, and Jon cannot abide Robb’s suffering, not when he has half a chance to stop it.

Robb inhales deeply, and exhales slowly, and kisses Jon’s skin like it’s the only thing he needs to know the world.

“The absence was proof of what I thought I’d long since lost any fear of, until it was upon me. Until it was all I had…”

And that voice doesn’t break, now, so much as it drifts. And Jon’s hand at Robb’s head doesn’t withdraw, so much as shift to cup his cheek, to stroke his jaw until Robb’s breathing—breathing—settles, and he bows his head against Jon’s belly, reaching up to stroke the forever-red gashes, proof of treachery, of failure.

Always so much failure, despite his best efforts.

“These, don’t make me regret the beating,” Robb mouths against the raised, angry flesh, tongues the divots between like holy things; and that, incredibly, is no failure at all. “But they make it so very plain that it’s there for the way they twist it,” Rob groans, growls, mouths up and down to lines in the skin, proof of pain and loss and maybe, maybe uncanny, impossible redemption, reclamation of more than beating hearts in the dark, desperate void.

“The way each pulse in me catches and burns,” Robb speaks against Jon’s skin, hot as a brand on its own; “as if my own living flesh felt every tear.”

Jon gasps against his own intention, completely beyond his control: the blood in Jon’s veins is hostage to Robb’s breath and it feels right again, home again—willing, and lost to it as Robb buries his head against Jon’s side and stammers, gasps.

“I,” he whispers; hisses; “you’re,” he shakes his head, and Jon guides him to rest against Jon’s ribs, brings Robb’s cheek to Jon’s own skin less as a comfort and more as a need and Robb gives, just as desperate.

“I have been in the darkness,” Robb confesses, catches the words between a gasp; “so very much alone,” and Jon tightens his hold around him: the only place Jon’s ever felt powerful and present and rooted and weak and wanted and full of whatever is more in the world than life and death and all Jon knows; the only place that’s ever stirred in him was against Robb’s body, and because it stirs here and now, Jon has to think it’s real, Jon has to think there’s something in this, to this, to them—

“And yet, whenever thought was known to me at all,” Robb turns, and oh: but those eyes, those thrice-damned eyes that still shine with wonder, after everything, and Jon thought he’d lost all sense of joy and hope in the world but those eyes, and all that Robb believes in after suffering the worst: undimmed—Jon can’t help but want to pull him upward, close and tight and full, so when Robb lifts himself upward along Jon’s chest, Jon’s already got hands braced on Robb’s biceps, drawing him up all the closer, all the deeper and he wants to consume him, wants to drink Robb in and convince himself, convince himself and taste and savor, but Robb reaches, frames his face with broad hands that, that—gods.

Those hands are still callused with the grip of a sword, and so warm.

“Whenever I could think,” Robb grinds out through clenched teeth, and Jon can feel his breath against his lips; “even before I could feel a thing, Jon—”

And whatever it was that Robb could think of, when he could think before feeling, Jon can’t wait to hear just then, can’t pause and breathe in Robb’s breath any longer, can’t merely taste him on balance, on promise and not for the press of his mouth, their shape, the memory of them so branded perfectly into Jon’s being as to be his blood and bones.

It kicks wildly in Jon’s pulse, and all the more so over and again when Jon feels the same at Robb’s wrists still pressed at Jon’s jawline when they pull apart, breathless with lips swollen from teeth laying claim, and Robb’s hands are still on Jon’s face, as if to let go of him would be to let go of a world he loves too much, needs too much, and Jon’s own hands settle on Robb’s hips against him and it is the most natural thing in the world—and Jon’s been missing home so long he thought perhaps he’d never truly known one, but this.

This is home.

“Jon, when I could think,” Robb bows his brow to Jon’s, and breathes, and breathes, and breathes before he speaks:

“It was so often just to think of you.”

And Jon’s heart twists, trips, swells at that, and he tilts his head to capture Robb’s lips again: daring, but Robb responds in kind without a thought, within a heartbeat and they’re grasping, rough with it and yes, yes this is a homecoming. Yes, this is the only sliver of light in a world gone wrong and cold.

“And I’d thought you dead,” Robb gasps against the corner of Jon’s mouth, wrecked with it, as if the words alone pain him, and that’s enough to distract Jon in the moment from all of the questions, all of the breaches of what can and cannot be. “The word from Castle Black—”

“I had known you dead,” Jon counters; doesn’t bother to dwell on how Robb could know of any word, any news from Castle Black about his demise when the larger question, the larger impossibility it writ too clear before him, against him, warm when it damn well shouldn’t be, cannot be, and yet still is

“How?” Jon asks, because blessings have died to this world. Relief does not come without a price. “How—”

“Hush,” Robb says, nosing just under the stubble on Jon’s chin: plaintive. “Just,” his breath comes a bit shaky, and Robb buries himself in Jon’s neck and breathes in deep. “Please, Jon,” and he mouths, all hot intent and aching desire and Jon forgot what this felt like. What this was to him was too immense to carry alone, and so he’d let it fade, and maybe that was the first of his sins; the sins that mattered, at the least.

Robb pulls back, undoubtedly reading the way Jon gets lost in his head: he knows it isn’t—or wasn’t—unknown to Robb, but in the now, after so much, it is more of what Jon is than anything else.

“Unless, you’d rather not, I,” Robb pulls back, and hangs his head, refuses eye contact. “It has been an age and I, you,” Robb shakes his head, part rueful, part shameful, part devastated in a way that Jon can’t stand, has never been able to stand.

“I’m sorry, I presumed where I shouldn’t—”

“Shut up,” Jon cuts him off, grabs for Robb’s forearms and grips tight. “Shut up, you unbearable fool, and come here.”

Robb doesn’t require swaying.

“Nothing kills this,” Jon exhales, heavy. He was never one for too much emotion in words, too much feeling, but he was never one to believe in resurrection, or an after, or an in-between, and maybe whatever Jon has always been died long before his body’d learned the same.

“Robb,” Jon places a fingertip at Robb’s strong chin, and tilts up his gaze and hangs his soul on the shape of that name spoken true, for all that it may kill him when it’s gone again, when it retreats. But even so, the truth remains:

“Nothing kills this. Nothing ever will.”

And Robb’s eyes gleam in the darkness, in the shafts of light that come from nowhere, just enough so that they are plain to one another, as if they evoke the light with their own being alone, for one another and no one, nothing else.

“Gods,” Jon whispers, tight against Robb’s mouth as he traces its shape, suddenly infinitely patient with the quintessential task of memorising again; of making sure his memory is still true. “Have you any idea what hearing your voice, feeling you,” and Jon’s hands match the mission of his lips, running up against the planes of Robb’s chest, following every hard line and soft valley, letting the corners of his lips turn upward when Robbs shivers against him. “What relishing the very sight of you, these eyes, your perfect—”

And it’s Robb, this time, who takes Jon’s lips and suckles at the bottom, nips at the top and lets his tongue explore inside until they’re both panting, and Robb’s smiling, sly and rakish.

“I’ve an idea.”

And Jon, gods: but Jon smiles, and he doesn’t remember the last time he did, not like this—like his heart is soaring, naive like a child, and it stretches his lips in kind for the size of it, the press of it as it grows light and rises true.

“Let’s act on those ideas,” Robb murmurs into the point of Jon’s jaw; “shall we?”

And Jon’s never been one to deny his lover, his partner, his Young Wolf in the dark—his King in the North, unending.

__________________

Jon’s just recovered his breath as he rolls to his side, flush against Robb at his ribs, and slides a hand across Robb’s chest, fingers catching in the gentle curls above still-heaving lungs: soft and real, so fucking real.

“Are you alright?” Jon asks, voice pitched low; they’d learned to trust between them, long ago, but that never meant they could trust the whole world with the things they showed one another, and this is a question buried in a question, and they both know it to be so, but still:

“Ever too compassionate,” Robb smiles sadly, reaches to play with the ends of Jon’s hair—ever a pastime of his, and Jon’s pulse trips funny for how familiar it is, how forgotten it was until it’s here.

“The world has wronged you, in wearing that feeling in you so thin,” Robb breathes, massaging gently at Jon’s scalp, tight circles against skin as his thumb stretches down to lay against Jon’s jaw.

“And yet.”

Jon makes himself keep eye contact with Robb, to stay open where he’d always been prone to closing, and only hardened for it more over time. Robb did that for him, unfailing; is doing so now, and Jon cannot give less, not here in this horrible, beautiful, impossible miracle before him, beneath his palm.

“You lost,” Jon’s voice strains as his throat tightens. He leans down against Robb's chest and presses lips to skin; “so much, Robb, you were, your...”

Jon doesn’t know how to speak it, for all the horrors he’s seen, known by his own hand. Robb simply covers Jon’s hand on his chest and holds.

“I know.”

Robb’s breath hitches, and Jon shifts his lips and forces himself to breathe steadily, to drape himself closer over Robb’s body and model peace with the unthinkable; to offer something solid and rhythmic in the memory of those moments, all that loss before eyes about to close forever: Jon knows something of that, after all.

So he just breathes, and hopes Robb merely knows he’s not alone.

“I lost a great deal, that day.”

“So I ask,” Jon repeats, unyielding, because this is important. Whether this is real or only in his own dying mind, Jon cannot suffer Robb’s aching heart, if there is anything in this world to ease its pain.

“Are you alright?”

Robb swallows hard, and they both know the answer. They both know just as sure that the question spoken isn’t truly the question being asked.

Robb breathes deep, and Jon feels the stretch under his fingertips, and it sends shivers through him. So many nights—and yet too few—spent just so, with that feeling known in the whorls of his prints.

Real or imagined, Jon never wants to live or die again if he cannot hold to this.

“I did not see them, after,” Robb whispers, and Jon thought he'd learned, thought he'd outgrown childish hopes that left him cold when they died, but those words send him crashing upon waves, freeze him to the bone and cracks him wide, shivering carrion and oh, he thought he'd learned.

“Because there is nothing,” Jon says, toneless, clamouring for all he still possesses that still holds hope to shore him up and guard his heart as it shrivels smaller and more scarred than even it's been: he scrambles for purchase, and slips.

“I don't believe that.”

Robb’s hands, because Robb may not know everything but Robb sees him, Robb sees; Robb’s hands halt the spiralling momentum. Robb’s hands grasp to bring Jon to rights and Jon should not have worried, perhaps.

Perhaps this truth was what Jon learned, after all.

“I wondered, and wonder still, if the tales of business unfinished mean anything,” Robb says, slow as he works them out just before the sounds fall: patient as he finds what he needs and believes in instead, drop by drop, piece by piece.

“For as much as I loved her, and as much as I already loved the child she carried,” he says carefully, and Jon watches his face, every twitch of torment and grief as it passes over and seeps back in, never ending but settling into the cracks to fill them in: necessities.

“I knew what Father always spoke of, in those months, deeper than the words themselves could ever reach,” Robb nods, jaw clenched: “honour. Duty.”

Jon finds himself climbing over Robb’s body, straddling him with an ease practiced long ago and never forgotten, apparently, though those bodies have changed: Jon’s draped over Robb’s frame in an instant, and oh, his own flesh bends on the shape beneath him as Jon leans, blankets Robb in heat and a promise to be, to stay, as best he can, as long as he can—a promise he licks, laves up and down Robb’s sternum until Robb shakes with it, until his jaw goes soft and Jon’s work bears fruit, at least for now.

And if now is all they have, as it almost certainly must be, then it is enough.

But that is a lie, and always was.

“And sometimes finding a middle ground between want and need,” Robb exhales into the nothingness around them, shifting lights like torch-flame, sparklings like stars, pure blackness save to show their faces to one another alone: Robb speaks upward into the ungodly din.

“As the world does what it does best, and breaks you,” Robb’s hand twines in Jon’s hair again, pulls just a little, mostly just to follow as Jon makes his way down Robb’s chest with careful, deliberate pacing, pausing to tongue at the muscles of Robb’s middle; “breaks you heart and soul, again and again until it’s done.”

Jon’s pressing lips warm and half parted to the hollows of Robb’s hips when Robb cups the back of Jon's head and tilts him up, plaintive.

“Yet it is not done, somehow,” Robb reaches, and catches Job’s bottom lip against the pad of his thumb. “Much as I thought it was.”

Jon feels himself upon a knife’s edge, a cliff’s peak, and he could fall either way, and he knows full well which way is right and which is honourable, and they are perhaps at odds. But Jon can do nothing less than fall toward Robb, into Robb, and meet his eyes as he takes Robb’s thumb into his mouth slow, sweet as he tongues along the ridges, the callused skin that speaks to life, that tastes of life and Jon watches, feels something molten spread across his bones as Robb’s pupils widen, as his gaze turns black with want and Jon drags his teeth as he lets go, leaves Robb’s thumb wet but where it started: balanced at the swell of Jon’s lip.

“It is a gift,” Robb murmurs, voice husky and low; “and perhaps we’re fools, all of us, to think that any gift is without pain, and so I will be no fool,” he catches the corner of Jon’s mouth and curls fingers toward Jon’s jaw.

“I will be no fool, and I will not think of this as anything less than the gift I cried for at the soul of me, when words long failed,” Robb says in a desperate rush, and Jon cannot speak for that, all tight in his throat, but he can trace the print of the thumb still on his lips like a prayer, like a promise, and hopes that Robb understands it.

Robb’s lashes flutter, and his breath catches, and yes: he understands.

“And I will not stand aside again and let the world break me a third time, Jon. I won’t.” Robb swallows with enough force that Jon can follow its motion, and his eyes shine bright with resolve, and with feeling, and Robb’s hands go to Jon’s arms, grasps tight like he needs to hold on, needs to be sure that Jon holds on and believes and in Robb’s eyes, like this, Jon doesn’t know if he could ever deny, ever fail to believe in that. In him.

“I have given the world more than its share,” Robb’s fingers dig hard into Jon’s skin, impassioned, almost enraged, terrified by the gravity and pleading for release from it, to it, in it: like Jon can grant him these things.

And by all the gods, Jon will try.

“No more, Jon,” Robb whispers, fierce and breathless. “No more.”

And what can Jon do, what else can Jon do or say or be, but to be the one now to frame Robb’s face in his hands, and capture his lips, devour him slow—all gravity, all pleading.

Ineffable release.

__________________

“You lied.”

Robb’s tone is matter-of-fact. Jon turns, lifts up at his arms to hover above Robb’s body, looking askance.

“In those last moments, at Winterfell.”

Jon’s face screws up; not that he needs a reminder, he’s revisited those moments more than he cares to admit, but he can’t think of what Robb means.

“I didn’t,” Jon says, shaking his head, and he’s quite sure of that fact. They said so little, but spoke volumes in their gazes, in their embrace. There was no lie in any of it.

“Oh, but you did,” Robb admonishes, face serious in the way that strains for playfulness; his lips quirk before he can stop himself, because Robb’s a shit liar. “About my mother.”

Jon’s startled still before he recalls the moment exactly; Jon’s still, and then he snorts, because it’s absurd; and it feels beautiful, feels like freedom and joy to relish the absurd, here—whatever dares to come.

“You want to bring her up, now?” Jon huffs, disbelieving; “Here?”

Robb waggles his brows, and thrusts his hips upward to draw a gasp from Jon’s lips and set him off-balance, fire in his veins and unguarded enough to be flipped by Robb’s lean thigh, breathless as Robb laughs atop him, now, palms braced on either side of Jon’s shoulders and chests brushing between their breaths.

“I didn’t think it much of a lie, Stark, with the truth so obvious,” Jon snarks, because hell if he’ll let Robb have all the power in this, throw all his weight around without a bit of fight back, but not too much, not much at all; “Why would you remember that?”

Not much fight at all, because Robb’s face is full of soft, searing need and an affection Jon’s only just lived on the edge of comfort with, for the sheer fact that he'd never comprehended it fully, so pure and real and wild, and it’s there for the sake of Jon of all impossible things—and Jon forgot what it felt like to be held dear; weak with it, and fucking glorious in every moment that it lasts.

Jon had forgot how it felt, and he wants it desperately in this moment; he needs it fully in his lungs. He doesn't comprehend it, never has, but that doesn't keep him from being grateful down to his very bones.

“I don’t think you can possibly imagine the amount of time, in a timeless place, that I revisited every moment,” Robb leans down, and brushes Jon’s hair from his face; “every breath I spent that filled my lungs with anything of you.”

Robb brushes his lips against Jon’s with an improbable intensity, the intimacy of it resonant as he exhales a sigh at the corner of Jon’s mouth, speaking there in murmurs like a secret in the night.

“You are precious, so singularly necessary, Jon, you must understand that,” Robb breathes, demands as much as he begs it. “And to hurt for the want of you was better than,” Robb’s voice breaks off, and his head turns, breath catching as he flinched for the unspoken alternative, and Jon, maybe, was blessed indeed to recall nothing in the void between life and death, the last time.

But he thinks he'd sell his soul until it splintered, until it broke in twos and threes, to remember whatever pain came in the first case, so as to remember this in kind, at the close, when it fades.

Much as Jon begs of the universe to be wrong, he cannot kill the voice inside him that speaks painful truths: that this cannot, will not last.

Jon know what it feels like, to lose, and he has weathered it. But he also knows this will be something else entire.

He may not last it through.

“The things I would see in the night, terrors in place of dreams,” Jon breathes out against his own better judgement, against any permission he can grant his own voice; “your blood as wine to serve in the dark amongst our enemies, and I...”

“We parted swift, and rough,” Robb whispers, an answer and a wanting and an apology for the way the universe turns; eyes likewise fixed to the sky above, the teasing glaze of stars, if indeed this place, this plane claims stars.

“As I lay dying, or so I thought, among all the family I knew for certain to be left,” and Jon can hear the marveling in that voice he’s known since memory claimed him, since he knew to close his eyes and hear music inside words for the heart that gives them shape; Jon knows that voice well enough to hear the laughing heartbreak; the aching wonder.

“Somehow, still, you were all that I could see.”

Jon's blood catches, and the shiver that runs through him starts dangerously in the center of his chest, and he grasps for Robb on pure instinct, needs to feel him against that shiver under the ribs; needs to see if it's matched beneath Robb’s in kind and it is.

Of course it is.

“There was darkness, for so long,” Robb recalls, tone distant even as he clutches Jon back with absolute immediacy, unwavering fervor. “And then fire, and a woman, and everything was red.”

Jon is nearly immobilised by trepidation at those words, what they may mean or imply but Robb takes it from him immediately, strips him bare with a certain desperation that Jon cannot forsake or deny, that consumes him and blissfully so.

“Please” he murmurs beneath Jon’s jaw; “just, whatever it is, however it came to be, Jon, please don’t question this.”

His eyes meet Jon’s for a moment, and only just, before he’s working his mouth downward: the column of Jon’s neck, the marred skin of his chest but only down the centre, deliberately avoiding the hard buds of Jon’s nipples, aching and Jon knows Robb, knows that for him to avoid that temptation means greater temptations are calling him, and Jon flushes with anticipation.

“Maybe it’s penance from the world, for its ills,” Robb murmurs, back and forth across the line of hair that that trails to Jon’s navel and down.

“Recompense, for wrongs done.” Robb murmurs just at the crux of Jon’s hips, the fold of his thighs and his breath teases the base of Jon’s cock but avoids it as he runs hands along the undersides of Jon’s thighs and stretches Jon’s legs, lifts at the knees and moves lower.

“Hold to me,” Robb tells him, asks like it’s the only thing in the world. “Let me feel you, I beg you,” and he bends to hold Jon up, to lift his legs for leverage with the sheer strength of his arms as he noses the first hint of the cleft of Jon’s ass, like he can’t imagine flipping Jon over, like he can’t imagine the promise of looking up to find Jon’s eyes being stolen from him.

“Let me only feel you,” Robb mouths at the flesh, and Jon’s panting for the way Robb’s tongue flicks incidentally with words, and then absolutely not incidentally without a word at all, close enough to Jon’s entrance to drive him mad: temptation.

Oh: but temptation, indeed.

“It was dark and lonely, so long,” Robb exhales like the breaths themselves hold the world; “empty where once you fit,” and and Robb sounds a little strangled, but chooses instead to give into the emotion of it by rolling his tongue slick at Jon’s hole and Jon is electrified, Jon grasps beyond his reach for Robb’s hair and meets his shoulders: grasps hard.

“Where I fit again, now, here,” Jon moans, desperate for the sensation as much as he’s desperate to make sure that Robb knows.

“Where you fit again beside me,” Jon pants; “inside—”

“Yes,” Robb hums and lets his fingers join his mouth, practiced in a way that proves for all this world breaks foundations, some things will never change. “Yes, we’ll, yes.”

And Jon’s greedy, Jon cants his hips just enough to let Robb know he’s ready, he’s more than fucking ready and if Robb pulls away and lets Jon’s legs drop as he glances up, seeks confirmation in Jon’s face before he slowly bends to press a kiss to Jon’s hip before he grips and pulls him close enough that Jon can feel the hardness of his length; before Jon hooks his ankles and opens his thighs in clear invitation, no—clear insistence.

Robb breathes, pupils blow, and nods.

“Until we both forget the emptiness.”

__________________

 

“Robb,” Jon growls, and he’s got no idea how they’re still moving, still gasping and panting and wringing pleasure Jon didn’t think there was left in either of them, left in the world entire: Jon doesn’t know, save that it’s here, and they’re feeling it, creating it between them and wherever they are and to whatever end, it is like nothing Jon’s ever known.

He knows he’s going to bruise Robb’s sides, the line of the bones at his hips if indeed they last, if they stand past this place and these moments into something wholly new and wholly unexpected of the universe, to be kind—and yet.

Buried in Robb, with Robb atop him and around him, everywhere and in all things; Jon struggles to believe.

And yet, like this: cannot deny.

“Fucking,” Jon hisses, as Robb sinks down upon him just so, with just the right heat as he changes the angle to flatten palms on Jon’s ribs and thumb his nipples at counterpoints, each breath teased from Jon’s burning lungs causing blessed pressure beneath the touch as his chest heaves; “gods, Robb.”

And Jon can feel Robb’s answering grin as he leans, changes the angle still as his thighs do less of the work to lift off and sink again than Jon’s own too-tight grip in guiding, pressing: Jon can feel Robb’s grin as it fits in part to the pebbled skin around Jon’s taut nipple at the right, as Robb catches the inside of his lower lip to the curve and lets it drag, tantalising.

“Fuck, fuck,” Jon’s lips move without consent, babbling as Robb grazes teeth, now, just the barest hint, along the skin, never touching the nipple itself and making it ache all the more, making Jon ache all the more as Robb continues to rock against him, about him: drive him mad but only to the brink of ecstasy which is perhaps more reminiscent of what perfection looks like, in truth: to hurt for it, to die with it, and live in it, all at once.

Robb drives him nearly to the brink, and inches him closer, dangerously so, with his mouth on Jon’s chest.

“Fuck, Stark,” Jon gasps; and Robb licks around the base of his nipple, exhaling over the straining flesh but never taking it into his mouth; “you will destroy me, you will undo me, you will, will—”

Kill him. Kill him better and truer and more blissful than anything that’s tried before, and what a feat.

“How,” Robb breathes against the painful tightness of the buds at Jon’s chest, clenches against the same where Jon’s sheathed in his body; “how are you able to form words still?”

And Robb pulls up, sinks down and sucks a nipple hard between his lips as he declares: “Must not be doing my proper duty, then.”

And Robb does not ease him, does not guide him to the ledge, no: he pushes, he runs Jon to the very precipice and just as Jon thinks he’ll fall Robb lets him go, noses up the middle of his chest, licks a line and breathes against it only to end, to stop with the stream of an exhale against the nipple last lavished, leaving Jon quivering for the stimulation before moving across to the opposite side.

“And you know,” Robb mouths; “how devoted I am to duty.”

“Yes,” Jon pants, barely a voice; “Yes.”

“Like this, Jon,” Robb says softly, an encouragement and a benediction as much a prayer of thanks: “Like this.”

And Jon, indeed, is ready: like this, like this, but he was raised as much as Robb to know and honour duty. And Robb is not ready.

So when Jon thumbs his nipple blindly, and tugs his hair in the way that drives his lover mad, well.

Robb’s hard and caught between them already. But now.

“Seven hells, Jon,” and Jon can feel how it affects him in the way Robb moves around him; “you're going to—”

And going to is a lost thought as the ledge crumbles and they know the peak most keenly for the plummeting, exquisite, and gods, gods, oblivion has never felt so sweet for it being so long denied; no one else in this world or the next could Jon have learned to find comfort enough in, to place trust enough in, to fall apart and believe he’ll come back together, in the end.

Jon’s stroking Robb’s head upon his chest, rote and undeniable, when he comes back to himself, to the feeling of Robb boneless against him, as filled with trust and release as Jon himself, and that is what it must mean to be blessed, Jon thinks.

It must be.

They breathe for moments that make minutes and longer. They breathe, Robb’s ear to the center of Jon’s chest, rising and falling with Jon’s inhales, his exhales. Jon never stops running finger through Robb’s hair.

Between such breaths, unheralded—Robb props his chin on Jon’s chest, looks up at him, studying him: marvelling at him.

Jon has never, will never, get used to that.

“You’re still not sure,” Robb says, drawing circles on Jon’s skin. Not of them, no. But this, whatever it is.

Jon sighs, dragging nails gently through Robb’s hair. “Can you blame me?”

Robb rests his cheek against “How can I prove this to you?”

“How do you prove it to yourself? How are you so willing to accept the impossible?”

“Because I’ve never wanted anything more,” Robb answers simply, and Jon’s chest tightens for the sincerity; “and because…”

Robb buries his head against against Jon’s chest, closer: pressing so very, very close.

“Because there was a softness, the sensation of being weightless,” Robb whispers; “yet it was uncomfortable. Nauseating, almost, and it was dark. But then,” and Robb looks up again, eyes alight as his words grow to match:

“Then fire. Then light,” Robb blinks. “Red.”

Jon’s hands stop massaging Robb’s scalp

“What are you saying?”

Robb pauses, silent, and Jon doesn’t pretend away the fact that Robb, propped against his chest, can’t feel his heart pounding, foreboding; that he doesn’t understand at least a little, at least enough.

“It is a haze,” Robb eventually speaks, slow: “there is no sense, but,” he turns to face Jon again.

“A voice bid me to hasten,” Robb tells him emphatically. “That chances were scarce enough, and the night was dark and—”

Full of terrors, Jon feels his heart trip again: anxiously, painfully, desperately for everything that what’s unsaid might be, might mean.

“I laughed, would you believe it?” Robb chuckles, not quite darkly but certainly not with mirth. “I laughed, and when I replied that no night could be darker than where I’d been, lingering, hopeless, my voice was suddenly a thing I could actually hear, rather than merely in my head,” Robb is oddly breathless in the memory. “My eyes opened, and they could properly see.”

He looks less toward Jon, than into him; holding Jon’s self in the cradle of the words to come.

“I ran North,” Robb exhales; “my bones knew the way.”

Jon’s hands find Robb’s hair again, and hold to his head, to his face.

“And somehow, I knew without doubt you would be there,” Robb leans into the touch, unconscious but not unwilling. “So I’m not sure, really, if it was North that I knew, or you.”

Jon thinks at least the one. Jon desires both, nevertheless.

“And it feels like a weight,” Robb says, and grasps for Jon’s hand, brings it to his chest even as he rests on Jon’s own. “Breath is there to catch, to feel scarce and beautifully so. I did not realize the heaviness of a heart until it returned after being so light as to feel lost, until beating was near painful, and a blessing for it, once it started again.”

He turns his head and looks up, Jon looking down toward him in kind.

“There is only clarity, now,” Robb says simply. “I see you, and you are the clearest, truest thing.”

He reaches up, and leads Jon’s lips to his own, hard and fast and pressing certain truths of uncertain things into Jon’s mouth.

“Let me,” Robb speaks against him, running an open hand along the hair on Jon’s cheeks; “let me help you feel it, as sure and sweet as I do.”

Jon gives against, into the touch, though Robb simply strokes the stubble, feeling it rough, fast, then slow—Jon realises that touch has been more pronounced, more unabashed and undeterred than it’d ever been before, here between them.

“Why is this so exciting to you?” Jon covers Robb’s hand against his beard.

“It’s new,” Robb grins, slightly giddy before he grows tender; “and it’s yours.”

He holds his hand closer to Jon’s face, somehow: impossible; he sighs deeper than lungs can hold.

“You grew up,” Robb says, a little proud, a little sad.

“You didn’t have the chance,” Jon, well. Jon’s only sad, in that.

“Out here,” Robb nods to his hand, his arm, his body, and that’s so, Jon figures. Wherever Robb has floated, wasted in the ether—Jon imagines it can’t have been without its taxing on the inside.

“But I may yet,” Robb continues; “Nay, I will, yet. With you, as we should have.”

The thought, the mere suggestion warms Jon like so very little else.

“Robb?” Jon presses palms against Robb’s knuckles all the more fervently.

“Hmm?”

“Make me know it?”

And Jon didn’t think there was any more pleasure to find, between them, but this—this isn’t quite pleasure, is it; no.

This is pure need, and a desperation to feel as if this could go on forever.

It must go on. Jon has borne his share, but if it leaves, it he loses again

Robb does not hesitate; needs no further explanation. His hands are on Jon, everywhere. He bends, fold, moulds to Jon’s body with ease and with feeling. He eases Jon open only for the space of breaths, as he never closed in the span of time between their last but then; Jon’s never closed to Robb, not truly.

“Never was there a day that passed where I did not wish it,” Jon murmurs into Robb’s mouth on his, like it can reach his heart and soul from there, can work down and seep through; “wished it had been me, and not you at that wedding. Wished you’d been called and crowned and served and loved as you deserved, and tenfold still,” and Jon loses his breath, his words for a moment as Robb enters him.

“That you’d have got a shred of what you’d earned, and they,” Jon stumbles again as Robb thrusts just so; “they’d have got better than scraps left behind in the wake.”

“Don’t,” Robb bites out, scraping teeth against the globe of Jon’s shoulder. “Don’t you dare.”

“Robb, please,” Jon is struck suddenly with the absolute certainty that Robb needs to be told, that Jon himself needs to have no doubt that Robb has no doubt.

“You were always, it would have always been you—”

“You fool,” Robb frames Jon’s face again, hot but still inside Jon’s body as he strokes thumbs over Jon’s cheekbones.

“You gorgeous, heartsick fool,” Robb smiles at him, trembling; “How I’ve missed you.”

And then Robb moves, and Jon moans, and he hopes those moans tell Robb how much he’s been missed, in return.

__________________

 

“Where were you? The last time?”

Jon feels needy, tempted toward shame for the questions in themselves, but the way Robb is clinging to his body like a totem and a lifeline and the world at large in the soul inside his bones, well—maybe Jon wasn’t the only one who needed so desperately, all this time.

It wouldn’t have been the first thing he was blind to; the first thing, for so long, that he simply didn’t know.

“Here,” Robb says idly, like it’s a fact of the world and thereafter. “Or else, with you, wherever we were, if not near as much then as I am now,” he wraps arms tighter around Jon, pulls him in close against the doubt, the refutation Jon knows must be on his face, about to touch his lips, but then—

“I held you to me,” Robb demonstrates keenly; “but it wasn’t warm,” he presses his face into Jon’s hair and breathes in deep. “Not like this.”

Jon finds the fight bleeding from him faster than lifeblood’s ever done; finds himself listening to Robb’s voice through Robb’s chest, the rumble a pleasant sensation against his ear, a tonic against how none of the words themselves make much sense.

“I’m not sure I believed it true myself, until now, with you here” Robb muses, curling Jon’s hair around his finger in a way Jon’d always hated, but can’t bring himself to hate just now. “Flesh against my flesh.”

That’s probably why Jon can’t hate it; it’s Robb’s touch. After so long.

It is Robb’s touch.

“We waited,” Robb carries on, like one of Septa’s stories before sleep. “Because it was not yet your time.”

Jon starts at that, twists his head to look Robb in the eye and quirk a questioning brow. “According to whom?”

“Absolutely no idea,” Robb huffs, the exhalation wet and warm and so very real against Jon’s collarbone. “But I’m grateful to them, to it.” Robb reaches, and cups Jon’s cheek, glancing up through his lashes.

“For you, always,” he murmurs, somehow gentle and fierce all at once, ever an enigma and Jon turns, raises up and slips a hand under Robb’s body in reply, and Robb comes willingly, pressed against Jon’s chest as if he’s never wanted anything more than to be splayed bodily, flayed wide against Jon’s breathing lungs and beating heart, and Jon isn’t sure he knows what to do with that, because it’s not simple remembering, this intimate rawness, this painful place between living and dying that is somehow, unfathomable, inevitably: all there is.

For all that they were, and never had a chance to become: they had never been quite like this.

“Always for you,” Robb mouths, tongues a little into the hollow of Jon’s throat, holds until Jon’s pulse beats a little harder, enough that Robb can linger to taste.

“Is it my time now?” Jon asks, though it dies inside a moan as Robb sucks up Jon’s neck, hungry and just a little wild with that need.

“Does it feel like it?”

Jon moans a little, more like a growl—when Robb pauses to pay particular attention to the pulse on the left side, sweeps down to suck it strong between his collarbones.

Our time is almost spent,” Robb intones, solemn even as his body continues to work against Jon’s, as Jon’s stomach drops along with cursed fool of his heart.

“Robb?”

“I said that to you,” Robb tells him—said, in the past tense, and Jon can almost breathe again. “I knew that, somehow, perhaps the same as I knew now to run,” Robb steadies palms on either side of Jon’s chest, raising up to study him, to drink him in in that way Robb has of devouring through his lashes, of driving Jon mad with a glimpse Jon’s fairly sure Robb’s never truly grasped the power of.

“The same as I knew to run here,” Robb bows his head down under Jon’s chin. “To you.”

Jon presses lips to Robb’s brow, but Robb lifts his own to meet them, but not just meet them: to ravish, to worship, to claim.

You won’t remember,” Robb breathes against Jon’s swollen lips and Jon can hear the memory in it, now—his heart doesn't shake quite so wretchedly; “not as such. I didn’t know why,” Robb shakes his head, stubble against Jon’s skin as a perfect point of stillness, to ground him in this moment and let him build a place to live within it; call it home.

“Still don’t, really,” Robb huffs out, a shrug shaped in his tone. “But that’s what I told you then, the first time, when you...”

Robb’s voice trails, and Jon warms with it as much as he chills, for the way that they’re both reluctant to speak of death with the word itself, when death has been perhaps the most constant and true companion of their lives.

“When you thought on me,” Robb ventures, softly; “when something felt warm in your chest, beneath your ribs,” Robb dances fingertips up and across Jon’s chest; “was it different in ways you couldn’t fit to words?”

“I,” Jon thinks back, tries to find the recollection, that spark beneath his skin somehow , and there was so much else to consume him, so much else, more pressing but not more profound—so much to take hold of his attention and run and yet in the darkness, in the darkness Jon can recall intensity, and he’s not sure if it was more or less, because it always felt like more, more but.

Maybe. Maybe.

“They do say,” Jon ventures, slowly; “that the North Remembers, I suppose.”

There is a beat of perfect silence before Robb starts to cackle.

“That was awful, Jon. Truly fucking awful.”

“And you all groused because I didn’t have a sense of humour,” Jon deadpans. “If I’m only to get mocked for it, why bother?”

And Robb’s still chortling by the time Jon gains composure, solemnity.

“Will I remember this?” Jon asks, uncharacteristically vulnerable with it, and Robb stops laughing.

“This,” Robb grabs Jon’s hand, oddly sentimental, playing with the spaces between his fingers. “Whatever this is, this is different.”

“How?”

“I don’t know,” Robb admits, shakes his head: innocent with it. “I just,” he breathes deep, eyes wide and veering toward lost somehow; “I—”

“Yes.” Jon murmurs, suddenly overcome. “Yes.”

“For you, as well?” Robb asks, his voice a bit too small, felt a bit too much.

“I think so,” Jon rasps a little, bites the inside of his lip hard before he confesses:

“By every god, I hope so.”

And they’re quiet, in each other’s arms for a moment, many moments before Robb breathes in with wonder, and breathes out,.

“That’s it.”

Jon tilts his head and the sheer wonder, the revelation in Robb's tone as he clings to Jon tighter.

“Hope. I was hopeless, for all that stretched before.” Robb nuzzles into the crook of Jon’s neck.

“And now,” he speaks against Jon’s neck. “Now, all I seem to know is the feeling of you, and so much endless hope.”

And maybe that’s enough. Maybe, against all odds and sense, that can be enough.

Jon doesn’t know that he believes in it, but he believes in Robb.

That can be more than enough.

__________________

“How?”

Robb looks at him, brow arched. “How?”

How are you here?”

“I’ve told you,” Robb sighs, exasperated but fond, and maybe Jon’s missed that mingling of sentiments more than he’ll ever admit; “Voices, fire, light,” he repeats by rote, then adds:

“The promise of,” he runs a finger down Jon’s lips: “you.”

Jon shivers, and is not ashamed to be so affected. Only Robb can bring him to this, and only Robb deserves to see.

“The voice, a woman,” Robb continues, thoughtful, and it sink deeper in Jon’s chest with every word.

“She sounded,” Robb tilts his head, considering.

“Tired. Sorry, maybe. Like I was, not an offering exactly, not,” he shakes his head, backtracks: “But maybe it was a means of trying to make amends.”

Robb meets Jon’s eyes, a question there:

“Does that make any sense?”

“It,” Jon inhales, a little shaky; “it might.”

“Did it work?”

Jon turns to Robb.

“If that’s what it was, if that’s what this is,” Robb asks, eyes wide: “did she make her amends for whatever she did?”

Jon’s quiet, the images, the accusations, the look on her ageless face screaming guilt alongside the need to repent, to make right

Jon swallows hard.

“What she did was unpardonable, unforgivable.” And it was, it is. And it can be all of that and it doesn’t mean that he cannot, has not missed her. Has not wished her presence, her help. He had needed her guidance, her knowledge of what lies beyond, of the reasons he’s lived this long, lived again: might come back even from this much as he prays not to.

Not unless Robb can come, too.

Which is the crux; the answer: unmovable, unshakeable, eternal.

“But to have you,” Jon murmurs, with the whole of his cracked, scar-tissue heart. “Gods, Robb, to have you,” Jon shakes his head back and forth and back.

“I am not strong enough of a man,” Jon admits; “I cannot be selfless when it comes to you. I would forgive anything, to have this,” Jon grasps for him, finds first his biceps and holds.

“Even if only for these moments,” Jon breathes; “even if—”

“Stop.”

Robb’s tone is final, unshakeable. Even Jon would have to think hard to challenge, and he has no reason, no desire to now.

“I don’t know how many moments, Jon,” Robb says, low but with absolute passion and absolute need. “But for all that I’ve believed in to traitorous ends, this,” he cover Jon’s hand, and then presses one, flattens one to his chest.

“This, I believe, is something else. I think, against all things, we might keep this in the flesh, in the now.”

Robb tilts Jon’s head to meet his eyes, to see his face before he confesses the unthinkable: the desire of two hearts that remember, now, what it means to beat in time:

“I think we may not have to wait anymore.”

__________________

They’re lazing, soft and boneless, when Robb speaks:

“Who’d have thought the runt of the litter would grant you a title? The White Wolf.”

Jon bats at Robb’s hand, though there’s no force, no weight to it. “Stop that.”

“Stop what?”

“Don’t tease,” Jon admonishes. “I didn’t pick the name.”

“Jon.”

There’s something in his tone that makes Jon look, that make Jon give into the hands on his cheeks, his chin.

“I’m not teasing at all,” Robb says simply, though his eyes.

Oh, but his eyes

“If anything, it is the exact opposite.”

Those pupils blown speaks volumes.

“Oh.”

Oh,” Robb repeats meaningfully, his grin rueful. “And besides, why would I? Tease you for a name earned, a name still less than what you are, all that you are and have been, all that you’ll be and—”

Robb breaks off, not for emotion so much as for a pause, a need to break and figure out what to give to words

“And?” Jon prompts.

“And,” Robb bites his lip, debating before he decides whether to answer, and how.

“I happen to find it particularly enticing to be lying beside the King in the North,” Robb confesses, unapologetic but colour high on his cheeks.

But Jon knows Robb. Even now, after so much time.

Especially now.

“Not just that,” Jon observes, and needles quick. “You know something.”

Robb’s smile is coy; Jon doesn’t appreciate being obviously kept in the dark, but it’s more than a good look on Robb, so he’s willing to let it go. For now.

Given that it may or may not matter in the end.

“I know a lot of things,” Robb tells him, a little bit smug.

Jon huffs a mirthless laugh. “I know nothing.”

And then, from nowhere, from everywhere: Robb’s hand slides down Jon’s torso, lower, lower still and grasps the base of his cock with perfect ease.

“You should know this.”

“Mmm,” Jon throws his head back, and surrenders less to unknowns and more to the impossibly known truth of pure sensation.

“Perhaps not nothing.”

And Jon is gone, at that.

He regrets nothing in it.
__________________

“Why, then?”

“Hmm?” Robb’s still not quite settled again from the heights, but Jon is insistent.

Why are you here?”

Robb blinks. “Would you rather I wasn’t?”

“Gods, no,” Jon takes one of Robb’s hands in both of his own, afraid for a moment he’s led them astray. “Robb, Robb, I—”

“Shh, calm, love.” And it’s a word so rarely passed between them; made all the more beautiful, all the more rare and wondrous when it is. “I’m not going anywhere.”

Jon nods, and lets the fear drain from him under Robb’s hands: the only way it’s ever known to give way.

“The storm has come, has it not?” Robb asks, voice pitched to soothe. “Winter is here, after all this time. Colder than it’s ever been.”

And yes. Yes, that’s true.

Sweet summer child, Jon hears in the back of his mind, and he shivers. Would that they could have known, imagined, but to think as much is folly. Impossibility.

“I think that is why it was fire that brought me here,” Robb says, voice almost whimsical, if it weren’t leaden at the very same time. “If indeed there is reason in it to such ends, I cannot help but presume that’s it.”

Robb turns to hold Jon’s gaze with iron clarity for what comes next.

“I’m here to fight with you, I suspect,” Robb says with the conviction of absolute fact. “But of all things, I believe that I am here to keep you warm against the storm that will rage across many moons yet to come,” his hands, which haven’t left Jon’s body once, rub upwards, downwards—make heat. “For this night and all nights to come.”

Jon’s eyes slide closed, and oh.

Oh, those words weren’t meant for this, and yet they fit perfectly. And yet: they are right.

“That is a pledge I will die by, Jon,” Robb says with all due solemnity; “die again and irreversibly, and it is a pledge I would only give to you,” he presses lips to the center of Jon’s chest and linger for more moments than he needs, save that it’s all he needs, all either of them need. “Please know that.”

“Robb,” Jon says, begs, pleads; voice cracking.

“Jon,” Robb turns his head, grazes lips back and forth, back and forth like a totem. “Jon, I,” and Robb pauses. Sighs, bends his his forehead to line against the hard bone of Jon’s sternum.

“My Jon, my King,” Robb says, and no. No, there’s not mockery in that at all.

Unfathomable, and yet here before Jon’s eyes, against his very skin, his naked being.

And how.

“Show me that you know,” Robb breathes; “I beg you.”

And Jon cannot deny him.

Never has.

__________________

Somehow, catching his breath is harder. Jon can’t help but feel that it means something. And it’s been a very long time since Jon shied from his intuition, simply for the fear of what it could come to mean.

But gods, he’s close to it now.

“If this is,” Jon looks to the sky, the ceiling, the infinite dark in this infinite place. “When I—”

Robb’s hand settles on Jon’s chest, and Jon turns to him.

“Will you be there, next to me?”

Robb splays his fingers wide.

“I don’t know,” Robb says; “perhaps not yet. I may have to travel from,” Robb huffs a bit; sighs. “Wherever I was.” Robb uses his hand for leverage and he lifts above Jon, eyes stretching too wide, too vulnerable as he whispers, heavy.

“Will you wait?”

As if it’s a question.

“Of course,” Jon says, whether or not he fully believes this will last, this will stand.

“Perhaps that’s the test, perhaps that will be the difference,” Robb wonders into the ether, into Jon’s skin, into the air Jon breathes and takes into himself. “We’ll both remember, if it’s real. If it’s real, you’ll know that I’m coming, and you can wait with that promise in your heart,” Robb leans to press his mouth between the gaps in his fingers on Jon’s skin, fleeting but firm. “With the certainty that I am coming to you. Quick as I possibly can.”

Jon doesn’t know where the questions rise from, or else: Jon doesn’t know why they choose to rise now, like somehow he can believe, in these moments. Like hope reigns here, supreme, enough for specifics in his doubts.

“Will we have to hide?” Jon asks, almost innocent. “Like the, the—”

“They loved regardless,” Robb reminds him, but not further; Jon knows both of their thoughts go to Bran when mere implication of the Lannisters comes to light. “But I don’t think so.”

“Because we’re not,” Jon starts, swallows; “because our relation is not full-blood?”

“Because we are different,” Robb says with a fierce resolve. “What we share, it is so different as to be another thing entirely.”

Jon sighs; he believes that. And yet

“Renly Baratheon,” Jon says softly; “Loras Tyrell. What of—”

“Think not on it,” Robb tells him, and maybe it’s foolish, Robb’s typical, long-standing blindness to the darker things in this world but Jon can’t believe that’s a tendency as strong, here and now, after everything. “We enter a new age, and we carve our own new world, as we desire.”

Robb braces hands upon him again, this time atop the hint of his shoulders at the ends of each clavicle.

“Family is everything, is there nothing else we’ve learned?” Robb says, soulful for lack of any other term to do it justice. “Beyond blood, Jon, you are my family. You are my love, you are my home,” he heaves a deep breath.

“You are my world, my soul, Jon,” Robb says, a confession and a declaration, the way they resonate together the way no one could imagine, could ever touch, and Jon wonders how he could have forgotten; wonder if indeed he ever truly forgot for what else, what else in this world could have given him strength enough to endure all that has happened, all that he’s survived beyond all reason?

Perhaps he never forgot at all.

“We will neither hide, nor fear,” Robb tells him, absolutely certain as he reaches for Jon’s hair and curls it about a finger.

“King of Winter,” Robb says, his tone saccharine—not insincere, but playful, enamoured: teasing at the sentimentality that’s always made Jon squirm. “Of this heart—”

“Robb,” Jon warns, flushing at the cheeks and down his neck, but of course Robb will not, would not be deterred.

“When it beats as much as when it doesn’t—”

Don’t.”

“My King,” Robb says, and it’s as clear and true as anything, the hateful man, most beloved in the world: “Oh, my King.”

“And you, mine,” Jon answers, automatic, because he needs to. It makes him shiver, makes him profoundly uncomfortable, rootless, but there is Robb, and he believes Robb will form his foundations; will never fail to bear him up. “Always.”

Robb smiles, a genuine one with a warmth Jon hasn’t seen since they were young, and halfways innocent.

“Whatever will we do,” Jon suddenly feels light with it all, buoyed enough to tease; “Two Kings in the North?”

“I cannot possibly imagine,” Robb’s smile quirks, sly and tempting.

“Minx,” Jon says, leaning close to nip at Robb’s neck.

“Tease,” Robb breathes; soft to the point where it holds very little weight, particularly paired with the way Robb stretches his head back to give Jon more access.

“You’re mine, Robb,” Jon says: possessive, but no. No, it’s also speaking to the things Robb said in jesting tone but full heart, that Jon can’t say with clear words but means, truly does: “Mine as well, you have to know—”

Robb steals Jon’s lips away from Robb’s own skin to kiss him, hard.

“My heart always sat on my sleeve,” Robb strokes Jon’s arm; “Impulsive.”

Jon looks down, watches Robb’s hand trail back to Jon’s chest.

“Yours was kept close, kept safe, it’s gifting so much more a rarity, an honour.”

Jon bows his head to suck gently at the barest tips of Robb’s fingers, soft and full. Of want but fuller still: of feeling, through and through.

“But it still shone through somewhere, Jon, my Jon,” And Robb leans in again, to steal a kiss from willing lips. “Given one knew where to look, and how to see,” and Robb leans his brow against Jon’s, shares air with him, intimate in ways unutterable.

“You taught me,” Robb murmurs; “You gave me leave to learn. And we are one another’s. Forevermore.” Robb breathes there for a long moment before he straightens just a little, just enough to meet Jon’s eyes.

“No less,” he tells him, truth greater than any other truth: “maybe more.”

And there’s only one thing Jon can say in answer:

“Kiss me.”

And Robb does. He does.

And for the longest time, Jon knows nothing but the heat of it, the pressure and the promise and Jon could touch nothing else for the rest of time, the last real thing he ever knows, if only he could continue knowing this.

__________________

In the end, it is the last real thing that Jon knows, before Reality claims it’s place again, and Jon realises he should not have tempted fate.

“Least you're dressed this time,” Tormund says from a chair at his side, the first thing Jon knows as he wakes. “Small mercies.”

Jon doesn’t say anything; his throat is dry, and his heart hurts. It’s cold in the space beside him. There is no one to reach out and touch.

“You're still no God,” Tormund adds as he moves to stand. “In case you picked up delusions in the nether-realm of fuck knows where you go when you're playing dead.”

Jon still doesn’t answer; curses himself inwardly—he knew he should not have hoped.

Hope is dangerous. Hope breaks you, and Jon doesn’t know how many times a man can be broken before it’s over, but he thinks he’s more than pushed the limits.

“Should probably get Davos,” Tormund huffs and goes to leave; “and your sister.”

His sister. Jon’s mouth goes dry as he feels his chest clench. What’s left, as yet, of his family, in this world, the real world

“No need to rush,” Jon finds himself saying, and damn the hope that spurs it beyond all reason and sense—that he hasn’t lost yet, somehow, and it damns him; it’s not yet slid off him like water on oil, incompatible with real life.

Tormund turns to him, jaw slack.

“You mad?” he asks. “We've been holed up here for days, we're lucky your Walkers haven’t come themselves to finish the job of things.” He snorts. “We'll move before dawn,” then, as an afterthought and not an accident for it, not one bit: “Given your leave.”

Jon props himself up and groans, and inside the creak of his bones he hears it.

Perhaps that will be the difference. We’ll both remember, if it’s real.

And Jon pauses, his breath caught. He remembers.

He remembers everything, not like the last time. It’s not empty, it isn’t nothing

But what about Robb?

If it’s real, you’ll know that I’m coming, and you can wait with that promise in your heart, with the certainty that I am coming to you.

“Gather those you must,” Jon says, far away and infinitely close, all at once; “and we will discuss our plans in due course.”

“I'd think you'd want to be afoot soon as you get your living-legs back,” Tormund gives him an inscrutable look before he sneers. “You waiting on a raven from your sweetheart?”

Jon bites back a snide comment about the Lady Brienne and chooses to ignore the comment entirely.

“Go, and assemble counsel,” Jon waves him off; “from there, we will chart our course,” and Tormund leaves, and with the latching of the door the voice echoes in his mind:

You will know that I am coming to you, quick as I possibly can.

And Jon has not held hope for much in his life; hasn’t had reason to. But maybe he doesn’t need hope.

Because perhaps it isn’t hope, in this; it’s a promise. And Jon can hold to a promise.

Jon will hold.