Work Header

Everyone has a summer

Work Text:

For a brief moment, Jon supposed he should feel guilty that he had never been to the godswood with a godly purpose. It always happened like this, so early in the morning that his lord father, Lady Stark, his brothers and sisters hadn’t even assembled to break their fast, all of them still fast asleep in their bedchambers. Even the castle’s grounds were mostly deserted when he headed to woods, looking to spend some time alone in the small pool next to the heart tree.

He should do this somewhere else, he mused as he pulled his shirt over his head, unlacing his breeches afterwards. In fact, he often did—in his own bed in the middle of the night, his hand moving fast beneath the furs, while his brothers slept soundly next to him. But those times were hardly the same as being in the woods; doing it in his chambers meant he could never fully give in to the feeling, always too jittery trying to keep an ear out to any sound that meant one of his brothers had awakened. An overall hasty affair that he just tried to get over with as quickly and silently as possible. It was no surprise the lone woods had started to look so appealing.

He made sure not to visit the pond too often, never more than thrice a week, lest anyone get suspicious. By now, he already knew the handful of servants most likely to be up at this hour, and which routes to take in order to avoid them. Getting to enjoy himself alone in the pool was worth the trouble, though. Reaching his peak with warm water all around him made it feel like his entire body was being engulfed by pleasure, and he even got to swim after he was spent—so much better than accidentally smearing his blankets and having to worry whether anyone would notice the white stain before he could take care of it.

With water now up to his thighs, Jon cupped his balls with his left hand, while the right stroked his length unhurriedly. He wasn’t hard yet—had just started to swell up, actually, as he tried to conjure up a mental image arousing enough to get him into the mood. Not that it was particularly difficult getting him in the mood, considering how often he had to deal with stiffening in his breeches in the most inconvenient times, leaving him mortified every time it happened.

Focusing on a vivid description of a whore’s cunt, courtesy of Greyjoy and his constant bragging, Jon had just gotten fully hard when he heard Arya’s voice.

“What are you doing alone out here?”

A surprised gasp escaped his throat as he turned around to face her; a ridiculous sound, fit for a startled little maid, not an almost grown man such as him—even if she had given him quite a startle sneaking up on him like that, when the sun wasn’t even up yet.

“Arya!” he cried out in a whisper to her, as if someone might hear them in the lone woods. “What are you doing here?” He took a few steps back, submerging into the pond until water reached his waist.

But hiding didn’t ease his embarrassment. He’d heard nothing until she spoke to him—she might have been right behind him, looking over his shoulder even, while he had his bloody cock on his hand, thinking of Theon’s stupid tales.

“How long have you been there?” He gave voice to his worry.

“Not long. Got here a little after you. I was going to kitchens, too hungry to wait for mother and father to break my fast, but then I saw you sneaking out, so I decided to see where you were headed.” She gave him a bored little shrug. “Why were you sneaking out?”

“I wasn’t sneaking out,” he said, too sudden, too defensive. “How much did you see after you got here?”

“What is there to see besides you naked in the pool?” she said, like his nakedness was nothing of importance, which offended him some, no matter how irrational that might be.

Of course his nakedness didn’t matter—he was her brother and she was too young to care about naked boys.

His prick had gone entirely soft by now.

“You’re right, there is naught to see here, Arya, so go back,” he told her, but she paid him no heed.

“You should have told me you were coming to the pool, so I could come with you. You never tell me anything anymore. Robb doesn’t either.” She crossed her arms in front of her chest, pouting. “The both of you are always having secret talks I’m not supposed to hear with Theon Greyjoy now, like he is your new best friend—”

“Weren’t you hungry?”

“—well, I’m your sister, and you should be spending time with me,” she said, neglecting the fact Robb was his brother, too. “I wish we could go to the river to swim and play games, like we were used to when we were littler. It was fun back then.”

Noticing she wasn’t angry, just hurt and a little jealous, actually made feel him feel guilty that they hadn't been spending that much time together anymore.

“We can play stick fight after breaking our fast, what do you say?”

“Yeah, that too, but now I’m going into the pond with you,” she said, already kicking her shoes off. “The last time I went to the river, Septa Mordane gave me a truly awful scolding, said it wasn’t proper for a little lady to ‘wander about’ without clothes. Well, I wasn’t wandering about. I was swimming!”

“Arya, don’t!”

But she had already lifted her gown, getting it stuck on her neck for a moment before managing to pull it over her head, revealing the bodice and smallclothes she wore underneath. Her breasts were budding, still so small a simple shift would have sufficed. But Arya was highborn and not wearing a bodice would make her look like a commoner; smallfolk girls didn’t wear bodices, Jon knew as much—Theon had told him so.

But, no matter how small her breasts were, they were there, and he almost couldn’t tear his gaze from them long enough to say, “Septa Mordane was right. It’s improper.”

She scowled at him. “But I don’t care about being a lady. You used to know that.”

The anger was plain in her face; she must be thinking he was treating her just like everyone else did. But how could he make her see? How could he make her understand? In the end, there was no time for words. She donned her gown faster than she had taken it off and stormed out of the godswood with heavy steps.

It was Theon Greyjoy who got him to change his mind.

He had spent an entire morning going on about his latest visit to the brothel in Winter Town, teasing Robb about his Stark morality and how it kept him from enjoying life at all. Jon then made the mistake of standing up for his brother’s honor, arguing there was no shame in decency.

“Everyone always says bastards are hotblooded and stupid like beasts, conceived out of sin and whatnot. Even maesters say that,” Theon had taunted him. “I used to think you were always so boring and proper because you'd got something to prove, like you wanted the entire North to know you could be every bit as tedious as a Stark, but now I see I was wrong. You may be a bastard, Snow, but you’re still as prudish as a wrinkled, gray septa.”

Ser Rodrik had them training with maces shortly after and there was no more talk of brothels or whores that morning. Still, the provocation stuck with Jon. He had been reminiscing over his chance encounter with Arya by the pond ever since it happened, and Greyjoy’s remarks made him even more confused.

When Arya reacted so casually to seeing him naked, Jon had reasoned that her response was as it should’ve been—brothers and sisters often saw each other naked and it didn’t mean anything because, well, they were siblings. But if being naked didn’t mean anything, why had he gotten so flustered when she tried to swim with him? He’d acted just like the prude Greyjoy said he was, and made Arya feel rejected on top of it. Jon hated thinking that anything Greyjoy thought of him might be true, but that was nothing compared to how guilty he was feeling for having hurt Arya. He tried to think of a single reason not to swim with her that didn’t boil down to him being a prude, but came up with nothing. It’d been stupid of him to tell her no.

So, when ran into her on the way to his bedchambers before supper, he stopped her long enough to ask, “Do you still want go swimming with me?”

He noticed she was putting a lot of effort in still looking mad at him, but as soon as the words were out of his mouth, a wide grin took over her face and she nodded vigorously.

“So meet me by the pond tonight, after everyone goes to sleep,” he said, wishing immediately he could take his words back, and suggest instead that they meet in the morrow or after midday.

Sneaking out in the dead of the night made it seem like they were bound to no good.

But now he’d already said it and she’d already agreed; going back on his word right now would only make things between them awkward again, and the whole point of swimming with her was so things would stop feeling strange.

After tonight, things would go back to the way they should be.

Jon considered leaving godswood yet again. By the time he’d arrived, the moon was barely out, hanging low in the sky. Now it had risen a fair amount and its light had gone from yellowish to milky white. It'd been way too long; Arya probably wasn’t coming at all. Maybe it was for the best—it had been a foolish idea in the first place.

The worst part of waiting was not knowing what to do with himself. What should he do now that he was supposed to have company? Did she expect to find him already naked and in the pool? Were they even going to be naked? Perhaps she had intended for them so swim in their smallclothes all along and he’d misunderstood everything. Aye, that was probably what she had meant, but now it was too late: Jon had been stupid and hadn't brought any spare of clothes. Well, in hindsight, it’d been a good call not to go into the pond alone—his fingertips would be awfully pruned by now. Still, he felt pretty stupid just sitting there, doing nothing.

Things were always so simple when he was alone.

He thought of giving up and going back to his chambers again, but he couldn't bring himself to do it. What if she got there and he’d already left? She might think he’d stood her up on purpose and would feel even more cross at him.

The sound of footsteps reached him at last.

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” Arya said as soon as she laid eyes on him. “Stupid Sansa wouldn’t stop practicing her stupid needlework. Had to wait forever until she went to sleep.”

“You’re here now,” he said, smiling.

She stared at him, but he couldn’t hold her gaze for more than a heartbeat. He cast his eyes down briefly, shifting his weight from one foot to the other.

“How do you… how should we do this?” he asked, fidgeting with the hem of the linen shirt he’d chosen to wear. Luckily, the night was pleasantly warm.

“Just like you were doing the other day.”

She pulled her gown over her head before he could dwell on the meaning of her words. Jon unclasped the fastenings of his cloak and let it fall on the ground, but only went so far as removing his shirt. He'd do better to wait and see how far she meant for them to undress rather than make a fool of himself by rushing into things.

But her hands didn’t linger the way his did; her fingers were nimble as they unlaced her bodice, loosening the strings just enough so she could slide the garment down and off her body. She bent to remove her socks and made quick work of her smallclothes, too, unlacing them and letting them slide down her hips, standing bare naked in front of him.

Jon had seen her undressed before, when they were children and Septa Mordane didn’t think it was improper for Arya to swim naked in a river with her siblings. Arya hadn’t changed that much from what he remembered—she hadn’t grown an extra limb or anything like that—but some things had changed and they made her entirely different. She was still a short girl—quite shorter than him—but he’d wager she’d be so her whole life. She was skinny, almost bony, with slightly broad shoulders and a slim waist. Her light nipples were perfectly round and they looked wide on her small, pert breasts. But before he could get an eyeful of what he was truly curious about, she turned his back on him and jumped inside the pool, giggling.

Jon shook himself out of his paralysis and managed to get his breeches, shoes and socks off, but when he was down to his smallclothes, he simply couldn’t untie the bloody strings. Did all men act like oafs  the first time they undressed in front of a girl?

Arya waited for him in the pool, water not quite covering her breasts.

“What are you waiting for? Are you shy?” she taunted him.

His frowned at the slight, but at least he was finally rid of the impossible knot.

“I am almost a man grown. I have no reason to be shy,” he stated, but the words made him feel even more of a boy. So he dropped his smallclothes down and stepped out of them, hoping his sense of manhood would return to him rather than escape him even more.

Her eyes were set on him, unwavering, and he tensed up under her gaze. He was self-conscious of everything about himself—every place on his body where he had and didn't have hair, the slight curve of his legs that he had never liked, and even the unflattering shape of his navel—but most of all, he was too self-aware of his cock. It felt awkward having it there hanging between his legs, too big and not in a way that made him proud. He was a man, and men had cocks, nothing out of sorts there, but her eyes were too scrutinizing. So he rushed into the pool, trying to make it seem he wasn't in a hurry to cover himself, though it was exactly that.

“You’re not grown now, that’s for sure,” she said, with a short laugh.

“What do you mean by that?” he said, feeling more defensive with each moment.

“I mean I’ve seen you—I’ve seen it grown before.” She hesitated for a moment, like she didn’t know the words to what she meant. “You know, when it’s standing up. And that’s not how it looked now.”

Jon was frozen on the spot, unblinking, while Arya swayed her arms in circles, enjoying herself in the pond.

“You—when did that happen?” He wanted to sound indignant but his voice was small in the back of his throat.

“Several times. Today wasn’t the first time I saw you here. I’ve sneaked up on you before.” She tried to float on her back and the moonlight shone bright on the droplets of water all over her breasts.

Jon was already plenty humiliated by the fact she'd watched him Gods knew how many times, yet it seemed his need to embarrass himself knew no boundaries—of course he’d add insult to injury by continuing to stare at her breasts.

“I always watch you when you're here. Sometimes you’re sitting by the pool and sometimes you’re in the water, but you're always holding it and it's always big.” She leaned her head back into the water for a moment, getting her hair wet. “When I saw you this morning, I wanted to ask you what’s so fun in shaking your thing like that. It looks so silly to me. You always make such funny noises when you're at it.”

Jon wanted to close his eyes, sink into the water and never come back up again. He had never felt so ashamed in his life; his face was on fire with embarrassment and it was nobody’s fault but his own, yet he couldn’t help a mild anger towards her. Such mockery was uncalled for; coming here had been a terrible mistake. He turned his back ready to leave the pond, but she held him by the elbow.

“Don’t go,” she pleaded gently.

He looked at her over his shoulder, still uncomfortable and wary, but stayed nonetheless.

“I was only teasing you.” Her apologetic tone sounded sincere, at least. “You know, like when I tease Sansa and it’s fun because she gets so angry. But I don’t want you to be angry. Not truly.”

He still felt compelled to leave, but was powerless to her pleading look, so he eased back into the pond instead. Arya gave him a crooked little smile and threw a small wave of water at him with her palms, urging him into one of the little wars they used to play at when they were children. He splashed water back against her face, and she responded with a large wave this time. But he was a lot bigger than her with hands to match, so he had her cornered against a margin of the pool in no time, splashing her with water from all sides. In the midst of her laughs and shrieks, his embarrassment was momentarily forgotten. He ended with his arms around her tiny frame, holding her close to him as they both caught their breaths after the game.

But then, with her body pressed this tight against him, that vague sense of wrong-doing came back anew and he lowered his head, blushing.

“I was just curious,” she said, noticing his mood had gone somber again.

“About what?” He wanted to yell at her to just stay away from his private moments, but he knew she would just argue he shouldn’t have them in the middle of the woods if he didn’t want her to intrude, then.

“About… everything. About boy parts and why they grow. If all boys have hair down there like you do. Why do you make the funny noises when you shake your thing like that. Why watching you do it makes this weird feeling... sort of unfurl in my belly, and why do I get so slick between my legs every time it—”

“You get slick… there?” He remembered Greyjoy mentioning wet, slick cunts in their previous conversations, but for some reason, Jon had assumed that only happened to whores. But now his little sister was telling him she got wet…from watching him. It sent a flutter of arousal down his belly.

“See? You get curious, too.”

Men were supposed to know everything there was to know about these things, they were supposed to guide, yet he couldn’t shake the feeling Arya was the one leading the way.

Having a conversation eye to eye was hard with both of them standing when she was so much shorter than him; the way she was constantly looking up made it seem she was expecting him to tell her something—the right thing. Only he didn’t what that the right thing to say was.

“We wouldn’t be so curious if we could… you know. Talk about it more and… and actually look,” she said tentatively, trying to anticipate a reaction each time she uttered a word.

“See, I’ll even go first,” she prompted, her self-confidence too sudden to be entirely honest as she hoisted herself off the pond and stood up on the margin, naked and dripping water.

Now he was looking up at her, taking in all the details he didn’t have a chance to see moments ago. Once again, he wished he’d asked her to meet him in the morning—with the sun high up in the sky, instead of tonight’s opaque moonlight, he would be able to see every inch of her body with clarity.

Looking up between her legs, all Jon could see was a thin cleft and a fleshy mound, covered by thin dark hair that didn’t hide much. Greyjoy always picked words so strange when talking of women’s cunts that Jon had already caught himself wondering how girls went from what he remembered seeing as a child to Greyjoy’s colorful descriptions. Only then it occurred to him that Greyjoy might not be the best source of advice relating to these things—or anything at all.

It was amazing how the mere sight of her had gotten him rock hard in a heartbeat. He stared at her, slack-jawed, and would have remained that way for a long time had she not spoken to him.

“Come out the pool. Let me see you, too.”

“I—I can’t.” Both his hands clenched into fists. He was blushing so warm and his cock was so hard, it was as if all the blood in his body was either up his face or in his prick.

“Why?” At first, Arya seemed to really not know, but as his silence stretched on, understanding dawned on her face. “Is it happening now? Is it big now?”

“Yeah, it’s hard.”

“How hard?” she asked, excited, as if she had grounds for comparison.

“Very.” It was the best answer she’d get from him.

“Let me see it,” she asked, kneeling by the pond in front of him, eyes gleaming with curiosity.

Jon would have to leave the pool at some point, so he might as well do it now. Trying to look bold, he stepped outside the pond with his chest puffed out, but the way his cock bobbed made him feel a bit silly. Arya stayed on her knees, so his hips were of a height with her eyes. She was so close to him that he could feel her warm breath against his skin. Looking down at her, he could see her inspecting his body as thoroughly as she could using just her eyes. Jon realized her scrutiny no longer made him so uncomfortable; actually, it was sort of arousing to have her studying him that way.

“What makes it stand up like that?” She sounded intent on knowing, like his cock was a very important subject she to wanted learn about. She was using the same tone she did when making inquiries on swordfighting and marksmanship.

“I don’t know,” he lied. Pretty girls. The mattress pressed against him when he slept on his stomach. Theon’s stories. Boredom. “Lots of reasons.”

Oddly, she was satisfied with that vague answer—because now she had decided to touch it, grabbing him by the shaft. His cock twitched and he let out that strange kind of whispered yell again, “Arya! You said nothing about touching.”

“But I want to see better!” she argued, her hand still on him. “Touching helps me see. It’s like… seeing with my fingers.”

Despite his protest, she kept touching him, fingers moving so slow it was maddening, pulling his foreskin down and exposing the head of his cock.

“You wouldn’t let me look at you with my hands,” he said, only grasping at the meaning of what he had implicitly proposed after uttering the words.

The sight of her on her knees holding his cock was breath-taking.

“Yes, I would.” Arya wasn’t the type to back away from a challenge—not that it'd been his intention to challenge her.

“Fine,” he said, barely believing he was actually agreeing. “You can touch it—” as if she weren’t already “—but you have to stop the moment I say so.” And what was he, now? A maiden protecting her virtue?

She wasn’t even looking at him anymore—not at his face, at least—but she nodded absentmindedly, holding his foreskin down and keeping him exposed. She traced the outline of the head with a fingertip, rubbing on the underside, then pressing on his slit. Jon threw his head back when hot and cold ran at the same time down his spine.

Then she ran her finger through the dark hair at the base, tugging softly on it. He’d never done that to himself, but it felt nice in a unexpected way. But when her hand moved down to his balls, he tensed up again.

“Be gentle,” he warned. One careless movement and he’d be down on the ground, howling at the moon as he cupped himself. Not that the punishment wouldn’t be fitting to his crime.

“I know. Men always cry when we hit them between the legs. I’ve noticed it.” She touched his left ball, then the right and finally both together, holding them lightly. “I just want to know how it feels.” Her middle finger scraped against the skin between his balls and his arsehole, and there was that cold heat on his spine again.

“Tell me how to do it.” She didn’t need to spell out what she meant.

“Place your hand closer to the tip,” he instructed and she obeyed promptly. “You can hold it firmer than that.”

She tried to do it as he said, but her grip was still too loose.

“Like this,” he said, covering her hand with his own, adjusting the pressure to exactly how much he liked it. His own palm felt warm over hers.

At first, their hands moved together. His hips were moving, too, thrusting softly into the movement. She had always been a fast learner, and soon he barely had to guide her. A low groan escaped his mouth. She smirked at him; it took him a moment to realize these were the funny noises she’d mentioned.

“You’re drooling.”

Frowning, he rubbed one hand over his mouth and chin, but his palm came back dry.

“No, I meant here,” she said, touching a fingertip on the slit of his cock where liquid was oozing. She gave him a little squeeze from root to tip, and more clear fluid got on her finger, which she then brought to her mouth, sucking it inside. “It’s salty.”

His heart went hammering up his throat; he pushed her hand away at once, afraid he might spill then and there if she touched him another moment longer.


“I, um, I think it’s your turn.” He had to clear his throat before the words came out.

She rose to her feet and put some distance between them. Jon was just wondering if she had changed her mind and whether he should back away, when he noticed she had just walked as far as where his cloak was spread on the ground. She lay down on top of it, bent knees parted, waiting.

Swallowing hard, he first tried kneeling between her legs, but then settled for lying on his stomach. It wasn’t particularly comfortable with his hard cock pressed on grass like that, but this way he could see it better, closer, and that made it worth it.

With the way her knees were parted, her cleft revealed a bit more, too—wrinkled folds glistening with wetness. She had gotten wet just from beating his cock. The thought spread goosebumps all over his skin. He was dying to touch her, spread her open with his fingers, see if she felt as soft as she looked, but he couldn’t bring himself to actually do it.

She propped herself up onto her elbows, and said, brave enough for the both of them, “Aren’t you going to look with your hands? I did.”

He answered by gently prying her open with his thumbs, taking a long look inside. He had no clue what his hands should be doing now, but he definitely wanted to do something. Instinct had him sucking his fingers into his mouth before he touched her. Stroking himself felt better if his skin was slicker and mayhaps the same thing would work for her. You had to stick things inside a girl to break her maidenhead, that much he knew, so he settled for touching her on the outside, trying to stay away from the slit at the bottom. He didn’t know how much he could touch her and still keep her intact, so he just traced the outline of her folds like she had done with the head of his cock. Gods, he wanted to make her feel as good as she made him feel, but he was clueless.

“You can do it.” It was the first time that night that she sounded anxious. Up until now, Jon had felt like he was always trying to catch up. But now, lying between her legs, cock trapped under his weight, he felt strangely powerful.

He tried cupping her, mound and all, the heel of his palm pressing lightly on top of her, while his middle finger grazed on her cleft. The small gasp she let out suggested she’d enjoyed that, so he did it again, with more pressure. Soon, guided by her breathing and the way her hips quivered, he learned it wasn’t about pressure, but speed and rhythm. He was doing the best the best he could, as difficult as it was getting a decent angle, but as much as she seemed to be enjoying herself, she also looked impatient. He wished he could just ask her how to do it.

Sighing in a kind of aroused exasperation, he pried her open with his thumbs once again. Maybe if he took another look, things would make more sense. Girls were so different than boys. Almost everything he did to himself felt good, while giving her pleasure was bloody difficult. This time, he noticed a little nub right where her folds came together on the top of her. Jon hoped he wasn’t getting her annoyed with his clumsy explorations. Or worse, bored. He sucked his thumb back into his mouth and rubbed it on her nub when it was slick with spit.

Her reaction was explosive. She might have hit him in the nose with the way her hips bucked up. She gasped and clasped her hands over her mouth, trying to smother the sound as soon as it came out. Jon tried to fight the proud smile that wanted to steal his lips. It would do him no good being too proud of himself, but he knew he had gotten something right, so he did it again. And again. And again. He kept doing it until his thumb went dry against her nub, but this time he didn’t use spit anymore, using her own wetness to slick his finger. She was so wet it must be running down her arse cheeks from the position she was in. When his thumb returned back to her nub, her hips moved in time with the friction if his finger, as she pressed herself harder on him. She was so close to his face he could smell her, the scent of her arousal mouthwatering.

He was almost desperate to reach for his cock and stroke himself hard and fast until he spilled white seed on the dark grass, but he wanted her to feel it first. Jon wanted Arya too feel that same all-consuming pleasure that threatened to choke him every time he spent himself. He placed her knees over his shoulders, and being able to feel the quivering of her thighs only added to his pleasure. A wild thought ran through his mind—what would she feel like if he did with his tongue all the things he was doing with his thumb. Arya didn’t get to see the blush on his face because her eyes were closed and her head was thrown back, as she gasped and whimpered, digging her heels on his back.

Then it happened. She must have felt it, the wave of pleasure washing down over her. He marveled at her—her sweaty skin, the spasms on her thighs, how the erratic breathing made her small breasts bounce—and thought back to the way her moans had gone in a crescendo for the past minute, and wondered if that was how he looked and sounded when he experienced pleasure like that.

He assumed she would be tired and uninterested in their explorations once she’d reached her peak. It was how it happened to him—sometimes, touching himself was the only thing that helped him fall asleep, with the soft lull that came after finding his pleasure. So he pulled back, unable to decide if he should sit next to her, or get up and dress so they could leave. In the end, he just stayed there, kneeling in front of her, as her breathing relaxed. His cock had softened a little, but it was still hard when she opened her eyes and sat up again. They stared at each other for a moment, but Jon could feel his cheeks growing hot, so he looked away.

“Can I see you do it until you finish? I could never see it right when I was hiding behind the trees.”

His mouth was dry when she crawled next to him, sitting down as he knelt in front of her. She had her thighs spread, so he could still get a good look at how wet her cunt was. He, Jon Snow, had got her that wet. This time, she seemed satisfied with just watching him stroke himself.

It was so weird doing it with someone else watching. Her gaze got him nervous and self-conscious—of how his cock looked, of the sounds he made, of how he smelled—but it also made him so aroused he didn’t need to picture anything in his mind. Looking at her was enough—her small breasts, her agape mouth, her long face, her delicious and intimidating cunt. His fingers probably smelled of her—Jon wanted to sniff on them, to suck on them. He needed to know what she tasted like. But he wouldn’t dare stop touching himself—it felt too good and he was to close now to let anything get in the way.

His eyes stayed open when he spilled, but he scarcely saw anything in front of him. Blinking to clear the fog that took over his sight, he noticed that not only his hand was all covered in white but a couple of drops of his seed had gotten on Arya’s neck and collarbone as well.

She grabbed his wrist, inspecting the fluid on his palm, oblivious to the fact it was also on her skin. She scraped everything she could with her index finger and rolled it against her thumb. Seeing her dip her fingers into his seed was enough make him want to touch himself again, if only he could get hard again so soon.

“It feels like snot,” Arya said, all of a sudden.

Jon was baffled—how could anyone compare a man’s seed to snot? Did she mean to call him disgusting? But then she thrust the tip of her finger into her mouth, like food one tried expecting to hate it only to find out it wasn't that awful after all.

“Well, it sure doesn’t taste like snot,” she said, eyebrows furrowed, and rubbed her hand on the grass, cleaning herself from his seed, but getting her hand dark with dirt.

“Here, wash your hands in the pond,” he instructed her as he did the same. One of his wet hands came to her collarbone and neck, cleaning off the drops that were starting to cool on her skin.

Getting dressed was a bit of a relief. Now that his mind wasn’t hazed with arousal as it had been moments before, he was starting to feel a guilty weight on his shoulders. There were grass leaves all over his body from when he had lay on the ground, but he figured he could take a proper bath later.

He finished getting dressed first, and then helped Arya with the laces on her bodice, one hand just grazing her breast. It made her smile at him. Jon suddenly wanted to hug her and bury his face on the curve of her neck, kiss her there. But then she pulled her gown over her head and the moment was gone.

There were still a few hours left until dawn when Jon was safe in his bedchamber again, but sleep didn’t come to him that night.

Jon slid one of his hands down his belly, feeling the muscles under the skin. It was late at night and all he could hear were the even snores of his brothers. His other hand found his right nipple, pinching it for a second, releasing it, then pinching again. Was this a normal, regular thing—being a man and getting aroused by touching his nipples? No one ever talked about that. The nasty stories he’d heard were always about thrusting your cock somewhere, but never about the rest of a man’s body. Maybe it was another of the many abnormal things about Jon. It didn’t make him stop teasing his nipple, though, and when the right one felt too sensitive from the abuse, he moved to the left while his other hand kept stroking his own stomach. If he teased himself long enough before actually touching his cock, only reaching for it when his balls felt tight against his body, he usually came faster, and right now fast was good.

As usual, his mind roamed in search of provocative thoughts. He tried imagining one of Greyjoy’s stories about having his way with a whore, but it only mitigated his excitement—those dirty tales had lost the power to stir him. Then, Jon tried thinking of Merry, one of the kitchen servants who always wore gowns far too small for the size of her teats, but there was no spark either. Finally, as a last resort, he focused on the filthiest thing he could ever remember hearing: Ysmay, the most popular whore in Winter Town. Jon had heard men talking about her one day during a hunt—saying they had taken her up the arse. So Jon imagined that with as many details as he could—Ysmay on all fours, a commoner rutting behind her like a beast, taking her arse and not her cunt. But even that failed to motivate him, and the hardness he’d achieved by teasing his nipples was softening fast.

Jon had heard stories about men whose manhoods had withered, men who couldn’t perform their duties on their wives’ beds and couldn’t put heirs in the wives’ wombs, but those stories were of much older men, not young, strong boys like himself. Maybe it was godly punishment for all his wicked thoughts—but there weren’t just thoughts anymore, were there? Mayhaps the gods were finally punishing for his misdeeds—for all the things he and Arya had done in the godswoord.

What they had done in the godswood— Arya’s legs spread open with Jon between them, his fingers rubbing on that spot as he got drunk on her smell, her moans ringing in his ears, his own cock trapped under his weight, with nature as their only witness. Arya tasting his seed just like he’d wanted to taste her slick. The memories flooded his mind and he was iron hard in a heartbeat, fisting his cock, pleasure building up so fast it made him lightheaded. Then his toes were curling and the muscles in his stomach clenched tight as he shot hot and sticky into his cupped hand. His heart was pounding.

Once the aftershocks quieted down, he cleaned himself with a rag he kept under his mattress and rubbed his eyes, sighing.

For the past two days, he’d stayed away from Arya—he couldn’t bear to face after that night in the godswood. But how could he go on avoiding her when he was powerless to ignore her even in his own mind?

Jon didn’t know what to do with himself. Most times, he felt guilty. Older brothers always knew better; they looked after their little sisters, not preyed on them. But he didn’t like a predator, not truly. As absurd as it might sound, sometimes Jon felt… cornered by Arya, like she was the one pursuing him. But Arya was younger than him and a girl—girls didn’t make advances on boys, did they?

He couldn’t stop thinking of how good all of it had felt; not even anything his imagination was able to compare. Mayhaps there was where his guilt truly resided—blaming himself for how much he’d loved, for thinking about it all the time, for wanting it to happen again. But it couldn’t happen again; he couldn’t trick himself anymore into thinking he and Arya were just brother and sister spending time together. They’d crossed that line the moment they touched each other by the pool, or perhaps even before that. Jon couldn’t say.

Jon was confused, weak, and he didn’t trust himself, so he went on avoiding Arya. She might not understand it now and she might even hate him for it, but she’d thank him in the future. Arya was a lady and his half-sister; she had no business being around a bastard like him. Jon could look out for her from afar, where was safe.

Staying away from her was no easy task, though. Everywhere he went, he seemed to find Arya there. He might be sparring with Robb or Greyjoy, training with Ser Rodrik, even studying with Maester Luwin—it didn’t matter. She was always close, always around, constantly looking for an opportunity to talk, but Jon kept doing his best to thwart her attempts. During meals, he looked only at his plate and he excused himself whenever she walked into a room. But the more he ignored her, the harder she went after him—she’d even taken to sneaking out of her own classes, to Lady Stark’s and Septa Mordane’s dismay.

Jon, on the other hand, had begun following Robb and Greyjoy around like their shadow—surely, she wouldn’t say anything untoward in front of them. It worked for a few days, but the strategy was short-lived.

“What is the matter, Snow?” Greyjoy confronted him. “The last time I had someone stalking me like this was when I tolg Merry I’d let her be my salt wife if she sucked my cock. She must not even know what a salt wife is. Probably thought I wanted to wed her. Is that why you’re stalking, Snow? Because you want to be my salt wife?”

Deeply humiliated, Jon had to back off and swallow the insult. Theon Greyjoy might be a hostage, but he was still highborn while Jon was nothing but a bastard. Mayhaps that was the root of all evil. Greyjoy had been wrong: Jon was no prude—prudes didn’t do what he’d done, didn’t think the things he thought. He was born of corruption, like all baseborns. No true Stark would ever have a mind as vile as Jon’s.

Arya was bound to catch him eventually; it was getting harder to hide and he couldn’t keep this up forever.

At last, it happened on an early evening before supper, and after he’d spent the afternoon lashing out with his sword on a training dummy. He was sweaty and out of breath, which was probably why Arya caught him out of guard so easily. It was only fitting—after all, they were only in this mess because of how good she was at sneaking up on him.

“Go to your room, Arya,” he said, eyes downcast, sweat running in rivers down his back.

“You trained all afternoon. You must be tired and sore.” She was using a voice that didn’t belong to her, all sweet and gentle. He’d only seen her speak like that in two occasions—apologizing to their lord father after misbehaving, and when mocking Sansa. And now to him. “I bet the hot pools in the godswood would make you feel much better.”

“I bet they would,” Jon said, putting away his sword and buckle.

“Then we should go swimming together,” she suggested with a proud grin, like she had come to a surprising yet irrefutable conclusion.

“You want more than swimming,” he said, hoping to sound serious and grave, but it just came out as mean. He shouldn’t have said that. It had sounded accusatory, and gods knew it wasn’t his place to point fingers.

“You’re saying I want more than swimming because you want more than swimming,” she cried out, soft tone abandoned.

Jon looked around wide-eyed, afraid someone might have heard them. Arya caught on his fear and looked around them as well. They waited a moment to see if anyone was coming. Jon was flushed from practice, his neck and face already pretty warm and red, but he was certain that the redness was at least partially from shame. She was right. He wanted more than swimming, so he assumed she did as well.

When no one came, she whispered at him, “We don’t have to look at each other if you really don’t want to.” She spoke as if she was haggling with him. “We could just swim. We don’t have to look, I swer.” She looked down for a second before adding, “But I would really like it if we did.”

Had Arya thought about it as much as he had? Had she liked it as much? She must have. Otherwise, why would she keep insisting like that?

Jon could feel his resistance start to crumble.

“Hasn’t your lady mother ever told you anything about boys wanting put their hands on you?” He tried to resist for the last time, nearly exasperated.

“Yes, but she never said anything about me wanting their hands on me.”

“How could I ever defy your reasoning?” Jon could almost hear the defeat in his voice. He had neared the edge; Arya only needed to say the right words to tip him over.

She must have noticed how close he was, considering how pleased she looked with herself. “Besides,” she said, “you’re not a boy. You’re my brother.”

Those had not been the right words. It had been awful words, in fact. She had said them as if being brother and sister made everything all right, instead of despicable. It made him wonder if she even understood what they had done at the pool. He didn’t know what was worse—if she did understand, but was unfazed by their blood ties, or if she did not understand, but was lead on by his malicious subterfuge.

“I’m a man, Arya!” he screamed at her, before fleeing the armory in haste.

Jon had trouble sleeping for the third night in a row. The room had been pitch black to his eyes after he’d blown out the candles, but his eyes grew used to the darkness and he could see the ceiling quite well now. Everything felt wrong. It was too warm under the furs and it made him sweat, but sleeping without covers was too uncomfortable. He felt alert, not sleepy. Even when he tried to keep his eyes closed, his body refused to relax with the chaos in his mind.

It wounded him that Arya didn’t see him like a man. It made him angry and sad at the same time. Why should it matter to him if Arya saw him like a man or a eunuch? They still had the same father—it would change anything even if she ever saw him as anything more than her bastard brother. Siblings couldn’t get married, they weren’t like other men and women. It was just how things were.

But the Targaryens had always married brothers to their sisters. Why had it been acceptable for them but an abomination for anyone else? Then again, the Targaryens were all dead. Perhaps the gods had punished their immoral behavior after all. Would the gods punish him, too? Worse—would they punish Arya?


Jon listened to the high pitched sound of the blade against the whetstone; he used to like how loud it was. It filled a room easily, allowed him to focus on that sound and that sound alone. Sharpening swords usually got his mind peacefully blank. But right now he was finding it particularly hard to focus on the task at hand. Actually, the sound was beginning to annoy him. Maybe he ought to be striking the sword on a dummy, not sharpening it.

“Hi, Jon,” Arya said next to him.

Jon wasn’t surprised in the least to see her there. “Little sister,” he said with his eyes on the blade.

But she said nothing, just stood there, watching him work. It didn’t look like she was going to leave anytime soon, so he put the sharpening stone on the floor and looked at her with an expectant glare. Whatever she had to say, let him deal with it sooner rather than later.

“I’m sorry I said you weren’t a boy,” she apologized. “And that your stuff looked like snot. It doesn’t, it has nothing to do with snot, I swear.”

She thought he was mad about that? Some silly comment he didn’t even remember until she brought it up? He wished he could just go back to when things weren’t so confusing, to when he didn’t lie awake at night thinking about things he shouldn’t, back when he knew his place. He wished he didn’t want the things he wanted.

“Now that I apologized,” she resumed, “will you stop being mad at me?”

“I was never mad at you, Arya,” he said, shoulders slacking.

She continued tentatively. “Since you’re not mad at me… why can’t we do that again? It felt so nice when we did it. Don’t you think?”

Jon wanted to say Yes, Arya, nothing ever felt so good and It’s the only thing I’ve thiought about, but what came out was, “You’ve got hands! Why don’t you go look at yourself with your own bloody fingers?”

He hadn’t meant to curse at her, but he was getting tired of her chasing him, of saying no when he wanted to say yes.

“I tried to last night after Sansa fell asleep,” she admitted with a shrug. “But it felt nicer when you did it. I wished it was you there.”

He hadn’t expected her to answer like that. His mind was flooded by thoughts of Arya in bed in the dark, nightgown hiked up to her waist, trying to be quiet not to wake Sansa as she touched her own cunt, rubbed that special place, got wet all over wishing Jon was with her. Something was simmering inside him. He felt so…hungry.

Arya had tipped him over the edge.

“All right.” He swallowed with his dry mouth. “We’ll do it. Just this time.” He regretted his words the moment they left his mouth He could have avoided the blow to his pride when Arya won his defenses yet another time and they did it a third time.

“After everyone falls asleep, we can meet in the guest’s chamber in the Great Keep, the old one.” She sounded so sure of herself it was as if she had everything already planned in her head. Then she ran away, leaving the armory in haste.

Jon wondered if she was afraid he might change his mind had she lingered.

Jon looked around the room. Compared to the rest of the keep, it looked more like a cell than a proper bedchamber. There was a simple bed with a pillow and sleeping furs, a wooden nightstand, and a couple chests. The room was small, lacked a fireplace, a desk and had no privy, so his lord father usually offered better rooms to his visitors, usually in the Guest House, unless the party was too big and he had to make use of all available accommodations, which wasn’t the case then. He arrived there before Arya did. The boys fell asleep quickly, and he sneaked out soon after that. There was a soft breeze that night, so he left the window open, hoping Arya might like it that way. A tall candle burned on the nightstand. He was barefoot, dressed in smallclothes and breeches, shirtless.

Jon tried to make himself wait lying on the bed, but couldn’t. He went to the window and looked outside, breeze feeling cold on his skin. The grounds were deserted from what he could see. Then he walked to the door, unbarred it and peeked outside, but saw no one in the corridor. He barred the door again and sat on the bed, drying his sweaty palms on his breeches. After a moment, he looked outside the window again, as if he could find some kind of answer out there.

As far as questions went, the only Jon could come up with was, by the old gods, what was he doing?

There was a soft knock on the door. In a heartbeat, Jon was there, unbarring it and urging Arya in.

“I’m sorry, I should have left it open,” he told her in hushed voice. “What if someone heard you knocking?”

“It was a knock on the door, not a battering ram.”

He said nothing and just stared at her. He didn’t know what else to do. He wouldn’t risk saying anything and sounding too eager. For all he knew, she might have come there just to tell him it had been a mistake. He should be telling her it was a mistake. Then again, he wouldn’t seem very serious saying that with the way his breeches were bulging. Anticipation had made him half hard.

Jon crossed his arms in front of his bare chest, tucking his hands under his armpits. Arya just stared at him, scrutinizing him from head to toe.

He opened and closed his mouth a couple times before forcing words out of it. “So, do you want us to...? How?”

“Can I go first?” she asked, like the question had been on the tip of her tongue all along.

“All right,” Jon said, pleased to see that he wasn’t the only one eager about it. He unbuttoned his breeches and let them pool around his ankles.

Arya pulled her nightgown over her head and her smallclothes down her hips. She was as skinny as he remembered from the night at the pool. She lay down on the bed, head on the pillow, the soles of her feet planted on the furs with her knees spread, a similar position to how she had lain over his cloak back in the godswood. She looked at him expectantly. He thought her face was going red, but he couldn’t be sure in the candlelight. It took him a few moments to realize he probably shouldn’t be standing there, doing nothing, his mouth hanging open like an idiot. So he unlaced his smallclothes and got as naked as she was. He was way past half hard, his cock standing upward, only inches away from grazing his lower belly. He didn’t know whether to be embarrassed or proud of being iron hard like that without having been touched at all.

He almost forgot to step out of his clothes, still pooled around his ankles. He stumbled on his way to the bed, but pulled himself free quickly enough before he tripped and fell on his arse, or something horrible like that. He stood by the bed, not knowing exactly how to position himself to give Arya better access to touch him. Back at the pool, he wasn’t thinking quite straight. Then again, he didn’t think he was now, either.

But Arya made no motion toward him, so he asked her, “Is this all right? Do you want me to stand, or would you rather have me lie down next to you?”

“Can’t you just do it like you did in the woods? With your fingers on that spot?”

This was confusing. By “go first”, he’d thought she had asked to touch him first, but apparently she meant the other way around. He hoped his confusion wasn’t too obvious. He nodded and considered lying between her legs again, but this bed wasn’t big enough.

“Can you get your—” arse, he thought “—hips—” he said instead “—on the edge of the bed? So I can kneel between your legs?”

She obeyed, squirming down the mattress, and he sank to his knees, hard floor on his skin. He spat on his fingers, like he did the first time and parted her open. Her nub was still there, her folds were still exactly how he remembered, and yet deliciously better. After the godswood, Jon had already resigned with the fact what they’d done had been a one-time thing, something that should never take place again. Yet here they were, in a room together, naked as their name day.

Her smell was strong, nothing like he had smelled before and—arousing. How could a smell be arousing? Somehow he knew this was how a woman was supposed to smell, and the simple fact he was kneeling between a woman’s legs close enough to smell her scent made his lust more intense.

He rubbed a slick thumb in a circle over her, repeating the motion he had done the other time. She let out a soft little gasp when his finger touched her directly at that place, but nothing more. His finger ran dry quickly, so he spat on it again and insisted. He was doing everything exactly how he remembered doing before, yet something was not happening for Arya. He could sense her frustration as he rubbed her, or at least he imagined he could. He tried doing it slower, faster, in different patterns, and with more or less pressure, but to no avail. He didn’t dare look at Arya—he feared seeing disappointment there—but from the way she was moving, or not moving, he could tell that it wasn’t feeling good enough.

That night in the godswood—had it been the first time Arya reached her peak? Had she been able to get there alone with her own hands after that? Was it even worth getting her to come once if she could never show her such pleasure again? What an absurd thing to wonder, considering he wasn’t supposed to have done it even the first time, let alone a second.

And now it was going to be the last. But not because Jon was too ashamed to say yes, but because Arya wouldn’t want him anywhere near her cunt again after the disaster he was making of himself. The fear it would be his last chance, the intoxicating smell of her, all of it made him launch himself between her legs, clumsily burying his mouth there.

All the times this had happened in his head, it was slow and gentle. In his imagination, he first kissed her inner thighs then looked over her body at her face, as if asking permission. Their eyes would connect and she would nod at him, and only then he would taste her, licking at her like a cat drank milk. But what was happening in reality wasn’t like that at all. It was wanton and clumsy. He was feasting on her. Something was dripping down his chin; for a moment, he thought it might be her wetness, but it was probably just his own spit. No woman got that wet, surely. His nose was close to her mound, and he couldn’t get inhale much air through his nostrils at once, but her salty taste kept him going, sucking, and drawing smaller and faster patterns on her nub with his tongue.

Having his mouth on her was so distracting, he had only just noticed her knees were over his shoulders like the night at the pool, her hips lifting from the mattress a palm high as she buried her fingers in his hair, pulling at the strands. Her hips were shaking and her free hand was over her mouth, smothering the sounds she was making.

For the first time in what had felt like forever, he let go of her and looked up. Her brow was furrowed and she looked as taut as a bowstring. Oh gods, what had he done.

“Are you well, little sister?” But how well could she be, when he had put his mouth on her like an animal?

She was a little out of breath when she spoke. “This—is the best game we ever played.”

Shame once again clouded his brain. Not that the clouds ever left. Did she not know what they were doing? Or she did know but was afraid of acknowledging it the same way he was?

“Come here,” she said, urging him to get on the bed with her.

He lay awkwardly beside her, face flushed, cock hard. Both of them were on their sides, resting their heads on the same pillow, mere inches away from each other. Her eyes were locked on his as she reached out for him, touching his hardness, her grip firm like he had taught her not four days ago. She began to pump him, her fist moving more up than down. Having his mouth on her cunt, feeling her trembling on his tongue, had aroused him so that she only had to stroke him a few times before he spilled on her hand, with a soft sigh.

They put their clothes back in silence after cleaning themselves. Jon unbarred the door and opened it, peering on the outside. The hallway was quiet and lifeless. When they left the guest’s chamber, Jon lead the way holding the candle in the dark corridor, with Arya on his heels. The girls slept in a bedchamber across the boys’ own, so they had the same path to follow.

Right before they parted, Arya stood on the tip of her toes and leaned against him, aiming to whisper on his ear, but barely reaching the base of his neck. Her words were low, but very clear. “I’ll meet you back there tomorrow, same time.”

No, he thought. But his mouth said yes, and he nodded.

She slid back into her room, smiling.

An unexpected gush of wind blew out Jon’s candle and darkness feel over him.

Jon and Arya lay on the bed together, on their sides, facing each other. They were in the guest chamber again, in the dead of the night. He didn’t want to think of what would happen if someone woke up and found either of their beds empty.

This time, they were partially naked. Jon was only in smallclothes—unlaced and hanging low enough to expose the dark hair on his groin. Arya was in smallclothes too, small breasts bare and hanging toward the bed. This meeting was different from the previous ones. For once, it was unhurried, and Jon was starting to feel more comfortable being naked with her. His eyes went from her face to her teats, to her belly, and back up, as he slowly slid one hand through her hair. It was dark, like his own, and Jon liked it—that they looked so much like each other. The Stark look, rather than the Tully eyes and Tully hair their siblings had.

Arya was looking at him, too. First, she mimicked his movements and ran her fingers through his curls. Her touch felt so soft and good. But then her fingers decided to explore the hair under his armpits and he felt a little ticklish. He tried to squirm away from her hand, a little smile trying to curve the corners of his mouth.

“I like the hair on your body,” Arya broke the silence. Her voice was barely above a whisper. Their faces were inches apart and there was no need to talk any louder. “I don’t think I would have liked it if you were too hairy. Hullen has all over his body, even on his neck, and you can see tuffs of it coming out of the back of his shirt. But yours is different. I like it on your armpits,” she said, touching him there for reassurance, “and I like it here.” Her hand descended to his groin, tugging weakly on the coarse hair.

Jon liked this slow exploration of their bodies. He liked to know Arya saw him and wanted him just like he wanted her. Swallowing, he brought a hand to one of her breasts, cupping it. He had never touched a girl’s breast before, having it full on his hand like that. Her flesh felt soft, but a bit more consistent in the middle.

“When I touch myself,” he began, but his voice sounded hoarse and his throat felt dry, so he swallowed a couple times before going on, “it feels nice when I touch myself here,” he said, giving her nipple a light pinch. “It’s odd, because I feel it here,” he gently rolled her nipple between his thumb and forefinger, “but I also feel it down there.”

Her nipples stiffened, even the one he wasn’t touching.

“Aye, I can feel it,” she said, pressing her thighs together a little.

Jon let go of her breast and adjusted his cock in his smallclothes, feeling more comfortable with it pointed up his navel. He then ran his hand down the small of her back. Her hand was on his nape, and they held each other a bit closer, but still keeping space between their bodies. That night, they didn’t have a candle. They figured they knew the castle well enough to find the way back to their chambers even in the darkness, and having a candle wasn’t safe in case someone woke up and saw light coming from a room that was supposed to be empty. The moon was still bright enough in the sky that with the window open, and with their eyes accustomed to the darkness, they could see each other well.

Arya closed the distance and kissed him. It shouldn’t have surprised him—after all they had done, a kiss should feel minor in comparison. But it still made his heart race, mayhaps even more than when she had touched him for the first time. Her lips brushed his and lingered for a moment before she pulled back, staring at him, hesitant. A thousand things went through his mind—she was his sister, he ought to protect her; if they kissed, there was no going back, they could no more pretend this was nothing but silly and innocent exploration. But even pretending was a futile effort. Neither of them believed that folly anymore. He didn’t, and he was certain Arya didn’t either, but pretending had seemed so important until then. Like that façade was the only thing hanging between admitting something terrible yet inescapable, and staying behind a safety line where what they had was just child play gotten out of hand. But he also loved her more than he would love anyone in his life. Why couldn’t his kisses be an expression of that?

In the end, Jon was tired of resisting, of denying themselves. He reached out and kissed her again, pressing his lips to hers, not letting go. Arya parted his mouth and he felt her breath against his skin. They both tried to lick each other’s lips at the same time, so their tongues touched and Jon liked the feeling. He kissed her again, his tongue in her mouth, but she also tired to get her tongue in his mouth, so their kiss was a little gawky at first. Jon dragged her closer, her body now flush against his, breasts against his chest, their stomachs pressed together, his half-hard cock growing completely stiff against her mound.

She embraced him like he embraced her, kissing him, pressing herself against him so hard it was as if she wanted to melt her flesh with his. He felt one of her hands come to his shoulder, pushing him on the bed, laying him flat on his back, as she crawled on top of him, straddling him. Her cunt lips parted along with her thighs and he could feel his shaft fit perfectly between them with only the thin layers of their undergarments keeping them apart. Arya bent down over him, capturing his mouth again.

She grabbed his shoulders for support and rubbed herself on his hardness, hips dragging forward and back, and forward again. She moved just like she did when riding horses, but her saddle was Jon’s lap. She seemed to be really enjoying herself. Her mouth was still over his, but she had stopped kissing him moments ago, riding him faster and faster, just breathing against his lips. Having her on top of him, commanding the pace, made Jon feel she was using him for her pleasure. He felt like a toy in her hands, with the sole purpose of getting her wet, of helping her find release. The thought made him squirm with arousal.

He freed himself from her lips and reached for her breasts, sucking a nipple inside his mouth. He heard her gasp beside his ear. The tip of his tongue circled her nipple before he let go and moved to her other breast. When he didn’t have his mouth on them, he was pinching or squeezing them softly, cock thick between her legs as she rubbed herself on him.

He had yet to learn how to read her body well enough to notice every time she came. When she slowed down, panting next to him, he let go of her breasts and kissed her on the mouth, but didn’t truly know if she had stopped because she had come or because it simply wouldn’t happen that way. He flipped her on the bed, crawling on top of her, supporting his weight on his knees and left arm so as not to crush her. He palmed her through her smallclothes and noticed she was wet enough to soak the cloth. Jon pulled out his cock and stroked himself fast, taking in the sight of her underneath him—her nipples were shining with his spit—and captured her mouth in another kiss. For the briefest moment, he closed his eyes and allowed himself to pretend they were wed and this was the night of their bedding. The thought aroused him, elated him and saddened him all at once.

He shot part on her belly and part on her smallclothes. Forgetting himself, he smeared his seed across her skin afterward, rubbing it all over her tummy. He admired her for a while, watching his spend cooling on her, drying on her skin and on the cloth of her undergarments. Then his mind seemed to catch up with what he’d done, making him blush.

“What am I doing,” he said, looking around to find something—a rag, his shirt, anything—to clean the mess he had made. “I got seed on your—what if a washerwoman sees and realizes what it is?”

Arya was beyond caring. “I can get dirt on my clothes to hide it and tell mother I fell in a puddle of mud. Coming from me, she’ll never doubt it.”

It always marveled him how quick-witted she could be; it made him laugh this time. They lay down on their backs for a moment. The bed was narrow for two, but Arya was skinny, and they snuggled closely. Their hands found each other, and they entwined their fingers.

Jon took a deep breath, staring at the ceiling. He hated that they had to get up and leave, that they had to part ways, that he couldn’t wrap an arm around her tiny frame and fall asleep beside her. He hated that they had to hide. But that worry was for later. Right now, he could allow himself a few peaceful moments like this, lying by her side, when nothing else mattered. He kissed her neck, right below her ear. There was nothing he didn’t love about his little sister.

Sharing a bed with Arya was part of Jon’s new-found routine. It filled his days with an unsteady sense of excitement, a happy kind of anxiety. Though daytime dragged itself, meals lasted a lifetime, and Robb had never landed so many blows on him at the yard as he did the past few days, Jon welcomed the nervous feeling on the bottom of his stomach. It made him know what longing meant, and it was a good longing because it got sated every night with Arya in his arms. While the sun was up in the sky, Jon did everything in a hurry, absent-minded, as if being always in haste could somehow speed up the hours until everyone was asleep and he could meet his little sister in that small chamber that had begun to feel more familiar than the very chamber he shared with his brothers.

He had learned to leave the door unbarred, and as soon as Arya walked in, barring the door behind her, he took her mouth eagerly. Ever since they’d kissed that first time, Jon couldn’t get enough of her mouth. He thought he kind of smothered her with how hungry his kisses were, but she didn’t complain.

Perhaps it wasn’t just about kissing her; though he loved their kisses and how her tongue met his, he took his pleasure just from having his mouth on her, on any part of her. When they kissed, his hands immediately fondled her breasts like they were his to touch. And they sort of were, because Arya allowed him to, let out those tiny gasps in their kiss that got him hard and leaking. But what really got him mad with arousal was sucking on her nipples, until they they were hard and shining with saliva. Sometimes it was too much, and Arya pushed him away with the heel of her hand on his forehead, and it never failed to get him embarrassed. But there was never much time to dwell on it, because soon Arya was touching him, jerking his cock, or sometimes even squeezing his arse cheeks when they rubbed their groins together through their smallclothes.

And he ate her cunt, too, a lot. It was a fast way to make her come. His own release felt better when he knew he had given her pleasure. So there he was, again, kneeling between her legs, lapping at her nub, while his thumb touched it from over the hood. Arya liked when he did that. Jon liked when she pulled his hair in the midst of her release. After she was done, he buried his tongue in her slit, as far as it would go, tasting all the saltiness he could. When he was sated, he climbed on the bed with her, putting his lips on hers.

“I like the way you smell,” she said against his mouth.

“I smell like you do.” It was true. He might not be quite a man grown yet, but he already had a stubble if he didn’t shave for a fortnight or so, and Arya’s smell always clung to his facial hair.

“I know,” she laughed, “that’s why I like it.” She reached for his throbbing cock between his legs, pulling him on top of her. “Come,” she said.

She was holding him, so he thought she was going to use her hand, like she often did. But this time he felt her guiding him toward the juncture of her legs, the head of his cock brushing against her cunt. Jon knew his face was scarlet when he stopped her.

“No,” he said, wide-eyed, scared, “we can’t do that.”

“It’s all right,” she insisted, rubbing his cock on her moisten folds.

He stilled her, grabbing her by the wrist. “No,” he told her firmly.

She tried to wriggle her wrist free, but he was stronger. He held her arms down on the bed, but as he tried to pin her down, his cock slid between her thighs. A moan escaped him, much to Jon’s embarrassment. How could he say no when his body betrayed him so? Her thighs were pressed together tightly, creating a narrow, slick passage between them where his cock fit. His hips bucked before he could stop himself, and suddenly the movement was deliberate—he was fucking her thighs, gods damn him. The angle was weird, so he pulled her thighs up to a better position. She was still so wet that his cock slid warm, and he couldn’t help but wonder how could it feel so good if he wasn’t even inside her. He fucked her thighs faster, feeling her so slick he almost inadvertently slipped inside her once or twice as he thrust. How ridiculous and horrible it would be if he ended up taking her maidenhead by accident. He set the thought aside and settled for taking her mouth, kissing her again.

His skin slapping on hers sounded like he was actually fucking her, though, and the noise enhanced his pleasure. He came, spilling on her inner thighs.. His heart was still pounding when he cleaned themselves up with a rag. Arya kissed his cheek, and for some reason, he was very grateful for that kiss.

They got dressed in the dark, fumbling to find their clothes. They ought to have brought a candle this time. The moon was turning and this night was much darker than the nights before. They left the room, closing the door silently behind them, and had just made the first turn in the hallway, headed to their chambers when they saw the brightness of a candle. It was too close for them to hide. Lady Stark walked down the corridor, candlestick in hand, furs thrown over a night-rail.

“What the two of you are doing out of bed?” she inquired, anger blazing in her eyes.

Arya opened her mouth, but Jon spoke first. “Ser Rodrik’s red bitch whelped earlier today. I took Arya to the kennel to see the pups. Farlen always says how’s best not to bother a bitch with a recent litter, so we went at night to avoid his reproach.”

“And what do you think you were doing, bastard, dragging my daughter into the dark night? And with no candle?”

“I dropped the candle on the way back,” Jon lied further.

Arya spoke in his defense. “I was the one who insisted on going. Jon told me no, but I wouldn’t let him be. I’m the one to blame, not him.”

Jon wanted to say something, take the blame back for himself, but it meant too much to him that Arya would stand up to her lady mother for him.

“I will talk to Ned about this. This cannot go on,” she said, pressing her lips into a thin line.

“Mother, it wasn’t Jon’s fault,” Arya argued, crossing Lady Stark to speak in his behalf.

Jon could see the contempt in Lady Stark’s face. How she hated that his lord father inflicted his presence on her; how no matter how much she despised the very sight of him, there was nothing she could do to keep him apart from her trueborn children. Robb was a brother to him in the true sense of the word, his friend. Bran loved him as much as Jon loved him back. Sansa was polite at most, but even the babe Rickon was fond of him. And there was Arya. He loved Arya. Arya was his as much as he was hers, and Lady Stark’s scorn would never steal that away from him.

Her sneer was obvious when she personally saw to it that they got back to their chambers and stayed there.

The Starks’ sigil was a direwolf and the Tullys had a trout on their banners, but Lady Stark reminded Jon of neither lately. With her gaze following Jon intently, she reminded him of a harpy.

Arya and Jon did not dare leaving their beds to meet at night in the old and cramped guest chamber. Arya had suggested they meet in the godswood, during the day. Lady Stark didn’t worship the old gods and never went there unless she really had to, so Arya argued it was a safe choice. Besides, there were other places for them to go, abandoned places, like the First Keep, or the Broken Tower. But Jon wouldn’t take chances. Their lord father hadn’t shared Lady Stark’s concern with their being out of bed, dismissing the subject as children's enthusiasm over newborn pups, and didn’t discipline Jon, which only made Lady Stark angrier. She couldn’t stand him, but still paid attention to his every move and he wouldn’t risk capture again. Hopefully, in a fortnight or so, something else would capture her attention and she would give up her vigilance. Until then, Jon intended to keep his nose clean and stay out of the way.

A week later, something did happen to drive her mind away from him, but Jon couldn’t bring himself to feel glad about it. A deserter of the Night’s Watch had been found wandering outside a small holdfast in the hills, and was going to be beheaded shortly after first light that day.

Father gathered his party—guarsdmen, Hullen, Jon, Robb, Greyjoy, and for the first time, Bran—and rode with them to bring the man the King’s Justice. A beheading was always grim, but Jon was no stranger to seeing his father fulfill his duty as Lord of Winterfell; being there made him feel like he belonged, even if the feeling didn’t last. Lord Stark had always made every effort to teach them the ways of the North, even to Greyjoy, who was ironborn, not a northerner. Jon did everything he could to earn his father’s respect, not to disappoint him. He looked at Bran, who had barely been able to contain his excitement along the road, but now looked unsure on top of his pony. Imagining his brother would want to make their father proud too, Jon whispered words of advice to him, and was glad to see they took effect for Bran neither flinched nor looked away when the deserter’s head rolled down the hill, stopping under Greyjoy’s boot.

It was Robb who found the dead she-wolf, giant, bigger than any wolf Jon had ever seen. Worms were already crawling in and out of her eyes and her tongue was dark outside her mouth. The litter was still alive, but hungry and desperate. The party’s first impulse was to kill the pups, but Bran and Robb wouldn’t have it. Father seemed to side with his men, and Jon realized he craved his brothers’ approval just as he did his father’s. Jon wasn’t sure he believed in signs like Jory and Hullen did, but if it was a sign, it signified that the Stark children were meant to have these wolves. Two females and three males, after all.

When their father agreed to let the pups live, Jon was content to see the joy in Bran’s eyes, even if the sense of belonging was already dissolving in his mouth. But then he found the sixth pup, a white ball of fur with big red eyes. Mayhaps it was indeed a sign. Mayhaps he did have a place with the Starks, in the end.

Back in Winterfell, a pot filled with goat’s milk was over the stove, as the six Eddard Stark's children argued about names for the wolves. In the midst of all their talking, Bran made sure they all knew that it had been Jon to convince their lord father to let them keep the pups. The look of admiration he got from Arya made Jon want to hug Bran.

If the beheading had not been able to take Lady Stark’s mind off him, the tiny wolves surely would have. It was no easy task taking care of them as young as they were. They were constantly hungry and always seeking the heat of their bodies and clothes, as well as the towels wet with warm milk. Rickon was too young to take care of his pup by himself. His little brother got to name the wolf—Shaggydog, he chose—but it fell on Jon to take care of the beast.

The wolves brought him and his siblings even closer, for a while. Robb, Bran, Jon, Arya and even Sansa, who tended to avoid the stables and the kennel, spent the following days together, nursing their wolves. At first, Greyjoy seemed really bothered that they had something in common that didn’t involve him, and spent hours on end training his archery or away at Winter Town, but he, too gave in after all, showing interest in the animals he had once volunteered to kill.

The entire castle went chaotic in the week that followed. If what Jon heard was right, King Robert Baratheon himself and all his cortege were coming to Winterfell. As far as Jon knew, the King rarely left King’s Landing, and almost never came to the North. The last time he remembered hearing such a thing was during Balon Greyjoy’s rebellion, before Lord Eddard Stark came home with Greyjoy's only living son. But he had been too young when that happened and couldn’t remember in detail.

At the very least, two hundred people would be coming from the South in His Grace’s retinue, and not only the guest house, but every spare chamber, cell or room in the castle was to be prepared to receive the visitors. That made sharing the old chamber with Arya even more ill-advised, but it also meant everyone in the castle, Lady Stark especially, would be too concerned with preparations to pay attention to him, which meant he could get away with Arya for a couple hours during the day without raising questions.

They met far from the hear tree, hiding in the thicket of the godswood. Arya had her back was against a mighty oak with Jon pressed tightly against her, their mouths locked together. His hands palmed her body, touching everything at the same time, going from her teats to her arse then running his fingers on her thighs. He had spent too long without her and now he seemed to want all things at once. He felt her short nails on his scalp as she pulled on his hair. She had to bite down on his lower lip for him to realize she was trying to break their kiss. The fierce bite made his cock throb, stiffening him further, instead of softening him.

He pulled back, though. “Too much?”

“No,” she answered, “but yes. I mean,” she panted, “I think you should go first. Can you pull it out? I miss looking at it.” But her nimble fingers were already unbuttoning his breeches, undoing his laces, dragging him out.

The head of his cock was partially exposed, stiffness pulling the foreskin back. Her hand was a bit sweaty when she touched him, but her palm felt rough. She bent her head down and spat between their bodies, but her aim was poor and her spit fell on the grass under their feet. He was already trying to gather saliva in his mouth so he could spit on his hand and spread it over himself when she squatted in front of him, trapped between his body and the big tree.

“Arya?” he asked, uncertain.

“I want to try something,” she said, holding his cock in her hand. The last time she said something like that was when she tried to make him stick it inside her, but this didn’t seem to be the case, so he just took a deep breath and waited.

She stuck her tongue out, like a misbehaved child, and licked him, wet tongue flat on the flushed head of his prick. His moan was long and loud on his ears, and he braced himself on the tree in front of him with one arm, his other hand resting on her shoulder, after tucking a lock of hair behind her ear.

She held him with her small hand, pulling the foreskin back completely, grip almost a little too strong, and licked him again, right on the underside this time. He felt himself shuddere. She pumped him a couple times, squeezing clear fluid out of him. It was always like that with her, he got hard to the point he leaked. And she licked that too, tracing his shape with her tongue. It felt good, mind-blowingly so, but just not enough.

“Open your mouth,” he heard himself saying.

She obeyed, taking over the reins again. She put her mouth on him, sucking the head of his cock in. He sighed and dug his left fingers in the tree’s trunk, not knowing what to do with himself. He was so aroused with the warm, wet heat of her, but also so desperate for release that he almost considering taking himself in his hand and fucking his fist until he came. But then she pulled back only to suck him back in again, getting him further inside her mouth this time; he’d never seen anything quite like it, so he endured.

She bobbed her head a few times, and it felt…delicious, really, and he hated how impatient he was. He felt teased. Before he could stop himself, he covered her hand on his shaft with his right one and tugged at himself a few times, while half of his cock was inside her mouth, trying to give her a hint of what he wanted.

He exhaled heavily. Now that had felt good. If she managed to keep still, and just hold her mouth there, he could jerk himself a few times and it would be over in just a moment. He almost told her that, but like before, she was a fast learner and knew how to read him well. She followed his lead, trying to move her hand in time with the caresses of her mouth.

There was no cadence, though. There was no rhythm between her sucking and her hand—her grip was getting loose, too—and the bobbing of her head on his cock was too slow to make him climax. It kept him exactly on that line where it felt too good to interrupt, but not enough to bring him to the edge. Jon felt every muscle in his body tense. He could see a thin shade of sweat on her neck, despite the cold weather.

Like she had just listened to his thoughts, she gave up on her sucking and just kept her mouth in place, engulfing just the tip of him, pumping him with strokes that were practiced and perfect, now that she didn’t have to worry about doing it in time with her mouth. Jon’s pleasure built up rapidly, pulsating through his body. He pulled back just in time not to spill in her mouth, seed flying toward her, landing part on the ground and part on her face, like that first day by the pool—only this time her chin and her lips were coated. She licked her lips, making that strange expression again as her tongue snapped inside her mouth.

“Do you like that?” he asked, frowning. He’d never heard anything about a man’s seed being tasty. If anything, even its smell was strange to him.

“No, it tastes bad,” she answered, point blank, “but I like it.”

“How so?”

“I don’t know. You never liked anything that was bad?”

Too many things.

Curious, he scraped her chin off with his thumb, catching the seed on his finger. It couldn’t hurt to try, not if Arya was fine with doing it, so he thrust his seed-covered finger in his mouth. The taste of it overwhelmed him at once and he tried to spit it out, but his entire mouth was already impregnated with it.

“Arya!” he yelled. “How can you eat that? It tastes disgusting.”

“No, it doesn’t,” she argued, just for the sake of arguing. “I mean, it does, but—not in a bad way? Gods, I don’t know.”

Mayhaps he knew, because despite the earthy taste and how sticky it had felt on his tongue, Jon couldn’t say it’d been entirely unpleasant, now that he got used to it. Still, he didn’t think he would ever do that again. Gods, he was so strange. He pulled her up to her feet and kissed her, and there was seed’s taste in both their mouths, a filthy kiss that felt way too good. She hiked her skirts up to her waist while they kissed and he didn’t bother undoing the laces of her smallclothes. He just wormed his hand inside, middle finger reaching between her folds, rubbing her nub quickly, feeling her sopping wet. He let go of her mouth and sucked on her neck, right where he felt her blood pulse. He did it lightly not to leave a mark, hearing her moan against his ear. This time, he thought he could tell when she found completion. She grabbed his shoulders and tensed all over, breath caught in her throat for a second, and then fell apart, trembling. He reached farther down inside her smallclothes, touching her slit, and she was as a lake down there.

Gods, how he had missed her.

The night before the King arrived, Jon lay awake in bed, thoughts so unruly and thick in his mind he felt smothered.

Robb was their father’s heir, would be Lord of Winterfell after him. Bran and Rickon would one day be Robb’s bannermen, with lands and households of their own. Sansa and Arya would marry heirs of other important Houses, taking their names.

The thought of Arya marrying someone made him queasy, but that was how things were going to happen. Being delusional would do Jon no good; why imagine a future that could never be? The lives of his brothers and sisters were planned and laid out before them. There was no need for doubt.

But Jon? What did Jon have? What could be expected of him? He was a bastard with no name to give a wife or a son—he wouldn’t spread the stain of his bastardy any further. Outside of marriage, he wondered what were a bastard’s options.

It was not uncommon for a bastard to be a blacksmith, or even become a septon or a maester. Jon was no scholar and he’d never be a maester; his blood was hot for battle and the yard had always been more to his liking than a room full of books. To become a blacksmith, he should’ve started his apprenticeship long ago—he was too old for that now. He would be no septon either. His gods were the old, not the new, and those he’d managed to desecrate, making a show of his lust to the heart tree.

A bastard who took pleasure in his own sister’s arms—Jon was hopeless.

At least he hadn’t defiled her.


Jon could never do that to Arya, couldn’t stoop so low and soil her honor like that. Arya might not know what she’d offered him, but Jon knew better. She was to be a maiden until the day she was wedded, and if Jon could not marry her, then he could not bed her, that was it. He knew it now—but how did he trust himself to resist the temptation? Seeing her every day, having and not having her at the same time—could Jon really trust his resolve? Especially when it had already crumbled so many times.

He remembered the feel of her smooth thigh and his cock sliding between them, grazing on her folds—how wet she was, how inviting her cunt had felt. Her maidenhead was the only thing he could not have, so of course it was the thing he wanted the most. But that was not the only reason behind his wanting. He longed for Arya, in all the meaningful ways he’d never get.

Arya, resilient little Arya—she had worked her way through all of his defenses, shattering his walls one by one.

Deep down, Jon knew the day would come when he’d have to take his distance, that he and Arya would have to part ways.

When that day came, he was going to take the black.

Jon had never gotten as drunk as he did during the welcoming feast for the King. Jon didn’t know if he drank simply because he could or for other reason. He hadn’t been deemed good enough to sit at the table with his family, where he took his seat every day, but down at the benches he felt more at ease among young squires with all sorts of tales in their mouths. They cheered him every time he emptied a glass, so he found himself draining several of them. It was petty validation, he knew, but he was taking it from everywhere he could find, considering how short the supply always was.

The royal visitors made their entrance in a procession that passed a foot from where Jon was seated, the Starks paired with them. His father had escorted Queen Cersei, and King Robert did the same to Lady Stark. Robb walked in with Princess Myrcella in his arms. Prince Tommen was a child, but when he came in paired with Arya, Jon felt envy, wondering if he would ever escort a lady somewhere like Tommen did. Sansa drew in the crown prince, Joffrey. The boy was taller than Jon, but tall wasn’t the word that came to his mind when he looked at the prince. Joffrey was just… lengthy. As well as conceited, if his pouty lips were anything to go by. He wore a golden choker and rich velvets. Some people had it so easy it was infuriating.

Jon was happy to see his uncle Benjen walk in the Great Hall, but also mildly annoyed that an obscene prick like Theon Greyjoy got to make a big entrance while Jon had to seat with everyone else at the benches. Still, Greyjoy was highborn, even if a hostage, which placed him above Jon, no matter how much of an arse he might be.

He felt Ghost’s fur against his legs under the table, and saw his bright red eyes. That was a perk to be content about, since none of his siblings had been allowed to bring their wolves to the feast. He was proud to introduce Ghost to uncle Benjen when the man came to seat with him.

“How many cups have you had, Jon?” he heard the man ask, talking about the summerwine.

Jon gave a forestalling smile, trying to count them in his head, but he must’ve taken too long, because Ben was soon laughing in his face, continuing with small talk. His uncle asked him why wasn’t he seated at the table with his brothers and Jon was forced to admit the reason. It seemed like everything in that damned night was strategically set out to remind him of his bastardy, Jon was grumpy to see.

But then, in the midst of their talk, he heard uncle Ben say, “We could use a man like you on the Wall.”

Pride invaded him and he started to blurt out his boyish accomplishments. Well, he was a better sword than Robb. “Take me with you when you go back to the Wall,” he heard himself saying. He hadn’t planned on going so soon, but wine was making him bold along with the especially frustrating night. “Father will give me leave to go if you ask him, I know he will.” Deep inside, Jon hoped the decision didn’t come so easily to his father.

“The Wall is a hard place for a boy, Jon,” his uncle said. Being called a boy never enraged him more than right then.

“I’m almost a man grown,” he repeated the words that were starting to become his personal motto. They bickered back and forth some more, Jon trying to convince uncle Ben that the Night’s Watch was where he belonged.

Their talk got heated when uncle Ben spoke about knowing a woman as if it were an argument against going to the Wall, when it was the precise reason to why he had to go there in the first place—keeping himself from knowing the only woman he wanted to know.

“Come back to me after you’ve fathered a few bastards of your own, and we’ll see how you feel.”

The thought of putting a bastard in Arya’s womb made him tremble with dread. “I will never father a bastard! Never!” he spat out, drawing attention from the whole table.

He felt hot tears stinging his eyes and tried to flee the hall before anyone saw him cry. Drinking had made him uncoordinated and he almost tripped on his own feet, bumping into a serving girl and breaking the flagon of spice wine she carried. Laughter roared all around him as he left, Ghost following closely.

The yard was silent at least and he had a moment to gather his thoughts, until Tyrion Lannister appeared and spoke to him. Jon was already beginning to feel unnerved that he had to make small talk again, remembering his courtesies, as to not bring further shame on his father. But the dwarf surely had an odd way to make idle chatter.

“I learned long ago that it is considered rude to vomit on your brother,” the man told him, and Jon was left wondering if Tyrion Lannister had indeed ever vomited on his Jaime Lannister.

He showed interest in Ghost, like most people did at first sight. Jon introduced the wolf to him, boasting on Ghost’s murdering skills.

Tyrion Lannister had seemed pretty amiable until he asked, “You’re Ned Stark’s bastard, aren’t you?” And then any sympathy Jon might have initially felt for him was gone. “Did I offend you? Sorry,” the little man went on. “Dwarfs don’t have to be tactful. Generations of capering fools in motley have won me the right to dress badly and say any damn thing that comes into my head. You are the bastard, though.”

Jon was. And everyone felt like rubbing it in his face, like it was his fault. “Lord Eddard Stark is my father,” he said, rigid.

“Yes,” Lannister agreed. “I can see it. You have more of the north in you than your brothers.”

“Half brothers,” Jon said. Lannister was right. He and Arya were the only ones.

“Let me give you some counsel, bastard. Never forget what you are for surely the world will not,” he said like his had been great words of wisdom. “Make it your strength. Then it can never be your weakness. Armor yourself in it, and it would never be used to hurt you.”

The advice, thought mayhaps not ill meant, got Jon particularly upset. Tyrion Lannister wasn’t in any place to give him counsels. He was a trueborn, raised under the sigil of the richest House in Westeros, with people bowing before him and serving him all his life. “What do you know about being a bastard?” Jon asked.

“All dwarfs are bastards in their father’s eyes,” the man said simply.

Jon frowned. “You are your mother’s trueborn son of Lannister.” Dwarf or not, he was no bastard. Definitely not shunned like one.

“Am I?” There was a derisive tone to Lannister’s voice. “Do tell my lord father. My mother died birthing me, and he has never been sure.”

“I don’t even know who my mother was,” Jon said. If he was supposed to live a life without a mother, Jon would rather have her die in childbed than simply have a mother that gave him up. No one could say anything about his or his mother’s honor if she had died in childbed.

“Some woman, no doubt. Most of them are,” he said with an apologetic smile. “Remember this, boy. All dwarfs may be bastards, yet not all bastards need be dwarfs.”

Lannister went back to the feast, and Jon was left to muse on his words.

Jon and Arya ended up meeting in the godswood before the welcoming feast was over. It hadn’t been intentional. After making a fool of himself at the Great Hall, the conversation with Tyrion Lannister had got him contemplative. He wanted to sober up before going to bed; he wasn’t that drunk anymore, but didn’t feel ready to challenge himself with climbing the stairs. So he staggered to the woods, Ghost close behind him.

When he got there, he didn’t see Arya at first, but Ghost got a scent of Nymeria and went off running. Jon followed his lead and found Arya sitting next to one of the hot springs, eyes downcast, staring at the water, a lantern by her side. Ghost had lain down next to Nymeria, his white fur contrasting with her grey one.

“Shouldn’t you be at the feast, little sister?” Jon asked, sitting next to her.

“Mother sent me to bed early after I dropped gravy on Sansa’s dress. She was very angry,” Arya said, crestfallen.

“Who was angry, Sansa or your lady mother?”

Arya frowned for a moment. “Both.” She shrugged like it didn’t matter, but didn’t seem very genuine to Jon. “But I meant Sansa.” She was slowly destroying a small area of humus covered grass by her side, tearing at its leaves with her fingers.

Jon passed an arm around her shoulders and rubbed the side of her arm. When she looked at him, he gave her a kiss on the forehead. She smiled at him; it was a pretty smile. He tried running his fingers through the locks of her hair, but got stuck in the tangles, so he settled for messing it up instead.

“How long until the feast ends?” Jon asked.

“Probably a while. The King surely likes to eat and he still had a big plate of salted venison in front of him when I left the Great Hall.” She threw a tiny rock into the spring. “So, what did you think of him? King Robert?”

Jon thought for a moment. “Whoever conquered the iron throne isn’t the man I saw today.” He was quiet for a moment before adding, “And it’s strange how Prince Joffrey in nothing resembles his father. He looks like a girl.”

She laughed and the sound of it was so warming that he held her face softly and kissed her on the lips, feeling her breathing against his face. Jon pulled back and looked at the hot spring again. There had been a summer snow-fall two days ago and the air was still a bit chilly. He lay back on the grass, dark sky above him dotted with bright stars. A moment after, he felt Arya lying next to him, snuggling against his body, shoulder and neck fitting against his armpit, head resting on his chest.

Jon looked at her, studying her traces. Her big grey eyes seemed not to see anything besides him. Her long face sometimes was almost a mirror to his own. Her brown hair was always twisted in knots, giving her an untamed vivid look. Her slenderness made her seem as light and agile as a bird.

“You’re so pretty,” he heard himself say, “beautiful.”

The grin she gave him was wide and full of teeth. She pulled herself closer against him. They fit together. They always had, even before any of this. Jon liked that about them. They might not fit anywhere else, but they always found comfort and joy in each other.

Jon watched Bran fight Tommen, sitting on the sill of the window in the covered bridge between the armory and Great Keep. He eyed their movements intently, wishing Bran would throw Tommen to the ground, make him show his belly like Ghost did to his opponents in dogfights. The younger prince wasn’t particularly mean or anything. Prince Joffrey was the problem, not his brother, but Jon found himself contemptuous for the whole family.

Ghost shifted next to him. Nymeria approached them, Arya on her side. His wolf greeted Arya’s, smelling her and nipping softly on her ear, before settling back down.

“Shouldn’t you be working on your stitches, little sister?” Jon asked her. It wouldn’t be good if Arya ran away from too many sewing classes. Septa Mordane might tell her mother, and Jon didn’t want Lady Stark’s attention too focused on them again.

“I wanted to see them fight,” Arya answered, but her gloomy face made him think there was more to it than she was telling him.

Instead of pressing her to say anything, he just smiled at her. “Come here, then,” he urged.

She sat next to him on the sill, and they watched Bran and Tommen training with wooden swords for a while, under the watchful gaze of Ser Rodrik. Jon fought the urge to hold her hand. Ever since the first day in the godswood, he didn’t know which of his displays of affection would seem brotherly, fraternal to other people’s eyes, and which would denounce their relationship for what it really was.

“A shade more exhausting than needlework,” Jon observed, watching how the boys puffed.

“A shade more fun than needlework.”

He grinned, messing up her hair just to see the red flush her face.

“Why aren’t you down in the yard?” Arya asked him, her tone of genuine curiosity. It was like she really forgot sometimes.

He gave her a crooked half smile before responding. “Bastards are not allowed to damage young princes,” he lamented. He was sure Robb could make Joffrey yield faster than Ghost did to dogs, but it would feel good if Jon was allowed to do it too. “Any bruises they take in the practice yard must come from trueborn swords.”

Her response was a faint little Oh. She must have felt uneasy for reminding of his bastardy, because she soon changed subjects, complaining that she wasn’t allowed to practice, despite being older than Bran. On the other hand, mayhaps it wasn’t unease. Perhaps it was her way to show sympathy. Both of them were kept from doing things they wanted to—Jon for being a bastard, Arya for being a girl.

“You’re too skinny,” he said, weighing her arm, his long fingers circling her wrist. “I doubt you could even lift a longsword, never mind swing one.”

She pulled back her arm and stared at him. He messed up her hair again to show her he hadn’t meant offense with his comment, getting her hair even more of a tangle. He liked to know that her messy hair was at least partially his doing. It was true, though. She couldn’t lift a longsword. But that didn’t mean there wasn’t swords in the world fit for someone like her. But that was something he would have to think of later.

“You see Prince Joffrey?” he said. He watched her look for him in the yard with her eyes, until she finally spotted him. “Look at the arms in his surcoat,” he said, pointing at the shield embroidered there. The arms were divided in the middle. Half of it was Baratheon’s stag and the other half was the lion of Lannister. “The Lannisters are proud. You’d think the royal sigil would be sufficient, but not. He makes his mother’s house equal in honor to the king’s.”

He had said that more in aversion to the Lannisters than anything else, but Arya understood it differently.

“The woman is important too!” she objected.

Jon laughed. “Perhaps you should do the same thing, little sister,” he suggested, “wed Tully to Stark in your arms.”

“A wolf with a fish in its mouth?” She chuckled. “That would look silly. Besides, if a girl can’t fight, why should she have a coat of arms?”

Jon’s shoulders rose and sagged. “Girls get the arms, but not the swords. Bastards get the swords but not the arms. I did not make the rules, little sister.” He wondered who would make rules like that.

They watched the practice in silence for a while. Ser Rodrik called Bran and Tommen to a halt and invited Robb and Joffrey to take over. The prince suggested live steel. Robb was the better swordsman, of that there was no doubt. The look on Joffrey’s face was bored and disdainful, but Jon could see behind his ploy. He must be afraid, and spoke of live steel only because he was certain Ser Rodrik would say no, leaving him free to go on with his mockery and avoid being subdued by Robb. On the off chance Ser Rodrik said yes, Robb would be the one in a tight spot if the prince got hurt, regardless of who started the whole thing. In the end, Robb and Joffrey didn’t fight again, and the prince left the yard with his party behind him.

When Jon finally climbed off the window, he noticed Arya staring at him intently. “The show is done,” he said, taking a moment to pet Ghost behind the ears. “You had best run back to your room, little sister,” he advised. “Septa Mordane will surely be lurking. The longer you hide, the sterner the penance. You’ll be sewing all through winter. When the spring thaw comes, they will find your body with a needle still locked tight between your frozen fingers,” he teased, but Arya didn’t laugh.

“I hate needlework,” she said, inflamed. “It’s not fair!”

It wasn’t. Girl or bastard, being isolated from what they wanted wasn’t fair. It wasn’t fair wanting her while being her brother, but not wanting her or not being her brother felt even more unfair, even more wrong. Not being able to stay with her was the worst of all.

“Nothing is fair,” he said, feeling cranky. He immediately messed up her hair again to try and lighten up his features before walking away with Ghost on his heels.

His lord father intercepted him before he reached the chamber he shared with his brothers. His expression was even more serious than Jon was used to see.

“Father,” he greeted as they stood in the hallway.

“Jon,” his father said, with a curt nod. “Benjen told me you aspire to take the black.” Lord Stark was direct.

“I spoke to him about it,” Jon answered warily, imagining if uncle Ben had said anything about his drunken vexation during the feast.

“I have decided to grant your request. You will be leaving soon.”

The words came as a slight shock to him. Jon frowned at the lack of resistance to his request, wanting to ask why so sudden, if his father had been persuaded to say yes or if his decision had been purely his own.

“Jon, His Grace has nominated me the new Hand,” father said by way of explanation.

That didn’t surprise Jon. Why else would the King had come all the way to the North if not for that? Jon’s first impulse was to congratulate his father on the honors, but the look on his sire’s face was so dark Jon swallowed his words and just looked at him.

“The march to King’s Landing will begin in a fortnight, after all preparations have been made.”

“Robb is staying,” Jon said. It wasn’t a question. Jon knew he was right. There must always be a Stark in Winterfell and Robb was the oldest son.

“Rickon will be staying, too,” his father continued, “he is too young and can’t be apart from Catelyn yet. Bran and the girls are coming to court with me.”

Jon tried to imagine living in Winterfell without Arya and almost cringed. He would miss Bran an awful lot as well. Cohabiting with Lady Stark without his father around would prove to be even more insufferable if Robb was his only friend in the castle. When he first entertained the notion of going to the Wall, he imagined visiting Winterfell on occasion. Uncle Benjen visited regularly, if not often. Even as a sworn brother of the Night’s Watch, Jon would be able to get a glimpse of his sister, see that she was growing well. But with Arya and their father half Westeros away, there would be no point in visiting.

“You will be leaving with Benjen the day the rest of us leave to King’s Landing.”

Jon thought of how timely his departure to the Wall was. His father’s willingness to give up on him tasted bitter in Jon’s mouth. The initiative had been his, that was correct, but he was more at ease with joining the Night’s Watch when he thought it was a choice he made. Now he suspected his father would have sent him there even if Jon hadn’t said anything to uncle Ben. It made Jon feel like a nuisance, but he kept to himself and nodded his agreement, staying silent until he was excused.

Jon had been supping in the kitchen ever since the welcoming feast. The royal family still shared the Starks table during meals and Jon was still a bastard. He didn’t mind much, considering the lack of empathy Jon felt for Lannisters or that batch of Baratheons. Still, it was a little depressing that, on his last fortnight at Winterfell, he didn’t even get the chance to part bread with his brothers and sisters.

It was late. After the talk with his father, Jon wanted anything but food. In fact, his stomach seemed inclined to retching up. Thankfully, he didn’t. So Jon skipped supper, and, as soon as his lord father excused him, he went to the practice yard and lashed out his rage onto the training dummy. The worst part about his anger is that he didn’t feel entitled to it. He had been the one to first ask about the Wall; it made no sense that it riled him up having his father acquiesce to his request. And Jon was a bastard, so it wasn’t his place to feel wounded when people treated him for what he was.

Eventually, after hours of mindlessly attacking the dummy with his sword and, at one point, even with his fists, Jon finally felt hungry, and once hunger hit him, it hit him hard. He dragged himself to the kitchen, tired and sweaty. Dinner was long over and the kitchen was empty, an extremely rare occurrence when the castle was so crowded. Sitting at the table, a plate of onion cheese, cured ham and spiced bread in front of him, Jon took a look around him, admiring the walls of the only place he knew as home. Mayhaps that was what he was angry about. That his father had brought him, a bastard, to his home, to live among his sons, to be instructed in the same ways they were—that he had allowed Jon, even for the briefest of moments, to almost forget what he really was. It hurt every time he was forced to remember. He would do better not to forget it anymore, then.

Jon almost didn’t hear Arya’s steps when she walked into the kitchen. Sometimes it seemed like she was trying to be as silent as Ghost. She was accompanied by Nymeria, who lay down next to her litter-mate. It was good having the wolves with them. Ghost might be always quiet, but Nymeria always warned them when someone was approaching.

When Arya sat down on the bench across him, Jon didn’t ask her whether she should be in her chamber. She ought to know by now when it was and when it wasn’t safe to sneak out.

“You have to come with me,” she said. The urgency in her tone made Jon think there was something in the castle she wanted to show him.

“Where to?” he asked.

“To King’s Landing!” she said, like it was obvious. “Mother came to my chamber before supper. She said King Robert made father his new Hand, and that we all have to live in court now. I mean, almost all of us. Robb and Rickon and Mother will be staying. Greyjoy, too, obviously.”

“I know,” Jon said, looking down at his place and shoving another piece of cheese into his mouth, washing it down with ale. “Father came to tell me.”

“Yes, and you have to come with me.” It sounded very simple when Arya said it, like he had a say in that.

“That is not going to happen, Arya,” he declared, gulping at more ale.

“How so?” Her face showed signs of genuine inquiry. How could she not know?

“Because I’m a bastard. I don’t belong in King’s Landing. The court has no place for a bastard.”

“You belong with me,” she said matter-of-factly, but her tone soon became pleading. “Come with me to King’s Landing. I know father will let you come if I ask him.”

Jon couldn’t tell if she actually believed that or just desperately wanted to. Either way, she was wrong. Suddenly, Jon was angry all over again.

“Go to King’s Landing to do what?” he asked, serious. “To watch father marry you off to some southron lordling?”

“He has Sansa. She’s betrothed to Joffrey. He can marry her off.” Her scowl showed him just how much she appreciated the idea of father marrying her off.

“You know you’ll be expected to get married one day,” Jon said, his voice low. Arya had gotten a bit loud with her last retort and Jon worried it might have drawn attention.

“It’ll be years until that. Mother said even Sansa’s wedding won’t be that soon. Having you in King’s Landing with me would give us time to think of a solution.” She sounded so hopeful it made Jon’s guts twist in a knot.

Jon eyed her with grief. “There is no solution, Arya. I’m taking the black. When you go to King’s Landing, I’ll leave to the Wall with uncle Benjen.”

She looked so shocked and her eyes were so wide that, for a moment, Jon thought she might cry.

“No, that is wrong,” she said, shaking her head, “you have to be with me. You’re my brother.”

“Exactly! I’m your brother,” Jon said, close to exasperation. Arya was trying to find hope in a hopeless matter. There was no way out for them.

“What matters is that I love you. I love you. Isn’t that important?”

The words shook him to the core. He cupped her face by the sides and kissed her, pressing his mouth on hers, with enough force to feel her teeth behind her lips. The table between them made him have to lean against her to kiss her and the angle was strange; that and the fact they were in the middle of the bloody kitchen made him let go of her.

But he wanted her, loved her, was shaky with how much he needed her, so he said, “Will you meet me in the godswood?”

“In about an hour,” she replied, lips red from the force of his kiss, “after Sansa falls asleep. I think she’s with Princess Myrcella now, but it won’t take long before she goes to bed.”

Jon nodded his agreement and, against his better judgment, kissed her one more time before leaving the kitchen.

The visitors crowded the castle everywhere. The yard was very frequented and so was the armory. At first, Jon imagined the godswood would be, too, but it hadn’t happened. The outsiders belonged to the Faith and the few ones who were religious enough to pray and make offers to the gods did it in the small sept Lady Stark went to. Not even the pools in the godswood drew their attention. They were too small for that many guests, and the woods were too old and somber and uninviting for southern eyes. The godswood was for northerners.

Jon lay down on the grass, waiting for Arya, petting Ghost behind the ears while he waited, but he didn’t have to wait long. Soon she saw her come toward him, a lamp on her hand, Nymeria following her just like Ghost had followed him. They didn’t talk about the Wall, about King’s Landing, marriages or any of that, for which Jon was grateful. In that moment, Jon just hoped Arya longed for his company the same way he longed for hers.

She sat down next to him, already sliding into his arms, taking his mouth, kissing him, sucking on his bottom lip. He held her by the nape of the neck as her hands clutched at him so tightly it was like she was afraid of what would happen if she let go. Jon knew he was.

He rolled over on top of her, pinning her down on the ground, feeling his cock swell against her. Her hands went to his back, then to his arse and the back of his thighs, pulling him even closer. He touched her breasts, and traced the outline of her ear with his tongue. At first, it had seemed an odd caress to Jon, but Arya’s fingers found his neck and she scratched him, groaning, so he did it again. Her nails were very short, and didn’t hurt him. The feeling was just sharp enough to make him shiver. He had never thought being scratched could be arousing, but this was nothing but.

It was too cold for them to strip naked, but Arya tugged her smallclothes down and off her feet, pulling her skirt up, at the same time as Jon fumbled with his laces, trying to pull his cock out. His flesh felt warm against the touch of his hand. He held his weight on his knees and on one hand, hovering on top of her, cock on the other hand. He stared down at her—her were legs parted, her eyes wide, lips reddened—and beautiful was the only word in his mind.

Jon rubbed his cock between her cunt lips, feeling her wetness coat him, deliberately torturing himself with what he couldn’t have. He then flipped her on her stomach, trying to hold her skirt up while lowering his body on hers, locking her legs closed between his, fucking her right there, like he did in the old guest chamber, his cock trapped between her thighs and brushing on her cunt with every move. His hips bucked fast, and Jon was lost in the smell of her hair in his face, in the kisses he trailed on her neck. He held her in place by the hips with one hand, but the other found hers and their fingers entwined, digging in the ground beneath them. He was groaning despite his efforts to keep quiet.

His hips snapped and bucked as he thrust against Arya, feeling the buildup in his groin. His heart raced in his chest, Jon felt every muscle in his body getting tight and there was this feeling of being almost there, almost, gods, so close, but not quite there. It seemed to go on forever until he finally got his release, a relieved, loud moan forcing itself out of his throat as he spilled between Arya’s thighs.

He pulled back, dragging her hips with him, getting her on all fours in front of him, skirt pooling at the line of her waist, exposed arse and thighs, legs covered by woolen socks. She looked at him from over her shoulder. Jon buried his face in her, lapping at her cunt, one long stroke of his tongue from her nub all the way to between her arse cheeks, the taste of her wetness mixing with the taste of his seed. It tasted strong and in another situation, it might be off putting, it might disgust him even, but her gasps were so delicious, and Jon could swear she was pushing her hips against his face, so he kept going, licking her clean, tonguing her nub, and even holding her arse cheeks apart and burying his face there.

He didn’t stop for a moment to think of what he was doing. He just knew he wanted her so badly, wanted to taste her, wanted to hear her wailing and gasping, wanted to never forget that sound. He rubbed her nub with his thumb in small, fast circles, exploring her with his mouth. He had never felt her so wet before. And then she was trembling, gasping, her thighs quivering against him, and he thought he heard her moan, gods, Jon, I love you.

He let go of her and she lay down on her back, looking at him, breathless. Jon’s cock was half hard again, but he just tucked himself inside his breeches. He glanced sideways and noticed the direwolves for the first time in a long time; he had been unaware of their existence. Looking at Ghost’s red eyes, Jon felt an irrational embarrassment that his wolf had seen all that.

They lay on their backs next to each other, looking at the sky. Jon knew they had to go back, and soon, but they could stay there together, if only for a moment.

Jon wasn’t allowed in the royal family’s presence, and Robb and his lord father were almost always with them, so Jon had a lot of time in his hands. It didn’t bother him much anymore. He had Arya. They had been trying to spend more time together before their departure, but it wasn’t always easy. Jon might have more free time on his hands, but Arya still had her classes with Septa Mordane. Though not easy, they always found at least a little time together.

Sometimes they just lay side by side on the grass in the godswood, the wolves with them, talking, japing and trying to laugh and forget they wouldn’t see each other for a long time. It was a way of being close and not having to worry about being caught because they weren’t doing anything wrong.

It was what they did the morning before they were supposed to leave Winterfell. The King, his father and their party had left for a hunt, the last one before they left. Even Greyjoy had gone with them. Jon and Arya had tried the godswood, but Bran was there, trying to teach his wolf to fetch a stick. In the end, they settled for Jon’s chamber, knowing it was empty. If they were careful, no one had to see them.

Part of him wanted to kiss her, make love to her the way he had never allowed himself to, wanted to make the little time they had left count. Part of him was relieved that he was going to the Wall before he could do anything permanent, anything that would harm Arya after her infatuation for him weaned off. Part of him knew it was insane leaving her side. Jon was so divided it felt as if he was being pulled in different directions until he was ripped out in pieces.

They stayed together until the bells announced it was time for lunch. Jon hugged Arya before she left, squeezing her tiny frame in his arms. Melancholy took hold of him as he realized that soon it would all be just a memory growing weaker every day. He feared not being able to remember how Arya felt, how she looked when she smiled. He fervently wished that something, anything granted them more time. Just a little more time.

Bran fell from the First Tower that day, and their departure was delayed. Jon was wondered if that was some kind of godly irony and was washed by guilt.


They ended up leaving a fortnight later, having waited as long as they could; if they waited any more, the roads would be tricky and dangerous with snow. Lady Stark never left Bran’s side in his sick room. Jon did not have to worry with her unwanted attention anymore, but he couldn’t be glad about it. Not when his little brother lay on the brink of death, growing weaker every day.

When Jon finally got to see him, he was shocked by how thin and frail he looked. As he said his good-bye, he could feel Lady Stark’s contempt at him, but Jon didn’t let it get to him, not this time. He was already giving up too much because of her, because of being a bastard; he wouldn’t pass up what might be his last chance of seeing Bran. As he prepared to leave the room, Lady Stark’s words to him were hateful, as always, but behind her venom-filled eyes, Jon could see her motherly desperation and felt truly sorry for her.

At least the delay had given Miken time to finish Arya’s present. He held the package tightly in his hand as he made his way to Arya’s chamber. “Leaving is harder than I thought,” he had told Robb only moments ago. Mayhaps that was the reason why he’d taken so long to say farewell to Arya, to come and see her, stalling until uncle Benjen was waiting for him, growing more impatient with every moment. As long as he postponed this final meeting, he could pretend it didn’t have to happen. Actually going away was more difficult than deciding to leave.

Arya was in her room, packing, which struck Jon as weird that she would still be doing it when they were about to leave. Nymeria yelped at him when she saw Ghost, and Arya turned around to see him. She threw her arms around his neck, jumping to reach him, her known smell surrounding him.

“I was afraid you were gone,” she said, her voice breaking for a moment with a gasp. “They wouldn’t let me out to say good-bye.”

Jon wondered if she actually thought he’d leave without saying anything.

“What did you do now?”

“Nothing,” she answered. “I was all packed and everything. Septa Mordane says I have to do it all over. My things weren’t properly folded, she says. A proper southron lady doesn’t just throw her clothes inside her chest like old rags, she says.”

“Is that what you did, little sister?” Jon could almost see her throwing everything in a wrinkled bundle inside the chest, and then sprinting her way around the castle, trying to say her last good-bye to everyone she would be leaving behind. To Jon.

“Well, they’re going to get all messed up anyway. Who cares how they’re folded?”

“Septa Mordane,” Jon said. “I don’t think she’d like Nymeria helping, either.” The she-wolf glanced his way when he spoke her name. “It’s just as well. I have something for you to take with you, and it has to be packed very carefully.”

Her eyes smiled along with her lips. “A present?”

“You could call it that. Close the door,” he said, imagining if she’d think he wanted to kiss her.

She commanded Nymeria to guard the door as she closed it. When she turned to face him, Jon already had the sword out and handed it to her. Her dark eyes, so much alike his, shone at her gift. It made Jon feel happy and relieved. For weeks he had wondered if Arya would like her present, would hold it dear to her.

“This is no toy,” he told her. “Be careful you don’t cut yourself. The edges are sharp enough to shave with.”

“Girls don’t shave,” she said.

“Maybe they should. Have you ever seen the septa’s legs?”

Arya giggled. She always liked when they japed about things they didn’t like, or people that were mean to them. “It’s so skinny.”

“So are you,” he said. “I had Mikken make this special. The bravos use swords like this in Pentos and Myr and the other Free Cities. It won’t hack a man’s head off, but it can poke him full of holes if you’re fast enough.”

“I can be fast,” Arya said.

Jon knew she could. He had always trusted her, had always known all the great things she had in her.

“You have to work at it every day.” He put her hand on the sword’s hilt, correcting her grip. “How does it feel? Do you like the balance?”

“I think so,” Arya said, staring at the blade in her hand.

“First lesson. Stick them with the pointy end.”

Arya hit him on the arm with the flat side of the blade, and it stung a little, but he grinned, loving that she had liked her gift.

“I know which end to use,” she said with a smile, but her face darkened a moment later. “Septa Mordane will take it away from me.”

“Not if she doesn’t know you have it,” It could be their secret, like all the others they had, only theirs.

“Who will I practice with?”

“You’ll find someone,” Jon promised, trying not to be sad that it wasn’t going to be him. “King’s Landing is a true city, a thousand times the size of Winterfell. Until you find a partner, watch how they fight in the yard. Run, hide, make yourself strong. And, whatever you do…” Arya said his next words with him. “Don’t tell Sansa!”

Jon messed up her hair. “I will miss you, little sister.” Horribly so.

She must feel the same way, because her eyes looked about to be welled in tears. “I wish you were coming with us.” She said for the thousandth time. It pained him every time.

“Different roads sometimes lead to the same castle. Who knows?” He was feeling better, so he allowed himself to give her a little hope, vain or not. He wasn’t going to let this last time to be filled with sorrow. “I better go. I”ll spend my first year on the Wall emptying chamber pots if I keep uncle Ben waiting any longer.”

Arya tried to hug him when he said that.

“Put down the sword first,” he warned, with laughter, and she set it aside, almost shyly.

Then her mouth was on his face. He felt her kissing him with urgency everything she could reach. His cheeks, his nose, his forehead, his jawline and even his neck. It was clumsy and a bit desperate, and exactly why Jon loved her. He stilled her for a moment and held her in place, kissing her firmly on the lips, his tongue meeting hers, tasting her one last time, hoping she could feel his love in his kiss.

But he had to leave.

At the door, he looked at her one more time. “I almost forgot. All the best swords have names,” he reminded her.

“Like Ice,” she said, remembering their father’s sword. “Does this have a name? Oh, tell me.”

“Can’t you guess?” Jon teased. “Your very favorite thing.”

Her brow furrowed in confusion for a moment, but it came to her a heartbeat later. She was that quick. Once again, she spoke his next word with him. “Needle!”

Jon kissed her one last time, stopping himself before tears came or he pushed her over a bed—both prospects seemed equally likely—and left before he lost the courage.

As he rode with the caravan, Jon asked himself if Arya would remember him the way he would remember her, or if the wonders of a city bigger than Winterfell and far more stimulating than the entire North would sway her, make her forget him. He hoped Needle would prevent that. He hoped that, when Arya looked at the sword, it reminded her of who she was. He hoped Needle made Arya know he would always love her. Skinny, scabbed-knees, tangled hair, smart, quick-witted, beautiful Arya—everything he would ever want.

The memory of her laughter, of her love, warmed him more than his furs on the way North.