Arya watched the shadows of the dim flames of her room’s fireplace dance on the cold, stone ceiling. For the past six years she had been either scavenging to live or at the other corner of the world, but here she was returned to her childhood, submerged in memory. The Boltons hadn't touched her room in their conquest of Winterfell—so many items were left entirely untouched, yet she wasn't sure if she was thankful. No matter how her heart desired to accept that things were back as they were, it was only wishful thinking. None of them were the same as they had once been, none of them were children anymore.
She couldn't settle, unlike Jon and Sansa who had quickly acclimated back. Jon had never really fit in, she supposed, so now it was easier for him. Sansa’s daydreams had always been based on normality and stability so she lavished herself in being Lady Stark again.
Arya’s heart had been empty for so long and her mind so consumed with revenge that she’d gone past the point of return.
At least she wasn't entirely alone.
The route to Bran’s room wouldn't have changed either, so she tracked it in the still of night, unwittingly with the gait of the assassin she’d learned to be. The halls were still elongated and impressive as ever, even beaten down by all the wars and blood it had seen, and there was his room, tucked away in the corner like an afterthought. There were guards prowling away, of course, but they wouldn't acknowledge the darkness she could become now. She could slip past anything after dealing with blindness, and the Freys.
Mother’s wicker charm hung on the door, bittersweet in its reminder. She’d always been practiced at sowing neatly and prettily, hoping both her daughters would inherit the skill. She’d had plenty of time in-between Father’s servitude to the realm to hone it.
Perhaps it really had watched over Bran all those years ago.
It gave Arya pause: she’d forgotten to bring furs with her, but she pushed slowly into his room all the same.
She’d taken a breath because she’d honestly expected Bran to shoot up and be alarmed, but, as she also expected, he was motionless in his bed. He stared up at the ceiling much like she had when she’d been by herself, thoughtful or bored she couldn't quite tell.
“Arya,” he eventually greeted her, and his voice was certainly departed from the green yoke of youth. He dragged his gaze to her and seemed to look through her. His face, too, was long and sharp and that of a man’s rather than a boy’s; he looked like Benjen, stern and intelligent.
She closed the door behind her even as she apologised, wandering through formality, “I'm sorry, my Lord, I only thought…”
“I’m not a Lord.”
Bran’s tone bit at her with how cold it was, like the night air setting pimples on her skin. But Arya didn't take offence like Sansa had—she understood.
“And you're not Bran either,” Arya whispered. “You're the Three Eyed Raven.”
This was the first time she’d seen him smile since the reunion and that at least warmed her. The very top of his hair that was growing longer and into the start of curls shook with his head when he, faintly, nodded.
“Come lie with me,” he offered, understanding what she couldn't quite get out. “Sister.”
He remained monotone but lifted the cover next to him expectantly.
Arya, laden in just her gown and toes curling up on the bitter floor, was glad to accept despite inhibitions. When they were younger, when it ostensibly would be more acceptable for them to curl up together in bed, they'd never strayed from sharing beds. Bran’s warmth was never a stranger to her; she’d missed her brother dearly.
Jon will want me, even if no one else does, Arya remembered thinking to herself. It seemed Bran fit the bill too.
She released that breath she’d been holding between intervals and half-scurried over to his familiar bed, climbing into it and under the covers and letting her body droop onto his before either of them could complain about it.
She closed her eyes at his shoulder. He was impossibly warm, such a contrast to his icy demeanour. “You still called me yours,” she pointed out. “Going to have to learn to be more disengaged.”
“It's only a habit. You’d know all about that.” A smidgen of well-deserved humour laced his words.
“Sansa doesn't understand it, the Raven, but you can tell me. Can't—can’t you?”
Bran’s thick black eyebrows seemed to fractionally twitch in thought.
“Yes,” he said, cautiously. “Brynden Rivers… Bloodraven. Remember that tale, don't you?”
She remembered it incredibly vividly. History had always been her forte, especially the colourful Targaryens. It was a place to escape to; no stuffy septas demanding she knit or sow little floral frilly fancies. Their stories and those from the south of the country were both entertaining and completely factual, and she had never been able to believe a family could be so rich in events. The blood and gore had never deterred her, only thrilled.
“He was a sorcerer,” Arya read from the back of her mind. “He had a war with Bittersteel over their half-sister, Shiera Seastar. She was said to bathe in blood to stay beautiful and young, and she had mismatched eyes. Bloodraven destroyed so much for her.”
Bran nodded again. “He was… my tutor for a time.”
Arya couldn't act surprised. She’d had her fare of fables come to life, and experienced magic, so she waited for him to continue.
“He never died. Shiera did, but he had made himself immortal. He had made himself the Three Eyed Raven, seen into everything, and I found him. He found me. He taught me how to see, the basics of it, I’m yet to see like he can. But, it was all meant to happen.”
After a taut beat of silence, Bran closed his eyes momentarily. “I'll learn to see better soon.”
“Where is he now?” she asked, quietly. His eyes almost glossed over with emotion when they reopened and he didn't really need to bother answering.
“There are consequences to letting people in,” Bran said anyway, solemnly.
Arya grimaced. “I know that.”
“He transferred the duty to me. He's—we’re part of each other now.”
She could picture Sansa’s reaction to knowing all this. Exasperated and disbelieving. She had her own demons to fight. And Arya didn't need to tell her convoluted story to Bran, because he already knew everything, and he already knew endings she didn't dare ask about.
For now. Curiosity would no doubt pull at her later.
“Bran… Thank you for telling me.”
She felt a rush of love for him. The millisecond she went to try and twist her legs with his under the sheets and be closer like they used to as little children, she felt Bran’s broad hand grip her kneecap and push her away.
“Please don't,” he said, crisply. Finally there was a prickling of emotion in his expression: worry, mixed with discomfort and embarrassment.
So he was still Bran, inside. He was just confused with a weight greater than the both of them, like she was.
Only she could pretend to be steel better. She’d cry for herself when everything was done.
She sighed. “Did you know I was going to—”
Arya shook her head. She tried to smile at him sympathetically.
“Bran, I didn't like what you said. About being crippled. You said it like it still matters. It doesn't with your mind. I've seen what people like you can do. Look at your magic and what you can see…”
“But the body is…” Bran trailed off. She was gratified that she was speaking to him like this. The Maesters hadn't been able to get coherent conversation out of him, beyond cryptic responses. He didn't give his sweet, boyish smiles nor laugh anymore.
“You're still Bran,” she spoke her thoughts aloud. And when he was caught off guard again and sitting up slightly and looking at her this time, not through her, she moved forward and clasped her arms around his neck with an even tighter grip than displayed in the Godswood earlier.
His hand softly batted at her back like before. She realised he was letting her press her legs to his now—trusting her.
“I suppose,” he said. She figured that meant, but don't tell anyone else. They were two worlds of the same.