"Let me see if I understood you correctly", Catelyn Stark's sharp voice pierced through the otherwise quiet tent. Robb had been prepared for her judgmental glares and her disapproval. "you want to march your army, including the Frey men we just gained, back North, to the Wall?"
Robb nodded. "The letter says it clearly. They need help. And not just with the wildlings."
"It is not your duty", Catelyn said sharply.
"It is. I am a Stark. The Starks have always been friends of the Watch", Robb said quietly, ignoring his mother's glare as he folded the paper on which he'd written his reply.
"It's because of him", Catelyn said. There was no need to ask who she meant by 'him'.
"No", Robb said softly. "Not entirely."
"But somewhat it is. I know you miss him-"
"He is my brother!" Robb snapped, turning to look at his mother. "He is on the Wall as much as the rest of the men. But I am not going back there for him. I already told you. I am a Stark. If I don't help them, who will?"
"Someone else. The letter says they've been sent to every highborn person in Westeros!"
"And which highborn person in Westeros is more likely to reply than us?" Robb snapped. "I know you mean well. I know why you don't want us to march North. Which is why you're staying here."
"What?" Catelyn turned to look at him in surprise.
"I'm leaving the Blackfish to guard the Trident from the Lannisters. Edmure's men shall stay with him. Your brother has insisted on staying with his new wife, so you might as well stay here, at Riverrun, with your uncle and brother."
"And your wife? Will she be going North with you?"
"Yes", Robb said roughly. "When I told Talisa of my plan, she supported me-"
"Why shouldn't she? She's young, in love with the idea of being your queen, and completely mindless when it comes to any matters regarding the North!"
"I've made my decision, mother. You need to make yours. Are you staying, or are you coming with me?"
"Bran and Rickon.... they might...", Catelyn thought of Winterfell, the idea that her sweet, innocent little boys might have escaped the Ironborns.
Robb's expression softened. He understood her hopes, but Catelyn could see from her son's face that he did not share them.
"Perhaps", he forced out. "But... I doubt it."
"I'm coming with you", Catelyn said. "To the Wall."
Robb looked at her in surprise. "Mother, if it's only for Bran and-"
"It's not. You're right. You're a Stark. You have to do your duty for the North. But how are you going to get past the Ironborn?"
"Lord Bolton told me that his bastard is dealing with some of them", Robb said after a moment of silence. "But with the help of the men I've gained, I don't think they're going to be much of a problem. They have naught to do with the Wall as it is."
Robb forced himself, at that moment, to be a King, not the boy who had all those years tolerated his mother's behavior towards the brother who he loved most. And the one who she loathed. "You're going to leave Jon be. If he is there, if he's... alive, you're not going to be cruel to him, do you understand me?"
Catelyn stared at him in shock. He had never spoken to her like that. Not about this. "How dare you-"
"Easily. I'm your king. This is my command. You will leave my brother alone. He didn't ask for us to come to him, no more than he asked to be the result of Father's affair. You will leave him be. If you cannot, you'll stay here. Perhaps that'd be for the better."
Catelyn thought of that bastard, the strange boy with the stranger's eyes and the black hair. She had always hated that boy. It would be hard for her, not to show it, once they got there. She was an honest woman. And what of Brienne? What if she would come back with Sansa and Arya while they were gone? But the thought of seeing Winterfell, the thought of Bran and Rickon...
"I'll tell my uncle to keep Sansa and Arya safe, if Brienne brings them back", she said after a moment of silence. "When are we leaving?"
"At dawn. Mother?" Robb glared at her.
"I promise I will not mistreat Jon Snow", Catelyn said after a moment of silence. "I will treat him as I would any other man of the Night's Watch."
"Good." With that the conversation was over. Robb marched out of the tent, most likely to find his queen, leaving Catelyn alone with her doubts.
Jon had never experienced pain like that before. Not even after saving Commander Mormont from the White Walker. It seemed like a lifetime ago.
"How are you feeling?" he looked up to see his friend, Samwell Tarly, stand by the doorway of Jon's chambers.
"Better", Jon said after a moment of silence. "Maester Aemon says my wounds will heal in time." He thought of Ygritte and the look on her face when he'd told her he had to go home. Had he ever loved her? He didn't know. And it didn't matter anymore.
"There was a raven", Sam said, and a small smile flickered across his face.
"Someone replied to Aemon's request?" Jon asked in disbelief. He hadn't truly expected anyone to do so.
"Yes. And not just anyone", Sam said. "Your brother."
"Robb?" Jon jumped up from the bed, which made his head spin. "Robb... he's coming?" It would be amazing to see him again. Jon remembered his brother as he'd last seen him, with snowflakes melting in his hair and that sad smile on his face.
"Yes", Sam said, and now he was actually smiling. "He's coming North with his army. We'll have to make room but I suppose it'll do. He's bringing everyone."
Jon felt a rush of fear run through him. "Including his mother?"
Sam shook his head. "I don't know. Probably."
Jon didn't let that bother him for long. He had not asked them there. Surely Lady Stark would leave him alone if he left her alone. He certainly would. He was a man of the Night's Watch, not the little boy who had once feared that woman. He couldn't wait to see Robb, the brother he longed for the most.
"He is bringing his wife, though", Sam said before heading towards the door.
"What?" Jon felt a pain in his heart, much like a stab from a knife. "His wife?"
Sam turned to look at him in confusion. "Yes. Or so the letter says", he shrugged awkwardly. "Robb didn't tell you?"
"Perhaps he sent a raven, but we were beyond the Wall...", Jon sat back down on the bed. "Thank you, Sam, I'll be with you in a second." Sam took his leave.
Jon stared at the floor of the room. Robb was married? Somehow he couldn't imagine his brother, the boy who'd always given him easy smiles when seeing Jon, who'd always come to him when he was upset, who'd clung onto him that day in the courtyard, silently begging him not to go, married. But he was the King in the North. Of course he'd marry. Jon felt silly for ever doubting it. He tried to brush the thoughts off as he went to get dressed. Robb was coming to him, and that was all that mattered.