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Till the sun grows cold and the stars grow old

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Jon dreamed of this moment for months. When he was a prisoner at Dragonstone, the thought of Sansa, of home, was the only thing that would bring a smile to his face and warm his heart. Then he received a scroll signed by her, bringing news that, if it weren’t for the situation he was in, would’ve made his heart explode with joy.

 

Bran and Arya are alive and safe within the walls of Winterfell” she had written. “I’d like you to know that everything’s alright and preparations regarding food, shelter and armor are being made”. This part gave him some peace of mind. At least his kingdom wasn’t falling apart; quite the opposite it seemed. Sansa was surely making a great job. She was born to be Queen, he thought. “We all hope you’re fine, and anxiously wait for your safe return. Though if I’m being completely honest, the Northern lords and ladies and the Knights of the Vale are quite anxious too, regarding your return. Please send word if you can. We miss you. Sansa Stark, Lady of Winterfell”. The lords were growing impatient, and rightly so. He’s been a prisoner of the Dragon Queen as soon as he was on shores of Dragonstone. He’s spent months there, when he could’ve easily been home, preparing for Winter and for war, reuniting with his siblings as they came home. But other people’s wants and desires had left him feeling like one of the pieces of Cyvasse. He didn’t have time for games, there was a greater force threatening to kill everyone, but still, all that seemed to matter in the South was the Iron Throne. He was sick of it.

 

 

 

So when he found himself just outside Winterfell, a strange combination of emotions rushed over Jon: apprehension, he’s made choices that a lot of people, if not everyone, will question; fear, he was bringing a Targaryen queen to Winterfell, where the majority of the North and the Vale was present and the open wounds of Robert’s Rebellion were even more so; but he also felt relief, he was coming home to his family, to his people. But there was something else, something he couldn’t quite place, and he couldn’t, for the life of him, tell if it was a good thing or a bad thing.

The men carrying the Targaryen and Stark sigils stopped in their tracks. It was time. Jon made his way towards the King’s Gate beside Daenerys. It was important the people saw them together, to erase any semblance of animosity between the North and the South. He looked to his right, and saw Daenerys trying to achieve a calm demeanor, though he could see her uneasiness. As longs as everyone manages to be civil, everything will be alright, was what Jon kept telling himself since their arrival at White Harbor.

The sight and smell of home was more than enough to put Jon at ease, even it was for a little while. Taking it all in, he dismounted his horse and moved to his right to help Daenerys do the same. The courtyard was filled. He could even see people on the battlements trying to watch the scene. Everyone wanted to be there to watch the arrival of the infamous Dragon Queen, to see for themselves if anything that was rumored about her was true and make up their minds about her. It’s awfully quiet for a place with so many people, he thought.

Jon was trying to look for familiar faces when he heard his name.

“JON!” Arya screamed, sprinting from where she was standing and jumped right to Jon’s warm embrace. He held her tight, as if she was a vision, one that would disappear right before his eyes.

“I thought I’d never see you again” said Arya in thin voice. At this, Jon held her tighter still. “Yet here we are” he said in a voice matching his little sister’s. For a moment, the whole world seemed to disappear. No White Walkers, no wars, no Queens and claims for an iron chair. For a sweet moment, they were kids again, they were innocent and untouched by all the hardships the world had offered them.

Letting her feet touch the ground, Jon cupped his sister’s face. She smiled, but it was different. It was a tight smile, one concealing something. Jon was speechless. It had been years since he last saw her face. She looks so much like Father now, he thought. A lot has happened since then.

 

 

She went south,

I went north.

Father died.

Robb fought for the North.

Robb was betrayed.

Robb died - and the Stark cause with him.

I went north of the Wall;

I killed, I lied, I fought for the Night’s Watch.

I loved a woman,

I held her while she died on my arms.

I saw the real enemy, the one that threatens to kill us all.

I fought for the Watch, and I lost.

I died for the Watch, betrayed, just like Robb.

I came back, lost,

But then, Sansa found me.

Sansa…

 

 

Just as the memory of her came back to his mind, he looked up, searching the place for her. After a few seconds, he saw her standing with the Northern lords and ladies and the Knights of the Vale.

He’d been imagining how his return would be. How changed everything would be, how it would feel to see his siblings again, how they would welcome him. Would they deem me a traitor? Or just weak?, he thought. Do they even know that I kneeled? Surely not.

Sansa was smart. They would have to reason with the lords and ladies, try to appease them to avoid another unnecessary conflict. He would see to it. But, for now, Winterfell was calm. The calm before the storm.

Time and space threatened to disappear again as he locked his eyes on Sansa’s face, making his way to her. It was as if she was this pure light guiding him through the dark. She barely moved forward, but she opened her arms with a warm smile on her face and that was almost enough to make everything go away again. Almost.

Going straight into her arms, he held tight, afraid again. But the reasons for his fear weren’t unfounded. They were very real, and he brought them with him.

“Welcome home, Jon” said Sansa, almost in a whisper.

He couldn’t see her face, but he could feel the sadness in her tone.

It broke his heart and made him pull her closer to him. “We have to be smart. Remember Winter is here” he whispered in her ear, hoping she would get what he was trying to tell her.

They stay wrapped in their embrace for a few moments, but when they let go of each other, he takes her face on his hands and kisses her forehead.

When he looks into her eyes, he sees it. Strength. Steel. The pack survives.

Quickly, he snapped out of Winterfell’s charm and went to Daenerys’ side.

“I’m sorry for that…” Jon began explaining

“It’s okay” Daenerys said, resting a hand on his shoulder. “It’s been some time since you left your home” Her hand lingered in his shoulder, then trailed its way down his arm. He felt cold.

He offered Daenerys his arm and walked toward Sansa and the lords and ladies to make the formal pleasantries.

“This is Queen Daenerys Stormborn of House Targaryen” Jon said to Sansa and the group of Northerners and lords of the Vale, well aware of the tension rising in the air.

“Your Grace, this is my sister, Sansa Stark, Lady of Winterfell”. Sansa curtsied and bowed her head while Daenerys just stood there.

“Your sister?” Daenerys said to Jon with a seemingly unimpressed expression, but the surprised tone in her voice gave her away, ignoring everyone else.

“It’s wonderful to finally make your acquaintance, your Grace” Sansa said, ever the gracious lady. “Lord Tyrion referred to you in the most extraordinary way”.

Daenerys seemed to appreciate Sansa’s sweet words. “I’m afraid my lord Hand has a way with words, but you are very kind, my lady”.

“I hope to make your stay at Winterfell the most comfortable I can, given the circumstances…”

“Do not fret, lady Sansa. I’m sure whatever you have arranged will be more than enough in these times of need” Daenerys said with a small smile on her face. She distanced herself a bit from the Lady of Winterfell to address everyone in the courtyard. “I am Daenerys Stormborn of House Targaryen. I know this is not easy for a lot of you. I know what you think of when you hear the Targaryen name”. She let her House name sink in the winter air and Jon knew many a heart grew cold in that moment, remembering. “But I want you all to know that I am not my father. I know what my father was. I know what he did to the Seven Kingdoms. I know of the suffering and loss of its people. Of the wars and rivalries. Stark, Baratheon, Lannister, Tyrell, Targaryen”. All these wars and rivalries” she stopped, making sure she focused on everyone present “pale in comparison to the enemy standing in front of us” Daenerys started speaking louder now. “The Night King is coming for us, and with him comes his army. They only have one goal: to conquer the realms of men. As a country divided, we wouldn’t, we won’t stand a chance” Jon had worked with Daenerys on what to say to the people about the Night King, on how to appeal to them to work together. “So, what I ask of you is to let the past die and become one, so we can fight for the future of the realm. Let us be united once more and defeat our enemies”. She finished her speech, looking at the hardened faces of Northerners. No one said a thing. It was too quiet, even the wind stopped howling. The silence was growing uncomfortable, to the point of being almost unbearable, when Sansa turned to the people.

“Queen Daenerys is right. We only stand a chance if we fight together. We all have history here. Northerners, Free Folk, Southerners… We must leave that history behind, or we’re doomed. Nobody’s asking you to forget. As we northerners say, the North remembers… We all remember… but Winter is here, and it’s unforgiving. Let us be one, as Queen Daenerys so wisely says, to defeat the enemy, to bring Spring and better days to Westeros”. Sansa’s words were like a balm, soothing people over.

Before long, Jon saw Lady Lyanna Mormont step forward, unsheathing her sword and raising it, saying loudly “For the realm”. Lord Glover followed, also drawing his sword from its sheath saying, “For the realm”. After them, Lord Royce came forward, doing the same, facing the Lords of the Vale “We fight, we bleed, we die, we win. For the Realm!” Before long, every single lord, lady, sworn sword and squire in the courtyard were raising their swords, all shouting “For the realm”.

He looked at the scene before him, in awe. We might have a chance, Jon thought. He searched for Sansa. When he found her, he nodded, hoping she would see how grateful he was. She returned the gesture with a shy smile and made way towards Daenerys.

He was starting to head towards the women when a voice with an almost playful tone stopped him.

“You were right, Snow. She’s started to let on”. Jon turned around to see Tyrion lost in thought. “Let’s just hope this doesn’t bring any… disagreements”.

Jon didn’t like what the Hand of the Queen was insinuating.

“Don’t look at me like that, Jon Snow” Tyrion sighted. He seemed restless and nervous, but that could be said of every single person in Winterfell and its surroundings. “Everyone might rule you off as a Northern fool, and maybe there’s some truth to it” he stopped to look around him and started walking towards the King’s Gate. Whatever he was going to say to him, he didn’t want to be heard. Jon followed him, coming to a halt when Tyrion turned around to face him. “But we both know the North follows a Stark. Always did and always will”. There was a somberness to the Imp’s expression.

“As long as we all fight for the same cause, to defeat the Night King, it won’t matter who follows who”. Jon replied, feeling dread grow inside him.

“Oh, but when that war’s done, what about the other one?” Tyrion quickly followed. “What happens then?”

“First we’ve got to make sure we survive the war against the Night King, my Lord”. He didn’t have time for this. All Jon wanted was to find Sansa, Arya and Bran. Bran, he wasn’t there when the Targaryen party arrived. Was he ill? Did something happen to him? He had to go, be with his family.

“Excuse me, my Lord, but I’ve got to go look for my family. I’d like to talk to them in private” said Jon, already leaving Tyrion Lannister behind.

He was making his way to the Great Keep when he saw a familiar face.

“Sam?” He hasn’t seen his brother since before the Watch… He pushed those memories away. “It’s so good to see you again, brother. I can’t thank you enough for your help”. He pulled his friend into a hug. While usually Sam was quite shy and not prone to physical affection, he hugged him with a strength unbeknownst to him.

“It’s so good to see Jon” Sam said, holding onto Jon. “There’s so much we have to talk about. But later”. Letting him go, Sam looked to his dearest friend, a look that was both relief and concern. Jon was confused. “I assume you were looking for your family. They’re in Lady Sansa’s solar”.

“Thank you, Sam”. He gave his friend, his brother, a little pat on the shoulder. “For everything”. A small smile was the reply he got.

 

 

 

Making his way to Sansa’s solar, he found a few lords, sworn swords and servants bowing to him and calling him your Grace. That feeling of dread continued to grow.

Arriving at his destination, he saw Brienne of Tarth, in her post. She bowed her head and said my lord in a small voice, aware that the Northern lords and ladies still didn’t know about him no longer being King.

He entered the room, which was lit with a few candles here and there. Arya was standing in front of the hearth, Sansa was sitting in front of her desk and for the first time in years, he saw his brother Bran, in his wheeled chair beside Arya.

He walked in slowly, as if he was disturbing. Sansa was the first to notice him. As soon as she did, she stood up and walked towards the door, said something to Brienne, and closed the door. She hugged him again, though this time it was fast but striking, like a lightning bolt. Going back to look at some scrolls on her desk she said in an icy tone “I already showed Her Grace her chambers, as I did with her advisors”. He nodded. Sansa watched him carefully and understood what was going through Jon’s mind. She looked at Arya so she would move their brother’s chair so he could face Jon.

With his eyes fixed on Bran, he walked slowly towards him. After what it felt like a lifetime, Jon kneeled before him and locked him in a tight hug, though he felt Bran didn’t feel the same.

“Hello Jon, welcome home” said Bran in a calm voice. He was different, all the traces of that playful, curious boy lost. Something’s wrong, he thought. Jon couldn’t contain his tears. The last time he saw him, he was laying unconscious on his bed, not knowing if he will ever wake up from his slumber. But he was right there, alive. His family, his pack… The pack survives.

He lets go of his brother, stands up and moves near the window, where he can see all of them. He knew what followed wouldn’t be easy, but he had to explain himself, hoping they would, at least, understand.

“I know you might not agree with my decision but-“ Jon started

Arya let out a humorless laugh “Might? We don’t agree with what you’ve done”. She stepped closer to Jon. “And when the whole North and the Vale finds out, what do you think it’ll happen? That they… we gonna let that Dragon… bitch rule-“

“Arya” Sansa called their sister with a stern voice. Sansa and Arya exchange a look, and Arya looks more exasperated now.

He feared this, he expected this. But if this happens with his family, what will happen with everyone else?

Still angry, Arya went back to her place near the hearth and started playing with a dagger she quickly unsheathed.

“Jon” Now Sansa was the one stepping closer to him. “I won’t lie to you. When I received your letter…” Sansa stopped, trying to reel her emotions in. “When I received your letter, I was angry at you, because you gave our Home away, because you didn’t even trust me with this. You didn’t even consult me, or Davos, for that matter, from what Brienne told me. You knew this was more than just you, me, Arya or Bran. This is about the North. You’re playing with fire, dragonfire”. She finished with a hint of anger and fear in her voice. She then went to sit on a chair facing her desk.

Bran stayed silent, quietly observing the scene unfold.

Jon couldn’t take this anymore. “You think I don’t know that? That the lords will lash out in some way. I know I’ve hurt you, all of you, maybe even let you down”.

“Jon, we never said-“ Sansa started to say but Jon stopped her, raising his hand.

“Please, just let me say what I have to say”. He let out a heavy sigh and continued “I went South looking for dragonglass and an alliance. But from the very start she wanted me to bend the knee. She wouldn’t help unless I’d renounce from my title as King and swear fealty to her and fight a useless war for her. As weeks turned into months, I saw her for what she is. A conqueror. She won’t stop until she has all the Seven Kingdoms”.

He was looking at floor, somehow, he couldn’t face those closest to him. He forced himself to look up, to look at Sansa. “You were right about that”. He went to grab a chair and plumped on it, feeling exhausted. “I tried to reason with her, with all of them, but they’re so consumed with the war for the Iron Throne”, exasperated, he ran his hands through his hair. All these months of bottling up his frustration and now he’s letting it all out.

He looked up to see them all staring at him; Sansa with sadness in her eyes, Arya with hurt written on her face and Bran was just impassive, staring blankly at him. He looked at all of them with a pained expression, stopping on Sansa. Grabbing her hand, he said “I want, I need you to know that I trusted you. I listened to you”. Her touch warmed him. He started moving his thumb across her knuckles, not wanting to let go. He looked into her Tully blue eyes, hoping she can find the truth in his. She squeezed his hand before she let go. His hand was still warm. “All I’m asking is you,” he stood up facing the three of them “all of you, do the same. Please”. His plea is barely audible. He’s tired, these past months have been torture. He knows this alliance is weak. One wrong move, and they all drown. Either on ice or fire.

 

“When the snows fall…” Arya started

“And the white wind blows…” Sansa said, standing up

“The lone wolf dies…” Bran continued

“But the pack survives” said the four of them, in unison.

 

They all looked at each other, smiling, knowing they had come to an understanding. They would stick together no matter what. They are the last direwolves of House Stark, and while all the other beasts perish, Winter was the time for wolves. The pack would get through this.

“She’s dangerous, we don’t have to cross her” Jon said.

“I think the three large dragons gave away the fact that she’s dangerous” Arya told him.

Another issue to discuss.

“Actually” Jon sighed, “she has two”.

“What happened to the third one?” asked Sansa. She was fidgeting her fingers.

Jon looks at Sansa “It died beyond the Wall” Jon replied. He still can’t forget the dragons in action, how easily the Night King had killed one of the beasts. The dread inside him was growing larger and larger.

A deafening silence threatened to consume them all. They were all startled when they heard Bran’s monotone voice.

“Those are significant news”. After thinking for a few moments, he turned to Sansa and Arya, “if it’s alright with you, I’d like to discuss some things with Jon. It’s of the utmost importance”.

The girls shared a look and nodded.

Arya asked Bran “Do you want me to go look for Sam now?”

To which Bran responded “Yes, please. Thank you, Arya”.

What does Bran have to tell him that, in some way, involved Sam? Surely it must be a way to defeat the Night King. They discovered something, he thought. For the first time since his arrival, he felt a lightness grow in his chest.

“I’ll be at the courtyard, seeing to preparations. If you need anything, send word” Sansa said. She went to touch Bran’s hand. After he gave her a small smile, she headed towards the door. She stopped before Jon.

“After you’re done with them” she started saying, going for his hand but touching his arm instead “I’d like to speak with you. Alone”. His heart started beating like a drum, not knowing if he should anticipate or fear this private audience with her. Maybe then, he could say all the things he couldn’t say now. But it would have to wait.

“Alright. I’ll come for you” he said to her.

She gave him a small smile that didn’t quite reach her eyes.

Then, as she was exiting the room, Sam was about to come in.

With his face reddened, Sam bowed his head and said, “Lady Sansa”.

Sansa chuckled and told Sam, “There is no need of formality between us Sam. You can call me Sansa”.

Sam nodded. “Of course. Please, lad- Sansa” said the brother of the Night’s Watch, letting Sansa leave first.

“Thank you, Sam” and with that Sansa was out of the room, heading to the courtyard, followed by Lady Brienne.

Arya, who was standing beside the door said to her brothers “I’ll walk around the castle, see what everyone’s up to”.

Just as she made her way to the staircase at the end of the hallway, Bran stopped her “Arya, I would ask you if you could stand guard as we stay here. We don’t want anyone eavesdropping”.

Arya gave Bran a quizzical look “Okay… But first let me make sure there’s a guard at the end of the staircase, so no one can come up to this floor”. She closed the door, and they could barely hear Arya’s steps. After a moment, there was a knock on the door, followed by Arya’s voice. “The floor’s secure”.

At the confirmation, Sam went to the desk and put down some books he brought with him. Then he sat in one of the chairs in front of the desk and said to him “Jon, why don’t you sit down?”

Jon, anxious to know what this was all about, said to his friend and his brother “Have you found a way to defeat him? Or any information regarding the Long Night? Time’s slipping away and we’ve got to be ready when-“

“You’re right, Jon. Time is slipping away. But we’re not here to talk about the Night King. At least not right now. He’s the least of our problems” Bran said in a calm demeanor.

Least of our problems?” Jon could hardly believe this. “Are you listening to yourself? What in the seven hells could be more important?!

“You. And your parents”.

And with that, the dread he’s been feeling all day seemed to consume him.

Chapter Text

After leaving her solar, Sansa couldn’t help but wonder what Jon, Bran and Sam were going to discuss. It’s probably about the Night King and his army, she thought. Bran was the Three Eyed Raven, he had visions, he probably had news about that. Still, it bothered her a little that they wouldn’t talk to her about that. She wasn’t a fighter, like Arya, she didn’t know about the details of war strategies, like Ser Davos, but she was the Lady of Winterfell. She was the one that talked to the people, listened to the people and their problems. If there was new information, she had to know. After all, the Night King concerned all of them, she had to know things beforehand to know how to appease people in these troubled times.

 

Keeping those thoughts in the corner of her mind, she concentrated at the task at hand. Queen Daenerys had brought with her ten of thousands of Dothraki screamers and Unsullied soldiers. For the war to come that was good. But what good is an army if you can feed it? She thought. They barely had enough for the Northern army, and Lord Royce promised that he would see that more grain and supplies be brought from the Vale, but with this weather, it would take them at least a full moon to get those to Winterfell, and she was almost certain they didn’t have that much time.

She was supervising that all the supplies the Dragon Queen brought with her would be storage, when she decided to go talk with her Lord Hand. She found him in the room she had assigned him, in the second floor of the Guest Keep. There was a tall Unsullied soldier guarding his door.

“The Lord Hand does not wish to be disturbed” said the man with a heavy accent. It got her thinking just how much had they all, both Dothraki and Unsullied, traveled, to fight and possibly die on a foreign land.

“I just want to ask him if everything’s of his liking and see if he needs anything” Sansa said, thinking quickly of an excuse to get to talk to Tyrion. As her Hand, he should collaborate with her regarding the state of their armies.

“I am afraid I can’t let you in. Lord Hand’s orders. But I will tell him you came looking for him…” the man responded

“Lady Stark. Tell him the Lady of Winterfell came looking for him”. Just as she said this, she heard a blunt noise coming from the room followed by some mumbled words.

After a few seconds, the door opened to reveal a red-faced Tyrion with a goblet on his hand. “Lady Stark, how kind of you to come visit me” he said. He was drunk. This surely brings some memories back, she thought darkly, not wanting to remember her time as prisoner in the Capital.

“Well, move, let the Lady in” he said to the Unsullied in an exasperated tone.

Bowing dutifully, the tall man moved from the door and let Sansa in.

Closing the door behind her, Sansa started saying “I wanted to see how you were doing my lord, if everything’s-“

“It’s been a long time since I’ve been here” Tyrion interrupted her. He looked around the room absent-mindedly. “Of course, I didn’t spend much time here, in Winterfell. I remember I spent most of my stay here in a whore house in Winter Town”. He finished whatever he was drinking from one sip.

“It’s everything alright, Lord Tyrion?” Sansa asked, genuinely concerned.

“Sansa, we… May I call you Sansa? I think after all we’ve been through, I can call you Sansa” he mumbled. She just nodded.

“As I was saying, Sansa… We are facing impendent doom in the form of ice monsters of legend. I’m part of the council of Targaryen Queen staying in Winterfell, where all people have different, and valid I dare say, to hate us, even kill us. So I beg your pardon if I don’t make the most gracious of guests”.

He was clearly upset, but Sansa didn’t buy for a second that what he had just said was the reason he seemed so nervous. But she didn’t say anything. Everything he said was true. Doom was upon them, A Targaryen with a large army and dragons was at her Home. Tyrion was right about that, almost everyone hated their new allies, even if they didn’t know them personally, but all it took was the mention of the Targaryen or Lannister name to bring back the pain and hatred that started with King Robert’s Rebellion. Even she was uneasy with this whole situation. She had to be strong, for her family, for her people, for the North, so she remained strong for them. But it wouldn’t take away the fact that she was welcoming the enemy to her home. Daenerys Targaryen was the enemy, just not the most important they had to face right now. Jon said he saw what she truly was: a conqueror. And she’d be damned to the Seven Hells if she’d let another person take away her home from her family again. No, she wouldn’t have it. Robb died for the North, Rickon died while Jon and I were fighting to get back our home, she thought. The North will know independence again, and when Spring comes, it will flourish, like it did with the Kings of Winter.

“How did you managed to escape?” Tyrion asked her, snapping her out of her thoughts.

“Ser Dontos. He helped me escape the city and took me to a ship where Lord Baelish was waiting for me, to take me to the Vale” she responded. She always tried to force her memories of King’s Landing out of her mind, but she couldn’t; for all that happened to her there would stay with her forever. Only Winterfell and family would help heal the wounds inflicted by Lions.

“Did you do it?” he asked bitterly.

“I just gave you the name of the person who killed Joffrey. But I wish I had. He had my father killed, in front of me. He made me watch his head on a spike. Ever since then I wished him dead”. She stopped, fearing tears will come down her face. “I still remember him laughing at his wedding, laughing at the mummers, laughing at my brother. They were all laughing”.

“Sansa, I’m…” Tyrion sighed, seeming sobered up by he what just listened. “I’m sorry for everything my family did to yours”.

“I appreciate the apology, my Lord, but I can’t do anything with it. I can’t bring my family back, I can’t bring my innocence back” Sansa said with sourness in her words.

Tyrion went to sit near the hearth, knowing this conversation was going nowhere, at least nowhere pleasant. “I assume Littlefinger sent you to your aunt Lysa. That was smart. Tell me, what did Lord Baelish do to secure his place in the Vale?”

If talking about her time King’s Landing was hard, talk about Littlefinger was a lot harder. That wound is still open, she thought.

“He married my aunt. She always loved him, since they were kids. But Baelish always loved my mother” that was all the information she would give her ex-husband.

Tyrion seemed to get the idea of what might’ve happened to her aunt. After thinking for a few moments, he said “How did you end up here in the North. I’d assume, after securing the Vale for himself, he would keep you there”

Another wound that still needed closing. No matter how much she tried, or what she did, he still was a part of her. He’d come at night, like he used to when he was alive, and like those times, she was alone, and nobody could protect her from him. The nightmares were less frequent now, after executing him and having reunited with her family. But some nights, he was still there.

“He sold me to the Boltons”

“He sold you to the man that killed your family?” There was shock in Tyrion’s voice.

She started pacing around the room “He promised me the thing a yearned for the most, justice. He said that I could avenge my family from within these walls. He promised me Stannis would kill the Boltons with his army and name me Wardeness of the North”. She could’ve laugh at her naivete, she thought she knew how the world worked, only to be surprised once more by monsters telling her pretty words. “Of course, things didn’t go as planned. Ramsay killed his father and became Warden himself. And of course, I couldn’t avenge my family. I barely escaped”. A tear trailed down her cheek. “I went to the Wall looking for refuge, knowing Jon was Lord Commander”. She stopped herself, she didn’t come here to catch up, she needed information. “I’m sure you already know the rest”.

“Yes, I heard some things”. He responded. Trying to lighten the air, he said “Well, I have you know that I escaped King’s Landing in a box and traveled all the way to the city of Mereen. It was quite a journey, but there are some very interesting views in Essos”.

Tyrion went to pour himself another drink when Sansa asked him “Is it true you killed your father?” An earnest, pained look was the only answer he gave her, and she knew the whispers were true. “After my father’s death, I used to think that in these deadly games people play, only the monsters could ever win, but if there’s anything I learnt is that monsters always perish. It might take some time, but death comes for everyone, even to those who seem invincible… Joffrey, your father, the Boltons”.

“Well, I’ll drink to that. To monsters, hoping they fucking burn in the Seven Hells”.

After he finished his drink, Sansa asked “Lord Tyrion, as much as I enjoy catching up with you-“

Tyrion interrupted her “This isn’t a social visit. I figured. You’re Lady of Winterfell now. You’re in charge”.

“Yes, I am” Sansa answered, in a voice that held little resemblance to the girl Tyrion once knew.

He looked at her, intrigued. “Is there anything you need, my Lady?”

“Yes, Lord Tyrion. Food. Something I noticed you haven’t brought much of”.

“Sansa-“ Tyrion was probably going to give her some explanation, but she wouldn’t let him. She’d let him know how things would work between them.

“I’ll explain to you how we make things work here in the North. We all collaborate. We have been bringing food and grain to store it here at Winterfell from all the keeps in the North, not only so we can properly feed our armies, but so we can survive winter. Since the Vale joined us, they started doing the same. We all work together, we all do our part”.

“My Lady, if you’d let me explain-“ Tyrion was tense, avoiding her eyes. What am I going to find there, she thought. Something he didn’t want to be found, perhaps.

“I’m not finished” her icy tone made him look at her, and she found something. His face was one of a man filled with regret. Something’s wrong. “I welcome you into my home, the best way I can given the circumstances, so we can fight in a war we must win. I admit I know not much of war, but people need food. That’s common knowledge, don’t you think?” her tone was soft now, inviting to conversation.

“Yes… basic knowledge” Tyrion answered, almost in a whisper.

“Yet, here we are with an army of hundreds of thousands of men and women and not enough food to feed them with. And that’s just talking about the people that will fight. A lot of us will stay behind. All those people need food, too”.

“You’re right, Lady Stark. There isn’t enough food. But we can find other ways to-“ just as Tyrion was trying to gain control of the situation, Sansa remembered something Littlefinger had told her months ago. She also remembered something disturbing her brother Bran has shared with Arya and her yesterday.

“Weren’t you allies with Olenna Tyrell?”

“Yes, we were, until my sister’s forces stormed Highgarden and neutralized the Tyrell threat” he said carefully, knowing where she was going with the mention of the Queen of Thorns.

“A powerful ally. Highgarden has been known to tip the scales in times of war”

Tyrion gave a simple nod, preferring to drink from his goblet.

“And convenient to you, I suppose. The Reach has the richest lands in Westeros. I’m sure Queen Daenerys was aware of the importance of her alliance with Highgarden”

Tyrion remained in silence, looking down at his goblet.

She’d need to be more direct if she was to get something out of Tyrion Lannister.

“Correct me if I’m wrong, but I suppose Olenna Tyrell had ordered her liege lords to collect all the fruits, vegetables and grain they could, so they could send it to Queen Daenerys’ armies?”

“You are correct, Lady Sansa” Tyrion was still avoiding her gaze.

“And pray tell, my Lord, what happened with all that food?” She walked towards him, sitting next to him in front of the hearth.

Tyrion looked at her. There it was again, that look full of regret, though this time it came and went in an instant. He’s a player of the game, she remembered, and he does not see me as an ally, not yet. What’s an alliance if there isn’t even a little bit of trust?

Lack of trust isn’t the problem, the voice in her head told her, he knows you. If he’s distrusts someone, that someone isn’t you. He doesn’t see me as an ally, but he also doesn’t see me as an enemy, she thought. It’s not me he distrusts.

“As I told you, my sister’s forces went to Highgarden with the only intent of annihilating the Tyrell’s loyalists. After achieving their goal, they looted the place, taking all they could find back to King’s Landing, including the food”.

Sansa could’ve believed him if only he had looked at her when he answered her question. But she knew better now to believe the lies, even if they sounded perfectly logical and true. A part of her was disappointed; after what Bran told us, why does he still defend her? She thought. Tyrion Lannister was a cunning man, he always tried to be with the winning side: Lannister, Targaryen. But if people found out, well, there would be chaos, and that would only end in fire and blood.

She thought that would be enough for today. Tyrion obviously felt bad and looked even worse, so she’d just let him be for the time being. Maybe Arya can wear one of her faces to find out more about Daenerys and her council, she thought, or Bran might have a vision, something that would help us.

“The feast won’t start in another couple of hours, so I’ll leave you to rest now. If you need anything, send a servant, and I’ll see what I can do for you”. She started heading towards the door when she heard Tyrion dragging his feet.

“You don’t want her, do you?”

“She’s most welcome here, Lord Tyrion. She’s a powerful ally, and I’m certain she will help us win this war” Sansa was trying her best to sound sincere, even if most of the words she just said weren’t true.

“She’s powerful, yes. And she’s your ally. Believe that. This war is personal to her now”

“Just as her war in the South”

“We all fight for ourselves, you can’t deny that” in that moment she thought she’d heard the Tyrion of many years ago, the one that was always prepared with quick quip.

“I fight for my family, for my home, the best way I can” she said.

“As you should. Gods know you all suffered enough”

“We all suffered to get where we are now”

“Indeed, we did”. He closed the gap between them and grabbed her hand. Sansa stiffened at the touch. He let go of her hand. “Just give her a chance, Sansa. She’s come all the way North to fight with you, for you. Doesn’t that earn her a little bit of trust?” he sounded as he was begging her, begging her to stop something before it even began.

I know your intentions, Lord Tyrion, and I wish I could help you, but I’m not the one in command of a large army and two dragons. I have little control of this situation, she wanted to say. But she had to be firm; no doubt the Dragon Queen would ask her Hand of the opinions of the northern people, especially the Starks. Instead, she replied “If she seeks to rule the North, then it is her duty to fight for it. Don’t expect me to congratulate her for doing what’s right, or in this case, what’s required of her, as she names herself our Queen. And I appreciate your efforts, my lord, but let her earn my trust, and not your words”. Sansa hoped that with this she made her stance clear on the matter.

After a moment of silence, Tyrion said “Whoever says Starks are fools, you’ll have the pleasure to prove them wrong”.

At this, Sansa smiled. She had learnt from people that hurt her and abused her, but she had learnt. And she would use that knowledge to protect her family, because some fights don’t require swords.

“Your parents would be very proud of the young woman you’ve become” he offered

She felt tears starting to blur her eyes at the thought of her parents. There isn’t a day that goes by that my heart aches for them, she thought. For all of them.

“Thank you… Tyrion. I’ll leave now, I have to oversee the preparations for the feast” she quickly excused herself, lest he saw her crying. Once she was out of the room, she climbed down the stairs and headed towards the battlements, so she could cry for her family in peace, even for a few moments.


The welcoming feast was about to start, and Jon was nowhere to be seen. He didn’t come looking for me, she remembered. I must talk to him, about the lords, Littlefinger and his words regarding him and the Targaryen Queen. I need to talk to him. After the feast.

She made her way to the Great Hall where the feast would take place. She wore her hair loose with a braided bun, just like her lady mother used to wear. Her dress was made of blue velvet with white-fur trimmed long sleeves, embroidered with red and grey threads in a pattern of roses shining with morning dew over her chest. Simple, yet strong. The Tully colors and the image of the North. Family, Duty, Honor. Winter is Coming.

Just as she was descending the stairs, she caught a glimpse of her sister. “Arya, have you seen Jon? I was supposed to talk to him after his meeting with Bran and Sam”

Arya grabbed her hand and took her near the kitchens. “Jon’s not coming tonight”.

“What?! He can’t miss the feast, it’s a way to show the lords that-“

Arya interrupted her “that the alliance is strong and that we’ll all get along. I know. But I was outside your solar, when they were talking-“

“Do you know what they said?” Sansa asked anxiously

“No, I don’t. But whatever it was” Arya sighed “it can’t be good. It must’ve been fifteen minutes after we all left the solar, then Jon opened the door and left as if a dragon was chasing after him. I called after him, but he wouldn’t turn to me. He’s been is his chambers ever since”.

Something’s wrong. Something’s terribly wrong.

“I’ll go talk to him, just to see if he’s ok” Sansa could feel dread grow in her chest. What could possibly had happened to make Jon react that way.

“It’ll be no good. I stood outside his chambers’ door all afternoon”.

This was all wrong.

“I’m going to go check up on him really quick” Sansa started heading towards the stairs, but Arya’s voice stopped her on her tracks.

“The feast is about to start. Now, I’m probably the last person who wants to attend this thing, but we all agreed on doing this. To show our strength, to show the lords and ladies, and the Dragon Queen, that we are a pack”.

A serving wench passed in front of them with trays full of fresh baked bread on both hands.

Sansa walked over to Arya and said in a hushed tone “Everyone still thinks Jon is King. His absence will not go unnoticed”.

“I know that” Arya said in exasperated tone. “Make up some excuse, say he’s tired from the journey”.

“What about Bran?”

“After Jon left the solar I asked him what in the seven hells was going on. He told me he would like to talk to us after the feast is done, for whatever he told Jon also concern us”.

“But will he be there with us, at the feast?”

“I don’t think so”.

Sansa’s mind was going down a spiral and she couldn’t stop it. Her mind kept throwing at her possible scenarios about what might have happened. Not even a day has passed, she told herself.

Looking at her, Arya said “And you say I’m the weird one”.

Sansa shot a look at Arya. She wasn’t sure who she was talking about, her or Bran. Probably both, she thought. For a second, she felt like a child in a summer day, arguing with her sister over nothing. Those days are long gone, the voice in her head reminded her.

“Come, we don’t want to be late”. As the Stark sisters made their way to the Great Hall, they stumbled into ser Davos.

“My Ladies” he said to both sisters as he bowed. “Do you know where Jon is? I can’t seem to find him anywhere”.

“I’m afraid he’s… indisposed for the evening, ser” Sansa offered, hoping that Davos wouldn’t ask no further about Jon.

“He’s in his room, resting” Arya added.

“I’m afraid he’s not, my lady” Davos said. “That was the first place I went looking. There was no guard and the door wasn’t locked, so I went in” Davos paused. “His chambers were quite a mess. A broken chair, shards of glass on the floor. Did something happen to him?”

The dread Sansa felt growing in her chest earlier that day came back with an incredible force. I need to find him, she thought. Whatever it is that happened, it’s must be terribly bad.

You can’t go running after him, the voice in her head chastised her. You’re Lady Stark. Play your part, appease the Dragon Queen, and then you can find Jon.

Just as she was about to answer ser Davos, Arya said “He received sensible information this afternoon. He’s trying to figure out what to do next. But don’t worry ser, we’ll surely see him tomorrow”.

Davos didn’t look convinced. “If you say so, Lady Arya. I’d better get going”.

“You will be sitting with us on the dais, ser, as part of the small council of the King in the North” Sansa said.

Ser Davos held up his gaze to Sansa when she referred to Jon as their King. His eyes were a raging storm, she could read a thousand things on the man’s eyes but couldn’t understand a thing. I’ll have to talk to him too. About Dragonstone, King’s Landing and whatever happened in between, she reminded herself.

“Thank you, Lady Sansa”.

Once they were alone again, Sansa grabbed Arya’s arm before they would enter the Hall together. “You told me you didn’t know what they talked about today”. She didn’t even bother to mask the hurt in her voice.

After waiting a few seconds, making sure nobody could listen to them, Arya replied “Believe me, you don’t want to know this from me”. There was a gravity to Arya’s words, and it did nothing to placate her uneasiness. “It’s not my secret to tell. Wait until some courses are served, and then go to Bran. He’ll explain all to you”.

“Secret? What…” Sansa was saying, just as everyone in the room stood up to welcome Winterfell’s daughters to the feast.

Later, she thought. I’ll figure it out later.

They walked side by side towards the dais. There was Davos, two chairs reserved for them, one more that was for Jon, another one that was meant for Daenerys Targaryen, and to the left three chairs meant for the Dragon Queen’s advisors: Tyrion, Varys the spider and Missandei. The Queen and the members of her council had yet to arrive.

Anticipation hanged over the room. Some were anxious, some curious, some afraid, but Sansa could tell everyone in the room was starting to dread the situation they were in. A feast usually meant a happy time, especially in times of war, but this was different. We are playing Summer games while Winter threatened to kill us all, she thought darkly. It was in that moment when Sansa completely understood her Father. I’m tired of games; I grew up as a piece to be played with, then I learned the game, and now I know how to play it. But Gods, I’m tired of it, she admitted to herself. The only difference between Father and I is that I know this bloody game, and I’ll keep on playing it if it means we’re all safe. Cersei always said something about it, what was it? In the game of thrones… you win, or you die. I don’t want a throne, but I’ll make sure nobody from my pack or my people ever die because of games. Not again.

After waiting several minutes, the Dragon Queen finally arrived with her council. Daenerys walked alone, first in line, followed by Missandei, Varys and Tyrion. The formation didn’t past over her. Why is Tyrion last? He’s her Hand, he should be right behind her. Something’s wrong.

Daenerys was dressed in white. Her long silver hair braided intricately, the braids coming together to one big, tick braid. Her long-sleeved coat of wool linen was fur-trimmed and had a scale-like pattern all over it made with silver thread. Her pleated skirt was silver, but under the candle light, it shined white. She wore a silver three-headed dragon pin on her right shoulder.

“She looks like an ice dragon” Arya said in a hushed tone, her eyes not leaving the Dragon Queen as she was approaching the dais.

“She does”. Sansa remembered the stories Old Nan used to tell them. She specifically remembered one; it was about when the whole world was covered on ice. The Others covered the lands and Ice dragons roamed the skies. Is there truth to those stories? Sansa wondered. The Others exist and march together; dragons came back to life from stone; nothing seems impossible anymore.

As Daenerys reached the dais, she quickly noticed Jon’s absence. There was something resembling worry shining in her eyes. Sansa and the Dragon Queen looked at each other; Sansa bowed her head as it was demanded, when she held up her gaze again, the Queen’s eyes were devoid of emotion. Daenerys moved to face the crow that respectfully bowing to her. She searched the room for a few moments, before saying “My lords and ladies. Please let this occasion be one of many, where we can feast and enjoy as a country united. As we prepare for war, let this night be one of peace and reconciliation”. The Queen looked back at her before saying “I want to take this moment to personally thank Lady Sansa and House Stark”. She moved to the dais and took her place on the table. “Everyone here one this room knows about the history between our Houses. But let it be that: history. Tonight, and for the nights to come, Houses Stark and Targaryen stand together, as allies”. She gave Sansa a sweet little smile.

Sansa returned tried to give the Queen a smile as honest as possible, then grabbed her cup filled with watered Ale and held it high “I propose a toast. To new alliances, ones that bring the peace Westeros deserve”.

Daenerys, happy by Sansa’s word, raised her cup too “To new allies, and to peace”.

Following this, everyone in the Great Hall raised their cups and drank to the promises of alliance and peace. Let’s hope we can make peace a reality and not another false promise, Sansa thought.

After the toast, everyone sat down, ready for the feast to begin. Sansa called for a servant “You can take this chair, it won’t be needed”. She felt Daenerys’ heavy gaze on her. She seems very fond of her new subject, the voice in her head said, mockingly. She pushed the thought away.

She saw the Targaryen Queen take a sip of her cup of volantene Sweet Red. “Lady Sansa, why isn’t Jon coming to feast with us?”

From the corner of her eye, she could see Arya slowly turning her head to watch the interaction. “I afraid he doesn’t feel well, your Grace. I apologize on his behalf”.

“Has he fallen ill?” Sansa saw it again, the worry; only now, Daenerys let it show on her face. It made her even more beautiful; she tried to force away the foreign feeling the realization brought her.

Everyone in the dais was staring at her, waiting for her answer. “No, your Grace. He’s tired, that’s all”. She turned to her sister. There was a queer curiosity in Arya’s eyes. “Though we appreciate your concern”. Arya simply nodded to her words and took a sip of her cup.

“I thought northerners were stronger” Tyrion suddenly said, obviously meant as a joke, though it appeared Daenerys didn’t take it as one, as she shot her Hand a cold glare.

Sansa, sensing the tension, tried to clear the air. “Maybe it was the Southern winds that weakened him a bit. As you know, my lord, Wolves don’t tend to thrive in the South, but with a good night sleep and the white winds of the North, he’ll be the same Jon Snow you met all those years ago”. Tyrion raised his cup to her, in appreciation. Varys the Spider looked at her with a small but sincere smile.

After the little exchange, the people went through the first two courses in uncomfortable silence.

“So, what do you think of the North so far, your Grace?” it was ser Davos’ turn to try to lighten the mood.

“Beautiful, and just as harsh”. Daenerys turned to look at her advisor, Missandei. She gave her Queen a tight smile. “But I’m looking forward to getting to know the people better. Lady Sansa, I would like to be present when you hold court, to get to know the North better”

Sansa didn’t have no other choice but to agree “Of course, your Grace. It’s an excellent idea”.

 

 

The night went in a painfully slow pace, as the rest of the courses were served, and some musicians were brought to lighten the mood. After dancing with ser Davos, Tormund and Lord Royce, Sansa went over where Daenerys, who was with Varys, to talk to her. “Lord Varys” she addressed the former Master of Whisperers. He nodded, but otherwise stood still. She turned to the Targaryen Queen “I hope you found everything to your liking, your Grace”.

“It was marvelous, Lady Sansa. I’m sure you’ll make a great wife to a great lord someday”.

At her words, Sansa and Varys shared a poignant look. Before Daenerys could notice something was off, Sansa offered her with a little bow “Thank you, your Grace”.

“I think I’ll retire to my chambers now. Tomorrow’s going to be a long day. Varys. Lady Sansa”. She left the Great Hall with Missandei by her side.

Just when the women were out of reach, Varys turned to Sansa “You have no idea how it pleases me to see you safe, my lady. And, if I may be so bold, from the little I’ve seen and heard, you seem to be doing what you were once supposed to do incredibly well”.

The sudden words of Lord Varys took Sansa by surprise. What does he want? Why the praise? Is this another one of the Spider’s webs? she thought. “You’re too kind, lord Varys. I do what I can to help the people” she responded.

“I see. That’s a very good quality in a lady. Also worth mentioning, the way you hold your own with our Queen is truly remarkable. Not everyone can do what you did today, and with such grace”.

“Well, I had to learn the ways of courtly games, Lord Varys. My stay at the Red Keep made sure of that”.

“Those were dark times. But back then, I remember I looked at you and saw you a little girl, scared and broken. But know I can see that you were much stronger than any of us thought”. He made to leave but turned to her as something came to his mind “Lady Sansa, I missed Lord Baelish tonight; in fact, I’m afraid I haven’t seen him at all today”.

She’s been dreading this “He went to the Vale, to oversee some things regarding the food”.

“You see, I found it strange. I've known him for a long time, I’m sure he wouldn’t have wanted to miss today’s events”.

Sansa didn’t say a word. She wasn’t sure what was Varys’ game. She wasn’t sure if her emotions would betray her if she said something more.

“If you’ll excuse me, Lady Sansa, I’ll retire to my rooms. This was a long journey” he grabbed her hand and gave it a chaste kiss. “I can’t wait to see what Wolves do here in the North”.

“Have a good night, Lord Varys” she simply said.

There were thousands of miles between Winterfell and the Iron Throne, but it seemed as thought its games had followed her all the way North.


Free of her duties as Lady of Winterfell for the remainder of the night, she went to see Bran with Arya. Her sister walked beside her as she said, “I really don’t like her. She carries herself as this benevolent queen, while at the same time she’s a dragon rider”. Arya seemed to lose herself in thought for a few moments. “She’s a fool if she thinks a single person in the North will trust her. After what Bran told us yesterday… If people knew what she does to people that don’t obey her…”

Sansa sighed “I know. They will revolt, but for that same reason we’ve got to be careful. We know now how she is, how dangerous she is”

“But Sansa, people deserve to know. She wants to rule us all? I say people see her for what she truly is: a conqueror who burns people alive, just like her ancestors”.

Sansa stopped at the mention of the cruelty of Queen Daenerys “Arya”, she looked around, they were alone. Though the lights in the corridor were dim, she could see her sister’s serious and defiant expression. “This is exactly the opposite of what I wanted. I warned Jon, before he went South, of the risks of an alliance with a Targaryen. What the Mad King did to our grandfather and uncle, what Prince Rhaegar did to our aunt”. Arya’s expression changed at the mention of the Dragon Prince and their aunt; suddenly she looked uncomfortable. “I don’t take any pleasure in knowing that I was right, but the circumstances forced our hand. Now, we must be careful, we must be smart, to survive both Ice and Fire”.

Arya just looked at her, trying to conceal the pain in her eyes. “I know”. They continued walking towards Bran’s chambers in silence.

Arriving at their brother’s door, Arya looked at her “Do you want me to stay with you and Bran?” 

“If you think that’s best…”

“I think… I think it would be best if you two were alone”. Arya still had that painful, thoughtful look in her eyes.

“Okay. I’ll see you in the morning” she said as she hugged her little sister.

She returned the hug. Not letting go of her embrace, Arya said to her “No matter what happens, promise me we’ll always be a pack. The four of us. Promise me nothing will divide us”.

Sansa let go of her, surprised by the words she just said. “Arya, you know-“ she started, but then caught a glimpse of her sister’s face; she was crying. She doesn’t remember watching Arya cry, ever. She took her in her arms again, tighter this time. “I promise. We’ll always be a pack, the four of us. Nothing and no one will divide us”. Sansa felt tears of her own coming down her cheeks.

“The pack survives” said Arya

“The pack survives” Sansa echoed

Letting go of the embrace, Arya cleared her throat. “So, I’ll see you in the morning”.

“Have a good night, Arya”.

Sansa stayed there, watching her sister go to her chambers. Still overcome with emotion from the moment she shared with sister, she headed to the chambers she assigned Sam, Gilly and her babe, little Sam. Bran spent most of the day with the young man of the Night’s Watch, working with the texts from the Citadel and whatever it appeared in Bran’s visions.

She knocked his door several times, until Sam opened the door. Nights were usually like this for them; Bran would have his visions and Sam would write them down, later both of them would try to figure them out and put the pieces together.

“Sam, hi”. Sansa looked at the young man, he looked tired to the bone. “How long has he been like this?” she moved so she could catch a better glimpse at his little brother.

“A few hours. Today’s been a busy day, with Jon and all…” it took him a few moments to realize she didn’t know a thing about what happened earlier. “I’m sorry, I should get back, to look after Bran, you know”.

Knowing she wouldn’t get anything out of him, she let him go back to Bran. “Alright. Have a good night. And Sam, please tell Bran I came looking for him”.

“I will. Good-night, Sansa”.

After leaving the room, she went straight to Jon’s chambers. She meant to talk to him this afternoon about Littlefinger and the Vale. She wanted Jon to hear everything that has happened from her. When she arrived at his door, she was greeted by a guard. He’s back.

“Excuse me, is Jon in his chambers?”

“Lady Stark” the guard addressed her while bowing. “His Grace is not in his chambers. There are maids inside cleaning. Apparently, he broke a few things”.

Sansa was tired and needed to see Jon. “Do you know where he is?”

“He stayed for a few hours, but then leaved, saying he needed some quiet to help him think, my Lady”.

The crypts, she thought.

“Thank you. And please, tell no one of his Grace’s… state” Sansa all but ran towards the old crypts of Winterfell.

 

 

The white winds were merciless and cold, even though she had the protection of her dark fur cloak and the warmth of the torch she was carrying. As she was climbing down the stairs, she noticed a dim glow. He’s here. Suddenly, she let out a breath she didn’t know she was holding.

Her feet were taking her quickly to were Jon was. He was sitting in front of aunt Lyanna’s statue. As she came closer, she could see the tears he was shedding.

“He never talked about her” his voice was raw, as if he spent the night screaming. The very sight broke her heart.

She placed the torch on the wall, then went to sit by Jon’s side, contemplating the likeness of Lyanna Stark. “I guess it was painful, given what happened”.

He turned to her and asked “And what happened? What happened to her?”

Sansa could only look at him. Her heart broke again, for in front of her there was a broken man. She didn’t realize she was crying until one of her tears touched her lips. “I only… I only know what people said over the years. As you said, Father didn’t talk about her”.

Jon kept his heavy gaze on her face, asking, pleading with his eyes. She fixed her gaze on aunt Lyanna’s statue.

“All I ever heard is that aunt Lyanna was kidnapped by Prince Rhaegar near Harrenhall, and…” she couldn’t even say the word.

“And?”

“And… and” she closed her eyes, letting go of her tears. Who am I crying for? she asked herself. My aunt, Father, myself, Jon? She forced herself to continue. “And raped her” she said in a whisper. “That led to Robert’s Rebellion and the downfall of the Targaryen dyn-“

Jon let out a humorless laugh, “Kidnapped and raped her” he said, his eyes fixed on the statue. “You know what Father said before we parted ways?”

Sansa just stared at him in silence.

“He promised me that the next time we’d see each other he would tell me about my mother” Jon turned his whole body to her. “All my life, I dreamt about her. Who was she, what she looked like, if she ever thought about me”. He grabbed her hand and held to it as if it was his only grip on reality. “All these years, dreaming, imagining, while the answer to my questions laid right here”.

Sansa wasn’t sure what it was that send a shiver down her spine: the wind or Jon’s words. “Jon…” she said as more tears were set free at the realization. “Jon, what are you saying?”

Jon looked at her but his eyes were somewhere far away from this place “My mother was Lyanna Stark” Fresh tears came down his face “and my father was Rhaegar Targaryen”.

“Jon…” it was all she could say. It was a whisper, a prayer, something she held on to with all her might.

“I was never Ned Stark’s bastard. It was all a lie” he said, his voice breaking. “I was never a bastard”. He held her hands tighter now; his grip was hurting her, but she didn’t mind, for her heart was hurting even more. “I’m Rhaegar Targaryen’s legitimate son” he said, his tears freely falling down his cheeks. The implications of his statement didn’t escape her.

Sansa didn’t know when it happened. One moment she was sitting in front of Jon, holding his hands; the next she took him in her arms, trying to shield him from the world. They stayed like that, with Sansa whispering in his ear “We’ll figure everything out. We will”.

He had his head on the crook on her neck, the sound of his sobs breaking her heart one more time.

“Jon, listen” She tried to look at him, but he wouldn’t let go. “Jon, I need you to look at me. Jon, please”

“You know what this means. I’ve put everyone I love in danger. If anything happened to you, any of you… I’d… Sansa, you don’t know-“

“JON” Sansa grabbed his face with both of her hands; they were so close she let their foreheads touch while never taking her eyes from his “I will never let anything happen to you, or anyone. Never, you understand? I’ll protect you, just as you protected me. The pack survives”.

“I’m not part of your pack, Sansa. I’m not a Stark” he said bitterly.

“Your mother was Lyanna Stark of Winterfell. You were raised by Eddard Stark. He raised you here in the North, within the walls of Winterfell. You may not have the name, but you are a true Stark. And what do us Starks do? We look out for those we love, you understand?”

Jon raised his trembling hand and touched the side of her face “Sansa, my whole life’s been a lie. I don’t… I don’t know who I am anymore”.

“You’re Jon, you’ll always be Jon” she said, closing her eyes, wishing to bring him closer, so he could feel that he wasn’t alone, that he would never be alone.

After she said those words, Jon held her in his arms. They were both crying, and their grip on each other was desperate, as if it was the only thing keeping them from falling.

 

Chapter Text

Jon felt something rough run across his face. He felt it again and that made him open his eyes. Ghost was sitting next to him. The direwolf was tilting his head, waiting for it to be scratched, and Jon did nothing but comply. As he was doing this, he tried to take in his surroundings. It was dark and cold, the crypts, I fell asleep in the crypts, he thought, but something to his left was radiating heat, he turned his head and there was Sansa, curled up to his side, sleeping beside him. We both fell asleep, like this. How long were we down here? he asked himself. They were both snuggled up in his fur cloak, with one of his arms around her waist. Suddenly, it felt as if his arm was caught aflame. He took his arm from her slowly, as to not wake her. She looks so peaceful, so… he stopped that train of thought, it would do him no good.

Her words from last night came back to him.

 

 

We’ll figure everything out. We will.

I will never let anything happen to you.

I’ll protect you, just as you protected me.

You may not have the name, but you are a true Stark.

And what do us Starks do? We look out for those we love, you understand?

 

 

Just as he was falling into a bottomless pit, she took his hand and pulled him right back, into the safety of her arms. She promised him she would keep him safe. But she did something he thought impossible: she gave him something to hold on to, something to anchor himself in the raging storm his life had become in just one day.

“You’re Jon, you’ll always be Jon” she had reassured him. And it was true. He wasn’t a Snow or a Targaryen or a Stark. He was Jon: the one that had spent his days sparring with Robb in the training yard; the one that had taught Bran and Arya how to ride a horse; the one that had used to give piggyback rides Rickon all across the Godswood; the one that had dreamt of honor; the one that had gone beyond the Wall; the one that had lied and hurt and killed in the name of the Night’s Watch; the one who had seen the enemy that only existed in legends; the one that had swore an oath to be the shield that guards the realm of men; the one that tried to save people and got killed for it; the one that has been brought back to life; the one that had held Sansa so close to him when he saw her again; the one that had gone to war for Sansa and Rickon; the one that had tried to save Rickon, only to lose him right before his eyes; the one that had taken his ancestral home back with Sansa; the one that was made King by his people; the one that had tried his damnedest to keep his family from danger; the one that’s part of a pack of direwolves; the one that’s loved by family and friends; the one that loves his family and friends. No matter who fathered him, what blood runs through his veins, he’s Jon, the same he’s always been. He’ll try to hold on to that.

Jon didn’t notice he was crying until Ghost was right in front of him and Sansa and started to lick his tears. The thick fur of the beast apparently tickled her, because she wrinkled her face and started to move, waking up.

“Jon?” she whispered adorably.

“I’m here. And so is Ghost, I’m afraid he missed us both, so he came looking for us” he said.

At the mention of the direwolf, Sansa fully opened her eyes and started scratching the direwolf behind his ear.

“Hey, boy. You came looking for us? I know, it’s a bit crowded right now, but it will be alright” she cooed to Ghost.

At this, they looked at each other, probably with the same things in mind.

“Jon” she began. He looked at her, and her deep blue eyes were filled with concern and determination.

“Every single word I said last night was true, is true. All of it. I need you to know that” she affirmed.

Jon let out a long sigh. His heart was broken, yet Sansa was finding a way to put it back together piece by piece. “I’m lost, Sansa” he confessed to her. “If I’m being honest with myself, I’ve been feeling lost ever since the Red Priestess brought me back” at this, Sansa had a painful expression on her face. She still worries about that, he discovered. “But ever since you came through the gates of Castle Black, ever since then, you’ve been my Ice Dragon in the sky, always guiding me. And since we took back Winterfell” he let out a small, almost breathless laugh “I felt at peace for the first time in a very long time”. Sansa giggled at his confession. “I know, at peace, while we’re in the brink of war and, possibly, extinction. But that’s how I feel when you’re around me”. He stopped to go with his mind’s eye back to a moment that happened months ago, in an island far away from home. “When you wrote about Bran and Arya… You don’t know how I wished I could sail right in that moment, so I could be back home, be with my family, where I belong. But everything got so complicated, it seemed as the Old Gods were testing me” he felt his mouth go sour. “But then, I came back, and saw Arya again. She was there, alive and well and home” he turned his head to look at Sansa. She was crying. He raised his hand and started wiping her tears. “And I saw you, as strong as ever, and you opened your arms” he caressed her cheek. “I was so afraid, I was sure you’d hate me after what I’ve done, but” with his other hand, he took her hand in his “you welcomed me with open arms”.

“I’ll admit I was mad at you, we all were, but hate you? Never” she responded, looking at her hands the whole time. “But we already talked about that. We know why you’ve done it. Besides, judging by the little time I’ve spent with Daenerys, she’s got her mind here, with us, but her heart in the South, with the Iron Throne” she remarked while giving him an exasperated look. Suddenly, a thought seemed to strike her. “I’m sorry, she’s your family, I shouldn’t be rude” she apologized and looked at her skirts.

Jon didn’t know what to tell her. The news his brother – cousin – his cousin Bran and Sam gave him were huge: suddenly he wasn’t who he thought he was; Robb, Sansa, Bran, Arya and Rickon weren’t his siblings, but his cousins; Eddard Stark, the man that became an example to him, wasn’t his father but his uncle. His whole existence was marked by the tragedy of war.  All that sent him reeling. But the fact that he was Rhaegar’s secret heir… somehow, when thinking about that, all he felt was numb. I don’t want to be King, my birthright be damned, he thought. And even if I wanted to, Daenerys most certainly wouldn’t let me. Another thing to deal with: Daenerys. My aunt. Just the thought of her sent shivers down his spine, even though he was wearing the Stark cloak Sansa made for him. I fucked up everything, I must deal with the mess, and I don’t even know where to start.

“There’s no need to apologize, Sansa” he’d tried to explain how he felt the best he could. For her. “This changed everything” he admitted “but at the same time, nothing’s really changed” She was pensive, taking in each of his words. He raised his eyes, so they would meet hers, and hoped she could find in his eyes the truth he couldn’t say. “Aye, everything changed, but not the way I feel about you” he reassured her. He thought he could see blush coloring her cheeks. He stared a little too long, so he looked down. Her eyes, welcoming and warm, were also a threat. If I stare long enough, I’ll lose myself. “Or the way I feel about Arya and Bran. You were right, everything you said is true. I am of the North and Stark blood runs through my veins, just not Eddard Stark’s. And about Daenerys… I need some time to think about it, but please, don’t worry about her, I’ll fix this”.

His mind drifted inevitably to Daenerys. How could he tell her that his lover is the long-lost son of her eldest brother? How would she react? Would she be happy, knowing that she’s not the last Targaryen? Or would she be angry, knowing that a stranger turned lover was a threat to the single thing she was trying to get?

She moved closer to him, there was no space between them now. She rested her head on his shoulder. “That’s sweet of you, Jon, telling me not to worry” she said “but it is my job to worry. About you, about everyone”. She let out a long sigh. She was trying to think, to put her thoughts in order. She’d do the same every time something overwhelmed her. “The matter of your parentage is personal, it should concern just you, but I’m afraid it doesn’t”. She moved away from him and went to sit in front of him. As soon as she did this, Jon felt the warmth leave with her, even though the imprint of where their bodies touched left him burning. “You told me you’re Rhaegar Targaryen’s trueborn son. Cersei has no true legitimacy over the Throne, and Daenerys started a conquest to restore her House. If a Targaryen restoration happens, you are the first in line, the true heir to the Iron Throne, not her” she pointed out. “This threatens not only you, but our family and our people. Hells, the whole country might be in danger. Gods know how she might react to this" she pointed out.

Having her in front of him, gave Jon a chance to try to read Sansa. She had her shoulders down, as if feeling the weight of the world; her whole body was tired, and with reason, she spent the night sleeping on the floor; he could find worry deep in her eyes, and it extended across her face. She’s been ruling the North alone and been doing a great job at it, trying to bring a solution to their most pressing problem, but it appears he only brought more problems. And then, the matter of his parents.

The Gods are cruel, he thought, bitterly. They made me live a lie. I always hated the name Snow, and all I’ve ever wanted was the name Stark, but now it turns out neither fits me, I’m a Targaryen. They gave me a loving family, and took it away, only to find out it was a lie. They made me love her, when I thought she was… Because that’s what they did, that’s what this is. I love her. Gods, I love her. And how many times have I cursed myself, cursed the Gods for inflicting me such pain? But now… now I can tell her… No. Now is not the time. If the Gods find it in themselves to be merciful, just for once, they will give me time.

“Jon” Sansa’s voice startled him.

“Aye. Sorry, Sansa. I drifted off” Jon apologized to her.

“Yes, I noticed” she teased. Her smile was radiant and contagious and soon he was smiling too. But as soon as the sweet smile spread across Sansa’s face, it fade away. “I was asking you what do you want to do next” she continued. “Whatever we do next, it will be your choice”.

“I feel like I’m not very good at choosing. Whenever something’s up to me, I screw up badly” Jon tried to tease her, but Sansa kept a straight face.

“We’re all together, now. You don’t have to make these choices alone” she remarked. “You’re not alone”.

Jon grabbed her hands and leaned towards her, closing his eyes. Peace and time, he thought, I want peace and time and that seems to be the only two things I cannot have.

“I want us to talk about this. The four of us. So everything’s on the table. Once we resolve this together, as a family, we’ll deal with everyone else” he decided.

He went to his feet and offered his hand to her to help her up. She smiled at him as a ‘thank you’

“Alright, we’ll do that. But first, I think we could have a couple of hours of proper sleep, don’t you think?” she suggested.

 “Aye, my back is killing me”.

“Well, my back and neck are killing me, so…”

“Didn’t know it was a competition” he mocked.

“It isn’t. I’m just stating the facts” she laughed.

She was making her way towards the stairs when Jon called after her.

“What?”

He walked towards her. He had to see her face, he wanted her to see his face. “Thank you, for last night”.

“Jon, there’s nothing you should be thank-“she started.

“Yes, I should be thankful” he interrupted. “I was down here, all alone, ready to be consumed by all of it, but you came and pulled me back. You always do that, you know? You give me strength just when I think I don’t have any left in me” he told her.

Maybe I can do this, tell her little by little, even if nothing comes to pass.

Sansa pulled him into a warm and sweet embrace. Jon gave himself into it. “Still, you shouldn’t thank me” she insisted. “I love you, Jon. There’s nothing I wouldn’t do for you” she whispered.

Jon’s heart skipped a beat or two. He needed to get away from here. He needed to get his mind straight, he needed to focus.

He broke the embrace and took in the whole sight of her face, “And I love you” he responded in a whisper. They stayed like that, looking at each other for a few moments; her blue eyes were beautiful and true, in that moment he felt the threat of getting lost in them again. It wasn’t until a gush of wind broke them out of the spell they both seemed to be under.

“We should get going if we want to get some rest” Sansa said.

“Yes, of course. After you” Jon offered.

 

 

 

They were walking towards the Great Keep side by side, seeing Winterfell come to life slowly, as it was still very early in the morning.

“Your Grace, m’lady” some kitchen maid that was hurriedly coming and going between the kitchens and the Great Hall bowed to her King and Lady.

“Barbra, how are we doing with the rations?” Sansa asked the kitchen maid

“So far so good, m’lady. But I don’t know how long we can keep it goin’ like this” Barbra responded.

“Thank you. I’ll leave you to work”.

“Thanks, m’lady” Barbra bowed again, and skirted away towards the kitchens.

“Problems with the food” Jon noted.

“Nothing we can’t handle” Sansa reassured him. “I’ve talked to Tyrion about it”.

“And what did he had to say?”

“Not much. He told me Cersei took all the food from the Reach”.

“So, she took all the food to King’s Landing”.

“It will most certainly play in her favor regarding the smallfolk” she conceded.

“Aye, there’s a million people living there. She’ll look like a savior to them, surely” he said, apathetic.

“It appears to be a competition: which Queen can appear to be the most benevolent to her subjects" She added. “But now we’re Daenerys’ subjects, and we are at her mercy and benevolence”. He saw the same steel from the day before.

“It’s as you said, we have to be smart” Jon offered.

Sansa gave him a small smile, but its warmth didn’t reach her eyes; in fact, her blue eyes were cold as ice.

They continued walking in silence.

 

 

 

Jon and Sansa entered the Keep and made their way to their chambers floor in comfortable silence. There’s something hanging over them, since she said those words. He couldn’t think straight.

“Do you want me to walk you to your room?” Sansa offered.

Jon needed some space and a couple of hours to get his thoughts in order. “No, it’s alright. Go to sleep. You must be tired” he told her. “Try to get some rest”.

“You too. I’ll see you later”.

Jon started to undress, he took off his cloak, then his leather jerkin. He sat on the bed and took off his boots, along with his leather breeches. He went to bed with only his tunic and smallclothes. Reflecting on everything that happened over his first day back home, Jon Snow didn’t get the rest he so desperately needed.

 


 

 

After an hour or so passed, not being able to sleep, Jon put on his clothes and left to find Davos. He needed to go over their numbers, now that Daenerys joined forces with them. If he was being honest with himself, he just needed to get his mind off things. I need to focus on the upcoming battles, that’s it, he said to himself. Everything else must wait.

He spent the whole morning with Davos, first in his solar, discussing the numbers they now had and possible strategies to start moving their forces north, and then walking through the camps, talking to the soldiers and the free folk, to see how they were holding up. The Free Folk and the Northerners were doing just fine, but there was no doubt the Unsullied and the Dothraki had a hard time adjusting to the hard winds and snows of the North.

“I’ve been told some of the Dothraki had fallen ill, my lord” Davos began. “If they can’t adjust to the climate, they’ll be no good out on the field” Davos said with concern.

“We’ll make sure they receive some more fur. Maybe, move a host of them inside the castle, the ones that need it the most. We could use the Guards Hall, or maybe the Bell Tower” Jon was trying to think what to do. It’s been two days and it’s already going to shit. “I’ll talk to Sansa about this. She’ll know what to do” he said. It isn’t fair to her, he thought. She already has enough to deal with, and now I’m going to go to her door and leave her one more problem for her to solve.

“Aye, I’m sure she will” Davos replied.

Jon directed a quizzical look towards the old man.

“I haven’t seen much of you, Jon, so we hadn’t had a chance to talk. Properly”.

“I’m sorry, Davos. I just-“ Jon began

“I know, I know. You want to be with your family, I understand. Gods know when the madness will begin, and if we’ll survive it” his friend interjected.

“I’m afraid the madness already began, Ser Davos” he confided.

“Beg your pardon?” Davos said, perplexed.

“It’s a long story” In that moment he saw Arya heading towards them. It’s time. “We’ll speak about it later today” he said.

“Madness” Davos left the word hang in the air. “We’ll make the best of it; we’ll sure try, at least” he declared. “Lady Arya” he bowed to his sister -cousin- to his cousin.

“Ser Davos” she replied. “Jon, it’s time”.

“We’ll talk later. I’ll come find you” Jon promised.

“So… Sansa went looking for you last night. I guessed she found you, given that neither one of you returned to their chambers till very early in the morning” Arya said, once they were within the walls of the Great Keep. Jon didn’t say anything.

“Have you talked about… the issue?” she whispered.

“Aye, we have”.

“Are you feeling better now?” she asked.

“I think so, yes. I mean, I’m still coming to terms with it. Oi!” he exclaimed at the punch Arya gave him in his side.

“Well, I’m glad you’re feeling better, because I get to do this” she aimed again, but this time Jon was prepared, he grabbed her arm.

Frustrated, she freed her arm from his grip. “You don’t get to do that” Arya snarled.

“What? Defend myself?” Jon teased.

“Shut yourself out” she reprimanded him. Suddenly, he felt like a boy. “What Bran told us… that…” she struggled. “No matter what, you’re still my brother. You’re still part of the pack, you’ll always be part of the pack” she mumbled to his leather jerkin. She held on to him tightly, just like the time they were both leaving home. The truth about his parentage had changed a lot of things, but it only made his love for his family even stronger.

“I know, Arya. I know” he tried to console her. His sweet, brave Arya. She wasn’t the little girl trying to name her first sword. She was a skilled swordsman now, a woman grown; but she still worried fiercely over her family. That’s how much love is in her heart. They shared that embrace for a few moments, neither of them wanting to let go. Arya was the stronger one, breaking it.

“We should get going. Bran and Sansa must be waiting” she said.

They made their way towards Sansa’s solar in comfortable silence.

Lady Brienne was at the door, always guarding her Lady.

“My Lord, Lady Arya” she addressed them with a bow. “I’ll make sure no one disturbs you, that was Lady Sansa’s command”.

“Thank you, Brienne” Jon replied.

The Knight nodded and opened the door for them. Just as they trespassed the threshold, Bran said “Now that we all know the truth, it is time we talk”.

He didn’t seem to notice Brienne hadn’t close the door yet, for there was worry and confusion her eyes.

“I’ll make sure no one disturbs you” she repeated, and then closed the door.

The room offered the warmth it always had, with a kindled fire in the hearth and the smell of winter impregnating the air.

“Please, sit down. There’s some hard cheese, fresh bread and mead and ale. We can call a maid to bring us some rabbit stew if you like, I don’t know you’ve eaten yet” Sansa offered, sitting at the one of the sides of the dining table that was brought up for them. The plates with food and the jugs were placed at the center of the table. The cups were placed in front of each chair.

“I’m fine with the cheese and the bread, thank you” Arya said with her mouth already full of hard cheese, sitting in front of her sister.

Sansa rolled her eyes at the behavior of her little sister. Arya caught that “You’ll be the Lady and I’ll be the Knight, good?” she proposed.

“Good” Sansa answered, then let out a small laugh.

He’s never seen them like that before, being playful with each other. He felt happy, if only for a moment. If he could have more days like this, he’d be happy. To see the people he loved the most, his pack, be happy around each other, with each other. Please, Gods, just give me more moments like this, so I can treasure them in my heart.

“Jon” she snapped him out of his thoughts.

 “What?”

“I asked you if you want anything” she repeated.

He took his place at one of the ends of the table, with Sansa at his right and Arya at his left. Bran was opposite him, near the hearth. “I’ll just have some ale” he answered, smiling at her. There are a thousand things I want to say to her, but I can’t even focus when she’s around. I’m a fool. “We should get started” he continued.

“I already told Jon, in detail, the nature of his heritage” Bran started.

“Yes, yes, we know. Aunt Lyanna and Rhaegar Targaryen are his parents, thus making him a Targaryen and a Stark” Arya stated.

“That’s true, Arya. But it’s more complicated than that. Aunt Lyanna, Jon’s mother, she eloped with Prince Rhaegar. Rhaegar Targaryen didn’t kidnapped her. The Prince had his marriage with Princess Elia Martell annulled by the High Septon. He didn’t take Lyanna as a mistress or a second wife, but as his only wife and princess. That means that any child born out of the union between Rhaegar and Lyanna would have a better claim that his children with Princess Elia” he recounted.

Jon’s mind was at war with itself. How could his father have set aside his family like that? His children. And for what?

“He loved her” Bran answered the question Jon didn’t ask aloud. “And she loved him”.

“Aye, they loved each other. But their love got my uncle and grandfather killed, and that started a war neither of them survived” Jon spat.

“We have knowledge of what truly happened” Sansa started “but it will only help us if we make right use of that knowledge. Worrying about the past will get us nowhere. It’s the present that worries me” she stated.

“You’re forgetting about the future” Bran reminded her.

“What good is worrying about the future if we don’t know what to do now?” Arya exclaimed.

“I know what to do” Jon said.

The three of them were looking at him now, expectant.

“I’ll talk to Daenerys and her council, tell them the truth” Jon declared.

“Are you mad? She’ll kill you on the spot” Arya interjected, hitting the table with both hands.

Sansa barely flinched, but Bran looked as if he was expecting it.

“She won’t” he said.

“How are you sure?” she retorted.

“She won’t do anything rash if her council is there with her and if we show her the proof”.

“She’ll believe us” Bran said.

“You saw it?” Arya asked.

“She’ll ask him to renounce to his birthright” he answered.

“And I’ll do it” Jon added. “She wants one thing and one thing only: The Iron Throne. She’s crossed half the world for it. I won’t stand in her way. She can have it” he assured them.

Bran, Arya and Sansa shared a look with each other. Then Sansa said “Well, it’s settled then. Jon and Bran will talk to Daenerys and her council. I’m sure Varys will have something to contribute, he served the Mad King and knew Rhaegar. I’ll talk to him later, see what I can get from him”.

“Are you sure you want to do that? Isn’t the Spider dangerous?” Jon voiced his concern.

“All of them are dangerous. Besides, if there ever was a secret in the Capital, Varys sure knew about it. So, yes, I’ll talk to him” she reaffirmed.

“That leaves us with the North” Bran said.

“We have to tell them, as soon as possible” Sansa pleaded.

“We will” Jon tried to reassure her.

“Jon, I don't think you understand. This will be as hard as telling Daenerys” she said. “When you where at Dragonstone, they were already having doubts about you. They were starting to think they should have named me Queen”.

“And all that happened with them believing you to be Father’s bastard” Arya added.

“If you thought they wouldn’t take kindly the fact that you kneeled…” Sansa started

“But I didn’t kneel” Jon said, exasperated.

“I know. I know that, but the lords don’t. But if they learn that a Targaryen gave the North to another Targaryen…” she explained.

“They’ll revolt. Against me, against Daenerys. Dragons and armies be damned” he understood.

“They will never revolt against you, Jon. I won’t let them” Arya declared.

How did everything go to shit so fast? he asked himself. One moment he was sailing home with two dragons and new armies, and the next, everything was collapsing on itself.

“We’ll have to tell them together. Us and Daenerys, to show unity despite this revelation. We’ll have to appease everyone, or at least remind them that there are more important things than Targaryens” Jon said.

“You have good intentions, Jon, but I’m afraid good intentions aren’t always enough” Bran said.

“What do you mean?” Bran’s words sounded ominous, and his eyes, when they were normally devoid of emotion, were tinted with sadness.

“You will have the support of either the North or Daenerys, not both” he confirmed.  “I can’t see it clearly, but something will go wrong, and then you’ll lose the support of either of them”.

“So, that’s it. We don’t tell the lords. Easy” Arya urged them.

Sansa leaned back in her chair, resting her thumb atop her lips, thinking. She knew as well as him that keeping this from the lords was a bad idea. But what could they expect from them once they learned the truth? He ran his hands across his face. What should I do? Bloody hells.

“We’ll talk to the lords” Jon finally said.

“But Jon-“ Arya started

“They expect me to lead them into battle, Arya. I cannot do that if I lie to them. They deserve to know the truth” Jon declared. “When we tell Daenerys, we’ll all figure out the best way to tell the people”.

Arya stood up, but Sansa saw her sister’s intention.

“Jon’s right, Arya. The lords might not like it, but they will see to reason. The threat of the Night King and his army is bigger than any of us, including the Targaryen Queen” she affirmed.

Arya gave her chair a light kick. “If this goes badly” she said, giving her sister a pointed look, “I’ll start cutting off heads, and you won’t stop me”.

“Arya” Sansa tried to placate her.

“You won’t stop me” she maintained.

Jon was tired. He wanted nothing more that to go to sleep and dream of a sweet spring day, with his people happy and safe, where he could spend time with his family not having to talk about politics and wars. Someday, he promised himself, someday that dream of spring will come true.

Taking a long sip from his cup, he stood up “Is that all? Because I’d like to go get some rest now” he said.

“Actually, there’s another thing we’d like to tell you” Sansa began “it’s about Baelish”.

“Did he follow my advice and went back to the Eyrie?” Jon teased.

“We held a trial” Arya said. “He was charged with treason and murder and later we executed him”.

Jon could not believe what he was hearing. “You did what?”

“Baelish betrayed Father, which got him imprisoned and killed. He started the war between our family and the Lannisters, which got Robb and Mother killed. He killed aunt Lysa to secure power in the Vale. He sold me to the Boltons” Sansa asserted. There it was again, the ice in her eyes.

 

 

The first time it happened was at Castle Black. He had given her his chambers, so he stayed in the antechamber. He had been drifting in and out of consciousness when he heard it. A scream so sharp, so full of pain and fear, that his first instinct was to reach for Longclaw. It took him a few seconds to realize the screams came from his chambers. He barged in, not knowing what he would find but hellbent on slaying anyone that dared to hurt her. But when he entered the room there was no one there, only Sansa. He let his sword fall to the floor and went to her side as fast as he could.

“Hey, Sansa. Sansa look at me” he implored her.

“He’ll visit soon. I don’t want him near me, please help me. Please, don’t leave me alone with him, I don’t want him near me”. She cried. She was trembling.

“Sansa. Sansa, it’s me, Jon. You’re safe now” he tried to console her, tried to bring her to here and now.

She was mumbling something until she caught his name. “Jon?” she whispered. “Jon” she gasped and threw herself in his arms. “I thought… I thought I was back and that he…” Her sobs were loud. The sight of her along with the sound of her sobs broke his heart into a million pieces.

I’ll make him pay, he promised himself that night. For every scar, every bruise and bite, he’ll pay for it all.

“It’s ok, we’re together now” he soothed her, gently rocking her in his arms. “You’ll be safe, I promise”.

 

 

“All the bad things that happened to our family can be traced back to him” she spat. “So, we held a trial and we executed him”. Tears were falling down her cheeks.

“He tried to pit us against one another, just as he did with Mother and aunt Lysa” Arya said.

“But Sansa came to me, telling me about his games, so I went back to see what he has done” Bran continued.

“He always thought himself to be the smartest person in the room, therefore the most powerful, but he didn’t know the strength of a pack of wolves” Sansa finished.

Gods help me, Jon thought. “You put yourselves in great danger. Did you ever stopped for a moment to think what could have happened if this hadn’t gone your way?” he exclaimed.

“We were already in danger with him here. Hasn’t it crossed your mind, at least once, the danger his mere presence here represented?” she remarked.

He thought of the day he left for Dragonstone. He was down in the crypts asking Ned to guide him, to give him strength, when Littlefinger appeared. He wanted to provoke him, so he brought up Ned, Catelyn Stark, the Battle for Winterfell. It would have been good if it had stopped there, but no, he felt the need to go further.

 

“I love Sansa, as I loved her mother” he had confessed to him.

Those three words. I love Sansa. They were all it took for Jon to almost kill the bastard in that very spot.

He talked of love, while he took advantage of a girl who was all alone.

He talked of love, while he played with her, pretending to be her ally, when in fact he was one more of her enemies.

He talked of love, when all he wanted was to use her for her birthright.

He talked of love, while he sold her to the enemy, someone that almost destroyed her.

Men like that didn’t know shit about love.

"Touch my sister, and I’ll kill you myself” he had said while choking him.

 

He remembers he really wanted to kill him in that moment. You should have, a dark voice in his head told him, he swore he loved Sansa just as he loved Lady Catelyn. You let him live and put her in danger. The day you retook Winterfell, the voice continued, you made an oath before the Heart Tree, you swore to avenge her, avenge your family. But it turns out she avenged herself. The pack got its taste of justice.

Knowing she was right, Jon only looked at her.

“Now, with him gone, Lord Royce and the rest of the Vale swore fealty to us” Sansa reassured him. “Think about it, the North and the Vale, joined in arms and faith. And with the Freys gone, we can take back Riverrun, in the name of uncle Edmure. Should things with your aunt go wrong, we’d have the support of half of Westeros” she declared.

“We could have more than that” Bran said.

“What do you mean?” Jon asked

“Daenerys won’t have the support of the high lords, not if she repeats what she’s done at the Reach” he hinted.

“The Reach? She flew to Highgarden, it was sieged by the Lannisters” Jon tried to remember what Daenerys told him about it. “She took an army of Dothraki with her. When she came back, she said she had fewer enemies than yesterday” he recounted.

“She brought her largest dragon, Jon” Bran said to him as if he was explaining simple mathematics to him. “She went there with one purpose: to decimate her enemy’s army”. Suddenly, his eyes went white.

“What… what’s happening to him?” Jon asked, panic clear as day in his voice.

“He’s having one of his visions” Arya responded. “It won’t be long, I guess, though your friend Sam” Arya stopped, looking away. “He knows more about the visions”. She headed towards the hearth, unsheathing the Valyrian steel dagger so she could start twirling it around.

After a few minutes, Bran came back to the present. “She burnt all the food from the Reach. It could’ve fed the entirety of King’s Landing, and she just burnt it” Bran said, something resembling astonishment present in his voice.

At the revelation, Sansa stood up and started pacing around the room. “So she condemned thousands of people to starvation… because she lost a battle?” she said, perplexed.

“She’s just as mad as her father” Arya snarled. “Jon, she’s mad. She burned people alive, she burned Sam’s family alive” she yelled.

“Arya keep your voice down” Sansa reprimanded her.

“What?” Jon said, incredulous.

“It’s true” Bran was the one that answered him. “Randyll Tarly refused to bend the knee to Daenerys, so as queen, she sentenced him to die. But his heir, Dickon Tarly, preferred to die alongside his father than be a kneeler. So, she executed them both. Death by fire” he concluded.

Jon felt as if he was about to pass out. What have I done?  He wanted to cry, he wanted to break things, he wanted to do nothing at all. Sam… My friend.

“Does Sam know?” he asked.

“We all decided it would be best if you and Bran told him” Sansa said while looking at Arya and Bran. “He will need his friend”.

He turned to face Bran. “We tell him today” Jon declared. “Sam’s one of the best, kindest people I’ve ever met. He’s a good friend, he’s family. He deserves to know the truth” he said.

It was all too much, he felt as if the walls were closing in on him. He went to window, to see if feeling the cold bite of the wind would relieve him of the dread he felt in his chest.

“I know it’s too much” Sansa started. He felt her hand on his shoulder. “But you said we need to trust each other, and that means telling ourselves everything, no holding back” she said.

“I know”

“I think that’s all for now” Arya said, “I need to get going, there’s some things I’ve got to do”.

She was almost out of the solar when Jon announced, “We’ll talk to our small council tonight about my parentage, during supper”.

The three siblings looked at him. Worry plain in all their faces.

“Are you sure?” Sansa asked, clearly afraid of what might happen in this private meeting.

“Yes. It’s the only way to know if they’ll keep the oaths they swore to us” he admitted.

“Supper it is, then. I’ll make the preparations” Sansa said, and with that, she was gone.

“I’m bringing the dagger, just so you know” Arya declared.

He wouldn’t expect anything less of her.

He hugged her, she returned the hug. He should be the one, ready to slay anyone that threatens his family, and yet, here is Arya, sword and dagger in hand, ready to do just that. Lord Eddard would be proud, he thought.

Now, it was just him and Bran. His cousin was looking at the fire, deep in thought.

“Do you want me to take you to your-“ Jon started.

“I know it wasn’t easy, to hear the truth. And I’m sorry for the pain it gives you” Bran acknowledged. He was still looking at the flames dance with each other.

“Aye, I’m still… still trying to process it” Jon confessed.

“Yes” Bran said. “Everything’s different, now” he added, turning his head so he could look him in the eyes. “Tell me Jon, does anyone know about your relationship with Queen Daenerys?”

Jon’s body went rigid; ever since Bran and Sam told him about his parents, he tried with all his might to avoid Daenerys, to think about her and what he’d done. For a second, he thought of denying it, but Bran was the Three Eyed Raven now, whatever the Hells that meant, he had visions. It would not help to deny what had already happened.

“I saw you” he said, as he was responding to his thoughts, “standing outside her door. You doubted for a second, but knocked nonetheless. She opened her door and let you right in”.

“Bran, you’ve seen that?” Jon didn’t know for sure if he wanted to have this conversation.

“I saw Lord Tyrion have a conversation with Varys about it. Apparently, it was him that saw you” he admitted. “So, I went back to know if it was true”.

Oh, Gods. This is bad, this is really fucking bad, he thought.

“And how did you know to look out-“ Jon started

“For Tyrion Lannister?” Bran interjected. “Sansa told me to get all the valuable information I can on our visitors. She would talk to them, try to get all the information she could. Then she would come to me and see if they were lying or hiding things from us” he explained. “I think after our talk discussing your aunt’s actions at the Reach, we could say we were right to take these precautions”.

“What’s the point of an alliance if we need to spy on our allies?” he wasn’t sure if he was asking Bran or himself.

“People are complicated, Jon. They lie, they hide the truth, they betray” Bran remarked. “They all do it. The difference lies in the reason. Some seek more, so they lie to get more; some are bound by promises, so they hide the truth; and some try to protect those they love, so they betray those who would ultimately harm them” it seemed as if Bran’s eyes bore into his soul, trying to see the things it hid.

Jon was a liar and a deceiver, he made peace with that long ago, when he was north of the Wall. He thought that he wouldn’t have to do that again. What I did to Ygritte, his mind drifted, No, she killed innocent people, and I am the sword in the darkness. Then, my duty lied with the Watch, just as it now lays with my family and the realm. For them, I would lie a thousand times over, I would deceive the world. If that ensure their safety, then brand me a liar and a deceiver.

“We went beyond the Wall” Jon told him. “We went to catch a wight for Daenerys’ ceasefire with Cersei. Things went wrong, men died and the rest of us alive were trapped between walkers, wights and ice. The blacksmith, Gendry, got to Davos so he could send a raven back to Dragonstone. She came north, she fought the wights, she saw the Night King”. At the mention of the Night King, Bran instinctively touch his arm. “Bran are you alright?”.

“Fine. It’s nothing” he tucked his cloak a little tighter. “You were saying she saw him” Bran insisted.

“She saw it all. When we were on our way to King’s Landing, she said she would fight for the North. She gave me her word” he continued.

“But?”

“But I couldn’t put aside the fact that she kept me prisoner on an island because I wouldn’t bend the knee to her. I was desperate, so I kneeled, without really meaning to give her the North. I lied to her. The look on her face” she had looked so grateful, then, even in the wake of the death of one of her dragons. “But when we arrived at King’s Landing… even after she gave her word, her thoughts were still on that throne” the thought alone exasperated him. “I’ve became desperate. I knew if I gave her a reason, a personal reason, to fight with us, maybe that would be enough to make her forget about her conquest” Jon went on. “But it turns out I made everything unnecessarily more difficult” he let out a heavy sigh. “You know what she said to me after I kneeled?” he asked Bran.

“What?”

’I hope I deserve it’. The people’s trust. She wants people to accept her, to follow her. She wants the people to believe in her, to want her as their queen” Jon whispered with sadness in his voice. “But after what you told me, what she did to Sam’s family… She’s never going to get what she wants”.

They stayed in silence, reflecting on the words Jon just said. All that sacrifice and games, for nothing, his thoughts were turning dark.

Bran was looking at the flames again. “We are threatened to be consumed either by ice or by fire. I’ve seen them both, fire and ice; all that’s left of them are broken pieces or ashes” he declared.

“I’ve been meaning to ask you” Jon began “Have you or Sam found anything new on the Night King?”

“These last weeks, I… I’ve been having trouble, any time I tried to see him with my third eye” he admitted. “I’m sorry”.

“There’s nothing to be sorry about. I’m sure whatever you’re able to see along with the books Sam brought from the Citadel will give us the means to win this war” he reassured him. “You want me to get you to your chambers?”

“I’d like to go the Godswood, I’m more powerful with a Heart Tree” Bran said. “Sam must be waiting for me already”.

“How often do you have these… visions?”

“It varies, in frequency and length” was all Bran offered him.

With the help of a guard, Jon carried Bran down the stairs and out to the yard.

“Podrick will take me to the Godswood. He’ll keep an eye on us” Bran told him.

“My Lord” he said in a whisper, so people on the courtyard won’t notice the change of Jon’s title.

“Podrick, keep your eyes open, there’s a lot of strangers here now” Podrick nodded. Jon turned to Bran. “Don’t stay out here long, alright. It won’t be that long till it gets dark”.

“We’ll try, but I need to go be near the Heart Tree. I told you, I’m more powerful that way”.

“Alright. Remember, supper with the lords”.

“Yes, I’ll be there” Bran answered.

“Take good care of them, Podrick” Jon asked the young squire.

“I will, my lord” he said with a light bow and disappeared with Bran.

 

 

 

Now alone, he asked one the guards in the yard where Davos were.

“I saw Ser Davos at the smithy, your Grace” the man replied.

With a nod, he headed towards the smithy, where he found Davos and Gendry, laughing.

At the sight of him, Davos stood up and bowed dutifully “Your Grace”.

Gendry did the same as Davos.

Jon looked around; they weren’t the only ones there. Everyone in the room stopped what they were doing to pay their respect to their King. This only afflicted him more.

“Gendry, how’s everything going with the dragonglass?”

“So far so good” he handed him a freshly forged dagger made of dragonglass. “Your Grace” he added.

“How many did you and the men managed to make?”

“Two hundred. We also got seventy-five longswords. We got to work the second the dragonglass arrived. We also work long before the sun’s up and long after the moon appears in the sky”.

“I appreciate the hard work. From all of you. The weapons you’re making are key for us to win the war” he addressed the men.

The room was filled with “thank you, your Grace” and proud smiles.

“Also, your Grace, dragonglass have been sent to the nearest keeps and holdfasts, so the number of weapons should be well past the thousands by the next week” Gendry said with confidence.

“Alright” Jon gave him a pat on the shoulder. “I’ll leave you to it, now”. He turned to see Davos with a proud little smile on his face. “Davos, I wanted to talk to you”.

“Yes, your Grace. Is it about earlier today?”

“In way, yes. We’ll be having supper with most important lords and ladies from the North and the Vale tonight”. He informed him.

Jon started to walk away from the place, Davos followed. “Does it have anything to do with the madness you implied to earlier today?” he said, almost in a whisper, aware of the prying ears.

“It does”

“Trying to make the best of it?”

“Yes” Jon said with a tired look. His mind was divided. He dreaded the private meeting, but at the same time, he just wanted to get over with it.

“Jon, go get some rest. If madness awaits for us tonight, you’ll need it” he suggested.

“Thank you, Davos” he said with a smile. He was a good man, Davos Seaworth.

He just grabbed his shoulder and gave him a paternal smile. No matter what the lords and ladies would say tonight, he knew he would have his support.

I hope I get to keep the support of the North and the Vale, as well, he thought. Otherwise, it will be madness.

Chapter Text

Jon was walking towards the east solar, located on the highest floor of the Great Keep. It was the biggest one in the Keep, including the Lord’s solar, making it the most appropriate for tonight’s events. We’ll need all the space we can get, he thought. Gods know what might happen. He stopped on his tracks, let his back fall to one of the walls and let out a long, heavy sigh. His head was already aching.

“We’re already feeling like that?” Sansa prompted.

“Aye” he said, the corner of his mouth turning up.

She looked lovely. She was wearing a silver-grey velvet dress which had long fur-trimmed sleeves and collar, the brocade of the waistline had an intricate pattern of blue winter roses in a snowy field. She was using a pair of light grey leather gloves. The only accessory she was wearing was her dragonfly pendant. She also was wearing her grey fur cloak. Her auburn hair was braided into a lovely half updo; simple, yet elegant. The Lady of Winterfell, he thought. Ever so beautiful.

“That’s a nice dress” he commented.

“Thank you” her whole face lit up at the compliment. “You look good, too” she observed.

Jon looked down. He was wearing a new brown leather jerkin with black accents and a woolen tunic underneath, black leather breeches and polished dark brown boots. Over the whole ensemble, he was wearing the fur-trimmed cloak Sansa gave him after they reclaimed Winterfell. Though, he was sure she was talking about his expression and not the clothes he put on.

“There’s something missing, though” she added. As she came closer, he could see that she was holding something in her right hand. “Loosen up your cloak a little” she ordered. “I was going to give you this when you came home, so you could wear it at the feast. Of course, that didn’t happen”. She opened her hand, so he could see what she was holding: a silver pin in the form of two direwolves, facing each other. This piece was similar to the two direwolves she wore with her grey dress. “So I thought, what better time to wear it than now?” she concluded as she placed the pin where the two straps of his cloak met, then she readjusted his cloak. After being done, she smiled.

“Thank you, Sansa” he simpered. “I… you give me all these things, and I gave you nothing” he pointed out.

“You came back from the South. Alive” she responded as she took his hand. “That’s all I ask for, that when you leave, you’ll come back” she whispered. She was looking at their intertwined hands, and then looked up to him. Her blue eyes were clear as the sky in a summer’s day, but there was a strength to them. It wasn’t the ice he saw before; no, this intensity felt more like the Sun, almighty in the sky, melting the summer snow.

He couldn’t help but to move his other hand, it snaked up her arm, until it reached her elbow. She inadvertently moved closer to him. “I’ll come back. Always” he assured her. He wanted to hug her but couldn’t bring himself to take his eyes from hers.

“Promise me?” she sighed.

He took the hand resting on her elbow up to cheek. “Sansa, I-“ he started when they heard footsteps coming from the stairs. At the sound, they both stepped away from each other. I’m a fool, he thought, a fucking fool.

“Brienne” Sansa exclaimed. “I didn’t think you’d make it” she completely directed her attention to her sworn sword.

“You and I both, my Lady” Brienne confessed. “The days are long out in the training yard”.

“Well, I’m glad you’re here. Your presence tonight is more than welcomed. We may need your… skills”.

“No harm will come to you, Lady Sansa, as long as I’m present” she declared.

“How is everything going with the training?” Jon asked, trying to be part of the conversation. I need to spend more time with the people, he chastised himself. For all they know, I’m still their King, and I am their Commander.

“Very good, my lord. Along with your friend Tormund we’ve determined who will be needing more training, and the weapons they'll likely handle the best, given the short amount of time" she informed.

“Good. Tomorrow I’ll be down there with you and Tormund. I’d like to start training alongside you”. He could feel Sansa’s gaze on him, but he didn’t dare to look at her, not with Brienne with them.

Brienne smiled at him. “Of course, my Lord. The men and women start training after breaking fast. They’ll be happy to see you there” she replied. She turned to look at Sansa, wanting to say something to her, but noticed her absent-mindedness. Following Brienne’s gaze, Jon looked at Sansa. Just as their eyes made contact, she took her eyes from him and focused on Brienne once more. “Brienne, when you arrive at the solar” she said, “please tell everyone Jon and I will be arriving shortly”.

“Yes, Lady Sansa” the lady knight said, and with a bow, headed to the stairs to get to last floor of the Keep.

Just as Brienne was out of sight, Jon started pacing around the dim lit hallway. It was at the mention of the lords that he remembered what he was there for. This is it, he thought. This could be the beginning of the end, or the start of something new, something good.

“This will be difficult” she acknowledged, closing the distance between them. “Northerners…” she let out a humorless chuckle. “During my time as a prisoner in King’s Landing, many a person called us stubborn. I guess they were right. We are stubborn” she recalled.

“That we are” he replied.

“Jon” the way she said his name made him look up. “They are stubborn, but they will understand” she reassured him. “They know who you are, they value you for who you are, not the name you carry”.

He closed the gap between them and laid a hand on her cheek. He wanted to say something, anything, but the words wouldn’t come out. So, he just gave her a coy smile.

“Come on, they must be waiting for us” she said, taking his hand and guiding him upstairs.

 


 

After everyone enjoyed the supper, which consisted of rabbit stew, roasted ham with sweet onions and boiled potatoes, served with watered ale, mead and blackberry wine, Jon thought it best to get on with the evening’s plans. “My lords, my ladies. Thank you for coming” Jon addressed the room: representing the North were Lord Glover, Lord Manderly and Lady Mormont and Lord Royce and Ser Wallace Waynwood were present, representing the Vale. Sansa, Arya and Bran were there; Sansa sitting by his side, as she normally does in the Great Hall, Arya was at Sansa’s right and Bran at Jon’s left. Lord Davos and Lady Brienne were also in attendance, being two of their most trusted advisors.

“I know these last couple of days have been…” life-changing, soul-draining, he thought; “complicated and difficult for all you” he paused, trying to find the right words to say next. “But, I have great respect for all you present here. I deeply value your council, I value your opinions” he said. “I’m sure you have questions, and I’ll answer them all” he spoke frankly, eyeing every single person present the room. “Since you’ve named me your King, all I wanted was to protect the North from the threat of the Night King and his army. My journey south was so we had a chance against the war to come, not only in weapons, but also in numbers”.

“I appreciate your words, You Grace, about you valuing our council and opinions” Lyanna Mormont replied. “But, you ignored our opinions and our council and went south nonetheless, to meet with a Targaryen”.

“Our men are wary and afraid, Your Grace. They’ve seen the dragons roam free in the sky” Lord Royce added. “How long it will be till they be feeding of the livestock?”

“Or worse, from our people?” retorted Lord Glover

“There’s no need to worry. Queen Daenerys has them under control” Jon asserted.

“They are beasts. You cannot control a beast, Your Grace. Especially a Dragon. That is the lesson given to the realm by the Mad King” said Lord Manderly.

“All of your concerns are valid” Sansa interjected. “But Jon forged an alliance with the Dragon Queen. An alliance is of no use if there isn’t trust between the parties involved” she tried to appease them. It worked with the lords, but Lady Mormont wasn’t easily convinced.

“I admire your intentions, Lady Sansa” Lady Lyanna said. “My Lady Mother used to say that trust isn’t given, it is earned”. At this, all the lords nodded in agreement. “So far, all I’ve seen of this Dragon Queen is parade through Winterfell with her council and give speeches to the people. I won’t give my trust to a stranger just because she says some pretty words about bringing change and peace”. Lyanna now faced Jon, “I know your intentions are good, my King, but I don’t know the Targaryen Queen, nor I think she would expect nothing in return for helping us. She’s come here to do what her ancestor did centuries ago” her expression hardened at this. Lyanna Mormont was of young age, but with each meeting she demonstrated to be a ferocious Lady.

Gods help me, here it goes. “You’re right. Lady Mormont. Her help didn’t come free” he swallowed hard. It was time for the truth. “For months, while I was her prisoner on Dragonstone, she-“

“Prisoner?” Lord Manderly exclaimed. “I knew it, I knew it in my bones. Everyone in the Great Hall heard me say ‘Targaryens can’t be trusted’ and I was right” he fumed.

“As I was saying, my lord” Jon glared at the Lord of White Harbor. “Queen Daenerys offered to help, but under one condition: that I bend the knee to her and surrender northern independence” he finally said.

Silence befell the room. Even the flames of the hearth seemed to stop making a sound, the winds were as silent as a ghost and every single one of the lords and ladies stood still. Jon would’ve thought that time had stopped completely, if it weren’t for Arya and Bran looking at him and Sansa taking his hand on hers. It gave him the strength he needed to go on.

“During my time there, I got to observe her. What she took kindly to, what she did not. I got to see were her focus laid, and that was the Iron Throne and the Seven Kingdoms. Even after I told her about the threat numerous times, even after she saw it with her own eyes” there were gasps and questions at this, but Jon silenced them raising his free hand. “You’re right, Lady Mormont. She’s here to do what her ancestors did centuries ago. So, there was no way for me to secure the alliance but to give her what she wanted. I bent the knee” he finally confessed.

“We chose you” Lady Lyanna Mormont started. “My men bled for your cause, our cause” she paused. For the first time, he saw the Lady of Bear Island look like the child she truly is. “And you gave it away” her expression hardened. “My Lady Mother died fighting for your brother, King Robb, she died fighting for the North. How many have died for it? You disrespected every single man and woman who bled and died for the North the day you kneeled” she told him.

“My family have bled and died for yours. Honorably, doing their duty as vassals of House Stark” Lord Glover started, standing up. His jaw was clenched, and his face was as pale as the summer snows. “For generations, we followed a Stark, and proudly so. When we chose you as our King, I thought you would honor not only us standing in front of you, but of all those who gave their lives for the North” he fumed.

“My Lord, if you just let him explain-” Sansa tried to cut in, but Lord Glover hit his fists on the table, making a rattling sound. Both Arya and Brienne had their sword hands ready.

“I don’t care about what shit explanation he has to offer” he roared. “I’m just glad your father is dead, so he doesn’t have to witness how the Direwolf bends to the Dragon, after all that’s happened” Lord Glover said as he strided towards one of the windows.

Every single one of their words felt like a knife, threatening to leave new scars, ones that would match the ones he already had. He felt as if he was drowning, he could hear Davos’ voice.

 

 

“… I know this isn’t ideal…”

“… he had his reasons…”

 

 “… the people won’t…” he heard Lord Royce say

“… the wound is still fresh…”

“… the rebellion was all for nothing…”

 

“… we’re fucked, I know…” he could hear Davos’ voice again

“… the threats we are facing…”

“… you don’t know who…”

 

 

Jon was drifting further and further away, when a firm grip started to pull him out of the darkness he was drowning in. He barely moved his head, he just could see her from the periphery of his eyes. When he moved to face her, he could also see the concern in Sansa’s eyes as clear as he could see the steel shining in them. Slowly, he was gaining the strength he needed to keep on doing this. He looked at Arya, her expression impassive, save her eyes, that sparked with rage. Then he looked at Bran, quietly observing everything unfold. Jon took a deep breath and turned to face the lords again. Lord Manderly was the one talking now.

“The North hasn’t known peace since your Lord Father was imprisoned. The North went to war for that, and we lost. We all lost. But after all what the North went through, it rose up again under the Stark banner, and reclaimed what we thought was lost when the Young Wolf was murdered” Lord Manderly said. “Since then, the North started to hope again, even when facing the threat of the Long Night” the Lord of White Harbor stood up, proudly. “And now you mean to tell us that a Targaryen will rule us all. After everything the North went through because of her family”. There was anger and bitterness in his voice, but mostly disappointment.

Silence filled the room once more. Everyone was looking at each other: Lord Glover had anger across his face, watching everyone from his place by the window; Lord Manderly had his chin up, in defiance, but the emptiness in his eyes seemed to drain all the strength from his expression; Lady Mormont was sitting still, her arms crossed and her face hardened; Lord Royce was covering his mouth, deep in thought; Ser Waynwood was pale as a ghost, fear written all over his face. As for Brienne and Davos, the ones outside his family that already knew about this, they both looked over the room with concern; Davos trying to figure out a way of appeasing everyone, and Brienne determined to stop any foolish attempt on the Starks.

It was Sansa’s voice that broke the silence and snapped everyone out of their thoughts. “I believe everyone said what they wanted to say” she stated. “Some even cared to mention my Lord Father’s death as a blessing” she said looking at Lord Glover, he lowered his head at her words.

“My Lady, nobody meant any disrespect. We’re all just-” Lord Manderly tried to apologize on behalf of the Lord of Deepwood Motte.

“I don’t think my sister’s finished, my Lord” Arya interrupted him. At this, Lord Manderly just nodded and looked at his hands, folding them in front of him.

“As I was saying” she continued as she glanced at the Lord of White Harbor, “everyone spoke their minds. We didn’t expect anything less from any of you, we didn’t expect you to receive this news and be happy about it. Gods know we weren’t when we learnt about it” her expression was a more relaxed one. “But we all agreed to stand together, to continue to be one. Winter is here, and we have a choice. Either we face the coming storms together or perish alone”. Everyone was taking in her words. Sansa always knew what to say, how to appeal to them. Right now, she was on the right track. “I’m sure we all want to live to see Spring, but we can’t do that if we quarrel with one another over something that hasn’t happened yet. Daenerys Targaryen isn’t Queen of the Seven Kingdoms, not yet at least. She hasn’t won her war of conquest. We will face that issue, when or if the time comes” she stood up walked to the hearth, taking off her grey gloves and letting her hands feel the warmth of the flames.

The room waited anxiously for her to continue. Jon could see Ser Waynwood fidgeting on his chair, clearly uncomfortable. After a few moments, Sansa turned around, and he saw it again, the intensity in her eyes. “We don’t know the Dragon Queen. She’s a stranger to all of us in this room” she declared, “except for Jon. She made him stay on Dragonstone for months. He talked to her, observed her” she explained as she glanced at him. “If you let him, he will tell you why he did the things he did. And believe me, all of us” she said as she returned to her place at the table, amongst the pack, “believe in him”.

She sat down and gave him a meaningful look. In her eyes he could find the reassurance and strength he so desperately needed.

“As I said before, everything I’ve done since you named me King was to protect the North” he insisted, “not just from the Army of the Dead, but for any and every threat”. A thousand images and feelings came rushing back to him; he took a deep breath to keep it together. “When I heard of Robb going to war, I almost deserted from the Night’s Watch. I’ve already said my vows in front of a Heart Tree, I was a sworn brother. My watch would only end with my death” he declared. “But still, I wanted to go to him, fight beside him, in the name of Ned Stark and the North, even if it meant my death. The Maester of the Watch, Maester Aemon finally convinced me not to” the thought of the old Targaryen Maester came to his mind. He could still remember their conversations. “Kill the boy, Jon Snow. Winter is almost upon us. Kill the boy, and let the man be born", he had told him once. Time showed Maester Aemon was right, for this winter certainly bring terrors with it and threatens to be long, and a boy would perish. But a man, a man, hardened by the white winds of winter could survive.

They all think I don’t care about the North, he thought, that I don’t care about them. They just told me so in various ways. If they knew how much I care, how much I’m willing to do, how farther I’m willing to go to keep them all safe, he thought.

“I will live with my choice for the rest of my days. But I wanted you know that” he concluded.

“Why are you telling us this?” Lord Royce asked.

“To help you understand, my Lord” he replied. “Whether it was at the Wall or in a battlefield outside Winterfell, I’ve always fought for the North. I’ve always fought for it and its people” he claimed. “You can say anything you want about me as a man and as a King, but all of you need to know everything I did, I did because it was the best way to keep people safe”.

“How is bending the knee to a Targaryen going to keep us safe?” Lord Glover inquired.

“I never bent the knee to her, Lord Glover, not properly” he said.

At his words, many jaws dropped, and many brows furrowed. Lord Royce looked at him, clearly confused. “But you said-“ he started.

“I know what I said. I said I gave her what she wanted, that I bent the knee; but I didn’t, not truly”. All the people present, save for his family, were utterly confused and disbelieving of what they were hearing.

“I’ve never swore any oaths, I never gave her my sword” he started to explain as he stood up, he couldn’t stay still any longer. “We were alone when I gave her my word, there was no one there to witness it” he was pacing across the room. “Should it come to it, it would be her word against mine” he said, coming to a halt. He turned around to look at all the lords and ladies. “You all said that I disrespected the North, that I disrespected its people” the words tasted like poison in his mouth, so he couldn’t help but to spat them. “You said I disrespected my family, when all I’ve done was in the name of the North, its people, and the Starks”. He felt the anger rising in him, so he started pacing again.

No one dared to interrupt him. Everyone was letting him explain before they could say what they had in their minds. Gods know they want to say something, anything, he thought. But he continued explaining, “When I left for Dragonstone, I’ll admit I had my doubts about Daenerys, but I wouldn’t let my doubts get in the way of the safety of the North. Like I said before, we need her armies, we need her dragons. I did everything in my power to secure that, so we could win, so we could live”.

“So, you lied to her?” It was Davos who spoke. “Everything you said at the cease fire, it was all a lie?” he asked.

“Yes” he said. “She’s a southern queen at war against another southern queen, both playing southern games”. He remembered what Sansa told him. “They think me this northern fool, one that’s too honorable for his own good” he chuckled, humorless. “Maybe it’s true, maybe I am a northern fool, and I do try to be honorable. That’s what… that’s what my Father taught me” he choked when trying to talk about Eddard Stark.

 

“You were raised by Eddard Stark. He raised you here in the North, within the walls of Winterfell” Sansa’s voice echoed in his mind.

 

“My honor demanded that I keep the North and my people safe. In the South, everyone plays games of lies and deception. Sansa knows that better than anyone here” he couldn’t fight the power her eyes had over him. Suddenly, he found himself standing by her side. He shot one more glance at her before addressing the lords and ladies. Her eyes shone the same way they had a handful of times before: when they talked at Castle Black, when they talked atop the battlements after retaking their home, when he was made King in the North, when she gave him those small but sweet smiles; that glint he had come to know and treasure dearly. “Both my Father and Robb died trying to play fair in a corrupted game. I had to be smarter than them. I did what my honor demanded, I kept my word, I did what I promised I would do: get powerful allies, get everything we need for the war. I kept my word to you, and that’s all that matters to me” he explained.

The room fell silent again, everyone trying to wrap their minds of what he just said. He sat down again and looked at Arya, who nodded at him while giving him a small smile. Then he turned to Bran, who was watching everyone else, as if he weren’t there, watching as a King confessed to his people. Finally, he turned to look at Sansa. She gave him another smile, but this one didn’t reach her eyes. “We dealt with one problem, but there still more”, her eyes seemed to say. He swallowed hard and nodded. She looked around the room, to observe everyone. He did the same.

It was Lady Mormont who spoke first. “I’m glad to hear of your loyalty to us and the North, Your Grace”. Well, at least she still considers me her King, he thought. For now, a dark voice said. “But you mentioned games and deception. I fear the game you’re playing might be too dangerous, not only for you but for all of us” she argued. “I may not be a woman grown, but I know of the times where dragons owned the skies and their dragonriders ruled the realm. Those times were usually bad: tragedy, kinslaying and wars”. Everyone was nodding in agreement. “A Targaryen that had a dragon was always something to be feared. This Targaryen has two of them” she observed.

“I agree with Lady Lyanna, Your Grace” Lord Royce said. “If she were to learn the truth, that you never meant to give up your crown, what would happen then?” he pointed out.

“Nothing good, that much is true” Lord Glover added.

“As Lady Sansa said, the Dragon Queen is here to conquer the Seven Kingdoms” Lord Manderly remarked. “She doesn’t seem to be the type of person that gives up. If she means to have your kingdom, she will fight for it, I’m sure”.

“I can only speak for myself” Lady Lyanna Mormont said “but whatever happens, I won’t accept a Targaryen as my ruler. The North knows no king but the King in the North”.

“Lady Lyanna is right, Your Grace” Lord Royce agreed. “The memory of the reign of the Mad King Aerys is still fresh on the people’s mind, the crimes and terrors he committed, not only to your family but to the whole realm. We don’t accept his daughter as our ruler. The people didn’t choose her, they chose you” he remarked. “The Vale has suffered enough at the hands of southerners and their ambitions. We chose to be one with the North. If we must go to another war to defend our independence, we will do it” he declared. His eyes flickered with pride and determination.

Desperation started to creep on Jon’s mind as he heard them talk about Daenerys, dragons and Targaryens. I’m one of them, he reminded himself. Even if I don’t feel like it, they will most certainly think so. What will happen then? When they know who my parents were? He asked himself. Madness.

“Everyone here has their reservations about Daenerys Targaryen, and rightly so” Bran said. Everyone turned their heads to the young man; surely, they forgot he was there as he haven’t said a word throughout the whole evening. “Lady Lyanna is right on her observation, she has two dragons. That is something to be feared” he addressed the young Lady of Bear Island. Here it comes, Jon thought, resigned. “She used her dragons in battle, the most recent one being the Reach. She used her biggest dragon against the Lannister army. Men died, devoured by dragonfire, men and horses turned to ash. Those who survived, bent the knee out of fear. She executed those who refused her. Death by fire” he shared with everyone. Shock and fear were on everyone’s faces. News of the Battle of the Reach had made its way north, but nobody knew what to believe at the time. Now, it seemed they all decided to believe the rumors of fields of fire and ashes.

Before anyone could interrupt him, Jon began to speak. “I didn’t know of the executions when I… made my choice” he admitted. “I realize now how dangerous she can be with those she sees as enemies. That’s why we’re all here. We want to protect our people, we want everyone to survive-“

“And how do you propose we do, Your Grace” Lord Glover interrupted him “if we are threatened by the White Walkers and the Dragon Queen at the same time?”.

“By being smart, my Lord” Sansa was the one to reply to him. “You all know Daenerys Targaryen a bit better now, or at least, what she’s capable of” she said as she laid her back against the chair and rested her hands on her skirts. “You ask, Lord Glover, how we protect our people? Simple, by standing together. By knowing what we’re facing” she told the Lord of Deepwood Motte. “I assure you, my family and I have been doing everything we can to know who our new allies are and what they truly want. Personally, I’ve been meeting with the Dragon Queen’s council members. I’ve talked to Tyrion Lannister yesterday and I talked to Lord Varys this afternoon”.

She didn’t mention that earlier. That man is not someone you could trust; his allegiances are far too… fluid. How many kings has he served? How many has he betrayed?

“And what have you learned?” Lady Mormont inquired.

“They all hide things and lie, though their motives might differ” at this, her expression turned somber. I’ll have to talk to her about this, he reminded himself. “But this is no new information. I’ll have to spend more time with both, to learn their motives. I also want to share some time with the rest of her council” she expressed “including your uncle, Lady Lyanna”.

Lady Mormont just nodded in agreement. Everyone wondered how Ser Jorah Mormont would be received by his House. It seemed it wasn’t a warm welcome home. Ser Jorah devoted himself to Daenerys, while House Mormont sided with the North, as it always did. Ser Jorah even stayed with Daenerys’ council on the Guest House. His duty lies with her, Jon thought, just as Lady Mormont’s lies with the North and its people.

“All the information we can get about them will help us. To keep us safe and to know how to handle them. Make no mistake, all of them are dangerous. They all speak into Daenerys’ ear, and she listens. Information is key in this situation” Sansa concluded.

“Your mind is sharp, Lady Stark, but I’m afraid you were highly influenced by the South. Winter is here” Lord Glover pointed out. “We don’t have the time for these games”.

“Whether you like it or not, Lord Glover, this is the only way we keep control of our current situation” Arya retorted. “As my sister said, they’re all dangerous, and if we don’t want to be roasted alive, I think it’s best we do what my sister suggests” her face was impassive, but her eyes blazed with defiance.

“We are welcoming, we band together to defeat the Army of the Dead. But at the same time, we remain vigilant, we remember what they’re after” Sansa declared. “We do this, and we’ll live”.

Sansa looked at Brienne and gave her a nod. Right after this, the knight went to the door and said something to the guard standing outside. A few moments passed, until some maidservants came and retired all the cutlery and plates and bowls. Then they came back with pitchers filled with water and mead. After they put the pitchers down at the center of the table, they lighted a few more candles and left.

Jon studied everyone’s faces. They were all tired. It has been a long night, he thought, but there’s still more to say.

“I want to ask something to all of you. And I would appreciate you are completely sincere” Jon said. That seemed to breath new life into their expressions, for everyone was looking at him, expectant. “Why did you name me King in the North?”

All the lords and ladies looked at each other, bewildered by the question.

“Your Grace, I don’t think-” Ser Waynwood started, uttering the first words since finishing supper.

“Why have you named me your King? I want to know your reasons and I want you to be honest” he repeated.

“Because you proved yourself to be a worthy leader of the people, a good commander, and because you are Ned Stark’s son” Lyanna Mormont replied.

“Because my House have kept faith with your House for centuries, and because I want the North to be ruled by someone who knows it, a northerner” Lord Glover said.

Lord Manderly echoed Lord Glover’s words, “It’s time the North rules itself again, and there’s no one better suited for that task than a Stark, even if it’s only by blood and not by name”.

“The Vale has kept faith with the Starks for a long time; we raised or banners together once, to bring down the Mad King. But since you asked for honesty, Your Grace…” Lord Royce said, “we failed your Lord Father and the last King in the North”. Now, he was facing Sansa “When you came to Eyrie, my Lady, we all saw an opportunity to do good by your House, to do good by you” Jon could see tears were shining in Sansa’s eyes. “In all honesty, it’s not our business who the North names as their ruler, but we will keep faith with House Stark. The Vale knows no king but the King in the North” he voiced while looking at Ser Wallace. The young Waynwood nodded in agreement.

“I served King Stannis” Davos started, “but he was consumed by prophecy and the Iron Throne. While we were at the Wall, I saw you command the Night’s Watch, I saw you earn the trust of the Free Folk. Someone who can unite people like that, convince them to work together for a greater purpose, putting everything else aside, that is someone that’s worth following” he assured.

“I swore an oath to Lady Catelyn. I swore, to the Old Gods and the New, I would find her daughters and keep them safe” Brienne said. “They are both more than capable to defend themselves, but my oath still stands. I will give my life for theirs if need be, I’ll do my best to keep them safe” she declared. “I don’t care who rules the North, as long as its people are safe, as long as House Stark is safe” she concluded, bowing her head.

Jon reflected on their words for a moment, before speaking again. “I thank you for your honesty. It’s comforting to know that, after all the North went through, your loyalties lie with House Stark” he took a deep breath. It’s time, he thought. “The reason I-“ he could feel his heart going wild in his chest, “the reason I asked you this, is… it’s because-“ he felt faint.

“Your Grace are you alright?” fear was written across Davos’ face.

“I…I’m-“ he tried with all his might to say it, but the words wouldn’t come out of his mouth.

Sansa had one hand over his and the other placed on his arm, “Jon, you don’t have to do this” she whispered. He turned to look at her; concern glowing in her eyes. “Jon” she repeated.

He felt another hand, this time on his shoulder. Arya was keeping a firm grip on him, as if trying to keep him anchored. He closed his eyes, trying to keep the tears at bay. I need to do it, he chastised himself, I need to tell them the truth.

“Jon is not my Father’s bastard” Bran finally said. Jon let out a heavy breath he didn’t know he was holding. He couldn’t dare to look up and see the expression on everyone’s faces. He just focused on the firm grip Arya and the comforting touch of Sansa.

“What do you mean he’s not Ned Stark’s bastard?” he could hear the shock in Lord Manderly’s voice.

“He’s not his son. Jon is the trueborn son of Prince Rhaegar Targaryen and my aunt Lyanna Stark” he revealed.

The silence was deafening, and that same darkness he came to know so well threatened to swallow him whole again. He slowly drifted from the solar, only being able to hear some words.

 

 

“… I cannot believe this…”

 

“… how do you know…”

 

“… the Citadel had this…”

 

“… Ned Stark lied to…”

 

“… a bloody Targaryen, here…”

 

“… if Robert had found out…”

 

“… all this time, you lied…”

 

“… the day he arrived…”

 

“… the danger we’re in…”

 

“… he’s a traitor? He gave…”

 

 

 

“Enough” Sansa seethed. It was enough to make everyone stop talking and make Jon finally look up. He took this opportunity to study everyone: Davos was astonished, Lady Mormont looked reticent, Lord Glover seemed to explode with anger, Lord Manderly seemed simply overwhelmed, Lord Royce and Ser Waynwood were looking at them, perplexed, and Brienne was standing tall, her hand on the sword pommel, but her eyes showed concern.

“I didn’t call to this meeting so you can disrespect my family” Sansa’s voice was filled with anger. “Jon wanted to be honest with you, knowing very well how you’d react, because he respects each and every single one of you. And here you are, blaming him for something he hadn’t had a say in, for Gods sake. You all made him your King when we all thought he was a Snow, a bastard” Sansa exclaimed. “You didn’t care about his name back then, why should you care now? He’s the same person that led you into battle, the same person that cares for all, lords and smallfolk alike”.

“Aye, we did that” Lord Glover said as he was looking down on them. “We did it thinking he had Ned Stark’s blood flowing through his veins, not the last dragon’s” he spat, inclined with his hands on the table.

“He may be a Targaryen by name, but Jon is a Stark, my Lord. Just as my siblings and I” she said, her eyes filled with irritation. “Tell me, my Lord, wasn’t my aunt a Stark by birth?”

“I think you misunderstood Lord Glover, my L-“ Lord Manderly started.

“And wasn’t Jon raised in Winterfell, by my Lord Father, Eddard Stark? Wasn’t he raised in the faith of the Old Gods and the North’s traditions?” she inquired Lord Glover, her eyes fixed on him, pinning him down on the spot he was standing in.

“Yes, my lady” Lord Glover replied.

“Just as all of my siblings and myself, is it true?”

“Yes” Lord Glover’s voice was a barely audible grunt.

“Then, how can you doubt that he is less of a Stark just because another man fathered him, a man he never knew?”

An uncomfortable silence befell the room. Everyone was avoiding the heavy stare of Sansa, but not Jon. On the contrary, he couldn’t take his eyes off her. He never saw her like this. A true she-wolf of Winterfell, he thought. For a moment, the pain of the evening seemed to be overshadowed, if only for a moment, by her fierceness.

Amongst the things he was feeling, there was pride, for seeing her fight for him like that, there was amazement, and there was love. He let himself feel it with all its strength for the first time, without holding back. It made him feel dizzy and focused at the same time. There was darkness, but she was shining so bright it could almost blind him. He felt awake, he felt as if he has found what he was looking for, without even knowing what he was searching for in the first place. He felt whole.

“He may not be my Father’s son, but he has the Stark blood flowing through his veins, my Lord” she said as she started to stride across the room. “He’s still the same man that fought for Winterfell and the North. He’s still the same man that would give up his live for his people” she was addressing all of their subjects now. “When you gave your reasons as to why you chose him as your King, you referred to him as a worthy leader, a man worth following, a northerner through and through” she recalled, her voice like iron and her eyes like steel. “What changed in the minutes that passed between then and now?” She went back to her place on the table, siting very still.

“Lady Sansa, nothing’s changed. As you say, he’s the same man he’s always been” Lord Royce was the brave soul that answered her. “But we can’t ignore what this means. Lord Bran talked about records taken from the Citadel that were made by the High Septon at the time. That’s legitimate proof that your brot- that your cousin is the rightful heir to the Iron Throne” he said, leaning forward. “Daenerys Targaryen started a war of conquest. She thinks to be the last of her House and the true heir to the Throne. Neither of those things are true. My Lady, this changes everything”.

Sansa’s hands had a hard grip on the armrests of her chair, her knuckles were turning white. Jon slowly placed his hand over hers and tried to loosen her grip. She let go of the armrest to intertwine her hand with his. “We’re aware of that, Lord Royce. We’re aware of what this means to all of us”.

“If I may be frank with you, you have no idea what this means” Lord Manderly affirmed. “You weren’t even born when Robert’s Rebellion took place, you don’t know what happened to the realm, what it pushed us to raise our banners against the Targaryens” he sighed. “Aerys was mad, he burned every single person that opposed him, every person that he disliked. Whispers of what was happening at court made their way even this far north. All the Seven Kingdoms knew about the state of the King. The realm was as fragile as his sanity” he recalled. He looked at Jon with pity in his eyes “All it took was your Father and Mother running off together for chaos to take over”.

Jon held Sansa’s hand tighter. How many people have died because of that? He thought. How many have suffered, because two people were in love?

“The Rebellion almost destroyed this country. Houses left without their lords and without heirs. Childless mothers, Fatherless children” the Lord of White Harbor lamented. “And I’m truly sorry, Your Grace, about everything”.

Jon couldn’t talk, couldn’t move, so he just looked at him.

Taking it as an acknowledgement, Lord Manderly continued, “But if one mad Targaryen managed to do all that damage, what can we expect of one with dragons?”

“Lord Bran said she used them in battle” Ser Waynwood added, “that she used them on her enemies…” his voice was merely a whisper.

“All your worries are justified, my Lords, but we are making assumptions on something that hasn’t happened yet” Davos cut in. “Are you planning on talking to Daenerys?” he asked Jon.

“Yes, with her and her council. Better she finds out about this from me and not somebody else”.

“She might react well to the news, for all we know. Thinking she’s all alone in the world, but then discovering she’s not” Davos tried to stay the most positive he could. Beside him, Jon felt Sansa shiver at his words.

Some minutes passed before Lady Mormont asked him, “Are you planning on telling the people?”

“Yes, after I’ve talked to Daenerys. I want to tell this to the people with her, so they can see there’s nothing to worry about” he replied.

“Assuming she has a positive reaction to you being her nephew” Lord Glover added.

“We’re planning on doing so in the next couple of days, my Lady” Sansa said, ignoring Lord Glover’s remark. “We are preparing for war and winter, after all. That takes time. But I can assure you, we’re doing everything in our power to ensure everyone’s safety” she affirmed.

“Don’t make promises you cannot keep, Lady Stark” Lord Glover said and then left the solar.

Everyone stared at the opened door. The uneasiness was palpable.

“Are there any more urgent matters to discuss?” she was facing Sansa.

“No, my Lady, that is all” she answered.

“It’s been a long day. I’m sure we can all use some rest after everything we’ve discussed tonight” she said, standing up and heading towards the door. “My Lords, my Ladies, Your Grace” she bowed respectfully. With that she was also out of the room.

Lord Manderly came to stand before Jon and bowed to him, “Your Grace. My Ladies, my Lord. Anything you need, I’m at your disposal”.

“Thank you, my Lord” Jon said.

Lord Manderly nodded and walked out of the room.

“I hope we can continue to speak about this” Lord Royce told them, “so we can find a way to calm the people when you break the news to them. If I can be of any service…”

“We appreciate it, Lord Royce” Sansa gave the white-haired man a small smile. “Thank you, and you, Ser Waynwood, for coming tonight”.

“It’s our honor, Lady Stark” Ser Wallace replied.

Only Davos and Brienne remained, along with his family. “Brienne, you can retire now. Go get some rest” Sansa said to her sworn sword.

Brienne looked relieved that she could leave the place, though she tried to hide it. “Flint will be guarding your door tonight, my Lady” she informed Sansa.

“Alright. Now go get some rest”

Brienne nodded, but the worry was still visible in her eyes. “Your Grace” she addressed Jon. “Lady Arya, Lord Bran”.

Sansa and Arya were talking to Bran, when he went to sit by Davos’ side.

“You weren’t kidding about it being madness” Davos chuckled as he took a sip of mead. He turned to him, he had his brow furrowed. “How are you holding up? I know this must have been tough”

“I’m… I’ll be fine” he tried to be honest with him. Davos was always honest with him. He owed the man so much. “Thank you for tonight”

“For what?”

“For trying to appease them, for sticking up for me”

“I think that lady over there did it better than I ever could” Davos laughed.

He turned to look at Sansa. She was deep in conversation with her siblings. Bran said something that made the sisters look at each other. Sansa let out a heavy sigh and Arya smiled at her sister and went to pull Bran’s wheeled chair over to where he was with Davos. Sansa caught him staring; he could see the blush creeping up her face.

“I think I’ll leave you with your family. We’ll talk tomorrow” his advisor said. Jon couldn’t tear his eyes away from Sansa. I need to talk to her, tell her… something, he thought. “Jon”.

“Yes?” he turned around to face the man, but as he did, he found something akin to realization in his eyes. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing. I want to go over the formations tomorrow, if you’re not busy”

“Sure. In the afternoon”

“Alright. Your Grace” he gave a little bow. “My Ladies, my Lord” he said to his cousins.

 

 

 

“Well… It definitely could have been worse” Arya stated once Davos left. “But Glover is a piece of shit”

“Arya” Jon and Sansa said in unison. They shared a tender look, but the sound of Arya’s laugh made them turn their attention back to her.

“You” she said, pointing at Sansa “were thinking the same, especially before, during and after you scolded him like a child” she argued. “And I don’t even need to talk about you” she said, referring to him, “after what he said about Father… I’m surprised you didn’t jump at him”.

“He just needs a good night’s sleep to reflect on everything that he’s learnt tonight” Sansa replied.

“Aye… but he disrespected all of you” he said to Sansa. “For doing that, he is a piece of shit” he looked at Arya; her mouth was turning into a smile. He smiled back and pulled her into a quick embrace.

“I wanted to-“

“We’ll always have your back, Jon. There’s nothing to thank” Bran interjected.

He kneeled and gave his cousin a warm hug. “Still, thank you”. He pulled back and saw that Bran was smiling. It was a small thing, but still, it filled him with relief to know that Bran was still there, somewhere, and not this stoic young man that barely felt anything.

“Do you still want to talk to Sam tonight?”

He forgot about that. If he was being honest with himself, he wanted to sleep for a fortnight. But he still had to tell his friend the truth. “We’ll do it tomorrow” he said.

“We go to the library after breaking fast. I’ll call for you when we’re done”

“I don’t know about you, but I could use some sleep” Arya told her brother. She called after the guard standing outside. “Please, help me get my brother to his chambers” she ordered. “We’ll see you tomorrow, then” she said, turning to Sansa and him.

“Get some rest, both of you” Sansa said before they were out of the solar.

“Yes, Lady Stark” they could hear Arya teasing from the hallway.

Sansa tilted her head, trying to hide a chuckle, as she moved closer to hearth. The light coming from it made wonderful things to her auburn hair. It casted a yellow glow all over it, bathing her in light; her fair skin and blue eyes shining against her fiery hair. It was a beautiful sight to behold.

“Well, it could’ve been worse” she claimed, grabbing the direwolf figurine placed above the hearth. “I’m sorry you had to hear all that”, she wasn’t looking at him, giving her full attention to the figurine instead.

He went to stand by her side. “There’s nothing you should feel sorry about”.

“They should have shown more respect. Especially Lord Glover. You’re still King”.

“I’m just glad they know” he confessed. He looked at her; she was still staring at the direwolf. “One less thing to worry about” he added, trying to lighten the mood.

“There’s still plenty to worry about”. She raised her head and looked at him, her eyes full of worry. “We have to very careful. Now, more people know the truth” she pointed out. She put the direwolf made of wood back in its place and reached for his hand. Her touch was warm and firm. “We have to do this on our terms. I have no doubt Varys has his little birds flying around here. Especially after our conversation”.

“You didn’t mention it earlier”.

“You already had enough going on. I didn’t want to burden you with more things to worry about”. She moved a chair in front of the hearth and then sat; he did the same.

“Besides, it’s not like I can’t handle Varys”, she relaxed into the chair, tilting her head and sighed. “I don’t think it will be like it was with Littlefinger”.

He’s been meaning to talk about Baelish. What happened that it all ended up like this? He asked himself. Sansa was no killer, she would have to have reasons to order the execution, and for the Knights of the Vale to agree and pledge their loyalty to House Stark, instead of remaining loyal to their Lord Protector.

“Why did you do it?” he asked after a few moments. He leaned forward, never taking his eyes from her. She looked at him for a moment, then turned her eyes to the hearth.

“We already told you, he was a threat to our House”.

“He was a threat to all of us the minute he decided to stay” he argued, his eyes still locked on her.

“We had just taken our home back, with his help no less” she pointed out, locking eyes with him. “How would you had me repay him for his help?”

“Not letting him stay comes to mind”

She gave a bitter laugh at his answer. “You didn’t know him. I believe you didn’t even have a conversation with him” she replied, standing up, starting to pace around the room. He stood up as well.

You may be right on a lot of things Sansa, but you are wrong on that one, he wanted to tell her. He decided not to.

“The reason I never told you about the Vale is because if I asked for his help, I knew I had to repay Littlefinger in some way” she continued, stopping in her tracks to look at him. “I knew what he wanted since the day we retook Winterfell, he told me himself”.

He remembered his only conversation with the man. I love Sansa, as I loved her mother, he had said. He wanted Sansa. Jon felt anger boiling hot in his veins; the same one he felt when he confessed to Jon at the Crypts.

“That was reason enough to send him back to the Vale” he fumed.

“You need to keep men like that close to you. If they’re close, at least you can know what they want, what they do” she stressed quickly. “He betrayed everyone he knew. Would you had me sent a man like that away, to plan Gods know what?”

“Yes. If it meant you were safe, then yes. Especially after I left” he argued, taking a few steps closer to her.

She let out a heavy sigh. She loomed closer, her steps making her look like a wolf ready to attack its prey.

“You think I kept Littlefinger around for fun? His face reminded me of every single thing I’ve been through” she spat. Her eyes were locked with his, neither of themvbeing able, or wanting, to break away the stare. “Like I said, I kept him around, so I could know what he was up to”. The air was growing thicker, and they both found themselves a little bit closer. She noticed this, so she went back to pacing around the room.

“Sure there must have been other ways to keep him-“

“There were no other ways with him. With him you played his game, by his rules” she interjected him. “So, I sat at the Great Hall, ruling in your stead, while he whispered things in my ear”. Even if her face didn’t show it, her eyes shone with hurt. The things he must have said to her, the ways he must have tried to manipulate her. His anger was an ugly, fiery beast in his chest.

“He wanted me to turn on you, once he saw the lords doubting you” she confessed. “When that didn’t work, he tried to pit me against Arya” her eyes were shining with tears. “He wanted to convince me that Arya would kill me if ever tried to usurp your crown”.

He took a deep breath as he closed his eyes. How he wanted to have him alive, just so he can make good on the promise he made him.

“He even mentioned Daenerys”

“What did he say about her?” he asked, a bit eagerly.

“He mentioned the possibility of your political alliance involving a possible marriage” she replied, coming to a halt. “He said a marriage between you and Daenerys was possible and that together you’d be impossible to defeat”. She had her back to him, so Jon couldn’t see her face, but her voice had a tint of uncertainty and fear to it. “He insinuated you might take her side after your letter arrived”.

That’s it. If he ever wanted to tell her about his relationship with his aunt, the time was now. It was night time, they were alone in the last floor of the Keep. He took a deep breath and prayed to the Old Gods and the New for this to go as smoothly as it can.

“There’s something about Daenerys that I haven’t told you”. This made her turn around; her face full of concern, her eyes glowing with apprehension. He felt as if he couldn’t breathe. “You already know how hard it was for me to convince her to aid us”. He stepped closer to her. “Even after what happened beyond the Wall… she still had her doubts, so I had to make sure she wouldn’t walk out on us” his voice was merely a whisper and he couldn’t bring himself to look her in the eye.

“What do you mean?”

He felt his chest tighten and still couldn’t look at her.

“What do you mean? What did you do?” she inquired.

Her harsh tone made him look up; she had her arms wrapped around herself and her face hardened, but her eyes, her eyes were filled with hurt and that broke him.

“I slept with her” he confessed.

His confession was met with silence and disconcert. Her silence only made it worse for him, so he kept on talking, “Before leaving for Eastwatch, I notice the change in the way she behaved around me” he explained, “she wasn’t as harsh, she was more open”. Sansa stepped away from him, looking away. He followed her; she needed to know, to understand his reasons. “After what happened at the Wall, she still wasn’t willing to let go of the war for the throne, so I… I took your advice-“

Her bitter laugh stopped him. “My advice?” she repeated. Her face was red, and her eyes were gleaming with unshed tears. “My advice was to be smarter than Father and Robb, not to sleep with the enemy” she retorted.

“And that was me being smarter. She wouldn’t come North, unless I gave her a reason, a personal reason, to fight for it” he was quick to respond.

“So, the fate of the entire North depends on how she feels about you” she spat. “Thank you for telling me this, Jon, I feel much safer now”, she gave him an icy look.

“I did it, so you could all be safe” he all but yelled. Their gazes were heavy on the other, almost turning them to statues. “I don’t think you understand this: without her, we don’t have much of a chance”.

“Then, I hope it was worth your time” she quipped.

“Why are you acting this way?” She didn’t want to face him, so he was chasing her around the room. Her reaction was not what he had expected. He wanted to understand why she snapped at him all the sudden.

She turned around; she looked furious and hurt, but also shaken. She didn’t look like this when we all talked alone after my arrival, he thought.

“Why?” A bitter, humorless chuckle came out of her lips. “You’re seriously asking me that?” she said, her voice like steel.

“Yes, I’m seriously asking, because I don’t understand”

“You don’t understand” she repeated. “Of course, you don’t”

She turned and moved towards the door, but before she could reach it, Jon was standing between the door and her.

“If only you had listened to me, and sent a representative-” she started

“Then we would be with no allies and no armies”

She crept a little closer, “So you decided to play the game? A game you obviously have no idea how to play?”

“You think this was a game for me?” he was growing more exasperated by the second.

“It sure feels like it. First you gamble with our home and lands, then with our own lives” Her steely gaze was pinning him against the wooden door. “And now you tell me you gave yourself to her”

“I didn’t give myself to her”.

“Right, you just bedded her” she was quick to respond. “The North surely will thank you for that”.

He stepped away from the door and locked his eyes with hers. “You say all you want, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t do this to help the North, for the people. I’m not asking you to understand".

They were standing so close now, they shared the same air. It hurts, he thought, having her so close.

He didn’t know how long they stayed like that; two statues facing each other, being so close they were almost one. He felt the tension in the air shift as he started to get lost in her eyes. It made him close the little distance between them, even for the tiniest bit, but it seemed as though she was also pulled towards him. He could see the ice in her eyes starting to melt like the snow does on a heavy summer’s day. Both of their bodies, tensed like the string of a bow from their back-and-forth, were now starting to relax. Jon moved his hand, he wanted to touch her face so desperately. Just as he managed to cup her cheek, realization dawned in her face and she took several steps back.

“Is there anything you’d like to tell me?” she had her eyes fixed on the ground and had her arms around her.

“I… No, there’s-“

“Good. I’d like to go to my chambers, now. It’s been a long day and there’s a lot of urgent matters I’ve got to tend to early in the morning” she stated.

“Sure” he moved and opened the door for her, after doing that, he turned to look back at her. She had her eyes on him, her tears were running free now, and it looked as if she wanted to say something. Ultimately, she didn’t. She just took a deep breath and darted from the room.

“Sansa” he whispered as she passed him by. He didn’t know if she was able to hear him; he barely heard himself.

 


 

 

It wasn’t until the fire in the hearth was dying out that he realized time had passed. He went to the window to look outside; the moon was still high in the sky, the stars shinning bright all around it.

It was in that moment he realized how tired he was. He went to hearth, put the fire out, and left the solar. He felt tired to the bone, as if he had just spent the last fortnight fighting non-stop.

He absentmindedly made his way to his chambers. Once there, he only bothered to remove his boots, which he threw quickly to the side of his bed, and this cape, which he put inside the armoire. But just as he was about to close the wooden door of the armoire, he remembered Sansa’s gift. He took out the cape again, taking the pin on his hand. Then he put the cape again inside the wooden wardrobe and went to his bed. He sat on the edge, passing a finger through both direwolves. He felt a pain so sharp on his chest, he let out a trembling sigh. He put the pin down on his nightstand and laid down. That night he dreamt of snow slowly drifting, of a woman dressed in blue and grey, kissed by fire, and of blue winter roses that bloomed in a green field. That night, he dreamt of spring.