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Mixing the Blood

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The first time Tormund asks him, he’s steadfast.

He’s compliant in other ways, ways that he would be ashamed to admit to, south of the wall. But they’re north of the wall now, and when the Free Folk give him food, however strange, he eats, and when they give him clothes, he wears them. He leaves the black heavy cloak in his pack for longer and longer. He knows he has been gone from Castle Black for too long, the first week-long journey to help the Free Folk return home turned into a months long trek, further and further north, to lands even the Free Folk have not seen in generations. Tormund leads, and he follows.

Jon has always been good at following.

“There are so few of us left,” Tormund says. They’re in the mountains with several of the sturdier Free Folk, trailmarking, and can see a valley of ice beyond, a valley of trees behind, but they haven’t been able to see the wall for weeks, as high as they climb. His voice is quieter than Jon’s used to. “Mixing the blood is good, healthy, something your southern folk would do well to learn. Your blood-”

“I swore an oath,” Jon cuts in, meaning it to be authoritative, though he knows his voice betrays him, wobbling. People expected so much of him, and yet isn’t that how he’s always been? Wobbling? “I will take no wife, bear no children-”

“Ya don’t need the first to make a babe,” Tormund chuckles. “And as for the second, they’d be yours in blood only. Some of the women have already volunteered, and they’re already partnered, some parents several times over. The babies would be THEIRS. You would be the father only in blood.”

“That’s...” Jon trails off. What would he say? Barbaric? Absurd? He has learned that the Free Folk are a hard living people, but they’re not animals. And they’re wise in ways that his people would never be.

“It makes for healthy stock, mixing clans folk,” Tormund explains. “You got too many of the same making babies with each other, you end up with your mad dragon kings.”

And queens, he doesn’t say. Jon goes still inside.

Tormund claps him on the shoulder, “You said yourself, the south’s got no use for bastards, eh? But we got use for ‘em in the north.”

Jon shakes his head, but he’s quiet. He thinks about what it would mean, if anyone ever found out. What it meant for him when he was found out. What it would have meant, when he was a baby, pulled bloody from his mother’s body and carried into Winterfell in Ned Stark’s arms. Those small babies, fragile, vulnerable. Those future men and women. Carrying the Targaryen blood through the north. If someone found out.

“No one south of the wall would ever know,” Tormund says, voice quieter still. For a man so contemptuous of Westeros’ “civilized” lifestyles, the hierarchies and the politics... he knows clearly now what he suggests. The weight of it.

“No,” Jon answers. “No.”

He says it in the way he usually says things. Wobbly.

Tormund will ask him a second and third time. And the fourth time, Jon will say yes.

-----------

Jon never gave much thought to children. To being a father. As a bastard, and then on the Night’s Watch, it was an impossibility, a distant concept that was only meant for other people. He never pictured a life with Ygritte, beyond what they had, for the dead were still walking then, and it was difficult to picture any kind of future. And then, later, he loved a woman who could not bear them.

Tormund’s sister has had a babe, a boy, one of the first born past the wall, since they’ve returned. Jon realizes he has been gone from Castle Black for over a year. He wonders if Sansa has been sent word of his disappearance. He wonders if Arya will ever try to visit, if she ever returns to Westeros. He suspects he will never be heard of again. Wonders if his sisters will miss him, the way he misses them.

He wonders if Bran knows exactly where he is. If Bran could miss him, if he doesn’t.

Tormund is holding the plump infant and smiling wider than Jon’s seen him in awhile, face alive and cherry red in the firelight. Making the land theirs again has been hard on them all, Tormund more than most, though he carries it twice as well as other men. The baby’s tiny fingers are in his beard.

“You hold him now, Uncle Jon,” Tormund says, before pushing the child toward him. Jon makes a noise of protest, but the baby is already in his arms, wrapped in a soft hide. Jon becomes so focused on not dropping the child (heavier than he looks) that he forgets what Tormund has called him.

The baby’s face is round and healthy. His hair is wispy and light, eyes wide and blue. His chubby fingers hook into Jon’s dark beard, and tug.

Hard.

“Ow,” Jon says, and Tormund’s laugh punches out of him like a shout, his sister’s following, powerful and full of life despite her recent childbirth. It takes some work to get the babe’s hand from Jon’s beard, (he seems fascinated by the dark color), but finally they do, and Jon ducks from the tent as the mother pulls the baby to her breast for feeding.

He stands in the cold, feeling disoriented. It’s midday, but so overcast that it could be dawn. It’s freezing, but he never suffered in the cold as much as his fellow night’s watchmen did.

Tormund comes from the tent in a billow of warm air, tinted with the scent of blood and sweat and afterbirth. It should disgust him. It smells like life.

“My family grows,” Tormund proclaims, slapping a heavy hand to Jon’s shoulder, and leaving it there. “Last week, my cousin had a child, and this week, my sister! We will fill this land with Free Folk again in no time!”

Jon nods. Tries to smile. “It is a happy time, after so much darkness.”

“We will celebrate every new Free Folk, drink and eat until we are fat, until the end of our days,” Tormund agrees, grinning. His teeth are white in the dim light, eyes bright and wet. Jon can only look at him, can’t help but smile back. Tormund has always had that effect on him.

Tormund’s eyes shift, becoming sharp, and Jon already knows what’s coming, but can’t bring himself to defend this time.

“I still hold hope that you’ll change your mind,” Tormund says, voice low again, eyes still wet. “About adding your blood to my blood.”

It’s the fourth time he’s asked.

Jon sighs. His oath was bound by his honor, as bastard child of Ned Stark, as legitimate child of Rhaegar Targaryen. As... as the murderer of the Queen.

In the cold air on the top of the world, all of it hardly seems to matter.

-----------

The procedure is all much less formal than he expected. And much less decent.

Jon is nervous, feeling something akin to dread. He tells Ghost to wait behind, and Tormund leads him to a cave far from their main camp, covered heavily and already fire-warmed. The woman is there... as is her husband.

“Uh,” Jon says, as he’s crowded into the warm orange cave, Tormund at his back. He wasn’t sure what he had expected. An awkward fumble with a stranger in the dark, perhaps. Something secretive, something that would eat him up over the next weeks, until Tormund asked him to do it again, and he would agree, again.

“This isn’t the south, crow,” the other man says, picking up on his confusion. He and the woman are familiar, but not part of their current camp. He vaguely remembers that they’d set up in the east, the beginnings of a new clan. The man is thick-set, bald, with a close cropped beard. He’s stripped his shirt, body red and glistening in the firelight. The woman is the same, her breasts small, nipples big, white bands stretching across her belly. Already a mother, then. They’re kneeling close together on thick furs, his hand on her arm, as if interrupted.

“Don’t tease the boy,” Tormund says with a bit of bite as he ties the tent closed behind him. Jon’s nerves spike. When Tormund asked him to father a child with a Free Folk woman, he hadn’t expected an audience. Much less, Tormund himself, making himself comfortable by the fire, apparently ready to oversee the whole event.

“Uh,” Jon says again, and the woman huffs, rolls her eyes.

“Good thing I don’t much care if my babes are sharp,” she says, as she stands, and pulls the ties to drop the rest of her furs.

She’s narrow hipped, and muscular, and Jon is reminded keenly of Ygritte, and he can’t help the curl of lust in his gut. It’s followed almost immediately by roiling shame. He doesn’t know if he can do this. He wants to say so, but the words catch in his throat in a grunt as the other man stands and lets his breeches fall as well, revealing thick muscled leg and a bobbing red erection, and the couple step together and embrace.

He feels a hand on his, and it’s Tormund, tugging him down to sit by him, as if sensing that Jon was considering bolting from the cave. Jon pulls his eyes from the pair, embarrassed, glances at Tormund, accusatory. “What have you got me into?” he whispers.

Tormund grins and nods his head toward the couple, urging him to watch.

She’s turned over onto all fours when he looks back, and her husband is already inside her. Jon can see the flash of wet reflection off his cock as he pumps into her, slow, the muscles in his body tense with control. He kisses her shoulder, her hair, a hand cupping her belly. Tender, more tender than he would imagine a clansman would be. She flushes, and she doesn’t restrain her pleasure, louder than he is, and she looks beautiful, and Jon has never seen anything like this. He’s half hard, and shifts to hide it in the folds of his furs, before remembering that this is the whole point.

Tormund presses closer, a warm weight at his back, and Jon is so grateful for him suddenly, the man sure and in control, knowing just when Jon is about to fly apart. Jon isn’t sure that he wants any of this, but he’s never been sure about much of anything, and these days, he’s been happy enough (as happy as he can be, anymore) to let things happen and see where he ends up. And these days, Tormund’s always been there to catch him when he slips the wrong way on the ice, or push him forward out of danger. Or push him into trying something he might like.

Jon finds it difficult to distinguish things that he likes from things that he’s simply supposed to do.

The woman gives him a glance, her pupils wide from arousal, and Jon sees the shudder in her body when she comes, eyes fluttering closed, her hips jerking. Her husband slows his pace, but stays hard inside her as she pushes herself back against him, taking her pleasure. As she begins to sag to the furs, he pulls out, and fists his cock, and comes with a grunt over her lower back.

Jon is so distracted he hardly notices the ties of his furs being pulled away, and jerks suddenly when he feels Tormund’s rough hand push into his loosened breeches and press against his hard cock. He gasps, jerks away in surprise, but Tormund is holding his shoulder tight, and the woman is pulling herself up and stepping toward him, still flushed from orgasm, and he sinks back against his friend again, confused but too aroused to do more than that.

“He’s ready,” Tormund grunts in Jon’s ear, and fuck, it goes straight to his cock, the breath in his ear, the vibration of a voice against his body. Jon never looked at Tormund that way, nor any man, or most women, in fact. But as the man expertly pulls out his cock and pushes his furs down, and the woman kneels over him and presses her wet, well fucked cunt to his cockhead, he realizes he’s missed some very important pieces of information about the Free Folk.

God, and he’s been so lonely. Since... since.

She pushes down on him and groans, so tight again from her orgasm, and her husband comes up close behind her, hands on her breasts. His eyes are sharp as he glares down at Jon, eyes flicking to his shoulder where Tormund is still bracing him, as if he’s stifling his natural urge to fight, to reclaim his mate. Jon wonders how difficult it must be for him, to let another man fuck her, but then he remembers that the man is ready to raise the child as his own, and so perhaps the dark edge of violence in his gaze is not entirely competitive nature. He feels Tormund’s breath go short at the look as well.

Yes, he’s definitely missed some very, very important pieces of information about the Free Folk.

The woman is riding him now, rocking her hips, hot and slick around him, kissing her husband over her shoulder, as if it’s his cock she’s riding and not Jon’s. On some instinctual level, Jon knows not to touch her, so he locks his hands in the furs beneath him, and fights the urges of his body to grab and thrust. Tormund’s hand is still at his shoulder, the other now pressed over Jon’s furs to his ribs, and the man is breathing as heavily as Jon is, his red beard tickling Jon’s ear. Jon risks a glance at him, and feels his belly tighten.

The man is watching HIM. Not the woman. Staring at the pale strip of his belly and thigh visible between his hiked furs, his dark pubic hair wet from the woman’s cunt. Tormund glances at him, eyes black in the firelight, red hair blazing.

Tormund, always catching him. Catching him, when his own people rejected him again, and sent him north. Catching him, after...

Jon feels the early curl of orgasm in his gut, and closes his eyes, and sweat breaks out on his skin, because the last time he had slept with a woman, it had been Daenerys, before he had known who he was, and before he had known WHAT she was. He can still see her, the last time, before he had known it was the last time, the way her soft body felt against his, the way her hair fell, so gently, so lovely, the way her hands clutched with a strength that should have betrayed her, if he had been able to see it, before she had done it, the terrible thing that she did, before he had... Before he...

There’s a noise of complaint above him, and his eyes snap open, and he’s in the cave in the north beyond the wall again, and his cock is going soft inside the woman, but he hasn’t come yet. She glares at him, then at Tormund, her mouth opening to bite out some complaint (to insult his manhood, he’s almost sure), but his friend is already moving, shifting Jon to lying down half against Tormund’s body, and then pushing his hand down to Jon’s cock where it’s still plunged into the woman’s cunt.

The husband growls a warning, but all Tormund does is wrap his rough fingers around the wet base of Jon’s cock, and again, it’s so hot and strange. So different from Ygritte, from Dany. Jon trembles. Can’t help himself.

The woman rises, the head of Jon’s cock still barely inside, giving Tormund the room he needs to set a quick pace on his shaft, and Jon’s head rolls against the furs, dark tangles damp with sweat. He feels like a breeding animal, a stallion brought to a mare for the first time and unable to penetrate her correctly, until his handler guides him.

He starts to feel his orgasm again, closes his eyes, opens them, stares at the roof of the cave, tries to focus on the pleasure of the sure, rough strokes, the warmth of their bodies around him. It feels good, all of it, Tormund behind him, his hand on him, the woman above him, even her husband’s calves pressed along his.

But when his eyes close, he sees her.

Then, he feels a wriggle against his back, and Tormund’s hand slips between them, without hesitation, right down the back of Jon’s breeches. Jon stiffens, bites a yelp into a whimper, as Tormund’s shoulder and muscular arm flex along the length of his back as he pushes his calloused fingers along the crack of his ass, right up between his thighs, to the soft damp skin behind his balls, and presses-

“Come on, my little crow,” Tormund growls into Jon’s ear, and Jon is an animal then, as the pleasure spikes and pulses through him in a flood, like it never has before. Distantly, he hears a whining sound, and thinks it might be coming from him. He feels the rub of fingers brush his cock as the woman’s husband rubs her clit, spurring her to orgasm again, and he feels the pulse of it around the head of his cock as the last of his semen spurts into her.

“So good,” Tormund says, dragging his hand up Jon’s ass again, fingering the tight furl of his asshole. His fingers are thick. Jon’s never felt like this. Never even thought about it. “So good for me, Jon.”

He doesn’t even realize the woman has pulled off until Tormund’s hand rubs over the over-sensitive glans, and he shudders, just as Tormund presses the tip of a finger into him, just enough to feel resistance. Jon jerks, coming back to himself a little, remembering where he is. Who he is. “T-Tormund-”

He looks around, and sees the other two have already dressed, and here he’s still lying, pants low around his thighs and shirt up to his nipples, lying full body in the furs against Tormund, Tormund’s hand on his wet cock and a finger in his ass.

The woman steps past them before he can react, glancing down on them, expression satisfied, before slipping into the night air. Her husband follows her, pausing to smirk. “Tormund Giantsbane, the bearfucker! Never would have seen you ending up with such a sweet thing. Those sounds he makes!”

Tormund growls. “Our bargain was for a child, my friend, so if you stay any longer, be prepared to owe me a debt.” Jon grimaces, pulling a knee up to hide his soft cock, then realizing doing so would only further expose Tormund’s finger fidgeting at his hole, settles for squirming in Tormund’s arms, face hot. Tormund continues, though there is no serious bite to it. “Now get out before your wife cuts your balls off!”

The man lets out a great rumbling laugh, but hesitates no longer, sweeping out of the tent with a gust of frigid air.

Jon immediately wriggles hard, nearly recovered from the haze of what he’s sure was the best orgasm he’d ever had. But Tormund holds him tight, arm locking around his waist, grinding them together. That’s when Jon feels the hard press of an erection against the globe of his ass. He freezes, startled.

“Tormund,” he says. “What are you doing? What is this?”

Tormund stills, arms still tight around him, his finger still penetrating him to the first knuckle, and after a moment, clears his throat. “Maybe got carried away.”

Jon frowns. “I thought this was just... I thought I was just here to...”

“You were having trouble. I was just trying to lend a hand,” Tormund says, and Jon can hear the smile in his voice, though he can’t quite look at his friend yet. “Didn’t expect I’d enjoy it so much.”

“We don’t... In the south, men don’t-”

“We aren’t in the south,” Tormund says, before wedging himself up and biting his way into Jon’s mouth in a hot slick sweep of lips and teeth and tongue.

Kissing a man would be strange enough, but kissing Tormund redefines kissing. Jon is overwhelmed, the masculine scent of him, the harsh press of his teeth. His finger wiggles further into Jon’s ass. Intent. Jon makes a noise between a grunt and a whine, and wrestles his mouth from Tormund’s.

“Anything you want,” Tormund says, before Jon can tell him to stop, to get off, to act like this didn’t happen. “I’ll let you fuck me, if you want to. You know, when I tell that story about the bear, everyone just assumes it was a female bear-”

Jon groans deep, and his cock twitches. Begins to wake up again. Jon wonders when exactly he became so deviant. Imagining this great, powerful man on his knees, for him-

“-or I can use my mouth. Or,” he twitches his finger roughly, and Jon grunts breathily. He’s stopped trying to wriggle away, despite the foreign, uncomfortable sensation. He wonders what that says about him. “Or, you can let me show you a pleasure you’ve never known before, my little crow.”

Jon makes himself look at Tormund, then. He knows what he himself must look like, red faced and red mouthed, scraggly black hair and beard damp, the sad boy’s eyes that always looked back at him from the mirror, no matter how old he got.

Tormund... Tormund looks earnest, serious, despite the wildness of his ginger hair and beard, peppered with white from the stress of the fight against the Night King, from the stress of bringing his people home. Wild-eyed in a way that Jon only sees him when he’s worried. Tormund doesn’t let people see him when he’s worried, not these days. Only Jon.

Only Jon.

“How long?” Jon whispers, still unsure, but knowing Tormund won’t let him fall, one way or the other.

Tormund licks his lips, and his eyes dart to the fire, nervous. “I heard you were coming to Castle Black after your... After, you know. And I came back for you. I knew I had to bring you back.”

Jon’s insides squirm at that. He always thought he’d just been lucky, returned at the same time Tormund did for another group of Free Folk. But Tormund came there for him.

Wanted him, when no one else did.

“Even if the others don’t see anymore, I see. You are my King in the North, my King Beyond the Wall,” Tormund whispers it, eyes and voice full of reverence, and as much as Jon wants to deny it, he knows that Tormund believes it. Will always believe it. “You belong here.”

Tormund continues, almost aggressive, at odds with the nervousness in his expression, like he’s forcing himself to say the words. “I know you like women, I know not every man enjoys the company of other men as well, but you’re from south of the wall, I figured, maybe you just haven’t tried it, and if you do and you don’t we can pretend it never-”

“I’ve never felt at home, like I have out here, with you,” Jon says. And it’s true. He doesn’t know if he loves this man like he loved Ygritte. Like Dany. But he does love him. And he loves the snow, and the winter, and the Free Folk.

Tormund looks at him like he's done something remarkable, and Jon feels free.

He pulls away, and Tormund lets him go. His finger slips from his ass, and Jon grunts. Then rolls to his knees and elbows, tugging his tunic over his head. Fuck it. Fuck all of it. “You’d better do a good job, because if this feels like shit, I’m never doing it again.”

Tormund beams. Then pounces so hard it takes the wind from Jon’s lungs.

Broad hands tug at Jon’s hips as he pulls him up, thumbing his cheeks apart. Jon flushes, then flushes further as Tormund spits wetly into the crack of his ass. He feels Tormund’s breathing get tight and deep, the fumble of his hands as he undoes his own furs.

This was an act he’s only understood through whispers, something he’d learned to be deeply wrong, humiliating, emasculating. But he didn’t know how much more ashamed he could get. He killed Daenerys Targaryen, Khaleesi, Mother of Dragons, Breaker of Chains. If this was degrading, perhaps he deserved it-

“Stay out of your head, my boy,” Tormund says, as he presses his thick hot cock between Jon’s cheeks, grinding down with a sudden ferocity, startling Jon out of his self pity. Jon gasps in shock as he feels Tormund’s cock slip through the tight channel between his thighs, tugging on the sparse dark hairs there, until Jon’s belly touches the furs and Tormund’s thick furred belly ruts hard against Jon’s ass. “I keep seeing you go inside, and I know where you’re going, even if I don’t know the details. But you’re here with me now.”

“I’m here with you,” Jon says, voice watery, his skin buzzing. His cock is fully awake now, twitching to full hardness between his thigh and the fur bed beneath them.

“Then stay,” Tormund says, equal parts pleading and commanding, the way Jon speaks to Ghost, and then he cages Jon in with his thick arms, his tunic discarded and the wiry hair of his chest pressing down into the hard smooth planes of Jon’s back, and he begins to rut down in hard thrusts between Jon’s thighs. And Jon’s body comes to life.

The feeling of being held tight and used, like an animal being mated, it reminds him of all the best parts of the women he slept with, but here with Tormund, he doesn’t have to be in charge, doesn’t have to know what he’s doing. He can just be open, let it happen. He’s hard and leaking now, and he remembers the feeling of Tormund’s finger worming into him, and suddenly he wants it, doesn’t care if it hurts, if it breaks him, but all he wants is to be fucked open and laid bare under this man.

“Fuck me,” he says, as Tormund’s thick cock catches against his pucker on a long thrust, and Tormund groans as he says it. “Tormund, I want to feel it-”

He thinks Tormund will just press in, fit the fat red head right up against his drying rim (spit only goes so far, after all) and just ram in, but he should know better by now, as Tormund leans away to grab a leather flask from his cast off tunic.

“Brought it in case the woman needed some help,” he says with a grin. “You’re a wee man, but not that wee.” Jon watches him over his shoulder, excitedly pouring the oil over his cock, and dripping it down over Jon’s hole. Jon shivers. He had never been all that enthusiastic about sex. Usually it was just something nice, to pass the time. But it had also never felt like this before.

This time, Tormund does wedge his cock right up into Jon, in a slick abrupt glide that sucks the air from his lungs and lays him out flat on the bedding again, face in the furs, panting, keening on each breath. Tormund groans deep behind him and Jon feels it through his body. Tormund runs a hand down his spine, fits his palm against the swell of Jon’s ass, and pulls him down into him as he bottoms out. Jon has seen his cock before, when Tormund had shown him the secret paths to the hot springs that lay in the peaks of the mountains and they had bathed together, and so he knows his cock is only a bit thicker than his own, but even without real pain, he feels split apart, speared, gored, his rim hot and sensitive stretched around his friend’s thick flesh.

“Look at this plump arse,” Tormund mutters, almost as if he thinks Jon won’t hear him, and Jon shudders, and wonders why the hell this didn’t happen in the hot spring.

“I like it,” Jon says, voice weak and wet. He realizes he’s crying. “I like it, Tormund, please, I-”

Then the big man folds him up in his arms, as if they were grappling, and hitches his hips into him in a short hard burst, and Jon feels like he’s coming, but in a continuous wave, like he’s crested the peak and hung there. He’s aware he’s making sounds, and he hears Tormund whispering to him “So good, so strong, little crow”, but his body is limp and liquid, slick and open, and he hangs in Tormund’s arms until the man starts to come, hot and wet inside his belly. Tormund’s hands wraps around his cock and jerks, and Jon cries in relief as he finally slips from the peak, his balls tightening and emptying onto the furs below.

“We should have done this sooner, little crow,” Tormund says. He’s jovial, but his voice is shaking. Jon can feel a tremor in his hands. Exhaustion. Maybe more. Jon grunts in agreement.

Tormund pulls out, and there’s a wet surge, and Jon startles, worrying he’s just gone and shit himself, but then Tormund’s fingers are there, rubbing his raw hole and plugging him up. “Don’t be shy. There are some messy consequences to this sorta thing. I’ll help you.”

Jon sniffs, rubs at his hot, wet face. Rolls over. Tormund is there, looking at him, looks at the tears. He wipes at Jon’s face, with the hand that’s not currently fingering his ass, but this one still smells like cunt and come. Jon doesn’t care. Tormund’s expression is almost comical, wide eyed and concerned. It’s only comical because Tormund never does anything in half measures.

“You been quiet the whole time you’ve been here. Everything I heard came through Castle Black,” Tormund says. His voice is low again. So quiet.

Jon looks down between their bodies. His, pale, dusted with dark hair, muscled but still softly curved in places. Tormund’s, wiry-muscled and hard and hairy and flaming ginger. Tormund’s chest is so much broader than his. Jon pulls his hands from the furs and runs them experimentally through the curled hair on his chest. Tormund’s breath stutters.

“Tell me?” Tormund asks. A whisper.

Jon does.

-----------

Tormund had called him “Uncle” because apparently that’s what he was. The other Free Folk had thought they were together since they crossed under the wall, and Tormund never disabused them of the idea, mostly to keep the women away. Even if they weren’t having sex, Tormund had kind of thought they might be, or could be.

Jon realizes that they kind of were. Together.

Tormund calls him “husband.” His sister’s boy calls him Uncle Jon. The other Free Folk call him “crow” in the same breath they call him “brother.” He knows they think of him as family. He begins to think of them that way too.

He misses his sisters. He misses Dany. He thinks, rarely, about her last breaths.

How they could have ruled the world together.

About his mother and father.

How he was supposed to be more.

They make their homes in the crags and corners of the wilderness. They strengthen the clans. They reclaim the land. They find abandoned settlements, and make them into homes again. They hope they’ll find remnants of the other clans, the people who did not make it past the wall. They look for the giants.

They don’t find them. As far as they can tell, the Night King took them all.

He and Tormund both sleep with women occasionally, always together. They sleep with each other far more frequently. Tormund teaches him a lot of things.

Jon does not know much. But he has learned to know what he likes.

He hears, sometimes, a rumor, that a child he fathered was born. He doesn’t ask further. He cannot know if those babies are really his. He cannot know if they will live through infancy.

Jon is never returning to Castle Black. He hasn’t told Tormund this, can’t really bring himself to say it, but he knows it, and he thinks Tormund does too. He can’t go back to the south again.

He worries that one day he’ll see a group of black cloaks on horseback, coming to take him back. Knows that they’ll likely never risk coming this far north for him. But still worries.

The Free Folk still burn their dead. But they know they don’t have to.

There are celebrations, and the clans gather far more frequently than they did before, their leaders having fought together against the wights in Winterfell, having braved the world south of the wall together, and now braved returning to the land they lost together. Jon and Tormund know that the peace will not last forever, but Jon has learned to enjoy good things while they last.

There is an evening when several of the clans have gathered at Antler River for a feast. Jon won’t go further south than this, anymore. There is seal meat and fat fish, the living creatures finally making their ways back to the shores along the Shivering Sea. Jon sits in his furs and eats and drinks fermented milk with his husband until he feels warm and full. From Tormund’s expression, he knows he will soon be taken to bed, and taken apart. He’s looking forward to it.

No one would be able to tell him apart from the Free Folk, looking upon him in this moment, if it weren’t for Ghost lying at his side.

He sees a small girl, among the children of another clan, with dark hair and dark, gray eyes. She stands out amongst the others as the children play, all blue and green eyed.

He looks, for awhile. Then he looks away, towards the sea.