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the call of the wild

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Sansa loves the library.

 

Every Saturday morning, Miss Mordane takes her and Sansa walks through the stacks until something strikes her – a title, a cover, anything. Then she takes her book out to the enclosed courtyard and sits under a tree and reads until Miss Mordane comes to find her.

 

She is eight the first time she enters the courtyard and he's there, sitting beneath her tree with his hood pulled up and a paperback copy of The Call of the Wild in his hands.

 

“That's my tree,” she tells him, trying to make herself sound like her mother. Everyone always rushes to do whatever mother says and Sansa straightens her spine and tips her chin up and looks down her nose at the boy on the ground and tries to sound just like Catelyn Stark.

 

The boy looks up and she loses her nerve, startled by the beginnings of a purpling bruise around his eye.

 

“I don't see your name on it,” he says.

 

“What happened to your eye?” she asks, sitting down next to him and forgetting for the moment that this is her reading spot.

 

“Fell,” he shrugs, then turns back to the book in his hands.

 

When he says nothing else, she frowns. She doesn't like being ignored – it happens often enough at home, with mother and father always so busy and Robb thinking he's too old to play with her anymore and Arya being a brat.

 

“What are you reading?” she asks, though she's seen the cover. And then, because she can't help herself, “you shouldn't bend the spines that far, you'll break them.”

 

“It was already broken,” he says, turning the book around to look at the spine. He doesn't answer her question, probably because he assumes she knows how to read. Or he's just rude.

 

“Robb likes that book,” she says. “He likes to say we're wolves, which I think is silly.” When the boy doesn't say anything, she continues. “Just because daddy's business has a wolf logo doesn't mean we're wolves. We're people.”

 

He still doesn't say anything and she begins to feel fidgety and annoyed by his silence. When he turns back to his book, she scowls.

 

“Aren't you going to ask me what I'm reading?” she huffs.

 

He looks back at her with that same wary expression and asks, “what are you reading?”

 

The Wind in the Willows,” she declares, and holds out the book so that he can properly see the cover.

 

“I liked that one,” he says and she feels a swell of pride, though she's not sure if it's because she chose a good book or because she got him to say something without prompting him to.

 

“I'm very excited to start it,” she tells him and hugs the book to her chest.

 

“Then start it,” he says, which makes her frown again.

 

“Well, I was going to, but you're in my spot.”

 

“I don't see your name on it,” he repeats with a shrug and turns back to his book again.

 

“You're awfully rude.”

 

“I'm not the one interrupting someone and making a big deal over a spot.”

 

Sansa feels her face get hot and tears spring to her eyes. If Arya were here, she'd start going on about how Sansa cries at everything, which isn't true. She only cries at some things.

 

“I'm here every week,” Sansa explains, setting her spine straight again and holding her head high to try and stave off the tears, though her voice wavers traitorously. “I always read here.”

 

“Well gods, don't cry about it,” the boy huffs, finally putting his book down fully and looking at her with wide eyes.

 

“I'm not crying,” she says, though she is, in fact, crying.

 

“Here,” he moves out of the way, though now that he does, Sansa feels very guilty over it. She moves into her spot, the one between the two roots that makes a perfect seat, and rubs at her eyes.

 

“You can sit there,” she offers, pointing at a spot on the side of the tree next to her. He hesitates, like he's not sure he wants stay, but eventually settles down, watching her warily the whole time, as though he's waiting for her to start crying again.

 

She settles her back against the tree and tries to read, but she's very distracted by the silent boy next to her, though he does not seem to have the same problem. He begins reading, hood still pulled up over his head, a mass of curly hair falling into his eyes. She wants to tell him he should cut it, but she thinks perhaps she has been a bit rude to him and so she doesn't say anything.

 

They sit in silence until Miss Mordane comes to find her. Sansa doesn't think Miss Mordane sees the boy sitting on the other side.

 

“I've got to go now,” she tells the boy.

 

“Alright,” he nods, still hunched over his book.

 

“I'm here every Saturday morning,” she stands, but doesn't follow after Miss Mordane. Not yet. “Will you be back?"

 

“I don't know,” he says. “Maybe.”

 

Miss Mordane calls for her again and so Sansa doesn't say anything else and she leaves the boy beneath the tree.

 


 

He is not there the next week, nor the one after that, but the third week he's there again, bruised eye faded. He's in the same black sweatshirt with the hood pulled up. Or perhaps he has many of them. His jeans are black and so are his sneakers and she wonders if all his clothes are.

 

“You're in my spot,” she tells him, though she isn't mad this time.

 

“I don't see your name on it,” he tells her without looking up from his book. She can't see the cover this time.

 

“It's right there,” she points, and he finally looks at her, and then where her finger is pointing – to the crude Sansa Stark that she carved into the tree two weeks ago. She's got a smile on her face and her chest puffed out, because she has bested him and she doesn't need to cry this time.

 

What she doesn't expect is for him to stare at her name for too long, before turning and asking, “Stark?”

 

“Sansa Stark,” she nods. “I bet you've heard of my father. He's very important.”

 

Why her father is important, she's not sure. No one really tells her anything, but she knows he owns a business. She thinks. But daddy is very rich and he's always got meetings at all hours of the night and people coming and going in expensive cars, so she knows he's important.

 

He hesitates, looking between her and her carved name, before he moves out of her spot. For a moment, she thinks he's going to leave. He looks tense, eyes shifting to the door that leads back into the library, at the windows of the building that surround the inner courtyard.

 

She sits in her spot and then gestures at him to take the one next to her, just around the curve of the tree. When he simply stands there, stiff and looking around like she's seen the dogs do when they're alerted to something, she frowns and says, “sit.”

 

And, just like the dogs, he follows her command and sits at the base of the tree.

 

“I have just realized,” she says, “that you know my name, but I don't know yours.”

 

“Jon,” he says eventually, as though he's giving up a great secret. “Jon Snow.”

 

“Well, Jon Snow, what are you reading today?”

 

It's White Fang this time, and she shows him her copy of Charlotte's Web. He hasn't read that one, and so she tells him all about it – well, everything she has read so far. Then, when she is done, she makes him tell her all about his book, though it takes a while to get him to talk.

 

They don't get much reading done that day.

 


 

Jon Snow begins to show up every few weeks. She finds him sitting in the spot next to hers, a new book in his hands. Sometimes he shows up with bruises and when she asks how he got them, he always says that he fell. She doesn't believe him, because she doesn't think he is that clumsy, but he won't tell her anything else.

 

They talk about their books, mostly. He doesn't like talking about his family – the most he ever says is that he likes coming to the library because it means getting away from them for a few hours. Sansa also likes coming to the library, because it's the one time she feels as though she can do whatever she pleases, even if all she does is go to the courtyard and talk to a boy.

 

Jon is her secret, and therein lies the freedom.

 

Sansa is always being watched, she's never allowed to go anywhere without her family or Miss Mordane or Jory with her. At home, there's always someone around – her siblings or daddy's friends and business associates or the security team. So many people, though the only ones that really pay attention to her are Miss Mordane and Jory. Always watching her. This courtyard is her sanctuary - the hour she gets to herself while Miss Mordane talks to the librarian is hers and hers alone.

 

Well, not so much alone, anymore. But she likes Jon's company, and she wishes he would come to the library every week, instead of every few weeks.

 


 

Jon gives her a different answer for the first time when she is twelve and he fourteen.

 

“What happened to your arm?” she asks, running her fingers along the cast.

 

“Training,” he says, then looks as though he regrets it.

 

“Training for what?”

 

“It's nothing, I fell,” he pulls away from her, tugs his arm back to his body and turns to face away from her.

 

“You fall a lot,” she tells him, annoyed. He's lying to her and she doesn't like it. They aren't supposed to lie to each other.

 

She has told him things she wouldn't even tell Jeyne – how she wishes her parents weren't always so busy. How Robb has become more distant, how he's changing. How more and more often, it seems as though she is purposefully excluded from knowing things that her parents and Robb seem to know. Usually it doesn't bother her, for the family business sounds dreadfully boring, but sometimes it stings. It's as though they don't think she is smart enough to understand.

 

And Jon has told her things, things she's sure he doesn't tell his friends. How he hates his father, how his mother died in childbirth. How he's always being compared to his half-siblings and his aunt, who is of an age with him, and how he feels as though he is always found lacking. He doesn't tell her that he still craves his father's approval. He doesn't need to tell her that, she can hear it in the way he speaks.

 

He always seems embarrassed when he tells her these things, like he wishes he hadn't. But she loves his secrets, tucks them away within her heart. She'll keep them safe.

 

“Will you let me sign your cast?” she asks when he doesn't say anything else, and she reaches out for it again.

 

“No,” he says, voice louder than she's ever really heard it as he tugs his arm away from her again. “No, you can't.”

 

“But your other friends have signed it,” she frowns, pointing at a scrawled Grenn and a more neatly signed Sam Tarly. “Why can't I sign it?”

 

“Because I don't want you to,” his voice is back to normal – level and even as it always is, but this time it feels cold and he won't look at her. “I don't want your name on me.”

 

She reels back as he stands up and leaves the courtyard without another word.

 


 

It takes six weeks before he shows up at the library again, cast gone and looking contrite.

 

She pretends to ignore him, sits in her spot and opens A Wrinkle in Time and tries to read, though she doesn't really see the words. She is too aware of him, can feel his eyes on her as he shifts uncomfortably in his spot.

 

“Your fidgeting is distracting,” she finally tells him, keeping her eyes on her book.

 

“Sansa,” he sighs, “I'm sorry, I shouldn't have...”

 

“You were very mean,” she says, and she's embarrassed and annoyed when her voice wavers.

 

“I know, I'm sorry. It's just... nobody can know about you.”

 

She looks up at that and her heart skips a beat when she sees the pleading look on his face. She hates this look, all puppy dog eyes and sullen pout, begging for forgiveness. She wants to be angry with him.

 

But she also understands, because he is her secret, too.

 

She turns back to her book and doesn't answer, deciding that she will forgive him in a week or so, once he has properly wallowed in his misery.

 


 

Jon changes through the years.

 

He remains quiet, but his silences change – harden, in a way she can't explain. He loses his baby fat and then he's all sharp edges. His eyes start to look like they're hiding secrets and sometimes it reminds her so forcefully of her father. It reminds her how Robb has changed, grown distant.

 

He stops telling her things, starts closing off. She wants to tell him that she has more room in her heart, she can fit more of his secrets inside her, but she doesn't. Whenever she presses, he leaves.

 

All he ever says is that she's better off not knowing and whenever he says this, she decides she hates him, just a little.

 

It's the same thing her father says, her mother. Robb, Jory, Mr. Poole, Brienne.

 

She isn't allowed to know things and she isn't allowed to leave without permission and she sometimes feels like a useless songbird, beating it's wings against a cage. Jon was her secret, her one thing, and she hates him for taking that away from her, for making her feel just as stupid and useless as everyone else does.

 

But still, she keeps going to the library, keeps meeting him there. Their backs to the tree, a book in each of their hands. She is loathe to let him go, and no matter how much he closes off, he always shows up.

 


 

She is sixteen when she lures him into the stacks.

 

It is so easy, he follows her without question.

 

She is sixteen and Margaery at school keeps bringing up that Sansa has never been kissed. It isn't Sansa's fault that her parents won't let her date. It isn't Sansa's fault that she isn't allowed to leave her house without a chaperone. She isn't trailed by Miss Mordane anymore, but Sansa isn't stupid, she knows Brienne follows her. Daddy can never give her a proper answer when she asks why she can't be like the other girls. All he ever says is that she shouldn't want to be like them.

 

But she does. She envies the girls who have boyfriends, who get to go on dates and get flowers and go to dances. She has read about romance a thousand times over, but it seems as though she is destined to never experience it for herself.

 

And Margaery... Margaery likes nothing more than to point out how sheltered and naive she is, though they're supposed to be friends.

 

So she tells Jon that there's something she needs to show him and she lures him into the stacks and when she has him cornered, she places her hands on his shoulders and leans up and kisses him.

 

For a moment, he stands still as a statue, as though shock has frozen him solid, but she keeps at it until he thaws. And then it is her turn to freeze, as one of his hands grabs her hip and the other buries in her hair and he slants his mouth over hers in a new, completely overwhelming way. His grip on her hair and hip hurts just enough for her to notice, but she doesn't mind. In fact, she's fairly sure she likes it.

 

She likes the way he backs her against the shelves and she likes when his teeth nip at her bottom lip. She is very lost and she doesn't know if she's doing this right, but she thinks this is a very good first kiss – right until he pulls away, taking a step back and wiping at his mouth with the back of his hand. There's something in his expression, a darkness she's seen hints of, the one that reminds her of father, and now Robb. It sends a shiver down her spine, and she doesn't know if it's a good shiver or a bad one.

 

“This is over,” he says, though he seems to be speaking to himself. Every part of him seems tense and she's once again reminded of her family's dogs when something has spooked them – tense and alert, ears forward, eyes sharp.

 

Jon likes to tease her and call her little wolf, but it's times like these that she thinks he's the wolf, not her.

 

“Jon,” she starts, but he takes another step back when she reaches out.

 

“This is over,” he repeats, louder, to her this time instead of himself.

 

And then he leaves her there in the stacks.

 


 

Jon doesn't come back.

 

As she got older, she'd stopped coming to the library every Saturday, but she starts to again. Instead of every third Saturday of the month, she shows up every week earlier than usual and stays later than usual and sits in her spot with a book in her hands, though she can never focus enough to read.

 

Week after week, he doesn't come back. The longest she has ever gone without seeing him in eight years was the six weeks after he wouldn't let her sign his cast.

 

But a week turns into two, and then two into three, and before she knows it, seven weeks have gone by. It's then, on that seventh Saturday, that she realizes he isn't ever coming back.

 


 

She thinks about asking her father to help, hovers outside his office door with her fist raised to knock, but she never does.

 

She has no way of finding Jon in the city, no way to track him down. She doesn't know where he lives, she realizes. She doesn't even know any of his family's names.

 

As she stands outside her father's door, she begins to understand that perhaps she didn't know Jon Snow at all.

 


 

Father is killed on a bright summer morning when she is seventeen. She thinks, if she listens hard enough, that she can still hear her mother's screams echoing through the halls as she sits in her room. In her cage.

 

Her funeral dress is itchy and hot under the beating summer sun and she wears sunglasses so that no one can see her red-rimmed eyes and know how weak she is. It was always important to her father, she remembers, to never appear weak.

 

All sorts of people come to the funeral, including the Baratheons and Lannisters, though they stopped coming around after Uncle Robert died. He and daddy were best friends. Now they're both dead.

 

When the Lannisters show up, Robb gets tense and she watches their security team draw guns and Sansa cannot believe this is happening. Not here, not now. She doesn't even know why their security team needs so many men and so many guns. No one ever tells her anything.

 

Eventually the Lannisters leave and things settle and Sansa's eyes go a bit out of focus. She is tired – tired of crying, tired of feeling so lonely, even though she is never actually alone.

 

The priest drones on and she blinks slowly behind her sunglasses, trying to focus on standing straight and tall and keeping her chin up, just like her mother. Her vision blurs with tears that don't fall and it's at that moment that she sees him – or, thinks she sees him. Standing at the edge of the gathering, in the shade of a tree, dressed in all black, with sunglasses of his own and dark stubble along his jaw that had not been there before. She sees him there and her breath catches in her throat and her knees grow weak.

 

But then she blinks and he is gone.

 


 

After the funeral, she slips out.

 

No one notices, too caught up in their guests and their appearances and their grief. Only Brienne sees her leave, trails her, just like always.

 

Sansa has not been to the library in nearly six months, but she enters now and heads straight for the courtyard and he's there, beneath their tree, in the suit and the sunglasses and she didn't imagine him, after all.

 

She wants to ask how he knew – that her father died, where the funeral was, that she needed him today. But she can't get her voice to work and instead she walks to him and falls into the circle of his arms and she can't help when her weakness shows and she begins to sob into the shoulder of his suit.

 

He whispers things into her hair, lips pressed to the top of her head, but she could not say what he whispers. She cannot make sense of his words, though she thinks the deep, rough rumble of his voice is enough.

 

At the end, when Brienne shows up, she untangles herself from Jon and steps back. Jon and Brienne regard each other, but neither speak, until Jon breaks and looks back at Sansa.

 

“I'm not coming back again,” he tells her.

 

“Why not?” she sniffs, voice low and weak, just like her. Father would be so disappointed in her.

 

“You're better off not knowing,” he says and she wants to scream because he is just like all the others.

 

“I hate you,” she tells him, wiping at her eyes, wishing she had never come here. How can he stand there like he feels nothing – like she means nothing. Maybe she never did.

 

“Probably for the best,” he says, and she hates him.

 

Brienne doesn't say a word when they leave.

 


 

Sansa's heart is racing, she cannot fathom how no one has heard her as she leaves through the coded gate.

 

There is a party tonight at one of the frat houses and she had told Myranda to park two streets over so that no one will see her car. The dress Myranda had helped her pick out – that Myranda had bought and hid in Sansa's bag – feels slippery smooth against her skin. When she'd first seen it, she'd laughed and said it couldn't be a dress, it was too small, but Myranda had insisted.

 

Though she is terrified, she feels free.

 

Robb is having a big meeting tonight that she, as always, isn't allowed to know anything about, and no one had even bothered to check on her. Jory has been injured and so Brienne has been pulling double duty and everyone expects Arya to sneak out. Not quiet, meek, caged-bird Sansa.

 

Perhaps Jon was right, all those years ago. Perhaps she is a wolf, after all.

 

She remembers when she'd come back home, with the contraband dress in her bag. If mother or Robb had found it, Sansa knew she'd be in trouble, but no one had. It had stayed hidden in the back of her closet until tonight, when she slipped it on and snuck out. She tries not to think about how she is twenty years old and still has to sneak out of her own house to go to a party.

 

She practically runs the two blocks to where Myranda is idling and she slides into the back seat as Mya turns from the passenger seat and grins at her.

 

“Ready?”

 

“Ready.”

 


 

When she wakes, it is to a pounding headache and a throbbing through her whole body.

 

She cannot move.

 

She tries her arms first, tugging, feeling the bite of something into her wrists. Her legs won't move, either, that same bite at her ankles when she tries. Her eyes blink slowly open to concrete walls and a concrete floor and a single bulb hanging naked from the ceiling.

 

It takes a few moments to notice that she is freezing, and she takes stock of herself. She's sitting in a chair – no, she corrects, she's tied to a chair. Wrists and ankles bound, a cloth shoved into her mouth. When she looks down, she sees her legs are bare, the hem of her pretty silk dress doing little to cover her.

 

A blink, then two, as she tries to remember – arriving at the frat house with Myranda and Mya. Having a few drinks. And then a man with cruel eyes and a cruel mouth twisted into a smile. That's all she remembers.

 


 

“You took the Stark girl?” a voice rasps, and Sansa slowly drifts back into consciousness. She had fallen into an exhausted, restless sleep and she is slumped in the chair, her wrists still bound to the arms, her ankles still bound to the legs. She keeps her head down and tries to breathe around the fear that has risen up inside her, threatening to choke her.

 

“The Starks are weak,” another voice says and the fear in her flares so hot she thinks she might scream into the gag. Somewhere, she recognizes it as the voice of the man from the party. “Robb's weak, distracted. Now's the time.”

 

“I don't think your father...”

 

There's a loud crack and a muffled sound of pain and Sansa squeezes her eyes shut and tries not to make a sound. She doesn't think she succeeds, though, because she hears footsteps and she can sense the man there and he places a hand under her chin and tilts her head up and she's forced to look at him.

 

“You're pretty,” the man whispers to her, and it scares her more than anything else he could have said. “I think I'll keep you.”

 

Behind him, one of the other men is holding a broken nose, blood streaming down his chin.

 

“I'm going to kill your brother,” the cruel man continues, voice still that horrid whisper. “I'm going to kill your mother. I'm going to kill all of them and maybe I'll have you watch. But you I'll keep. I'll have fun with you after I've taken over the Stark territory.”

 

She can't help when she begins to cry and her fear spikes even higher when this seems to please him.

 

“They're looking for you, you know,” the man hums with his lips twisted into that cruel smile. “They won't find you, of course, but they're looking.”

 

Robb, she thinks, squeezing her eyes shut. Robb is looking for her. How long has she been here? It feels like weeks, but it can't be more than a day.

 

“Ramsay,” one of the men says from the doorway. “We should tell-”

 

“None of you will tell my father anything,” the cruel man, Ramsay, hisses. He lets go of her chin and spins around to face them.

 

There's more speaking, but Sansa barely hears them. Her tears have made her nose stuffy and now she can barely breathe around the rag in her mouth and it takes all of her focus to calm herself and force air into her lungs.

 

The only words that make it through her fogged brain make her freeze. “I'll be back for you later and we'll get started on that fun.”

 

The men leave and Sansa tries to get control of her breathing again and her arms strain against the binds, pulling at them as she fights against the panic that threatens to consume her.

 


 

He isn't true to his word.

 

The next time Ramsay shows up, it is just to taunt her, though he does shove one hand up her skirt and laughs when she tries to twist away from it.

 

It's a game, she realizes, after he leaves again. It's a game to him – leave her on edge, leave her wondering if the next time he comes back, that will be it. She decides that the next time, she will not show him fear. She will straighten her spine and tilt up her chin and hold her head high. She is Catelyn Stark's daughter, after all.

 


 

She is having trouble not showing her fear as Ramsay licks the side of her face, from her jaw to her ear. She is having trouble not shivering in disgust.

 

He's sent his men out into the hall and she thinks this is it, his fun will start.

 

He never gets the chance.

 

There is shouting in the hallway and she flinches at the sound of gunshots – one, two, three, in rapid succession. Ramsay snarls and lets go of her and turns around, just as the door bursts open.

 

Robb, she thinks for just a moment, but it isn't.

 

“Well, this I didn't expect,” Ramsay drawls, somehow sounding bored, though Sansa can see his hand slowly reaching for his own gun. “What's a Targaryen doing getting mixed up in Northern business? I thought your kind stuck to the south side.”

 

“Sansa,” Jon says, standing in the doorway with his gun pointed straight at Ramsay. His eyes never leave Ramsay as he says, “Sansa, talk to me, tell me you're ok.”

 

She makes a noise as best she can, and Jon's eyes flick briefly to her and she watches his jaw clench as he takes in the binds and gag.

 

She's never seen him look so angry. It scares her a little, the darkness in his eyes, the hard line of his mouth.

 

“Oh, this is fun,” Ramsay breathes. “The bastard Targaryen and the Stark girl, who would have guessed?” Ramsay sounds gleeful, like he doesn't even notice the gun pointed at him or the man holding it, who's shoulders tense even further at the words. “Like Romeo and Juliet. That didn't have a very happy ending, though, did it?”

 

Sansa screams into her gag when the gun goes off, and she watches Ramsay jerk back, twist to the side, and fall to the ground at her feet.

 

“You missed,” Ramsay gasps, sitting up a bit, and Sansa can see blood seeping from his right shoulder, staining his shirt.

 

“Didn't miss,” Jon's voice is lower than she's ever heard it - low and dangerous as he stalks forward, gun still trained on Ramsay. “Don't want you dead just yet.”

 

As Jon moves from the door, Sansa can see more men behind him – different than Ramsay's men. They flank him into the room and Jon gestures at Ramsay on the floor and she watches them pull Ramsay to his knees and twist his arms behind his back, which makes him hiss in pain.

 

Only then does Jon lower his gun and move to her, and he sinks to his knees in front of her and takes a knife out of his boot and begins to saw at the ties at her ankle. She watches him work, takes in the hair that's longer now, tied in a knot at the back of his head. It's all new - the dark beard and the scar through his eyebrow and the one on his collarbone, disappearing beneath his shirt.

 

But then he finishes cutting her ankles loose and he looks up at her from where he's kneeling and she sees him – the little boy from the courtyard. He's still in there, her Jon.

 

He reaches up and slowly unknots the strip of cloth tied around her head and helps to pull the rag from her mouth and she coughs and takes deep, full breaths of the stale basement air.

 

“Did he hurt you?” Jon asks, eyes roaming her face, then down further, over every inch of her.

 

“Besides kidnapping me and tying me up?” she rasps, her lips dry and cracking, the taste of the dirty rag still on her tongue. Jon cuts through the ties at her wrists.

 

“She tastes divine,” Ramsay taunts from behind them, Sansa had nearly forgotten he was there. “I can see why you-”

 

He doesn't get to finish, because Jon stands up and whirls around and his fist meets Ramsay's face before Sansa even realizes what's happening. Again and again, Jon brings his fist down and Sansa thinks she can hear bones cracking, the squelch of blood and flesh. It makes her queasy.

 

“Jon?” she stands from the chair and the word tumbles out of her as a low, wavering question. He freezes and turns to look at her, something wild in his eyes, Ramsay's blood flecked across his face.

 

She stands there, shivering in the cold basement in her slip of a silk dress, trying to calm the sobs that threaten to boil up from within her. It takes only a moment for that feral look in Jon's eyes to disappear and he seems to come back to himself and his arm lowers and he lets Ramsay drop to the floor, still somehow alive and grinning as if this were all a game.

 

Jon stands and makes a move towards her, but then stops and looks down at his hand – at his split knuckles and the mix of his and Ramsay's blood trickling down to his wrist. He moves to pull back from her, but she doesn't let him and she stumbles forward on shaky legs and flings her arms around him.

 

He freezes, just as he did four years ago when she cornered him in the stacks. Then finally, she feels it – his hands on her back, her waist, her sides, running over her as if to make sure she is truly alright.

 

It has been years since she last saw him, since she told him that she hated him. She is confused and terrified, but she knows, somehow, that Jon will not hurt her.

 

She's safe now.

 


 

She sits in the back of the limousine with Jon's suit jacket pulled around her shoulders.

 

Now that she has come back to herself a bit, she notices that he is dressed up – a suit, a crisp white button up. His tie lays flung across the seat, where he'd clearly discarded it before he came to find her. She wonders what event he left when he heard that she was missing.

 

“News travels fast in our world,” he tells her. He sits opposite, as far from her as he possibly can. She doesn't like the distance.

 

It had been Jon with her in that basement – holding her, whispering sweet things to her, placing kisses on her forehead, her cheeks. But then Ramsay had laughed and said something filthy and Jon had seemed to remember that there were others in the room and became distant and cold again.

 

“What world is that?” she asks dully, clutching his jacket around her. She thinks she knows, though. Things have started to move and shift, sliding into place in her mind.

 

Jon doesn't answer, but he doesn't need to.

 

She's so stupid.

 

All the secrets and lies. You're better off not knowing. The security and the late night business meetings and her father being shot on the street in broad daylight. How had she never seen it?

 

You didn't want to see it.

 

She's a stupid, naive little girl who wanted fairytales and romance. Not this. No wonder they kept it from her.

 

“Your name is Targaryen?” she asks.

 

“Snow,” he corrects, and she remembers Ramsay's words. Bastard. “I never lied to you.”

 

She looks up at that, all the anger and fear inside her boiling over. “You never told me the truth, either.” He doesn't say anything to that, but she watches the tic in his jaw, the way his hand flexes against the back of the seat. “How long have you known about... about my family?” It hurts to say, it's too new, too raw. Her family.

 

“Since the day you carved your name into the tree,” he says, voice so low she almost doesn't hear it over the rumble of the engine.

 

“And I'm guessing our families don't like each other very much?” she asks, closing her eyes and swaying a bit with the motion of the limo as it turns a corner.

 

“An understatement,” is all he says.

 

They ride in silence as her mind works, spins and swirls through years of memories, each one cast in a new light.

 

“We're almost at the Stark estate,” he murmurs after some time. The words hurt, have a feeling of finality, like he knows that after this, they won't ever see each other again.

 

The limo glides to a stop and she can hear voices outside. Her family.

 

“I don't hate you,” she whispers, finally daring to look up at him again, and she sees a flash of something flicker through his dark eyes. “I never hated you.”

 

“Your family's waiting, little wolf,” he says, voice rough. It sounds like a goodbye.

 

She turns and opens the door of the limo and she steps out onto the cobbled drive of the Stark estate, to shouts and the grabbing hands of the security team and she catches one last glimpse of Jon inside the vehicle before she is whisked away back to her cage.