A/N: So, this is the first fic I've written in a really long time. Life threw some curveballs at me and a load of really important stuff is happening right now, so I apologise for my absence. Cross-post of my first ever GoT/ASoIaF fic, so please be gentle! I couldn't help feeling that there needed to be more fic out there for these two lovelies. Romance or bromance, whichever you like. Title from Sara Bareilles' Winter Song. Reviews much appreciated!
Meera had been gone for a while when it happened.
Bran was sleeping, as he often did, Hodor was bumbling about their small camp, and Jojen was sitting by their failing campfire, fletching arrows for his sister. No doubt she would need them once she returned from her hunting trip. She was losing more and more arrows in the snow the further north they got.
Jojen sighed thinly as he finished the last arrow, dusk settling around them. The daylight up here was brief. It was not long past midday when they had had to make camp instead of risking tramping through the rising mist of darkness. The days passed like the flicker of a candle, and then it would be night again. The window of time they had to travel in each day was getting smaller, and their time was running out, as was his own.
His morbid thoughts were broken by a sudden cry from Bran's corner of the camp. He jerked his head up to see Bran sitting bolt upright, his breath coming fast and panicked, his face tight with fear.
"Bran?" Jojen frowned, as Bran jumped at the noise and snapped his wide-eyed gaze to Jojen's face. "What's wrong?"
"I-I saw-" his throat worked noiselessly for a moment- "my mother...and my brother...they were-"
Bran clapped a hand tight over his own mouth, as though to trap his horrific vision inside, and began to hyperventilate as his teary eyes overspilled and teardrops froze on his white cheeks. Alarmed, Jojen rose, ignoring the protest in his bones, and padded over to kneel in front of Bran, clasping him firmly by the shoulders.
"They were what, Bran?"
Bran peeled his shaking hand from his mouth and instead grasped Jojen's sleeve in a steel grip.
"They were dead," he whispered hoarsely, followed by a choked sob. "They were at a wedding feast-Mother and R-Robb-and someone killed them. Our banners were burning, and someone k-killed them."
"Oh, Bran," Jojen murmured, aching with sympathy.
Bran hung his head between them, trembling, and smashed a fist into his thigh. "But you can't do that, you can't kill someone at a wedding, the gods don't allow it... Who would k-kill someone at a wedding?" he cried, his tears ice before they hit the ground. Suddenly he looked up at Jojen with a frantic hope in his eyes. "P-people don't do that, do they? That could just have been a dream, a terrible dream. I could have imagined it. I could just have been dreaming. I made it up. I made it up, didn't I, Jojen?" Bran's eyes bored into him desperately, pleading. "Didn't I, Jojen?"
"Oh, Bran," Jojen sighed again, his face carved in grief for Bran and his family, and spoke with immeasurable gentleness. "You know that's not true."
With a quiet wail, Bran's eyes clenched shut and he listed forwards until his forehead rested against Jojen's collarbone. Bewildered for a moment, Jojen did not move. These days, he forgot so easily that Bran was younger than him-though not much-but now, crying and shaking and holding onto him as though he'd drown if he let go, his youth had never been more apparent.
Jojen pushed aside the weakness that had been haunting him for miles now and drew Bran close, enfolding him in the tightest embrace he could muster. His strength was little, but at this moment he was all Bran had. Though very loving, Jojen and Meera did not have a particularly physical relationship, from the day their father sat little Meera down with her wooden sword and told her she must be careful because of her brother's fragile health. Bran's family, he knew, had no such reservations, but since none of them were here and death was currently stalking the Stark name like a hound, Bran needed whatever he could give. After Jojen had parted them for a moment to settle his cloak around them to keep out the chill, Bran immediately re-buried his face in Jojen's neck, perhaps embarrassed at his boyish lack of composure but the onslaught of grief too strong for him to restrain, keening and sobbing breathlessly into the hollow of Jojen's throat as his hands locked vice-like in the back of his tunic. Tentatively-Jojen could not remember the last time he had held someone, he was not sure he ever had-he rested his cheek on the dark head and instinctively rocked him slightly until his harsh breaths had calmed a little.
"Everyone keeps leaving me," said Bran softly on a shuddering sigh some time later when Jojen was still, though he did not look up and his grip on Jojen's tunic had not lessened at all. "Father, Arya, Sansa, Jon, Mother, Robb-and I know I sent Rickon away, but..."
Jojen felt him tense in his arms as he fought another tide of sobs and without thinking, he ran a soothing hand through Bran's hair. Guilt and dread curdled in his stomach. If it was possible, Bran's grip on him strengthened even more.
"Promise me you won't, Jojen," Bran whispered. "Promise me that you won't leave me."
And all Jojen Reed could do was hold his lord a little tighter.