.

.

Terror isn't what makes Bran scream — it's the searing white-hot pain flaring up his arm.

He wants so badly to thrash and fight, to rip himself out of the clutches of the Night King. To rip away his own wide-eyed gaze caught in those shimmering, corpse-blue eyes on him.

It's not real.

Bran feels none of the powdering snow on his brow or lips, or the cold, wintry wind blowing harshly against his face. He feels nothing and everything all at once — where those rotted-grey fingers crush tightly around Bran's wrist, rooting him in place whether through fear or magnetism.

It's all in my head… it's not real. It's not real, he insists within his own mind, Bran's heart walloping to his rib-cage in a mounting and panicky rhythm. He's NOT… real.

A helpless, low noise escapes Bran, out from the back of his mouth, when the Night King's palm slides over the round of Bran's cheek. His sharpened, thick fingernail presses under Bran's eye. It drags softly over his flesh, never breaking open, pressing again to the curve of Bran's lower lip.

The pain returns, strengthening, burning through every nerve-end.

Bran screams again, louder and hoarse, until he wakes upon the cave's ground, still screaming and convulsing. A pinch-faced Meera shouts his name, heaving his body and his head into her lap. Spittle and crimson-colored blood wells over Bran's lips, from his now bitten, injured tongue.

It feels more real than anything.

.

.

A year or so passes.

Bran perfects warging into ravens and crows, keeping a remotely safe distance as he carefully spies on the thousands and thousands of White Walkers steadily approaching from beyond the Wall.

He goes home — to the moors and castle-stone of Winterfell, to his sisters and Jon.

They greet him with such warmth and a despairing, unbidden love. A part of Bran wishes he could drown himself in it. Let that kind of emotion fill his lungs and carry Bran away, weightless as the dark, gleaming feathers upon a raven's wing. Perhaps if only fantastical wishes were truth.

There's anguish and confusion in Arya's eyes, when she excuses herself hurriedly from the Godswood, from attending him. Bran nods to no-one, rolling up his sleeve.

A glaring, silvery-looking bruise encompasses around his pale wrist. The width and size of a grown man's hand. He presses fingertips against its centre, wincing silently at the old, phantom ache.

.

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GoT isn't mine. LISTEN. THIS IS ALL EMILY'S FAULT. SHE PUT THIS IDEA IN MY HEAD. DAMN U, EMILY. HERE YOU GO. TAKE UR DAMN FIC.