Sansa looked at the frog uncertainly. It looked slimy and green and not edible at all but she was so hungry, and her clothes were torn and dirty, and this was the first face that even seemed to be friendly that she'd seen in a long time. She pulled her knees nervously to her chest and bit her lip.
"You need something," the older girl said calmly. Her hair was tied back from her face, and she was smeared with dirt as well, but on her it didn't look stupid or silly. Just – like it was supposed to be there. Sansa chewed her lip nervously.
"Isn't there anything else?" She asked in a small voice, and the girl's eyebrows went up.
"What are you expecting, Lady Stone? There isn't much to be found out here."
Sansa blushed and looked down. She was only a poor bastard daughter of a minor house, and it was important to remember that, as important as it was to keep her head covered so the red growing out of her scalp wouldn't show. "I'm – sorry. I shouldn't like to be an imposition. It's fine."
"Glad to hear it," said the girl, but she sounded more amused than angry. "Meera Reed, by the way. I'm pleased to meet you. Where are you trying to get to?"
"North," Sansa said, without thinking, and blushed, hot red. "I mean – to the Wall."
"There's fighting going on there," Meera said mildly. Reed, she knew that name from somewhere. Sansa wracked her brains, trying to remember where. If she remembered the name it had to be important for some reason.
"Yes – I know, but not in all of it, and I have a – a brother, a half brother, there…"
"Oh," Meera said, and almost smiled. "So you're looking for him? He might be beyond the Wall, you know…"
"I don't think so," she said, desperately, emphatically, "I know he's not. I know it." Jon had to be there. And even if Jon had always hated her and she hadn't been very nice to him, surely he would at least keep her safe from Littlefinger and the Lannisters and all the other people who wanted to chase her or kill her or cage her.
"If you're sure," Meera said, shaking her head. "What's your half brother's name? If you don't mind me asking."
"J," Sansa started to say, cut herself off, and corrected, "Jarmun – Stone. We share a mother." That was all right. It was mostly truth, except that she'd changed the parent they shared, and Petyr had always said the best lies were the ones that were partly true as well.
"Don't know the name. Huh." Meera speared the frog and Sansa looked away from the squishing noise it made. "I'm sorry I didn't catch more of these. I wasn't expecting company. I'll go without tonight."
"Oh no," Sansa said quickly, "Please, don't. I'll be all right." That little quirk in Meera's eyebrows made Sansa just the slightest bit nervous. She glanced down. "Really."
"I'm not asking, I'm telling you. You're tiny, Miss Stone. Someone's got to feed you."
Sansa didn't quite have the heart to protest that, especially when her tummy growled loudly. The small fire seemed to come out of nowhere, to Sansa, and Meera began roasting the frog, turning it slowly.
"How did you do that?"
Meera looked up. "You mean you've been without a fire for all these weeks?" Sansa nodded, slowly. It hadn't been very nice, but she'd burrowed under the leaves or scrambled into trees – that was how she'd torn her dress – or found empty caves that still smelled like animal and curled up there. But now it was getting colder, and she knew that she couldn't keep going alone, without any sort of fire.
Meera shook her head. "It's a simple trick. I can show you."
"Fire makes me nervous," Sansa said, and didn't know why she lied. Meera examined her.
"You can't go farther North than this without fire. Not all the way to the Wall especially. The snow is feet deep there and getting deeper every day." Sansa straightened.
"You've been there recently? Why? What was it like? Did you-" She stopped. She couldn't show so much interest in the North, not when she was supposed to be a minor bastard from a small house to the south. Meera didn't seem suspicious, though.
"It was – well, like I said. Snowy. Cold. I was there on behalf of my father, Lord Reed."
Sansa remembered suddenly where she had heard that name before. He was a friend of her father's, an old friend who had been with him during the Rebellion, from the marshes. She looked at Meera a little differently, and was grateful that she had never met any of them. It wasn't possible that she could be recognized now, not yet. She would be safer if no one, not even friends, knew who she was, or where she was. "Oh. I'm sure it was – was it very exciting?" Sansa lied, desperately. "I've never been to the North. I don't like the cold."
"No, you seem more like a summer child," Meera agreed, and shifted slightly, turning the frog a few more times. It was crackling, a little, almost like a good piece of meat, and it smelled good. "It was all right. I liked the people there, mostly."
"Like who," Sansa couldn't help but say, and Meera looked at her over the fire, seeming to be thinking. "Who did you meet?"
Meera was silent for a few more moments, and then said, quietly, "Like Bran Stark."
Sansa stopped dead. "But he's dead," she said, without thinking, and felt her eyes fill up with tears, partly of anger and partly of sadness. How dare this stupid girl play that kind of game? "It was probably only a pretender."
"I don't think so," Meera said. "In fact, I know not so. And he wasn't dead last time I looked."
Sansa didn't dare to look up, fearful that for all her hard work her expression would still show too much. "Then – then you probably left – but you must have heard."
Meera seemed, almost, to be smiling. "No one looks in the crypts for the living," she murmured, and Sansa felt her eyes widen a little.
"Oh," she said, faintly, and stared at the frog. Then where was he? Why hadn't anyone said anything? What about Rickon? Did that mean-
She couldn't say anything, and she hated it. If she said anything everything would be all over and she wouldn't get to see Bran or Winterfell or Jon or anyone ever again. Meera pulled the frog out of the fire, watching her quietly.
"I think," Meera said, nodding a little, "That I'm going to come North with you. I was only going back home, and there's someone…I'd like to see on the Wall too, I think. The Lord Commander."
Jon? Sansa bit her lip not to say anything, and stared intently into the fire. "If – if you'd like. I – am trying to travel quickly. It's important that I reach the Wall soon and not – too late." Sansa felt a little guilty. Meera didn't know that being with her was dangerous. She could die, or be hurt, if people caught Sansa, because they would think that she'd been helping her on purpose. But Meera also seemed quick and capable and brave, and she knew how to make fires even in the wet, and she was so lonely, and maybe if she thought about it Sansa could figure out a way to ask about Bran, or Winterfell.
"I can move quickly," Meera said. "And I have some money. We'll see if we can find some mules or ponies or something." That made Sansa think of Mya, who she hoped wasn't in trouble, though she had made sure that Mya didn't know anything about her escape specifically, so she couldn't be in trouble. But she knew how cruel Petyr could be sometimes.
"All right," she said. "You probably – know how to do this better than me."
"Do what?" Meera asked, and Sansa hunched her shoulders. Meera was peeling the frog off the spear.
"Hold out your hand," Meera said, after a moment, almost gently. "Cover it with something, though. You don't want to burn yourself." Sansa pulled one ragged sleeve over her hand and held it out, and Meera dropped the frog into her palm. It was crisp and warm even through the cloth, and Sansa didn't think before popping it in her mouth.
She bit down without thinking, and it tasted as good as it smelled. She was disappointed when it was gone.
"Good?" Meera asked, looking amused, and Sansa nodded.
"Yes, thank you."
Meera tilted her head, slightly, seeming thoughtful more than anything. "I've always thought so. Well. Would you like to sleep? I'll take the watch."
Having something warm in her belly for the first time did make Sansa feel a little sleepy, but she felt guilty making Meera watch for the whole night. "You can wake me-"
"I'm not tired," Meera said, waving a hand. "Go ahead. If I get tired I'll wake you up. And tomorrow we can start for the wall."
"I heard there are wolves around here," Sansa said, sleepily. "They won't come near us, will they?"
"No," Meera said, and she sounded like she was almost smiling. "They won't hurt you. Good night, Lady Stone."
It was good, Sansa thought as she dropped off, that Meera hadn't guessed who she was. It was very important to keep everything a secret. This time, she wasn't going to make any mistakes at all.