A/N: I've had an insatiable urge to write something for this series, and I love Jon Snow's character, so this came out. I hope the idea isn't too stereotypical for you, and I'm sure I've probably gotten some things wrong - so bear with me if I get some things wrong and please let me know so I can fix it. :)

beyond here lies nothing

chapter one

"If that were a real sword, you'd be dead."

Iliya can't help but cringe as she observes the fight that everyone else is watching, though she doesn't disagree with the notion of Grenn's nose spewing blood. She's never seen the other man in the ring before, but she's heard of his arrival. Jon Snow, Lord Eddard Stark's bastard son. Not that she cares he's a bastard – she is one herself, after all, straight from King's Landing – but it's what everyone else is calling him. It's what most everyone calls her as well, and she guesses her being here only a week does not help her any.

"Lord Snow, here," Ser Alliser says with that mocking tone she cannot stand, "Grew up in the castle, spitting down on the likes of you." Those cold eyes roam the group of shivering men. "Pyp," He calls, "Do you think Ned Stark's bastard bleeds like the rest of us?"

It's clearly a command to get in the makeshift ring and find out if he does, so the lanky youth with large ears swallows and steps up. Pyp ends up slashing the air, and with one swift movement, he's knocked down by Jon Snow.

"Next!" Ser Alliser's voice booms out, and Iliya steps up. "Ah, the pretty bastard against the noble one," He chuckles condescendingly. Iliya forces herself to ignore it.

She steels herself as she faces Snow, because it's obvious he hasn't gone easy on anyone else – and the fact that she's a girl does naught to help, seeing as no one but her is aware of that fact. He really isn't that tall, compared to some of the men, but he's still got height on her. Even under his thick clothes and his training armor, she can tell he's got muscle she can't hope to have.

Iliya raises her sword and dashes in with a wide swipe, but afterwards she's left wide open. Snow takes this opportunity to jab her in the gut with the hilt of his sword. She grunts at the force of it and spits up some blood as she tumbles backward, and for what won't be the last time in her life, curses her small stature. One by one, more recruits go forward and all end up the same way. That he defeats everyone else just as easily makes her feel a little bit better.

"Well, Lord Snow, it appears you're the least useless person here." Ser Alliser turns to the rest of them as Snow gives him a stony glare then storms away. "Go clean yourselves up! There's only so much I can stomach in a day."

Muscles aching from all the previous training they'd done earlier, she forces her legs to take her in the armoury. She wishes she could take a nice, hot bath after this, but to do that would ruin her cover. Instead, she takes them late at night when she's sure everyone is asleep. This isn't a tried and true method, but it's worked for her so far.

Jon Snow is the only other person in the armoury when she walks in, and he only throws her a glance over his shoulder before dismantling the armor and laying it on the rack. Going up next to him, she begins to do the same.

"You're quite good," She tells him in the deepest pitch she can, but she still manages to sound like a little boy. He stops stripping himself of armor to turn and look at her.

It still unnerves her to be stared at so closely when she feels she still looks like a girl – but then she reminds herself that her hair is only a bit longer than Jon Snow's, shaggy and mousy brown. The sweat on her face and bags under her eyes don't do much to save a feminine appearance, despite that she's definitely more gentle to look upon than the others, and she forces herself to relax.

He still hasn't said anything, so she says, "You shouldn't let Ser Alliser bother you. I'm a bastard, too, and he doesn't let me forget it, either."

Snow looks down at the armor and takes off the remaining pieces before turning towards her again. "Jon Snow."

"I'm aware," Iliya says, then smiles to let him know she isn't mocking him. "Ily Waters."

She slides her sword into a spot on the rack. Her name is enough to tell him that she's a fellow bastard, though all he does is nod. He seems like he's about to ask her something when there's a voice from behind them.

"Oh, look! The two bastards are befriending each other." Rast, Grenn, and Pyp stand behind them, though it's Rast who has spoken.

"Broke my nose, bastard." Grenn states, and Pyp closes the two doors behind them.

Silence reigns over the armoury as Snow puts the last of his equipment away, and she can't help the nervous look that comes over her face. She's been in this position one too many times, often with the three of them, and knows how ugly it can become. Snow turns to look at Grenn's still bloody face, cocking his head slightly.

"It's an improvement." Suddenly, all of them rush forward and grab him, and there's a knife up to Snow's throat.

"Stop this!" She yells, and jumps on Rast to try to wrestle his grip off of Snow.

"This doesn't involve you, pretty boy," He spits. Rast bats her off easily, as if swatting away an annoying fly, and she can't help the girlish cry that escapes her as her head bashes against the corner of one of the tables.

The world swirls a bit, and she can hear muffled threats uttered before she forces herself to shake it off and gets to her feet. Lifting a hand to her head, it feels warm and wet. Her fingers come away red. The door creaks open, and she's almost afraid it will be someone looking to join in – but it's Tyrion Lannister. The Imp; she's lived in King's Landing her whole life up until coming to the Wall, so she recognizes him.

"What are you looking at, halfman?"

It's apparent none of them do, however, and she can see anger flash in the dwarf's eyes. Iliya's heard enough talk about Tyrion Lannister, heard about his wit and clever tongue, and anxiously anticipates whatever he's about to say.

"I'm looking at you," The Lannister tells him, voice calm. "You've got an interesting face." All three bullies look at each other confusedly before he goes on. "Mm, very distinctive faces. All of you."

"And what do you care about our faces?" Rast challenges.

"It's just – I think they'd look marvelous decorating spikes in King's Landing." He leans against the doorway and declares nonchalantly, "I think I'll write to my sister, the Queen, about it." Immediately, those magic words split them up, and she faintly hears Grenn mumbling to Snow before he too goes to the side.

"Everybody knew what this place was," Snow says to the Imp, a troubled look on his face. "But no one told me. No one but you." He looks to the window. "My father knew, and he left me to rot at the Wall all the same."

"Grenn's father left him, too. Outside a farmhouse when he was three. Pyp was caught stealing a wheel of cheese. His little sister hadn't eaten in three days." Tyrion's green eyes make their way to her. "I'm afraid I don't know his story, however."

She faces the floor. Tyrion Lannister is a smart one, and it honestly wouldn't surprise her if he caught on to her guise. Iliya shoots a glance at Snow to find he's already looking at her, too, and quickly strides back outside.

"You didn't have to do that, you know."

The voice startles her, and she spins around on the pebble strewn iced walkway, almost losing her footing. "Didn't anyone ever tell you about sneaking up on people, Snow?" Iliya yelps, and it comes out too high for her liking.

She isn't terribly afraid of heights, but in the little outlet that faces beyond the Wall, she doesn't exactly want to slip and plummet that far down. He doesn't acknowledge her question; instead, he looks at the bandages haphazardly wrapped around her head. They're spotted with blood, and her hand reaches up to them somewhat self-consciously from his stare.

"Is your head hurt too badly?"

"It's fine. You needn't worry about me, Snow." Iliya reassures him - which isn't too convincing, since she's the one with a head injury - then turns back to the fire and continues warming her hands above it, surveying the vast forests laid out before her.

"And you needn't worry about me, either," He replies, his voice closer. Soon, he too has his hands over the fire. "But ... thank you."

"You don't have to thank me, Snow. It was the right thing to do, wasn't it?" Iliya glances up at him, and Jon smiles a little. She likes the way it still seems to reach his eyes, even if it is tiny.


Iliya furrows her brows. "Forgive me. I didn't mean to offend you by..." By calling him by his bastard surname is what she means to say, but she gets the feeling he already knows what she's talking about.

"It's alright."

She nods and goes back to gazing at the landscape in silence. It isn't that she particularly minds his presence, but she's still worried her voice will revert back to its high pitch if she gets too comfortable. They stand like that for a minute or two before he breaks the quiet.

"Why did you come to the Wall?" Jon asks.

But Iliya can't quite tell him she ran away from a brothel and her job as a whore, so she tells him what she's been telling everyone else.

"No one wanted to take care of a bastard. Not even my mother." That itself isn't a lie. "I was a thief. I had to live somehow." He's quiet, listening.

"When Yoren came to King's Landing for recruits, I didn't think it would be so bad. A roof over my head, food to eat. Though some of our so called brothers can be … unsavory, it's better than waking up everyday, wondering where you'll sleep later that night, or if you'll even eat," She finishes, "My story is not special, no more than anyone else's."

That's sort of true as well, except Iliya's fairly certain she's the only girl who's ever tried or wanted to disguise herself as a boy and join the Night's Watch.

"That may be true," Jon joins her in looking out into the darkness beyond the Wall. "But it also isn't any less so than anyone else's, either."

Surprised by his words, she peers at him discreetly as a smile creeps up on her face.

Wondering if this is considered to be making a friend, Iliya laughs a bit and whispers, "I suppose you're right."

A/N: Good? Want-to-gouge-your-eyes-out-terrible? Please let me know, I always appreciate any kind of feedback, especially if it will help make the story better. Like I said, please correct me if I've gotten something wrong (and I hope I can manage to keep everyone in character).

Sorry for the shortness of this chapter - if people want me to continue, I'll do my best to make the chapters more lengthy. So if ya'll like this, please let me know - if no one is really interested, I suppose I'll just let it rot with all the rest of my unfinished stories...

Thanks for reading, and please review. :)