A/N: Thanks for reviewing, you guys. :)
Imperial Dragon: Yeah, I tried to make them have some sort of relationship where they depend on each other, even if it is for different things.
Megan: Thanks! I'm glad you think it's genuine and fitting, that's what I'm aiming for~
ber1719: Okay, I'll stop with that then, haha! It makes me happy that you get happy whenever I update, so thanks so much for continuing to read!
libertine84: I've never really written smut before, but if I get the guts to I'll try it (and raise the rating along with that, so you'll know)! Thanks for telling me I handled it well anyways!
Gamine: Thanks so much! I always love your reviews, they make me feel so special. :)
Hope and love: Yes... finally, haha~
TheMaywat: Thanks for telling me I've kept everyone in character, sometimes I feel like that's the hardest part. You've definitely got a good grip on this story as well, and hopefully I can keep you hooked!
Gonna say something about the rest of this story at the A/N at the end, so if you could just take the time to look at it afterwards, that'd be awesome! Please enjoy.
I don't own GOT or ASOIAF.
beyond here lies nothing
He wakes up in the middle of the night with something warm nestled into his side.
It's still dark out, but once his eyes adjust, he realizes it's not something but someone. All he can see is Iliya's shaggy mop of brown hair and a small hand laid against his bare chest, and his first thought is: What have I done? The second thought that comes to him is, What would my lord father think?
Here he is at the Wall on the day of his vows, with a missing uncle, and he's managed to bed – or maybe it's get himself bedded – by a girl disguised as a boy. A small part of him thinks he's broken a dam inside of himself; a leak will spring, slowly but surely, now that he's had this small comfort, this feeling he's never felt before.
But when he looks down again at her, he corrects himself. This was no small act of anything for Iliya Waters. When he recalls what she's told him about her past, he wonders how much he must mean to her to let those walls down, the same ones she had sworn to build higher and higher.
Still lost in sleep, she nudges closer to him. Her breath is warm on his chest, and he finds himself turning towards her, wrapping an arm around her and bringing her closer. Her only response is to let out a little noise in her sleep, her hands folding themselves between them. This feels like a guilty pleasure, like he's treading on thin ice over some bottomless lake. He can still feel a phantom sensation of her skin underneath his fingertips, hear the echoes of her calling out his name, and it does nothing to alleviate that feeling. But Jon, instead, just tells himself, It's just for tonight.
Just for right now, they have no vows to take; he isn't a bastard, she isn't a runaway whore pretending to be a boy. Curled into each other, they're just a man and woman – and with this thought settling uneasily in his mind, he drifts back to sleep.
The air feels colder than it had yet, he thinks to himself as he makes his way to the courtyard. He wonders where Iliya is; she hadn't been with the others while they broke their fast, and he has half a mind to check and see if she's still asleep.
When he reaches the yard, he sees a large black circle; all of his brothers are facing inwards towards something, though he cannot tell what exactly. Jon pushes his way through his brothers and gets the answer to his question. Iliya is in the middle of the circle, holding tatters of her black fur trimmed cloak around her.
There's tear tracks on her face, shining in the early morning sun. She's naked save for that, and he wants to go up to her, to take his own cloak and wrap it around her – but his feet won't move. She's been found out somehow, and he has to do something, because it's Iliya and he's told himself he wouldn't let this happen.
Hoots and howls and lewd words are being tossed around, and he can feel something terrible boil up inside of him at the sound of the leers. Move, he thinks, move – but there might as well be ice growing around his legs, cold and sturdy, and he cannot break it.
Finally, the rest of the men close in on her, and he hears a wail. The cry sounds even more horrid by the fact it's Iliya's. Her cloak is ripped from her, thrown away, and its dark tatters land in front of his immobile feet. Glancing up from it, his eyes meet hers through a crack in the circle.
"I thought you'd protect me, Jon," Her voice trembles, but it rings loud and clear despite the hollering of the men. Her light brown eyes are wet and glossy, and it's the last thing of her he can see before they close in. She says, "Why won't you help me? Why, Jon?"
He shoots straight up, heart thumping so hard it almost hurts. He looks around almost frantically, and is relieved to see he's still in Iliya's room. The sun is only starting to rise, leaving a dim, dusky blue glow to shine through the window slit.
It was a dream. He swallows, looking up at her where she stands peering down at him, already dressed, and pulls her to him. Jon ignores her noise of surprise and thinks to himself over and over: It was just a dream. It was just a dream.
"Jon?" He hears her ask against his chest hesitantly. "Are you … are you well? When you were sleeping, you seemed as if-"
"Iliya," He cuts her off, letting go of the hold to grab her by the shoulders. Looking straight into her eyes, he tells her, "You still have a chance to leave. Before you take the vows, you can leave. They'll look for Ily, not Iliya. You'll be safe."
She wrestles out of his grip, frowning at him with wrinkled brows. "Jon, I'm not leaving. I won't. I've earned my place here just as much as any man, have I not?"
The image from his dream, of her being swallowed up by black, makes him pause before answering. Shoving down the sickening feeling he gets from remembering, he swings his legs out of the cot. "You have, but..."
"I'll be fine, Jon. I promise."
You can't promise me anything, Iliya. I cannot even promise myself I can keep you safe.
But he does not say this aloud, because he can hear that tone in her voice that signals if he says anything else along the same vein it will be perceived as some sort of insult to her.
In the silence that follows, Iliya suddenly feels awkward. She isn't sure if it's because of his concern, because she should damn well be used to that by now – or if it's because when she looks at him, the night repeats itself in her head. She resists the urge to grab his rough, but gentle hands if only to feel them before she has to go outside and become Ily, and she is the one that puts her hands on his shoulders this time.
"If I leave now, what would all this have been for? What would I do, and where would I go? There is nowhere else for me. You, of all people, should know that."
And though Jon can still picture the terror in her honey colored eyes as easily as he looks upon them now, whispering, "I thought you'd protect me, Jon," he wills it away before he impulsively takes her face in his hands. Her face goes red at the sudden touch, as if they didn't lay together last night, and he brushes a thumb against the small mark underneath her eye.
"Do not break that promise, Iliya."
"... You came to us as outlaws. Poachers. Rapers, killers, thieves. You came alone, in chains, without friends or honor. You came to us rich, and you came to us poor. Some of you bear the names of proud houses. Others, only bastard names or no names at all. It does not matter." Lord Commander Mormont's bellows seem to echo through the quiet courtyard, and they all sit silently listening. "All that is in the past. Here, on the Wall, we are all one house. Tonight..."
"You're allowed to look happy," Sam whispers to Jon, who is sitting in between the larger man and Iliya. "You're going to be a ranger. Isn't that what you've always wanted?"
"I want to find my uncle," Jon mutters under his breath. Among other things that trouble me. "I know he's alive out there. I know he is."
"He could return any day," Iliya chimes in quietly.
"I wish I could help you," Sam shakes his head, "But I'm no ranger. It's the steward's life for me..."
Iliya doesn't hear the rest of what Sam says, because she's too busy looking at the smile that comes on Jon's face from whatever is said. She tears her eyes away and takes a deep breath, returning her gaze to Mormont. Stop acting like a silly, smitten child, Iliya.
"... Here, you begin anew," Mormont goes on before coming down the stairs. "A man of the Night's Watch lives his life for the realm. Not for a King, for a Lord, for the honor of this house, or that house. Not for gold or glory, or a woman's love."
Those last two words make Jon tense up the slightest bit, and he hopes no one sees. What happened last night can never happen again, he tells himself sternly. It was just for last night. He knows he should've said something to her that morning, but he'd been so relieved to see her safe and in one piece when he woke up that he couldn't have said the words if his life depended on it.
"But for the realm, and all the people in it!" Mormont looks over them. "You've all learnt the words in your vow. Think carefully before you say them. The penalty for desertion is death. You can take your vows here, tonight. Sunset. Do any of you still keep the old gods?"
"I do, m'lord," Jon stands up, and everyone turns to look at him.
"Do you want to take your vow before a heart tree, as your uncle did?"
"You'll find a weirwood a mile north of the Wall, and your old gods, too, maybe."
"My lord," Sam stands, "Might I go as well?"
"And I too, my lord," Iliya stands also.
Mormont looks at her briefly, and she thinks his gaze passes over her because it doesn't matter so much for her since she is a bastard. His eyes move to Sam. "Does House Tarly keep the old gods?"
"No, my lord," Sam shakes his head. Iliya is almost surprised he's stood up in front of everyone, but she thinks it's probably because of Jon's influence. It seems to her that it is a powerful thing, because it is not only Samwell Tarly that is affected by it. "I was named in the light of the Seven. My father was, and his father before him.
"Why would you forsake the gods of your father and your house?" Ser Alliser sneers from upon the stairs, voice condescending.
"The Night's Watch is my house now," Sam answers after a short pause. "The Seven have never answered my prayers … perhaps the old gods will." Ser Alliser, for once, has nothing to say back.
"As you wish," Mormont nods. "You've all been assigned an order according to our needs and your strengths," He says, unrolling the parchment in his hands. "... Pyp to the stewards, Toad to the builders, Grenn to the rangers. Samwell to the stewards, Ily to the rangers..."
Jon smiles at Iliya and nods, before Mormont's voice calls him. "Jon, to the stewards..."
All at once, they look to each other in confusion. Iliya doesn't know how it's possible for her to be named a ranger while Jon is sent to the stewards. Jon looks up, and when Iliya follows his gaze, she sees a tiny smirk curling the corners of Ser Alliser's mouth. Iliya can practically feel the anger seething off of Jon in waves.
A call comes, "Rangers, with me." Iliya slowly gets up, looking unsurely at Jon before she and Grenn move to follow.
Later, when they leave to take their vows, she notices Jon seems to be in slightly higher spirits. Slowing her pace next to Sam, she nudges him. "Is Jon … is he alright?"
"I think he will be," Sam nods. "The Lord Commander must have chosen him for a reason, if you get my meaning. I don't know why else someone as good as him would be a steward..."
Iliya thinks he's probably right. She cannot think of any other reason why she should be a ranger and he shouldn't, other than the idea that Mormont is taking him under his wing.
"Me, I'm just happy to be a steward," Sam sighs, trudging heavily through the snow. Iliya has to agree; Sam is no fighter, and for almost being sent here against his will, it's probably the best thing he could've asked for.
"Then I'm happy for you, Sam." She smiles at him before moving up next to Jon.
"What sort of gods did you pray to?" He asks her.
"None," She replies, clutching her cloak tighter with one hand. "Well, I used to. Pray to the old gods, that is. But Sam's got it right, it would seem, because they've never answered my prayers, either. I am here because of myself." Iliya sighs. "However, I'm willing to put some faith in these gods of yours."
"Then maybe my gods can answer them," Jon tells her, but inside he thinks, Maybe they can make me forget what you feel like.
The tree was an eerie looking thing to Iliya, though she doesn't say such. The three of them kneel before it, the snow falling even harder.
"Hear my words, and bear witness to my vow. Night gathers, and now my watch begins. It shall not end until my death. I shall take no wife, hold no lands, father no children. I shall wear no crowns and win no glory. I shall live and die at my post. I am the sword in the darkness. I am the watcher on the walls. I am the shield that guards the realm of men. I pledge my life and honor to the Night's Watch, for this night and all nights to come."
"You knelt as boys," One of the brothers behind them states. "Rise now as men of the Night's Watch."
She and Jon stand, each grabbing one of Sam's arms when he has difficulty getting up. A moment passes where they all look to each other, and then all three of them are in an embrace, Iliya laughing when she gets squeezed in the middle of it.
Iliya cannot believe she's done it; she's become a member of the Night's Watch, and surely that has to count for something. For the second time since the incident in the bath house, she feels like she's finally, finally free from her past. Free from the brothel. "Thank you, Jon. I couldn't have done it without your help," She whispers to him in the midst of the hug, and he simply smiles at her in that way she likes so much.
The brothers begin to give them congratulations, and Ghost finally comes from out of the woods he's been exploring. They look to see something in the white direwolf's mouth, and a feeling a dread blankets the happiness that was there only a moment ago.
"To me, Ghost," Jon kneels, "Bring it here." Obedient as ever, Ghost trots up before dropping something before him; it's a hand, severed up to the forearm.
"Gods be good!" Sam exclaims from behind them, and Iliya's eyes widen as they stare upon it.
They return to the Wall to inform the Lord Commander, and then they're all quickly sent back out to try and retrieve whatever bodies there are. "Your uncle was First Ranger. I don't think he will have perished so easily," Iliya tries to assure Jon, as they trudge through the snow.
And she is hopefully right, because they do find bodies – but none of them are Benjen Stark's. However, they're his fellow rangers, the ones under his command, and she knows Jon's probably in turmoil at the thought. Maybe it would be less cruel for him to find his Uncle's corpse. At least then, he won't have to wonder. Once they bring the bodies back to the Wall, Mormont meets them as they pull in the corpses. Other brothers begin to crowd around as well.
"It's Ortho, without a doubt," Mormont notes of the larger corpse, the bald one.
"The other one's Jaffer Flowers, m'lord. That's the hand the wolf tore off."
"Any sign of Benjen or the rest of his party?" They give the Lord Commander a solemn shake of their heads.
"Just these two, m'lord," Jon murmurs. "Been dead a while, I'd say."
"The smell," Sam says out of nowhere.
"There is none. If they've been dead for a long time, wouldn't there be rot?"
"We should burn them," Jon states, staring down at the corpses.
"I agree," Iliya adds.
"Snow's not wrong, m'lord," One of the older brother's says. "Fire will do for them. The wildling way." He nods.
"I want Maester Aemon to examine them first." Mormont eyes Sam. "You may be a coward, Tarly, but you're not stupid."
Satisfied with that, Sam nods a bit and smiles to himself. Iliya can't help but think the whole thing is strange. Something doesn't feel right, and judging by the looks on everyone's faces, they feel it as well.
"Get them inside." Mormont orders, before he's called away to meet with Maester Aemon about a raven from King's Landing.
Some time passes before Jon is called up as well, and when he returns, he's even more upset than she's ever seen him.
"What troubles you?" Iliya asks, taking a hold of his arm as he storms down the stairs.
"It's nothing of import," Jon almost spits out.
"Well, it must be. You can talk to me, you know-"
"What good will talking to you do?" Jon asks, frustrated. His uncle is missing, his father's been accused of treason – and the gods only knew what would become of Arya and Sansa. "All you will do is give me empty reassurances. I don't want them," Jon growls out, leaving her standing in the middle of the yard.
Eyes wide at his demeanor, she watches his back as he stalks away. "Jon..." She whispers, but the the wind and snow steal away the sound.
A/N: Ohhh, pissy Jon. Well, we know he can get like that (as we've all seen when he gets chosen for the stewards). And as for the important note, I've pretty much decided what to do for the rest of this story.
Important stuff I'd like to tell you all:
I'll be nearing the end of Season 1 soon, and I'm almost certain I'm going to keep following through from the events in the books in order to keep things as true to the original plot as I can. Hopefully no one minds that, though there will be spoilers. And if you have read the books and know of Ygritte, I'm not planning on getting rid of her or anything...
Not so important stuff I'd like to ask and really want opinions for:
And on a totally different note, how would you guys feel if I made a Theon/OC story at some point? I know most people see Theon as a douche, but his character interests me. Yay? Nay? Let me know, because if people would actually read it, I'd definitely write something.
Anyways, I hope you guys enjoyed this chapter. Hopefully it wasn't boring!
Please review, you guys are awesome with that! (And I really am serious about the Theon/OC thing, so opinions on that are most definitely welcomed!)