AN: I'm not entirely sure some of you will like this chapter. I'm not entirely sure I like this chapter, but I needed to start fracturing what I'd put back together. Plus, everything I know about Lyanna and Rhaegar Targaryen comes from the Wiki and what my friends spoil for me, so that's a little shaky. It should be mentioned that this has only been briefly read through for mistakes, so some will still be lurking in there in different places.

Chapter Fourteen: Melting Snow

Bronn had them stopping and starting every few feet, which was fine with Tyrion, as it let him keep pace. They'd skirted the bulk of the Lannister army a week ago and had made it by nearly all of the straggling wolves. Now though, the sell sword claimed that he heard someone ghosting them in the woods. Syrio had agreed, and so they had stopped every ten or twenty feet, listened to silence and started forward again.

He winced as Shae stumbled forward as Sansa stopped short yet again. The Lorathi woman grimaced as her ankle rolled, but she kept her silence. They'd been playing the same game back and forth for the last three hours. Bronn would stop short, Syrio right behind them, and they'd both nearly knock Sansa-who was watching her feet more than anything else-onto her backside.

"Watch where you are going," Shae murmured, slipping by the girl and moving on, ignoring the call to halt.

"Be still," Syrio hissed at her, but it was of little consequence to the Lorathi. She moved with confidence, even with the ache in her ankle.

"If someone follows us, what does stopping do?" She asked. "They know where we are. Or did you think that we would outpace them?" She raised an eyebrow and Tyrion tried to ignore the way that three sets of eyes seemed to slide over him. He couldn't say that he minded, not really, as he was slowing them down. Running wasn't an option, but Sansa was just as slow. She kept muttering under her breath about the mud and stones. Since that day by the river, she had hardened a bit, and her complaints were restricted mostly to her own ears.

He watched her closely since they left King's Landing. The girl had wilted in Joffrey's shadow, spoiled in the dungeons, and now, out in the fresh air, she was starting to grow again. She'd never be the little flower, that pretty little bird in a cage, but she'd be stronger. He caught himself smiling and trudged on a few more steps before their quiet exploded into sound.

Sansa was ready to die, she decided, in that moment, when the five or six beast like men steped from the trees, wicked blades in their hands and hair longer than hers. They shouted in a language that Sansa couldn't identify. Tyrion did though, and he swore colorfully behind her.

"What?" She asked him, turning slightly to look down at the man.

"Those are Dothraki," he said.

"Why are there Dothraki in Westros?" Syrio murmured under his breath. Sansa glanced at him. Did he really not know? Well, she supposed he had been in those cells longer than she, and they hadn't spoke much of Danaerys Targaryen since they'd slipped from the castle.

"Stormborne convinced some of them to like the water," Bronn said, his hand on the pommel of his sword. There was no sense in fighting, they knew. Shae and Sansa had no weapons, and Bonn and Syrio were their only real fighters. The sell sword gave a big smile. "Anyone know any Dothraki?"

"My Dothraki is rusty," Sansa bit out, annoyed at the question. Bronn just smiled widely at her. For a moment, she was sure he'd lost his mind, if he'd ever had one, but then Syrio was saying something in a language that sounded vaguely like what the others were shouting, and they were being pushed forward and around, through trees and much faster than they'd gone before.

"Sansa," Catelyn whispered, her eyes wide and staring across the little camp. Jon's eyes followed hers, and sure enough, there the red-headed Stark stood, between two Dothraki he didn't recognize. There were two other men and a woman, none of which were familiar. The small, half shadow behind them was familiar though, and he stood quickly to follow Catelyn as she ran across the ground. Catelyn made a keening sound that Jon only half heard before the mother and daughter were wrapped in each other's arms and sobbing.

The Stark bastard settled back against a wagon, a smile on his face and a warmth in his chest that he hadn't felt in a long time as his siblings-one by one and very eagerly-collapsed into a heap with each other. Even Arya wrapped her arms around her sister and cried. It was a small miracle, Jon decided as he watched the sisters embrace. Arya might never again love her sister as much as she did in that moment. Robb settled back against the wagon with him, his cheeks drawn up in a smile that he couldn't hide.

"Too much, Stark?" Jon asked as he eyed the tear tracks down his brother's face. It was something that had been the bane of Robb's existance since they were small. He had a tendency to cry when overwhelmed with any emotion, and at the moment, his happiness was getting the most of him.

"Isn't it?" Robb asked back, but his smile never wavered. Jon bumped Robb's shoulder with his own and the pair just watched as the Dothraki scouts slowly realized that their captives weren't Lannister soldiers or Greyjoy traitors or any other matter of person they were going to be allowed to kill.

"Yes, yes it is," Jon murmured, and Robb turned toward him just a touch, his smile renewed. The temptation became too much, and Robb left his half-brother on the wagon to see his sister-Rickon had finally relinquished her and stopped sobbing.

Jon watched Tyrion as the half-man eyed him oddly, staring hard before letting his eyes slide over into the tree line. The Starks were upon each other again, something that Jon was starting to think was becoming a habit, in celebration of Sansa's return, and they didn't notice when Tyrion squeezed Shae's hand and walked slowly toward the trees. Jon followed quietly, never less missed than in that moment.

The chill of winter was heavy out of the sunlight-or so Jon would claim later-and he pulled his cloak more firmly around him. Tyrion looked anywhere but at him, seeming to study the very air in front of his eyes. "What?" Jon finally asked.

"Men talk freely with whores," Tyrion said suddenly, and the oddness of the statement struck Jon soundly. "And whores talk freely with me, when I pay them."

"Loose women have loose lips, what of it?" Jon asked, annoyed at being drawn away for such frivolity.

"I've bedded and paid many a lady for her company, Jon Snow. I've paid more for her secrets." Tyrion heaved a sigh as he rubbed at his neck. "Sit down, this constant craning is doing nothing for my back." Jon hesitated but did as he was told, sitting down against the base of a tree. Tyrion did the same a few paces off, and the pair stared at each other.

What whores could have anything to say that would interest him? Precious few, he thought. He'd never seen any but Ros, and even then he'd done little more than stare at her. "You've got me out here, sitting in the snow." Jon finally said when it became clear that the imp wasn't going to speak again.

"I met a whore once," he said. "Many years ago. Beautiful girl. She'd been paid very well, apparently, because she'd left her calling. I was stricken at her loss." He gave a small grin at Jon, who only scoffed. "She told me she'd stopped because she'd been taken with child, except I knew Wylla. I'd seen her time and time again over the months. That woman never swole. There was no little welp running underfoot."

"What of it? She probably sent it-"

"So I paid her for her secrets," he cut Jon off. "I had to pay her very well. Your father had already done so, you see, but the Lannister pockets are deeper than any wolf's."

"Why would my father..." Jon trailed off, drawing a sharp breath in at the realization. "So, her name is Wylla." He said easily. It was something that he'd wanted to know since he was small, but now that he had the knowledge, he had no idea what he was going to do with it.

"I did more digging, of course, trying to find out why your father would pay off the whore he openly claimed sired his bastard," Tyrion said as if it meant everything. Jon didn't see a point. Perhaps it was shame that did it? Honor? Yes, Ned Stark would feel honor bound to the whore that gave him a bastard, Jon thought with distaste. Honor bound to his grave. "It made so much more sense when I went back to Wylla though. The woman was a frivolous thing. She often forgot her moon tea, but it had never been a problem in the past."

"I don't pretend to know what-"

"It keeps them from becoming pregnant. It was curious, that she'd never guzzled the stuff in front of me like the others, trying to prove that I wouldn't impregnate her. So I pushed against the man that owned her, and I came away with a very costly secret. Wylla was injured, terribly, by a man and left barren when she was sixteen." The thought struck deeply in Jon's mind, and he sat there in the snow, numb from what he would claim was the cold.

"If it wasn't Wylla, then why did my father pay her?" Jon asked quietly.

"Because he wasn't your father," Tyrion said, face apologetic. Jon chuckled at that, the small sounds giving way to laughter. Finally, he settled, staring at Tyrion's stoic face.

"If he wasn't my father, why would he lie? Why dishonor himself when he didn't have to? Why take me in for all of these years? A bastard is costly, both to his honor and his purse." He chuckled darkly again. "You're more blind than I am if you think-"

"Do you know how your father and Robert Baratheon got involved in the war?" Tyrion asked, cutting him off.

"Rhaegar Targaryen kidnapped Lyanna Stark," Jon said tonelessly. History was not helping him to better understand the here and now.

"And do you know how long Rhaegar had Lyanna?" Tyrion asked.

"No," Jon admitted.

"Almost a year," he said as if this statement made all of the difference. "And all that anyone could hear when Ned Stark found Lyanna on her deathbed was her begging him to save someone. He left that tower holding a child."

Jon stared at Tyrion, mind unwilling to admit to what he'd heard. What he knew the evidence suggested. He burried his head in his hands and heaved a sigh. Not Eddard Stark's son, but Lyanna's. Lyanna Stark who had always been a mythical thing of the past, proud and very much like Arya, but just a name and a stone statue in the crypts.

Now, well, now she was significantly something more, wasn't she? Jon tugged lightly at his hair before leaning back and thumping his head against the tree trunk.

"I could be wrong," Tyrion offered, but the tone in his voice wasn't hopeful for the possibility.

"He never told me because he wanted to defend her memory," Jon said quietly, thumping his head against the bark one more time. In the span of a few moments, he'd gone from being Jon Snow, Stark bastard to Jon Waters. The name was uncomfortable in his head.

At least as Eddard Stark's bastard he had brothers and sisters. The thought struck him hard.

"Oh, god," he muttered, letting his head fall back between his knees for a new reason now as nausea welled up his stomach and threatened to spew his breakfast over the ground. Before he was a Black Brother, he'd been a brother. Now, he had cousins; he nearly chuckled at the thought. Rhaegar Targaryen's bastard.

Rhaegar. Eddard.

How had Ned looked at him all of those years? How had he clothed him and fed him and called him son?

"Does it matter so much, Jon Snow, that you're someone else's bastard?" Tyrion asked, and when Jon looked at the Imp, he was on his feet and standing only a pace or two in front of him.

"Jon Waters," he corrected. Tyrion's face crumped upon itself at that statement, but Jon couldn't bring himself to wonder why. "Bastards from the Landing take the name Waters."

"Look at you!" Tyrion chided. "I never knew you to be so vain." When Jon didn't rise to the bait, he sighed and rubbed at his hip. "Ned Stark brought you home and called you son. That's more than my own father has ever done for me. Don't belittle his love for you."

Tyrion watched as Jon simply sat there, head limp between his knees and taking little, heaving breaths as if he was about to vomit. Guilt wracked him, but the truth was something he felt the young man deserved. He left Jon there, sitting in the tree line. Shae wrapped her arm around his shoulder when he rejoined her. She was watching Sansa Stark blossom under her mother's eyes. A small smile lit the Lorathi woman's face and Tyrion couldn't help but wish the girl was coming with them. It was almost as if they had something between them, when they were both working to help the girl.

A child. A normal, whole and beautiful child. He swallowed past a lump in his throat and watched the family. Robb had taken a step away, distancing himself and once again becoming the King in the North. A pale haired woman had joined them, and it didn't take Tyrion's knowledge to place her as the Dothraki Queen. Unlike with Jon, the Targaryen influence was strong in the girl.

Arya and Rickon were nearly vibrating around while Bran sat upon Hodor's back once again. Yes, Tyrion decided, perhaps he did want a family. Maybe a strong girl, with sharp eyes and a quick tongue or one with a different kind of strength and beauty that might match her mother's.

A pair of eyes made him uncomfortable, and he found them in Robb Stark. The boy's face was screwed into a frown, and his eyes flickered from Tyrion to the tree line.

"Go," he murmured, not truly loud enough for the young Stark to have heard, but the intent was clear. Robb followed the command quickly. Tyrion reached up and gave Shae's hand a firm squeeze. After years of silence and watching the darkness of his family, he felt light, and the woman at his side more than made up for any hardship along the way.

Robb hadn't noticed Jon leave, but he did notice that he was gone with the Imp. Annoyance swirling in his gut, he'd waited for his brother to return. When the Imp came back without him, something uneasy settled in his stomach. He searched the tree line that Tyion had come from, but nothing gave away his brother, if he was there.

The Imp had muttered something, his eyes firmly fixed on Robb, and the young man had gone. Something was wrong, and he'd be damned if his family was going to suffer again so soon after finally having their hurts soothed.

He found Jon sitting in front of an old Pine that had been so whithered that the needles had fallen off long ago and the black branches were knarled and twisted. His dark head of curls had fallen forward between his updrawn knees. Even from a distance, the young wolf knew that the other wasn't crying. Jon didn't cry, hadn't since they were small, but the position was one of defeat, hopelessness.

"Jon?" He called when he was close enough he felt the other man should have been able to have heard him or sensed his presence. He didn't move, but Robb could see his shoulders expand as he took a long breath.

"What?" He asked from beneath his hair.

"That's my question," Robb countered, but the other man said nothing. Instead, he ran his hands over his downturned face and leaned back against the trunk of the tree.

"Don't trouble yourself, Stark," Jon muttered. Robb couldn't help flinching. The words were cold and walled off. They'd always traded remarks in the past in an illusive air, but there was always affection behind it. That affection had drained away sometime since they'd last spoke.

"And why wouldn't I, Snow?" Robb countered, anger bubbling with the worry in his stomach. Jon flinched, and for a moment, Robb regretted it. Just a moment, because in the next, Jon was up and walking away from him, his shoulders set firm. "Snow!" He shouted, walking after him.

"Leave it," Jon called over his shoulder, and the dismissive attitude pissed Robb off even more. Jon never could run from him, and Robb closed his arm around his shoulder hard, spinning the other man around to face him.

He wasn't really sure what he'd done to garner the glare or the fist that collided hard with his jaw, but Robb staggered back two or three steps before he really felt the pain. Jon stared at him, wide eyed after. His face crumpled with guilt, and he turned to leave again.

"You owe me an explanation," Robb called after him when his jaw would function again. His brother had grown while he was gone, and Robb hadn't really noticed until that moment. He'd have never thrown a punch like that before. Jon had stopped a few paces off, where he breathed up into the dead canopy above them. Robb approached slowly, acknowledging the tense set of his shoulders and the way Ghost had appeared, pacing only a few feet off, growling low in his throat. "Come on, Snow," Robb murmured, taking the few steps toward him and laying a hand hesitantly on his shoulder.

Jon wilted beneath his hand, exhaling heavily.

"Waters," Jon said, and the word was confusing.

"Waters?" Robb repeated, and Jon just nodded, not bothering to turn and look at him. Waters. There wasn't any water between them and the Lannisters. They'd crossed the last of the real problematic rivers at the Twins. They weren't low enough on drinking water with all of the snow around them, and the only other 'waters' he knew of was...

"Oh," he murmured. A woman maybe? Did Lannister bring news of a woman from King's Landing? "Whoever it is, I'm sure-" He stopped quickly at the indignant laughter that seemed to explode from his brother's chest.

"You don't get it," Jon said after a while, chuckles still wracking his shoulders between his words. "I wasn't telling you, Stark. I was correcting you." Correcting? Robb ran through their last few exchanges, trying to pinpoint what exactly Snow could be...


"What are you on about?" He asked, tugging on the shoulder and turning him about.

"Ask Lannister, I don't have the energy," Jon said, and Robb nearly believed him.

"I'm asking you," Robb countered, and the pair glared at each other a long while. Finally, Jon's shoulders gave and he sighed into the air.

"You'll know eventually, I suppose." He scrubbed a hand along his jaw. "I'm not your brother, Stark," Jon said. The words stung more than anything Robb had ever heard.

"Don't be stupid. You're my broth-"

"I'm your cousin, Stark." Jon's face was stern and serious. Robb felt something settle in his stomach. It wasn't a joke. "I'm not Eddard Stark's bastard. I'm his twisted sense of honor. I killed my mother on my way into this world, Robb. I tore Lyanna open, and for some reason your father's sense of duty was more than his anger."

"I don't..." Robb bit his tongue. That was a lie. He did understand. The words were clear enough, and their father had always been tight lipped on who Jon's mother was. He just didn't understand. Lyanna? Aunt Lyanna who's kidnapping launched Robert into a frenzy? "Lyanna?" Robb asked, as if he'd somehow misunderstood.

"Lyanna." Jon confirmed. He seemed heavier now, as if saying it had somehow made it that much more true. "And Rhaegar, I'd imagine," he spat, and glared down at the snow. Ah. Robb saw it then, as clear as his brother's face.

"I always knew you were a bit pale to be all North," Robb said with a smile, trying to joke. "Too bad you didn't get that blonde hair though."

"This isn't a joke to me, Stark!" Jon shouted at him, and a dull growling behind Robb told him that Grey Wind had come at last to find his master. "This is not my vanity. This isn't a joke about my hair or my clothes. This means-"

"Nothing!" Robb shouted over him. "Nothing, Jon. It means nothing." He gripped the other man's neck just above the shoulder and stared at him. "It means nothing, brother." Robb stared him down for several long moments before his words sank in and Jon's face relaxed.

"It might mean more to the rest," Jon said at last. "But thank you."

"You're still their brother, and you're still a stupid bastard," Robb said, smiling despite himself. He pulled Jon into a quick, fierce hug and when he pulled away, he left his arm around his shoulders. Ghost and Grey Wind were rough housing between the trees, playing a game of tag.

"Lady Stark will be pleased, if nothing else," Jon muttered, pulling away from the embrace and starting back toward the camp. Robb didn't deny it. He knew that his mother would be pleased with the knowledge that his father hadn't really betrayed her. Eddard Stark would defend his sister's honor with his own. Robb knew that, and now that it was offered as a possibility, it all made that much more sense. Ned wouldn't betray his brother's memory by adultering, but he'd rather damn his own honor than the honor of a sister.

"Come on, then. You've not welcomed your sister home," Robb said, keeping his arm firmly around Jon's shoulders. They'd both grown, he realized, as he looked down just a touch at Jon, who he'd nearly always had to stare across at. Jon went easily, and let himself be tugged along until they were only a few paces in front of Catelyn and Sansa, who were speaking to each other in hushed tones, tears on their cheeks. The two men that had come with them were gone, and Jon suspected that they'd fled the reunion of the mother and daughter.

"It is good to see you well, Sansa," Jon said softly, and the red headed girl turned toward him. For the first time in his memory, she had a gentle look for him, and Jon stiffened as he found himself hugged soundly.

"We heard news of the fall of Castle Black," she said by way of explanation. "I was sure that you'd..."

"I've never been that easy to kill," Jon murmured, laying a hand on the top of Sansa's head. She looked up at him, a firm look on her face.

"None of us will ever be that easy to kill again," she said fiercely, and for a moment, Jon thought that perhaps his sisters had switched places. As he looked down, it was still Sansa's clear eyes and red hair. He smiled and nodded at her, detaching himself so that Catelyn could pull the girl into another embrace. She went easily, but for a moment, Jon could imagine that he was part of that family, firmly and completely. He eyed Catelyn before turning away. Now wasn't the time.

Robb was talking to Tyrion in quiet tones, and the pair stopped when Jon approached. It didn't take him long to figure out what they were arguing over.

"I've not met your Lady," Jon said simply, and Tyrion looked just over his shoulder, where Shae was standing, one arm wrapped around him.

"I am no Lady," Shae murmured, but held a hand out firmly with her name.

They spoke for a few long moments before reality demanded reality. "What will you do?" Jon asked Tyrion, who was trying to ignore the fact that he was the only lion in a wolves' den.

"Lorath," Shae spoke evenly, her dark eyes staring down at the Imp. "We are tired of the fighting." Jon had to agree with her there. Tyrion would never sit a throne, not while his family was alive, and their constant betrayal and conquest might see the death of him.

"You're welcome here," Robb offered, which made all three of them start. The last time the eldest Stark had seen Tyrion, he'd been less than civil. A deep ruddy blush spread up Robb's neck at the stares. "You've done nothing but be honest and aid out family where possible," Robb said by way of explanation. "It's time I realized that."

"As pleased as I am that you're not planning on putting my head on a spike, Shae wants to see her home again, and I'm eager to see it as well. We'll leave at first light." Shae nodded and left his side, surely off to tell their other two companions of the plan. Jon hadn't seen them since he'd left the tree line, but he hadn't seen Arya either.

"What port?" Robb asked once Shae had gone. Very few of them in the South would allow them passage now that Tyrion had defected and brought home the last Lannister hostage.

"I was hopeing you'd be able to suggest a port in the North," Tyrion said after a pause. "We'd thought Gulltown, but with my last stay in the Vale, I'm unsure if it would be completely sane."

"Lysa would give you passage," Robb said after a moment, but he wasn't sure if it was the truth. "If we sent word ahead, perhaps even send a herald with you."

"I'll take them," Jon breathed. He wasn't sure why he was offering, but he'd done it. Robb turned toward him with sharp eyes, his mind the same place as Tyrion's.

"Running from your problems, Jon Waters?" Tyrion asked.

"He's of the North-"

"Never forget what you are," Jon cut off his brother. "Wear it like an armor so that it might never be used to hurt you." Tyrion smiled at the memory. He nodded and chuckled under his breath.

"What is that?" Robb asked, face creased in confusion.

"The words of a drunken idiot," Jon muttered, which only made Tyrion howl. Jon finally smiled, and for a moment, Robb felt that they would be alright. "But they were true." Tyrion's chuckling carried on for a few more moments before they all sobered.

"I'd be pleased to have you as escort through the Vale," Tyrion said at last, and it was set. Robb nodded and turned back to find his mother and sister, who had seemed to disappear.

"You'll go at first light?" Robb asked, turning to glance at Tyrion, who only nodded in reply. "I'll make arrangements," he said, slipping into the skin of King in the North as easily as slipping into his bed roll. Tyrion watched him go with a cock of his head.

"That boy will be a good man someday," he muttered.

"He's already a good man," Jon countered. Tyrion gave him a half smile.

"It takes a lot more than good intention and age to make a man," the half-man argued.

"And what makes a man?" Jon asked, only half paying attention.

"A woman," Tyrion said, a cheesy smile on his face. Shae slapped him on the back of the head and tugged him backward. Tyrion went with little complaint as the Lorathi woman lead him away. Jon stood there and watched, half a smile on his lips.

He found himself watching all of the Stark children for the rest of the evening. Catelyn had them all sitting around a fire, sharing stories of their lives since they'd last parted ways. He listened to Sansa speak hesitantly about King's Landing, giving Robb valuable information about the layout and the way that the Lannisters would defend the nest. He listened to Bran and Rickon talk about their escape from Winterfell with Hodor and Osha-who Jon still had to thank. He listened to Arya talk about how she and Genry and a kid named Hot Pie had ended up running through markets across the Narrow Sea until Arya had almost literally run Danaerys over. He listened to Robb tell the story of how he'd become King in the North. He listened a lot. He learned a lot.

It wasn't until the fire was popping in the darkness was creeping in around them that Sansa's light eyes turned toward him. "And what about you, Jon? Have you already told the story of how Castle Black fell?"

"I wasn't at Castle Black when it fell," Jon said simply. "I was north of the wall. We'd been out on-"

"You were North of the Wall?" Bran asked excitedly, and Jon smiled at him. They'd always talked about going riding north of the Wall someday. He was saved having to tell the story of Mance Rayder or how he'd been forced to kill one of his own brothers. Bran was too interested in the scenery, the people, the anything that Jon could tell him as he fired question after question until Catelyn declared it late enough for bed.

"Lady Catelyn," Jon called as she ushered Sansa and Arya into their tent. "If I could talk to you a moment?" Catelyn looked sharply at him for a long second before nodding and following him a few paces away from the tent so Arya's ears wouldn't catch their words.

"What is it?" She asked, face stern. It was the Catelyn he remembered. "If you're telling me that you're going to see Tyrion to Gulltown, Robb already told me." She sighed and her face softened a bit. "While I can't stop you, I'd rather you were closer. I'm tired of having everyone spread across all of Westeros."

"I'll return to help Robb with whatever he deems necessary as soon as I've seen Tyrion and Shae to Gulltown and to a ship," Jon said firmly. He'd given his word. He'd thought Catelyn would be pleased to have him gone. "But that wasn't what I asked to speak to you about." He sighed and steeled himself against the reaction that was sure to come. "You have been good enough over the years to allow me to stay in Winterfell among your family. You were told that I was Ned Stark's bastard, and until a few hours ago, I would have agreed with that."

"Jon," Catelyn said, her face screwed back up into a frown. "I have not been-"

"Please allow me to finish and then you can say whatever you feel necessary," Jon cut her off. He'd need to tell her now, before his own shame stopped him. "Ned Stark committed no other sin than lying to you. Rhaegar Targaryen took Lyanna south. She died in a tower, and when he left, he left with an infant. Tyrion had the money to loose the truth from a woman's mouth. Eddard paid her to claim that the child was hers, but early in as a whore, she came down with a disease that went untreated for too long, leaving her barren." Jon paused to draw breath and fortify his courage.

"I don't understand," Catelyn said in the gap. "Why would Ned lie to me? What would be so important that his own honor was..." Catelyn trailed off, her eyes widening a moment before she turned to Jon and took his chin firmly in her hand, turning his face this way and that. "Oh, Gods..."

"Lyanna's honor was more important to him than his own. Her memory was more important," Jon said simply. "I would ask that you not tell anyone."

"Of course," Catelyn murmured, dropping his face. "Who knows?" She asked.

"Robb, and Tyrion, of course," Jon said. "I'll tell the rest, if that is your will, but Eddard did what he did to protect his sister's memory."

"No," Catelyn said firmly, turning her sharp eyes to him. "If you wish to share the truth with your siblings, so be it, but to me and the rest of the world, you are Eddard Stark's son. I will not dishonor his wishes."

"Thank you," Jon murmured, nodding his agreement. "I would prefer to remain Jon Snow, but I felt that you deserved to know that your lord husband was an honorable man."

"I've always known Eddard was an honorable man," Catelyn said on a sigh. "But it does sooth a long aching wound." She turned away from him then, her shoulders set firm and back as they always were. It was a clear dismissal, one Jon had seen time and time again in the past. He turned to leave, but she called back to him. "I'll speak with you in the morning, before you leave for Gulltown." Jon nodded and kept walking. The conversation had gone easier than he might had thougth, but the morning would give her time to make decisions.

For now, he told himself, he would settle into his own sleeping furs, and let the world just disappear for a few hours before the sun crept into the sky and he was off away from all that he loved yet again. There were questions that would need to be answered in the coming weeks, more than just who would take the Iron Throne. And that was a big enough question, wasn't it? Danaerys Targaryen with her three dragons. Robb with his army. The Lannisters with their gold to line the pockets of soldiers far and wide.

Anyone could be bought, wasn't Wylla proof enough of that?

Jon settled down, facing toward the fire and tried to let sleep claim him. It would be many long hours before his eyes shut and his mind slipped away into nothingness. Many long hours of trying to place lives on a scale and come out with a complicated answer on the who and what and where of things. Could Danaerys Targaryen be trusted to rule? Was the madness in her veins? The question was double edged. Was the madness in his? There were purple eyed wolves in his dreams.