dedication: to Chloe, because even though she's half-way across the world, she talks this shit out with me. what a cutie.
title: spare me your judgements
summary: Lady Stark, had Ned told her the truth. — Catelyn.
Winterfell is lonely when Catelyn first arrives. She brings very little with her; she brings her childhood septa, a trunk of dresses, and her son.
Her baby boy has her colouring—his name is Robb, and he is all red hair, blue eyes, dimpled cheeks when he laughs. He is lovely, and she loves him desperately. At night, she whispers lullabies into his head.
Sometimes, she smoothes her hands over the shiny baby-curls just as he's dropping off to sleep, and imagines her husband riding into battle with his sword drawn.
Of course, Catelyn knows nothing about Eddard Stark at all. They are wishful fancies, on her part.
Strangely, she doesn't mind at all.
She looks towards the south, and waits for her husband to come home.
Ned comes home with another babe.
Another boy, for that matter. The child is a solemn little thing with eyes as dark as Ned's own—Ned's mouth, Ned's face. His name is Jon Snow.
The storm that brews in Catelyn's heart is a thing more dangerous than all the winter storms she's ever seen—more dangerous even than the blizzards that can freeze a man and his horse in their tracks, like the ones she's heard about from the servants who know this land.
"And who is this?" she asks, voice trembling. She cannot tell yet if the emotion is rage or pain; it may very well be both, or maybe it is neither.
Ned hesitates a moment too long. He's going to lie, she knows suddenly and without a doubt. Catelyn still knows next to nothing about her husband, but she can call a storyteller when she sees one.
Not to mention, Ned is a terrible liar.
"My son," he says. "Jon is my son."
Catelyn doesn't contradict this. The boy has Ned's mouth. The boy has Ned's eyes.
But he is not Ned's son. Catelyn knows this deep in her bones. This boy is not Eddard Stark's son. She looks down at the tiny boy. There is something there—something that doesn't sit quite right. His face is a teardrop of solemnity against the snow.
"Hello Jon," she says, softly, the same way she talks to Robb. She crouches down in front of him, looks him in the eye. "Are you hungry?"
He nods, dark eyes never leaving her face.
"Well then," Catelyn says, pulling herself up and dusting her knees off. "Let's go see if the cooks can't find you something to eat, hm?"
And she offers him her hand, and he takes it, and she thinks poor mite, you don't have a home, either, do you? She can feel Ned watching her, weighing what she's about to do.
They may not know each other, but what kind of monster harms a child?
Jon's hand is tiny in her own. Her fingers curl around his little fist—he's bigger than Robb, but not by much—and she holds on soft and gentle. This little boy's mother couldn't keep him. She doesn't know how, and she doesn't know why, but she's determined to find out.
Catelyn looks over her shoulder only once.
Ned is still watching them. There is such pain in his face, and his eyes are on the boy—the boy who shares his mouth and his eyes—looking as though he'll never be able to look enough.
If Catelyn didn't know better, she would think he was telling the truth.
Her hand closes tighter around Jon's. He's only a little boy. He doesn't know what's going on, nor should he. It's not his fault at all. Catelyn pulls him a little closer to her side.
She swears that she will not let him down.
Robb and Jon get on magnificently.
Or, well, Robb gets on magnificently, and Jon sort of stands behind him and stares around serious as a soldier facing his own death.
Catelyn sits with Jon while Robb runs about pretending to slay monsters in the courtyard, and when no one is looking, she quietly teaches him to read. Ned's gone south again—gods-be-damned Robert, Catelyn thinks with a sneer—to finish up some business or other.
It doesn't involve her, and for now both boys are hers.
She looks at Jon, and decides that for now, who his parents are (were) doesn't matter at all. He is her son near as much as Robb is, and when she rocks them to sleep that night, she tells him as much.
"You can call me mother," Catelyn whispers. "If you'd like."
Jon looks at her with wide, wide eyes. Nods once. "Mother," he says.
Catelyn smiles. "Go to sleep, Jon. I'll be here in the morning."
She listens quietly as his breathing goes even and slow. It is so trusting; only a child sleeps like this, with no fear of the world. And Jon is the a child, though Catelyn knows he won't be a child for long. The world doesn't look kindly on nobly-born bastard boys. The world does not look kindly on them at all.
She brushes her fingers through Jon's hair, then through Robb's, and resolves to beat the truth out of her husband if she has to.
Catelyn Stark-nee-Tully was never one to cower away from the truth, and she isn't about to start now.
"Are you going to keep bringing me children, Ned?" Catelyn asks laughingly, later, when Ned returns with another boy. She is laughing, because the boy can't be any older than the two she already has—he is affection-starved, she can see it in his face, and despite the pregnancy, she lifts him to eye-level.
"Who are you, little one?" Catelyn asks.
"Theon Greyjoy," he says, proud of it. He blows his cheeks out, and there is still the scent of the ocean on his hair.
Catelyn turns to look at her husband, and raises her eyebrows. "A Greyjoy in Winterfell."
Ned shrugs helplessly.
Catelyn curses Robert with everything she has.
Of course the King would do this. Take another child from his family—the world's become such a mess, Catelyn thinks, when she wasn't looking. She sets him down.
"Come meet the others, then," she says, and leads him inside.
Ned trails after them, looking rather lost. Catelyn looks at him over her shoulder, smiles with all her teeth. "I have a bone to pick with you, my love," she says. "After supper."
Her husband just sighs, like he'd been expecting something like this—and really, he should have been expecting something like this, he hadn't even told her she'd be feeding another little boy, did he have any idea how much a little boy ate—and follows her inside. His hand rests on the small of her back, but only for a second before he is bowled over by a bright flash of child.
Robb throws himself on his father, and Catelyn can see that Jon is barely restraining himself from doing the same. She covers her smile with a hand, and only nods when he looks at her pleadingly.
"Go on, then," she tells him. "Go join your brother."
The Greyjoy boy stands beside her as Jon joins the fray, and Catelyn can't tell if he's contributing to the problem or he's trying to stop it. Either way, it's amusing. But when she glances down at Theon, she sees a flash of something cold and calculating and terrifying.
There is iron in the child's bones.
Eventually she herds them inside. Robb's attached to his father's leg, but Jon's attached himself to her side. He won't say a word to Theon, but Catelyn thinks that for now, it's quite alright. It took him ages to talk to Robb, much less grin the way Theon is.
She thinks she'll give them some time.
Catelyn rests her hand on the swell of her abdomen that night. The boys have been put to bed, all three of them quiet and sleepy after stuffing themselves silly on northern pheasant and sweetmeats and doughy sour-bread.
"Who do my children belong to, Ned?"
"You're a terrible liar, my darling," Catelyn sighs. She looks at him, pats the bed beside her, and repeats "Who do my children belong to?"
He looks like he very much doesn't understand.
"Robb is yours," Catelyn spells it out slowly for him. "The Greyjoy boy—well, he's our ward, now, I take it. And Jon?"
Ned hesitates again. "He's…"
It takes all of Catelyn's not-insignificant will to keep herself from causing him harm. "Please don't lie to me," she says.
Ned's shoulders drop, and she thinks he's been carrying this secret around for a very long time. She touches his shoulder, fingers cool in the darkness. "Ned?"
"Lyanna," is all he says. "Lyanna."
Catelyn breathes out.
"Tell me," she says.
And so he does.
He tells her everything, tells her about the blood and the blue winter roses, the wreath. Tells her about the dead king-to-be. He whispers the secrets like oaths into her shoulder, and it is all Catelyn can do to hold him and rock him back and forth, much as she did to her sons earlier in the eve.
"We must never tell anyone," Catelyn says.
Ned nodded into her skin.
"Thank you," Catelyn says again.
She thinks of her sons, and closes her eyes.
And years later, when Jon sits at the table with the rest of the Stark children, the Queen turns to look at Catelyn.
"Why does the bastard sit with your children, Lady Stark?" Cersei asks.
Catelyn's eyes burn like ice. She hates Cersei, in that moment, hates the Queen and everything she stands for.
"I will not blame a child for his father's mistakes," Catelyn says.
She folds her hands in her lap, and does not speak again.