Blood of the Wolf

by Emmy Smokes

Part I – A subtle kiss that no one sees

They're about to cross the castle's gates when his eyes meet hers. He's been searching for her instinctively, he realizes, ever since he left. It's the wolf in them, he thinks. At his side, Ghost stops just as he does. Perhaps he's also tracked his packmate down and, like Jon, he's waiting for her in the cold, his heart frozen, his blood turned to ice.

She's pressed against the wall, her body draped in so many blankets and coats—black, Jon notes—only the snow in her face and the burning in her eyes are visible, and for a moment they're both so still that Jon thinks he's looking at her grave, the one they'd carve one day to keep her away at the Stark crypts, along with his siblings and his father and everyone he loved.

But she is no vision—she is right here. And when Uncle Benjen asks him a question, Jon realizes he's here too.

"I said, it's always hard saying goodbye to the place you once called home," Benjen seemed to be repeating himself, but Jon pays no mind to his irritated tone of voice.

"It is," he answers vaguely. "You go ahead, Uncle. I will catch up with you."

Uncle Benjen surveys him for a moment. Then, deciding he's passed some sort of secret test, he gives him a curt nod. "Take as much time as you need, son."

Jon watches them go before dismounting. Still he waits a little more. He's not sure why or what it is he's waiting for, he just does. Something shuffles. "What are you doing here?" he asks to a girl he can't see. "You should be in Winterfell by the fire, not out here in the cold."

He hears her struggle with the blankets, groan, and finally discard them. He wants to go help her, wants to mess up her hair and say something about little girls always needing their big brothers' help, but the only thing he does is hold his breath. He is no longer her big brother, not truly.

She is right there in front of him before he can take in the sound of her ragged breathing, the sight of the flush that goes from the tip of her nose and stretches across the expanse of her cheeks. She is facing him with her stubborn face, the one she makes when her mother reminds her of the things ladies shouldn't do, the one that means she's made up her mind and there is nothing Jon can do about it.

"You're not coming with us," Jon blurts out, suddenly very much aware of Nymeria's presence, of the bundle of clothes, of the very Arya-ness of it all. "The Wall is no place for a girl—"

"I just came to say goodbye, idiot. Properly," she adds like an afterthought. The way she pronounces the word makes Jon think she's just become aware of its meaning.

"We've already said goodbye, little—Arya."

His heart clenches in his chest. And somehow, he knows she's fighting some sort of inner battle too. It's the wolves, he thinks.

But he isn't watching the wolves, he is watching Arya. It hits him now that this might be the last time he'll ever see her. He is sure, at least, that he'll never attend her wedding, or watch her fall in love for the first time, or see her use Needle—so he watches as her blush spreads and Jon pretends he is there with her, holding her hand.

"You must be freezing," he says, mostly because someone has to say something.

"I'm going to miss you," he hears her whisper. "I don't want you to leave..."

Jon sees the tears freeze before they finish their slow descent down her cheeks. He wants to wipe them off for her, but he doesn't think it's his place. Not anymore.

"I don't want to leave you either," he tells her truthfully. "But." he smiles as he lies, "I'll see you at Sansa's wedding and we'll throw lemon cakes at Prince Joffrey together."

She pretends to believe him, even chuckles and smiles like she did when they'd first said goodbye back at the castle.

Then her laughter dies, and with it the stars seemed to dim a little. The blood of the wolf, Jon reminds himself.

"You have to promise me something," she sayd in a voice that hints at secrets and danger and all that is forbidden. "And you must promise me true."

Jon holds her hands and speaks into the darkness, "I will, as long as it is a promise I can keep."

Arya's fingers intertwine with his. They're surprisingly warm and unsurprisingly gentle. She steps a little closer, so close he can see the eyelash that rests on her left cheek, and has to resist the urge to wipe it off for her. Then she speaks so softly that it takes him a moment to understand that she's asked, "Promise me that we will see each other again."

It is the fourth or sixth smile she's drawn out of him that night—he's lost count. His fingers stroke hers tenderly when he says he'll keep that promise gladly.

"Good," Arya says regally, as if she'd expected nothing less."Because I will see you again." Her lips brushes his quickly. "I swear."

As he watches her run towards the castle, the warmth of her touch lingers on his fingers, on his lips, on his chest. The wolf's blood runs strong in both of us, he thinks.