Days stretched to weeks and weeks upon weeks as the snow began to fall. Arya had decided against running at a breakneck speed to Jon's side; she needed to prepare, knowing that women were not allowed on The Wall. As much as she knew that Jon would take her in, she was not sure how the years had changed him, as she herself had become a woman that she had never dared to imagine. It took weeks of concentration to take the face of a young man and Arya was still not satisfied with his girlish looks. Her brown braid was unevenly lopped off at her shoulders. There was no amount of training that would provide facial hair, so she adapted a dirtier lifestyle to cover the smooth skin. As she travelled north, layers of clothes, gloves and a furred, hooded cloak both kept the chill at bay and hid the last of her feminine features. She had shifted her course back east to the King's Road to avoid Winterfell. The distraction of her home and the current occupants could do no good in her life now.
The solitude was gracious to Arya. It provided the time to focus on both her borrowed face, new mannerisms and her new story. If I didn't speak, my voice would not give me away. It took several nights during her travels before she conjured up a thick scar across her throat. Touching it with her fingertips, she was satisfied with it and pointed her horse towards the last stretch of road to The Wall and Jon.
Sunshine broke the morning that Arya rode from Mole's Town to the looming Wall. It was far bigger than she had ever imagined, both high and long. There is no end, either way. She started to repeat her prayer over and over, almost to a chant, to keep her focus on her borrowed face and away from the joy of seeing Jon. When the list of names became too much, as Castle Black crept closer and closer, she shortened it. Valar Morghulis. Valar Morghulis. Valar Morghulis. Valar Morghulis. I am no one. Valar Morghulis.
She drew in a deep breath and slid off of her horse as a short man in a black robe approached. Valar Morghulis. I am no one. "You've come to take The Black?" He was missing a few teeth and seemed far too thin. She nodded once. "Come on now, answer me out loud!" Arya pulled down the neck of her inner jacket to reveal her faux scar. "Ah, poor lad. Are you hungry?" She shook her head that she was not. Valar Morghulis. I can do this. "Let's get your horse put up and bring you to Lord Snow." Arya had to stop herself from clearing her throat from the nervousness of hearing someone can her brother a lord.
Listening to the man prattle on about the severity of life at Castle Black, the cold and the rationed food, more about the cold and the White Walkers, Arya found herself relaxing a bit as she followed him to the stable. More men had nodded a greeting to her borrowed face as they crossed the courtyard to a crumbling tower. How sad for a lord. How fitting for my brother. Mother would've burned the man that made him a lord, even over this rotting castle.
At long last and suddenly at the same time, Arya stood outside of Jon's chambers as her escort knocked on the door. Valar Morghulis. Valar Morghulis. She almost lost her face as her heart raced in anticipation. "Enter," he called from the other side.
"No need to be nervous, son. Lord Snow is a fair man. Strong and just, but fair." He pulled the latch and swung open the door and then disappeared back down the stairs.
Jon sat at a desk, head down and his dark hair fell on either side of his face. Ghost was lying to the side of the desk and sprang up, which made Jon look up. Ghost padded towards Arya and she held her hand out for him to smell while focusing on her face and looking at the dire wolf. She swallowed hard to keep her joy at bay while Ghost pushed his nose into her palm and then licked it. She dared a half smile before looking up at her brother. Jon. You look so old!
A look of both anger and suspicion played on his face. By all of the gods, she wanted to laugh, reveal herself and hug him, but she just stood still as Ghost sat down next to her. Jon looked her over and took a deep breath. "There has never been a man that has come to this wall that is not afraid of this wolf. Yet you," he pushed back the chair and stood, "stand with no fear and he accepts you. Ghost, to me." The dire wolf obeyed after looking up at Arya's borrowed face. Jon crossed to the front of the desk and studied Arya. "You have come to take The Black?" She nodded once. "Do you know the price?" She nodded again. "Do you speak?" Arya revealed her scar and looked down as Ghost plopped himself onto her feet. Jon looked exasperated. "Can you write? Can you write your name at least?" He turned and pushed a paper and plume to the edge of the desk.
Arya had not actually thought of it. She had become mute and didn't think of a name. Stepping forward, she scratched out the only name she could think of quickly.
"Arry?" She didn't even look up when he asked. Now that she was close to him, she felt herself losing the battle of her mind. Arya took a measured breath and was about to step back when Jon grabbed the handle of Needle and withdrew it. She looked up at him and saw that first he was sad, but then his face changed into fury before he spoke. "Where did you get this?" He gripped the handle until his knuckles were white and brought the blade towards her chin.
Seven hells. She cleared her throat and spoke low. "From a great man."
"So, you are a liar and a thief." He pressed the tip of Needle into her chest. Ghost growled and Arya could not tell if it was at her or Jon. Jon stared at her eyes and she could tell he was enraged. He would kill or hurt her soon, she was sure of it.
"He told me to stick them with the pointy end."
The only noise that Arya heard was Ghost panting. Needle's tip was still pushed into her chest and she locked eyes with Jon, whose mouth had parted open, but nothing came out. His brows furrowed and breathing quickened but no words came. Arya held onto her borrowed face with every ounce of training in her but felt her façade start to falter and turned away so that it could fall without Jon having to witness it.
"I will turn now, but the girl you see is not the girl you knew. I am here but my heart," she bit her lip to keep from crying. "My heart is still in Winterfell with my family. With Father and Robb, Mother and Bran and Rickon. I come to you broken." Heavy hands grasped both of her shoulders and turned her around slowly.
"I don't understand. How are you here? Is it really you?" Jon's eyes filled with tears as he examined Arya's true face. She didn't respond but finally let her tears fall. She had found her brother and all she wanted was for him to hold her, so she stepped into his chest. She caught a sob as his strong arms wrapped around her. "Gods. Oh my gods!" he whispered into her hair. "Arya."
The sound of her name from his mouth filled her with a happiness that she never knew was missing. For those few moments, rediscovering her brother and he realizing that she had found him, she felt truly safe.
*Be patient, Gendry is coming. I promise.