Chapter 12: When It Rains

The next morning I awoke to the sun already high in the sky and a tuneful humming filling the room. I opened my eyes to see Orla bustling about my chambers as usual, the noise coming directly from her. She seemed relaxed and happy, a small smile on her face as she laid out my clothing for the day. She was almost bouncing as she walked about my chambers, an obvious spring in her step.

"Good morning, Lady. Did you sleep well?" She beamed, glancing over to me with a bright smile. I sat up in bed and stretched, dispelling the lagging sleepiness from my body.

"Yes, very well, thank you. You're awfully cheery today. I should give you a day to yourself more often." I observed, feeling guilty that her rest had made this much of a difference in her, but pleased that it had done her so much good. I wondered if I over-worked her, though she never seemed particularly tired. Nevertheless, the thought made me feel even worse.

"Oh no, Lady. That was enough of a rest for me. I already have an easier time than any other servant in your father's household. Any easier and I would never lift a finger." She laughed, looking at me with amused disbelief at my suggestion. I still couldn't shake the guilt entirely, so I looked at my bed-sheets and contemplated getting out of bed.

Orla and Bran had one thing in common at least. They can both read me with startling ease. I heard Orla sigh, and she walked over to me.

"Whatever you're thinking, Lady, you can stop. I enjoy my life with you and there isn't any King, Queen, Lady or Lord who could offer me better." She smiled, pulling the bed-covers from me and ushering me from the bed. I returned her smile, somewhat comforted by her words.

"Anyhow, we need to get you ready to go and meet your King." She smirked at me. "Last night was rather interesting from where I was standing, Lady. Anything you wish to tell me?" Her smirk was accompanied by a single raised eyebrow. I blushed and looked around at anything but her.

"No, I think you probably understand the situation well enough." I said, my voice sounding more sheepish than I would have liked. I could feel her let out a small sound of victory and she started moving about the room again. "The clothing you wore the other day has been washed and dried since, so once you've washed and I've finished with your hair, you can put them on." She told me as she fussed with my pillows and bed-spread.

I nodded in reply, sitting down by my looking glass and table. The next half hour or so was filled with rose-water, hair-brushes, braiding and dressing. I was ready with time to spare, thanks to Orla's help and efficiency in pulling my unruly morning hair into some sort of order. I spent the rest of the time reading one of the books I had brought with me from home as I waited for someone to collect me and take me to wherever Bran was waiting.

I ate some food that Orla had brought up for me from the kitchens as I waited. Hot bread, honey, blackberries and mint tea made up my breakfast this morning. I was relieved I had the chance to eat before I left to see Bran. I didn't want a repeat of yesterday if I could help it.

I had only brought about five books with me, as I only brought four trunks with me, and the books took up half of one of them. Four trunks wasn't an awful lot, at least once compared with the twelve belonging to my mother, or the average of eight or so that her ladies each brought with them.

Orla always jokes that I only need half the number of trunks, since my dresses used about half the amount of fabric as the other ladies. Being shorter than most Dornish women had some benefits, I suppose.

As expected, exactly an hour from the time I had woken up, a knock sounded at my door. I got up from my position seated on my bed and opened it.

Somewhat surprisingly, Bran himself stood before me. I had been expecting a servant or another member of his household to be the one to collect me, but I was pleased to find that was not to be the case.

"Good morning, Alianor. You look lovely." He said, his eyes sweeping quickly up and down by outfit. To my further surprise my usual blush didn't make an appearance at the compliment and look. Instead, I was able to simply smile at him.

"Thank you, Bran. As do you."

Bran let out a small bark of laughter and leant against outer stones that made up the frame of the doorway. I only just noticed that he was taller than the lintel above the door, so he would have had to stop to enter my room. The comical image of Bran walking into the door frame suddenly entered my mind, making me let out a small laugh, admittedly followed by some guilt.

Thankfully, Bran seemed to think I was laughing at my own comment, not at something new, so he didn't question my laugh.

"Are you ready to leave yet, or do you need some more time?" He asked, looking around my room briefly, nodding a greeting to Orla as he saw her.

"Lady Alianor is ready, my King." Orla said, grabbing a bag from a chair beside her that was no doubt filled with more food from Winterfell's kitchens and held it to her chest.

Bran nodded once, and took up my right hand in his left. He proceeded to pull me gently from my chambers and we made our way through the Guest Quarters to the main courtyard. Orla followed silently behind us, carrying the pack of food. She suddenly stopped and emitted a small "oh!"

"Lady, we forgot your cloak. I'll go back and get it and join you later on." She said in a rush, already heading back the way we had just come.

"Alright..." I replied to her retreating back, but she was already out of earshot. I turned back to Bran and we continued walking.

"So, where are we going today? Or is this going to be yet another of your surprises?" I asked Bran.

"Another surprise, I'm afraid. Your reactions to the things I show you are too wonderful to forgo by telling you anything." He replied, smiling as he looked ahead.

"And what if I choose to give you no reaction? What if I simply stand there and stare blankly at a tree?" I tease, smirking at him.

"How do you know you'd have a tree to stare at?"

"Because this is the North. I don't think I've been any further than a stone's throw away from a tree the moment we passed the Neck. Everywhere you've taken me so far has had at least one tree there. The Godswood, the Wolfswood, the walls of Winterfell at sunrise… I believe it is safe to assume I will have one to stare at wherever we're going today." I said, grinning at Bran.

"Well, when you put it like that, I'd have to agree that is a safe assumption." Bran laughed, "I can tell you that you will have a tree to stare at, should you wish. But that is all I'm going to tell you." He said, a smirk playing at the corner of his mouth.

I let out a small huff at his last few words, but left the matter alone. By now we had walked beneath the bridge connecting the Armory and the Great Keep and were passing the Guards Hall. A small arch was nestled between the Armory and the Guards Hall, leading into a long passage way.

As we made our way through the arch, the sweet smell of the Godswood filled the air. I looked up to see the tops of the trees in the wood towering over the high stone walls of the passage.

"This leads to the North Gate. We have horses waiting just inside of the gates." Bran told me. I nodded, still craning my neck up and looking at the trees. The ground within the passage was littered with a blanket of leaves that had fallen from the trees, colouring the floor a mottled green.

We arrived at the end of the passage and went through a large door to our right. Bran held it open for me. The door led into a small yard with a gate at the end. Des and two other horses were tethered to two posts just to the side of the large arch that made up the gate.

I heard some faint crunching noises behind me as I walked over to the horses. Bran was off to the side, speaking with what looked like a stable hand. Two other hands were fastening two large, clothed packages to Des and Bran's horse and two round things. They looked like thick shields from where I stood, but the grey fabric covering them hid their true nature.

I wandered over to Des and began checking the fastenings of his saddle. A moment later I felt a tug on my arm.

"Here's your cloak, Lady." She said, handing me the lovely furred cloak. "May I speak with you alone for a moment?" Orla asked, looking nervous. It was a new look for her, one I had never seen as long as I had known her.

I nodded in assent and walked off to the side with her, farther away from the two hands that were still working to fasten the round things to our horses. "Speak freely, you needn't look so nervous, Orla." I said gently. Orla let out a breath and nodded before she began speaking.

"I was wondering if you may permit me to stay behind whilst you go on your ride with the King. I have many chores to do that are left over from yesterday. I could have them done easily before you returned." She said, looking slightly guilty.

"Of course you may. You don't have to look so guilty. I gave you the day off for a reason. You work so hard, and this is a prime example of that. If you believe staying behind would make your life easier, then by all means, stay. I'm sure I can manage without you during the ride." I said, smiling at her.

Orla looked relieved as soon as I spoke and a wide smile appeared on her face.

"Thank you, Lady." She beamed at me. "I believe the King is ready to leave, so I'll do the same. Here's the bag of food with your lunch." She passed the bag to me. "There should be enough for the King as well, if he didn't bring his own. Thank you again, Lady." She said, before rushing back over to the passage door. I put on my cloak and made my way back over to the horses. Bran had already mounted his horse and I followed suit. Soon we were leaving the yard through the gates, riding slowly along a well-worn path further North.

"Orla won't be joining us then?" Bran asked.

"No, she wanted to stay behind and finish up some chores."

"I see. Well, there would have been little for her to do if she had come with us, so that was probably a wise move." He said. I made a noise of agreement.

"So, do these have anything to do with my surprise?" I asked, nodding backwards at the two round things and packages.

"Yes, but you shouldn't bother guessing what they are. I won't confirm or deny anything you say. I already told you this is going to be a surprise. You only have to wait a little bit longer. Where we're going is pretty close." He said with a grin.

"Fine. I'll be patient. But that isn't nearly as fun as interrogating you and trying to get you to give in and tell me." I muttered. The laugh that came from Bran told me he had heard my mutterings.

"I've spent the past three years learning how to resist all forms of incessant questioning. Living with Anna is the perfect test of endurance in such matters, so I'm afraid nothing you could say or do would have made me give in, Alianor." He said, an almost-smug smile on his handsome face.

"Whatever you say." I said airily, smirking at Bran with a raised eyebrow. I turned my head forwards again and tried to see if anything on the horizon could give me an idea of where we were going.

Before I could see anything, Bran veered off to the left, leaving the road and heading somewhere to the west. I steered Des the same way and trotted to catch up with him. I did my best to figure out where we were aiming towards, and eventually decided we were going to some part of the Wolfswood again. It was the only place I knew to be north-west of Winterfell and nearby. And there would be trees there, as Bran had said.

Sure enough, after riding in silence for a short while longer, we crested a small hill and were met with a wall of trees that bled into the Wolfswood.

We entered the wood and spent the next stretch of time ducking under branches and following barely-there trails that Bran seemed to know well. The gentle slope in the ground told me we were riding ever so slightly upwards. The trees that surrounded us were to densely-packed to look back and see how high we were. At least, I hope he did, otherwise we would be hopelessly lost by now.

Eventually, I spotted a few slivers of light among the trees ahead of us. As we drew closer, the slivers turned into obvious gaps and breaks in the trees, most likely leading to another clearing that the Starks seem to have a knack for finding.

Not that I'm complaining. I have yet to have a bad experience in a Stark-found clearing.

Bran stopped just inside the break and dismounted. We rode through the largest of the gaps and exchanged the dim green light of the woods for the fresh, bright light of Bran's latest clearing.

Only this one wasn't like the others. It was much bigger than the others by far. So big, that it was able to accommodate a decent sized lake in the centre. The only part of the clearing not taken up by the lake was a thin strip of land wedged in between the tree line and the water on the either side. The opposite bank was too steep to walk along, covered with tall, thin trees.

The far end of the lake was topped by a small hill. A leaning tree had grown across the hill. It had an abundance of low hanging branches that scraped the ground which created a sort of cave-like shape. We had entered opposite that tree, the strip of land starting where we were standing.

"We're here." He said, smiling at me as he untied the round thing and package from his horse.

"And what exactly is here?" I asked, jumping from Des. Bran had the two objects slung over his shoulders, can in hand. I fastened Des' reins to a nearby tree branch and walked over to Bran.

"This is where I come when I want to practise and I don't want Arya watching my every move. The lake is the source of a tributary that runs into the White Knife. I can't come here during the summer winters, since the river floods and freezes, covering this bit of land." He said grinning, walking down a gentle hill towards the tree-cave at the top of the lake.

"What do you practise?" I asked following him.

"Archery." He replied, dropping the round thing and package. He removed the cloth covering the object to reveal a small straw target. The usual white cloth was pinned to the centre, and a rope had been threaded through the top so it could hang from something. Bran picked it back up from the ground and placed it on a branch to the left of the tree-cave, around shoulder height for him (which was about a head taller than me).

Next, he unwrapped the mystery package, though by now I had figured out that it probably contained a bow and some arrows. I was proven correct as he pulled out a beautiful bow made of some dark wood. It had finely carved thick limbs, and looked to be rather heavy. I realised that I had a target, bow and arrows of my own and quickly ran back over to Des. I untied them and carried them back over to Bran.

I hanged my target on another branch around my own shoulder height before unwrapping my bow and arrows. My bow was different to Bran's. It was made of a deep red wood and was a lot lighter looking. The limbs of my bow were broad, unlike my double-curved bow back at Starfall. I doubted I could shoot on horse-back with any sort of proficiency with this bow, but for use on foot like this it would be perfect.

By now Bran was getting ready to take his first shot, putting on a leather glove on the hand he'd use to draw.

He notched an arrow, but didn't take aim, letting the bow rest facing the ground.

"You said you liked archery the other day, and both Meera and my sister have seen you shoot. I was hoping you'd allow me to see to?" He said, looking a little anxious, as though I would reject his request.

"I don't see why not. I'm not as good as your sister and Meera just yet, but I can usually hit a target." I said smiling at him. "Would you like to go first?" I asked as I notched my own arrow.

"As you wish." He replied, raising his bow and releasing the arrow, all in one fluid motion, only pausing for a brief second to aim. He had obviously had a lot of practise. He hit the target dead on its centre.

I let out a breath I hadn't realised I was holding and took aim myself, bringing the bow in line with my shoulders.

I prayed silently that it would go the same way it had when I first shot with Arya and Meera.

Deep breath…

Steady your arm…

Deep breath…

I released the arrow and watched the target. It landed just off centre. Not a bad shot, but not the perfect hit I had been hoping for.

"Not bad." Bran commented, sounding genuinely impressed.

"Thank you."

"My turn again." He grinned wolfishly at me, already ready with another arrow. He let this one loose and it hit the target just a hairs-breadth away from his last one. The target swung with the impact of the shot, but it stopped quickly as it hit the trunk of the tree just behind it.

I grinned back at Bran and grabbed another of my own arrows from the quiver on my back. I set up my next shot and took aim again. A frustrated sigh followed immediately after I took my shot.

This time the arrow hit a little closer to the exact centre, but it still wasn't the same as the shots Bran was achieving. I often had days like this back at Starfall. It felt like I could hit anywhere within the black dot but its centre. It was just my luck that I would have such a day when Bran wanted to see me shoot.

I could usually shake it after a few tries and good concentration, but that would take some considerable effort with Bran next to me, getting near-perfect shots every time. It was a little intimidating.

Every now and then we would stop shooting and go and collect the arrows, discarding any that were too damaged to re-use.

"You're truly very good, Alianor." Bran said grinning, stepping much closer to me. "Firstly, you have the concept of an anchor completely correct. You always pull to just under your right cheek and you never seem to overdraw. You keep your arms in the right places too, and your motions are fluid, which is wonderful. You taught yourself?" He asked. I nodded, pleased with his comments.

I aimed at the target, standing side-ways on to the target and raised the bow and arrow. I pulled back my hand to my cheek as he had said I did, my fingers curled around the bow-string, holding the arrow in places between my fingers lightly.

"Widen your stance and move your left foot forward." I heard Bran order suddenly.

"Pardon?" I asked Bran, turning to look at him, confused as to what he just said.

He looked a little sheepish. "Sorry, I'm used to instructing our archers with Arya ever now and then. That came out harsher than I wanted. I only meant that the wind is picking up and they get pretty strong in the North. Moving your foot forward with help you balance easier. You may also want to compensate for the wind by aiming a bit to the right when you shoot." He advised in a much softer tone. The other one hadn't bothered me, but it was sweet of him to look so worried.

I did as he instructed and slid my foot into a different position. When Bran didn't correct it, I assumed it was alright.

I looked along the arrow and moved it so it was aimed towards the target as he had said. I aimed at the target for yet another time that day and loosed the arrow. It hit the centre perfectly. That's what I had been missing.

"We should take the arrows out of the targets before we start another round."

I nodded in agreement and we both made our way to the targets.

We were half-way to the arrow-filled targets, Bran slightly behind me, when a drop of water hit my cheek.

Followed by another…and another… Until the sky seemed to open up and rain began to pelt down like a waterfall. Soon I could hear nothing but the roaring sound of the rain attacking the leaves of the trees, the rustling and rushing noises clamouring so loudly that I could only just hear Des and the other horse whinnying from their safe place beneath the trees behind us

Rain didn't usually bother me, but the idea of riding home to Winterfell in wet clothing wasn't an appealing idea. I felt Bran take my right hand.

"Follow me." He called over the hammering rain, his hair already sticking to his face with all the water. I guessed that I probably looked like a drowned rat by now. I could feel Arya's tunic begin to get heavier with the rain, my shoulders already damp.

Bran pulled me along behind him, almost running to the tree at the end of our make-shift firing range.

He led me under its thick canopy and into the dry safety from the rain that it offered. We hadn't been able to run all that fast to the tree because of Bran's leg, so we were both a little more than damp by now, Arya's thick clothes became shapeless when wet.

My small-clothes were still dry, thankfully, so I wasn't too cold. I dropped down onto the ground to sit. Bran did the same next to me, his arm brushing mine. He stretched his leg out and sat back, resting on his hands as he put his cane down against the base of the tree.

"Summer rains." Bran sighed, looking out at the grey-green blur of the trees. "They don't last long, but they come on quickly and heavily."

"I can see that." I replied with a giggle. I picked at my tunic as I felt the rain begin to seep further into my small-clothes, doing my best to keep the two separate.

I eventually gave up and lay back on the mossy ground under the tree with Bran, staring at the green leaves about us. Little droplets of water sometimes made their way through them and dripped around us, but we were sheltered from the worst of the rain under here.

I felt Bran's hand brush the side of my face as he moved a bit of hair that was clinging to my cheek. I turned my head slightly to look at him, sending him a smile in thanks. He was now leaning on his elbow, facing me instead of the rain. He didn't smile back entirely, just a small twitch in the corner of his mouth.

But he did stare at me for a moment, the same unreadable look in his eyes from a few days ago. His left hand was still at my cheek, absentmindedly tracing a line to my chin.

The cave-like shelter suddenly seemed even smaller as Bran's hand moved to cup my cheek and the side of my jaw.

"Do you remember what I said last night, Alianor?" Bran said quietly, his thumb ghosting slowly along my cheek-bone.

"It's quite possible. I wasn't half-asleep for all of it." I replied with a quick grin.

"Do you remember what I said outside your chambers?" He asked, his voice almost a whisper. He leaned down closer towards me. I remembered very clearly what was said outside my chambers, strangely so, given how tired I had been. The memory of hugging Bran was the easiest of all to remember. How warm and safe I had felt resting my head against his chest, and how I hadn't wanted to move. Right now I was cold, damp and increasingly uncomfortable. As soft as the mossy ground was, it didn't help me dry off much.

I pushed the memory away and nodded in reply, not taking my eyes from Bran's. I knew exactly what he was referring to and where this was going.

He said nothing, but his face was now fairly close to mine, but not close enough in my opinion. I could feel the faint warmth of his breath wash over my lips every now and then. His thumb had stopped moving along my cheek.

He stopped his slow advance to look at me for a good long while, that indecipherable look in his eyes. I couldn't help but get a bit impatient. So I took matters into my own hands.

"We've tried this quite a few times already. Something always gets in the way. I've decided it's because you take too long."

A surprised look crossed Bran's face, followed by a short laugh.

"I do, do I? And what do you plan on doing about that? I am King, after all. Surely I can take all the time I want. In fact, I think I'll do just that." He teased, pulling back slightly, as if to prove his point. I decided to call his bluff

"Whatever you say. I believe I have a book in one of Des' saddle bags, I'll go get it. Something to read whilst I wait." I replied with a grin, pushing myself upwards onto my elbows, then hands, getting up as though I were about to leave.

Bran moved back slightly at the sudden action, sitting up against the tree by doing so. I saw his eyes widen in something close to panic.

I had half-risen to my feet when an arm encircled my waist and pulled me back down. Right on top of Bran. He was now leaning against the trunk of the tree with me seated sideways across his lap, his left arm wrapped easily around my waist, ensnaring me so I couldn't move. Not that I wanted to anyway, but still...

"You weren't actually going to go out there, were you?" He asked incredulously, a bemused smile gracing his features. "You'd get soaked through! Seven Hells, Alianor." He laughed.

A cold wind blew through our shelter, making me shudder a little and curl further into Bran. If I was going to be trapped here, I might as well make the most of Bran's lovely ability to be so extremely soft and warm. He was also much drier than I was. I tilted my head up to look at him as I spoke.

"Well can you blame me? I didn't want to be bored whilst I spent an age waiting for you to-"

My teasing words were cut off as Bran quickly pressed his lips to mine. He pulled back for after a brief second, leaving my mind reeling.

"-kiss me…" I muttered weakly, finishing my sentence with wide eyes.
I saw Bran grin wolfishly for a second before his lips returned to mine. I felt myself freeze up in surprise for a moment, my eyes still open, but thankfully he didn't pull away again.

I didn't quite know how to react, so I decided to go with what came naturally, hoping nothing I did was wrong. Closing my eyes, I relaxed in his arms and did my best to kiss back.

His lips were soft as they moved with mine. He slipped his arm from around my waist so just his hand was at the small of my back. He pulled me closer to him, the warmth of his body against my cold one making me shiver.

I felt a hand thread itself in my hair and every part of me tingled like it did when Bran held my hand, only its intensity was ten-fold.

As he pulled away, my mouth fell open and I took in a silent, shaky breath. I felt as if I had been underwater and desperately needed air, though we hadn't kissed long enough for me to be so breathless, I thought absentmindedly.

Our faces were still close to one another's, his forehead touching mine, our noses brushing every now and then.

I hadn't noticed it, but my hands hand made their way to his chest some time during the kiss. I didn't move them from their current position, but I stared at them for a while, waiting for the dazed feeling to clear. I felt just I had during that first almost-kiss in front of my chambers. No amount of sweet wine had ever made me feel like this.

I was trying to think of something to say that wouldn't make me sound entirely like an idiot.

"Well, that certainly wasn't how I pictured the first time I'd kiss you." Bran muttered quietly, more to himself than to me.

"Really?" I replied just as quietly, still looking at my hands. I hoped he could hear me over the rain that still pelted the lake and trees outside. I was worried what he would say next. Seven Hells, what if he was disappointed with it? I didn't think I had been all that bad, but I didn't have anything to compare it to, so…

"Um-hm. Like everything else that involves you, it was… different. It certainly didn't go as I had planned." He replied, glancing down at me. I expect he saw the look of panic I could feel forming on my face as he hastily added to his comment.

"It wasn't a bad sort of different by any means. But when you think about kissing a beautiful Dornish lady, you don't imagine doing so sitting under a tree in the pouring rain, dragging her into your lap wearing your sister's damp training clothes and cutting her off mid-sentence." I had to laugh when he put it like that.

"You make me do the strangest things, Alianor. Every time I leave you I spend an age wondering why I did the things I do with you. Then I spend another age wondering why I never regret doing so. " Bran admits, smiling softly, leaning his head back against the tree and closing his eyes briefly as he speaks. I watch him until he opens them to look down at me again.

I just look back at him, thinking up a response. Everything was very quiet, but was a comfortable silence.

Then I realised. Silence. The rain has stopped! My mind yelled happily.

As lovely as it was spending time alone with Bran, our shelter was starting to leak as the rain water worked its way through the leaves and branches.

"The rain's stopped, Bran!" I exclaim, turning sharply in his lap, still holding onto the front of clothes. My action made him jerk forward and tighten his grip around my waist, winding me slightly.

I heard Bran let out a small "oof" sound as I pulled him forward. I felt his chest rumble a little as he laughed soon after. His hand moved to clasp mine and pull them from him. He didn't let go of them after that though, keeping one of them held firmly in his.

"I see. We should go and check to see how the horses are and return to Winterfell before it starts again. It's a lot earlier than I had planned, but rain storms rarely travel alone in the North."

I nodded and started to get up. It wasn't as easy as I'd expected, since one of my hands was still lost somewhere within Bran's, but I managed. I helped to pull Bran up, picking up his cane and handing it too him as I did so.

A fair few moments later we were back by the horses, targets and bows strapped to the saddles again. We began riding back to the Winterfell, not talking as we took in the dark grey storm clouds that blanketed the sky.

Around the half-way mark they decided to open up again, a few drops here and there turning into an out-right downpour in seconds. The rest of the journey took almost no time at all as we galloped the final distance.

By the time we were back at the North Gate of Winterfell, I was completely soaked through. If I had thought I was damp back at the tree, I was a veritable drowned rat now.

Unfortunately there were no stable-hands to greet and help us once inside the gates, but that wasn't too much of a problem. We dismounted quickly and led the horses to the stable stalls.

After tying them to the posts safely under the wooden roofs and taking off their saddles, we started to make our way to the door that would take us into the passage-way. We had only gotten a little closer when I found myself ankle deep in water. It seemed a small pond had formed at the end of the courtyard, cutting us off completely.

The rain was coming down even harder now; so hard it felt like it was pricking my skin with every droplet. I had to shield my eyes in order to see, the heavy onslaught of water blurring my vision if I didn't.

Bran grabbed my hand and started to drag me off to the right.

"Come with me. I know another way back to the main courtyard." He called over the rain. I doubt he would have seen or heard any response I gave, so I just walked as fast as I could behind him, gripping his hand tightly so mine wouldn't slip out of his grasp with all the water.

I looked behind us for a moment to see if Des was alright and could just about make out the shapes of two horses standing peacefully at the back of their stalls. The rain pelted my face as I did so, making water drip into my eyes.

Another tug on my arm brought my attention back to Bran as he led me through a door I hadn't noticed before.

As I walked through the small doorway, a wave of warm air washed over me. It was a stark contrast to the icy rain and wind from only seconds ago and I quickly realised how much I was shaking from my time outside.

I released Bran's hand and wrapped my arms around myself to control the shudders that ran through me every now and then. Bran walked behind me and shut the door, cutting of the cold wind that had followed us inside.

Wiping away the last bits of water from my eyes and pushing back the hair sticking to my face, I looked around the room we had just entered.

Pots of flowers and patches of various plants lined the walls and floor, with only a maze of thin pathways between them to let you get from one end of the room to the other. The noise inside was somewhat quieter than outside, but only marginally.

The entire room was made of glass, so the constant tinkling peal of water hitting the roof filled the room. It was much more pleasant than the deafening roar of water on muddy ground. Vines lined the walls on both sides, with small white flowers dotting them here and there.

"Is this the G-glass House?" I asked Bran, remembering something I had read in one of the books in Winterfell's library. I winced slightly at the stutter, feeling my jaw trembling from the cold water still soaking my clothes. I was warming up, but it was a slow process.

"Yes." Bran replied, walking back over to me. "Gods, you're shaking, Alianor…" He said, a frown appearing as he looked at me. "Here…" He said, removing my cloak for me. "Your tunic and the rest of your clothing are made of wool, but you underclothes aren't. They're going to keep you cold for longer. I'd recommend you take them off to warm separately. You'll catch a chill otherwise." I nodded quickly and nodded for him to turn around. He did so, facing the wall with his hands clasped behind his back.

"What about you?" I asked as I took off my tunic and undershirt. My small-clothes were wet too, but they were woollen as Bran had said and were already warming. I started to put the tunic back on, leaving the undershirt on the floor. Next were my boots, which were a lot harder to remove, making me sit down so I wouldn't fall over.

"I'll be fine. My cloak was thicker than yours and kept me dry for the most part." He assured me, still facing the wall. By now the boots were off, as were my trousers and underclothes. I quickly pulled the damp trousers back on over my small-clothes. I felt much lighter without the extra layer the underclothes gave me.

Everything hung looser on my frame as well, and I had to pull the tunic back up onto my shoulder from where it had slipped. I brushed the dry dirt of the Glass House pathways from my feet and slipped my boots back on. Looking down at myself, I was reminded of the children that ran through the streets of the towns along the Torentine river.

"Done." I said simply, letting Bran know it was safe to look again. I bent down to gather up my underclothes in a messy bundle, placing them by my cloak on the ground. I had stopped shaking now.

"Better?" Bran asked, and I felt him turn to face me again. I straightened up from the pile of clothing to catch him watching me, his eyes taking in my current state of dress, an eyebrow quirking ever so slightly as he noticed the now rather loose fitting clothing.

The whole act only took a second, but I saw it. I hated the flush that crept up my neck, but I held out hope that he would assume it was from the heat inside the Glass House. I nodded and sent him a grateful smile.

"Good. We'll stay in here until there's a break in the rain." He stated, looking up at the roof where a constant stream of water ran down and off the panels.

Bran closed the gap between us and placed both hands on my shoulders, before lightly running them down my upper arms. Their course ended with his arms wrapped around me, holding me closer to his body with only a small gap between us. I wrapped my arms around his waist in response, closing that gap entirely. I tilted my head far back to meet his eyes as he stared down at me.

"While we're here, there's something I want to show you." He said softly. "I was saving it for another time, but since your trapped with me until the rain passes…" He reached up and brushed a bit of wet hair from my face.

Pulling back, I took his hand instead. "Lead the way."

"They're just at the other end of the Glass House. You can leave your things here." Bran said, heading off in the direction he had gestured to as he spoke.

I trailed behind him, looking at the plants and flowers as we passed them by. The Glass House was much larger than I had first thought, as it took the same amount of time to get to the other end as it did to walk to our clearing in the Godswood.

We had been walking a while when I decided to run through my knowledge of Winterfell to try and guess what he was going to show me. I was only up to my knowledge of the root vegetables grown in the Glass House when I suddenly felt a quick squeeze on my hand.

"Stop that."


"Stop thinking." The smile was clear to hear in Bran's deep voice as he spoke. I let out a rather unladylike snort at his order.

"Stop thinking? Goodness Bran, why so masterful?" I remarked with a smirk I knew Bran couldn't see. I'm sure he felt it though, as he stopped abruptly and turned around, mirth in his eyes.

"I didn't mean it like that," He said, trying to glare at me, but failing.

"I would ask what you did mean it like then, but since I'm not allowed to think, I can't remember which words to use. Oh well!" I knew I was being childish, but it was strangely fun. I challenged Bran with my eyes for a moment, struggling not giggle.

"Alianor…" Bran warned playfully. Wide and mock innocent eyes accompanied my reply.

Which was made up of me waving my hands around my mouth, gesturing to my self-sealed lips, and then shrugging deeply.

"I only meant for you too… I didn't mean…" Another sigh followed his words. "I'm not going to win this, am I?"

I shook my head like a small child, small bits of still-wet hair flicking my skin as I did so, beaming at Bran.

"Look, we're almost there. Could you please try to not think for just a few moments? It's entirely up to you, but I promise you won't be disappointed if you leave it as a mystery for this last little bit. "

I watched him for a moment, pretending to think about his offer.

"I suppose I could… And I will. But I'll need you to do something for me when we get to wherever we're going. Deal?"

"As you wish." He replied, leaning down to kiss the top of my head quickly, before grinning happily and pulling me along again. I stumbled along behind him, giggling to myself at his enthusiasm.

*Hides under her writing desk* I'm so sorry it's taken so long to update.

There's a list of about thirteen different things that happened over the past month that stopped me writing for half of it, and then unable to upload anything for the other half once something was written. I won't bore you with details, but I hope it won't take quite this long again (though now that I'm back at school, it may).

To those who review (especially SweetImagination15, His Royal Pratness, BrighteningLight and the-two-girls-fanfiction-house), thank you so much. And Guest, be you one person or many, thank you for your reviews too. :D

Hope you liked the chapter, and comment, critique or correct in the reviews bit if you wish. :) Have a lovely day/night/time inbetween.

XO Jennifer