A/n: This came about because I wanted to know what big deal concerning Game of Thrones was and so I went and got the books. Although they're not my favorites, they did give me a bunch of plot bunnies which won't leave me alone. I've decided to flesh one out so GoT will finally leave me in peace.
We're pretty sure that Jon does not die at the end of Dance with Dragons, but considering there are no more books and I can't very well say which direction GRRM is planning to take this, it's a fitting place to end/begin. Let's just say his resurrection goes a little differently than planned. And as important as Jon being at the wall is (especially if R+L=J), I'm sure all of us Jon fans wanted to see him participate in the war of Westros. So onmarch and off we go, and remember that not all changes will be for the better…
Jon awoke with a gasp.
His eyes snapped open, but he could see nothing but a strange wash of blue, red, and beige above him. His vision was hazy. He was vaguely aware that he was lying on his back, though he was sure that he'd fallen…
"Jon! Jon! Oh thank the gods you're alright!" The blur of red and beige sharpened to a face, and it became apparent that it was a person leaning over him. It was Robb. He had a relived smile on his face.
…forward. He'd fallen forward when he'd been stabbed and the cool kiss of steel had spread that horrid numbness across his body. His heart still thudded at the thought. His brothers. His sworn brothers. They had slain him.
Just as Robb had been slain.
"Am I dead?" he asked weakly, moving to push himself to a sitting position. Robb had to quickly move back to avoid having their faces bump into each other. They were on a bridge of some sort, surrounded by snow and horses and men. Father's company. Even Father was there, along with Bran, looking at him with no small amount of concern on their faces.
"What—no Jon! By the gods, no! As if I'd let you die that easily."
Jon furrowed his brows, "What?"
"You only fell off your horse, idiot," Robb replied with a laugh, but Jon could see genuine worry behind those blue eyes.
This was all very confusing. He did not understand. If he were not dead, then was Robb alive? But it was impossible. Was this a dream then? But he'd never had a dream so clear.
"Has the fall turned you into an imbecile too, Snow?" Theon Greyjoy snorted from his place atop his palfrey.
Grey eyes snapped to the ward of the Starks, narrowing into slits of chilled ice. Traitor. If this was a dream, what was he doing in it? Jon itched for Longclaw.
Theon stiffened, a touch of hesitation flashing across his face, as if he'd sensed something of Jon's mood.
Ned Stark appeared before anything else could transpire, bending on one knee and holding out a hand, "Are you feeling alright, Jon?"
His voice was soft, his expression gentle. Jon couldn't understand. Dazedly he took the hand, and allowed his father to pull him up. It felt surreal.
"Give the boy a minute," Cayn said with a hint of amusement in his voice, "per'aps he be needing some time to get orientated. Sounds to me like 'e hit his 'ead pretty hard on the ways down."
And then they all began talking at once, telling and teasing him about how he'd suddenly stopped in the middle of the bridge and toppled right down from his horse. Jon's ears were ringing. The only ones who didn't speak were Father and Bran. Bran. Jon looked to his younger brother, who smiled at the glance as if Jon had just answered some secret inquiry. Bran. Somehow he felt as though that distinction was important.
Twenty of Father's guardsmen. Father himself, Robb, Theon, him. That in itself was not so unusual, but Bran. This all seemed very familiar somehow. This scene. As if it had been etched into his mind.
And suddenly, he knew where he was. He knew what memory this was.
He looked sharply to Desmond and Alebelly, who were, sure enough, carrying twin bundles which could only be direwolf pups. Atop Robb's horse was Grey Wind, left alone for the moment as his master had dismounted.
But it didn't make any sense. Why would he be dreaming about this now, when he on the edge of death? Or was he dead already? And even then, he hadn't fallen off his horse. Why was it different now?
And it did not feel like a dream.
The chatter was confusing, but not in the way that dream talk was. If he concentrated hard enough he could understand what every single person was saying. The wind was stinging cold, but it was not the numbness of death, but rather the familiar wakeful chill that he remembered from Winterfell.
But Robb, Father, Bran, Theon, Father's company, they had to be dreams.
Or maybe, maybe it's me who was the dream.
Dare he believe it?
Jon was not sure if he should allow that line of thought. Dare he think that the disastrous wars of Westeros never occurred and that all of it was simply one long nightmare? And yet he did not know how he could dream himself an entire two years of memories.
You know nothing, Jon Snow, Ygritte whispered in his ear.
His head was pounding.
He pushed past Robb, grabbed the reigns of his horse and hoisted himself up in one fluid motion. His body moved almost automatically, because somewhere in the back of his scattered mind, he knew what he had to do. He turned his horse back the way they had come from, and stirred him into a gallop.
"Wait, Jon!" Father called, and for once Jon ignored him.
Jon finally allowed his horse to slow again when they neared the corpse of the direwolf they'd left behind. He dismounted silently as a show of respect for the dead mother. He heard his father's company ride up behind him, but that was not where his focus lay.
He waded through the snow to where he had found Ghost the first time, and sure enough, he found the albino direwolf again. Except this time the lone but mighty creature was not breathing ragged breaths, or even any breaths at all.
This time the white direwolf was well and truly dead.
Oh, Ghost, he thought, as he knelt by the great white wolf and ran a shaking hand through his fur.
Somehow, somehow he knew, although he could not for the life of him figure out where the words came from.
A life for a life.
Ghost's, for his. Jon was alive when he should not have been, and Ghost was dead where he should have lived.
"Is it…?" Bran asked timidly, breaking the silence as his pony trotted up to the redhead's half brother.
Jon raised his head to stare at Bran. Bran, who might really be alive. Bran, who could still walk. His mouth felt dry and his eyes suspiciously itchy. Father had joined them. And Robb. Gods, Robb. And even Varly, Desmond, the rest of the company of twenty.
Could they really be alive?
Did he really have a… a second chance?
Bran shifted uncomfortably atop his seat, "Jon?"
For a moment Jon could only look at Bran in confusion, not quite understanding his question, but then he remembered what Bran had asked just seconds before. It felt like a lifetime.
"No he's—" Jon began, only to stop in hesitation. He looked down at the curled up form at his feet. Ghost. Lifeless.
His family lived again, but it was not without its price.
His mood became more solemn, and somberly he gathered the albino direwolf's broken body and hugged him closely to his chest. He had never wanted this fate for Ghost. Jon doubted he'd ever find as loyal and as trustworthy a companion.
If—if Ghost really had traded his life for Jon's, Jon could think of no greater debt he owed to his most faithful wolf. He truly did not deserve Ghost.
"He's dead," Jon said quietly. He turned to Eddard Stark, Lord of Winterfell. His Father. Truly alive? It was too much to bear thinking about at the moment. Jon told himself to go one step at a time. "Lord Stark, if it is possible, I would like to cremate this mighty creature… and his mother. They do not deserve to be eaten by whatever is out here."
There was a moment of silence.
"Please," Jon whispered. "Lord Stark, you know that I rarely ask you for anything, but this, please grant me this."
The look Eddard Stark gave him was a gaze full of sorrow. Jon hated that.
"You do not need to ask it," the Lord of Winterfell said in a soft tone of voice, "this is the mother and brother of Winterfell's new protectors. They will be honored."
Jon moved Ghost back to his mother, because if Ghost had to die like this, at least he would be with the one who birthed him. Wyl and Heward came forth with torches. Heward moved to clear the snow from the corpses with the toe of his boot, but Wyl just tossed his torch in. The bodies were instantly ablaze.
"By the devil!" Heward swore as he jumped back, just barely avoiding being caught in the hungry flames. He dropped his own torch accidentally. It landed in the snow and sizzled out. Heward turned to Wyl with an angry expression on his face, "Are you trying to do me in?"
But Wyl looked even more frightened than Heward had. He was watching the flames with wide, startled eyes. They seemed to almost roar as they reached for the sky, towering high above the two guardsmen.
"I've never seen anything catch on this quickly," Wyl whispered with a hint of trepidation in his voice. The men of the North were not craven, but they knew to fear the gods. "It's an ill omen, I tell you."
Jon did not care enough to correct him. His attention was on the fire only, and what the tongues of flame buried within. He thought he might have saw Ghost dancing within the smoke, looking almost happy, though that was likely just a trick of light and Jon's wishful thinking.
It felt painful, as if his blood had turned to fire and he was the one in the blaze. He thought he should cry, but the tears themselves would not come, as if they'd all been licked dry by the flames before him.
When the affair was done and they were riding back to Winterfell, Jon could not bring himself to speak. Robb and a few of Father's men tried to engage him, but Jon's noncommittal answers wore at them and even Robb retreated to play with Grey Wind.
Father, Robb, Bran, and even some of Father's men kept casting him worried looks as they rode back. Jon wished that they wouldn't.
When they arrived back in Winterfell, when Arya ran up to meet them, when Sansa peeked out the window and even Lady Catelyn came out with little Rickon, Jon thought he might have felt some degrees better.
Ghost was dead, but they were all alive.
Alive. Father, Robb, Arya. All alive. It was all his prayers and more, and he almost dared not believe it except that when he dismounted and Arya came flying into his arms, she'd never felt more real. And when Rickon began shrilling, he was certain that the high pitched cries would wake any sleeper.
When Hullen came to smack Jon around the head for actually doing something as inane as following off a horse, and when Rodrik jokingly mumbled that Jon needed more balance training, Jon was sure he could not have imagined these details.
The horrible words that had appeared on parchment and the grisly tale that Donal Noye told him after he'd come back from beyond-the-wall had never seemed so far away.
Or was it all a fantastic dream? It hardly seemed possible that he had—what? Been granted the right to change the past? The idea was inconceivable. It seemed much safer not to think about it, because Jon did not think he could bear having it all ripped away from him all over again.
And yet, if—if by some chance this might be what he thought it was—
I could change everything.