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23 April 2012 @ 09:37 am
like the stillness in the wind before the hurricane begins, 3/4  
The first time Jon gets out of the brothel, he can barely stand upright. It’s a week after Sam gets to Mole’s Town, and Sam had told him that maybe it was too soon, but Jon had insisted. There’s not really much to see – after all Mole’s Town only peculiarity, other than having a brothel, is that most of it is buried underground. It isn’t exactly ideal if Jon’s point had been that he needed fresh air – and there’s almost no one else on the road outside. Most people stay underground lately, and it’s probably the smart course of action. As things are, as they go out of the brothel, Jon leaning heavily on Sam’s arm and taking a slow, painful step at a time, there are only a couple of wildlings walking along that road and no one else.

Snow covers everything and it’s colder than it was on the Wall the first day Sam got there, but Jon seems all right with it – he’s taking in deep breaths, keeping a painful grip on Sam’s arm. His cheeks go from pale to slightly flushed because of the cold, and it makes him look healthier.

But not recovered, Sam thinks bitterly. He knows that if Bowen March appeared in front of him right now the urge to strangle him wouldn’t be less strong than it had been when he read that letter.

“How are you feeling?” he asks after a minute or so.

“Cold, but better than going stir-crazy inside that room. To think that I always refused to go to the brothel when I was asked,” Jon mutters.

“Why, have I ever accepted when I was asked?”

Jon chuckles, his cheeks flushing further, and Sam figures that if he can still make Jon laugh things can’t be so wretched.

“No, you haven’t.”

“Not that we kept our vows anyway,” Sam says before he can stop himself, and he’s thankful when Jon looks merely curious rather than angry.

“What do you mean?”

“Well. On the ship to Oldtown. It was – uh, well, with Gilly. She was distressed and we both – well, it happened. She started it. And – it was – I – couldn’t really –”

“Sam, stop trying to justify yourself. It only stands to reason that we both fraternized with the enemy.” There’s something bittersweet about the way he’s speaking, but he’s right. Probably the only two black brothers who ever broke their vows with wildling girls, and not just for the sake of it.

There’s an irony in there, somewhere, but it’s not time to find it now. Not that he thinks he’ll ever ask Jon about it, not when his eyes have turned deeply sad the moment he mentioned the enemy.

“Do you – do you want to go someplace else?”

Jon breathes in again, looks at the road. Those two wildlings have disappeared – now they’re alone.

“Let’s go back down. Wasn’t there a tavern in the tunnels? Maybe it’s more lively.”

Sam doesn’t question it and helps Jon back into the brothel and then down the stairs that lead to the back entrance. The tunnels underground are a lot livelier than the outside – a lot of people are walking or chatting or sparring when there’s the space for it. Sam isn’t sure that he remembers where the tavern is – he has only passed through Mole’s Town once, when he was going to the Wall – but in the end it turns out that he has a enough good memory. He turns left after leaving the brothel behind him, then patiently takes a step at a time until he can turn right and there it is. Jon was right - it is livelier. Mostly, it's crawling with wildlings helping themselves to any strong drink left in the storage rooms, and apparently someone has managed to catch some game because Sam can hear noise from the kitchens.

"Good to see you up, Lord Snow," comes from their right, and Sam hadn't expected to find himself face to face with the wildling princess. Val. The one whose nephew is being passed as his own bastard, right now.

"I hadn't known that you were here."

"They hadn't let me go at first. Your queen's men couldn't be persuaded that I wasn't a real princess," she answers, shaking her head. "And they would have married me off sooner than later."

"What did you do?"

"I stole one of their precious horses as soon as the guard was down. And if I were you, I'd hope to recover a lot faster than you are."

Jon doesn't answer and Sam figures that someone has to ask the question.

"How - has the situation worsened?"

She shakes her head, her eyes turning sad. "Your new Lord Commander has no fucking clue about what he's dealing with. Not that it surprises me much. He's more worried about keeping us under control, as he puts it, than about the White Walkers. Another stupid crow."

She walks past them through the tunnel and disappears in the crowd seconds later. Jon's grip on his arm is downright painful by now.

"Do you want to go back?" he whispers. Jon thinks about it for a second, then gives him a curt nod.

It takes them almost twenty minutes to walk back to the brothel and to Jon's room. When Jon drops sitting on the bed, he's breathing quick and shallow, his cheeks still flushed, and he doesn't manage to stay upright. The moment he crawls under the covers after shedding most of his clothes, he collapses on the mattress.

"This isn't good," he breathes out, his voice barely audible. "I'll be fodder for wights the moment they get here."

Sam wishes he had something more uplifting to say, but Jon has a point. Someone in his condition couldn't defend himself even if trying.

"I still have your dagger," he blurts, taking a seat on the side of the bed.

Jon's lips curl up just slightly as he turns his head towards him. "I forgot that you were a slayer."

"I'm not - I'm not that. But after all I still owe you."

"You owe me?"

"For - well. Those first couple of days. You were the one with the sword then."

Jon lets out a small, heartfelt laugh at that, even if he looks this close to pass out, and Sam wishes for a second that he could stop time right here and right now, when they're both alive and Jon is smiling and he's half-smiling as well, and the Wall still stands.

"Sam, just never change, won't you?"

Jon closes his eyes and passes out shortly after that, and Sam's hand trembles as he reaches out and smooths a couple of sweaty strands away from Jon's forehead.

That's not the hardest thing Jon has asked of him - he doesn't see why he shouldn't try.

--


Three days later, Jon deems that he's fine enough to at least put a plan together. Sam isn't agreeing too much, but their time is running out, and that's how one afternoon what used to be the brothel's waiting room becomes what seems like a meeting room for the least well assorted war council in existence. Jon, with Ghost at his feet, is sitting on a sofa made of old, used-up dark red velvet that makes him look even frailer than he is, bundled up in all the blankets that were in his room; then there are Sam, Pyp, Grenn, Melisandre, Dolorus Edd, Val, the wildling leader - Tormund - along with another five whose name Sam can't remember. Sam can't help feeling sad that there are less black brothers than wildlings in the room.

"We need a plan," Jon starts. "We can't wait for the White Walkers to find us unprepared. And we can't hope that the Wall holds much longer."

"As if we're in condition to put up a resistance," one of Tormund's men says, but he doesn't sound reproachful - only resigned to the worst.

"No, but I reckon we could put torches outside the houses that aren't underground," Sam chimes in. "And see if there's dragonglass somewhere around here. There has to be a smith's shop too, or isn’t one?"

"I think there is. Not bad," Tormund agrees. "I reckon we can find someone that knows how to make daggers. Bein' under the ground doesn't harm either, but that ain't going to be much help in the long run."

"Are you suggesting that we go south?" Melisandre chimes in. Tormund shakes his head.

"Nah. From what I gather the North don't like us better than Snow's other crows. And where we'd go anyway? I don't see any southron lordling believing a discarded Lord Commander along with a handful of wildlings."

No one has much to object.

"Trying to reason with 'em would be useless, wouldn't it?" Grenn asks, but he sounds as if he already knows that the answer is yes. Pyp shakes his head.

"Because you think that they wouldn't kill us the second they saw our faces showing up at the Wall?"

No one has much to object at this, either.

Ghost growls softly when Jon scratches his head and it's plainly obvious that they don't have much else to go on. Melisandre says that she can't figure out what her fires tell her anymore, and she sounds defeated. But from everyone’s faces, Sam can figure out that it isn’t news to them. Jon looks defeated in a way he hadn't seemed even when his father was killed.

"We should try to intercept the ravens, at least," Jon says after a while. "If anything we'd know what is going on in the south. And if we capture some of them alive Sam could use them to communicate, if we can think of someone who’d listen to us.”

Tormund says that he’ll go find a good archer and that’s how it’s over. Sam, Pyp and Grenn, followed by the direwolf, help Jon back up to his room after they all agree on another meeting as soon as they have any kind of news. After, Pyp drags Grenn out again saying something about alcohol and the tavern and needing to get wasted before they all go to one of the seven hells.

Sam doesn’t follow and takes a seat on the only chair by Jon’s bed – by now he’s well acquainted with it.

“You should go with them,” Jon says, looking as if it takes most of his strength just to sit upright. “Who knows, it might be your last chance.”

“It’s full of taverns, in Oldtown,” Sam replies. “If that was what I wanted, I might as well have stayed.”

For a minute, Jon says nothing and stares down at the sheet. Then he looks up at him again. “Do you think you could give me a hand changing the bandages?”

“Of course.” Sam goes to a cupboard in the corner where they stashed the few bandages they have left along with some herbs and poultices. Sam hadn’t suspected that a brothel would be so well furnished in that department, but thinking about it, it only makes sense. He takes off Jon’s bandages for the first time since a week ago – they can’t afford to waste too many. He’s pleased to see that no wounds look infected, and he tries to keep himself detached while he runs a finger covered in some anti-inflammatory poultice over the still tender scars. He has to keep himself detached, because while he has spent enough time at the Citadel and scars won’t be what makes him quiver, imagining people that he once considered his brothers stabbing Jon in the back is enough to make him want to gag.

When he’s done with the front he moves on the other side and applies the same poultice to Jon’s back. He still can’t fathom how Jon managed to survive it – the back is the same patchwork of red cuts as the front, and he only manages to keep his hands still by mere force of will.

He’s almost glad when he has done all that he could and can move on to bandaging Jon’s chest – he isn’t sure he can stomach the sight for much longer. Jon stays still and quiet throughout the entire ordeal, not even hissing when Sam ran his hands over the deepest cuts.

“Done,” Sam says the second he’s finished, as cheerfully as he can (not much, fine, but he does try). “Do you – uh, do you want something to eat? I can see if –”

“No. That’s fine, I’ll just – I’m tired. But if you want to… I mean, you don’t have to stay here. I’ll sleep for a while I think.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes. It’s fine, I’ll eat later.”

Sam is half-sure that Jon is lying, but he </i>is</i> hungry himself and Jon does look like he needs some rest, so he says that he’ll be back in a short while and as Jon lowers himself under the furs on the bed, Ghost at the bed’s side, he heads for the tavern. Hopefully there’ll be something left to eat since some of the wildlings go for hunts once every two days or so. Not that they’ve found much lately, and considering that they’re enough people to fill the entire town the rations aren’t generous, but at least there’s always been some food available.

--

When he gets back to the brothel, his stomach is fuller (even if he’s still somewhat hungry, but full meals aren’t an option) and what little wine he had makes him feel warmer than usual. He’s been out more than he had thought – mostly because Pyp (who had a lot more to drink than Sam) wouldn’t stop calling him Slayer and everyone in the tavern had conveniently seemed interested in hearing how exactly they’d call him like that. He heads to Jon’s room figuring that he’ll check whether everything is fine before going to his own.

The last thing he expects is Jon sitting up on the bed, the furs around his shoulders, looking out of the window. But he doesn’t look as if he’s seeing what’s outside – not that there’s much to see, since it’s dark and on the brothel’s side you can’t see any of the fires that are being kept alive over the ground. He’s staring into nothing, and when Sam walks inside the room and his feet make the wood floor creak, Jon jerks towards him as if Sam just gave him a heart attack.

“Shouldn’t you be sleeping?” Sam mutters, trying to pretend that this hasn’t scared him for a moment.

“I tried, but – it’s not a good idea.”

“Why’s that?”

“It’s – I had these dreams when I was still feverish. Where – where I’m in Winterfell and everyone I know is there and turned into a wight. Sometimes I still have them.”

His voice is so very quiet as Sam sits next to him.

“Did you – I mean, now?”

“Yes. It’s – it’s probably not even a dream, after all.”

“Why would you say that?”

Jon’s laugh is strangled. “All my brothers are dead. Arya is married to that Bolton bastard and she might as well be, probably. No one knows where Sansa is, and everyone else that I had known growing up is gone. The part of the dream where they’re all dead isn’t something I made up.”

That’s when Sam decides that he’s going to break a promise. Not that keeping it has any sense by now. “You’re… at least partly wrong.”

“What?”

“Your brothers – they, uh, they aren’t all dead. I – I haven’t told you before because – because I promised him that I wouldn’t. But I think you really need to know.”

“You promised who?”

“Bran. Your brother. I – I met him before – when I was coming back to the Wall with Gilly. He was alive. There was this huge man with him who only ever said one word –”

Hodor?”

“Yes – yes, that was it. And another two children about his age. I think they were named Reed. Anyway, I was – I told you that me and Gilly were saved by that strange wight, didn’t I?”

“Yes, but –”

“He brought us to the Nightfort and told me that there were people he was expecting who’d come. And I had to bring them to him, because they needed to go beyond the Wall and he couldn’t pass through himself. And – it was them. Along with the direwolf. I let them pass and then I went back to Castle Black with Gilly, but they made me swear that I wouldn’t tell anyone because – well, from what I gathered they had all hidden in the crypts and the two dead children were commoners. They left Winterfell after it was burned. They wouldn’t tell me why they had to go behind the Wall, or where your other brother went, but they wanted things to stay as they were. I mean, with everyone else thinking they were dead.”

“So Rickon would be alive, too?” Jon’s voice is barely audible. Sam wishes he had an answer.

“He wasn’t with them. From what I gathered, they had hidden along with another servant or whoever and they split ways – they went north, the other person along with your brother went south. But I wouldn’t know more than that. I’m – I’m really sorry, I had wanted to tell you, but they said I shouldn’t, even to you, and I didn’t – well. If they had wanted to… stay dead, I didn’t want to risk putting them in danger. Just – forgive me if I haven’t –”

And then he stops speaking because Jon is trying to wipe tears from his eyes.

“Jon?”

“Don’t – thank you. And don’t be sorry – it’s not as if I could have gone searching for Bran on my own, right? Sam – thank you. Really, it’s – it’s enough that you said it at all.”

Sam doesn’t even realize it, as he moves. One moment he’s thinking what do I do, what do I say and the next moment his lips are pressed against Jon’s, and he hasn’t even registered the moment in which he actually did it.

He tries to move away then, but before he can do it or before he can start apologizing, Jon is kissing back, not exactly bold but not even too shy, and well – Sam can worry about the obligatory fallout after this is done.

Maybe he knows why he’s done it. He had thought about it at times, especially in the first weeks, when they were all still recruits and they still hadn’t seen undead men and they had no idea of what was going to happen to them. He had also more or less assumed that it would never have happened – he had never had a friend, he surely wasn’t willing to possibly ruin it just to act on desires that he hadn’t even understood himself. (It doesn’t mean that Sam hasn’t thought about Jon enough times while touching himself in the dark of his small room at the Wall, but no one needs to know that.)

And now that Jon isn’t saying no – now that his lips are moving against Sam’s, slightly parted, enough that for Sam it would be this easy to slip his tongue inside, Sam thinks that he couldn’t stop this if he wanted.

He doesn’t dare using his tongue, though, but still, even only Jon’s cracked but now softening lips are enough to make Sam shiver, and he doesn’t dare putting a hand on Jon’s frame because he isn’t sure that it’s a good idea to mess with freshly changed bandages. So he puts it on Jon’s neck, and his skin is hot, maybe a bit too much, but when they part Jon’s eyes don’t look feverish. They might be red because he was crying, and it’s obvious that before his injury he has spent more than one night sleepless, but there’s no doubt that he knows what he’s doing and that he wants to do it.

“I’m –” Sam starts, but Jon’s stare silences him.

“If that was meant to be sorry, don’t say it. I’m not.”

“You’re not?”

Jon shrugs, his lips curling up slightly. “I don’t think you are either.”

“Well – fine, I’m – I didn’t mean it like that. I meant –”

“I think you meant this,” Jon replies before his hands go to Sam’s face and he brings him forward, and gods, Jon is licking his bottom lip and Sam can’t even think about refusing – he parts his lips and when Jon’s tongue meets his he gasps into the kiss. His hand reaches up, his clumsy, shaking fingers tangling in Jon’s hair; it’s dirty, but it’s not like Sam’s is that much better off, and when Jon moans into the kiss Sam feels his cock stir while a rush of heat goes through his entire back, and when they part Jon’s grip on the sides of his face has become almost painful.

“… I meant that, yes,” Sam confesses, feeling short of breath already, and while Jon’s grip doesn’t lessen, something in his features soften. “I, uh, Jon, are you sure that –”

“Gods, I missed you,” Jon blurts, and when Sam reaches up with a hand and covers one that Jon is still keeping on his cheek he feels Jon shiver.

Sam has no idea of why Jon didn’t even let him ask his question, or why he gave him a completely inconsequential answer, but he’s having trouble forming words right now. Not when Jon is so close and so warm and when he hasn’t said no or refused what Sam had been offering. He still can’t believe that this is happening, but after all they might die tomorrow or the day after – no point in letting himself wallow in all the objections that he’s already providing himself (what are you thinking, he’s probably upset, no one in their sane mind would ever kiss the likes of you let alone more – not that Gilly was in her right mind, wasn’t she, you’re ridiculous).

“So – so this is –” Sam starts, feeling a green boy all over again. He should be better than this, he should be able to say it, especially when Jon has made clear that whatever Sam thinks he’s doing is welcomed. But apparently he can’t say such a simple thing.

Good thing that Jon apparently knows already.

“Yes,” he breathes out, and then Sam ignores that voice in his head that sounds too much like his father’s for his tastes, and he kisses Jon again. Jon’s hold on him loosens a bit then, and this time they’re both ready for it; Sam’s heartbeat speeds up with each second as his lips move against Jon’s (which aren’t cracked and cold anymore by now). When it’s over, Jon’s lips look dark and kiss-swollen in the faint red light coming from the brothel’s lantern and the few fires lit in the road. He doesn’t look as frail as he does in the daylight, Sam thinks. But it lasts a second – it’s obvious that he’s almost exhausted.

“Would you mind – if I didn’t go to my room?” Sam asks then, wondering why he can’t find it in himself to say it straight.

“I’d mind if you did,” Jon replies before slowly moving away and crawling under the covers.

Sam stands up, takes off most of his clothes and his boots and moves on the other side, his heart still pounding so loud that they could hear it at the Wall, probably. He crawls under the covers, too, and he’s somewhat relieved when a moment later he hears Ghost coming in through the door.

He doesn’t know what he should do – stay here, move closer – but then he inches closer, just slightly, and when he puts a hand on Jon’s hip he isn’t pushed away. Jon doesn’t move to press back against his chest, and considering the state of his back it’s probably not a good idea; but he sighs in relief the moment Sam’s shaking, sweaty fingers cover the bandages, applying just the barest pressure. So Sam doesn’t take his hand away and stays still until he falls asleep listening to Jon’s steady breathing and the faint noises coming from the upper floor.

part four and ending
 
 
feeling: okayokay