Castle Black, XIth Month of 298AC.
"Lord Commander, may I postpone the taking of vows for a few days? I wish to hear news of the South, news of my. . ." - Jon asked.
A few days later, after the incident with the Wights, another conversation:
"I'm sad to see you go. The real fight is here, not the throne and prestige grabbing in the South. You would had been a boon for the Watch. I can only hope that you will be able to impress upon your brother that the Dead are Restless."
Jon shuddered at the memory of the Wights and nodded. Still, the words of Robb's letter, "I need you," called to him more than the Brotherhood of partly-reformed criminals. He left Castle Black with a sword and two letters from the Old Bear. He knew the contents of one - it stated that he was not a deserter from the Watch.
Riding south Jon pondered all that he learned during his several months at the Wall. Chiefly, field craft useful in scouting, as well as how to get along with people without pulling the "son of the lord, even if illegitimate" card. Meeting people absolutely unimpressed with whoever had been behind the Snow part of his name surely had been a painful eye opener. It was very educational. And he had gained a slightly different view of the North as a whole – for instance Winterfell was snubbed by many Northmen as being "tainted by Southron wiles" due to the presence of Lady Catelyn and the Sept his father had ordered raised for her. Speaking of the Lady Catelyn, he had gained a new perspective on her, too….
His mind went back to a certain event several weeks before. Finding other noble bastards among the six hundred society's rejects at Castle Black was not much of a problem. One restday Jon sat down with almost a dozen other proud bearers of names such as Snow, Pyke, Stone, Rivers, Flowers, or Storm. The get-together inevitably led to a pissing contest for "the most shitty childhood evah!"
Jon was halfway into his second sentence which detailed the horrid circumstances of his upbringing at Winterfell when he was laughed off the table by the others. He almost got up to leave with a huff and swirl of his cloak, taking insult over accusations that being sent to bed with no lemon cake having been the harshest punishment he had suffered. The laughter really HURT! - but his pride and interest in the others' life stories made him stay.
He was never to forget this exchange of stories. It slowly dawned on him - slowly as he was very reluctant to accept – and he truly accepted this only a few days later, after going over what he heard several times in his mind – that amongst those present he was the BEST cared-for bastard north of Dorne. Only one Walder Rivers – a Frey by-blow sent to the Wall after being caught in bed with a cousin – a married cousin, as otherwise nobody would had cared that much about it - had a childhood comparable to that which Jon had experienced; growing up with his relatives, given an education, never wanting for food or clothing. Even if short on lemon cakes or silks their lives – Jon's and Walder's - had been way and above those of the others.
The pissing contest was interrupted—and ended—by a Black Brother pounding his fist on the neighbouring table and yelling at them. "Listen you bunch of lordling fuckers," the grizzled veteran of the Watch - with a Southron and evidently low-class accent - snarled at the bastards. "I sucked on cocks to buy meself a bowl o'brown. If anybody of you silver-spoon-in-the-mouth fuckers dares to say 'luxury, we used to dream of a bowl o'brown,' I'll rip his tongue out through his arsehole."
The veteran continued in his contempt, "And then I grew out of being cute, me beard came in, me face and bum no longer soft and smooth. It was take the Black or starve." He spat out in disgust and the Black Brother stomped away – and was heard to mutter about "poxy, pampered, pouting princesses."
Another Black Brother who had been sitting with the grizzly veteran looked at the collection of bastards and added, "He modestly failed to mention that he was sentenced for killing a customer who wanted more than he had paid for." He chuckled, got up and gave them a broad wink. "One customer." The second veteran then left them to their own thoughts.
Jon still did not like Lady Catelyn. But he no longer despised her. And he loved his father even more.
Some time later, Jon straggled into Winterfell. In his haste, he had almost killed his horse, and had to walk it the last six miles, the horse stumbling along. He then fell asleep on the porch stairs. Jon woke up in a bed however, to a bursting bladder and a warm, lithe and small body next to his. The body did not smell like a girl, no icky flowery scents, but more of wet dog perfume. He guessed that it had to be Rickon. He extricated himself from under the covers taking care not to awaken the boy but failed.
"No go ..." the boy murmured.
"I must pee," Jon hissed.
"Potty?" the boy mumbled, a bit more coherently. "Me too."
The two peed into the well-stoked fireplace glowing brightly with red hot embers.
"Shake it off," Jon reminded Rickon.
"I know, I know," the younger Stark pouted. "Or it go stinky and fall off and no more peepee." The elder boy smiled – educational methods at Winterfell had not changed – Jon had been given exactly the same message at that age. Rickon wiped his fingers on his nightshirt while Jon did so on his bum-fluff covered backside.
After sleeping for the better part of two days Jon left on a fresh horse, bound for Robb and the Northern Host. At departure he had hugged Bran and - to the delight of "the Stark in Winterfell" – ruffled his hair. Jon then had to pry off Rickon, who bawled "No go! No go! I good! I be good!" as he pressed his tear-streaked face into Jon's chest.
He explained – or tried to explain – to the distraught child that he HAD to leave. That he had to go "for papa", for Sansa, for Arya, for Robb. That her going so that he could bring the back.
Rickon asked hopefully –"For Mama too?"
Jon swallowed and forced himself to say it:
"For Mama too."
Jon caught up with the North's army camped outside the Twins, on New Year's Day, to the expectedly warm reunion with Robb and unsurprisingly frosty with Lady Catelyn.
Once the Lady Catelyn came back from the Twins and laid out the arrangements with Lord Walder Jon pleaded, "Robb. Lady Catelyn. Please. Please don't do that to Arya. She will hate it there. It is a cesspit of backstabbing and plotting to move up in the pecking order. And she will be bred to death! She'll be made pregnant fifteen times before she's thirty!"
He wished to believe that there were good marriage prospects for his sister amongst the Freys. However, Walder Rivers' tales had given him an insight of life at the Twins – including a dim view of the men folk there. Male Frey's took their cue from the family patriarch - "get'em young and breed'em. And then get a new one, barely flowered if you can. They last longer that way." He pressed his case in spite of the Lady's hard glare and lips drawn into a thin line. Jon pleaded and begged for Arya's hand not being promised.
At Robb's snapped question: "What do you suggest we offer instead?" Jon said, "Would they take a bastard? Me? The Freys have lots of unwed girls... trueborn or otherwise..." He was immediately interrupted by Lady Stark accusing him of trying to jump up in life under the pretext of love for his sister, of Jon being a scheming bastard ever-plotting to steal from his trueborn kin, of trying the cheat his sister out of a marriage to a lordly house, of trying to wheedle his way into a marriage above his station ...
At this point Robb shooed him out of the tent – Jon could still hear the row between the acting Lord in the North and Lady Tully Stark some several tent rows away.
After leaving Robb and his mother to their spat Jon went to his tent and then sought out the tent flying the "Bear Rampant" banner – he had an errand there. After being presented to the she-bear he knelt and presented her with a sword in his outstretched arms. Her eyes went wide.
"He .. he is alive, the Old Grouch, is he?" she said as she took the weapon into her hands.
Jon presented her with the letter. Lady Maege sent a man to summon her daughters, had Jon take a seat and sat down herself to read the missive.
"So, I have you to thank for still having a living sibling ..." – she looked up from the parchment.
"I did nothing that any other man in my place would not have done, my lady ..."
"Still, it was not some "any other man" but you who saved my brother. You have the gratitude of House Mormont." She nodded her head at him.
"You called us, mother?" – came from the entrance as three young women trudged in, led by the tallest, Dacey.
"This wolf pup saved Old Bear and brought you a sword, Dacey. Your uncle feels he is getting long in the tooth and did not wish Longclaw be lost with him somewhere beyond the Wall".
Maege left out how the Old Bear waxed lyrical about the boy. That he had even considered leaving Longclaw to him! And that only Jon's turnabout over joining the Night's Watch had swayed the Old Bear's hand to pass the sword back to his family. The She-Bear snorted to herself - of course that it should had stayed with the family! The old boy evidently was going soft in the head - what was he now? Seventy? Gaga!
Jorelle and Lyra thanked Jon for saving their uncle and questioned him about the event. Not used to the attention of pretty high born girls Jon blushed and stuttered. This made the two tall young women, both taller than Jon and not much older, gently tease him even more. Dacey was out of the conversation, examining the sword in awestruck admiration. Joer "Old Bear" Mormont had left Bear Island to take the Black before Robert's rebellion, when she had been just a toddler and thus she had no memory of the family heirloom.
Maege chuckled both at Jon's discomfiture and at Dacey's focus on Longclaw.
"She'll do the sword more justice than I'd do, with her spidery arms and fancy training. I prefer the mace myself – no need to remember to hit them with the cutty edge – you just hit'em and smashe'em and hear their bones crunch" – the she-bear chuckled. She then turned serious again:
"And what is this about the Restless Dead?"
And so the year 298AC ended.
Author's wank ... er ... info dump:
1 – Character ages - everybody born after 280 AC is two years older (unless it suits me otherwise). Robb and Jon were born in 281 and not 283, Gendry and Daenerys were born in 282 and not 284, Sansa hails from 284 AC, etc.
2 – The timeline and events follows the books.
3 – There will be moments where the fic will be gruesome and there will be lots of major character death in it. The "M" rating is there for a reason.
4 – Jon looks like the French actor Fernandel in his youth.
5 – The pacing sucks. I'm an average writer at best.
6 - Caveat lector! That is Latin for "reader beware" :D