AU where Robb survives the Red Wedding.
It occurs to him only when he's dying that he hasn't thought much about the old gods and how they must welcome their believers to the afterlife. He used to think much of the old gods, look into the eyes of the heart tree's face and wonder if they were looking back, and wish he could speak to them and know they were listening.
As a lordling's duties and lessons generally limits aimless time spent dreaming of gods and philosophy, though, Robb drifted from such fervor for his gods. Now he needs them, and there is no heart tree's rough bark to touch, but he feels them there with him nevertheless.
This is his time to ask them a favor, the favor he's not asked him in all these years of quiet service.
"Jeyne," he breathes, simply, to them and them alone, and makes a promise. "My Jeyne."
She is all the family he has left. She is there in his heart, at the base, like the strong roots of a tree, despite the blood that's been shed for their folly. And he regrets nothing, now, so long as she survives.
He wakes. This is surprising. He's naked, a blanket thrown over him, his bed straw piled and scattered on the floor of his cell. He pulls the blanket closer to himself, for both modesty's sake and to fend off the cold and damp. Straw, it turns out, is a poor excuse for a bed, not that he doubted that for a minute before.
He realizes then that his wounds are bandaged, and though he's in a significant amount of pain, it's also held relatively at bay. A maester's done fine work on him. Startling, considering the effort put in to kill him.
Where is he, and why is he alive?
The door of the cell opens, and after he's recovered from the blinding of the light he looks up to see Roose Bolton, the rotten bastard, Warden of the North, smiling down at him. Even if he couldn't feel the hardness of his own expression, he would read it on the mild joy in Bolton's face. "Lord Bolton," he creaks out. His throat betrays him as well.
"Robb Stark," Bolton answers, with a half-smile as broad as can be managed. "Welcome back to the land of the living... how did the old gods greet you?"
"As better friends than you ever were to me or mine," Robb says. He wishes he had the energy to hate the man; for now, it's knowledge, leaden at the bottom of his stomach, that this is the way of the North from this day forward, to be in the palm of Bolton's hand. "What do you want from me?"
"It's very simple," Bolton answers, with a shrug. "I want you to do as I say."
"And what does a dead man have to lose?" he fires back.
Robb knows the answer before Bolton speaks, but the lord says it anyway, relishing it.
Two days ago, Jeyne Westerling, Queen of the North, lost her husband in a bloodbath her parents were likely party to.
No one seems to know what to say to her, now that she is a widow. No one seems to know how she should dress to observe Robb's death, or if she should be allowed to grieve at all, or be made to smile as though she was forced to marry a traitor and has been freed from that yoke. No one seems to know or understand what she is going through, or how much she loved him.
Now she sleeps in her childhood bed, alone. She finds more pillows to comfort her at night, to fool her body and fend off the loneliness. She ignores her mother, as she knows her mother, and she knows the silence she's received and the looks she's earned.
All's well, Jeyne, her mother would say. All that we can do is move on.
They're already looking for another husband for her. Someone who would be willing to marry a woman rumored to carry the next King in the North in her belly.
Time will tell. But the rumors may not be wrong.
Jeyne may have a sister, but Eleyna is four years younger, snobbish, and deliberately misunderstands every conversation she has with anyone, most of all her. It's a delight when her cousin Talya Spicer visits, then; she's younger by two years, just old enough for the two to be close without competing. Her dark, thick hair is beautiful and with every year that passes she becomes more beautiful, growing into the little physical idiosyncrasies like the bump in her nose and knobs in her knees. Jeyne cares for her deeply, and Talya is gracious, kind, and sweet, which is why when the question arises, she doesn't immediately tug on the unfinished dark plait in her hand and send her cousin away.
"Jeyne," Talya says, in a small voice that's clearly her best attempt at boldness, "about Robb, I only wondered..."
"Yes?" Jeyne asks. She's learned how to not allow his name to affect her when spoken by others, when she sees it written, when she sees the memory of him in others' faces, mocking or otherwise. She keeps her memories of him inside, to be drawn on for good, for comfort, as she once comforted him in times of pain and despair.
"Everyone says." Talya pauses. "Everyone says that you are going to have a baby. Is it true?"
She considers it, then keeps plaiting in the girl's favorite Westerosi style that she can rarely wear back home. "Would it matter?" she asks rhetorically.
"Of course it would," Talya says, surprised. "Your child would be... an heir! A prince."
"A prince to a kingdom halfway across Westeros now ruled by an evil man; a prince with no army and no father to help him defend his claim." Jeyne smiles wryly. "And a princess, cous. A princess would merely be married to confirm a claim to the throne. Have you read no histories?"
There's a moment of silence, then the inevitable: "Are you really with child?" she whispers to Jeyne, and touches her side gingerly, by her ribs.
Jeyne closes her eyes, her fingers still moving deftly. "Talya," she says, "when you love someone, you'll understand. Once they are lost to you, there's nothing that can keep you from holding onto what's left."
She holds the plait with two fingers and tucks it tightly into her hair, then meets Talya's awed gaze, and presses her cousin's hand to her belly, where the curve only just shows.
Talya looks halfway been joy and tears. "How... how are you... but your mother says - "
"My parents can't know," she says; it rings the most hollow to speak that out loud. My parents can't know. His never will. He never will. "There are no allies, cous. None here to speak for me, none who could be trusted. All fear the Lannisters too much. Only one man doesn't fear them or crave their attention, and I regret that I should have to bow to him for my support."
"Who?" Talya insists. "Who? How are you going to find him? You can't go on your own, Jeyne!"
"I'm not going alone." Jeyne smiles. "You will come with me."
Jeyne was wrong. Petyr Baelish is the furthest thing from a craven, she finds, upon laying her eyes upon him. For a man who has apparently fought with a sword in his hand just once in his life, he has a steel in his gaze and a practiced sharpness in his smile that could compete with Jaime Lannister or Arthur Dayne in their prime. She looks on him and he looks back at her with plain curiosity, then as ever takes the glance at her belly and her hips; she does her best not to look impressed.
"It is my great honor to host those whose ancestors have also made their way across the Narrow Sea to find these fine kingdoms," Baelish declares, and his smile widens. "You're welcome to stay for the night. However, I am afraid I have matters to attend to afterwards. Quite urgent. Alayne, do attend to the girls. You'll find her charming, I'm sure." He touches the dark-haired girl's shoulder before he sends her to them.
"Alayne! Like Eleyna," Talya notes. "Both lovely names. I'm jealous. Have you lived here all your life, Alayne?"
"Yes," Alayne answers, with a hollowness that Jeyne instinctively recognizes in her stomach. Who has this poor girl lost?
"Are you a servant?" Jeyne doesn't even have to look at her sister to know she's not pleased at being compared to someone who might be a servant.
"I'm Lord Baelish's natural daughter," Alayne says, with a practiced politeness that borders on curt. Jeyne restrains a smile as she sees Eleyna's mouth tighten.
"Stone, then," Eleyna says. "It must be dull to live here."
"There are the birds," Alayne says; this is the moment life comes into her face, her voice. "The singing in the morning. You should wake early. It's beautiful."
"I hate the morning," Eleyna says, "but I suppose we won't be here long."
"Thank you, Alayne," Jeyne says gently. Something in her face is familiar, something gentle and determined all at once, but the cold politeness overwhelms it and she holds herself back from asking more, asking further questions.
"Here are your rooms." Alayne indicates each, and looks to them. "If there's nothing else I'll leave you to do as you please."
Eleyna goes into her room without hesitation, and Jeyne nods for Talya to go into her own, but catches Alayne by the arm. She looks genuinely frightened for a moment, but it's gone within an instant, and she asks, "Yes, my lady?"
This is it. The reason she's come here. The reason she's done all that she's done. Jeyne breathes, and smiles. "If you could tell Lord Baelish that I would like to speak with him, Alayne, I would be greatly pleased. If he cannot, I understand."
"Of course." A flush has gone into Alayne's cheeks, but before Jeyne can comfort her she's already on her way to her father. She finds her head is whirling, tears in her eyes, as she dreams of what the poor bastard girl from the Vale might have suffered, then what her child might suffer, as not a bastard but a fatherless child with no place to call home, and how his eyes like Robb's might be hollow and sad like Alayne's and her own and -
She's in tears, in a hallway, in a strange castle owned by a man she could never trust but has no choice but to confide in.
She touches her belly, then, she breathes through the corset, and she makes a promise.
Much to Jeyne's credit, she doesn't cry upon delivering the news or asking the question.
"This is very interesting," Baelish says, only a moment after she finishes speaking, his mind already clearly racing. "Very. And you've hidden it?"
Jeyne smiles, faintly. "You of all people, Lord Baelish, should know the advantages that come with being underestimated."
He steeples his fingers casually. "They must have attempted to destroy any pregnancy. How can I believe you?"
"My lord. I will prove to you if I must, but for now we should keep this between us." She holds onto his gaze, an effort which clearly keeps his attention in more than just that. "They asked me to drink moon tea. As I said, they assumed many things from a girl of my age, such as I would not have the maester's ear or loyalties."
"Interesting, again," he concedes. "How far along?"
Jeyne smiles, hoping her own edge might shine through her face. "Far enough I haven't much time to waste. Not far enough that I would give birth here and now, and inconvenience us all."
Baelish considers it. "So I sit in the presence of a widowed Queen and her prince or princess? And you ask me to... bestow mercy, offer you safe haven, based on similar ancestry?"
Before she had been Queen, she never would have hoped to harm those who would condescend to her; after losing the throne, it is sometimes all she can think about, but she thinks of the Mother and her kindness, whose gaze matters more now than ever.
"I may not have an army to offer you, my lord," she says then, patiently, "I may not be able to offer pawns or castles, but I do have a future king or queen in my belly." He's watching her, and she dares to say it, the words she's saved for a moment like this, a now or never. "I lost my love that night, Lord Baelish. And so did you."
His expression doesn't change, except the cold amusement in his eyes melts to bitterness and almost for an instant despair and she pities him, she does, but it might all be worthwhile.
Baelish nods. "What have you in mind?" he asks, as though the last she said meant nothing at all.
Jeyne isn't finished. "My husband was a Stark," she says. "He saw with his heart and not his eyes. And I believed in him. I still believe in what he meant to do. But I see things with my eyes. So don't sell me cats and call them tigers, my lord. I know better."
Baelish raises his eyebrows.
"I think we can make an arrangement," he says, and extends his hand.
She stares at his hand, then shakes her head. "You know something. Tell me."
Baelish concedes the point. "I happen to know Roose Bolton and his son are at odds, my lady Jeyne."
She sighs. "And what of it?"
"You don't know Roose Bolton." Baelish is smiling again. "The man never stops thinking. I would fear him, but I know three men who are far worse, and at least two women. He's three steps ahead, perhaps more, in front of his son Ramsay, supposed Lord of Winterfell. One of those steps, well..."
Her fingernails dig into the chair. "If you suggest an alliance with that man, Lord Baelish - "
"I suggest a double-cross, actually," he says. "He has something that you want. You have something that he wants."
"And what about what you want?"
"We'll get to that later."
"No," Jeyne insists.
"It's complicated," Baelish says patiently.
"What does Bolton have that I want?" she presses. "Winterfell... is my child's home, yes, but little more. We need safety, we need men, we need - "
"A king," he interrupts evenly. "A King in the North."
Jeyne swallows, dizzied. "I will not associate myself with that Bolton's bastard."
"No," Baelish says. His smile is broad, and almost kind, if you couldn't tell how perfectly honed for the strike it is. "Your child needs his father."
There's no reason to believe him. But she does. She believes him, almost, as far as she can dare, and is prepared to throw him to the Boltons and their dogs if he's been lying all this time. She knows it's a fool's errand to run around based on rumors and what Petyr Baelish calls truths, but it's the madness, it's the child inside her. It feels right, like fate is driving her.
It feels like every footfall towards the Dreadfort brings her closer to Robb. There are too many footfalls, but they're worthwhile in that, and she can bring herself to breathe - almost, the terror of seeing him or not seeing him, both are too much. She sleeps at night imagining him next to her, no pillows or bunched up bedding.
Roose Bolton's appraisal of her is the least kind she's seen. He wants more than anything to know. Her corset is uncomfortable, her breasts cramped tightly, but she can't let him know, certainly can't flaunt it in front of him.
"The girl's too delicate to see the dungeons," Bolton says.
"Then bring him to me," she says, steadily, and wills herself to stay together and not fall to pieces.
Bolton raises an eyebrow. Baelish smiles. They descend into the Dreadfort's dungeons.
A serving girl brings Jeyne a chair; she sits, her body in agony, her feet aching, but it's all worthwhile because it's almost as though she can feel him drawing closer, as though she can hear his heartbeat. She exhales, inhales, exhales, inhales, listens to her own heartbeat, and remembers listening to his as she leaned against his chest late at night, watched him smile, and...
It's him. There's no question it's him. He's dressed as a commoner, worse, a beggar, his hair is curly, long, ragged, in his face, his face filthy, weary, eyes lined with exhaustion, and beard uneven and unkempt - but when she sees him she knows.
"Robb," she breathes, and pushes herself up out of the chair.
He looks up at her instantly, and it's plain he's shocked into silence.
"Go on, then, boy," Bolton says. "We won't put you to the sword, yet."
He limps to her, but she's run halfway to him and throws her arms around him.
"I have a plan. I have a plan, my sweet," she murmurs to him, desperate, and kisses each inch of his face, sweaty beard and dirt and all. "I love you, I love you - "
"I love you," he swears to her, and kisses her.
"How very sweet," Baelish says behind them. "Shall we speak of payment?"
Jeyne ignores them. Baelish will do his part. She'll do hers.