For For Noemi (xv12 on tumblr, and you may have also seen her in the comments here as xvega)
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, Noemi! I hope you had a brilliant day :) Enjoyed your day with yout family and ate great food! You're amazing, smart and brilliant and I adore you - so I really hope you enjoy this! Thank you for being an awesome friend ;)
It took me awhile to figure out what to write this year. There was The 100 AU I tried; then thought of writing Ned and Catelyn's side of my Gendry/Arya post-apocalyptic series; and then the start of this came to mind. And then it turned to this very weird thing - for some reason, you bring out the scifi in me - this has barely any plot, but I got really excited about this AU. I really hope it works for you, also warning - if you're wondering is that a Kane/Abby reference, you can be pretty sure it is; they just kept slipping in, you know how they've taken over my life the last few months :)
But really, darling, enjoy and have fun! I hope you have a magnificent year, full of everything you can wish for, and that it fulfills all your desires! HAPPY BIRTHDAY! Love and Happiness! :D
Catelyn sat up on her bed quickly, her breathing hard and a even faster heartbeat, her vision blurred and it took her a few moments to realize where she was.
"Hey, Catelyn, you're okay," the reassuring voice of Ned came immediately, he must have awoken with her, "You're okay, Catelyn," he whispered, sitting up as well and resting a hand on her back. "Take a deep breath." She repeated his own breathing, calming herself down after a few tries, resting her head against his chest as he held her closer.
Catelyn still couldn't speak… her mind was still trying to figure what was happening. She couldn't figure out what happened… she only knew it hadn't been a good dream – something bad. Ned was still trying to make her speak, to calm down and tell him what happened.
"Ned…" she finally whispered, but before she said anything else, she started crying. She wasn't sure why, but the only thing she wanted to right now was to cry.
"Shh…" Ned whispered too and then pulled Catelyn to his lap, her body folding into his, with her head resting under his chin, close to his heart. Feeling his heart beat calm her, even if it was more sped up than it normally was, but the tears didn't stop. "You're okay. You're okay, Catelyn. I'm here, love." She hugged him closer at his words, grappling his shirt in her hands, feeling his familiar smell as the tears continued to fall down her face.
The tears didn't stop. They didn't stop as Ned helped Catelyn lie down completely on the bed again, and she rested on top of him. His arms around her waist and she closed her eyes through the tears and fell asleep on top of Ned. Catelyn fell asleep still crying, not knowing if he had fallen asleep too or not.
The next morning, she woke up in this same position. Ned was still holding her, his hands rubbing her back, slowly, and she looked up to see his eyes opened, looking down at her, she reached her hand to his cheek, with a small stubble (never more than two or three days), focusing his eyes on her.
"You're awake," she whispered.
"Are you okay?" he asked immediately. "What happened?"
"I really don't know," she said, rolling down to her side of the bed and still finding a comfortable place next to him, noticing that they still had a bit before having to get ready to leave for work. "I was scared. It seemed like a nightmare but worse and real, I don't know what it was. I was just terrified."
"You're safe, Cat. You're safe here."
"I know, Ned. I just…" she didn't have the words to explain anything. "Thank you," it was the best she could come up with.
"Catelyn, there's nothing to thank me for. Anything you need, I'm here, always."
"I know," she said, kissing his chest and closing her eyes. She was still tired from her troubled sleep, so she took this moments to rest once again.
"Maybe you shouldn't go to work today."
"I need to," she whispered, but let herself get more comfortable near him and ended up falling asleep once again and this time with the few rays of sunlight coming into the room, she rested easier, feeling safer.
Her alarm clock rang, and Catelyn woke up to an empty bed, turning to turn off the alarm in her phone. 7 am, it read, that was her last alarm – she never slept until this late; waking up this late meant she needed to leave in twenty minutes. Catelyn started to stress, which wasn't good to her already tired mind.
"I'll drive you today," Ned said coming to the room, holding a tray of food. "I thought I should let you sleep. And since I have the afternoon shift, I can take you this morning, you don't need to take the subway."
"Thank you," she said, reaching for the food, two toasts with butter, a cut up apple, and milk with coffee. "You're working tonight?"
"I'll be home around 5 am," he told her, with an apologetic look on his face, she shook her head at that.
"Have you eaten?"
"Yeah. Chocolate cereals," he said with a smile.
"You should eat a slice of an apple, that will be good for you." Ned immediately accepted the proposal and took one as he sat on the bed with her.
"How are you feeling?"
"Less tired…" she whispered, "thank you," she said, "but still a bit freaked out."
"If you need anything during the day, call me," Ned asked, "Promise me?"
"I will," she said and then she finished her breakfast in silence, feeling Ned's worried eyes on her the all time, but doing her best to ignore those grey eyes. "I should shower."
"Want company?" she laughed at his words.
"You're driving me to work, Ned, that does not mean we have time to share the shower."
"We could be very quick. I can just wash your hair," he suggested.
"Thanks for the offer, love," she said, getting up and laying a kiss on his cheek, "I promise that we will do it another day."
"I'll hold you to that," he said, "Go get ready," he told her with a smile. "I will clean this up," he said pointing to the bed, and plates and cup from breakfast.
Actually sharing a shower with Ned sounded really appealing right now. Not the sex part, she was still too tired for that and definitely not in the mood. But it was comfortable to just be under the water with him, how his hands massaging her shoulders and he soaped up her back and neck, and the way he massaged her long hair. Or she would sit on the floor and him on the bench and they would stay like that for long stretches of time. Or sitting down on the tub, next to his warm chest as the water grew cold. But no matter how appealing any of those moments sounded, she didn't have the time, not even the time to wash her own hair.
Catelyn walked into the bathroom, and that small walk made her realize how dizzy she was, she looked for the sink, for support, throwing all the weight behind her arms into it, looking at herself in the mirror. Her eyes were still red from spending the night crying with dark circles under her eyes. Her hair was a mess too, she took a scrunchy from the cabinet and got it into a bun – it still looked messy, but now it looked like it was on purpose.
She got rid of her clothes after that, realizing that they were still mildly wet and definitely not smelling good, and threw them in the bin with the rest of their dirty clothes. How much had she sweat last night? She really needed this shower.
The water hit her skin immediately – too cold for her (it was obvious that Ned had showered before and left the water at his temperature – she turned it to the left and in seconds the warm water hit her skin. The nightmares and fears washed of her skin, revitalizing her with a new strength. She let the water engulf her, even as she used the soap she let it run (she could take one day to not worry about the environment), and then washed herself off again.
The steam of the shower filled the room. She was sure Ned was going to comment on it when she came out of the bathroom. The mirror was still too foggy for her to see herself, which she appreciated when she felt this tired. She wrapped herself in her towel and left the bathroom, letting the room breath – she would need the mirror to do her make up this morning. The bed was already made when she entered their room, Ned on top of it holding his computer, probably watching something.
"Yes, you would have hated it."
"You make the hot water worth it." She rolled her eyes to his comment but smiled at him, as she looked for her underwear in the drawers. She dropped the towel and put on her clothes as she felt Ned's eyes on her. Catelyn would very often wear dresses to work, but she opted for jeans today with a simple shirt – quick and simple.
"I'm dressed now you can stop looking," she told him and he turned back to his computer. "I'll just do my make up and then we can leave."
"Okay, I'll be here."
She pondered leaving her face free of make up, what she now wanted wasn't to spend time focusing on her face. But she couldn't go to work looking like this. The red was better, but the dark circles were still there. She put on her eye cream, more than normally, but very little after that, she didn't even had the head to figure out what each thing was.
Catelyn didn't look her best, but better than when she woke up. One final look into the mirror and she walked back into the bedroom; Ned must have heard her because he was immediately up from the bed.
"Yes," she said, as she packed the papers she had left on the couch last night. And then turned back to Ned with a nod, and opened the door to hall. Ned followed her, not wasting time locking the door since he would be back in half an hour.
"You sure you're okay?" he asked as they took the elevator to the exit, to then walked to their car.
"I'm sure, only tired."
"Anything you call me, Catelyn."
"I know, Ned."
The drive was quick and mostly in silence, with only the morning news entertaining them on the way to work. But Catelyn barely heard them, taking the moment to close her eyes one more time – false sleep, but at least dreamless. When they finally arrived Ned didn't mention it, but she could see in his eyes his worry, so she brought it up and promised him that she was okay.
"And you're tired too and you're the one with the night shift. And a demanding job, I sit in a chair all day, you're going out there with a gun to protect people."
"Not really, most days, I just help old ladies cross the street and lost tourists." She couldn't help but smile at that, give him a quick peck on the lips.
"Go home and rest," she said, "I'll do the same after work. See you tomorrow."
"Tomorrow," he promised, "I will try to not wake you up."
"I never mind being woken up by you."
"Yeah, yeah, you need your sleep, Catelyn. Go now, before you're late."
Catelyn gave him one last look and then got out of the car. The school already had students roaming around, some of hers she nodded to in greeting, before walking to the teacher lounge, where she was able to continue reviewing the papers she was looking over last night before she succumbed to class. Or at least, she tried, her head started hurting once again when she looked at the writing for too long; so she distracted herself with the music in her ears until it was time for class.
The door bell rang and she waited five more minutes before walking down the hall to her classroom. It was the first class of the day, it was always better to give the students a few more minutes to arrive – at least she always tried to. On the science hall, she walked into the lab for her advanced chemistry class – less students, 12 to be exact, who today were excited for lab, but she would have to call that off.
She really couldn't handle lab today, too tired for that. Small classes were great for discussions, so she never had them just do exercises, that wasn't the point of this class.
"Glad to see you all here," she said, looking around the room. She put her things on her desk and then went around to rest against her desk. "I know I promised you lab for today, but I wanted to try something different."
Her students looked disappointed, but none protested, so Catelyn continued,
"One of you can come up here and show us something – a reaction. You decide, but you have to explain it."
"Will it count for our grade?" A voice asked immediately.
"If you do it well, I can count it. If you fail, I won't count it for your final grade, unless you burn the classroom," she answered. "Offers?"
The offer came from who she expected it to come from. Tyene Sand raised her hand and offered to come forward, with a smirk on her face.
"Come tell me what you're planning," she asked. If it was any other of her students, she may have not asked them, but the girl was prodigious in chemistry, she could do things that most people, Catelyn, couldn't have done at that age. Tyene told her what she was planning to do and Catelyn approved, and sat back at her table.
Catelyn looked as she got the necessary material from the cabinets and got everything ready on the table, they had pulled in front of the class, and then cleared her throat and started her explanation. If Tyene pulled this off, she could really earn some extra points for her final grade.
She observed the classroom, everyone's eyes were in her hands, as she moved from thing to thing, and the ears listening too. The only person who seemed to not be paying as much attention was the girl's cousin, Arianne Martell, she had probably seen this before. The two girls were trouble, she had heard horror stories from multiple teachers, but not here, maybe because it was a smaller class and she let them work together in most things – Tyene's father said this were his favorite parent-teacher meetings (that may also been flirting).
Tyene led them most of the class, since the other students had questions about it, and she let them interact. Catelyn made notes of these small things. Most of the oral presentations she asked of the students were in groups, and Arianne was the one in charge of engaging with the rest of the class, now she was seeing a different side of Tyene.
Her notebook ended up with a few notes, but probably not as much as it should. And after the exercise, she led the class in a few more questions, before letting them go a few minutes earlier.
"Tyene, very good job, today," Catelyn told her student, "And next oral presentation, I want you to do more of the talking. Don't leave it all to your cousin, you were very good today."
"Thanks, prof," she said, before walking out, but Arianne stayed back.
"She's getting a bonus on her grade, isn't she?" the girl asked.
"Your cousin was very good. You must let her do more of the talking."
"She doesn't like it much, at least not in other classes, so we got used to it. This class is nicer and smaller, and we like you."
"Thank you very much," Catelyn said with a laugh, "Did you need anything, Arianne?"
"I was just wondering if you were okay. You seemed a bit lost during class, and like I said I like you."
"I'm okay, thank you," she answered and lied. "Go and enjoy your day. I didn't let you out early so you could spend your time here."
"Thanks, Miss Tully," the girl said, before disappearing out the door.
Catelyn didn't leave the room, and pulled on her headphones again; this time she didn't even try to look at the papers, and rested for a bit until her next class. In those classes, she had them do some exercises and then correct them, it wasn't her favorite teaching method, but it worked for her today.
She went with this smaller exercises for a lot of classes, taking her free periods to rest more than to do work, but after lunch she was feeling better. She corrected a few more tests, and even ventured into a report from her freshman class – those were always so hard to read, kids still trying to figure out how to do reports for high school instead of middle school.
Her last period of the day was a free one, and she decided to still stay in the school, in the teacher lounge, she rested again on the couch, before making the trip home. Two subway trips before she could get there, inside small carriages packed to the limit, being hard to breathe and even more tiring.
As tired as she felt, every text from Ned she answered she told him that she was feeling better and healthier, which was true for most of the day, not when she got home. She ate a small dinner, which probably wouldn't make Ned happy, especially if he learned she had skipped a proper lunch too. But this quick dinner had a propose, a healthy propose actually, going to bed earlier.
That was what Catelyn did. She was in bed before ten, which never happened, rarely she was in bed before midnight. It didn't take long for her to fall asleep either, two and half pages of her current read and she was ready to go down.
But sleep didn't last. During the night, she woke up again, scared, quick breaths, cold and with tears in her eyes. And alone. Alone. She cried harder at the thought – tears of missing Ned mixed with the tears she still couldn't understand. She reached for the phone after she was calmer, warmer and with her breathing back to normal, and with only the strange and unknown tears in her eyes.
His name was there, in her favorites, on her list of most called numbers – the one she called the most. Her finger hovered over it, ready to make the call, but she knew Ned would want to come home, and when she wouldn't let him, he would only worry about her and that could be dangerous when he was out there. So she didn't make the call.
She didn't go to sleep either. Sleeping alone scared her. So she got up to go to the living room, with her comforter, the one she had brought from her childhood home, she moved to the couch. Putting on Galavant for the hundredth time – she still didn't understand why not more people had watched this show – she tried to distract herself, and while she laughed through the episode, the inexplicable tears still fell from her eyes. Both things were enough to tire her to sleep, only to be found next morning when Ned came home from his shift, he who picked her up and led her to her bedroom, to continue her sleep, this time in his arms.
It had been like this for the past week, most nights like this. Ned would wake up startled by Catelyn in the middle of the night; tonight was no different. Ned got up immediately after he felt the mattress move, reaching for her.
Catelyn was breathing hard again, and trembling, but he could also see that she looked even worse tonight, she was holding her head in pain, holding her forehead to her knees, something she had never done before.
"Catelyn, are you okay?" he asked, stepping closer, with a hand on her back, rubbing slow circles, that this time were doing nothing to relax her.
"It hurts, Ned. It hurts so much," she whispered between deep breaths.
"Catelyn, I'm taking you to the hospital," he said with a firm voice, kissing the top of her head. He hated seeing her like this, in so much pain, and it had been bad all week… but if today was worse and there was nothing he could do to help – they needed to get professional help.
"We can't stay here. You're in so much pain."
"Call Uncle Brynden."
"Catelyn…" was she delusional now? Her uncle had passed away before they had even met.
"My phone, Ned," she said with a pained look, handing him her cellphone, "it's under B. Do not call from my phone. Use a pay phone. Do not say my name, or yours, or his – call him 'Blackfish', says it's about 'Little Cat'."
"Catelyn…" he looked confused about everything, but one look at her fragile figure on the bed, holding her head, he got up from bed and started pulling on a few clothes. He wasn't sure if this was the right decision; if he shouldn't just pick her up and drive her to the emergency room.
"I don't want to leave you alone, Catelyn," he said when he was ready to leave and looked at her scared form on the bed. "Take my phone," he said, picking his own and dialing her number. "Don't hang up, I'm on the other side of the call. Anything happens, you tell me. If you feel worse, you tell me." She took his phone, and nodded at that, making her head hurt even more, he came around her side to kiss the top of her head once again, still worried about leaving her alone.
"I'll be quick."
Ned left their small apartment after that, picking his keys from the door. He tried to think of the closer pay phone – the one at the end of the street hadn't been working for years, so the only solution was to drive to the gas station five blocks away, so he walked down to get into their car.
"How are you, Catelyn?" Ned asked, as he secured the phone on the dashboard and put it on speakerphone.
"The breathing calmed down like usual, but the tears are still coming down. My head is still pounding – it hurts so much."
"Are you sure we shouldn't be going to the hospital?"
"He will help…"
"What will your un-"
"Don't. Don't say his name, and hang up this call before you make the other one," Catelyn said, "Trust me on this."
"I know. Pay attention to the road now," she told him, and he was sure that it was because it was becoming too hard for her to speak – he could tell by her shallow breathing.
The roads were clear, at 3 am, there was no one else on the street, the closer he got to the gas station, the worse the lighting was, less lamps, until he finally saw the neon of the station.
"I'm here," he said to the phone, parking the car.
"Check if the phone is working before hanging off," she reminded him and he walked up to the pay phone.
"Okay, Ned, remember what I said. Call me again after," she told him between hard breaths and some whispers of pain.
"Love you," he told her before turning off the call. Ned now looked at the phone, looking for the number under B, and typed it up on the payphone.
A sleepy man picked up the phone on the other side just after a few rings.
"Blackfish," Ned called out.
"Yes, who's this?" he had heard from the other side. He was about to introduce himself when he remembered Catelyn's words – do not use your name.
"I'm calling because of Little Cat."
"Who are you? Do you have her?"
"She sent me here. We're together, I do not have her," he answered immediately. "She's hurt, in a lot of pain, and she told me to call you."
"Headaches. She said to call you."
"Can you drive her to the abandoned dragon pits?"
"I'll meet you there," the man said and hanged up the phone right after. Ned got Catelyn's phone out after, dialing his own number, wanting to hear her.
"I'm coming home," he said when she picked up, "how are you feeling?"
"It hurts so much, Ned," she murmured and he could clearly hear the tears now. "Did you get him on the phone."
"Yes. I'll be quick and then we'll get in the car together." Ned got into the car and started to drive back home, hearing Catelyn's shallow breathing and a few of her yelps of pain; and as he parked the car, there was silence on the other side of the call – silence for too long.
"Catelyn," he called out, "Catelyn, can you hear me?" he asked, "Cat?!" He got no response, so he started moving quicker. Still trying to get an answer from the phone, he left the car and got into their building, climbing the stairs, two steps at a time, before opening their door and running into their bedroom.
Catelyn was no longer on the bed, his phone alone between the sheets, and there was still no answer when he called her name. Then he heard a sound from their bathroom, he found her there, her head over the toiler bowl, throwing up repeatedly.
"Shh…" Ned said, kneeling next to her, holding her hair back and rubbing her back. They stayed like that for awhile, Catelyn must have expelled her entire dinner.
"What did he say?" she asked, resting her body against his chest, still on the floor of the bathroom. Ned remembered then and turned off the call, before answering her.
"He told me to get you to the pits."
"We should go," she said.
"Are you okay to travel?"
"It's my best option," she said, "Can you help me get ready?"
"Hair," she asked, looking for an elastic, reaching for the one she always kept on her wrist. Ned did a bad job, but it was enough to keep her hair out of her eyes, she finally smiled, as he looked apologetically at her after the bad hairdo he had given her.
"Sweatshirt," she asked as she trusted him to help her get up and walk to their room, helping her seat on the bed. "And a bra."
Ned brought her the clothes, helping her with the clasp of her bra and then the sweatshirt over her sleeping shirt, while she still kept her leggings.
"Can you pack me a couple of clothes? Underwear, something comfortable." Ned emptied his gym bag and then filled it with both hers and his clothes – most of the underwear on their drawers and then a few shirts and tops for both of them, and more leggings and a pair of jeans for her. Then disappeared into the bathroom for a few other essentials, before joining her once again in their bedroom again, now with her socks and needing help to tie her shoes, because her head hurt when she lowered it.
Ned tied her sneakers, before kissing the top of her head again, as she asked him if they had everything and then suggested for them to take a bowl in case she needed to throw up again (not that she still had food in her stomach).
Catelyn's mind was still screaming, so much that after she put on her seatbelt, she pulled her knees up and rested her head there. Ned turned his eyes from the road every few moments, to check on her. It had probably been more than an hour since she woke up, too long for her to be in pain; every part of him just wanted her to take her to the hospital, but he kept trusting Catelyn when she said that she had to see this mysterious man.
"We're almost there," he said.
"Park the car in the dark," Catelyn told him and Ned did as she said. The car was now parked and he took her hand, Catelyn disconnected the seal belt, so she could more easily rest against him.
"How are you feeling?"
"Tired. The movement of the car didn't help with the headaches, and I want to throw up, but I have nothing else in me."
"It's not your fault, Ned. Your touch helps – can you put pressure in my head?"
Ned's hand on her forehead and his lips on the back of her head, until they saw the lights of a car approach them – it stopped and blinked the lights five times.
"Four times, Ned. The third one lasts five seconds, the others are quick." Ned did the code and then the man was out of the car, coming their way and Catelyn was opening the door.
"Little Cat," he whispered as he came closer and looked at Catelyn. "What's happening?"
"It hurts so much."
"Okay, let's go," he said, lifting Catelyn from the car, carrying her on his arms, like she was still a child. As he dipped his head into the light of the car, Ned could see he was a tall, large and broad man, with a full beard and semi long hair, the same color as Catelyn's but with traces and strikes of grey and white. Ned left the car as well, getting the bag and locking everything behind them.
The man put Catelyn on the passenger seat and then turned to Ned to accept the duffel bag from his hand and throwing it on the back seat.
"Thank you," he said. "Forget my face and my number."
"Wait! I'm going with you," Ned told the man, "As long as you want me to, Catelyn."
"Yes," she answered.
"So I'm going," he repeated, following the man who turned his back to him and moved to the other side of the car, to the driver seat.
"I'm going with Catelyn."
"Catelyn needs me."
"I can take care of her," her uncle argued again.
"Uncle, let him come."
"Get in the back then. Don't talk," he said, defeated. Ned got in, behind Catelyn, resting a hand on her shoulder as they drove away.
"Your car is probably going to get stolen," the elder man warned him.
"Yeah," he answered, he could probably call Robert or Lyanna to move his car. "So you are-"
"Not yet," Catelyn and the man answered at the same time. "It's not safe," she said.
The trip was done in silence and Ned looked over their surroundings as they took paths between trees and forest, outside of the main road, until they finally found a small metal structure that stood out like a sore thumb. He parked the car in a white room with two other cars, before leading them to another clean room, full of drawers.
"Your phones?" he asked, Catelyn gave hers immediately.
"I need to call work."
"You make it here. No phones downstairs."
"Go on, we'll wait," Catelyn said.
Ned called work. Captain Arryn understood when he said Catelyn was sick – he had a soft spot for her. And then left a text on Robert's phone to go and get his car (hopefully he would do it without questions – he had picked up Robert's car from weird places more than once).
"Here it is," Ned said, giving it to the man who turned it off and put it in the drawer next to Catelyn's.
"Any other electronics? In your bag?"
"No, just clothes."
"Okay, let's go."
He called the elevator and they entered it, waiting as it went down. Ned was still confused at everything, but Catelyn looked at ease and comfortable with the place, even if still looked like she was in pain.
"So what's happening, Catelyn?"
"Nightmares and cold sweats most nights. Awful headaches, especially tonight. There's feelings and emotions and…" she stopped then, "Sorry, now I'm just being rude, Uncle, this is Ned Stark; Ned, this is my Uncle Brynden."
"I thought he was dead," Ned said, at the same time as her uncle told her to finish what she was telling him. Then the elevator stopped, they stepped out and Ned followed them though the facilities, until he was bared to go beyond the waiting room.
"I want to go in, with you."
"We're going to run tests. You can wait here, Mr Stark."
"Ned, I'll be okay," she said. And so she left with her Uncle.
Ned was left alone with another white room – white walls and chairs – clean and empty waiting room, something impossible to find in a hospital. He stayed there, seeing some men and women in coats walking by sometimes, but none wasted a look on him.
"Catelyn, what's happening?" her uncle asked when they were alone in the medical room, and then he had his thoughts interrupted by the loud scream Catelyn let through, as tears fell from her eyes.
"Little Cat," he whispered, reaching for her hair.
"It hurts so much, Uncle, but so much, like something is clawing at my head trying to get out," she answered through a tight jaw, stopping when she noticed other people coming into the room. She nodded at them and cleaned the tears from her eyes, "I don't think this is simply medical, I think this is something else…"
"Catelyn, we haven't done anything in years."
"I know, Uncle, but I think it is something."
"Okay," he said, nodding at her, and then turning to the other three people in the room. "Human subjects: specimen number 1."
Only one of the doctors could keep the shock out of his face and moved to look at the files. The other two were frozen in place – Catelyn knew why. Every doctor here studied her file, and her file didn't compare in size to anyone else's. The file was finally brought in into the room, making a tremendous noise when it was dropped on the table.
"I expect you're all familiar with my niece's medical file," he said, "So I expect you to do your job now."
The doctor moved around her after that – one drew blood, other helped her take off her clothes, while the other one asked her questions.
"How long has this been going on?"
"A week, maybe. At least I've been waking up in cold sweats for a week. The headaches had never been this bad. Normally they stop after a bit, with Ned's pressure on my head and back even quicker, that helps."
"Ned? At night?" her uncle asked and Catelyn rolled her eyes. There were things he had to miss in her life when you were dead for every real purpose.
"Yes. We were married earlier this Fall," she whispered, looking down at the simple ring on her fingers.
"We can talk about this later, Uncle. It wasn't like I could invite you," she said, "it was a small ceremony. He proposed and then we decided we didn't want to be engaged for too long, so we got married, close family and friends only."
"And you didn't…"
"You couldn't come," she said. "Please continue," she told the doctor. She could have this conversation with her Uncle some other time.
"How long ago was an experiment done on you?"
"Most of them were when I was a child – I was seventeen for my big last one. Small things until I was 22."
"You think the consequences are coming now?"
"I don't know. I know this is not normal. And those were not normal things done to me, so something could be acting out now," she answered, "I'm here for you to find out. I'm not a doctor."
"Okay, we'll start by testing your blood and go from there," the doctor said, but he didn't seem to believe her. "You're still in pain?"
"Yes," she answered – her head was still throbbing. She just wanted them to leave, so she could be in pain in peace once again – to be able to fall apart.
"We can give you something to sleep." Catelyn took what was given to her, letting them insert the IV in her arm.
She fell asleep quickly after with her uncle holding onto her fingers. What they gave her helped her, these dreams were painless and clearer – there was a figure there, familiar, so familiar… someone that left a warm feeling in her heart – someone she could have loved. Catelyn knew all this when she woke up, but she couldn't tell you the figure was.
What she couldn't tell you is that the figure had told her who they were and that they were close and that they needed her to come and find them – to save them like she had promised, that afternoon by the river.
Her mind was a mess of the things she remembered and the things she didn't. No useful information, but this time she felt different when she woke up. Less cold like she normally was, and more than anything else, she felt hope in her heart.
So she held her hands to her heart when she woke up, slowly, no keep awakening like she had gotten used to these last few nights. Brynden was still in a chair near by, looking at a tablet, until he must have heard her and looked up immediately, to greet her and ask her how she was doing.
"How are you feeling now?"
"Better," she answered, "I actually slept," she said, trying to sit up, finding her uncle's hand on her back to help her.
"Good, you should rest more," he told her.
"Not now. Call them in, I need to know what's happening…"
Brynden got up and spoke to the intercom, just a few seconds after the three doctors were back – were they just waiting outside? They all looked nervous at seeing her, which made her even more nervous, relishing on Brynden when he came to her, the heat of his hand on her shoulder.
"What have you discovered?" he asked.
"We tested the blood of Miss Tully-"
"I'm here. Talk to me," she asked.
"We tested your blood and…" the doctor speaking stopped at that, that left Catelyn more frustrated for the silence, luckily another one of the physicians was braver and spoke up.
"What?!" she asked at first. Her mind going over time, trying to figure out the news, coming to peace that there was someone inside of her – there was a baby inside of her – an actual baby.
Catelyn wasn't listening to anything else, not to her uncle or to the doctors, everything was trying to focus on this news, and then she realized that there was something else she needed, someone else.
"Ned," Catelyn pleaded, "Please get him here."
"We have more to talk about, Miss Tully," the doctor said.
"We're not talking pregnancy related stuff without Ned here," he argued, "And, for your information, it's Mrs Stark now," she insisted three more times until someone left the room to find him.
Ned entered the room quickly after. He looked a bit dazed and confused when he came into the room, his hair all over the place – she guessed he had fallen asleep out there. But he sparked awake when he noticed her and came to her, taking her hand immediately.
"How are you feeling?"
"Better, I actually slept, they gave me something," she answered.
"Has anyone figured out what's wrong?" he asked the doctors, with all of them then turning their eyes to her, which made Ned immediately nervous, Catelyn reaching an hand for his arm.
"Not yet," she said, "but they discovered something else."
"What?" he asked and she pulled him down to sit next to her, and gave a look to the others, so they would give them some privacy.
"I'm pregnant, Ned," she whispered, taking his hand to her midriff, and he looked bright eyed; nervous and unsure if she was speaking the truth; she assured him, "It's true."
"A baby… our baby..." he said. They had definitely talked about children and it was something they both wanted – so Catelyn knew that – but they hadn't planned it as a now thing. But she knew that Ned would be by her side any way, she had no doubts about that. "You're okay?" he asked, "I know you're not, but you said it wasn't related… Is the baby okay?"
"I think some of my vomiting may have been baby related," she admitted, "And after the news, I just wanted you here and I didn't ask anything else," she continued, before turning back to the doctors and asking, "Is the baby okay?"
"We can do an ultrasound," one of the doctors suggested, "I'll get the machine."
"Thank you. Have you figured what else is making her sick?"
"The tests came out clean," they said, "Nothing."
"Could the pregnancy be playing with something?" Catelyn asked.
"A lot of what was done to you doesn't have precedents," he answered, sending weird looks to Ned. He looked confused and she was realizing that she would have to explain this to him soon.
"Can I see a list of what had no immediate consequences after the testing or experiment was done?" her uncle asked.
"We should have that somewhere, I'm going to look."
"What's happening, Catelyn?" Ned asked.
"A few things," she answered, "Let me figure what this is and then I'll tell you," she said. She knew it would be hard to explain. How do you explain to someone that your mom started a secret base that studied and experimented with alien life? Wait, how did you tell someone alien life exists?
"Catelyn, are you sure? Are you okay?"
"I will tell you after. Let me just figure this out first."
"Okay. I trust you."
"Can you stay?" she asked and she felt her uncle ready to argue about that. "You're going to hear a lot of weird stuff if you're here, probably get even more confused."
"I accept that. You want me here?"
"Yes, a lot," she answered honestly and Ned sat next to her, lacing their hands together. "The ultrasound, first," she said, pulling up her sweater, as the doctor came closer, and brought the gel and then the machine to her belly.
Catelyn didn't notice anything else. Her focus was on the screen where she could barely see anything – it was still way too small, but she heard the heartbeat – and then she felt Ned's hand with her, and then his kiss on her palm.
"Can you see anything?" he whispered, which made Catelyn laugh.
"Yes," she answered, "it looks like a bean, Ned."
"That's our baby…" he whispered and she nodded, looking at his smiling face, and noticing the tears falling down her face. "Beautiful," he said, kissing the top of her head.
"Stop," Brynden spoke up, shocking both Catelyn and Ned. "You're eight weeks, right, Catelyn?"
"Yes. Almost nine."
"Your HCG is at its peak, that alters your system." Catelyn nodded at that, surprised that her uncle knew this – when they started this, her mother was the brains and her uncle the body and strength. "You said you felt like someone else. Other emotions."
"Yes, it could be the baby."
"I don't think so. I think it finally worked," he answered.
"Cat, we need to check, but it could have finally worked." Catelyn didn't want to hope, hope was dangerous, but she still felt it just before the tears in her eyes started falling again, and Ned was still confused but he pulled her to him.
There were words she couldn't speak again. She just couldn't speak, only cry, and she could only hold on to Ned, once again letting his breathing calm her down. Behind her she heard her uncle insisting for them to be left alone, and when the door closed, Ned came joined her on the bed.
"I'm feeling it again, Ned," she finally spoke. The fear, the cold and the desire to cry was leaving her scared for herself too.
"Shhh… you're okay," he whispered and she could hear on his voice that he was holding something in.
"Ned, I will tell you everything. If Bryden's theory is right, I will tell you everything."
"Your uncle is alive, Catelyn…" he reminded her, "when I proposed you cried about him and your parents not being able to be there. But he's alive and he didn't know I existed," he said, no accusation in his tone, truly this were facts. "Are your parents alive too?"
"No, they aren't."
"Sorry," he said, squeezing her again.
"But my mom didn't die of a medical complication, she was poisoned. And my father's murder was framed as suicide. My uncle came down here permanently after that; he made sure we were taken care off, assured our entry to the Academy, and then disappeared."
"You knew he didn't die?"
"Yes, I was already fifteen, almost sixteen," she answered, "I spent a lot of time here. Mom started this when I was seven, and I liked being here."
"What's here, Catelyn?"
"I'll tell you soon," she said. "We should get my uncle, we should go."
"You're not okay, Cat. Maybe you should rest a bit more."
"I can't… I've already been here too long. Gods, if it's true, Ned…" she whispered, new tears coming to her eyes. "Help me up," she said, pulling her legs over the cot and taking his arm for support.
Ned led her slowly to the intercom and Catelyn hoped they were still working the same way. They did, but she had to try a few numbers before getting someone to pick up, so she could ask them to get Brynden.
Less than three minutes after, he was there, a knock on the door and then he was inside asking if she was okay; Catelyn only nodded, still holding to Ned's arm for support.
"We should go down there. I need to check if it's really her."
"You're sure you want to do this?" he asked.
"Yes, it has already been too long if what you say is true."
So Catelyn followed her uncle out of the room, now holding to Ned's hand, rubbing his palm as they walked down the bunker, to somewhere she had never been before. Her mother had told her not to play in this floor and as she grew up, she really had no interest in it. Now here, even being in the same floor, she could feel the cold and she must have shivered, because Ned threw his arm around her to warm her up.
"Is he coming in?" her uncle asked.
"Ned? Yes, he is."
"Catelyn, this is very sensible information," Brynden warned her.
"I know, but I'm going to tell him everything either way."
"Catelyn, if you can't…" Ned started, but she shut him up.
"It's going to be weird, a lot, but I want you here."
"We're here," the doctor at the front announced, as he punched a code into the wall, and the big white metallic doors opened.
Catelyn shivered again when she entered the room, and then felt another, that wasn't hers per say. The room was white as well, with drawers top to bottom, but luckily most were empty. Four were filled: one human and three something else. Brynden walked up to the oldest one, the one he had closed himself years ago, while Catelyn had cried herself dry in her mother's arms floors up – everyone had felt useless around Catelyn then.
"Can I open it?" her uncle asked and she nodded, as the drawer was pulled open, Catelyn stepped forward.
The moment it was opened, a head shot up, with heavy breathing, body shivering, and a panic locked in her eyes. But she was still so familiar.
Cat! A voice in her head called, and she walked the rest of the way to the drawer.
"You're okay. It's me Cat," she whispered, "Someone get me a blanket," she said back to the others and someone took off, hopefully in search of one; but Ned stepped forward, giving her his jacket.
Cat, it can't be you.
"It's me. I'm just older now," she said with tears in her eyes – more than fifteen years older – so she hugged her again.
How long? What happened?
"Let's get you to safety first." Catelyn helped her out of the stretcher. At eleven, Catelyn had already been taller than Leaf, but now her friend was looking so much smaller next to her adult self.
"Where can we go?" she asked her uncle.
"The private rooms. Your parents' room is still empty." Catelyn wasn't really looking forward to that, she hadn't been back there since they had passed away, when she was little she had tiptoed to their room a few times, even if she had always found the bunk beds way more fun. Now, with Leaf next to her, the privacy of those rooms were preferred above the dormitories.
"I can take Ned to the bunk rooms as well," her uncle suggested and Catelyn was realizing she really needed to have a serious conversation with him about Ned.
"He can walk with us too. He will need to know where our room is," she answered, telling her uncle to not comment on anything else.
"Take my hand," Catelyn told Leaf and the girl wrapped herself in Ned's jacket, before taking her hand. She walked in front of all of them, not turning any looks back, just at Leaf and the road ahead; but she felt Ned's eyes on her, a confused and lost look – she would explain everything to him later.
They arrived to the room and Catelyn opened the door – still looked the same – and told Leaf to go in; before turning to Ned. Stepping away from her uncle, and taking Ned's hand.
"Can you come here around lunch time?" she asked, "They will call for lunch, and can you bring me a plate?"
"Okay, I can. Should I bring something for-"
"Fruit, if there's any."
"I love you, Ned," she said, getting on her tiptoes. "I will tell you everything."
"Okay. I know. How are you feeling?"
"Better, being with her calmed everything. I think she was calling for me," she said, "I will explain everything."
"I'm glad. I see you soon, love," he said, giving her another kiss on the top of her head. Ned disappeared down the hall with her uncle – hopefully he wouldn't say anything stupid to her husband; and she went into the room, finding Leaf looking at her.
You kissed the man. Is he a prince?
"No, not really," she answered. Ned was better than a prince – he was real – he was there for the good and the bad, and he was there for more than saving her. "He's my husband."
Husband and wife. Like parents.
"Yeah, like my mom and dad were. Or we will be," she said, touching her own belly. "I'm pregnant, that's why you're here."
"What happened?" she finally spoke out loud and it as so good to hear her timid, high and sweet voice again – a voice that she had taught to pronounce words in English. It had been easy to learn to use her mind to speak English, but speaking had taken awhile.
"You got sick, something we didn't know how to handle – do you remember?"
"Yes," she answered. Your mom was trying to fix it and I moved here, I could no longer live at home with you.
"Yeah, you got worst. My mom thought it was because you were far away from home," Catelyn continued, "So we tried to create a connection between us – an elaborate experience. Three weeks out of school."
"It didn't work."
"No. Mom couldn't figure it out why. And then one day she couldn't find your heart anymore."
"She died. So did Dad."
"Ohh… I'm sorry," Leaf said, turning to her side to hug her.
"Something in this baby made it work. I could feel you but I didn't know it was you."
Leaf rose her hand and put it between them. Catelyn was about to tell her that it was too soon to feel anything, but then she smiled, and Catelyn felt something – she felt the baby through Leaf's hand.
"You can feel him or her?"
"You know?!" Leaf nodded at her. "How are you feeling?" Catelyn asked. She needed to focus on Leaf now, that she was okay, and not wondering more about this baby that now was safe.
"Better," she said, resting on the bed, turning her eyes to Catelyn, and taking her hands, holding both of them between them, and Catelyn turning to her. Then she felt again as a child, when they had done this every night, hiding under the covers and sleeping, sometimes Lysa would join them. In that moment, nothing had happened, Leaf had never been gone and her mom and dad hadn't died and she hadn't grown up… but then she wouldn't have met Ned, they wouldn't have gotten married and she wouldn't have this child growing inside of her.
I'm tired, she spoke in her mind with a groggy voice. Can we sleep?
Catelyn nodded, but with none of them in the mood to get inside the bed, she closed the Ned's jacket around Leaf a bit better, to warm her up, and rubbed her hands up and down her arms, before taking her hands again, between them both.
"Sweet dreams. I'm here always, from here on," Catelyn promised before she closed her eyes, not falling asleep until she was sure Leaf was sleeping too. And then she had her best sleep in days.
Ned had been left in the dormitories. The room had about ten beds, only three were filled and another one that seemed to belong to someone. They were all close together, so Ned moved to the other side of the room and took one of the top beds in the bunks – some kind of childhood wish, that had always been taken by Brandon and then that he had given to Benjen.
He lay back on the bed, his hands behind his back, trying to make sense of everything that just happened. About this bunker, about her uncle being alive, about the strange creature with nut-brown skin, with some spots, and with this hair that seemed to be Autumm itself – someone she seemed to love.
The images of Catelyn holding the creature ran through his head as he tried, trying to make sense of what this relationship could be, about who this Catelyn was – completely different from the woman he had known for more than five years, the woman he loved. He was still sure that he loved her, he just didn't know her anymore, or at least this part of her.
Then his mind thought of his unborn child – this little thing that was shaped like a bean that was inside Catelyn, breathing and eating and moving. This little thing that he would get to hold in just a few months.
Ned couldn't sleep like this, not with his mind so full, but he stayed on the bed. And he ended up closing his eyes and falling asleep, a light one, but enough to rest for a bit. But when the moment he was waiting for happened he was already waken, and stand up immediately after he heard the bell through the building.
Ned dropped from his bunk, his feet touching the floor with a thud, thankfully he was now in an empty room. He left it up immediately, but outside he realized he had no idea how to get to the mess room, he wandered aimless for a bit, until his confused face became too obvious and someone took pity on him. Once again, the room was way more empty than there were seats to use – Ned wondered what had been the plan for this building. It was built for a huge team, but he was starting to notice that he was always seeing the same faces.
"Thank you," he told the woman who led him there and then asked her if he could take extra food.
"It's not with me," she answered and then left him alone.
Ned looked around, trying to figure out who to ask, before noticing Brandon on the top table; he cleared his throat coming closer, but the man still didn't bother to look up – she felt like she was ignoring him on purpose.
"I promised Catelyn, I would take something for her and her friend," he asked. "Who should I ask? Do I need an authorization?"
"Boy, you just need to go in there and ask for what he want." Her uncle hadn't been the one to answer, but the woman who he had been talking to, who laughed at the question.
Now with permission, Ned went to get his food – two main dishes and some extra fruit; and then since nobody stopped him, he moved everything to only one tray and walked out with that. The way to the room Catelyn was staying he had made sure to decorate, and while he turned on the wrong side on two occasions, he made it there and knocked on the door.
Four knocks, before the door was opened. Catelyn was on the other side – she had been sleeping for sure, her eyes still semi closed and her hair all over the place.
"I brought food," he said, showing her the tray.
"Come in," she said pulling him into the room. He immediately saw the creature on the bed, still sleeping, now wrapped in his jacket and slowly breathing – chest up and down.
"Did you sleep okay?"
"Yes. No nightmares – it was her calling for me, all this time."
"Her name is Leaf," she answered, and then took his hand again, pulling him to the other side of the room – two armchairs with a small table between them. He put the tray on it, but he wasn't hungry, the need to know what was happening was too much.
"Yeah, but confused." Catelyn stopped at that, biting her lip and pulling her knees up – she was nervous. So Ned reached his hand to her, hoping to reassure her – it probably helped, since she continued. "I met her when I was seven. I found her in the river – head down in the water. I thought she was dead. And I cried for my mom."
"She wasn't dead."
"No, not dead. Mom brought her home and helped her. We still didn't know who she was, but Mom healed her. And she became my best friend."
"What is she?"
"Who is she, Ned?" she told him, looking him in the eyes. "Besides my best friend. Sweet, caring and fun. And not from this planet if that's your question."
"I'm sorry… I-"
"She- her people call themselves Children of the Forest. She lived until I was eleven, and then she started getting sick and Mom couldn't figure out why. She died, and I was heartbroken – I wouldn't leave my room – I was mad at everyone. Somehow that, prepared me for all the death that followed."
"She came back from the death, then? Now, I mean?"
"We tried things to help her. After my mom couldn't heal her, we tried to create a connection, she would live from my life. It didn't work," she said, before bringing her hand to the baby, "Now it does. I don't know why, but this baby brought her back to me."
"Your mom did experiments on you?"
"Yeah, a lot. I can tell you about them, but I won't be able to explain much – I was small. And I never wanted to look at my file."
"When did they start? Did they hurt? Are you in pain?"
"My parents opened this after I found Leaf and they believed there was more life like her. And they were trying to help her get home. My mom was medical, Dad was engineering and Uncle Brynden security. And then more people came."
"Did the experiments hurt?"
"Some, did. But they never forced me, Ned," she promised, taking his hand on hers. "I got to find things about myself, about us, humans, that nobody knows. I got to be science – that's why I studied chemistry later one," she admitted, sharing a little bit more of her with him. "And I'm not in pain, Ned. I'm okay."
"Were you ever in pain and you didn't tell me?"
"I'm okay," she said with a smile, and got up, moving to his side. Taking his face on her hands, looking directly into his eyes and repeating the same words.
"Don't hide things for me again, please."
"So your parents continued with the exploration after she- Leaf d-" he tried to ask, as Catelyn more comfortably sat next to him and took some food.
"Died. Yes, but they were also killed. And then like I told you my Uncle faked his own death. And that's why I met you."
"I worked here during college and the year after. The plan was to always work here, they needed a chemist. But the life underground wasn't for me, so at 22 I left, after I applied for a job at the high school."
"You were out and the previous people who had worked there and had an outside life had been killed," he guessed and she nodded. "So you came into the police station."
"Yes, I came to the police station. And I was assigned to you." Ned remembered that moment, remembered meeting her, remembered her being his first solo case. The captain had assigned her to him, the newbie, considering that the Captain didn't believe her to be in any serious danger – some girl afraid to be living alone for the first time in her life.
"It was real. The threat was real," Ned whispered, realizing that everything he had thought had been a lie.
"I don't know if it was real, nothing happened, as you know. But I was afraid."
There hadn't been much Ned had been able to do without proof, but he had given her his number to call him if she was scared or felt threatened. And she called him often enough in those first few months, every time she felt a shadow with her, or it was night and someone was walking just behind her; Ned would stay on the phone with her until she was safely home.
"If I had known the truth, I could have done more," he said, feeling the guilt that he could have possibly failed her.
"You couldn't. You told me there was no proof. Even if I told you the truth, my parents had been dead for almost ten years by then. There was nothing," she said. "And you did what you could. You didn't have to give me your number and permission to call you anytime, but you did."
Then one day, she called him, not because she was scared, but because she wanted to talk and be with him. She called because she missed his voice. Ned couldn't have believed what was happening, and he had been afraid that he had in some way used his influence with her or abused his power. Ned smiled at the memory of Catelyn holding his face between her hands, kissing him, and telling him that she wanted this, that she wanted him.
"I love you," he told her, holding her close. "I couldn't bear to lose you."
"I'm here. I'm sorry I didn't tell you before. I just… I was afraid… I never have trusted this, all of this," she said, moving her arms around to point to the world they were in right now. "Even my sister stopped trusting Leaf and trusting this life – she stopped talking about it."
"Leaf was your Robert…" Ned said, smiling at her. A sibling outside your blood. "She should have been at the wedding. Just like your uncle – couldn't he have put in a disguise or something?"
"Glasses with a mustache attached or something," she said with a laugh.
"He just didn't know about us."
"I don't talk to him often. Normally they are quick conversations – only important information."
"Getting married is not important?" he said, creating a larger space between them on the chair.
"Of course it is," she started answering, before hearing something from the bed, turning her eyes to the bed, where now there was movement.
Catelyn must have known something was happening, because she moved away from him immediately, telling him that she couldn't finish this conversation with him now, and then got up to check on Leaf, still on the bed.
Ned observed from his place on the chair. He noticed how carefully Catelyn climbed onto the bed and cradled Leaf's head in her arms, holding her head on her knees, moving the hair out of the way.
"I'm here. You're okay," he heard her say. "It was a dream." She murmured a few more things he couldn't understand, as she continued stroking Leaf's head.
"Yes, there's someone else in the room," she said with a laugh, before turning her eyes to him on the chair. "Ned, can you come here?"
Ned nodded at her request and got up, but he was still nervous as he walked up to her, holding himself a few steps away from the bed, waiting for Catelyn to tell him what to do next.
"Come here," she said, giving him her hand, which he held tightly. She pulled him to sit next to her on the bed, and Leaf scared pulled herself closer to Catelyn.
"You can speak," she told the creature, "Out loud," she confirmed. "That's my husband, Ned. It's his jacket you're wearing."
"It smells nice," she finally spoke to him.
"Thank you," he answered, not knowing what else he could say. "So your name is Leaf."
"Yes. You're Cat's husband, Ned."
"Yeah," he answered, and Catelyn laughed and threw him a look, the same one she did every time he would be lost at words at work functions or when they were with people that weren't his siblings or Robert.
"Leaf, why don't you tell him about your favorite game?" Catelyn moved the conversation along, "Maybe we can play."
"I never told you before," Leaf admitted. "My favorite game is chess. I used to play with your father. You hated the game."
"What did Catelyn think your favorite game was?" Ned asked Leaf, with a smile.
"Jumping rope. I do really like it," she answered honestly.
"I'm better at chess," he answered, "But we could do the rope jumping too – I used to know a song. I could try to remember it."
"You know a 'jumping rope' song?" Catelyn asked with a smile.
"Lyanna knew one and she made us learn," he answered. Benjen had picked up the song immediately, but it took Ned a long while to learn – sometimes he just made up works or just moved his mouth a long.
"Lyanna is his sister," she told Leaf. "Ned, she's hungry. Can you get the tray, please?"
Ned looked a bit confused for a bit, before realizing that it was probably the mind thing that made Catelyn know what she needed; so without questions, he got up and got the tray bringing it back to the bed. They all sat comfortably, picking up bits and pieces of the food – Leaf was famished.
"Do you think your uncle has a chess board?" he asked.
"I could ask," she answered. "Could you teach me?"
"I sure can," he said with a smile. Catelyn was about to tell him something else, when she stopped, before turning to Leaf again.
"Of course. It's normal that you're tired. You were not okay for a very long time," she said, "Yes, you can move inside the bed," she said, helping her inside the covers, as Ned moved the tray away, now mostly empty. "Do you mind if Ned stays here?"
"No, I like him," she said out loud, hugging Catelyn and making her stay inside the bed with her, but leaving space for Ned to join them.
Ned waited for Leaf to fall asleep. It took longer than he would have liked, but then the snoring started, and the eyes closed with the chest moving. Ned put out his hand to Catelyn who interlocked their fingers immediately, as he asked for permission to speak.
"What do we do next?" he asked after she nodded.
"We figure this out," she answered. "Now that we know what was missing when we tried the connection initially, maybe we can fix it."
"Yeah… I can't tell her that she's going back to sleep in less than eight months. And then wake up again with our next kid." Ned smiled at the idea of a second child, while Catelyn was still clarifying what she said.
"A second kid sounds nice."
"Yeah, but I can't be pregnant forever, so we will need to figure something out."
"You will. You're smart." He had hope in her, he always had – if someone could figure this out, it was probably her.
"I need to, Ned," she said taking a hand to her face. "I can't lose her again. I can't give her hope for nine months and take it away over and over again."
"You won't. You will do this. We will do this," he promised her. "We will take care of her."
"We talked about getting a house when it was time for us to get a kid," he reminded her, "It's a bit earlier… but we will try to do that. Somewhere with a forest and a river, not to hot…"
"Not too cold, either."
"With a place for Leaf. I know she was your sister, but she can be one to our children too," he said, before stopping for a moment and asking, "Does she age?"
"Never did. She's a Children of the Forest. But her mind is older at times."
"She can be their sister."
"Thank you," she whispered with a smile, and Ned was glad that she had trusted him enough to accept him coming with her. Catelyn went silent after that and Ned was sure she had fallen asleep, and he was closing his eyes too when she spoke.
"Leaf said the baby was a boy, Ned. We're going to have a son." Catelyn spoke nothing else, not one answer to his questions, so Ned left them for later, and closed his eyes, knowing one thing.
The future was uncertain, but hope was never lost.