Of Bastards, Brothers and Mended Things (Game Of Thrones)

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Rowen glared malevolently at Jon. He didn't understand. Why was the Stark bastard so kind to him? Rowen didn't want and didn't need a friend. And after everything that Rowen had done, here was Jon Snow, building a tent, and serving him dinner. Rowen took a small bite from the meat and casually drew random swirls in the frosty ground with a stick. Rowen looked to Ghost who seemed rather content curled up between Jon and himself. Rowen barely noticed when his long fingers began to play with Ghost's soft white ears. Rowen wondered how Jon had found Ghost, but kept his questions to himself. He wasn't excessively interested in back stories.

"Tell me, puppy," Rowen said between bites of the meat. "Why is it you choose to stay with me? You'd probably be better off with Walter or maybe some of the other lordlngs, like that Tarly." Rowen tossed the rest of his meat in front of Ghost, who gleefully accepted the offer. "Do you find me irresistible? Usually I have that effect on ladies, not men, but perhaps you may have spend to much time with Lord Renly, if you understand me." Rowen snicked, pleased with himself, and stared at Jon from the corner of his eye and smiled sickly. "Or do you secretly wish I'll cut your throat while you sleep?"
 
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Jon almost choked to death when the other man started speaking and once he recovered found he’d utterly lost his appetite. Ghost happily began to eat up his master’s scraps as well. The bastard stared at the other man, brows knitted and mouth hanging open. He struggled to gather his thoughts, though his utter and complete confusion regarding the other man made it difficult to say the least. He shook his head, considered ignoring the other man completely but finally spoke. “Look Rowen, it’s obvious that no one has ever shown you anything but malice before and I’m deeply sorry about that.” He jabbed his finger into the other man’s chest, cheeks still red but his expression was hard. “I have no interest in anything a woman might want to do with you not do I have any interest in dying.” He let out a long exhale and crawled into the tent, throwing his cloak down for bedding. “You’re strong and quick-witted and I think I can rely on you not to be a spoiled brat when the going gets tough. That’s why I stay with you.” He childishly turned his back to the other man, glaring holes into the tent. Despite his steady words, Jon’s hard was pounding in his chest and he was finding it difficult to take a deep breath. “And for your information Rowen, I actually kind of like you despite the fact you’re an utter madman.”
 
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"Charming," Rowen said dryly. He wasn't fond of feelings and mushy confessions. But with a shrug, Rowen silently admitted to himself he had brought the subject up. He stared at the fire blankly, unable to truly feel the sincerity behind Jon's words. Rowen pushed the hair away from his eyes so he could stare as the flames turned to embers, and the warmth faded away. He glanced back a Jon every once in a while and scoffed. He's completely naive. I wonder if he's thick or just optimistic, Rowen thought.

After a while he looked around. Everybody else seemed to be pretty much ready to sleep. With a sigh, Rowen pat Ghost goodnight and crept into the tent. "I'm not mad." Rowen said, as he lay he cloak out to sleep. "I just... Have issues." He stretched out on the large black coat and sighed. "And when the going gets tough, I'd ditch you in a heart beat." Rowen was lying though. He was too proud to turn his back on anybody, but he felt as if something was in jeopardy. With Jon Snow trying to make a connection with him, Rowen couldn't help but feel as if something was going to go wrong. It just felt dangerous.

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"Arya... Arya!" Robb whispered, shaking her bony shoulders. "I think it's safe to say that everyone has fallen asleep." The direwolves seemed to join in on waking Arya up; they nudged and licked her face affectionately. Robb turned and picked up his dagger. Hoping Arya wouldn't see, he slipped the knife into his boot and checked to see if his sister was up yet.

"He's in that tent." Robb said, then blushed remembering that Rowen was in there with him. What's wrong with you? Robb thought to himself, You shouldn't jump to those conclusions. He shook his head, and scratched Grey Wind behind the ears. "You two stay here. We'll be back soon." He told the wolves, and looked to Arya. "Are you ready?"
 
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Jon fell in and out of sleep, bizarre dreams plaguing him when he did doze off, bizarre thoughts bothering him when he lay awake. He heard rustling a little while later, and felt Rowen’s presence beside him. He tried to ignore how small the tent seemed with two grown men inside and how he could feel the other man’s breath on his neck. It was…an odd sensation. He considered ignoring the other man, pretending he was asleep, but somehow that didn’t seem to be an option with a man like Rowen. He turned over to face him, but instantly regretted it when he nose almost touched his, and he found himself staring into those hawkish gold eyes. Swallowing down a gasp, he didn’t let his gaze waver as he spoke. “You’re full of shit.” He stated, sounding far more sure than he felt. Maybe Rowen would turn tail and run when the wildlings were pressing down on them or the wild dire wolves or whatever else lay beyond the wall. But something about the tone of the other’s voice and the weariness in his eyes told him otherwise. Perhaps Rowen was tired of watching his own back. To reinforce his point, he clapped his hand on the other man’s arm, a sign of trust and friendship. “I want rabbit stew for dinner tomorrow Rowen.” He smirked and rolled onto his back, watching the other man out of the corner of his eye.
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The Stark girl blinked sleepily, staring at Robb as though he were crazy. At the direwolves’ insistence though, she was soon on her feet and shivering in the cold. “Bloody crows it’s cold.” She murmured, staring at the well founded tent on the edge of the camp. “Pfft. Jon would build a tent.” She rubbed the sleep from her eyes and started after her brother. “Let’s go.” They tiptoed across the snowy ground, occasionally stepping over pairs of men sleeping on the ground like cattle. Arya was a little surprised to see two of the men sleeping not only facing one another but with their chests touching. Just as she opened her mouth to ask Robb about the subject, they were in front of the tent. Ghosts got up excitedly, tail wagging as he danced in front of Robb, eager for a scratch. Arya swallowed, feeling suddenly nervous. She looked to Robb, expecting him to lead the way.
 
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Robb's boots made almost no sound against the leafs. Arya was a little less graceful, but most men were too deep in sleep to care. But Rowen heard everything. Rowen turned indignantly away from Jon, and stared at the gap between the tent and the ground. He stopped his breathing to listen to the sound of the Starks. He could see the faintest outlines of the two Stark's feet bellow the tent. Cautiously he moved his hand to his hip, and frowned as he remembered his weapons had been taken from him. Rowen smirked silently, and moved to the opening of the tent. He heard the crunch of a twig, and lunged out from the tent.

Robb spun around in time to see Rowen tackle him to the ground like a vicious panther. A loud grunt escaped Rowen and Robb's lips as they collided with the ground. He straddled the Stark and hissed happily. Rowen's hands wrapped around the Stark heir's throat, and he leaned forwards to put pressure on his vice, then stopped. He could feel something cold against his neck... something cold and sharp. Robb Stark grinned, and the two where locked in a stalemate.

"Big puppy's claws are sharp." Rowen chuckled and licked his teeth.

"You better hope this wolf wont scratch out your throat." Robb said dangerously. The two locked eyes and glared at each other with ferocity. Robb could only barely make out Rowen's features in the dim moonlight, but he was certain the bastard was smirking and having a sickly good time. "Stay away from my brother." Rowen laughed and Robb could feel his spine shudder.

"When we reach the wall, he'll be mine." He whispered, just loud enough for the Stark to hear.
 
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Arya let out a cry when the man from earlier came bursting out of the tent, tackling Robb to the ground. The girl stood paralyzed in fear for a moment, expecting Ghost to jump on the man. The wolf stood equally still, confused as to what to do since two of Jon’s allies were at each other’s throats. Arya shoved at Rowen’s back, clumsily attempting to draw out Needle just in time for Jon to appear. It took the Stark Bastard several long seconds to realize that his brother and sister were here, and that his new ‘room mate’ was attempting to kill one of them for the second time in one day. Scowling, Jon silently buried his hand in Rowen’s long hair, jerking him clear off Robb a moment later. Arya clung to him, whimpering in fear and relief and Jon struggled to separate her long enough to pull Robb to his feet.
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“What are you two doing here? Lady Catlynn would have my head if she knew you were out here!” He threw Robb a dirty look. “Do you realize you took our little sister into a camp full of rapists and murders Robb? Did you even think about that?” Arya stared at Jon with a shocked expression. He sounded too much like their father for her liking. Jon let out a sound of frustration, threw a firm look at Rowen and shoved his siblings back towards the protection of the woods before they woke anyone up. “Well? Explain yourselves.” He growled, heart pounding in his throat. Arya frowned and tugged on the bastard's hand. "Jon we came to take you home with us. Robb's going to be in charge soon so you don't have to leave." Jon scoffed and shook his head at Arya, keeping his eyes on Robb. "You thought she'd stand for that? That father would stand for that when he got word?"
 
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"Ooh..." Rowen groaned, "Puppy's got some bite." He smirked at Jon and clawed the air, releasing a barking noise from his throat. Robb shot him a threatening glare, and Rowen chuckled but stopped talking. Robb anxiously nudged the ground with his toe but kept his eyes on Jon. Robb felt his throat grow tight, instantly he regretted coming to get Jon. He was stupid. He wanted to cry, but the heir to Winterfell could not. He was not aloud to cry. Robb's eyebrows drew together and he took a breath in.

"I wouldn't let anything happen to Arya!" Robb blurted out at last. "You don't understand how much you're family loves you Jon. You're not suited for the Night's Watch, Jon. You wouldn't have to stay in Winterfell. Anywhere... Anywhere but the Wall. Anywhere with out that man." Robb stuck a pointed finger and Rowen who shrugged. "But it's obvious you don't care. I didn't expect fanfares and banners, but I also didn't expect you to act like this... and take his side! You never really cared if you stayed or left Winterfell did you?"
 
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Arya couldn’t stand the way the were snapping at each other, couldn’t stand the look of hurt and frustration on both of their faces. She darted back into the woods towards she and Robb’s little camp, curling into a tight little ball when she got there. Jon stood stunned at Robb unloaded on him, his throat tightening as tears came to his eyes. He fought them for the moment, turning his back to Robb as he struggled to collect himself. “Do you think there would be an army of bastards out here if there were anywhere else for me to go Robb?” He bit his lip, glaring hard at the ground. “I love you and Arya and everyone else more than anything. But I can’t stay in Winterfell, we both know that.” He clenched his eyes shut. “Take Arya home. I’ll write you when I get to the wall.” Jon couldn’t turn around, he couldn’t look into Robb’s eyes after what had just transpired between them. He didn’t look at Rowen for the moment, he didn’t want to hear any shit from him right now either.
 
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Robb frowned and threw his dagger to the ground in between Rowen's feet and stuck his chin out. "You're still welcome Jon." Robb spat and turned on his heel. Rowen picked up the knife from the ground, and stuck it in his boot, hoping Jon wouldn't see. Robb Stark marched his way through the large trees, finding a patch of grass near the little camp he and Arya set up. He didn't want to talk to anybody. In a few minutes... maybe an hour... he would find Arya and they would go home. Like nothing happened. "Seven Hells..." He moaned, grabbing his auburn hair in anger and slamming his head against the base of the tree. "The heir of Winterfell can't be so idiotic!!" He told himself harshly.

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"I wouldn't take it too hard on yourself." Rowen said casually. He flopped onto the ground, not ready to sleep after such excitement. Rowen knew he should check his tongue, and keep it all to himself. He should have let Jon be for the night. But Rowen felt frisky. He itched for more excitement, and silently counted the ways Jon could fulfill this need. "That's a bit harsh though, don't you think? I would be grateful if my family came to my rescue. I wouldn't take things for granted like you do." Rowen scoffed and stretched his legs out.
 
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Jon watched after his brother with a look of mourning. He let his chin fall to his chest and his fists unclench. He felt like he’d been run down by a herd of cattle, smashed underfoot and then let there with his guts leaking out of his mouth like a frog beneath a wagon’s wheel. He heard Rowen speak but didn’t trust himself to acknowledge that first comment. He felt too near hysterics to have anything remotely near a normal conversation. He swayed on his feet, feeling exhausted beyond words and yet knew he wouldn’t be able to sleep. He heard Rowen rolling around on the ground but made no move to turn around.

Until his hateful mouth started up.

The bastard whipped around, the tears in his eyes quickly turning hot and angry as he fell on Rowen, not giving attacking a murderous psychopath a second thought. He slammed his fist into Rowen’s pretty face only once though before the fight ran out of him like venom. He stood up, laid a swift kick in the other man’s ribs and spat “Shut your mouth.” At him before the exhaustion set in. He dropped into a sitting position and heaved a sob as the tears spilled out of his eyes. “I love them! I love them all but…I can’t…I can’t live with that woman any longer!” He gripped his hair much like his brother was deep in the woods, and let out a strangled sob.
 
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"Aww... Puppy... I didn't mean..." Rowen stammered over the words as he grasped the side of his ribs. Damn, I think he broke something, Rowen thought. While his words sounded dry and sarcastic, he was actually worried. Rowen couldn't empathize. There was a mutual hate between he and his family. But something about watching a man cry made Rowen think twice. Maybe I should just back off, and give him a moment, Rowen thought. Or maybe he wants somebody to talk to...

Rowen grunted, confused, and grabbed his head. Why are people so complex!? But he shook off his thoughts and moved carefully to touch Jon's shoulder, wincing in pain thanks to his face and ribs. "Look... Jon... I..." Rowen nearly withdrew his hand, but finally with a sigh he let his fingers hold onto Jon's shoulder. "I'm sorry..." He said, turning his face away, embarrassed the words slipped from his mouth.
 
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Jon flinched when the other man touched him, but didn’t pull away. He kept his face buried in his hands, struggling to breath around the catharsis of sobs that racked his body. He was mortified to be wailing like a child in front of a man who had no respect for him or anything else for that matter…but somehow he knew he would have felt ten times as bad around anyone but Rowen. Perhaps because the man was so apathetic. Or was he? He heard the little wince, felt the fingers on his shoulder grip more firmly and then, low and behold, an apology.

Jon swallowed down the next sob and moved his hands enough to eye the other’s expression. He wasn’t smirking of holding back laughter as Jon had first suspected, in fact Rowen seemed to be distressed. Jon felt the tears slow to a trickle and his sobs quell enough for him to get a good breath in. He flicked his eyes over the quickly forming purple bruise on Rowen’s jaw and to the way he avoided putting pressure on his ribs. With a sigh, Jon swiped his eyes once more. “It’s fine.” He hated how broken his voice sounded. He placed his hand over the other bastard’s…it was the closest thing he would be able to say to thank you. It was odd how hot Rowen’s skin felt even in the bitter cold…Jon shook his head of the thought. “I shouldn’t have kicked you like that. That wasn't very Starky of me and besides, you won’t be much help in a fight with a broken rib.” He chuckled though the sound didn’t have as much humor in it as he would have liked. He felt the tears in his eyes turning cold all of his sudden, and groaned at the thought of ice in his lashes. “It’s too bloody cold for this.” He crawled into the tent and flopped back in his place, leaving Rowen to do what he wanted. Though he silently found himself hoping he'd join him.
 
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Rowen let Jon leave with out another word or comment. He needed just a moment to himself. Rowen pulled out Robb's dagger from his boot and stared at it thoughtfully. I could just kill that Stark and let Jon live his life without thinking twice of his family, he thought to himself. Then he shook his head. While Rowen would have appreciated the act, Jon was different, he actually cared about his family. Rowen never did, and would have been better off without them. He hated trying to act like a normal person... it was... unnatural. He breathed out quickly though his nose and tossed the dagger into the bushes.

Rowen picked himself off of the ground with a wince and a grunt and slowly moved towards the tent, but paused as he heard familiar footsteps. "You did this to Jon. You're responsible for the way he's acting." Said the cool an steady voice of Robb Stark. "Thanks for returning my dagger." Rowen heard Robb move, and spun around like a tornado, just in time to raise a hand in defence. The knife skewered Rowen's hand, but the black haired bastard refused to scream, he simply grunted and bore the agony.

"Somebody's taking things far to seriously." Rowen hissed. "I wouldn't expect this from a level headed Stark."
 
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Jon’s eyes flew open to the sound of a ferocious snarl, one he’d grown to trust in the scant time he and Ghost had been together. The wolf was standing beside Rowen, showing fangs as white as his fur to his master’s brother. He couldn’t attack Robb, but the canine wasn’t going to allow someone Jon cared for to be hurt. The bastard emerged from the tent with sword in hand, but he fumbled in his step at what he saw. He stood shocked in the darkness as his eyes adjusted, Rowen with Robb’s dagger through his palm and Robb as the hilt of it. He stared in utter horror before leaping into action like he’d been taught to his entire life. <o:p></o:p>
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He brought the pommel of his blade down on Robb’s blade arm and shoved the Stark away from Rowen. He hauled his brother up by the collar and slammed him against a near-by tree, his expression filled with hurt and sorrow. “Why didn’t you just leave Robb?” He whispered, tears in his dark eyes. He slammed with the other man yet again, shaking snow from its lower branches. “You know this was inevitable, striking out at the closest thing I have to an ally is not making this better!” His voice could not match the strength in his arms. “You were trying to kill him weren’t you?” He released him and let his arms fall limply to his sides, sword dropping into the snow. He threw up his hands in frustration, silently begging the Old Gods for an explanation for this torture. “Leave Robb! Get out of here! The only way you’re bringing me back with you, is if you killed me like you tried to do him.” He reached out and took his brother’s face in his hands, bringing his forehead close to his. “I love you, please, please, don’t ruin yourself over your bastard brother. Go home and be great, that’s what you’re meant for. And I am for the wall.” He pressed a kiss to Robb’s forehead and released him, turning and walking back towards Rowen.<o:p></o:p>
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He took hold of the man’s injured hand, pulled the dagger from it and tossed into the snow. <o:p></o:p>
 
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"Go home Robb Stark." Rowen said at last, after licking up the blood on his hand. Like it would stop him from bleeding out. "I'm not trying to dirty your brother or anything. I'm not forcing him to go to The Wall. Scram kid. There's a pretty woman waiting for you in Winterfell, of that I'm sure. You'd make a great Lord, if you were so stupid." Rowen smiled, and for a moment it looked genuine. "Go get your little sister, and go home before you Mother finds out." Rowen frowned, realizing the pain in his hand and spun around. "Good night Robb Stark."

With that Rowen made his way to the tent. "By tomorrow you'll have forgotten all about this." He said, more to Jon than Robb. He flopped down in the tent and began to wrap his wound delicately. Those Starks are nothing but trouble, he thought and tied the cloth around his hands.

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"Arya... Are you okay?" Robb Stark asked, after he returned to the camp site. He place a hand on her shoulder and smiled. "Look... We'll go home tomorrow morning, and nothing will have happened. You and Bran can climb all the trees you want. Look... I'm sorry. This was my fault. I'm stupid." Robb ran his fingers through his curly locks and sighed. He sat down next to Arya and kissed her on the cheek. "Can you forgive your stupid brother?"
 
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Jon did not look back at his brother again. He closed the tent behind himself and looked at Rowen like a man haunted. “I’m sorry about this Rowen. Between the two of us you’ve had a terrible night…let me wrap up your ribs.” He took some cloth from his own pack and pushed Rowen’s shirt up, feeling a lump form in his throat at both the ugly purple bruises staining his side and the well sculpted muscle that lined his frame. He pressed gently at his ribs, relieved when he didn’t feel any obvious breaks. He set about wrapping the sore area, but not tight enough to be uncomfortable. He brushed his finger tips over the finished product and felt oddly tempted to let his fingers wander to his pectorals and even his face. He resisted none too easily and let Rowen’s shirt drop back down. He inspected the other man’s hand for a moment then released him and lay back on his cloak, feeling utterly exhausted. He shut his eyes and threw an arm over his face. “If you don’t want me near you any longer, I understand.” He laughed bitterly. “I haven’t been very healthy company thus far.”
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Arya leaned on Robb, her face pale humorless. She rested her head on his shoulder, exhausted and angry and confused above anything else. “It’s my fault Robb. I suggested all of this.” Her lip quivered angrily. “I don’t understand. I was sure he’d be happy to see us Robb.” She whispered, the picture of pre-teen angst as she buried her face in Robb’s chest, angry with the world. “I’m not mad at you…I’m sorry I even said anything about this.” She sighed to herself and pulled away, curling beside the fire. “Maybe Sansa’s right…maybe I shouldn’t be acting like a boy. It always gets me into trouble.” She imagined herself sitting in the keep all day, wearing dresses and sewing samplers and putting ribbons in Nymeria’s fur and playing the harp… “Ugck.” She snorted aloud at the thought. “I love you Robb.”
 
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Rowen laughed sarcastically and stretched out his wounded hand tentatively. The full scale of pain had yet to settle in, and he could feel his pulse around the wound. "You? Unhealthy for me?" Rowen scoffed and brushed his hair away from his face. "Hardly. I'm probably the bad omen for you. If it wasn't for me, all of this probably wouldn't have happened. My half brother called me a 'bad luck charm' and for a reason too." He chuckled and shrugged his shoulder.

"I'm sorry." He said. Rowen flushed and hid his face, again he was ashamed of the words. Finally, Rowen looked back at Jon and smiled weakly. Rowen touched his non-injured hand to Jon's back, and brought the bastard in to a close, but extremely awkward embrace. "The Wall's a bit like me. A complete bitch until she takes you in." Rowen warned, and rolled over to go to sleep.

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Robb yawned loudly and squeezed Arya in close. "Don't try and change who you are." Robb said. "I think you'd look more than awkward in a dress. Sansa's like the crows. They both lie. Tomorrow we'll head home, and you can bother Sansa all you like." He chuckled and leaned his head against Arya's, remembering Nan's stories when they were young, and Arya pulling Sansa's hair.. "I love you too." He breathed, before his eyes closed and he instantly drifted into a deep sleep. Grey Wind trotted over, and curled up across Robb's lap, and also closed his eyes after nuzzling Arya softly and grumbling adorably.
 
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Jon awoke after what seemed to be only minutes, his hair damp from sweat and his body quivering the after-effects of a rather….odd dream. He swallowed and sat up, stretching his arms above his head as the shouts of the Brothers drifted about the camp, followed by a chorus of groans from the men. The Stark bastard took a moment to remember the events of last night, feeling his way through his lingering emotions long enough to figure out he could ignore them for the time being. He dressed in silence, beating snow and debris from his cloak loudly in attempt to rouse Rowen. He eyed the other man’s hand, noting that it was swollen but his fingers were the correct color and no fever runs had appeared over night. That much was good at least, dying of an infection before reaching the wall was nothing to sing glory songs about.

He emerged into the gray morning, noting Ghost has dug up the remains of last night’s meal to chew on. Jon set about taking down the tent around his companion, purposefully slapping him with cloth as he folded it neatly. With that done, he dug out a hunk of bread for each of them, pelting Rowen’s portion at his face. He smirked around his mouthful as the brothers attempted to organize the recruits into marching lines…though it was rather pathetic. “Get him Ghost. He doesn’t want to get up.” The wolf bounded over to Rowen’s form and set about licking his face in a most obnoxious manner while Jon got the tack back on their horses. “Come on Rowen!”

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Arya forced herself awake, her body stiff and sore from sleeping squashed between her brother and two over-sized wolves though she was admittedly warm. She stood and walked a little ways away to take care of morning business and returned in time to kick Robb’s leg. “Up, up Robb.” She smiled despite herself and wrapped her cloak more tightly around her. She fed the horses, scattered the remains of their fire and dug the sweet rolls from her pack that’s swiped from the kitchens on their way out. She ate hers thoughtfully, stroking Nymeria’s ears as she concocted a few humorous stories to tell their parents upon their return.
 
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"Oy, oy..." Rowen groaned, swatting away Ghost as he roused. "I don't need a headache to top off a painful morning." He hissed, and took a sizable bite of the bread Jon had thrown at him. He flexed his fingers gingerly. I can barely move my damn hand, the thought angrily. Rowen stood up with a sigh and packed up his belongings in only a few minutes. Rowen swung up onto his horse and nudged the black stallion against Jon's. "I could have used a wink or two more of sleep." He moaned.

Rowen brushed his hair with his uninjured hand as he waited for the rest of the recruits to meander over. Lazily he stretched his arms above his head and winced, then decided it was best to just wait patiently. Luckily for Rowen it wasn't long until the party got moving and Rowen nudged his horse on wards.

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It did not take long for Robb Stark to wake up, and prepared for the ride home. He quickly munched down something to eat, and saddled his horse. "Catches us a few rabbits to show Mother." He whispered to Grey Wind, who barked and dashed off into the snowy woods. Cautiously Robb approached Arya and touched a hand to her shoulder. "Good morning." He said sweetly. "Are you just about ready to head home?" Robb Stark guided Arya's horse over, and mounted his own. "The ride back is always shortest." He assured with a smile.
 
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Jon couldn’t help but laugh at the other man’s rather cute complaining, though he knew they were well-founded. “I think we could all go for that.” He smiled and nudged his horse forward to fall into line, though the mare seemed already content to follow Rowen’s stallion. The ride was pleasantly uneventful, the morning sun providing a bit of warmth and the winter birds calling back and forth to one another. Someone unfamiliar with the North might think Spring was around the corner, but Jon knew very well that his family’s motto might prove true this year. It made him a little depressed, but he likely wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between spring and winter on the wall anyway.<o:p></o:p>
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They ate a lunch of salted meat on horseback and rode on, making good progress despite the men’s lack of motivation. One of the elder brothers stopped the progression suddenly, and rode his <st1:place w:st="on"><st1:PlaceType w:st="on">mount</st1:PlaceType> <st1:PlaceName w:st="on">aways</st1:PlaceName></st1:place> ahead before returning with a wide smirk. “Gentleman, we’ll reach the wall tomorrow…but you’ll get to acquaint yourselves with her today.” He chuckled sardonically and rode on, the party following after him. The trees fell away on either side as the forest thinned, and it was then Jon saw the wall. It rose out of the landscape like some titanic wave, looming above them like some spectral mountain. Jon craned his neck to see the top, but the sun made that impossible. “Crows.” He whispered.<o:p></o:p>
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Arya gave her brother a bright smile and kicked her pony’s sides. The little beast started off, Nymeria running alongside. True to Robb’s word, the trip back took no time at all. The gates of Winterfell were visible by lunch, and they reached them long before the sun began his descent. Arya was little surprised not to see her mother standing at the gates. After they’d handed their horses off to the stable-hand, Arya gathered up the rabbits that the direwolves had brought them. “Alright Robb. Don’t act guilty.” She giggled and started towards the Keep.<o:p></o:p>