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Things She Never Saw

Chapter 1: Things She Never Saw

by Alassante

"I have to go now," Jon said. "Uncle Benjen is waiting. I'm to go north to the Wall. We have to leave today, before the snows come." He remembered how excited Bran had been at the prospect of the journey. It was more than he could bear, the thought of leaving him behind like this. Jon brushed away his tears, leaned over, and kissed his brother lightly on the lips.

"I wanted him to stay here with me," Lady Stark said softly.

Jon watched her, wary. She was not even looking at him. She was talking to him, but for a part of her, it was as though he were not even in the room.

"I prayed for it," she said dully. "He was my special boy. I went to the sept and prayed seven times to the seven faces of god that Ned would change his mind and leave him here with me. Sometimes prayers are answered."

Jon did not know what to say. "It wasn't your fault," he managed after an awkward silence.

Her eyes found him. They were full of poison. "I need none of your absolution, bastard."

Jon lowered his eyes. She was cradling one of Bran's hands. He took the other, squeezed it. Fingers like the bones of birds. "Good-bye," he said.

He was at the door when she called out to him. "Jon," she said. He should have kept going, but she had never called him by his name before. He turned to find her looking at his face, as if she were seeing it for the first time.

"Yes?" he said.

"It should have been you," she told him. Then she turned back to Bran and began to weep, her whole body shaking with the sobs. Jon had never seen her cry before.

Game of Thrones, Chapter 10 - Jon
George RR Martin

Benjen stood outside the door to Bran’s room and felt both rage and pain from overhearing Catelyn’s words to Jon. When Jon fled the room, he almost crashed into his uncle who caught him. The boy simply stared at him, perhaps wondering if he’d heard or too distraught to say anything. Benjen squeezed his shoulder and said, “Go on down, finish your farewells, and prepare your horse, Jon. We need to leave soon.”

Jon licked his lips and nodded, leaving silently. Benjen attempted to take a calming breath but nothing could push the anger from him. He opened the door the rest of the way and Catelyn looked up in surprise, her eyes narrowing, most likely expecting it to be Jon again.

“Benjen,” she said, wiping her eyes quickly. “I thought you…”

“You thought I was Jon? No, I think your words scared him away right and proper,” he said, walking over to the bed. “How dare you say such a thing to him? What has that boy ever done to hurt you so, other than his sheer existence?”

Lady Stark stiffened visibly and then looked away. “Benjen, this is not the time. Do you not see my son here? Did you come to say farewell or scold me on how I should behave in my own home?”

“Yes, I see your son lying there broken. That boy, that sweet little boy, loves his brother Jon as much as Jon loves him. All of your children love Jon and he would do anything for them. You called Bran your special boy, and he is, but how would your special boy feel if he heard your words to his beloved brother?” Benjen asked, his voice rising.

Catelyn started crying again and lowered her face. “Please, just stop.”

“I’m not trying to hurt you, Cat. Gods know that I love you as my brother’s wife and the mother of these children that I adore so much. I think you’re a lovely person and wonderful mother. But Jon is not to blame for the manner of his birth. He paid for the sins of others for his whole life. It could have turned him into a black hearted and bitter person who attempted to hurt your children with his words or actions.”

Shaking her head, Catelyn raised her eyes to his. “He wouldn’t dare. Ned would not allow it…”

“Are you so blind that you can’t see that he wouldn’t dare because he loves your children as much as they love him?” Benjen exclaimed loudly, in total frustration.

She was quiet for a few moments, watching Bran as she folded her hands across her lap. Finally she said, “It was wrong to say what I said. I wouldn’t wish this fate on anychild, much less any child my husband and children loved. Do you honestly believe that I don’t know how wrong it is to feel the way I do? I look at that boy and I will always see in him the woman who held my husband’s love enough that he will not even name her.”

Benjen walked to sit before her on the corner of the bed. “Jon is not his mother. He’s never known her. All of your children are part of you and part of Ned. Jon is part of Ned and part of each and every one of your children: because while they had a mother’s love, he drew his strength and nurturing from what they gave him. Robb would stay with Jon when he was sick or scared at night because he knew he couldn’t go to your bed if he had a nightmare. After a few times, Robb finally begged to just sleep in the same room and Ned agreed. And he made Jon swear in the Godswood that he’d never live anywhere but the north so they’d always see each other.”

“Sansa taught Jon how to always be courteous to a lady. Then she taught him how to dance properly, in the Godswood. Arya was the first baby he ever held and, when Ned was busy with his duties, Jon was the one who told her stories about warrior princesses and dragons because you only knew stories of knights saving maidens. And he used to threaten to fight Theon if he was mean to Sansa or Arya when he first arrived because he knew that Robb would get in trouble if he threatened him.”

Catelyn watched him quietly, her tears gone. He could tell that she hadn’t known the things he was telling her so he continued. “Rickon dragged him to the crypts every day for weeks asking him about every Stark. And each day, Jon would stop what he was doing and answer the same questions every time. Bran used to run to Jon’s bed at night after Old Nan’s stories gave him nightmares because if he tried to go to yours, Ned’s or Robb’s, he’d have to cross through patches of darkness caused by the spaces between the torches.”

He chuckled at the memory of that, turning to watch Bran. Tears filled Catelyn’s eyes. The two of them sat silently for a time then Benjen said, “He’s a good boy. And he wants to be a good man. The Wall won’t be easy for him, Cat. It’s not easy for any man but Jon is a boy who has grown up in Winterfell with his brothers and sisters, his father, and the rest of the castle folk. He’ll be surrounded by rapists, thieves, and murderers who have no choice but to go to the Wall: men who have no honor or sense of decency. It’s never warm there and he’ll never sleep on a soft bed again. If he’s lucky and survives to old age, he’ll never love a woman, so Sansa’s dances lessons will go to waste. He’ll never hold his own daughter like he did with Arya or comfort his child like he did with Bran, never have children to learn the names of his Stark ancestors.”

“You and Ned have always said there is great honor in serving the Night’s Watch,” she said softly. “I would have thought you and Ned would be both pleased and proud he was following in your footsteps.”

“I’m proud of who Jon is. I’m pleased that he admires me enough to want to follow in my footsteps. But I’d rather see him happily in a warm home surrounded by his family. Jon sees the Night’s Watch as a way to be honorable, achieve great things, and earn respect: a way to rise above being a ‘Snow’.” Benjen said with a sigh. “What he’ll get is a dangerous, cold, wasteland where he’ll lose whatever joy he has now except for the few times he might be able to see his brother, Lord of Winterfell, over an execution of one of his black brothers or a wildling raid.”

Catelyn looked at him for a long moment then reached out and took his hand. “But you’ll watch out for him. For my children and for Ned…please, watch out for him.”

“Aye, I’ll watch out for him as much as I can,” Benjen assured her. “For my brother, his children and for myself, for the love we all bear him.”

Catelyn nodded and turned her focus towards Bran again. Benjen rose, kissed her cheek, and then walked to the other side of the bed. Bending down, he kissed his forehead and stroked back his hair. “I’ll come see you when you wake up, Bran. And you will wake up.” Benjen nodded to Catelyn and left the room.

Benjen waited until he was riding alone beside Jon to mention the conversation. “You do know that Catelyn only said what she did because she was grieving. She didn’t truly mean it.” Jon refused to look him in the eyes until Benjen stopped his horse. Jon stopped his as well and their eyes finally met, Benjen repeated, “She didn’t truly mean it.”

“She meant it,” Jon said quietly. “She’s always hated me.”

“Oh Jon, she doesn’t hate you. She’s never allowed herself to know you. You represent another woman in her husband’s life and that’s the only reason she has stayed far away from you. Catelyn Stark is a proud woman and she’d never allow herself to know you because she could possibly become fond of you. She couldn’t stay angry with your father so she focused her anger on you.” Benjen reached out and grasped his shoulder. “You’ve grown into a man to be proud of. If your grandfather could see you, he’d be very proud of you, as proud of you as Ned and me. Whether you’re the son of Catelyn Tully or not, you’ll always be a Stark.”

Jon blushed crimson and looked down. Benjen laughed and said, “Maybe that blushing habit will keep you warm at the Wall.”