Juno (juno_chan) wrote,
Juno
juno_chan

Title: this house no longer feels like home
Rating: M
Word Count: 4,027
Fandom: ASOIAF/GoT
Pairing: Ned/Catelyn
Notes: For the asoiafkinkmeme prompt: "'Take no wife...' AU where Ned is allowed to take the black, leading to angsty Ned/Cat."

Angst. Angst. And more angst. (BRB gotta write some happier stuff now!)



He had always told Cat the Starks are made for cold, but it is different at the Wall. It gets under his skin, wraps its icy fingers around his bones, threatens to choke him in his sleep. It settles and expands so that every muscle aches, so that his limp is worsened, and that coupled with the grim knowledge that he will stay there until he dies makes him feel older than his years, old before his time.

He thinks often of his vows, given before the weirwood with its face sitting in judgment, considers the words that he had always found laced with honor and wonders how practical they are, really. With a bowed head he swears to take no wife, to father no children, and he does it for the girls that he vows he does not have, will not claim. They tell him he has no family save brothers now, brothers of the Watch, and he can feel Jon’s eyes lingering on his face full of questions (not now, Ned tells him wearily, the weight of a hovering war on his shoulders even as he lingers a world away, but soon, I promise you. Jon accepts ‘soon’ – they have nothing but time now.). But the family he left behind, the one his brothers in black claim does not exist, is never far from his mind, and for the first time Ned begins to wonder if the vows are all a farce, just another lie to add to the collection.

All is quiet from Winterfell, and he knows any messages would have been intercepted. It takes time for the vows to stick, he is told, and new recruits are isolated from the life they had before. While he wonders and worries in the day, his mind fills in possibilities in the night, and in his sleep he sees Robb struck down at the Neck, Cat burning with the Riverlands, the girls executed on the order of a bastard king. Just tell me if they live, he asks the Lord Commander, because he cannot bear the thought that declaring himself a traitor, that spitting on Robert’s memory, was for naught and his family had perished regardless.

“They live,” he is told, and he wonders if it is true. “They have returned to Winterfell.”

He thinks he will have to content himself with that knowledge, until Lord Mormont calls upon him one evening, after they have returned from a brief ranging. Ned’s leg suits him little for building or stewarding, but he can still sit upon a horse, can still wield a sword, and when they ride out he thinks of Benjen and holds to hope that somehow, his brother lives.

“Lord Tarly claims that he has a dungeon full of scum ready to pledge their life to the Watch,” Mormont says, and he warms his hands over the fire as though it ever truly makes a difference. “I should like to send you to collect them. I will send you with provisions, carts, horses…” Ned furrows his brow – he has been a brother of the Watch for scarcely a year, a period in which a recruit is still seen as too fresh to be allowed from the Wall back to the south.

The Lord Commander raises his eyes and the light thrown from the flames catches in the deep grooves of his face; Ned wonders how long it will be until his own is the same. “It will go better for your family if you are seen to leave on business for the Watch and return. It will show that you are resigned.” He hesitates, and lowers his voice. “You are not the first man to be brought here unjustly, but perhaps the one I know to be truest to his word. The Starks were ever friends to the Watch – and to the Mormonts. Stop in Winterfell. See that your family is well, bid your goodbyes. I know to expect you back with Tarly’s men.”

It is a small thing, it is perhaps an unwise thing, but he takes it anyway.

Winterfell feels nearly tepid when he arrives, compared to the biting cold at the Wall, and he pretends he doesn’t see the way Robb, bearded now as a man grown, flinches when Ned inclines his head and calls him Lord Stark. He could weep to see Bran awake once more, his eyes clear, and to see Rickon grown so much in so little time, staring at him blankly with his hand in Catelyn’s as though he is not quite sure who this mysterious man in black is. The girls rush at him, and he can scarcely decipher what each says as Arya swears vengeance to his stomach and Sansa blubbers apologies against his chest. He holds them to him and murmurs what reassurances he can, and his relief at seeing them home far outweighs regrets as to how he now spends his days.

He kisses Catelyn’s hand, as is the proper greeting, and he can feel her knuckles tremble against his lips for all that she holds her shoulders straight and her head high.

The castle is in good order, and Ned feels a swell of pride so strong it hurts his chest to see what the boy he left has turned into, the man he has become. He is glad enough to see Robb respected, wise for his years, earnest and well-meaning that the discreet stares, the quiet whispers as servants and ladies and smallfolk come to gape at the fallen, former Lord Stark, almost does not disconcert him.

But he takes care to refuse any honor above that of a man of the Night’s Watch, does not join his family at the head table though Robb had wished it. Instead he watches them, Robb seeming so much taller in the spot of honor, Catelyn on his right and Sansa on his left.

They are not my family, he tells himself, and the words sound wrong even in his head. I have no family but my brothers in black. I have no wife. I have no children.

He has always held to the belief that your word should be the most valuable thing you can offer, that you should mean what you say and say only what you mean. But he said the words in the godswood and finds them hard to keep – should he carve his family from his heart itself? Where are the places they reside? He has given up much, and he would do so gladly again to see them all home and safe, but he cannot quite bring himself to give up this last bit – to let them go as though they never existed.

He watches Rickon scamper from the table as soon as he is excused, his direwolf, near as large as he, following at his feet. Ned fights the urge to follow, to remind his youngest of the time before, when they were all together and his own son did not look upon him as a stranger. Perhaps it is better this way, he thinks, that he shall never know any other way. It will certainly not be better for Ned, but from the moment he became a father he learned the need to put his children before himself. (And isn’t that how he came to wear a black cloak, he asks himself.)

“Joffrey did not wish to wed a supposed traitor’s daughter,” Robb says after, thick with disgust. “The council did not think it proper for Sansa to be queen. We will still have a Lannister marriage – Arya will marry Tommen when they both come of age. Until then she shall reside here.” He sighs. “Walder Frey was not pleased to hear of that – he demands I marry as per our agreement within the year to make amends. Arya was hardly pleased, either.” A shadow of doubt passes in Robb’s eyes and Ned is reminded for all that he has grown this year and more past, he is still barely more than a boy. “Do you think I acted wisely? Returning here, accepting their terms?”

Yes, Ned wants to tell him, wants to say how proud he is to see Robb keep his sisters safe and bring them home. He wants to apologize, for not preparing his children to deal with vipers, he wants to remind Robb of all the lessons he had tried to impart upon his heir before leaving for King’s Landing. But the times for that are long gone – Robb is Lord of Winterfell now, and needs to learn to listen to others but keep peace with his own decisions.

And so Ned merely inclines his head. “It was your decision to make.”

--

Catelyn comes to his chambers that night – chambers for a guest, not for the lord, though he knows Robb still sleeps in his childhood room, and he knew she would come just as certainly as he knows he should send her away. She is not my wife, he reminds himself even as he drinks in the sight of her, rakes his eyes greedily along her body, and I have done her enough dishonor for one lifetime.

“Tommen is a boy much sweeter than his brother,” is what he says instead, sitting on the bed, when she puts the candle on the table and looks at him as though she wishes she could do so for the rest of her life.

“Yes,” she says, and her voice shakes with emotion. “Sansa has said as much. And it will be many years before they are of age. Anything could happen in that time. It was most important to bring the girls home, whatever promises we had to make.”

It is like a thousand times before, hundreds of conversations they have had in the privacy of his rooms or hers, and he stands to cross to her, aware of her eyes lingering on his bad leg. The time apart has been as unkind to Cat as it has to him – she is slimmer in a way that worries him, her cheekbones cutting sharp angles across her face, her eyes ringed with shadows of fatigue. He cups her face in his hands, smoothes away the premature lines forming at the corners of her eyes with the pads of his thumbs, as though it were that simple. She closes her eyes, leans into his touch.

“Is it terribly cold?” she asks, and her voice sways. He drops a hand to her shoulder, squeezing gently, feeling the tension coiled there. “Do you have enough to eat...enough wood for the fire…” She breaks off, her eyes dropping to the ground.

“I am well enough,” he lies, unable to bring himself to add to her burden. He cannot tell her of the nights that are bone-aching, the uncertainty when they pass beyond the Wall that any of them will return, no more than he can remind her that in the eyes of man and law, they are no longer wedded, and so she should not call upon him so late at night. “You have done well, all that you could do. I am glad you are here to advise Robb,” he soothes, offering the reassurances he could not give Robb. “But you look ill, Cat.”

Tears well in her eyes, and he feels his resolve crumble away when he leans forward to catch them on his lips, kissing them from her lashes and cheeks, and it only seems to make them fall faster. “I’m so tired,” she admits, and her fingers curl into the front of his black tunic. She pulls herself close, all trembling exhausted limbs, and he thinks that tomorrow he shall continue on and she shall be the strength that Robb and all their children need once more. But tonight the façade falls away – she is not his wife, not anymore, but she needs him to be her husband tonight, and he does not know how to be anything otherwise, despite the words he had spoken, I will take no wife, father no children.

“I know,” he says, and he puts his arms around her when she falls against him, her face fitting in the crook of his neck. Her hair is thick and red and beautiful as ever, and he can catch the sweet scent of it when he presses his cheek to the top of her head. It reminds him of the first time he saw it, saw her, mere days before he stood next to her in a sept and made promises that he had every intent of keeping, only to find them shattering one by one. “I am sorry, Cat,” he whispers. “I never meant to bring this on our family, to bring dishonor to you or danger to our children.”

“It is not your doing,” she says fiercely, her eyes damp but flashing as she raises her face to look at him. “It is the treachery of the Lannisters, of the queen and her brother. You protected our girls as best you could.” She touches his cheek, the heel of her palm dragging along his jawline, her nails scratching against his skin as though grasping for purchase, to hold and to keep him. “I’ve missed you,” she says rawly, and he feels a pang of guilt sharp as the frigid nights at the Wall for the way that she says it – as though he has come home again, as though this is more than a place for him to rest his head before continuing in the morn; as though the war is over, and not merely begun. Briefly he wonders if he made the best choice, returning to Winterfell to bid his goodbyes, or if he is only prolonging the pain, letting the wound fester rather than heal clean. Greedily Catelyn turns her face up and kisses him, and he can taste the salt on her lips even as she opens her mouth to him.

He moans at the familiar sensation, and fists one hand in her hair, clutching the other at her waist. The needy sound she makes at the back of her throat shoots straight down to his cock, and he moves his hand to cup under her bottom, to pull her up against him, thinking at the same time that it is the last thing he should do.

“Cat…” he murmurs against her jaw, a half protest as he is recalled to himself when she reaches for the laces of his breeches.

She exhales angrily, her breath hot on his cheek. “Do not dare speak to me of vows, Ned. I think whatever promises you made before your gods, they will forgive your lying with your wife.”

“You are not my wife anymore.”

He grasps her wrists when she jerks away, face stunned as though he has struck her. “I do not mean it to hurt you,” he says, urgency laced in his words. “But it is the truth of the matter. And I do not wish to make it any more difficult…for either of us. For any of us.” He slides his fingers into her own, squeezing, suddenly struck by the image of his family living in Winterfell, his children growing without him, closing the place where he once resided. Robb would wed and rule, and the others would marry and start their own families perhaps in the far corners of Westeros. And Cat would remain here, he thinks, while he would grow old (or perhaps not) at the Wall. “If you wished to wed again, you have my blessing,” he tells her suddenly. She is still beautiful, still young enough that to ask her to spend the rest of her days alone is a cruelty. Cat is made for love, he thinks, and deserves it; she should not be forced to martyr herself for the rest of her days for his poor decisions.

“Stop,” she tells him, face pained as she pulls her wrists away, goes to sit in the chair by the fire. “I do not wish to speak of this.” She rubs her face wearily, and he can see her ten years from now sitting in much the same fashion, stoic but staggering under the weight of grief, and for not the first time he wishes she were not quite so stubborn. He wonders if it would be easier had their marriage not grown to love, so many years past – wonders, but does not wish it.

He follows her, kneels carefully before her, and reaches for the laces of her boots. He pulls them from her feet, fingers kneading the tender arch through her stockings, and he hears her shakily exhale, feels the tension she holds tight as a drawn bow release slightly. Almost unconsciously, he reaches along her legs to draw her stockings down, letting them droop to her ankles, and traces his fingers along her bare thighs, pushing her skirts up so that the whiteness of her skin is exposed.

“Ned…” she breathes, and it is as much of a plea as a sigh of pleasure, and he kisses the inside of her knee, hooks his thumbs along her smallclothes, nuzzles against her leg.

He nods against her, kissing her thigh now, and she lifts her hips from the chair so that he can work her smallclothes down her legs. “We will not speak of it,” he relents, and he wonders which he means – a possible new marriage for Catelyn, his return to the Wall and the vows he said, the truth of what they are and are not. They are things for the morning, he decides as he draws her skin between his lips, suckling a mark into it, holding her knees to nudge her legs apart. They are things that shall come to them whether they worry of them tonight or not, and he cannot help but wish as strongly as she to forget until the dawn will no longer let them.

She cries out sharply when he slides his tongue along her sex, curling his fingers under her thighs to tug her closer, to the edge of the chair where he can reach her better, drag his mouth across her. Her hand grips his hair almost painfully, and the ache is sweet; but then she is pulling him away, pulling him back to sit on his heels. Ned grunts in surprise, wincing as Catelyn urges him backwards and his leg twinges at the sudden change in position. He puts her hands to her hips to steady her as she slides from the chair and straddles him, kneeling up over him, and he does not stop her as she reaches for his breeches this time. Instead he tugs at the laces at the front of her gown, pulling them free so that he can open her bodice to reveal her breasts.

He pulls at her dress and shift, urging the material over her head even after she sinks down onto him, taking him inside with a throaty moan. She struggles to pull it off before settling her hands on his chest, nails biting in through his tunic and shirt as she rolls her hips. He lets her set the pace of their movement, taking the time to appreciate the sight of her naked over him, to sear it into his mind. He runs his hands along her stomach, up over her breasts to cup them in his palms, rubbing his thumbs over her nipples until they harden to peaks beneath his touch.

Sitting up, he slides his hands to the small of her back and pulls her further onto him so that she gasps and shudders. He takes the time to kiss her neck, her jaw, breathe the smell of the blossom water behind her ear. It could never be enough to sate him for the endless nights alone that lie ahead, but he pretends it can be as he drops his mouth to her collarbone, kisses down to her breast and draws the nipple in his mouth now as she leans back to give him access.

Her movements become more stuttering as she comes closer to her release, and he juts his hips up to drive deeper so that she cries out against his shoulder. The sounds are as much pain as they are pleasure, but she clings to him so tightly and their movements are so easy and familiar that he knows the hurt in her voice is not of a physical sort.

Cat pulls his mouth back up to hers, and her mouth and hands and cunt are all so hot that for a brief moment he forgets the aching cold that has burrowed inside him and remembers how it feels to be warm. She clings to him tightly when she comes, face pressing against his neck, and it only takes a few more thrusts before he joins her and he feels his seed damp on both of them.

After, she unlaces his tunic, pulls at his shirt and breeches and boots much the way he did her, so that she can kiss the scars on his chest, put her hands on his stomach and slide her thigh along his own to enjoy the sensation of skin on skin. He holds her tight against him, and he wonders again about his vows when they move to the bed and make love again, hands grasping as though they are drowning so that the act is far more difficult this time. He thinks of other men at the Wall, with wives and children they left behind, and wonders if any of them were truly able to keep that vow to cut them from their hearts, if they meant the promise that they would not love in order to better serve.

Ned believes in meaning the words you say, but it is a far more difficult thing to expect the heart to take orders from the mind and mouth.

It is not until after Catelyn falls asleep, late into the night as she fights against the exhaustion, that he realizes with a jolt that he should have pulled back before spending, that if he gives her a child it would be a bastard in the eyes of the realm now. It is such a strange, unsettling thought that he can scarcely wrap his mind around it as he watches Catelyn sleep and strokes her hair and back, and dully he reminds himself to stop and ask Maester Luwin to bring her a draught before he leaves. He is certain that the loyal maester will not reveal his knowledge or speak to anyone of the request, and he is equally sure that Catelyn will not take anything he prescribes her to stop the bringing of a babe.

It is in the hands of the Gods, he thinks, and that brings him less comfort than it once did. He knows his Gods are just and play no parts in the foolish wars and sufferings of men, but he cannot help but feel that the Starks have somehow fallen into their disfavor.

He leaves before first light breaks the next morning, carefully disentangling himself from Catelyn, her thigh draped over his good leg, her fingers digging into his shoulder. He knows she will be furious when she awakens to find him gone without waking her to bid a final goodbye, but it is a thing that he cannot bring himself to think upon – he does not trust his own resolve in that matter. It is easier with her sleeping, with his children sleeping, (I have no children, he reminds himself, that lie over and over) when he does not have to look in their eyes and turn his back. He pulls the furs over her – the room is colder than her own – and drops a kiss to her hair, smoothing it back from where it is wild over her face. He thinks perhaps it is better this way, anyway, that perhaps her anger would lend her strength.

He will have to find something else to lend him strength of his own.
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Oh, god, I am legitimately ugly crying right now. This is all so painful and heartbreaking and to hear Ned thinking he has no children and knowing it's a lie, and both he and Cat being in so much pain, not to mention his new panic at fathering a bastard on her...Jesus Christ, break my heart into a thousand pieces.

Don't you want to write a fun, happy sequel where Cat has a baby and the Wall falls and Ned comes home and I can stop sobbing?

Seriously, this is just incredible.
Thank yooooooou!!! Clearly, I hate joy. One of the prompts I got for the got_exchange was an AU where Ned is smarter and doesn't die but is able to be with his family/go home and I struggled to try and start it before choosing another prompt. This one was like "Oh look! Misery! *writes*"
*Bows down to you*
THIS HAS GOT TO BE YOUR BEST AU YET. I'M CRYING MY EYES OUT HERE. THIS IS SO HEARTBREAKING AND BEAUTIFUL. ALL THE NED AND CAT FEELINGS!!!

You just get them, it's like I told you before, you just get them!! And of course Catelyn would never marry again, especially with him alive! MY POOR CAT! And she wouldn't care if she had a child after that night, she would welcome it, even if in the eyes of others it would have been a bastard, because in her eyes it would not be one. It's their child! Born from their love.

And LOL poor Arya having to marry, that's the last thing she wants, but she would have been a BADASS queen for sure!! Just thinking about it almost makes me want it to happen. xD

And THE ENDING WAS ANOTHER KNIFE IN MY HEART, because of course Ned would have to leave without saying goodbye to his family. How could he not? If he had to say goodbye he'd probably wouldn't be able to bear it. HE LOVES THEM, they're his family, and the vows he took forbid him to think of them as such. MY INFINITE CREYS!!!

In conclusion: You're amazing. =)
Thank yoooooou!! Poor Arya, although having to marry Tommen is a far less terrible fate than having to marry Joffrey. And as Cat said, many things could change by the time that Arya and Tommen are of age.

Basically I was alllll about the angst this time around. XD
he does not trust his own resolve in that matter. It is easier with her sleeping, with his children sleeping, (I have no children, he reminds himself, that lie over and over) when he does not have to look in their eyes and turn his back.

I had some life left in me after the sex, but this...this killed me.
Hahahaha, apparently I can't write this scenario when it's happy and hopeful, only when it's all DOOM AND GLOOM. =( So many sads!
OMG. I AM CRYING SO HARD RIGHT NOW. THIS WAS PERFECT.
THANK YOOOOOU!!! TEARS KEEP ME YOUNG. XD
First Meg's Jon/Dacey, and now THIS. I am a gross sobbing mess right now.

Your Ned/Cat are always the most perfect, human, in characterizations I have ever read. Never stop writing them!
SUNDAYS ARE FOR TEARS, DONTCHA KNOW!

Awwww, thank you my dear!!! Blushing!
Poor Cat! and Ned who has to keep reminding (lying to) himself that he has no children. I don't know what's worse Ned being dead or living knowing he can't be with his family ever again.

This was beautiful and heart wrenching. I'm crying :(
I almost included a line in that vein - Ned wondering if things would have been easier for everyone if he had been executed because at least then it would be OVER.

Thank you so much!!
DON'T MIND ME, I'LL JUST BE OVER HERE CRYING FOREVER.

Y U GOTTA BE SO PERFECT ALL THE TIME??!!

Oh my goodness. This just shatters my soul on pretty much every level. It's a truly fascinating AU, and I really like how you start off with Ned considering these Night's Watch vows and, because they're now applied to him, truly understanding how major they are. I kinda forget sometimes that there are men on the Watch who once had wives and children who they now have to forsake and IT'S SO SADDDD!!!

The scene at the Wall was so great- OMG JON. I WANT TO READ A SEQUEL WITH JON AND NED'S EXCELLENT WALL ADVENTURES, COMPLETE WITH AWKWARD "WHO'S MY MOM?" CONVOS. AND LORD MORMONT, LETTING NED GO TO WINTERFELL. That was a wonderfully sweet moment, and I squeed quite a bit.

And then guhhhhhhh, when he gets to Winterfell and sees the kiddddddsssssss..... His pride at how much Robb has grown, tempered with the guilt of having, in a way, forced his boy to grow up and be a lord before his time, was just perfect. AND THEN SANSA AND ARYA HUG HIM AND CRY AND I CRY TOOOO. (Also, ha HA ARYA/TOMMEN!! Very nice touch.) And of course, Ned thinking that Rickon might be better off not remembering him just breaks my heart (I'm having so many Rickon feels lately- I don't even know what to do with them all).

When the Ned/Cat scene began, I was SO nervous that Ned would jump up on his honorable high horse and be all " NOOOO CAT WE CAN'T BECAUSE VOWS". And I'm THRILLED that he didn't, especially because you make it so brilliantly clear that he's truly torn between the vow he made to the Watch and the vows he made to Cat and to his future family when they were married.

UNF AND THE SEX WAS SO BEAUTIFUL AND EMOTIONAL AND FULL OF EVERYTHING!!!!! And Cat is SO perfect in this story- she's a pillar of strength, but she's also very open about how much she misses Ned and her continued love for him (LOVE how she shuts down the remarriage convo right away!).

Ohhhhhh and Ned leaving without saying goodbye was such a quietly poignant, well-framed moment. Really, this whole fic is beautifully crafted. Not that I expect anything less of you. ;)

SIMPLY STUNNING!!!
THANK YOU MY LOVEEEEE!!! I always thought the 'take no wife, father no children' thing was interesting considering the fact that so many of the people who come to the Wall are criminals - and some who had 'crimes' in the way of Pip and Grenn. And when the notion in the book was brought up of sending Ned to the Wall, it was just so interesting to me - how do you make those vows when you've already DONE those things? And before, I don't think Ned would have considered it TOO deeply, and now he doesn't really have a choice.

I also always wondered if Ned did indeed plan on telling Jon the truth about his mother when he said 'yeah, next time, TOTES.' AWKWARD CONVERSATION IS AWKWARD.

I BLAME YOU FOR ARYA/TOMMEN OKAY????? It seemed like a reasonable way to get the girls back in WInterfell because if they were still trapped in King's Landing I DON'T KNOW IF I COULD HANDLE ALL THE ANGST. Even if poor Ned is on his own, at least the rest of the family is together! And an Arya/Tommen marriage is just such a hypothetical at this point since they're both so young, and Tommen is just SUCH a better option than Joffrey that it seemed reasonable as an agreement. ALSO I CANNOT EVEN WITH ALL MY BB RICKON FEELS. I HAVE SO MANY. HE WAS THREE!!!! THREE!!! At least here he has one parent and his siblings! =(

I debated about Ned being like BECAUSE VOWS AND HONOR but figured he is still only human, and it's hard (and bitter) enough to have to leave his wife and children again without throwing in 'oh, also you guys can't do the deed because VOWS.' Even Ned had a breaking point. And ugh Cat would have shot that down as fast as she did the remarriage idea, "ARE YOU SERIOUS? ARE YOU FOR SERIOUS RIGHT NOW."

Thank you so muchhhhhhh YOU ARE WONDERFUL! MUAH!
I am quite dead, and you killed me. Seriously, this was brillant! Can I trouble you for more? Perhaps from Cat's POV? Yes, yes, please!!
Thank you so much! Making no definite promises or promises for when, but I might play in this sandbox again - Ned-going-to-the-Wall is one of my favorite AU scenarios. (The angst!! The NED STILL BEING ALIVE!!!)
I'm in floods of tears right now. And I usually turn my nose up at anything related to Catelyn--completely irrationally, I will freely admit. But this was stunning and made me feel so much for her; for Ned, for the whole bloody lot of them. Damn you. *grabs huge jar of Nutella to soothe feelings*
Le gasp! Catelyn is my favorite, hahaha. I'm glad you were able to enjoy (or be sad!) regardless. XD Thanks!!
This is just perfect, and a story I've wished to read since getting into the fandom. Ugh, fantastic and heartbreaking.
Thank you so much!! It's something that's churned in my mind for awhile.
YOU WROTE NED/CAT IN A NED GOES TO THE WALL AU!!!!! ***FLAILS***

This scenario is so interesting, and you explore it so well through Ned's POV in this fic. The way Ned thinks about the incredible cold, loneliness, and endlessness of serving at the Wall paints a clear picture of the misery of that life. Most of all, I love Ned's contemplation of the vows he had to take to join the Night's Watch and the impossibility of reconciling them with the vows he already made to his wife. How can he vow to take no wife and have no children? How can he deny the family he already has and loves? It's such a thought-provoking conundrum for the older men who are forced to take the Black.

Lord Commander Mormont offering Ned the chance to say good-bye to his family feels very canon. Ned's reactions at seeing his children are perfectly poignant. Robb is Lord Stark now! Bran is awake! Rickon doesn't really know him (all my sad!bb!Rickon feelz)! Sansa and Arya with their clinging hugs (and Arya/Tommen, XD)! Ned and Robb interaction is a gap in canon so I love to read it. Ned's pride and determination to let Robb make decisions is great. Ned believing that it's better for Rickon not to remember because parents want the best for their children--this is the first moment that really killed me.

Speaking of which, Ned and Cat!!! I have done her enough dishonor for one lifetime. Perfect!

I love Ned's observation that their conversation is so normal and familiar even as so much has changed courtesy of his taking the Black. Their mutual concern over each other's welfare is so canon, much like Ned kissing away Cat's tears! I love that Cat feels able to break down with Ned when he knows she will resume her role as a pillar of strength for the family tomorrow. She needs him to be her husband tonight, and he does not know how to be anything otherwise. Killing me again!

Cat's hair reminding him of their first meeting! Cat's fierce defense of Ned's protecting their daughters! Ned wondering if visiting only makes it harder to say good-bye! Cat's reaction to Ned telling her she's not his wife anymore is spot on, and Ned telling her she can marry again because Cat is made for love. All my creyz!

Their lovemaking is urgent, intimate, and perfect. I love Ned trying to memorize her for future lonely nights and his feeling that he might finally be warm again after the merciless cold of the Wall. Ned's sudden realization that any child they might have conceived would technically be a bastard! Still, he knows that Cat would want that baby, and some part of him wants that baby, too. A sequel to this fic with Ned, Cat, and a bb!Stark would be much appreciated if/when you feel like returning to this universe, XD!

Although I thought you had killed me a few times earlier in this fic, I was not totally *dead* until the ending. He left without saying good-bye while Cat was asleep!?! She will be furious, and he hopes her anger will give her strength!?! How can you be so perfect and so soul-crushing?!! That is an excellent, gut-punching ending that I didn't see coming!

THIS FIC IS SOOOOO GOOOOOD, BB!! I HOPE YOU ARE WORKING ON SOME HAPPIER THINGS TO REPAIR MY CRUSHED HEART, XD!!!
Thank yoooooou!!! Hahaha, you know I have trouble making a 'Ned lives!' scenario NOT chock full of angsty terribleness! (I guess because our poor dumb Ned, I have such a hard time imagining him making better choices where he doesn't end up branded a traitor in SOME sense. =( ) I've mentioned to you before my ponderings about how those who ALREADY have wives and ALREADY have children take the vow of the Night's Watch too. (I mean, even look at Mormont himself! JORAH!)

UGH I HAVE SO MANY BB!RICKON FEELZ. (HE WAS THREE!!!! THREE!!!!!) At least in this scenario he has his siblings and his mother! =( And I do think the idea of Arya and Tommen could be sweet! (Although I'm super duper attached to the idea of Margaery being a lesbian, if she ends up being straight I hope it's like...fifteen years down the line, when Tommen is in his twenties, she looks at him and is like WAIT WAIT WHEN DID YOU TURN INTO A TOTALLY HOT JAIME-LANNISTER-LOOK-ALIKE?) And obviously its better than ANYONE and Joffrey, and I think they would accept it at least at face value since both Arya and Tommen are still so young, and anything can change before a marriage actually takes place.

Um, Ned kissing away her tears when he tells her he wants to take Bran to King's Landing is one of those super adorable things that I only caught on reread and I was like OH GOD MY HEART since by then, well, WE KNOW WHAT HAPPENS. =( And you know that Cat would hold it together for the kids, but I was of course reminded of her line in ACoK where she wishes that she could be weak, and could weep and be comforted, if only for a little while. So of course this is her opportunity, even knowing as she does that tomorrow she will have to pull it together. And she will - of course she will, she's a fierce Tully queen!

You know I would somehow turn a bb!Stark into an angst-fest, too. (Because I think the kids would be smart enought to figure it out, at least Bran and up, and Rickon would be kind of clueless, but some of the Stark bannermen find out that she's now unmarried and suddenly pregnant? And she can't defend herself against snide comments because that would be admitting that Ned broke his vows? (And Robb especially gets super angry when he hears nasty things said about his mother.)) YOU KNOW MEEEEE! XD

Of course Ned leaves without saying goodbye - how can you actually say the words "welp, goodbye, probably forever." =(

THANK YOU MY DEEEEEAR!!!! I am sorry that I crushed your soul!
Oh, this was so beautifully bittersweet. It's a better ending than they got in canon, but still, the loss that permeates this story, the love Ned has for his family, knowing he had to sacrifice being with them to save them doing nothing to alleviate his longing for them and Cat coming to him for that one last night, him telling her to remarry because he wants her to be happy (not happening, Ned)...just beautifully done.
Thank you! It's a bit of a better ending because at least there's hope that SOMETHING could change in the future, but it also makes it more of a festering wound. =( And yeah, a remarriage for Cat was never in the cards. I remember someone who was show-watching only pondered after season one if that would happen or if she would get a 'new love interest' and it's like "UH NO THE OPPOSITE OF THOSE THINGS. =( "

Thanks again!
I just got home from vacation and decided to check the kinkmeme to see if anything good had been posted while I was gone and then I settled in to read this fic.

And now I just want to crawl back into bed and cry and compose sequels to this fic in my head where Ned is allowed to come back home and Winterfell is filled with rainbows and puppies.

IT HURTS SO MUCH. Why must Ned and Cat be filled with such heart break and tragedy? :(
LOOK WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU GO ON VACATION. BAD, BAD THINGS HAPPEN TO NED AND CAT! THAT'LL TEACH YOU TO GO AWAY!

You know how it goes in ASOIAF - no one can be happy or be with the one they love, EVER. (That said, I'll probably try and write something happier next because this one was, indeed, a downer. XD)
You're killing me. Well, I prompted this, so I probably deserved to get my heart broken. :)

Argh, I can't even decide if it's a happier or an even sadder ending. There's so much brilliantly understated tragedy in this... the cold, the vow that feels empty, 'you have my blessing', Rickon not remembering, calling Robb Lord Stark. And the title. Ouch. The sex is beautiful and sad and full of everything. For a moment I thought, hey, what if she's pregnant? And then Ned thinks the same, and it kills me. Damned tragic Starks. It's true, you just get them.

Sorry for the late replay. I just got back from a vacation, it's raining, and then this. *crying* Anyway, THANK YOU SO MUCH for writing this, you're amazing.
Hahahaha, that's right, it's YOOOOOOOUR angsty prompt, you had to be expecting ALLLLLL THE SADSSSSS. XD

I can't decide either - it's different, in some ways easier and in some ways harder for everyone. I mean, the rest of the family is together at least, and they'll know that Ned is ALIVE, but there's a sort of lack of finality that makes it even harder for everyone to move on with their lives. The title comes from 'So Cold' by Ben Cocks which is basically my Anthem for My Tragic Stark BBs.

Thanks!! I'm so glad you liked!!! =D
User vaznetti referenced to your post from more ASOIAF recs saying: [...] then jumped up and down on it a lot. It's really, really good. this house no longer feels like home [...]

angary

November 5 2012, 08:14:51 UTC 4 years ago Edited:  November 5 2012, 08:18:22 UTC

Oh, this is so heartbreaking and beautifully written! I love the build-up in this, how you give glimpses into Ned being at the Wall - LOL at Ned going "soon" to Jon. Oh, Ned - and how his kids react to seeing him again. I think the biggest gut punch was Rickon's reaction, as though Ned is a stranger. Just, it's so painful, but probably how a scenario like this would go.

The Ned/Cat is also carried out with perfection. I love that Ned doesn't say things like, "I love you/miss you/etc." to her, but instead talks about Tommen first - hee, Arya/Tommen! She'd be pissed, but at least that'd be a better match than Sansa/Joffrey, by far. And I love how Cat is worried about Ned, how he lies to make her feel better, even though she probably knows the Wall sucks. I think it's very true to Cat to immediately shut down the idea of re-marrying.

The sex is such a great mixture of passion and sorrow, and ugh, Ned leaving without saying goodbye... He would so do that, to prevent the agony of them having to actually say it to each other. I love that he knows Cat will be angry at him, but he thinks she'll probably be stronger for it. You do such an awesome job of getting into both Ned and Cat's heads, in their POVs and the way they interact.

And now I've said 'love' way too many times, whoops. Fantastic fic, fantastic AU!
Thank you so much! 'Ned is sent to the Wall' is one of my favorite AU-scenarios, and yet I still think there would be plenty of sadness ahead for our Stark bbs if that had been the case! And I'm so glad you thought the Ned/Cat worked well - Ned is physically affectionate person in the books, but not so much with the verbalization of his feelings.

So glad you enjoyed!! Thanks for a fabulous comment and thanks for bidding in the Hurricane Sandy auction! ;-)