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Hot Blooded and Wolf Wild

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It was on the banks of the Red Fork that Lyanna Stark kissed Catelyn Tully.

Stunned, Cat let the kiss linger for a moment before pulling away.

"Well," said Lyanna with laughter in her voice, "I had to make sure my favourite brother wasn't marrying a wet fish, didn't I?"

Lyanna pecked Cat quickly on the lips, took her hand and tugged her along the riverbank.

*

It was the raucous laughter and clatter of hooves that had brought Cat down to Riverrun's yard where she discovered that her betrothed had brought his younger sister to visit.

Her first glimpse of Lyanna Stark was of a girl carelessly windswept leaping off a horse without waiting to be helped.

*

Cat helped Lyanna brush the snarls out of her hair in preparation for supper. She watched the Stark girl's reflection as she talked of her betrothed.

"I have heard he is very handsome," said Cat.

"He is," agreed Lyanna, "handsome, and generous, and good-humoured." Her mouth twisted in distaste as she listed Robert Baratheon's virtues.

"You do not like him?"

"I like Robert very much, and if I wanted someone to drink wine and race horses with he'd be my first choice, but as a husband..."

"As a husband?" Cat prompted.

"He is not made to keep to one woman's bed," said Lyanna. "He is like Brandon in this."

Cat was not so naïve about the weaknesses of men, she knew the best many wives could hope for was a husband who kept his mistresses elsewhere and didn't bring his bastards home. Still, she had hoped...

Lyanna's hair was not as tidy as it could be, but Cat laid the brush aside and turned away.

*

Their visit turned from days into weeks.

Lyanna liked Riverrun and its surrounding lands very much. She walked for miles along the banks of the Tumblestone and Red Fork, sometimes alone, sometimes with Cat.

Oftentimes Lyanna rushed ahead, occasionally doubling back to tug Cat along by the hand.

Once, when she'd left Cat behind, she ended up in the Red Fork because she didn't know of the hidden spot where the river cut into the land. It was the same spot where Lysa had fallen in years before and cried over her ruined dress and shoes. Lyanna Stark stood knee-deep in the river and laughed and laughed, and when Cat went to help her out, Lyanna tried to tug her into the water. But between Petyr and Edmure Cat knew that trick and was braced for it, which just made Lyanna laugh harder.

Sometimes they lay together on the riverbanks and Lyanna told stories of Winterfell, of the people within its walls and the blue roses that grew in its gardens. Brandon had talked of the castle, of course, but in Lyanna's words Winterfell sounded not just impressive but like a home.

And occasionally, with the sun on their faces and the sounds of the river in the background, Lyanna would pull Cat against her and kiss her.

*

Cat told herself that it wasn't improper. They would be family when she wed Brandon, and kissing games between ladies were not unheard of.

As though anything involving Lyanna Stark could be proper. The wolf girl rode like a man and carried a dagger on her hip that would have been a sword had her father allowed it; she cloaked herself in impropriety.

*

Brandon knew and didn't care.

"Are my sister's kisses that much sweeter than mine, dear Cat?" he said when she had pushed him away, deaf to his pleas that they were to be wed soon anyway.

Cat looked at him, alarmed, but Brandon laughed his good-natured laugh and took her in his arms again.

In truth, Lyanna's kisses were sweeter, but Brandon's made her skin feel as though it was aflame and her insides squirm pleasantly.

*

Brandon's chest was crisscrossed with scars. Some of them came with elaborate backstories, some with only a diffident shrug and a comment of, angry husband, angry father.

Lyanna had a small scar on her shoulder. She wore her gowns thoughtlessly, with little care as to whether she got mud on her skirts or trod on the hem, and sometimes they slipped off her shoulder, revealing the scar.

"How did you get this?" Cat asked, tracing the raised flesh with her fingertips.

"I fell from my horse."

"I thought you never fell?" Cat teased. She would have thought Lyanna's boasting of her horsewomanship baseless if she hadn't seen her riding Uncle Brynden's battle trained courser as though it were Edmure's pony.

"I was trying to teach myself to ride at rings." Lyanna leaned forward and kissed the tip of Cat's nose, turning her open mouthed astonishment into laughter. "After that I made Brandon teach me in secret."

*

Later, Cat asked Brandon about teaching his sister to joust.

"Truthfully, she's probably a better lance than all the Stark men. Although," he added with a wolfish grin, "I am the best swordsman in the family."

*

Cat looked forward to the day when she wouldn't have to send Brandon away when his kisses became too forceful, she thought of accompanying him to Winterfell and mothering a litter of wolf cubs.

She wondered if she and Brandon would make a daughter like Lyanna; hot blooded and wolf wild.

*

"Who would you choose," Cat asked Lyanna, "if not Robert Baratheon, then who?"

It was not a question she would have thought to ask of anyone else, it was not one she had even asked of herself. She was pleased with her betrothal to Brandon Stark, but it would not have mattered if she wasn't, she would do her duty.

"Robert loves an idea of me," Lyanna replied, "I would have someone who loved the real me, who I would be enough for, who I would be everything to. That sounds nice, doesn't it?"

It sounds selfish, Cat thought but didn't say.

*

Both Brandon and Lyanna tried to convince Cat to accompany them to the tourney at Harrenhal.

"Everybody will be there," Lyanna said.

"Including your betrothed, I understand."

Lyanna shrugged the mention of Robert off like it was nothing. "My other brothers will be there," she said, "you should meet them as they are to be your brothers too."

Brandon and Lyanna made Cat's head spin and her stomach churn-- "I honestly don't think I can take any more Starks."

"Nonsense. Benjen's a pup still, and Ned. Oh, you'll love Ned."

*

Cat didn't go to Harrenhal. Edmure took ill with a fever, Lysa shut herself up in her chamber in the wake of Petyr's banishment, and her father cloistered himself in his solar.

For the first time Cat felt a shadow of the thing that drove Lyanna to leap fearlessly onto warhorses and kiss her brother's betrothed at the thought of marrying Robert Baratheon.

How could she marry Brandon and move to Winterfell when she had responsibilities here?

Brother and sister both bid her farewell with kisses and sweet words. It was the last time she saw Lyanna and almost the last time she saw Brandon.

*

The river was flooded when Cat received the news from the war, her tears added to the torrent.

She didn't understand how the two most alive people she had ever known could be dead.

*

The war ended and Robert Baratheon was king, and one does not tell a king that she shrugged you off as though you were nothing.

Cat married Ned Stark, whose kisses started off sweet like Lyanna's and later could heat her flesh as much as Brandon's ever had.

Together they made five children who were their mother's greatest joy and greatest worry. Of course, she worried about the boys - sons were brought into the world to try their mothers - Robb was already training at swords, Bran climbed like a squirrel, and Rickon was still young enough that even slight illnesses were a worry.

But her girls-- It was obvious with Arya, everyone who remembered Ned's sister commented on how it was like seeing Lyanna Stark come again, but Cat saw Lyanna in Sansa too, in her romanticism and love of beauty and nature.

It was the one and only time that Cat prayed to Ned's Gods; she took a bunch of winter roses to the heart tree and prayed: Let my girls be, you took Lyanna, let my girls live in peace.