Gendry nearly retches as the final Lannister soldier collapses to his knees, gurgling as he clutches the bloody gash on his neck. He’s seen all sorts of violent behaviours in King’s Landing, but there’s just something a lot more gruesome when the murderer is a young girl.
“Where did you learn that?” he mutters weakly, and Arya spares him a glance.
“I’m a Stark,” she replies curtly by way of answer and carefully sheathes her beloved Needle. “I don’t have time to wait around and mourn Lannister bastards, so hurry up if you’re still planning to come along.”
He stumbles after her, half thinking Hot Pie was right to ditch their little party out of fear after Arya viciously shoved Needle into the gut of a Lannister soldier who couldn’t have been that much older than Gendry himself. Gendry doesn’t know what she’d do if he attempted to leave now. She’d probably acquaint his throat with Needle’s blade before he had time to turn.
“We can’t just keep leaving a trail of dead Lannisters behind us,” he protests weakly. “They’ll track you down in no time.
Arya’s eyes glimmer. “Good. Let them.”
They end up breaking into a stable later on that night. It’s not the farm of a wealthy man, Gendry thinks to himself. The chicken coop is ready to collapse and the crop field is tiny and unyielding. He feels bad about stealing the single horse that calls the derelict stable home but forces himself to swallow his guilt as Arya coaxes him out of the stable - she’s a lot nicer to animals than she is to people, he thinks - and uses Gendry to hoist herself onto the horse’s back. He lifts himself up after and is uncomfortably aware of his arms against her lithe body, the feeling of her back arched against his chest, her windswept hair blowing in his face as they gallop north.
He wonders what the lurch in his stomach means.
Theon avoids the sight of his father as the Stark men drag him away, bloodied up and barely breathing. It’s not my fault, he wants to shout. I couldn’t betray him for you, you don’t know what he’s like, you don’t know what consequences I would have suffered had I betrayed him.
In his tent that night, he can’t sleep. The wind is loud and unrelenting, and he’s still up when a familiar figure lies down behind him at a time that’s well past midnight.
“You did good,” Robb breathes against his neck, his breath hot. Like a wolf’s, whispers a sly voice in Theon’s mind. “You were loyal to me.” He bites down on the skin of Theon’s neck, not quite enough to draw blood but enough to hurt. Theon whimpers.
The Young Wolf, they call him. He’s more wolf than man, Theon reckons, all the Starks are. Vicious and cruel and territorial and ready to bite.
And you love him anyway, that sly voice whispers. He stretches back to accommodate Robb’s wandering hands, lets his King have his way with him as he so wishes.
He wants this, wants it more than anything in this world, he reminds himself as Robb lets him finish.
He doesn’t want to entertain the thought of what might happen if there ever comes a night when he doesn’t want this.
Margaery is shocked by Sansa Stark. She expected the captive Stark to be a naive child, a girl who could be charmed and manipulated and used for Margaery’s own gain. The young woman she encounters is none of those things. She may have the auburn hair of the Tullys, but she’s a Stark through and through. A wolf.
Margaery forgets any kind of fancies she may have previously had to entertain either of the Baratheon brothers and instead focuses her time and efforts on Sansa. Befriending her, even if it is the kind of friendship where she has to constantly be on edge.
She hears from the cooks that the Wolf Girl likes lemon cakes and half an hour before she’s arranged to meet Sansa, she orders a trayful of them to be delivered to her in the gardens where her Grandmother eyes them distastefully.
“I don’t think the King would be too fond if he knew you were trying to court the Stark girl,” Grandmother snaps drily, and Margaery almost laughs.
“I’m not trying to court her,” she answers, though in a way she almost is. She’s never has had any time for men, not in the way Loras does. Her affections have also veered towards the fairer sex, and Sansa is the fairest of them all.
When Sansa meets her in the gardens, she smiles at the sight of the lemon cakes and for a second Margaery’s heart flutters and she forgets that she’s sitting before a Stark.
From that moment on, they’re friends. Just friends, until the day Sansa kisses her in the rose gardens and Margaery’s stomach drops as she leans in for more. This isn’t anything like the kisses she’s shared with her maidens. This is stronger, more passionate, more forceful. More animalistic. Margaery almost feels like she’s being devoured.
Weeks of this blur together until Margaery is second guessing everything she thought she knew about herself. For once in her life she isn’t in control, isn’t the one pulling the strings of other people. Her wedding day comes and her head is a blur, thoughts consumed by Sansa, and Sansa alone.
Sansa looks almost bored when Margaery’s new husband gurgles and clutches at his throat, his skin turning purple. Margaery catches Sansa’s eye momentarily and wonders - was this her? Her thoughts are interrupted by a harsh shove and blood curdling scream as the Queen Regent pushes Margaery to the side to reach her beloved son. Margaery stumbles, but nobody pays her any attention, all the wedding guests staring at the gruesome show unfolding before them.
She feels a familiar hand steady her and gasps as she looks into steady blue eyes. “Follow me,” Sansa orders and Margaery feels like she has no choice but to obey. It’s almost comical, how nobody pays them any heed, the prized Stark girl hostage and the Queen of the Seven Kingdoms, as they duck through the hedges, through a maze of flowers and bushes until they reach the waters where a docked boat awaits them. She almost does a double take when she sees the man seated in it, Sandor Clegane, not exactly a man who Margaery would have chosen for this sort of expedition. Sansa nods at him in a manner that's almost friendly and gestures at Margaery to get aboard.
Margaery’s never been great with water and opts to close her eyes and stay silent while Sandor rows for what seems like hours, conversing in a low tone with Sansa. When they finally dock, night has fallen and Margaery, for the first time since she was a little girl, feels scared.
Sansa throws her a soft bag. “Get changed,” she says. She’s already changed herself, into a practical pair of trousers and boots. Margaery temporarily feels embarrassed changing in front of the Hound then decides this is no time for modesty. She does feel a sense of relief to take off the wedding dress. It feels like a lifetime ago that she got married.
Sansa kisses Sandor on his burnt cheek as they exit the boat. “You’re sure you won’t come with us?” she says.
“No,” Sandor responds, gruff but surprisingly tender. “Not just yet, Little Bird. I have unfinished business in that shitfest of a city.”
Sansa nods understandably and kneels down before him taking his larger hand in her own. “When you’ve killed that brother of yours,” she says, “leave King’s Landing as quick as your horse will carry you. Come North, I promise you’ll be taken care off.” She pauses. “I just don’t want you in that city when my brother uses a King's vengeance and burns it to the ground.”
Sandor kisses her on the forehead, nods at Margaery and begins to row. Just like that he’s gone, swallowed by the darkness of the night sky.
“Here,” Sansa says casually and hands Margaery an envelope from her pocket. “This is for you.”
Margaery accepts it weakly and just about manages to hold back tears, as she uses the glow of the moon to read her Grandmother’s words, telling her that she’s taking her son and grandson out of King’s Landing and not to worry for them. Warning her to stick by Sansa’s side, no matter what happens.
“Your grandmother warmed up to me in the end,” Sansa says quietly as they trek on. “I think plotting to kill the King brought us closer together.”
Margaery nods wearily. Of course. Who else?
They walk in silence for some minutes before Margaery feels brave enough to breach the silence. “Sansa,” she says tentatively. “You spoke of your brother burning King’s Landing to the ground. I - which one? Which brother?”
“My brother Robb,” Sansa responds, eyes narrowed. “The King in the North.”
Margaery feels faint. “I thought he was - that the wedding - that - “
Sansa cuts her off. “My brother was slain,” she agrees. “At the wedding of our own uncle. And he will take his vengeance with no mercy.”
Margaery doesn’t know how a dead man can exact revenge but she feels too tired to argue, so she just nods and continues walking beside Sansa, in a direction she can only assume is North.