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To Feel The Power Of Your Hands On Me

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If I was born as a blackthorn tree,
I'd wanna be felt by you, held by you, feel the power of your hands on me...

~~~

She shoved him so hard for such a tiny creature. Though, Arya Stark was clearly nothing like the scrawny, scrappy, pint-sized 'Arry' that he had known all those years ago.

In their limited interactions behind the walls of Winterfell Gendry gathered that Arya was bits and pieces of that disguised young girl from their past. But he assumed on her journey home, back to her real family, that she had grown into someone new. Someone wild yet tame, someone terrifying and beautiful, someone powerful, unshakable and lethal.

Both times Arya had visited him in his, rather - her family's - forage, her new collected demeanour whipped through him like the bitter wind beyond The Wall, sending pinpricks down his spine at her mere proximity.

He knew that he was in awe of her, knew he did little to hide the fact, knew he openly stared, knew that all his gallantry was juvenile, at best. But the lighthearted courage he had felt in the forage was replaced this night, with a heavy, anxious feeling settling deep in his guts.

Her swift movement easily shifted him off balance and he toppled down to the pile of grain stores behind himself. He landed with a thud, an action that the old Gendry would have outright laughed at, while out on the road with her, a near lifetime ago.

Now, however, he could bring his mind to think of nothing more than how badly he wanted her... how badly he needed her.

This turn of events was nothing he had ever expected. Honest to the Gods, he indeed came looking for his old friend, came seeking her out in these, most certainly his, final hours. He had used the spring-fed bathhouses, which were far nicer than the likes of his stature were allowed to frequent in King's Landing and dressed himself in the only fine clothes he had, travelling attire, truly, threads that never saw the flame, soot or hammer of the smithy, none less.

But this was beyond his wildest dreams.

With Arya's dragon-glass staff in hand, Gendry had wandered his way through Winterfell, bypassing groups of folks gathering, resting and reconnecting before The Long Night. He checked all her usual haunts, though her comings and goings within the castle walls were sleek and stealth and somewhat lost on him.

Soon, as he left the noise of activity in his wake, he heard the quiet draw and release of a skilled archer, coming from behind a large cellar door. Drawn to the noise he quietly let himself inside, as to not startle the armed woman he came to witness. Sulking in the shadows he gaped at her a moment as she made each and every bulls-eye with the same deadly accuracy she had while throwing those dragon-glass knives in his forge.

After making himself known they spoke briefly, pride swelling in his chest as she spun and admired his craftsmanship. Without thought, his confession of taking the long road to Winterfell spilled from him, confessions of blood magic and lineage following soon thereafter. Arya, rather, regarded him with great fascinate, exuding an unmatched confidence that she seemed to possess wholly now.

Skillfully she then intreated him fiercely, propositioned him easily, and claimed him effortlessly.

With a slight protest of her name tumbling past his lips they kissed, melding into one another with an earth shifting and all-consuming need. She was prurient and inexperienced and he wanted nothing more than every spare inch of her. She made quick work of his clothes, discarding his cloak and belts before he came to his senses and unfastened her baldric as well. He lost his jerkin next, their hands overlapping as she peeled hers off too, dropping it carelessly to the floor. She then helped yank his threadbare tunic up and over his head, lips crashing back together with a whirlwind urgently, as though the inches between them were leagues.

Now, with his eyes travelling over a woman fully grown, soft and scarred and bare-chested before him he wondered, as her own tunic fell to the dirt-packed ground, how she was able to collect all those gnarled scars and yet retain her maidenhood.

Because she's clearly a bloody warrior, you idiot...

All the rumours must come from some scrap of truth.

Whispered word spread throughout the castle courtyard regarding the Starks, specifically the Stark sisters. Stories building of the stone cold beauty and the ruthless quiet assassin. He'd heard of a public execution, commanded by Lady Sansa, of a treasonous lord, and that the girl before him this night served and carried out the fatal and final blow. He'd heard that Arya had left The Hound, an unfortunate and miserable prick Gendry had come to know, bleeding to death in The Eyrie, after Sandor was defeated by the hands of the ever impressive Brienne of Tarth. He'd heard she had been around the world, heard that she sailed The Narrow Sea along with The Shivering Sea, heard she trained in Braavos, heard she killed a great hall of people at The Twins, heard she rode on the back of her direwolf and never cried, or laughed, or ate, or slept.

Mind you, word had also gone round that The Red Woman brought Jon Snow back from death and that Bran Stark could warg into animals and acquired psychic visions.

So what was sensationalized and what was real remained irrelevant to him in this moment.

The girl was flesh and blood, she was woman and present and completely Arya, her wit and face familiar. She was as honest as he always remembered, while still stubborn and tenacious. He watched her creamy marred skin twist and move when she tossed her tunic, her fingers starting for her britches, the flame of guilt reigniting in his heart for ever choosing to leave her.

"I'm not the red woman. Take your own bloody pants off." Came her soft and stern command, one that left little room for any sort of argument.

But, her words froze him in his place a moment, left him paralyzed as an unexpected flood of relief crept over him, before her own disrobing prompted him to do the very same. His fingers yanked at the laces of the only clean pair of britches he owned, eyes darting back to her, memorized by the quick rise and fall of her pert breasts and the somewhat nervous fumble in her fingers. Somehow, he was able to shimmy out of his trousers, kicking them off along with his boots at his ankles.

Together, bare as their name days, they held each other's gaze in a reverent moment; a silent question. With an arch of her eyebrow and a quick flick of her hair off her shoulder, she was stalking over him, a huntress; lean, graceful and determined.

Gendry was sure he was gawking, possibly even drooling, but this was Arya, -his- long lost Arry, right in front of him, stripped down and in the flesh. She looked like every fevered dream he ever allowed himself to have of her, but, this night she was real and on top of him; this night she was tangible and wanted him in return.

With her knees flaked at his hips, she bent forward to kiss him hungrily. He could not yet take his eyes off her, terrified that if he did he'd slip into unconscious or death, convinced the battle had already been fought and lost and he was among the slain.

Her hands bracketed his head and held her steady as her cool skin connected to the warmth of his chest. Her kissed deepened when he dropped both hands to the tops of her thighs, his path migrating slowly up her body to settle at the base of her ribs and around the nape of her neck. She sat slightly back on his lap, hips canting towards him as the brush of her mound against his ridged length caused him to groan loudly and without regard to their surroundings. With lips still coaxing and connected she slipped between their bodies and wrapped her small deft hand around his thick cock.

"Arya..." He warned. Of what, his brain could not yet begin to follow.

She grinned in return, sliding her grip up and down him, pumping roughly, eager and delightfully callow. He made the inauspicious decision to glance down at her hand bound around him, taking in how full, and solid, and long he looked in her delicate grip. Though he was above the average, right now, he felt as though he were among the gods; valiant, powerful, and unswerving.

"Gods." Gendry mumbled with his head thrown back, "Slow down." He growled.

Her brow furrowed, "Slow down? They could sound the horns at any moment."

"Just...trust me, will ya?"

"We haven't much time." She said, her voice soft as she released him gently.

He tilted to her, kissing her wildly before he replied, "You're not ready."

She huffed her annoyance, "I am."

"You're not." Gendry implored again, his hands smoothing down her back to grab the modest globes of her ass, "Trust me." He repeated.

"Don't most people just get on with it?" She asked, clearly impatient.

"Some do. But we are not most people."

You, are not most people.

"I can find someone else if you're not up to the task." She said lightly, with a teasing glint to her voice before pressing her lips to his again, enticing him with her tongue.

He groaned and returned her fevered kiss, withered and lost within how quickly her inexperience faded and this new hungry prowess took its place.

"I'm up to it." He replied firmly.

She pulled away to smirk down at him, eyebrow cocked in question, "I could ask Podrick, perhaps? I've heard he is quite something with the ladies."

Gendry felt a wave of sickly hot jealousy crash over him, "You don't want Pod." He bit back lowly.

Another smirk played at her lips, "I don't, do I?"

He watched his stalwart hands map over the tender curves of her hips and waist, the slope of which stayed hidden under winter's thick layers or her lightweight armour. His hands cupped both her breasts then, a perfect handful each, callused, work-worn palms rubbing against her taut peaks.

"Aye, you don't."

Arya's head fell slack, her moan echoing off the storeroom walls, "And why not?"

"Cause, you want me, Arya Stark, Lady of Winterfell." He replied with his mouth against the column of her throat, her pulse thrumming below the soft kiss of his lips, his thumbs grazing over dusty rose nipples.

"Don't call me that." She whispered, covering his hands with her own, encouraging him, fueling him, guiding him lower.

"As you wish, milady."

She moaned then as Gendry slid his hand down to her sex. He cupped her roughly, fingers gliding softly through her damp folds. He recalled overhearing the giant-ginger Tormund boast that no man should even take his cock out unless the woman he lay with was as slick as a sea otter, which Arya had yet to be. So, charged with this useful insight he touched and teased her gently, luring breathy moans, greedy kisses and grinding hips out of her. Once he was coated in her he slid his fingers up to the soft bundle at the apex of her lips, applying soft circles there when she keened lustfully towards his touch.

"You've always wanted me," He informed her, watching her rut against his hand, a sight which sparked this easeful certainty within him. She was a wonder, writhing and rapt as her claws dug into his shoulders sending the skin below buzzing. Her moans and breathing began to catch and faultier with every sway of her hips to meet his petting, pulling him further and further under her enchanting spell.

"S-stupid," Arya whispered on another hitch of breath.

He chuckled, "Aye, but, you've always wanted me." He said with confidence, picking up his pace slightly, watching her joy of feeling mixed with her desperation for release, "As I you."

"Gendry..." She whined, clutching at his shoulders, her release starting to lick and bubbled up, threatening to claim her.

He nearly soiled himself as she trembled under his touch, nearly buckled under her as she bit hard at the crook of his neck, nearly lost it entirely when she groaned his name again in ecstasy. Gendry couldn't be sure when the syllables rolled off her tongue last. But, gods, if it wasn't the sweetest sound he had ever heard. The moan of his name that accompanied her climax just then, however, was downright kindred to perfection. He moved Arya through the blissful jolts of static pleasure surging through her lithe body, grinning as she kissed at the corners of his mouth carelessly.

"Now, you're ready." He husked out against her cheek, smug and self-satisfied.

"Shut up." Arya panted, taking his jawline in her hands and kissing him soundly.

Hungry, in this push and pull of lips, he took himself in hand and with a helpful lift of her hips he aligned himself with her dripping center. His breathing was already hasty and she had yet to even sink down on him, a troubling thought. If just the touch of his cock to her wet warmth was enough to send him overboard, then what she was about to do could change him forever. He gritted his teeth as Arya moved slowly, her hands dropping to either side of his throat when he nudged at her entrance, coating his tip in her slick arousal. Her eyes were dark and heavy-lidded as she craned down to kiss him deeply once more. Whining quietly she began to sink down, began to take in his every throbbing inch, slowly, deliciously, and perfectly until he was completely sheathed within her.

She stilled then, in a sweet torturous moment, settled heavily on his lap, her eyes squeezed tight, lips parted, breaths panting and chest heaving.

Gendry eyed her carefully, "You alright?" He asked, though his voice was thick and almost unrecognizable.

Arya nodded, kissing him once again, "Yes." She sighed, forehead pressed to his as she drew her hips up, soft, shallow and slow, before sinking down his length again.

Moaning softly she manipulated her body in the same way once more, allowing herself to fall harder on him this time.

"Seven hells, Arry." He gasped at her.

She felt unlike any other woman he had been with. Those previous girls did look vaguely akin to the beauty who was working herself into another frenzy above him now. All 3 with brown hair and fair skin, all 3 with dark eyes that were never quite as inquisitive or expressive as the grey ones that burrowed into his very soul in this moment. As experienced as those women had been, not a single one filled the void, and not one moaned his name in the way that sent his head spinning as Arya Stark did.

She set their breakneck pace, leaving Gendry to hang on to the threads of his tightly strung composure. Her movements started out cautious and calculated, testing the waters, as it were, but she soon took to riding like an adept equestrian, finding their rhythm and grinding down to meet each upward thrust of his hips.

Bewitched by the wild beauty before him his hands gripped into the flesh of her hips, roughly pulling and pushing her along with their cadence, lips seeking out any bit of her sweet skin he could find or reach amongst the heady lust.

She seemed close, so close, the pulse of her walls, the ease of himself inside her, the mantra of praise spilling from her unabashed, all pushing him towards his own undoing. He had been close since the start and now made the untimely mistake, again, of dropping his gaze to where they were joined, watching himself disappear, watching her bounce and take, and take, and take, and take.

He knew then he was doomed.

"Com' on, luv." Gendry encouraged, a rough thumb pressing and circling her sensitive pleasure nub, "Let it go."

With a loud moan of his name, she obeyed, muscles clamping down around him in drawn-out pleasure, her release flooding over his cock. As her undoing ebbed she found his lips again, lazy kisses and tongues laving together as his own release began to rip through him like a bolt of white-hot lightning. He spilled himself within her, her mouth swallowing his own strangled groan of enraptured adoration.

They shared these charged panting gasps a moment, both chuckling as they fought to catch their breath before Arya shifted off of him, laying comfortably close to his side. Gendry swiftly snatched his cloak up off the ground next and draped it over her body, fanning it out to include his frame as well.

"How do you feel?" He asked lightly while they settled in under the wool.

"Good." She replied quickly, too quickly if he hadn't known any better, "It was not as I expected." She confessed with a contented sigh.

Shit.

"What had you expected?"

"I'm not sure. Faster? Messier? Awkward or louder perhaps?" She shrugged, her eyes tender and unfeigned, "Just, not that."

"Was it enjoyable?"

Arya smiled warmly, "Very." She said, leaning up to press a chaste kiss to his lips, "Perhaps too enjoyable."

"Don't lie." Gendry chuckled.

"Never to you."

He stifled a yawn, "Good."

"Rest now." She offered back, inching his cloak further up his chest.

~~~

Gendry was unsure how long he had slept for. Weeks? Years? A moment? Time seemed to move differently under the warmth of his cloak, her bared body lain so closely to his. When he awoke from the best sleep he'd ever had, she was turned away from him, a bare shoulder exposed and capped in warm torchlight.

He reached for her, connecting rough callused fingertips to a few small silvery scars on her side, upper arm and shoulder blade. Arya stiffened at the contact, her sharp intake of breath prompting him to speak.

"I won't ask." He assured, moving to lay a few kisses up the back of her shoulder to her neck, "I don't want to know. Not yet." He murmured against her skin.

Though they both knew, however, that the opportunity to ask again may never come to be.

Arya let out a deep sigh and turned to face him. Her eyes held so much, nearly every emotion submerged in deep grey pools of a swirling sea. She reached out and cupped his cheek, amorous and devout, acute eyes studying him completely, reading every inch of his heart and soul. His own hand settled into the flair of her slim waist, his eyes trained on hers as they fluttered closed before him. She moved blindly to him, kissing him deeply and thoroughly; heedless and slow, unlike the passionate frenzy of lips and tongues they'd just exchanged. Gendry felt himself melt into her thoughtful kiss, her powerful current tugging him under moments before the unmistakable sound of their call to arms broke them apart.

~~~

They dressed in quick silence, an eerie chill and impending doom dampening this precious and fleeting afterglow.

Once clothed again Gendry held his arms out open for her, head and slight smile tilted in question. Arya stepped in without any hesitation, wrapping her arms around his middle, her head lay against his chest.

He was sure she could hear the erratic rate of his heart. The fear of battle was a troubled feeling he had experience on very few occasions. Fewer than most. But the tightness he felt in his throat, this reluctance, this ache, this undeniable desire to keep her with him, in his arms, was something he'd not felt since he was sold to The Red Woman so many moons ago, leaving Arya behind and alone.

"Stay safe." She said, trying to conceal the fine crack in her normally even and unflappable voice.

He hugged her tighter, pressed a kiss to the crown of her head as he replied, "I'll try my damnedest."

"I mean it." She insisted in return, chin tipped up to look him dead in the eye.

His gaze softened for her, "I know."

With his grip still wrapped tight around her shoulders, he bent and pressed his lips to hers for what could be the final time. He poured everything he had left into her, every fear, every wish, every hope passed from his weathered wanting lips to her soft saintly pair.

"Don't die." She said even more forcefully.

The backs of his fingers brushed along her jaw as he came to speak again, "As you wish, my-,"

She kissed him hard then, just to shut him up. This he knew. And gods if he didn't bait her with it in slight purpose.

"Don't die." She reiterated as she pulled back.

"I won't." He replied, forehead now connected to hers. "You neither."

"Not today." Arya said with an impish half grin.

She then tenderly unfurled from his grasp and turned, snatching up her newly forged weapon, before she made her way towards the call of war with a swift glance and final smirk over her shoulder.

 

Chapter Text


Arya would never forget the smell of it, the heavy, pungent taste of it, the decay and the gore and the blight of it all. The screech of death was defending, unmatched to the sound of death she had grown accustomed to, unmatched to the screech of a dragon, unmatched to anything else of this world.

As melodramatic as it were, Jon had been right in his warning of the dead. How they did not tier, how they were unrelenting, how the hoard would never cease.

But nothing, absolutely nothing could compare to what they came to witness.

In all her training, in everything she had been through, in everything she had seen, it was nothing compared to the rise of this army of death. Surely forged in the seven realms of hell they came, and came, and came to what seemed like no end.

At least half of The Dothraki were lost within moments, even with the flaming swords gifted from The Red Woman. While the death horde charged forth The Unsullied held the line and stood their ground, flanked by Brienne and Jorah's infantry on either side.

But the dead fought through.

Jon and Queen Daenerys soared above, fire breathing dragons torching the snow packed earth below, holding small herds of walkers at bay.

But, Arya's eyes were trained on the formative foes on the ground.

As the dead advanced, Winterfell's front line of defence was forced to pull back, unable to contain the onslaught of white walkers, the still living and breathing men seeking the refuge of their fortresses walls. Soldiers and common folk alike rushed the retreat and the gates were able to close, offering a brief breath of reprieve.

Ser Davos sent the semaphore for the Dragon Queen to light the trenches then. But as time passed it, with Davos flailing those flaming fucking torches to no avail, it was clear that something was preventing both Jon and Queen Daenerys from carrying out their well-versed plans.

Arya knew then what was about to happen, she could feel it deep in her bones. Somewhere in those moments, she sent Sansa below to the crypts, arming her with a spare dragon-glass dagger.

"Stick 'em with the pointy end." Came Jon's words of wisdom from her lips.

Then, armed with flaming arrows, Arya, Davos and as many archers as they could spare took quick aim at the trench while saving a few of Winterfell's foot fighters in the process.

But they were all unable to ignite the tinder.

Just then The Red Woman moved like a shadow up to the front lines, graceful and wicked. Winterfell's men held off the dead as she conjured up her power of flame, chanting in high Valyrian over, and over, and over before the blaze miraculously took off, ripping through the pit and holding back death.

In a moment they were safe. But, moments were fleeting and the sea of the dead caught wise to their plan. Or perhaps something commanded them to move, knowing that a few sacrificed foot soldiers would ensure their rest passage.

Arya watched in horror as the dead threw themselves on the flames, she watched them fight through the lines, watched them climb the walls, watched them push through men and dead alike, seeking out the living like ravenous beasts in search of their kill.

That was when the true fighting began.

Arya took to the combat as a fish took to the water, her staff serving her well, slicing through corps after corps with perfect balance and ease. They all fought tirelessly, slaying skeletons and partly rotted corpses one right after another. In the haste of battle, she was able to save Ser Davos, before a swarm of blue-eyed demons nearly overtook them both.

Moving as quickly as possible she was able to avoid death but lost her staff and took a nasty blow to the head in the process. In the blood and disorientation of her head trauma, a new group of whites approached, forcing her out and onto a rooftop. She slid and hit the ground running, narrowly avoiding swarm after swarm of rotting flesh.

Arya skillfully fought back while moving through the familiar passages, halls and corridors of her childhood home, the horrors of the dead invading every nook and cranny, pushing her deeper into the castle depths.

Somewhere amongst the chaos, she found The Hound and Ser Beric, war-worn but breathing and fighting for their lives. With axes, daggers and flaming swords swinging the trio made it through the congestion of bodies, slaying whites with every hack and turn.

In all the madness Beric had managed to save her life.

Without another thought Arya grabbed a weapon whoen the whites swarmed them again. She tried to save Beric in return, however, The Hound hoisted her into his arms then over his shoulder, bypassing death and leaving Ser Beric to sacrifice himself.

The pair found the brief safety of The Great Hall with the fatally injured Beric following in closely behind. Arya knew that this was the end for Ser Beric, a man who made her list, all those years ago. She helped prop him up now, her eyes welling, her whole being overcome with emotion, heart pounding in her throat and ears. She tried to contain the overwhelming terror surging through her as Beric gave her a half smile. 

He moved to speak then and his last soft intake of breath was spent uttering the word, "Live."

Despite the snowstorm outside The Great Hall was warm, hot even, unnaturally so, and as Beric's body fell slack a voice came from the shadows.

"The Lord of Light brought Ser Beric back for a purpose, now that purpose has been served."

Arya turned and eyed the shadow keenly, "I know you."

The Red Woman stepped into the light, "And I know you."

"You said we'd meet again."

"And here we are, at the end of the world."

"You said I'd close many eyes forever. You were right about that too."

"Brown eyes. Green eyes... Blue eyes."

The screams of the dead rattled the hinges of The Great Hall door, urging Arya back into the present. She stood and approached the red witch, unconsciously waiting for her to speak again. The screeching intensified, the thrashing akin to the pounding sound of an angry ocean against a rock face, catching Arya's attention once again.

The Red Woman eyed her carefully, a knowing smirk tugging at her lips, "What do we say to the God of Death?"

Arya was taken aback, Syrio's words coming from the woman behind her now, haunting but fueling her no less.

"Not today." Came Arya's confident response.

Charged with an unbridled courage Arya turned and ran from The Great Hall, moving like a shadow cat, quick and stealth, her destination clear.

The Godswood.

She knew this place. She knew Winterfell like the back of her hand even after all these years, which had given her a fleetly advantage.

Arya crept up on the scene, The Night King just steps away from Bran, Theon and the rest of their men laid slain amongst the crisp white snow. She examined the scene carefully from afar, planning her next move quickly and thoughtfully, before launching her swift attack. She ran and leapt from the woods, higher and farther than she had ever leapt before. But, just as she thought she might take him by surprise The Night King turned and the icy sting of death wrapped tightly around her throat.

It was briefly terrifying, but her training took over. Survival took over. Life took over. And though her fake-out was only slightly noticed by the dark deity before her, it was already too late for him. She shoved her dagger into the cold hollow of his chest the moment the Valyrian steel dropped into her less dominant hand.

In an explosion of ice shards, The Night King shattered, releasing her neck, and his grip on The North.

Landing on her hands and knees then Arya watched as The Night King, his lieutenants and all the surrounding whites disappeared from existence, their magic dissipating into the air with a blink of her eye.

Bran gave a small smile when she looked up to him in disbelief, "You did it." He offered quietly.

Arya, still trying to catch her breath uttered, "I did it." She then spoke the words again, confident, "I did it."

"I told you that blade was wasted on a cripple."

Arya held her brother's gaze a moment before she burst out laughing. But the laughter soon overwhelmed her and turned to tears and before she knew it she was staggering over to Bran's chair and pouring both her relief and exhaustion into his lap.

It was soothing in a way she hadn't felt in some time, the gentle pet of a family member. Bran wasn't much for emotion or physical contact lately anyway, which served Arya just fine, but at that moment, no other gesture could have been sweeter.

Jon, Ser Davos, Tormund, The Hound and Gendry all burst into the Godswood next, still ready and roaring from battle. But as they approached to find the Northern army slain with no whites or walkers to be seen, the four stopped short in their tracks. They hung back as Jon approached his siblings at the base of the ever ominous Weirwood tree.

Arya let out another sigh of relief, fully realizing then that the Great War was won, that the threat on The North was defeated, that so many good men, including Gendry, had made it through the long night with their lives.

"What happened?!" Jon demanded, his adrenalin running at full force as he spoke.

"Arya killed The Night King," Bran informed him stoically.

Jon gaped at her, "Ar-Arya? How!?"

"I stuck him with the pointy end." She replied with a smirk and cock of her eyebrow.

Her older brother held her sightline, a puzzled look crossing his face before he laughed too, a rare sound, causing her to crack up a bit as well. She stood then and hugged him, her gaze slipping to the four awestruck men behind The King in The North as he lifted her, his kid sister, up off her feet and into their tight embrace.

Arya's eyes locked onto her smith's in a silent moment, adoration and awe written plain as day on his face despite the grime of war. He gave her a small nod and half smile before the four left to tend to the aftermath within the devastated but still standing walls of Winterfell.


~~~


By the next sunrise, the survivors stood outside the walls of the castle and paid their respects to their dead.

The funeral pyres were a staggering and ominous sight, stacks and stack upon rows and rows, burning and cloaking the white northern sky in pitch black clouds of grief and death.

She paid her respects to Theon, to Jorah and Lyanna, and to the rest of the fine people that she knew very little of or had never met, then lit Ser Beric's pyre herself.

"Valar morghulis." She whispered to him just before the flames took hold.

~~~

That night she avoided the celebration feast, uninterested in the glory that being a war hero brought. She was no hero, no saint, no saviour. She was a killer, a thief, a lier, a faceless woman, and yet, still a Stark.

She didn't want to explain to near everyone how she was able to slay The Night King. She didn't want to admit to anyone that The Red Woman or The Lord of Light had anything to do with her defeating the King as she had. She and Bran knew how close it had been, they both knew that death was surely upon them in that slight instant, knew in their bones that it could have been lost within moments.

She didn't want to think of what would have happened, had she been just a hair too late.

So, trying to calm her racing mind, she took to her bow, secluded herself into a cobblestone corridor, giving into a quiet moment while releasing arrow after arrow and breathing deeply.

But, of course, he found her.

She heard his bull-footed steps far before she saw him, his gate undeniable. She allowed one last arrow to fly, skillfully missing his handsome face.

"Don't shoot!" He exclaimed playfully, stopping just shy of her target.

In spite of herself, she smiled, watching his slightly swaying footing approach her happily.

"Everyone's celebrating." He said with a questioning lit to his voice, "You should be celebrating with them."

"I am celebrating."

"Yea, I am too." He said softly with a smile.

He told her that he was a lord, with terror and pride overtaking his features. He was legitimized as a man of means and lands now. He was no longer just a bastard blacksmith from Flea Bottom, not just Gendry Waters, but a Baratheon, by blood and now by title as well.

After her sincere congratulations, he stepped in quickly and kissed her, avid and heated. Clearly drunk, though not belligerent, the taste of ale coated his tongue and hers now too, and she couldn't help but step into his advance.

Gods, it felt good to have his powerful hands on her again, his strength wrapped around the backs of her arms, holding her tightly to his body. There had been a few worrying moments during the Great War where she had thought that death had surely come for her, and didn't her heart long for one more touch from him, one more kiss, one more moment.

A troubling thought, in hindsight.

His eyes were so earnest as he called her beautiful, so unfeigned as he confessed his love to her, so starstruck and devout as he sank to his knees before her, the sight of which caused her own knees to weaken.

He took a final, deep and steadying breath, "So be with me. Be my wife. Be the Lady of Storm's End."

His excitement was palpable, his confessions rushing from him without much thought, care or decorum.

It was endearing, charming and downright terrifying.

Her heart broke, the words "no. that's not me." came quickly to mind, while her heart and body shouted "yes!"

Before drowning in her own self turmoil she knelt with him, took his strong jaw in her grasp and kissed him deeply. She tried to pour as much reassurance into him as she possibly could, tried to convey her love while she attempted to think of how to break him, without hurting him. With their lips still connected she urged him to stand with her, savouring the feel of him, how good, and right, and sound he felt.

"You will make a wonderful lord. And any lady will be lucky to have you..." His happiness faded as she spoke, her next words coming out in tender, quiet, yet steely confidence, "But I'm not a lady. I never have been. That's not me."

Gendry recoiled slightly at her words, disbelief dampening his happiness. He took a small staggering step back, hands dropping from her arms.

Arya couldn't keep looking at him, her heart pounding her ears, her throat tight. She turned away then, knocking another arrow and taking her archer's stance once more.

Quite simply she could not allow him to waste his happiness on her.

Gendry deserved to be legitimized, deserved nice things like feather beds and rich, proper, pretty girls. If she confessed that she loved him in return, there would be no place he would not follow.

That, in truth, could not be.

She was still on mission, still needed to right the wrongs done to her family, and she could not bring herself to involve him any further than he already was. She was dangerous, her intents and purposes were dangerous, being with or near her was dangerous. Her mission was hers and hers alone and it held no bounds, it was a mission she was certain she would never return from.

She could feel his disappointment, Gods, could she feel it; steaming off of him in thick waves of torment. It was all so crushing and blatant, his gaze steadily studying her, his body still close enough that if she were to turn a half step, she could have been wrapped up in his strong arms one more. She tried to ignore the nagging feeling by knocking and releasing arrow after arrow absently.

Arya wasn't sure when Gendry left her side, but the feeling was hollow and undeniable. Her concentration was lost now anyway; shot to seven hells, her hands shaky and her heart heavy.

She left her cobblestone sanctuary, making her way back to the castle and her bedchambers bow slung over her shoulder. She passed many folks celebrating, reluctantly received drunken congratulations from passersby. She feigned polite pleasantries as she passed, holding everything at bay until she was steps away from her door, where she allowed her mask to slip just slightly.

"Arya?" Sansa spoke, cracking her door open a touch.

The brunette pulled her posture straight and adjusted her demeanour, "Sansa."

"Are you alright?"

"Yes." She lied.

"Where have you been all night?"

"Practicing."

Sansa eyed her curiously, nodding for her to come inside, "Why weren't you at the feast?"

Arya followed her sister into her chambers, "Too many people." She replied sitting on the end of her large fur-plush bed.

"Everyone was looking to toast their hero," Sansa replied, continuing on with her nightly routine.

"I am no hero."

Sansa sat and shook her beautiful long auburn hair out, pins, ribbons and coils stacked neatly on the dressing table before her. She looked so much like their mother, so regal and opulent, even in her sleep clothes and this relaxed environment. She looked even more akin to Catelyn as she sat in their parents quarters, at their mother's dressing table, the large fire burning as hot at the Dornish sun.

"Did Gendry find you?"

Arya's eyes went wide, her pulse starting to race again, "What?"

"He had been searching for you at the feast," Sansa commented.

"Searching?"

"Yes. He asked a few where you were, or if they had seen you."

Arya felt herself relax slightly. It was no use dodging the Lady of this great household. She saw all and rightly had eyes and ears everywhere, "Yes, he found me."

"You've heard the news then?"

"Yes."

"Are you not happy?"

"I am pleased for him, Storm's End will be lucky to have him as lord."

"Yes. And the Dragon Queen is lucky to have yet another ally."

Arya nodded, thoughts twisted up with feelings, the mixture making her feel ill to her stomach. She had made a grave mistake in allowing herself to explore her feelings for the young blacksmith, indulged too much in the splendid ease of it, pulled the curtain back to reveal something that could never be unseen.

"Do you love him?"

"What?"

"I asked if you love him," Sansa repeated calmly.

Arya's heart was pounding in her ears again, her sisters question like a hot slice across her flesh. Though her thoughts were fairly muddled her feelings could not be more clear, though heartbreaking to admit. Still, she did not need to think of an answer or even a lie and said the first word that came to her.

"Yes."

The redhead slowly applied a creamy face salve to her skin as she eyed Arya in her mirror glass, "Why are you not with him then?"

"I could not do what you do. I never could. I would be the absolute worst Lady that Storm's End had ever seen."

Sansa laughed, as light and demure as it were, "You would make quite the unpolished pair." She replied as she turned to face Arya, "But perhaps that would be a welcome change."

"That's not me. You know that." She confessed, her gaze falling to her twitching fingers in her lap.

"I do. But he seems a good man. A rarity as far as I'm concerned."

"He is. And he deserves someone just as good."

"And that's not you?" Sansa asked with a delicate crook of an eyebrow.

After a moment's silence Arya's eyes met her big sister's, a small smile tugging at her lips.

With that, she stood.

"Good Night, Lady Sansa." She replied playfully.

"Good Night, Arya."


~~~

A few nights later she lurked in the threshold of the forge again, eyeing him as he scurried around his space, saddlebags and satchels packed for his long journey to Storm's End in the morning.

Arya had always enjoyed watching him work, to watch his concentration, to admire the strength of his body, to see the care and attention he put into the tasks between his strong hands. As he packed she watched his broad shoulders rise and fall with his breath, his tunic and jerkin open due to the heat of the ever-running smithy. She felt a deep ache settle over her chest, and the thought of separating from him, again, likely for the final time nearly ruined her entire resolve.

"Have you come to reject me a second time?" He asked blindly.

"No." She stated simply moving further inside the forage.

"Why have you come then?" He bit back cooly, his back still turned to her.

"I came to say goodbye."

"I'm not leaving till the morrow."

"I'm leaving before dawn."

"You've only just gotten home. And you're leaving again?" He asked flatly.

Her eyes dropped to the floor, "Really, I came to apologize." She clarified.

Gendry scoffed, "Don't."

Red hot anger bubbled up from her guts. Taken aback by his blatant and blunt brush off she spoke, "What?"

"Don't apologize."

"Truly, Gendry. I am sorry."

He finally turned towards her, hands securely tying up the straps on his final bag. She stepped forward, surprised though when he immediately stepped back and away from her in response.

Gendry placed his meagre belongings aside, "What are you even apologizing for? For using me? For allowing me to believe you wanted me or that you loved me in return?"

Arya remained quiet, her confidence wading, sadness and hurt taking its place. She had not expected him to be so angry, mostly because she rarely, if ever, saw the emotion within him. It wasn't unbecoming on him, but rather new and surprising. All the same, her fingers ached to reach out and grab him, to soothe him, to pull him in, to kiss him heedlessly one last time. But he seemed determined to keep as much space between them as he possibly could, his shoulders pulled tautly, lips pursed in a fine line, brow furrowed.

"All my life I've been used as a pawn in someone else's game. I thought you were different." He explained with a sad shake of his head.

"I did not use you." She clarified quickly.

"You did. You could have left me be, Arya." Gendry replied in a rush, pushing his hand through his tightly cropped hair, "Gods! You should have just left me be! Asked near anyone else to lay with you that night."

"I don't want anyone else."

"But you don't want me enough to be with me."

"It's not like that."

"It was hasty of me to ask for your hand, honest, it was. But, it's what's proper. Because I love you and I want to be with you."

"I can't be what you want me to be."

He shook his head again, eyes cast down now, "I just want you to be you, Arya. No one else."

"I've never wanted the life you're offering."

"But you were born into it. No matter how hard you fight it, you are still a highborn woman."

"Only by title."

"It doesn't matter!"

"I am no lady."

"And I'm not a lord!" He laughed darkly.

"You are, though. Now, you are."

"Yet, only by title." He mimicked back quickly and sternly.

Gods, for as daft as she accused him of being, he was anything but. He seemed to observe everything from a distance and calculated things quietly, qualities which no doubt helped him survive this long. Storm's End would be lucky to have such a well versed and balanced lord. A lord who understood the grief of poverty, the uncertainty of being a prisoner, the hard work of a smith, the flight of being a runway, the terror of being a warrior, the loyalty of being a soldier.

"This dragon queen is no different than any of the rest of 'em. I'm not that stupid, Arya. I know why she's made me a lord. What am I to do? Refuse?"

"Not at all."

"I must do as The King in The North and The Dragon Queen command."

"I know."

"What other choice do I have? Some of us have still got to answer to the patriarchy."

"I know." She repeated.

A long silence hung between them; cold, like the freezing snowstorm brought forth with The Night King and his army.

"I would never ask you to be anything you're not."

"I still have unfinished business." She said impetuosity, harnessing her nerve, worried that it was fleeting, "Business that takes me away from here." She then clarified.

"Aye." Gendry replied sadly, turning back to his bags again, "Your list, I assume."

"Yes."

Gendry didn't pack anything further, he didn't do anything other than stand with his back to her, body language closed off and withdrawn. It was so unlike he'd been before, where he had been completely stripped and vulnerable, gazing up to her from his knees.

"When will it end?"

Arya knew the answer. She also knew it wouldn't do much to ease the situation if she were to be blunt about it. However, she found it hard to lie to him. She had always found it hard to lie to him. Even early on, while travelling The Kings Road, there had been numerous occasions where she nearly told him everything about who she was, prior to when she actually did.

"Soon? But perhaps never. Or perhaps with me dead." She replied.

Angry again, he turned to face her once more, "For fuck's sake, Arya! Do you even hear yourself?!"

She did. Of course, she did. But this was her destiny, this was all part of her fate. The Red Woman made it clear that everyone's purpose was to serve the other, and she knew she still had much yet to accomplish and with very limited time.

"This is who I am, Gendry."

"I don't believe that. I believe that this is who you're choosing to be."

"You don't have any idea what I've been through!"

He looked like he was about to cry then, deep sadness clouding his sharp blue eyes. He moved tentatively towards her, a thick swallow constricting his throat as he spoke.

"You're right. I don't." Gendry stepped in even closer and took both her hands in his as he uttered his next words softly, "And we could have had a lifetime together for you to share your story with me. Slowly or all at once. It wouldn't matter. As long as we were together."

Arya felt the threat of tears welling up in her eyes, the tightness in her throat nearly as painful as the icy cold grip of death.

"I must obey King Jon and Queen Daenerys." He reiterated again.

She couldn't bring herself to look him dead in the eye, knowing that if she did the tears would surely fall. Instead, she dropped her gaze to their hands, watched how easily his engulfed hers, relished in how warm they always seemed to be, savoured the calm she felt with him.

"I love you, Arya. I do. I always have. But I will not beg you." He said finally, the stubborn stag allowing his bullheaded tenancies to shine through and overtake him.

She almost wanted to see him beg, almost wanted him on his knees before her again, almost wanted for him to call her beautiful once more or pretend like everything that had brought them together and inevitably drove them apart had never happened.

Confident in her ability to control her emotions she tipped her gaze up to his, "I understand."

They held each other's sight for a solemn moment. His luminous blues scoured over her face, no doubt looking for a crack in her delicately crafted shield. He need not look too hard though, because bit by bit he had already snuck in, naturally found her soft underbelly, curled up and made a home deep inside her heart.

"Will you kiss me goodbye?" She asked, angry with herself when her voice came out so unnaturally small and unsure. Despite her best efforts, her chest was still so heavy and her eyes still pricked with the tears that she refused to let flow as they stared into one another.

"Aye." Gendry sighed morosely, "I would do anything you ask of me."

Her eyes narrowed, taking in his handsome facets acutely, she then nodded sadly as he dropped both her hands. He smoothly wrapped one arm around her waist, while the other hand came up and cupped her cheek. She gasped a little but pressed against the calloused warmth of his hand as his thumb rubbed across the deep purple and brown bruise under her eye. Somewhere amid the overwhelming feeling, her eyes fell closed, forcing her to focus all her senses into the feel of him, the heat emanating off his body, the smell of metal, soot, and soap overwhelming her as he bent down to press his lips to hers.

Arya felt the last shreds of her self control melt away, her small hands wrapping tightly into the front fabric of his tunic, pulling him deeper into their lip lock, refusing to let him or the feeling go. She couldn't help but moan quietly when he teased at the seam of her lips with his tongue, coaxing her to coil along with him. She obliged willingly then, the slick feeling urging her hands to grasp at him harder, for her hips to rut ever so slightly against his.

"Arya..." Gendry whispered hoarsely as he pulled away.

"I'm sorry." She breathed back.

Arya tried to step away from his grasp, but his grip around her middle held her close, prevented her from moving even an inch. She had to crane her neck up to look at him, catching his clear blue eyes now dark with desire. The look sent a shiver down her spine, pooling warmth at her center, making her feel weak in the knees again.

With a firm grip and voice he spoke, "Stay."

Though his timbre was deep and commanding, she couldn't hide the warning tone of her reply, "Gendry..."

He kissed her hard then, pushing and stumbling them together with the movement. He had her pinned between his brawny stature and a support beam of the forage as they melded together hungrily, all lips and gasps, and tongues. Her hands slipped to the back of his head and neck as his lips moved across her jaw, his stubble rubbing harshly across her smooth skin.

"Stay with me." He mumbled against the column of her throat.

Sighing deeply she tilted to allow him freer access, which he took full advantage of, kissing and nipping at the tender flesh kept so often hidden, "I shouldn't."

She wanted to. Gods, she wanted to. She wanted it to be that easy; a yes or no decision. She wanted him more than she had truly realized, and once his lips and hands were on her again, near everything else seemed inconsequential.

But, Arya Stark was nothing if not stubborn.

"You should." He told her, lips still nipping at her neck.

"Gendry." She warned once again.

He let out a low growl then and came back to claim her lips in a bruising kiss, "If I'm to live without you, I want to remember everything." He said.

Arya's whole body thrummed for him and she sank wholly into another press of their lips. She knew if she basked in this; allowed this, it would only end in more heartache. She knew that it was wrong, but gods, it didn't feel wrong. Being with him made her feel whole, alit and alive, he tethered her to the earth; to herself, and that was simply enough for her to throw caution to the wind, if only for the night.

"Stay." Gendry repeated, a quake catching on the edges of the word.

"It can only be tonight," Arya said, giving herself over to it; over to him. "Is that alright?" She asked reaching up to kiss the corner of his mouth.

Gendry didn't answer in words so much as he hummed his understanding into her lips. In one swift motion, his hands quickly dropped from her waist to slide over her ass before curling up around the backs of her thighs to hoist her against himself.

He lifted her as though she weighed but nothing, another exciting and troubling realization. Arya wrapped her legs tightly around his middle, her arms encircling his broad shoulders, lips pressed into the crook of his neck. As she kissed across his skin she shamelessly inhaled deeply, feeling him shift and walk them both a few short strides to the back of the forage. As he moved, she nudged at him with her nose, urging him to return to her lips. Stopping then to brace her on the threshold he kissed her so thoroughly, so completely, and so tenderly that had she been on her own two feet she would have absolutely withered.

He pushed them through a door and kicked it closed behind himself next, his attentive lips never leaving hers. Releasing his grip on her ass she slid down his body as he deposited her back on her feet so he could turn and hitch the latch.

Arya took her surroundings in quickly; his bedchamber. A room with just enough space for a small table, a tiny hearth holding a well-stoked fire, a small window and a modest bed. High class by his standards, no doubt, at least thinking of their time at Herrenhal. Anything noteworthy of his, however, seemed to be already packed, leaving only his bedding and a half-burned candle behind.

Without speaking Gendry moved in behind her, his touch smoothing down her arms. He pulled her flush with his body, her own arching to meet him thoughtlessly. He stepped in even closer, hard and hot against her backside, his fingers unfastening her cloak and belts from behind. With his breath brushing her ear, Arya's furs and leathers fell to a heap as his fingers moved to her jerkin, relieving her of that as well. He untied her tunic and britches next, drawn to the exposed skin that her loosened threads provided. His lips pressed deeply into her neck, his hands working skillfully and blindly, stripping her down to nothing but her small clothes. Her head tipped back to his sturdy chest when his rough hands mapped over her body, a thirsty moan rumbling from him as he cupped both her breasts.

Arya felt so overwrought, excitement coursing through her veins like the roar of rushing rapids as she stepped out of the puddle of clothing at her feet. The brush of his thumbs over her puckered nipples through soft threads was delightfully maddening, so she took matters into her own hands and untied the small swatches of fabric covering her chest and nethers, allowing them to fall with the rest. She then covered his hands with her own and moved one lower, keeping the other on her breast, over her heart.

He followed her insistence, the press of him undeniable, the gentle rut of him against her bare ass invigorating. Growling softly he moved even lower, brushed a hand over her mound before his fingers slipped easily between her lips.

Her moan in return was near obscene as she canted her hips back to his stiff cock. His thick fingers rubbing through her slick need made her feel witless, his panting breaths vigorous against her ear.

"You... Seven hells, Arya... You're..." He groaned, almost hopelessly, as he dipped his fingers into her deeper.

Welcoming a whole body shiver, Arya keened towards his hand, "W-what?"

"You're soaked." He mumbled across the shell of her ear while moving to the apex of her lips, pressing small circles into that lovely little pleasure nub, causing her to growl back in reply.

These heady feelings were all entirely new, this lust; different from before. This passion was stronger and deeper and more breathtaking than it had been during their first time and her heart began to race at the understanding. In an attempt to steady herself she turned around, seeking out his lips and a bit of control.

On her toes Arya tipped up as Gendry bent down to kiss her, smiling a little when her fingers immediately began to tug at the clasp of his belt. With foreheads pressed her nimble fingers made fast work of his already loosened clothing, stripping him quicker than she had their first time.

She was versed now, no longer clumsy or fumbling.

The moment his threads hit the floor he kicked out of his pants and boots. His touch never left her, his hold gripped into her hips as he stepped them away from their unnecessary clothing, inching closer and closer to a grounding surface.

Arya smoothed her hands up his hard stomach muscles, then up the solid planes of his chest, to then pull herself flush to his heated skin. The warm press of skin to skin sent a thrill down her spine as she reached up to take his jaw in her hands. As she snaked her body against his Gendry's lips found hers again, kissing her fervidly, their combined moan fueling their fire.

"Does this change nothing?" He asked her breathlessly, stepping them towards his bed.

With their eyes locked, she sat slowly when the backs of her knees hit his wooden bed-frame, "It can't." She replied softly.

"Do you want it to?" He asked.

"It... It can't." She stuttered shrinkingly.

"That's not really an answer."

Arya opened her mouth to speak, but no words formed. The feeling was there, the words too if she allowed herself to entertain the thought of an alternative outcome. She loved Gendry. She truly did. But the farther he was from her, the safer he was. So she shut her gaping trap again, gaze dropping to the stone floor, her guilt resurfacing.

"Tonight then," Gendry uttered sadly.

He hooked a finger under her chin then and tipped her to look up before moving his body to hover over hers. He pressed his lips passionately to hers again, the sensation numbing any negativity she still harboured.

Arya laid back, her hands on his chest and throat, drinking in his languid kiss, "Tonight." She reiterated if only to remind herself.

He broke from her lips, slowly trialling kisses across her jaw and down her neck. He dragged his lips over the swell of her breasts, brushing over her hardened peaks before swirling his slithery tongue over each pearl.

"Yes," She purred and bent in an attempt to keep him close, her hands on the back of his head and neck now, holding him against her skin.

His gaze travelled up to meet hers while his touch and kiss alternated positions, driving her mad with anticipation before he unexpectedly left her tits for far more southern spaces.

"Gendry?" Arya gasped suddenly, realizing his destination, "W-what are you doing?"

"When I said I wanted to remember everything..." He began, pressing into the soft skin of her stomach, inching his kisses lower, and lower, and lower, tracing all her scars with his lips until he was only a breath away from her most intimate space, "I meant it."

His lips bit into the crease of her hip, then ran down to her knee, goose flesh raising in his wake as he moved to the other leg and repeated the motion in reverse. Heavy hands came to press into her hipbones, fingers gently peeling her open, his breath cool against her heat.

She gasped loudly when his tongue finally made contact with her slick center. Shocked at the sensation, she allowed herself to relax back with a low groan, consumed now by the fantastic foreign feeling. Yes, she had heard it was something some people did, saw it once or twice in the brothels of Braavos. But the whores who had some sorry chap's face buried in their cunt always looked bored, their moans and approval clearly forced and fake.

But this...this was velvet and lightning all wrapped around the flick of his skilled tongue. This was ecstasy.

His attention never wavered from her core, working her into a shameless, rapt, and sex-crazed mess easily. He licked, and sucked, and feasted until she felt like she might die, or cry, or burst into flames or shake undone, his own moans and grunts travelling through her in static waves of buzzing pleasure.

Gods, was there nothing that his man could not do?

She felt herself start to lose control, her hands falling to the back of her head between her legs, a disappointed groan slipping from her when she realized that she had no shaggy dark hair to grab onto. She didn't have time to think of much else, because before she knew it she was falling apart under his tongue. He held her down hard by the hips, controlling her wild bucking as he worked her through her pleasure. She was fairly certain she screamed his name, decorum be fucking damned, when her whole entirety shook with release.

As Arya floated back to her body she reached for him again, pulling him up by his shoulders, urging him up to her lips. They kissed wildly, sloppy and hungry, the taste of herself against his tongue sending new waves of pleasure throughout her body.

"You're a greedy little thing, aren't ya?" He husked out as he kissed down her throat.

Arya twisted and grappled him then, rolling and topping him in a less than a heartbeat.

"Shut up." She scolded him lightly from above now.

He let out a dark chuckled, hands smoothing up her thighs, "Bossy, too."

Straddling his hips she ground down onto his lap without so much as a second thought.

"And you, are a glutton for punishment."

Gendry groaned and lifted to the sway of her hips, "Aye. I am, milady."

Her head fell back slack, the press and glide of him against her core leaving her lightheaded. She felt completely consumed by her need. This was her last ditch and desperate attempt to imprint him on her every inch, to ensure she could never begin to forget him, no matter how hard she may come to try.

"I want to remember everything too." She confessed, rolling her hips against his stiff cock, the slick of skin to skin forcing them both to moan.

"Gods, Arya..." He growled, moving his hips back to finally slid into her once again.

Their first time had been pleasurable, quick and desperate but very satisfying, and there had only been a twinge of pain for her. This time, however, was nothing like the last. This time he slipped in easily, filled her to a complete and delightful brim, and pushed at points of pleasure she had never known existed.

Still in awe of how bloody good Gendry felt Arya braced her shaky hands on his strong chest and rolled her hips forward and back a few times, the motion prompting him to sit up farther, to wrap his arm around her, a steadying hand laid on the small of her spine. His lips migrated down the length of her neck then, trailing into the valley between her breasts as she began to move rhythmically up and down his length.

There was near to no grace within this coupling, both too rapacious and wrapped up in the intense pleasure and finality of it all. His mumbled words of panting adoration poured into her ears, breaths, moans and confessions she knew were reserved for only her. It was a realization that might have made her want to cry if she weren't so bloody captivated by the feel of him within her every inch.

They moved together as one, two connected bodies rolling together like the waves to a shoreline, powerful and smooth. They built each other up and fell apart together, lips and teeth and claws digging into one another as if the whole world might shake apart along with them.

He held her tight as they both regained their wild breathing, his lips pressed heedlessly to anywhere he could reach. She took his cheeks in her hands again and kissed him deeply, letting all the emotion from their melding flow from her. With a groan he cinched his grip around her tighter, his hand on her ass and neck holding her captive against this ardent kiss. After the slow nurse of their lips, she was able to shimmy off his lap but did not move far, collapsing right next to his sweat-slick body as he laid back.

 

~~~

Just before dawn, as sleep nudged at her, Arya decided that it was now or never. Though never did seem more and more appealing with each pump of his heartbeat below her ear.

"I should be getting back," Arya said quietly, shifting along his side and lifting her head from his chest.

Gendry reluctantly allowed his grip around her to loosen, allowing her to unfurl and slip out from under the warmth of his body and bedding. He sat quietly as she moved to get dressed, quickly pulling her threads together. She skillfully kept from looking at his partly covered frame, skin that was just moments ago pressed so tightly to hers now exposed under a soft, twilit, candlelight.

He sighed heavily, "Will I see you again?"

Arya shrugged wistfully and turned to him propped up, his bed linens strewn low across his lap; an alluring parting sight.

"I hope so." She replied.

It was the honest to gods truth. She did hope. But she couldn't allow herself to get too wrapped up in lofty clouds of hopes and dreams. She had a purpose, she had goals, life-threatening, probably fetal goals.

As if to read her mind he spoke up again, "Stay safe, Arya."

A small smile tugged at the corners of her mouth as she came to the edge of his bed. She bent down to him then and laid a long, gentle, farewell kiss to his lips, "You as well."

"Aye. I will. " He pushed her bed-toused hair back behind her ear, his eyes poignant yet as calm as The Narrow sea, "You know where to find me."

"Indeed I do, My Lord." 

 

Chapter Text

Arriving at Storm's End after leaving Winterfell was strange. Very strange. The weather was the same, but also vastly different. It was lush and wet and green. Yet, it was also often grey, often windy, and often unpleasant. 

The storms here were what really got him though. Before stepping into the Storm Lands, Gendry had never seen anything so furious and natural. Even the chilling wind of The North or the blizzards beyond couldn't compare. He'd watch the storms pass through for nights on end after he arrived. He sat with his newly discovered family, in a huge fucking castle, as they took in the wild weather that shaped their ancestry.

Gendry had discovered that more Baratheons made it out alive than anyone expected. A small family that had slipped past the gold cloaks and the head hunters had lived. They slipped past everyone and survived.

He had siblings. Half siblings, but siblings none less.

Edric and Mya were first to greet him at their family's holdfast. They were the only ones able to flee both Stannis and The Lannisters before all hells broke loose. After Renly's death, Gendry's older brother and sister spent some time on the run. They sought refuge in the Eyrie as commoners, during thick of it. But they returned to Storm's End the moment Stanis died in battle. The pair had been living there ever since.

~~~

Word of the destruction at King's Landing filtered and spread through the realm like the seeping of blood through bandages. It bled into everything. It fed into every conversation and moved into the forefront of everyone's mind. 

What happened there was a tragedy, the cost and culmination of duty, and love, and the rights of privilege. Which left the realm in a panic.

Ser Davos arrived at Storm's End after the chaos had subsided. He was war-worn, shell shocked and desperately in need of rest and nourishment. He quickly admitted that he had fled the city. Before Jon had taken The Dragon Queen's life and under the King in The North's insistance, Davos hopped a boat and sailed straight to Storm's End. He filled Gendry and Edric in on all the horrors, warning them to expect a raven from The Capital within a few days. 

Now, nearly a full moon after the sacking, they sat in Gendry's solar, mulling over a scroll sent from The Council of Kings's Landing. The letter requested that house Baratheon, and by proxy, Ser Davos Seaworth, travel to the capital within the fortnight. They were to attend the trial of the treasonous Jon Snow and Tyrion Lannister, men who betrayed and killed Queen Daenerys. The two were currently being held by the Unsullied and Dothraki. However, The North didn't care much for Jon Snow's imprisonment, and now a hearty standoff hung over the entire city.

As their meeting continued they spoke of their people. Of the state of King's Landing as the capital. Of their current and still standing alliances, and of the provisions that they had stored for Storm's End.

But all Gendry could think was, Why have we not heard of Arya?

Last he knew she was heading for King's Landing, into the very heart of it. She was off to The Red Keep, to kill Queen Cersei and finish her list. He had no doubt that she made it to her destination, but he had hoped that her timing was off. He hoped she arrived too late, saw the rubble, then turned and ran. 

Thinking anything else made bile turn up into his throat.

He didn't dare ask about her now though. Having spent near 2 moons trying to forget her and move on with this new life that was thrust upon him. But she was often on his mind, managing to sneak into his daily life without much resistance.

He didn't care much for his lordship, though he'd known he wouldn't. He only knew it was his duty to Jon to uphold the demands of his queen. But now, since the dragon queen was dead, killed by Jon, the young King himself imprisoned, Gendry felt the need to uphold his duty had shifted. He would attend the trial, hold true to his word for Jon, and do whatever he could to help him go free. 

What happened after that was truly out of his hands.

~~~


By next light, just as the servants were clearing his morning meal, Ser Davos let himself into the solar, without knocking, briskly coming to stand in front of Gendry's desk.

"Milord?"

Continuing on with his penmanship, Gendry replied, "Aye?"

Learning to read had been simple, and he picked up standard sums and mathematics quickly too, as he found it akin to the work he did in the forage. However, his writing had taken a lot of work. He practiced. Yet it always looked like chicken scratch, or like the writing of a 6-year-old, a common comment from Maester Orys.

"Yes." Ser Davos corrected him.

"What?"

"It's 'Yes', not 'Aye', milord."

Gendry rolled his eyes, "Right. Yes?"

"A rider arrived in the night," Davos explained.

Confused, he looked up from the parchment scrolls he was practicing on, "Was I expecting someone?"

"No."

"For someone else then?"

"No, milord."

"An eager guest for next moons feast?" Gendry inquired.

"No."

"A stranger then?"

Davos shrugged and shook his head, "The guards were unsure of letting in a lone stray."

"A stray?"

"Yes."

"And now?"

"I've granted them entry."

Gendry shrugged, "I see. Well, send 'em in."

"Unfortunately, I can not."

Gendry sat back in his chair and raised an eyebrow at his friend turned advisor, "This is all rather cryptic, Ser Davos."

"It is..." Davos shifted on his feet, "I'm just... I'm not sure why but..."

"Just out with it." He dismissed as he looked over his own scroll writing again.

"It's Lady Arya, milord."

His attention quickly snapped up to the old knight, "What?"

Davos nodded as he continued, "She's not well. Maester Orys is caring for her in the infirmary."

Gendry pushed from his table, the chair legs scraping harshly across the slate rock floor as he stood, "Is she alright?"

"He will not say. Only that she's been fighting an infection."

"Why wasn't I told last night?!"

Davos furrowed his brow, "Gendry..."

He wasn't sure what to do, a whole mix of emotions swirled in his guts like a brewing summer storm. He stepped forward, but then hesitated, before moving past Davos and out the door. 

"Take me to her,"

"At once."


~~~


Though having a sound roof over his head was a welcome change, Gendry couldn't get used to this vast castle. He ended up lost, often, and even though Arya was only in another wing and two floors down, the walk to her room seemed to take forever. 

But, that was likely due to his muddled and consumed thoughts. Luckily for him, Ser Davos lead the way, allowing the former bastard to indulge in his racing mind.

What the bloody hells? Why? Why now? Why here? What was she even doing this far south? What happened to her? How bad was 'not well'? Would she stay once she was well?

That last thought sent his heart leaping into his throat as Davos stopped at a large wooden door. 

The hallway was as quiet as a crypt and smelt of lye, mint and clove. Maester Orys was just leaving with a bundle of used gauze bandages and had sage burning in a small dish outside the door, the cleaning aroma mixing with the damp, musky, Storm Land air. 

Davos stepped aside and gave a slight bow, which prompted Gendry to knock. He opened the door a touch, enough to only allow his body to block the opening.

Arya looked pale, sickly, and ghostly laying there, her dark hair a sharp contrast to the crisp white fabric below her head. He stopped moving as soon as he opened the door though, dumbfounded at how the sight of her lifeless form struck such deep-rooted fear in him. 

In all these nights without her, no matter how many times he knew and said he should, he never truly managed to forget her. 

His advisors and the rest had been inching him towards taking a wife, to make alliances and heirs and the feast of the next moon was to be a marriage negotiation, as it were. Or, so he had been told.

But, the events in King's Landing would surely change all that. 

She changed all that.

"Lady Stark likely won't wake for some time." Maester Orys spoke from directly behind him.

Gendry spooked and stepped further inside the medic chamber, "What?!"

"She'll recover. But only with rest."

"What's wrong with her?"

Orys moved to the bedside table and placed down a fresh basin of water, "Plenty. Head injury, broken ribs, twisted ankle, a few lacerations, several burns and multiple bruises. She had lost a lot of blood and her head wound had begun to fester. Though she seemed to fashion a tincture and balm from the forest, with all her other ailments, the body could not begin to heal. She has likely been ill for days."

"Shit..."

"I'll send word to Winterfell. Inform Lady Sansa that her sister is alive."

"Uhm, yea... I mean, yes... Thank you."

The greying maester nodded, "I've given her milk of the poppy and some medicines to keep the fevers at bay."

Gendry ran a hand down his face, "Shit..." He repeated firmly.

Maester Orys came to stand next to him, a gentle hand placed on his shoulder, "Sit with her a while. But, quietly. Let her rest." He spoke with a slightly sympathetic smile.

The older man took his leave then, shutting the heavy door behind himself. Gendry watched him go, desperate to avoid the sight of his feisty, fearless, formidable Arry so torpid and pallid before him.

"Shit..." Gendry sighed once more while taking the few short strides towards the chair.

He sat down tentatively next to her bed, trying to keep the chair from squeaking and waking her. 

If nothing else she looked peaceful like this, beautiful and haunting, but peaceful. Her hair was loose and longer, having been clearly washed by the Maester or the Septa. He still wasn't completely sure of each titles roles. 

He reached forward to brush a bit of hair off the lightning bolt scar over her right eyebrow, remembering the night she acquired it and how she had saved the whole entire fucking world. She looked so much smaller than that fierce assassin now, like a pale little bird, an analogy she would absolutely detest, had he said it aloud or had she been conscious to see the thought flash across his face.

Maester Orys had Arya tucked into her linens so securely that she couldn't have budged even if she were awake to try, but he had left her arms outside of the covers. Gendry watched the slow and steady breath fill her chest and gently ran his fingertips over the back of her hand, laid out at her side. Once he was convinced that she was truly out cold he took the cool, limp, delicate thing in his hand. He then kissed the soft back before lacing their fingers, the faint smell of lye and pine soap reminding him of rain in the forest, of sleeping huddled together for warmth, of searching for firewood, of who they used to be, all those years ago.

Gendry hung his head with a quiet groan, still overrun with the guilt of leaving her from time to time. Now, being one of those painstaking times. He'd known long ago that they would have likely stuck together as long as possible, had he not made the fateful decision to join the Brotherhood. And had he kept his wits, all of this could have been avoided.

~~~


Somehow in his worry, he had fallen asleep, hunched over himself, his head resting in the small scrap of the bed next to her hip. He still had a hold of her hand when he heard her small voice crack through the silence.

"Jon?" Arya whispered hoarsely. 

Her free hand fell to the back of Gendry's head, shaky fingers carding into his dark hair. He had let it grow a bit since he saw her last, truly because of spending less time in the forage and also having a more reliable bathing routine.

He tried not to dwell on the flip his stomach made when she pushed through his hair again, tugging on his thick strands with her meagre strength. He lifted his face off the mattress slowly, turning to look at her still focusing eyes. 

Once her deep greys landed on his face they sprang open wide, "Gendry?!"

"Aye."

She shuffled in bed, trying to sit up, but whined in pain instead. Her eyes went wild a moment, searching, scouring, as she quickly took in her surroundings. Her hazy gaze landed on both exits first, he noticed, then fell on the apothecary bottles and clean bandages on a table across from her.

"Were... How... How are you here?"

He allowed himself to smile a bit, "I live here." He paused as she blinked slowly, "You're in Storm's End."

"I'm in..." Puzzled, Arya tried to sit up again but the pain was too much and she fell softly back against the featherbed, "How did I get here?" She asked rubbing at her temple. She touched the neat bandage around her head next as she tried to process everything.

"You arrived in the middle of the night."

"But I... I was... I started for home?"

"You ended up here."

Arya shook her head in disbelief, "What of King's Landing?"

"In ruins, but rebuilding."

"My family?"

"They're well. Maester Orys sent word to Winterfell that you're alive."

She rubbed at her side next, discomfort riddling her face, "And Jon?"

Gendry didn't want to bombard her with all the details just yet, "Alive, as well." He simply replied, hoping it was enough. And for now, it was.

"How long have I been out?" She asked next, stifling back a yawn.

He wasn't sure the answer. When he arrived at her side that day it was in the morning light, now the sky lay pitch black.

"A day and a bit? Orys says you need as much rest as possible, to fight the fever."

She hummed softly and nodded. Her eyes began to grow heavy, her tense body relaxing further back into the bedding with a sigh.

Drowsy, she muttered, "You look different." 

He huffed out a small laugh back, "Aye. As do you."

"Shut up." She chuckled while letting the exhaustion take her. She slipped quickly back into sleep, her fingers still entwined with his.

Gendry sat with her a while longer, lost in her restful slumber, yet unable to keep his own mind from racing. 

Soon a light rapping at the door broke him out of his spiral.

"My Lord?" Gendry looked up to see Measter Orys standing in the doorway, "Ser Davos has asked to speak with you."

Gendry looked back to Arya sleeping soundly and gently unfurled their fingers. He stood, his attention still wrapped up in her sleeping form below as he spoke, "Inform me when she wakes again, or if anything changes."

"Of course." Orys bowed slightly.

He left then and briskly walked the corridors and stairwells, cutting through a known courtyard before running straight into Ser Davos with a thud.

Gendry stumbled back, "We need to talk." Davos said abruptly turning and walking them in the opposite direction.

Following closely behind he replied, "Alright."

Up to the next flight of stairs they rounded the corner and slipped into Gendry's bedchamber.

"Why is Lady Arya here?" Davos asked as soon as the door was latched and they were alone.

"What do you mean?"

"Why has she come here?"

Gendry shrugged, "Because she was hurt in the sacking."

"Why did she not stay in King's Landing? Why didn't she try to find Jon?"

"I don't know. Likely because of her head wound?"

"After being injured, why did she not visit the field medics? Or return home?"

It was fortnight by horse in either direction from King's Landing to both Winterfell and Storm's End. A bit less if the rider rode through the night. Why she showed up at his front door was just as much of a mystery to himself as it was to his trusted friend.

"How should I know?!"

"Tell me the truth, lad. Before it's too late."

Gendry recoiled, he felt like a child being chastised for something he could not begin to explain.

"I don't know." He spat back. 

He could feel his temper starting to rise, so he made a direct line for the pitcher of wine he rarely touched. He poured himself a tall goblet and downed it all in one go.

"What's your history with Arya Stark?" Davos asked sternly, his best unamused-father voice clinging to each of his words.

In all these years, through all these highborns and nobles, no one had asked him about his time spent on the run. No one had asked any questions, and he wasn't forthcoming with the details. Ser Beric knew, gods rest him, though he had said nothing. The Hound knew, clearly, more than he let on too. But he wasn't there, nor had anyone seen or heard from him since Winterfell. Though Davos knew Gendry was nearly sent to The Night's Watch, knew he was held captive by the Lannisters at Herrenhal, knew he was about to join The Brotherhood Without Banners moments before being sold to The Red Woman and then sent to DragonStone. But he knew nothing of his time spent with Arya. 

And Gendry rather liked it that way. 

It made it easier to forget the time they spent together. However, never speaking of it also made it hard to remember the details and whether it had in fact happened or if it was all just a horribly bittersweet waking dream.

"I'm... She... We travelled together for a while before I was taken by The Red Woman." Gendry rushed out, wringing his hands while he contemplated another glass of wine.

"How did she end up with you lot?"

"Arya was on the run from the Lannisters, dressed as a boy, trying to make it North." He then said. 

"And?"

"And I... We... We then reunited in Winterfell."

"And?!"

Gendry didn't care for this interrogation, he felt his shoulders roll back and his pulse quicken, "Seven Hells, Davos! What does it matter?!" He spat out in annoyance.

"Listen, Gendry. You were to host a gaggle of suitors, whose fathers and brothers intend for you and your siblings each to wed one of their matches. Now, I'll ask again, what's going on? Tell me the truth. Before it's all for not."

Gendry scrubbed his hands over his face and paced his chamber. It was storming wildly, again, or still, he really couldn't be sure how long he had been at Arya's bedside. The rain pounded on the thick glass panes of his chamber windows, the wind rattling the hinges, adding to his jittery nerves.

"I love her," Gendry said finally.

Ser Davos' gaze softened, "And what's her take on the matter?"

"She refused my proposal."

"But, does she love ya?"

"I don't know." The young lord groaned and slumped into a large chair facing the roaring fire, "I believe so? But I can't be sure." He grumbled, pouring his face into his hands.

"There has to be a reason she ended up here."

"Aye," Gendry muttered.

"Well, it's too late to cancel the whole feast. But, I'll see what else I can do. Who knows, maybe going back to King's Landing will land us both in shackles."

He chuckled darkly, "Not if Arya has anything to do with it."

"No. She is a fighter."

Gendry just nodded somberly, lost in the flames now. He didn't know what to do with himself. He felt lost in a sea of complex emotions. Emotions that he had hoped to avoid.

"Anyhow, if we do make it back, you'll need to take a wife, and sooner rather than later."

Absently, he replied, "I understand."

Ser Davos clapped him soundly on the back before he moved to leave, "It's late. You should try to get some sleep."

He nodded again, but didn't bother trying.


~~~


He had been swept up in his anxiety all night, awake and unable to sleep, caught in a vicious cycle of panic and hope that he could not break from. All night he sat and fed the fire while listening to the storm both outside and within. 

The help were surprised to find him still awake as they tended to their morning chores, most scurrying out of his chambers quicker than necessary or normal. And though it was his most favourite of bacon, eggs and potatoes his morning meal sat, barely touched.

"My Lord?" Lu, a squire in training said as he entered the room, knocking on Gendry's already open door. 

He had a worried look about him, but Gendry didn't answer, he simply looked up from his fire. 

"A raven this morning. For Lady Stark." He said.

Gendry nodded to his side table, "Leave it with me."

"My Lord." The young boy hurried forward to drop the parchment next to Gendry. 

He lingered too long though, prompting Gendry to raise his tired eyes back up to the lad, a questioning look strewn across his face.

"Maester Orys also said that Lady Stark is awake."

"Thank you, Lu. That'll be all."

Gendry gathered himself and steeled his emotions in preparation of seeing her again. He needed to tell her more of what happened at King's Landing, needed to tell her of Jon and the trial, but mostly he was needed to get some answers from her. He was determined to get some kind of closure, or explanation, or anything to quell this nagging uncertainty he felt.

He dressed for the day, looking through his now large wardrobe, yet still falling on the same 3 or so shirt and pant combinations. Today he went with a dark grey doublet and matching tunic with black britches. He then washed his face and raked his fingers through his hair before leaving his chambers.

~~~


Gendry stood at her door for longer then he had expected. His nerves running at an all-time high, a realization that made his heart race even faster.

Gods. Come on, man.

He knocked hard, almost pissed with himself for his blatant and unnecessary hesitance.

"Come in," Arya called out.

Gendry pushed the door open to find her sitting up in bed, a mess of pillows tucked behind her back and head. 

She looked better, much better. 

With more colour in her cheeks, her hair pinned back off her forehead and her head bandage gone, she looked lively, almost. A tired look still sat around her eyes, but the ghostly colour she had when he last saw her was gone now.

"How are you feeling?" He asked as he turned to close the door behind himself.

He thought about the implications the act held and wondered if it was proper, to be alone in a woman's chamber like this. He also wondered who in Storm's End would dare tell him no, if not Arya Stark herself?

"Dizzy." She replied simply.

"Have you spoke with the Maester?"

"Yes, he says it's to be expected. With my head and his medicines. Should only last a day or so."

Gendry nodded and stood at the foot of her bed as an uncomfortable silence hung between them. It was strange, feeling awkward around her. She watched him as he nervously looked about the room. He rocked back on his heels a bit as he chewed on his brewing question. 

He needed to spit it out. He had to. So, he did.

"Why are you here, Arya?" 

He could tell she was taken aback, if only out the corner of his eye. But she shook the feeling quickly and replied stoically, "I don't know. I was heading home, and I fell ill."

He finally made eye contact, a witless decision as he found her looking at him confidently.

"That doesn't explain how you ended up weeks in the opposite direction." He said anyway.

"I don't remember..." She replied, still holding his firm gaze.

"You must have some idea how you got turned so far around?"

"I don't." Arya pointed out.

"It doesn't make much sense."

She swallowed and spoke flatly, "If I didn't know any better, I'd say you don't want me here."

Gendry held a growl of annoyance at bay. His lips perused a thin line as he bit his tongue.

...this woman...

"It's not like that." He replied.

"What's it like then?" She challenged.

"Arya..." 

"Well? Explain yourself."

"Explain myself?! You're the one who just fucking showed up out of..." He paused and took a deep breath. 

This was not how he wanted to interact with her. Not only was she hurt and healing, but his anger towards her was also unjust in that moment. He could be mad at her for a whole slew of reasons but being hurt and needing his help were not among them.

So he settled on being honest instead, "I thought you dead."

Arya smirked, "Oh, ye of little faith."

Her nonchalant attitude aggravated him even more, "Did you not hear the list of your injuries?"

"Bumps and scrapes." She dismissed.

"Maester Orys gave you over a dozen stitches! In your head alone!" Gendry replied, right pissed at her dismissive self-care mindset.

"I've had worse."

Gendry's eyes widened in fury, "He said that if you had wondered around out there any longer you would have succumbed to the fever and died."

"But I didn't."

"Gods, Arya!"

"Why are you upset?"

"Because you're here! You're hurt! And you seem not to care about either."

"I'll be fine. I've lived through worse."

"Right. And who cares about the feelings or consequence that the people around you suffer."

"That's not fair. I didn't come here to inconvenience you."

"As if that makes any of this better."

"Well, don't worry. As soon as I'm able I'll be on my way."

"That's not what I meant either!"

"Seems like it."

"It's not!"

"You're so angry with me."

"I am!" Gendry yelled before he caught his temper again, "I've just... I've been living, without you, just fine... Having you here..."

Before he could go on she cut off his words, "As I said, I'll be on my way as soon as I'm able."

"Seven hells Arya! You know that's not what I want from you."

"Yes. I know what you want from me."

Gendry shook his head slowly, "No. I still don't believe you do."

"What, you're a lord now so you know better then I do?"

"Gods." He muttered and pinched the bridge of his nose as he took another deep breath, "Look. I am glad you're here and I'm very glad that you're alive. Truly. Can we please just... start over?"

She laid back and relaxed a bit more, looking physically exhausted by the whole argument, "Sure."

"What do you remember of the sacking?" He asked, finally sitting in the chair next to her bed.

The colour drained from her face then as she worried at her lip with a drawn-out look in her eyes, "I remember a mother, her little girl. I tried to get them out to safety, but there was so much happening, people burning, building crumbling, flames falling from the sky. And I... I remember The Houn-...Sandor, he made me turn away from the collapsing Red Keep. He convinced me to live, somehow his words... I don't know. Has anyone heard from him?"

Gendry felt that wave of sickly hot jealousy again. How could a loveless brut like Sandor Clegane convince Arya Stark that life was worth living? But he, her childhood friend and once lover, could not?

"No." He replied instead.

Arya looked down, picked at a stray thread attached to the wool blankets, as she went on, "He was after his brother."

"No one has heard from The Mountain either."

"The queen?"

"Which one?"

She gave him a puzzled look, "Cersei."

"Crushed to death by her precious unshakable castle."

"And the dragon queen?"

"Murdered."

"Murdered?" Arya's shock had mimicked his own when he found out. He didn't want to hear her next question, but she asked it anyway, "By whom?" His eyes slipped down to his hands in his lap as he tried to gather the one single word answer, "Gendry?! By whom?!" She pressed again.

"Jon." He said avoiding her steaming stare.

"I beg your pardon?"

Her tone left him with an icy shiver down his spine, "In The Throne Room, after she torched the city, he stabbed her in the heart. He's been held captive since, Tyrion too, both for treason. There's a trial set for both in under a fortnight." He rushed the information, preparing himself for her no doubt angry reaction.

Her voice was cold again, "I need to leave."

"I've been summoned to the trial." Gendry said, eyeing her carefully, "I believe you have too." He continued revealing her still intact scroll from his pocket.

"You read my letter?"

"What?! No! Of course not. I just assume that's what this is about." He replied, nodding towards the scroll.

Arya snatched the letter and quickly broke her family seal. As she read the delicate writing her eyes welled with tears that she never allowed to spill over. Once she was through reading, she crumpled the parchment against her chest and pressed herself hard against the bed below, eyes squeezed shut.

"I need to leave, immediately."

He sympathized, truly he did. He knew her temper, knew she wanted to charge in there and save her pack member. But he also knew the road to King's Landing was long and unforgiving, and leaving now would not get her there in time for the trial no matter how fast she rode.

But instead of explaining any of that, like a stupid bull, he simply stated, "You can't."

Her hackles went up in an instant, "Excuse me?"

Gendry readjusted his demeanour then, shifting in his seat, "You're still healing." He said softly.

"My family needs me!"

"Your family needs you alive."

"I need to leave."

"You won't make it there in time." He stated firmly, standing, ready to call for the maester to help talk some sort of sense into his stubborn wolf, "Travel with us in a few days. It takes but a full day and night's sail to get to King's Landing."

He stood there, feeling like a looming idiot as the room fell silent. He was expecting more of a fight from her, he always was, but when she did not provide one he allowed his shoulders to relax. 

Just as he did, she spoke. "When will we leave?"

"5 days."

"5 days?!" She shouted.

"We can't risk Ser Davos being there any earlier. Davos was still serving as Jon's hand when he fled the city and Grey Worm is still on a warpath of vengeance for his queen."

"I'll take care of him."

"I really don't think that wise." Gendry said softly, "In your current state." He finished, gesturing towards her. 

He could see her annoyance with him, could feel it steaming off her. He saw the way she ran her tongue across her teeth, how her fists clenched the wool below her hands as if she was being held as a prisoner. 

"Well, I can't stay cooped up in here for 5 days. I'll go mad." 

"I'll have proper quarters set up for you."

"And my clothes?"

"The laundresses tried to clean them, but they were too far soiled with blood. I have a seamstress working on replicas."

"What am I to wear in the meantime?" She looked down at her oversized sleep gown.

"The Septa brought you a few dresses." Arya's face wrinkled in disgust, but Gendry trudged on, "I'll ask around for some britches. They'll likely be for a boy, I'm sure, but I'll try and hunt some down for you anyway."

Arya nodded, though she still looked like she was being held against her will.

"I'll return later. Hopefully with some trousers." He finished with as he made his way towards the door.

"Gendry?" Arya called out as he was about to leave. He turned and caught her sightline, a faint smile tugging at her lips, "Thank you."

He dipped his head slightly, "Of course, "

~~~

After a mostly unsuccessful search for a suitable pair of britches, he took what he found to her just before mid-meal, interrupting Maester Orys changing her bandages. He knocked, of course, and heard the Measter call him in.

"I need you to stay put for one day longer," Orys said to Arya, to which she rolled her eyes. "You'll likely experience some more lightheadedness. So riding is out of the question." The maester looked to Gendry while he spoke. He then gathered his tools and the used bandages and stood, "After today you may try walking, but nothing strenuous. Understood?"

Arya shrugged. Her eyes slipped past the old man to Gendry standing there like a gaping fool at the foot of her bed again.

"Are those for me?"

"Yes. Not sure they'll fit, but you can give 'em a go."

"Thanks."

Gendry placed the muted threads atop the fancy dresses. He hoped to see her in his family's colours, one day, the dark fabrics lined with sharp yellows, luscious golds, and rich blues jumping out from under the unassuming browns of her requested pants. After emptying his hands he turned to leave, but Maester Orys beat him to the door.

"My Lord." He said as he closed the door behind himself leaving Gendry alone with Arya once more. 

He stood staring at the door for a moment but felt it odd to just leave. So he turned an awkward smile her way. 

She chuckled, "You can stay, you know."

"I should get back to..." 

"Please stay," Arya interrupted, motioning toward the bedside chair.

Gendry hesitated, he had his lessons and sparring set for the day. However, he knew that though he had responsibilities, nothing would be accomplished with his mind as it were. 

"I'm bored out of my skull." She confessed.

He chuckled back, "I can stay a while."

"There's only so much sleep one can do with,"

He nodded and sat down, pushing back from her bed so he could stretch out and hook his ankles, and, well, to create some distance for her.

"I hate taking milk of the poppy." She confessed, shifting a bit to face him, "I refused this last dose Orys tried to feed me. Have you ever had it?"

"No."

"It's awful. Makes you feel like you're underwater."

"I can't swim, so that sounds terrible."

"The lord of Ship Breaker Bay can't swim? What will the noble-folk think?" She joked lightly.

Gendry shrugged, "They already think me thick, and lowborn, so it couldn't get much worse."

Arya gave him a sympathetic tilt of her head, before a loud clap of thunder, followed by a flash of blinding lightning flooded the room.

"Gods, does it ever stop?" She asked, watching the rain cascade across the window, the wind creating hard sheets of pounding water against the thick stonework castle walls.

"Sometimes. But, not often."

Arya sat a beat longer as she watched the storm rage outside her window.

"I'm sorry. For how I acted earlier."

"I know, I'm sorry too." He replied eagerly.

Arya looked back to him, sized him up, studied him even, looking as though she had a thousand questions on the tip of her tongue, before she spoke again.

"Tell me about your journey here."

He settled into a comfortable position and told her everything. He recounted every step of the way to her like they were, in fact, old friends. He left out no detail, was completely candid, and felt almost relieved as he came to the end of his long story.

"So, you do have a family." She confirmed.

He looked at her then, his eyebrows drawn, her choice of words haunting his memories. He shook the feeling and broke eye contact to reply, "I do. Larger than I originally thought."

"Well, that's wonderful news."

"It is. But I don't belong here. They do. I really don't."

"It might feel that way, but this place is just as much yours as it is theirs."

"Aye, on paper. But I don't feel at home here." He said blankly. 

"Have you ever?"

"Felt at home? Here? No."

"No, I mean, ever?"

"Have I ever felt at home?"

"Yes."

"In my whole life?"

"Yes."

He thought a moment. He knew the answer, but was it too bold to say so? He thought it might be, but spoke his truth anyway, "I felt at home in Winterfell. It's fucking freezing there, but it did feel like a real home."

Arya laughed, wincing a bit as her lungs expanded against her broken ribs.

"I felt at home with you." He confessed quietly thereafter.

Their gaze met then, and Gendry would have sworn he watched her eyes slip from his to land on his lips. So he allowed himself to do the same before clearing his throat with a forced cough.

"I really should really get back. Let you rest."

"Alright." She said, eyes cast to her lap again.

For some reason her tone retched at his heart, so he said the first thing he thought of, "I'll come back though. After sup. Maybe bring you something better than bone broth and water?"

Arya lit up, "I would be forever grateful." She gushed with a playful glint in her eye.

Gendry smiled, "Of course, Milady. Will'ya'be needing anything else?" He teased as he rose to leave.

"No, thank you. Please, My Lord, don't let me keep you, I know how busy you must be." She feigned with her own smirk.

"Aye. Busy floundering through this bloody lordship." He offered back before taking his leave.

~~~

Chapter Text

Gendry was a useless pupil that day. His time spent on his lessons was a complete waste, a comment Maester Orys made to him on several occasions. 

Finally, after over an hour of getting nowhere, he was dismissed. Told to smarten up. Told to get his mind right. Told the importance of taking this stupid shit seriously. Told they'd resume tomorrow.

His sparring session with Edric was a bit better, simply because he could quiet his mind and use his body for the task. However, he took more blows than normal because of this, something that his brother felt the need to call attention to.

"What's the matter with you?"

"Nothing."

"You look terrible. Have you slept a wink?"

"Doesn't matter." He said, blocking Edric's wide chop from above.

"Are you drunk?"

"No,"

"You're fighting like you are," He replied while parrying and striking Gendry in the shoulder blade.

He did most of his broadsword training with Edric, along with their Master of Arms, a tall, brawny, ginger named Ser Fellar Erock. But today, the older knight was nowhere to be seen. Gendry's training in proper weaponry were some of the highlights in his day-to-day. The rest he could take or leave. The politics, the formalities, the scrolls, the ass-kissing, he could do without. But this, he felt useful and skilled in. This felt more his forte, and with more of his time dedicated to the task, he was able to hone in his already useful combat knowledge.

Most claimed that the pair of brothers looked akin enough to be twins, handsome and virile, young spitting images of their late 'father'. But where Edric was taller, quicker, and had more conventional training, Gendry was clever and far stronger.

"I'm not." He growled, turning to deliver another hack with his broadsword, which Edric blocked easily as if he had seen him coming from leagues away.

"Prove it," Edric said, shoving Gendry back.

He surged forward, the repeating clang of steel to steel focusing him, reminding him of the smithy, of where he belonged, where he felt strong, and sure, and most himself. 

They fell into a sparring rhythm now, pivoting, jumping and turning with and from each throw of their swards until Edric had Gendry backed up and pinned between his sword and the stone pillar of their practice square.

"Get your head into it!" Edric spat while he tried to knock his brother's blade from his hand with the pommel of his own sword.

"Fuck off!" 

He was furious, fuming, seething, seeing red, whatever you wanted to call it, and it wasn't making his situation any better. In fact, it made it all so much worse. But he harnessed his rage and pushed off the pillar before shoving his older brother, hard. Edric stumbled back but was able to catch his balance just as Gendry set out for another attack.

Heated now, their squabble turned more vicious, form and decorum lost, with fists and feet joining in on the action as they both tried to push each other down and into submission.

"Has this to do with your mysterious lady of the night?" Edric asked as he dodged a swipe he made for his footing.

"Don't call her that," Gendry barked as he absorbed Edric's shove against his chest and used the momentum to push him back in return.

Edric landed with a hard thud and a knowing chuckle, "Ahh, so it has." He grinned from the ground.

"My Lords?!"

Both Baratheon men stopped and turned to see a crowd had gathered, Ser Davos standing at the front of the group. He gave them a disapproving shake of his head and nodded towards the spectators. 

The young lords quickly checked their tempers and Gendry reached to help his brother up to his feet. The pair then bumped fists cordially, before leaving the square, heading towards the armoury.

"Why is Arya Stark here?" Edric asked as they removed their armour. He stacked his neatly, whereas Gendry just tried to keep his bloody cool. 

"She was injured in the sacking of King's Landing." He said as calmly as he could possibly muster.

"So? Why is she here?"

"Gods, the lot of you!! I don't know! Alright?! She just showed up." Gendry nearly yelled, tossing the last of his equipment aside and tuning on a heel to leave.

"Your manners are shit, " His brother called after him.

"Again, fuck off!" Gendry growled back.

"See you for dinner, dearest brother." Edric teased in return.

~~~

Gendry didn't make it back to the castle, he needed to right himself after his strange and awfully emotional afternoon. He felt so out of sorts and frazzled, as though Arya Stark could just walk into his life and shake him up even if he were at his most collected. 

He soon found himself at the forage, a mildly common occurrence for the Smith and young apprentice there. He helped the men with odd tasks until dusk, until he felt comfortable in his skin again. Until he was drenched in sweat, covered in soot, and his hands vibrated and his ears rang.

~~~

Though he was clean and in fresh linens he was still in a sour mood while joining everyone in the great hall. It was warm and smelled of stewed meat, wax and wine, making his stomach rumble the moment he walked into this common space. 

His family was seated on the dais, a free space next to both his sister and brother. He opted for the empty seat next to Mya, as she rarely pissed him off. 

Mya reminded him so much of Lady Sansa, even with how little he and both women had interacted. Though Mya's hair was just as dark as his, her eyes just as blue, she was quiet, pensive, and smart as a bloody whip.

"You're in a mood." She said as he sat down heavily.

"I am."

Mya didn't say anything else until they were finished with their meal. She sipped at her wine while Gendry waited for the appropriate amount of time to pass before he was allowed to excuse himself from the dining hall.

"I'd like to meet her," Mya said as she watched the others talk, and shout, and drink, and laugh.

"Hmm?" 

"Your friend. Arya Stark. The King Slayer." She confessed with an easy smile that was all but lost on him. Gendry frowned back at his empty supper plate, "Ser Davos filled me in, a bit." Mya offered up quietly.

"She should be able to move about tomorrow," He replied.

"Well, I'd like to meet the woman who saved the world as we know it."

Gendry turned a small smile to his sister. She nodded at him then, silently letting him know it was safe to make his escape. 

"I'll let Arya know that you'd like to meet and see you tomorrow." He said and stood. 

He gave a smirking Edric and a watchful Davos a cut nod each before leaving the hall.

~~~

After getting lost on his way to the kitchens, he made his way up to Arya's room. 

He had snagged a small loaf of bread and stuffed it in his pocket, found a modest flask of ale that was now tucked under his arm and balanced a bowl of stew in his cradled hands.

Gendry knocked with the toe of his boot, "Arya?"

"Come in."

Holding the bowl precariously he turned the knob then threw his body into the wood to swing it open into her room.

"Stew?" He asked as he walked to her bedside.

She smiled at him warmly, "You came back."

"I said I would, didn't I?"

"Yes. You did." Arya replied taking the bowl he offered, "Thank you."

Gendry let the flask fall to her bed, his stowaway bread placed on her bedside table, "You're welcome." He replied turning back to latch the door.

Arya tucked into her bowl as he tossed a few small logs on her fire, hoping it would help combat the damp air that seemed to never let up. He then came to sit next to her bed again while she quietly enjoyed her meal.

"How was the rest of your day?" She asked between bites. 

Her voice was almost tentative, almost.

His brow furrowed at the timbre, "Alright, I guess."

"You guess?"

With a shrug he sat back and hooked his ankles again, arms crossed over his chest as she ate small spoonfuls. "I didn't feel much like lording today."

Arya chuckled, "They don't give you much choice do they?"

"No. They do not."

"What happened?" She asked, still working at her stew and picking at the bread now too, "I'm desperate for a story."

"Not much of a story. Just my shit mood."

Though her head was bowed, he saw that half crooked smile of hers as she went on to tease him, "Then there must be a story." 

Gendry gruffed out a laugh, "Let's see then... I was dismissed from my studies early because Maester Orys didn't want to deal with my mood. Then, Edric and I fought, when we were meant to be sparring, and in front of a bunch of folks too. All this after Davos gave me the once over for you being here." He hesitated when she paused her eating to catch his gaze, "However, on the positive, I did work in the forge today, and my sister would like to meet you." He finished quickly with a little smirk.

"Your sister?"

"Mya."

"And Edric?"

"My brother."

Arya nodded then and finished the last few morsels of her food.

"Well, I won't be cooped up here much longer. And I'd love to meet her. The whole mess of you, really."

Gendry cracked another small smile, "How about you? Feeling any better?"

"I feel fine today. My foot and ribs throb from time to time. And I think Orys spiked my tea because I slept away most of the afternoon."

"You'll heal faster with rest,"

"I'd just like to leave this room."

"You can move about some tomorrow." Gendry replied before taking a swig from his skin, he handed it over to her next as he continued, "We'll get you set up in a new room. Bigger. Fancier. Maybe with a view of Ship Breaker Bay? A room fit for a proper lady."

Arya took a healthy sip and closed the cap, tossing the flask into his lap while she spoke, "Shut up."

Gendry smirked as he felt himself relax, the warmth from the small fire, the warmth of the ale in his belly, the warmth of this playful banter all moving him into an ease that he really only knew with Arya.

"Do you remember anything more of your trip here?"

Surprisingly, she as quick to reply, "A bit."

Gendry shouldn't have assumed she would be forthcoming with said tale. Though he had hoped she would explain herself. However, she was just as stubborn as he was, and he knew that if the roles were reversed, if he'd just shown up out of the blue with no explanation, he'd likely keep hush until properly prompted too.

"Well?" He urged, as gently as he could, as though speaking any louder might scare off this captured creature. 

But, she seemed to respond positively, sat up a bit straighter and wet her lips in preparation to speak.

"I... I didn't make it far from King's Landing, less than a day's ride before I started feeling strange. There was... this lone horse who survived near me and we became fast friends. I knew something wasn't right shortly into our escape, and I knew I wouldn't make it home. So I turned us back, thought that I could get help with the field medics, thought I could find Jon," 

Gendry hadn't dared move an inch since she started in on what she recalled. He sat like a statue, watched her ardently, watched how she gathered her explanation. He watched as she thought through her words, and watched her nibble at her bottom lip as she spoke, captivated and he himself, captive.

"The sacking... the aftermath...it was such chaos, pure loss, death and carnage. I was delirious, thought I saw... I thought I saw my father. I panicked. We rode away as fast as we could." She spoke with sadness riddling her voice, lip trembling slightly, "Keep south. South. I remember saying. Stay south. Keep south."

He could feel himself breathing heavier, his head bobbing in sympathy, palms sweating. He handed her the flask again and she sipped at it before handing it back.

"She was a lovely white horse. Is she alright?"

"Aye. She's fine."

She let out a small sigh of relief, "I remember being barely conscious at points of our trip. But I kept on riding south. Day or night. It didn't matter."

The howling Storm Land wind and low crackle of the fire were the only noise between them for a long while.

But Gendry had a burning question.

"Why?" He asked quietly.

Arya took a sharp intake of breath, wincing a bit from her ribs, "I've been thinking on that, sitting in this cell." She turned a wary smile his way, "I could say that it was because I knew the road north would have killed me, in my previous state. Or I could say that the help in King's Landing was meant for its people, and not the likes of myself. But,"

"But?"

"I was scared. And..." Her voice trailed off.

Another drawn-out pause prompted him to implore her once again, "And?"

"I believe I ended up in Storm's End simply because I knew that you were here," Arya confessed, lifting her eyes to meet his.

They held each other's gaze for a long devout moment, both unsure of how to proceed. Gendry was first to move, handing over the flask one last time. She drained the last few sips.

"Tell me how you made it back to Winterfell," He said, pulling his chair closer and resting his hooked ankles on the edge of her bed.

"It's a long story."

"Good, we're not going anywhere for a while."

Arya laughed lightly. She hesitated but a moment before she seemed to tell him everything. 

Though the tale was likely the same version she shared with her family, it was still lengthy. She did keep the gory details to a minimum, and he wasn't about to press. But, she did tell him of her travels with the Hound, of meeting Brienne and Podrick, of boarding a pirate ship and travelling to Braavos, and of training at The House Of Black And White to be a Faceless (Wo)man, something Gendry didn't understand or know possible.

But again, if nothing else, these most recent years had taught him that truly anything was possible. 

She also told him of her journey back to Westeros and about seeing HotPie at the inn. She explained how she ended up on the road again, how she made it back to Winterfell, and how she and Sansa took care of the North while Jon was in Dragon Stone, then beyond The Wall, then in King's Landing. And at the end, most astonishingly, she told him of Jon's true parentage. 

The rest, he knew, mostly.

"What about you? How did you end up with Jon?"

You. I ended up aligned with Jon because of you.

But he didn't dare say that. The last time he was so forthcoming with such devotion he was met with her rejection.

Best think of a better explanation.

He still sat guarded with her, however, he could tell she was really trying to relax around him. But there was always something distant and stormy in her deep grey eyes, something akin to magic, he thought.

"Davos." He settled on, "He set me free from Stannis at Dragon Stone after I was sold to the Red Woman, I then rowed back to King's Landing. He found me again, a few years later, took me back to Dragon Stone, where I met Jon. I saw how they were mining the Dragon Glass, pledged myself to Jon's cause and shared my bastards lineage with him. We then travelled to East Watch By The Sea, and I went with the party beyond The Wall,"

"You've been beyond The Wall?"

"I have. To catch a wight."

"You caught a wight?" 

"No. I ran back to East Watch for help when things went to shit."

"Ran back?"

"Aye, was at least a whole day's journey."

"And you ran that?"

"Barely made it too."

She seemed impressed, or at least intrigued, a twinkle of mischief appearing in her gaze.

"The long road to Winterfell, indeed." She said in jest.

He smiled, almost wickedly, "I mean what I say."

It was the honest to gods truth. He was nothing if not truthful. That was why he told her lord father his helm was not for sale, why he held her secret, why he had told Jon who he was, why he had confessed his love to her as he had, why he held his word to Storm's End, and the family he never knew.

~~~

They talked on and off for hours. 

She told him all about the flora and fauna she had come across on her travels, of customs and rituals she'd come to witness. He offered up tales from the smithy, rumours and stories that were told amongst the commoners, songs he had since heard written of her and the rest of the Starks. The songs of Ice and Fire, as they were. 

She shrugged those off modestly and changed the subject swiftly.

"You look tired," Arya commented.

"I am. I should go. Try to catch some sleep."

"Or you could stay a while longer. Keep my company." She suggested hopefully. "You don't even need to talk, just..." She paused and looked down to her covers, smoothing out nothing in particular with her hands. "You could just, sit?"

Gendry swallowed a dry lump in his throat as she spoke her next words, "Or you could just lay next to me? Until I fall asleep?"

It was unlike her to be so timid, which turned his insides into knots. She was suggesting something he wasn't sure he could or should do. 

Just lay next to the woman I've loved nearly all my youth? 
Just lay next to this beautiful creature that, at one time, allowed me the pleasure of kissing and touching and seeing bare? 
Just lay next to the woman that I long to call family?

"I shouldn't."

"Of course. What would your advisors think?" She said, though there was no question to her voice.

"I don't care about them. Besides, Davos knows of our history."

"So stay then."

Gendry sat frozen, his gaze locked on hers. She had an almost challenging look in her steely grey eyes, her eyebrow bouncing ever so slightly as she waited for his answer.

Without thought, his body made his decision for him. He stood and quickly toed off his boots before removing his black doublet, leaving him in just his blue tunic and dark britches. He untucked his shirt from his pants and took a few deep steadying breaths as he tended to the fire then dimmed the oil lantern.

Arya turned to her good side to make room for him, tucked up and scootched to the edge of the narrow bed. Mindful of her injuries Gendry laid in and spooned her from behind, atop the covers. His arm rested low across her waistline, avoiding her ribs, a wisp of needed space between them.

But once he was settled she began to shift backwards, until she was pressed tightly into every nook and curve of his body. 

It was almost torture. 

It could have been too if they didn't feel so right, and good, and whole together.

"I can't say I've had a proper sleep in a while." She confessed.

Gendry held her warmth against himself, lightly, knowing the slightest pressure would be a spark to tinder. He steadied his emotions and hoped to keep his desires under control long enough to fall asleep.

"Aside from the forced sleep that milk of the poppy brings, that is." She went on to explain, bringing his hand up to weave with her fingers, clutching them both at her chest.

He felt himself warm all over, a calm creeping into the marrow of his bones from her delicate but sure touch.

"Me either," Gendry replied, allowing himself to nuzzle into the nape of her neck.

It was soft and warm and he breathed deeply, taking in her scent, an action he didn't even try to hide. She seemed to enjoy it though, as she sighed and pressed back against him even more.

"Wine helps." He muttered.

"For a time."

"This feels much better."

"It does."

The room fell into a natural silence then. The crackle of the fire, their synced breath and the dull howl of the sea wind all melding into a soft lullaby, soothing and calming, lulling them both off to sleep.

He wasn't sure the last time he had laid so comfortably, and before thinking he spoke up, "Arya?"

"Hmm?" Her hum came out raspy with sleep.

"We should stick together." He said against her neck.

"We are together."

"We should stay that way." Gendry replied, feeling himself slowly slip into slumber, "We're better together."

Her laugh was soft and lazy, "We are, are we?" She teased.

"Aye. Don't you agree?"

"I do."

~~~

Gendry awoke with a start to Arya mumbling and groaning in front of him. 

Her lithesome little body was thrashing harder than her injuries should allow, and dread settled over him in a flash as he came to. 

Her breathing was erratic, her limbs and muscles twitching in panic, her voice riddled with fear and concern. He couldn't make out what she was saying, but it was clear to him then that she was having a vivid night terror. 

He remembered her having them on occasion when they were younger, but nothing like this. Mind you, she'd seen, done and been through so much more since those days.

"Arya." He said groggily. 

His hold was around her waist, so he moved it up to cap her shoulder. He ran his hand down her arm and back up again, trying to soothe her awake. 

She stirred at her name, so he spoke it again, slightly louder, "Arya?"

She woke up then with a sharp gasp that jarred her ribs. She clutched her side with a groan and tentatively rolled so she was on her back. Slowly her eyes fluttered open, breathing still laboured as she looked up to him with confusion.

He tried to mask his worry, "You alright?"

"I am." She replied, eyes focusing and softening in quick succession.

Much to his surprise Arya silently reached up to trace his stubble covered cheek with her thumb, her fingers resting on his jaw. He swallowed his own gasp and pressed against her palm, all the same, his breath low as his eyes slipped closed.

"You were having a night terror." He explained blindly, savouring the feel of her gentle touch.

Her hand was so cool, her voice so warm, like liquid honey.

"It happens often." She replied.

She smoothed along his jawline before slowly dragging her touch down his neck, to settle her palm above his heart.

This was a bad idea.

This was such a bad fucking idea.

Putting himself in this position like this, like a bloody fucking idiot, what had he expected? 

Well... This... Of course

In the dim light, he opened his eyes to find her staring back at him from below, her face the void of any fear or apprehension. Her small hand dug into the fabric of his tunic, winding it into her tiny fist while giving the threads a slight tug.

He couldn't help but shudder at the feeling.

"You're still here." She said softly.

He could feel himself being pulled to her, and not just physically either. His eyes grew heavy with desire, the pulse of his heartbeat rose into his ears, blood surged south.

"I am." He somehow mumbled.

"I am too,"

He was scared to break the spell, so when he spoke next it was in an almost whisper, "You are."

Arya searched his features, her dark gaze landing and staying on his lips, "I want you to kiss me."

Gendry didn't hesitate. Though, for a slight moment, his mind did try to logic out how bad this was. His body and heart cared not. 

He bent in and kissed her softly, lips gentle and tentative, though body thrumming. Her sigh of almost relief charged him, fueled them both to deepen the kiss. She opened for him, gliding her tongue along with his, returning each slick touch with her own.

He managed to keep his hands from wandering, holding one on her upper arm, the other still tucked under his head, resisting the urge to map over her whole entire being. 

They kissed languidly, reacquainting, and remembering as if they had all the time in the world. They moved together like it was routine, or common, or even expected. 

Like they were two fools in love. 

She was as pliant as ever under his lips, her own working to stoke his flame. He could tell by her slight sighs, moans, and movements that she was trying to get more of a rise out of him, trying to awaken the bull, trying to pull his desire forward. He did his best to accommodate her, mindfully though, trying not to give into his most basic instincts.

"Gendry..." She whispered between gasps for air, "More." She panted then as he moved to kiss her cheek, then her jaw and down her throat.

He groaned helplessly and gathered the last bits of his self-control he had to warn her. However fleeting it may have sounded. "Arya..." 

"Gendry." She said back with that challenging look in her eye again.

He melted at the slight purr her voice made around his name, the timbre reminding him of those breathless moans he was able to elicit from her amidst pleasure. His cock pulled taut against his breeches at the thought, straining to be set free, evident in its desire for her attention, making his stomach feel almost ill.

"It's early, Orys is likely making his rounds." He argued.

The sun had already crested the horizon with a rare Storm Land sunrise. The sky was painted in rich oranges and yellows, marbled with purples and reds, all mirrored in deep sea blue. It was calm. Calm enough to hear the waves and the gulls in the bay, enough to hear the busying of castle life awakening in these dawn hours, enough to hear his own racing heart.

"Lords get caught with their pants down all the time." Arya reasoned.

"I don't." He replied, pulling back to look at her.

Gods, she was beautiful, all doe eyes, soft skin, kiss-swollen lips and messy hair. She looked so vulnerable at this moment, gaze as tender and collected as he'd ever seen. She looked open and inviting, so much so that he had a mind to give her everything she wanted or asked for, and more.

But, he wasn't sure his own heart could handle it. 

He needed her. 

He needed her to be with him, completely, and she didn't seem to want any of that. So what was the point? This was never just about ringing someone's bell. This was about love. His love for her, her muddled love for him, the act of that love poured out in the physical. Or at least he thought so.

Why play with fire?

Arya opened her mouth to speak again when they both heard someone walking the corridor outside. Gendry didn't move too far from his spot, he just tried to subtlety adjust himself by tugging at the crotch seam of his britches and moving their position to make it all a little less obvious. 

Though Orys wasn't stupid, and he was sure the old man could put two and two together. 

But, the knock at the door was followed by a chamber maid's voice, "My Lady?"

"Yes," She replied.

The young girl let herself into her room but stopped short when she saw the pair cuddled up on Arya's far too small bed.

"Oh, uh... My Lord. My lady." She bowed awkwardly, holding a bundle of fresh linens.

"There's no need for all that," Arya said, waving the girl into her chamber.

Beth, a comely girl who worked mostly in the kitchens, had grown up here, from what Gendry understood. She was likely Arya's age, and shapely, which left her with much unwanted male attention. However, like Arya, she had 4 brothers, and a quick tongue and she seemed to handle any situation thrown at her easily.

He had come to realize that, for the most part, the daily lives of the small-folk that lived in the castle seemed happy. A fact that Gendry hoped wasn't just because he was there, aiding in their voice. 

But, one didn't just out and ask the help if they were happy, apparently.

"Ser Davos has been searching for ya," Beth replied to him.

"I fell asleep. I'll be up shortly."

"These are for you," She said to Arya, rocking back on her heels a bit before placing the threads on the apothecary table.

"Thank you..."

"Beth." Gendry and Beth replied in sync.

Arya smiled, "Thank you, Beth."

"A pleasure, Lady Stark."

"Arya is fine, dear."

"Very well." She said lightly, "Maester Orys has requested you." She replied to Gendry again.

"I won't be long."

"I'll tell 'em." She gave a sharp nod and backed out of the doorway.

Arya watched the girl leave before turning her attention back to him. His eyes felt lazy, head still propped up by his own hand, mind racing again.

"A favourite of yours?" Arya asked with a sly smile.

Gendry grinned back down at her, "Jealous?"

"No." Arya's eyes narrowed on him, "Should I be?" She asked.

"No." He replied firmly, "I know most all the castle folk's names." He confessed to her quietly.

"Of course you do."

He dipped his head down to help mask the blush he knew crept up on him. With foreheads touching it was his turn to caress her jaw now. He brushed her hair away before dragging the backs of his fingers across her smooth skin of her cheek. He watched on as her eyes fluttered closed from the motion.

"I'll come back and help you move to your new room around mid-meal." He said softly.

She opened her eyes to him again, "Alright."

"Should I send the maester up for something to help you sleep more soundly?"

"No, I'll be alright."

"You're sure?"

"Yes."

He didn't bother arguing any further. 

She was a woman grown, a woman who had survived this long without maesters, and septas, and lords, and ladies, and servants, and aids. 

Just as he had. 

With that knowledge he stood, moving as gracefully as possible, as to not shift her uncomfortably. He half dressed and bent down to kiss her forehead, the urge to kiss her lips nearly undeniable. 

"I'll be back soon." He said and matched her small smile before he left.

~~~

Maester Orys had his lessons set up in his solar already, his morning meal placed next to his quills, scrolls and ink.

"Sleep well, my lord?" He asked as he looked through his own papers.

If Gendry didn't know better he'd say that there was an air of sarcasm wrapped around the old man's normally stoic voice. 

He smiled lightly and sat down, "Yes. Better than I've in years."

"And Lady Arya?"

For whatever reason he didn't feel the need to lie, or beat around the bush, "She also slept well." 

The maester looked up from his work, "Need I remind you of your obligations?"

Gendry drank down some spiced golden tea before he spoke. "No."

"You're a lord now,"

"I'm well aware."

"Of all the Storm Lands. Not just Storm's End."

"So I've been told."

"Edric is acknowledged but has not yet been legitimized."

"My legitimacy comes from a dead queen."

"Yet you accepted."

"For Jon."

"Who is still alive."

"I know."

Orys watched him a while longer but Gendry tied to ignore him. He knew there was a lecture or lesson on the tip of the old maester's tongue. 

"I've been here near all my life, my lord. Do not waste this gift."

"What makes you think I will?" 

"These feelings and situations are not as easily navigated as they are for the low-born."

"I am low-born."

"Not anymore."

"And what might these 'situations and feelings' be?" Gendry asked facetiously.

The old man furrowed his brow, "Don't play dumb."

"I'm not. I'm interested." He replied as he started to break his fast.

"Love. My lord."

"Love?"

"Lords and ladies hold many freedoms. But loving whom they choose is not often one of them."

"And what do you know of it?"

"Don't patronize me, my lord. I'm simply here to help."

"I understand. But if being legitimized only gets me this castle and these bloody lessons, then I might as well pass on the whole thing."

With a small shrug, Orys went back to writing, "Duty is the death of love." He replied.

Gendry scoffed, "Awfully grim isn't it?"

"It is. Reality often is."

He ate in silence then, finishing off his meal like a man starved. He wanted to get his day underway already, for the sooner he was finished here, the sooner he could be with Arya again.

~~~

"What if I were to marry her?" He asked more than an hour or so into his lessons.

"Would she allow it?"

"What?"

"From what Ser Davos tells me, she refused you."

Gendry rolled his eyes, clearly, no knowledge was sacred, "She did."

"And yet here she is."

"And yet..." Gendry agreed with a tilt of his head.

"What's given her the change of heart?" The maester asked, still absorbed in his parchments and books.

"I don't know if anything has yet."

Maester Orys hummed and nodded, "You'd better find out."

~~~

Chapter Text

Storm's End smelled like the crypts of Winterfell. It was dewy and dank, yet welcome to her. It was familiar and in a strange way; evocative, save for the sea air and the gulls. That reminded her of Braavos.

Cooped up and laying out like some sickly, bed-ridden maid was really starting to get under her skin. Arya felt fidgety and anxious, unable to quiet her unsettled mind.

She always had issue with sitting still. Even as a child, or rather, especially as a child.

But now was really no different.

Things were starting to come back to her, slowly. A solace she found in this laying in wait. Recollections and images came flooding back in fragments and foggy memories. The only constant she felt was her worry for her family; her worry for Jon.

Guilt ate away at her here in Storm's End. It coiled around her guts and squeezed out any optimism she had remaining. The regret clawed at her like a beast digging in the dirt, ready to burrow deep within her, if she were to allow it.

There was no way she should be here, alive, being served and tended to. When he, her dearest brother, was being held captive like some retched rabid hunting hound. He is The King In The North; their rightful king, in truth. Without him the world would be forever under the Night King's spell, everything would be blanketed in The Long Night, and every living creature would be amongst the army of death, if not for Jon's insistence.

How could she be here, feeling safe and cared for, when he was still out there, unsure and alone?

She had wanted nothing more than to find Jon during the sacking. She needed to find him, in truth.

But, what happened during the burning will forever haunt her.

Amidst the rubble, her head trauma felt slight enough to gather her wits and mount her snowy white horse. Making it back to the city gates had not been an easy feat, but she had hoped Jon would still be there commanding.

She soon realized that, of course, he wouldn't be and he certainly wasn't.

The sickly realization violently turned her stomach and she toppled from her saddle, barely making it to the ground before throwing up.

Something wasn't right.

In her delirium and working on instinct she rode North. Her head just kept on bleeding, bile turning in her belly, her vision hazy, her limbs like lead; achy and weak.

Something wasn't right.

Turning back to King's Landing was a flight decision.

It was a decision made out of hope and worry. Hope that Jon was not with the Dragon Queen. Hope that Arya could find him. Hope that he was alive and well. Hope that whatever was happening to her was no more than stress and exhaustion.

Just find Jon.

Willing herself back into the wreckage she found her fleeting hope quickly replace itself with uncertainty, grief, and death.

Moving through the chaos was devastating and discombobulating and she was so wary already that the sights before her crushed her into pieces.

Visions of the Great Sept of Baelor, of the birds and screams and cheers, crept into her mind. Her eyes played tricks, showed her Nymeria and Grey Wind, Robb and her mother, Jory...and even her father.

In a panic, she ran.

The girl ran.

The fearless, faceless, killing, robbing, lying, king-slaying girl ran.

She ran for her bloody life. Ran as fast and as far as her sweet horse would carry her, riding impulsively towards more southern shores, for no reason but the one she held surely in her heart.

The rest was still a blur of rain, travel and fevered dreams.

Showing up in Storm's End was not her conscious intention, though she did have a vague recollection of guiding her horse south. She even remembered feeling a flood of relief when she saw the huge castle's drum tower through the volatile weather.

Her memory of why or how she arrived at his door was lost but coming back in fragments. Seeing Gendry at her bedside, seeing Davos at the gates when she arrived, in that pre-dawn twilight, those things she remembered as clear as polished crystal.

That morning was nothing like this one.

That morning she was full of unrest, confusion, and pain. She was drenched to the bone, exhausted and lost in a blood loss pyrexia delirium.

This morning, however, sunlight poured into her room on a slim beam of light and she was draped in warmth, someone solid cradled around her, urging her awake and out of her terrible reoccurring dream.

Gendry.

Dreams of coming-to below a pile of crushing rubble shook her awake most times. Whenever sleep did claim her, it was the same dream that woke her.

In searing pain, she would be pinned below crumbled buildings and would have to claw her way out of the burning rubble. Most times her closest loved ones were lying dead before her at the surface, other times they were crying out for her while maimed and mangled. Death was always around her.

But, this morning she wasn't alone. This morning he was with her.

It was a fact. She was here and so was he.

They'd been speaking, reconnecting, and reminiscing. And she wasn't sure he would when she had asked, but he laid next to her without much thought or hesitation.

He was solid as crag behind her. But gods help her, she wanted to know for sure.

His kiss, though tentative at first, made her feel as though no time had passed at all.

Like she was still a woman grown, but somehow unchanged. Or as if he was still just a stupid bastard smith, yet grown into a fine man. As if they were still unflappable, connected and in sync, like they had been before all the madness, just older now.

Even in her reverie, she wanted more from him. Something she could tell he was withholding. No matter how she snaked and slid against him, his hands did not move. His lips, groans, and cock spoke of a different need, but his hands would not caress and map her as she hopped.

She urged him, but he declined. She argued with him, but his rebuttal was unwavering. She wanted him. Seven Hells, she wanted all of him, even more than she was willing to admit before that moment. He was haven and refuge, stubborn and loyal, and just as handsome and steadfast as ever. But, maybe his desires had shifted, maybe there was already another.

The thought weighed heavy on her heart, but his parting kiss that morning and his soft words lightened her burden.

~~~

Maester Oyrs had brought her two books with her morning meal of oats, warm milk, and honey.

Orys was a tall, lean, curt man with little to no bedside manner. In fact, he reminded her so much of Maester Luwin, his near spitting image.

At least he didn't spike her herb tea this time.

~~~

The slivered sunbeam through her window was sharp and welcome. After she broke her fast she read through Oyrs' literature surprisingly quickly. He left her with The Dance of the Dragons and The War of the Usurper, stories told to her by Septa Mordane back in Winterfell, stories Arya didn't know the finer details of, until now.

At the end of the pages, she felt herself grow increasing restless. So she decided to try and get up. She needed to move about some, stretch out her underused muscles, encourage some blood flow.

Honestly, she just needed to do anything other than lay there like the bedridden, or like the decrepit. 

She stood slowly, using her chair for support, however, the pain in her foot prevented her from applying too much walking pressure.

Arya forced herself to hobble over to the assorted linings and britches left behind for her. She unfolded all the nearly stacked threads and sighed her disappointment.

Gods, Sansa would love to see this.

~~~

Chapter Text

Gendry kept his word and joined Arya in her temporary quarters at midday. 

He had yet to change over his clothes since yesterday, however.

That was something he had intended to do before meeting with Davos and Edric. He was to hear the petitions the people of Storm's End held later that day in The Round Hall. As part of his daily obligations he, obviously, needed to look the part.

Now, he came to Arya's room somewhat dishevelled and with a slight pep in his step.

Though he woke up with his arms wrapped around her and had also kissed her, two things he didn't think he'd get the chance to do again, he wanted more than just her kiss.

He wanted much more.

And speaking with pessimistic Oyrs earlier didn't change any of that either.

Still, he knew that he would have to plan his next steps carefully. Navigating any of this wasn't something he was particularly skilled or versed in. Matters of the heart were tricky things and he'd approached it with her all wrong before. Truthfully he still felt overcautious with her, as though she might change her mind again and flee.

So he decided to try and follow her lead.

He'd try, anyway.

Simply because, if nothing else, what happened between them next needed to change things. Their dynamic needed a shift, it needed some fine-tuning if the relationship were to continue at all.

As he approached the medical wing he saw the door to her room was ajar. He stepped inside to find her sitting on the edge of her bed, pulling small tufts of fur out of her big belled sleeves.

"None of the britches fit my hips." She confessed sadly, looking up as if completely and utterly defeated.

To his surprise, Arya Stark sat in a fine dress made of his Baratheon colours. The outer fabrics were dark and the hems were trimmed in soft golden fur, with yellow thread embroidering the bodice in slight yet intricate vine work. The neckline was much wider than anything he had seen her in prior as well, exposing her delicate collarbones and a few of her silvery scars. The waistline wasn't tight but it hugged her at her most narrow, making the womanly form he knew she had all the more obvious. Her cheeks were rosy with life, her eyes sharp, hair pulled back off her face in a half bun, like how she had worn it in Winterfell. She gave him a slight frown when he came to stand in front of her.

He tried not to gape.

"You look... good." He swallowed thickly, hoping it wasn't as noticeable as it felt.

She shrugged, "Thanks."

"When was the last time you wore one?" He asked reaching his hand out to help her to her feet.

"Braavos."

"I could lend you a pair of mine?" He offered, though he secretly hoped she would refuse.

"Your britches would be far too big. This is fine. For now." She replied as she took his hand and stood, "Dresses are fine, they just restrict my movements. Something I can't do much of anyway."

After helping her stable herself upright, Gendry went on, "Your own garments will be finished soon."

"And where are my weapons?"

He was surprised that this was the first time she was asking for them. He imagined they'd become part of her, an extension of her self, as his hammer was his.

He wondered if the out of character act meant anything.

"I have them in my chambers. I'll bring them to you." He replied.

He held out his elbow out to her and she looped her arm through the nook, gripping onto his forearm as they began to walk. She tilted her head in thanks as they shuffled out of her dreary room and into the long, dark, catacombs of hallways and corridors.

Storm's End was a notoriously different sort of castle.

The castle keep was one huge drum tower that stretched just as high as it did deep. The outer walls protected the castle's kitchens, stables and yard. The great tower itself held layers and layers of chambers, stone courtyards, catacombs, their armoury, both the feast and Round Halls along with their barracks and granaries. The very top of the tower held the Maester's cell, the rookery and was all capped off with their battlements.

The stones laid into the walls here were as smooth as polished skipping stones. They fit together as if made for each other which allowed none of the violent wind off Shipbreaker Bay to pass through. Ancient magic and spells were said to be laid into the very stonework of Storm's End as well; legendary Storm Land tales of lore. Whispers of caves and watery passages protected by portcullis snaked through caverns underneath the castle keep and were rumoured to house bars, brothels and murder holes, something Gendry knew nothing about as he had yet to begin to explore them.

It was slow goings with Arya hopping along as she was, but they moved through the halls and stairwells all the same. He had offered to carry her, twice, but she outright refused both times. Orys had also left her a crutch, but she refused that too.


~~~


"Here we are," Gendry said as they came to the wing of bedchambers.

"Seven Hells, it's a long way up," Arya said, leaning against a nearby wall while trying to catch her breath.

"You've gotten soft. It was only two flights." Gendry teased easily.

Arya scoffed back and smacked him in the arm as her reply.

"You could've let me carry you." He reminded.

"Don't be stupid."

"I had offered."

She rolled her eyes at him as he opened the solid oak door in front of her.

Though her room was smaller it was set up much like his own, his only a corridor away. The huge featherbed covered in a duvet and furs faced a large window, a fireplace nestled into the wall adjacent, with a small sitting space tucked in front. Long yellow tapestries and stag banners hung proudly along the walls, flapping in the slight breeze. The heavy storm-shutters on the windows were wide, taking advantage of the burst of seldom sunshine. The cool wind that poured in was welcome and curled with the warmth of the fire.

Due to their regions ragings storms bedchambers with large windows, such as this one, were rare and reserved only for 'nobility'. The room he'd chosen for Arya was the House Lady's chambers, laid empty since his Aunt, Lady Selyse, occupied them while his Uncle Stannis held the castle.

He saw her slight smile as she hobbled into her new room, moving straight to the window to take in the vast view.

She inhaled deeply, "The sea goes on forever."

He watched her a moment before he joined her.

She looked like she belonged here, more than he felt he did himself, something that made his heart ache unexpectedly. The way she was poised at the window sent a thrill up his spine to ring the crown of his head, the normality of it all not lost on his wayward spirit.

"I'll take you to the best view we have later if you'd like."

"I would like that."

"I can't stay long now, however." He said quietly.

"Duty calls."

"It seems to never end."

Gendry moved then to drag a chair over to the window. He pulled it close enough to the sill that she could sit and rest her wounded ankle on the ledge.

"Will you feast with us tonight?" He asked as she shuffled over to sit.

She lowered herself into the chair slowly and propped up her foot, "I'd love to."

He gave her a slight nod, "Should I send for a chambermaid or something?"

"Beth, if you mind."

"I'll see to it."

"Thank you, again." She said looking up at him almost expectantly.

Gods, he felt like he could kiss her. But he didn't.

Fool.

"I'll be back before sundown." He promised before taking his leave.



~~~



Sitting in the Round Hall and listening to the complaints of Storm's Ends' small folk was taxing. Not unwelcome to Gendry, however, it was draining and exhausting. As their lord paramount he was expected to be there, yet, Edric did most of the talking, if not all of it.

Gendry preferred it that way anyway.

Edric had been in Storm's End near all his life. He had been fostered by Renley and knew the proceedings of castle life, he knew all the ins and outs of this vast land and its headstrong people. Gendry agreed with most of what Edric had to say and put his two coppers in here and there as needed.

But mostly, he just listened.

He listened to what the people had qualms with: land, money and betrothals mostly. He listened to how Edric worded things, how he defused situations and how he managed people. Much as Gendry had listened to and learned from Jon, brief as it were, he applied that same tact here. Ser Davos would chime in every so often as well, but the bulk of the responsibility laid with Edric and Gendry.

Some residents had asked of King's Landing; what was to come of them because of the wreckage there. The lords explained what had happened and what was to happen, that there was to be a trial, and who would be available here while they were away.

Some grumbled and griped about Mya, a woman, being left in charge while their lords were away. But Edric shot them down without a moment's hesitation.

"Mya is as good as any man, better, even. She is true and you know her. We could leave you in no more capable hands then our sister, I assure you."

"Ser Fellar and Maester Oyrs will be here to assist her as well, should she require it." Davos went to explain next.

"Should Lord Gendry not stay behind as well?" Someone asked from the back.

"Lord Gendry was summoned to King's Landing specifically." Edric offered.

Murmurs overtook the hall, unrest brewing.

"I fully intrust Mya with Storm's End," Gendry said firmly, which quieted the room slightly. "We will return with more news as we've gathered it." He finished, looking to Edric.

His brother gave him a cut nod before dismissing the whole audience.



~~~



Though Arya's chamber door was open a crack Gendry knocked this time.

"Come in." She replied brightly from within.

He pushed into her room to find her where he left her, in that same dress, but with different hair. It looked freshly cleaned, loose, and pinned back simply on one side.

Don't stare.

"Sorry, I'm late." He said after giving his head a shake.

"It's your castle." She said with a smile.

"Ugh, no. It's really not." Gendry rolled his eyes, "I believe these belong to you."

From behind his back, he revealed her slim Needle and her Valyrian steel Dragonbone dagger.

She looked on in what he assumed was appreciation, eyes warm yet mischievous. She stood then from her window perch and took the steel from his hands. A wicked little smirk played at her lips as she inspected the familiar weaponry. She unsheathed them both, inspecting each with sunlight catching on the castle foraged blades.

He watched her reflex action take over, her arm twisting to loop the belt around her slim waist to then fasten the weapons to her self.

But she stopped mid-motion and looked him dead in the eye.

"I guess I don't really need these, do I?" She asked, almost hopefully, if he wasn't mistaken.

Gendry was quick to answer, "No. You don't." He let a quiet laugh out before he continued, "But I believe you could turn anything you wanted into a weapon anyway."

"You're right." Arya started. She limped over and placed her weapons on the foot of her bed, "I can." She finished then with another wicked little smirk.

With that Gendry nodded towards her door. She caught on and looped her arm through his as she had earlier that afternoon. He led them out into the hallway, adjusting his pace to match hers. She walked on her wounded foot more confidently than she had earlier that day. There was less stiffness in her movements than before, which flooded him with a strange mix of both happiness and worry.

It filled him with worry because, surely, the sooner she was well, the sooner she would no longer need him.

"Where are we going?" Arya asked, breaking him out of his negativity.

"Up."

"Up?"

"Aye. To the top."

They continued through the corridors and hooked a right towards one of the many castle staircases.

They started their climb with Gendry leading the way, Arya shuffling in behind him. He turned around to see her awkward struggle up the narrow stone steps, however and stopped.

His gaze softened at her toil, "You'll have to let me carry you."

"I can manage."

"Sure, you can. But you can also let me help 'ya."

"I'm fine."

"It's a long way up, Arry." He reasoned, "It's nearly six flights." He then continued information which she seemed to concede to.

Gendry stepped down two stairs and turned his back to her. "Hop on my back already, before we lose daylight."

He heard her huff and grumble before she wrapped her arms around his neck from behind. He reached back and took hold under her thighs when she gave a slight hop-up. He hoisted her a little while anchoring his hold, which allowed her to slowly loosen her grip on his neck.

Her warmth radiated off her and through his clothes, making his concentration faultier, his focused footing staggering slightly. Her freshly washed hair mixed with a scent all too unique to her and it surrounded him, the combination intoxicating. He tried not to dwell on the fact that her thighs were wrapped so tightly around him, or how her breath sailed across his ear.

He tried really hard not to dwell.

Gendry climbed the switchback stairways in silence, and Arya didn't offer to fill the void with useless chitchat either.

Once at the top he let her down the moment space allowed it. He adjusted his clothing, which prompted her to quickly do the same. He then opened a large cedar and steel door in front of her.

Atop Storm's End rested their circular battlements, offering up an expansive, strategic and panoramic view in all directions around them.

She limped through the doorway but was met with a blast of air that nearly blew her back against him.

Even over the gusting wind, he heard her rare and infectious laughter.

He steadied her shoulders from behind, then guided them both out to the edge of the fort; a good hundred feet above the raging sea.

Once within reach, Arya took the thick ancient stone under her hands as Gendry moved to her side.

She gasped a little smile at the sight before them, "We're atop the world here."

He couldn't take his eyes off her as she looked in all directions around them, "Feels like it, don't it?"

She nodded and pointed her gaze west, watching as the sun started to dip into the horizon.

"We made it just in time," Gendry said of the view.

"Wouldn't want to miss this." She replied happily.

They sat in comfortable silence and watched the sun colour the sky with its final daily farewell.

Much like that morning's sunrise, the Storm Lands offered up a marbling of red and orange across the western sky unlike anything either had come to witness yet.

"What do you think is west of Westeros?" Arya asked a little while later with the wind whipping through her hair.

She tried in vain to tame it, smoothing it out and tucking it behind her ear only to have it come loose again. She soon gave up and just let it float freely around her.

He watched her closely, almost in awe of being here with her, "More sea?" He said with a cheeky smile.

She shot him an unamused look in jest and replied, "I think that's very likely."

"I'd like to know," Gendry said then with a shrug.

She seemed surprised when she asked, "You would?"

"I would."

"You'd leave all this behind?"

"Aye." He replied, "In a heartbeat."

None of this is worth anything without you with me...

Turning his back to the sunset and leaning against the battlement walls to face her, he went on, "I'd like to learn how they forge all over. Maybe even learn how to forge Valyrian steel? Where would ya' learn something like that?"

"I don't know for sure."

"We could find out." He said quickly, to which she smirked and raised a slight eyebrow at.

Easy does it...

"What do you think is west of everything?" Gendry asked, trying to sound collected and unfazed.

"More sea." She said tilting her sly smile to him, "More of the same as here, I'd imagine." She continued, turning back to the view, "But I'd also like to know. Either way."

With that Gendry watched Arya move to limp around the top perimeter of their battlements. He followed her a few steps behind, passing some of 'His' men along the way. They all bowed towards them both, but he barely noticed, his eyes fixed on his unpredictable wolf. She was eternally ice, and fire, and soft, and rugged. She was tiers of beauty and harshness and dammit if he didn't still want to spend the rest of his life uncovering all of her layers.


~~~



After walking a while, or limping in Arya's case, and with the sun fully set he spoke up, "We should probably head in."

Arya agreed and they made their way to the door from which they came. At the stairway, Gendry turned his back to her again and crouched some. She hopped on his back for their trip down without complaint, and he could have sworn that she nuzzled into his neck for behind.

Again, he tried hard not to dwell.

She was so lithe and weighed next to nothing, but her presence was heavy and nearly enfolded him. After descending in complete silence once again he set her on her own two feet once at the very bottom of the stairs.

"Supper is about to start, do you need to stop at your room for anything?"

"No need."

With a soft smile, Gendry spoke, "Your hair is a mess."

"The wind." Arya shrugged. "They'll likely think we had a quick go of it." She continued on playfully.

Seven Hells, I wish we had...

Like a fool, he blushed, "Aye. They will."

She roughly combed her fingers through her wild tresses, "Better?"

"Almost." He replied as he took a long piece that had crossed over the part in her hair. He placed the smooth lock in grain with the others, "There." He said looking down to meet her sightline.

She held his gaze without lifting her chin. Those mysterious grey eyes working him over, like a sea siren drawing him in, or like the call of the wild.

They shared this heated stare on that final stairway landing for what felt like ages.

He wanted to kiss her again. Badly. Desperately. More than anything else, really. His blood ran hot, his heart pounded in his ears, every hair on end. But he still felt so wavering.

Arya, however, made his decision easy by stepping into his space and leaning all of her weight onto him. She tilted her chin up to look him in the eye, the colour of her irises replaced with a much darker hue. Her hands quickly smoothed up the front on his chest to hook behind his neck and pull him down for a searing kiss.

It felt like a watergate had been released within him when he pressed his lips to hers again, the flooding of want and desire swirling around him like the churning of a tempest sea.

Without thought or hesitation, he pushed her against the neighbouring wall, hoisting her up with a thigh pressed between her legs, all in once vehement motion. With nothing but a few ripples of her dress and the thin shift of her small clothes, Gendry could feel her heat emanating through his trousers, a troubling and striking realization as she kissed him.

He returned her heady push and pull of lips and tongues with more of the same. His hand then hooked the leg of her injured foot up over his hip as he ground his hips into hers.

Arya moaned against his lips, and he couldn't help but crack a small smile. The break in contact gave them both a moment to gasp for breath.

"Seven Hells," She mumbled, "You're a good kisser."

"Me?" He cupped her face in one hand, forcing her head back a bit, his thumb brushing across the pillow of her kiss-stung lips. He rolled her bottom lip down slowly for effect as he continued, "You could get anything you wanted with these."

She swayed her hips against him again, causing him to groan, "Anything?" She whispered with a smirk.

Gendry swallowed and gave her a quick intent nod, "From me? Anything."

Her nails lightly dug into the fabric covering his shoulder blades as he dropped his thumb to her chin and tilted her head back farther to expose the long slope of her neck. He then buried his face into the crook, kissing and pulling at her skin while he ran his lips up from her collarbone to ear and down again.

He drank in every whimper and gasp that escaped her, melting into every skillful roll of her hips, shocked that he was here, like this, with her, once more.

Breathing heavily now Arya moved forward to capture his lips in another heated kiss, her hands still clawing at his back, holding him to her body. She purposely rolled herself into him, the pressure against his hard ache forcing a needy whine to spill from his lips to hers.

Arya hitched her leg up higher still, her heel pressed into his ass cheek urging him in even closer. His mouth crashed into hers once again, a groan rumbling low in his throat when he was met with her eager tongue.

He had a bulk of his body weight press firmly against her as he took charge of their kiss, gliding a hand down from behind her knee, to grip into the modest globe of her ass. In a cloud of lust, he claimed her mouth, over and over, until he was near panting and she was near writhing.

Kissing him heedless now Arya started to pull at the long billows of her dress. She was almost frantic, trying to get the fabrics up for more contact, all while rutting her hips harder against him with the movement.

But, somehow, before he let her get carried away, he remembered where they were. Somehow, he remembered they were expected. Somehow, he came to and realized that anyone could come in through either door of this darkened stairwell and catch them with his literal pants down, should they proceed. Somehow, he gathered himself enough to pull away from her swollen lips and speak.

"We can't... Supper... People are waiting..." He plead through staggered breaths and her still hungry lips.

"You started it." Arya teased between kisses.

Gendry kissed her slowly now, his grip on her ass loosening a bit before he went on to argue, "I did not. You kissed me."

She cocked her eyebrow at him, "You've got your hand up my skirts."

"That I do." He replied wolfishly with a hearty squeeze.

"You wanted it."

He brushed his nose along hers, and spoke lowly, "Of course I did. But you still started it."

Arya bent in and kissed his lips for a long final time, "Who will finish it, I wonder." She said slyly as she released her own grip and slid down his body.

Still a little breathless he held himself upright with a palm against the cool stone above her head, his body crowding her. She didn't move though, she just breathed deeply herself, her eyes tracking over his large looming frame, gaze still full of fire and carnality.

His free hand came up to fix her mussed hair once again, a dopey smile knowingly plastered to his lovesick face.

"Come then, Lord Baratheon. Let's not keep your people waiting." Arya said with a slight push to his chest.

"They've very likely started without us. You give me far too much credit." He replied moving back to allow her to take his hooked arm.

Arya chuckled lightly and looped through his limb again, her small hands holding his bicep for balance.


~~~



He guided them to the Feast Hall, the buzz of laughter and activity flooding out into the corridor, filling it with warmth.

"Ready?"

"Are you?" She asked wittingly.

Clearly, he was nervous.

His fingers twitched and he kept smoothing his damp palms down the fronts of his clothes as they walked. His nerves got the better of him mostly because he wasn't sure what to make of all this.

Introducing Arya to his new family felt very akin to seeking out their approval. He knew no matter how cold she appeared, no matter how distant or ruthless, she was smart, savvy, made friends easily and would no doubt turn the charm up tonight.

And after what had just happened in that cramped little stairwell, he really, really, really didn't need any more reasons to love Arya Stark.

They stepped into the long hall with little fanfare. The room was busy being served their meal, servents fluttering about, the heavy smell of caramelized onions and potatoes blending with beeswax and ale, cutting through the noise of chatter.

The feast hall reminded Gendry so much of The Great Hall in Winterfell. Though here the constant wind and waves replaced the dull silence the northern snows brought forth. The ceilings were just as tall, with candelabras hung high in the rafters and lowered for nights like tonight. Long trestle tables with years and years of built-up candle wax ran their lengths, and a huge stone fireplace sat off to one side which roared and warmed the whole hall.

Davos saw them in the doorway first and stood with a small wave, taking a few strides to meet them in front of the head table.

"My Lady Arya! You look much better then last I saw 'ya."

Arya smiled, "Ser Davos. You look well yourself."

"Ah yes. My wife is here!" He boasted happily to the auburn-haired Marya, sitting at the far end of the table who also gave a slight wave, "The Baratheon's are taking good care of us." He replied, patting his belly.

"There's enough of them now that they'd better be." Arya joked lightly.

Davos laughed and nodded. "You're feeling better then?"

"Yes. Nearly healed, I think."

"You and I should have a word before we leave for the capital. About Jon." Davos said as he leaned in.

Gendry saw Arya's small smile fall for a moment before she pulled her mask back up to nod her agreement.

"Tomorrow, maybe?" Gendry interjected.

"Of course." Ser Davos said with a slight nod towards the dais, "Come on then. Let's get the introductions out of the way."

As Ser Davos walked ahead, Gendry kept his cadence in time with Arya as she limped along.

The whole head table stood at once which dulled the noise of the hall slightly. But, if anyone other than himself noticed this, no one said or did anything of note about it. He could feel the dozens of eyes watching them, and the mild hush that took over the hall was a common occurrence that Gendry had never quite got used to.

His siblings came to stand in front of them now, all tall, dark-haired and strapping. He looked down to Arya, she herself standing tall amongst them, her confidence making her look larger than life.

"Mya Stone, Edric Storm, this is Arya Stark of Winterfell." Gendry introduced, gesturing to each party as he spoke.

"A pleasure." Mya gave a slight curtsy. She wore a simple dress that night of light blue and gold, much in the same style to Arya's, the bells of her sleeves dragging along as she walked too.

"Nice to meet you, Lady Stark," Edric spoke with a polite bow. His attire was the same as earlier, boring, as usual, a matching royal blue doublet and trousers, cinched with a thick silver belt.

"Arya is enough. If you mind, My Lord."

Her noble upbringing, however brief, was apparent in these semi-formal settings. She was poised and polite, she listened well and seemed to gain trust and candid laughter quite easily.

But, Gendry knew better than all that. Gods did he ever...

"Not at all," Mya replied for Edric.

"Come now, let us get you seated and fed, Arya," Edric said as he held out his hooked arm for her.

With a momentary frown flashed towards Gendry, whose arm she still had ahold of, she unfurled from his side in favour of this Edric Storm.

Gendry tried not to feel too jealous.

As the head table sat down the activity of the hall picked up again. Davos sat at the end, his wife Marya next, then Arya. Gendry and Edric always sat in either middle spot with Mya on the other end and most nights it was just the three of them. Tonight they all nearly filled the whole table.

"We need to see Lord Errol at Haystack Hall before we leave for King's Landing," Edric said to Gendry as his food was being served.

He inhaled the heavenly smell deeply before replying, "Why?"

"Something to do with his border along the King's Wood. He also has some women he would like for us to meet."

"Women?"

"His daughters."

"His daughters." Gendry mimicked back slowly.

Edric gave him a grim side look, "That's what his scroll said."

"Why?"

"Potential betrothals, I'd imagine."

Gendry felt a wave of nausea, "I see."

"I'll be by your chamber at dawn then. That should give us enough time to make it back for supper."

Gendry felt him mood dampen then. He despised the idea of being married off. He hated the idea being in control with this bloody lordship, yet still without control of his future. He hadn't felt this wave of hopelessness since the dungeons of DragonStone, a time in which he rather not to roost upon. Even in Winterfell, while preparing for The Long Night, or even running back to EastWatch, felt better than this.

The dread sat like lead in his stomach.

He watched Arya and Marya speak for a few moments, wondering if he should tell her that the StormLands intended to marry him off. He wondered if the information would change anything between them, or if it would just push her further away again.


~~~


They ate a lavish meal of stewed bore and potatoes, with fruits, sweets and honied wine served quickly after their supper plates were cleared.

A few ladies came up during dessert to talk to the mysterious King Slaying Stark Girl. Arya was ever the gracious lady she loathed to be, her small half-smile never leaving her lips as she told the girls of her valiant brothers and their whimsical direwolves. The girls swooned and disappeared as quickly as they had arrived, leaving Arya to pass a look of mild annoyance at him.


~~~



After sup, and once the hall had emptied, the five sat around the roaring fire in the feast hall.

Marya excused herself, entrusting the young folk to care for her old knight. They promised to take good care of Ser Davos, to which he reminded them of his many close calls and near brushes with death that he had survived thus far. And surely, one night of cups with lords and ladies young enough to be his children would not kill him.

With her foot elevated on a stool Arya sat comfortably between himself and Mya, Davos and Edric on the other end.

The girls got on rather quickly, talking closely, even peering at the menfolk every so often with a small chuckle.

It was rare to see Arya so candid with another woman, mind you, he hadn't the opportunity to ever see her like this. Something told him that she didn't get the opportunity to be like this very often either. Mya shamelessly asked questions upon questions of Arya and her adventures. And he could tell that she was doing her best in answering most of her inquiries honestly.

She told the tale of the Long Night, to a riveted and captivated audience. She told them of her direwolf Nymiria, of Ghost and the rest of the Stark direwolves. She talked of Braavos and of The North, all while keeping her stories light-hearted and topical.

His family laughed and joked and welcomed her in heartily, insisting that she stay with them as long as she wanted or needed.


~~~



"Tell us of young Gendry." Edric had said late into the evening.

Davos was rosy-cheeked and smiling wildly now. They would have to send for Marya to come back and help pour him into bed with any more cups in him.

"He was far more stubborn, back then," Arya replied.

"Is that possible?" Mya said quickly.

Gendry feigned hurt before standing up to refill everyone's goblets.

Arya nodded her thanks at him as he moved on to the next cup, "He was strong, willful and a very skilled blacksmith," She offered.

"Was?" Gendry barked back.

He passed Ser Davos' outstretched cup without filling it, much to the old knight's brief displeasure.

"Is." Arya corrected herself with a laugh, "He hasn't changed that much. Fancier clothes. Smells a bit better. But just as boring."

The group laughed as Gendry sat heavily and slumped in his chair with more feigned dramatics.

"And where did you learn to fight, Arya?" Mya asked.

She and Arya were sharing her footstool now, both woman slouched and leaning in their chairs more than they had been at the start of their eve.

"I have always been more skilled at archery than needlepoint." She began, "My father, was unlike most. He had an instructor hired for me in King's Landing."

Arya had the room in the palm of her hand, whether she knew it or not. Though something told him that nothing escaped her. Everyone was waiting on batted breaths for her to tell her next story, including himself. They were all waiting to share in some of her mystery, wrapped up and willingly caught in her web of wonder.

"I have always watched. I watched my brothers, our bannermen, and my father fight. I watched how The King's Guard fought, how common folk fought, how lone knights and sellswords and thieves fought, how the recruiters from The Nights Watch, and The Gold Cloaks and The Brotherhood fought. Then, I did the same in Braavos."

Gendry realized that she was omitting large chunks of her past, leaving out unfavourable facts in favour of this good story.

He felt privileged to have at least some inside knowledge of her rich secret life.

"I even watched Gendry take a crack at it from time to time. Mind you, he was shit back then. A far better smith."

That backhanded compliment caused an uproar of laughter within the group.

"You should have seen him, standing there all face forward, hacking away with his other arm held out for balance." Arya gushed on as she mimicked the action from her seat, "You would have died laughing!"

Edric and Davos laughed outright and heartedly, whereas Mya nodded along in amusement while still sipping at her ale.

"He looked ridicules."

"Me?!" Gendry argued, his actions far more boisterous as they got further and further into their cups, "You were so short that I could hold you at bay by just your forehead." He went on to tease.

"I'll have you know that I'm twice the size I was then." Arya quipped back.

He could see as the night wore on that both Edric and Mya loved how Arya took jabs at him and ate it up just as much when he would take a few cracks right back at her.


~~~


They laughed and drank late into the eve, late enough that the musicians, servants and cup barres had long since been excused.

A hazy blue twilight started to turn the dark night sky, slowly giving way to the brewing dawn. The room had slipped into a long comfortable silence when Mya finally spoke up.

"I'm ready for bed." She said with a yawn.

"I agree. We'll see that Davos gets to his rooms safely." Edric said as everyone stood to make their leave.

Mya gave both Gendry and Arya a hug, "This was lovey." She said before she started towards the corridor with Davos stung on her shoulder.

"I'll see you in the morn. Keep an open mind about tomorrow." Edric requested of his younger brother.

Gendry recoiled. He had all but forgotten about tomorrow. The dreaded meeting of potential stranger wives.

"I'm more concerned about our trip to King's Landing." He replied quickly.

"We'll see. Both trips will be telling." Edric replied as he left.

Gendry wavered and felt like throwing up again.

With Arya back in his life and currently knitted to his side, how could he even begin to entertain the thought of anyone other than her being his wife?

She was still no lady. No matter the pretty dresses, or baths, or charm, or feasts, or proper upbringings. This he knew. She was still the wild woman who said no, still untamed and willful and he wasn't sure he could take her rejection a second time around anyway.

All the same, Gendry wrapped his arm around Arya's shoulder tighter and pulled her closer to his side. She sank into him and hobbled along, her arm grounded around the small of his back.

"You should let me carry you again." He said as they left the feast hall.

Torches lit their way, and aside from the weather and waves, the castle was eerily quiet, as silent as a crypt.

"No. You're drunk."

"You're drunk," Gendry mumbled in protest.

"You'll have us both killed on the stairs."

"Suit yourself."

After stopping, stumbling, laughing and a few wrong turns along the way they made it up to their bedchamber corridor.

Gendry helped Arya limp on her weak ankle towards her chamber door.

"Tonight was kind of nice." Arya offered as she turned her back to her door.

"It was."

"Felt almost normal."

"Aye." Gendry gulped, at fucking odds with himself, yet again. "For a moment."

He didn't really notice he was doing it but he was slowly backing away from her and that gods forsaken look of hers.

Arya caught his hand and tugged him to move closer, but he resisted.

When he stayed rooted in his spot she stepped to him instead, slipping his hand around to rest on her hip. She held it in place as her other hand moved to mimic the motion on her other side so that both his hands splayed over the swell of her hips.

"Arya..." Gendry warned with less than a breath between them.

She smirked and moved in even closer, if that were possible, pressing herself flush against his body.

"What? You don't want to?" She nearly purred, looking up at him without lifting her chin, "Finish what we started earlier?"

She was looking up at him with that same look again, that look he'd grown weak to. That challenging look that made his knees buckle, sent his heart racing and his palms sweating.

It was a wonder he didn't crumble right then.

He groaned and moved a step back, "I do, I just... can't."

"Can't?" Arya huffed, to which Gendry shook his head, "And why the hells not?" She asked defensively.

He didn't reply right away, trying to find the right words needed to convey his apprehension, "Because it makes it worse."

"It?"

"Aye, it. All of it." He hesitated, both palms still anchored on her hips. She cocked an eyebrow, so he continued, "Love."

"Love." She parroted.

" 'It' makes love worse."

Gods, his mouth felt so dry, as if he'd eaten sand.

"Didn't seem to bother you before."

"It did, just not as it does now." Gendry explained, trying to calm his racing heart, "This." He gestured to the small space between their bodies with a nod, "It makes the rest terrible and crushing." He said, taking yet another small step away, "I can't do 'just tonight'. Not with you. I can't. I'll go mad."

"That's a tad dramatic."

He gave her a wary smile, "It's the truth."

"Why didn't you say so before?"

"I didn't expect to see you again."

Arya didn't say anything else, she just held his gaze, an unmistakable challenging look still swimming in her deep greys.

"What's changed now?" She asked softly.

"Nothing. We're just... We're so more than just that." He finished firmly. "Or at least we could be."

Her dominate demeanour seemed to soften as she took in his words. She mulled his argument over, digested it, and came up with her own reasoning.

"What if I told you that I loved you in return?"

Words he never thought she'd come to say spilled from her beautiful lips rather gracefully, as though she might have rehearsed them before speaking them.

"Loved?" In spite of himself, his voice cracked around the question.

"Love." She corrected herself swiftly.

"I'd tell you not to lie to me."

"I'll never lie to you."

"Arya." He warned, feeling her inch closer again, bridging the gap set by his determined steps backwards. "You can't just say these things to get what you want."

"I love you, Gendry." She spoke quietly.

He sighed, "Please don't say it unless you mean it."

"I mean it."

In a flood of relief and emotion, he took her jaw in both his hands and kissed her hard. Her hands dug into his biceps again, her slight whine and his sigh of almost ease changed them both to deepen the kiss.

As he pulled back to look at her, Arya's eyes welled with tears and much to his surprise one single large droplet spilled over and rolled down her cheek when she blinked.

Gendry wasn't sure if he'd ever seen her cry, not out of anything other than anger or frustration, and defiantly not since they were both much younger. He felt his own throat tighten in response and wondered how long it had been since he himself had shed a tear.

Her sadness compelled Gendry to move the pad of his thumb across her cheekbone, collecting the escaped moisture that slid down her cheek. His arm slipped back around her waist and gripped harder, drawing her in closer, enough to feel her tremble.

"Arya?"

"I'm sorry." She said with a sad shake of her head, her eye cast down.

"Don't be."

"I really do love you."

He tipped her chin up, willing her to look him in the eye, "And I you." He replied wholeheartedly.

"It's fucking terrifying."

He laughed, "I know."

"How did you cope with this feeling?"

"Not gracefully."

It was her turn to laugh now, "It feels like the best of things mixed with the worst of things."

"That's a tad dramatic." He mimicked.

"Stupid." She huffed while hitting his chest with a light fist, "You know what I mean."

He nodded, "Trust that it feels less shitty when we're together."

"So poetic." She bantered back.

"Shut up." He replied, cupping her cheeks in both hands again and kissing her soundly.

"I love you," She crooned between breaths, threading her fingers into the hair as they kissed.

He lost himself in her kiss once more, pulled within her current to happily drown there. He kissed her with every bit of devotion he had, elated that this woman finally admitted her love for him, after all these years.

"Say it again." He urged her between hungry lips, drunk from the more than just the ale now.

"I love you, Gendry."

He hummed his appreciation, "I've always loved you."

"I should have stayed with you before," Arya confessed as she took his jaw in her hands now.

Holding her by the shoulders he shook his head and pressed his forehead to hers, "You're here now,"

"Will you come in then?" She asked, her voice hopeful and hushed.

"I'll help you to bed. But, I should stay in my own chambers tonight."

"You're sure?" She asked as her gasp slid down his arm to tug on two of his thick fingers.

He shuttered at the overtone, "Aye."

"You don't seem sure."

"I'm... I am. We... Edric and I have to ride out to Haystack Hall at dawn to help handle a border issue before we leave for King's Landing."

"It's almost dawn now."

"Exactly."

Arya gave him no further argument as she opened her door. She shuffled along on her own, but he helped stabilize her anyway, stepping in sync beside her.

"Mya usually does a bit of riding during the day. If you feel up to it, you could join her." He offered while she moved towards her bed.

"Pull the laces in the back, would you?" Arya replied instead as she turned away from him.

She swept her hair away and waited a moment while he tried to regain brain function.

The flash of soft creamy skin at the nape of her neck was so alluring; the promising of so much more. He reached up and fumbled with the knot and finally got it untied with a bit of finer focus. Then, without thought, he looped his fingers through the crisscross twine and gave a slight tug down her spine to loosen the garment for her.

Arya gasped a little at the motion and Gendry winced, "Your ribs!"

She turned to face him now, a gentle blush on her cheeks and neck, "No."

"I'm sorry."

"You didn't hurt me." She said confidently. The shoulders of her dress slipped down slightly, new scraps of skin exposed and taunting him, "I just... I liked the feel of you yanking on my clothes is all."

And then she goes and says shit like that...

Gendry gulped again. Obviously too. He could do this. He could practice self-control. Gods. It was nearly light out as they spoke anyway. Just...Steady. There simply wasn't enough time to do this right. Edric would be by his chambers in a couple of hours, maybe less. Seven Hells. He could do this. He could practice self-control.

"Mya leaves by mid-morning." He mumbled through a daze now.

"Oyrs said I should slowly start to use more body normally again anyways. My foot won't heal properly with weak leg muscles."

"What of your ribs and head?"

"I can't imagine riding with broken ribs is recommended, but I'll see how I feel when I wake up.

"Should I come and find you when I get back?"

Arya nodded and stepped in close again, wrapping her arms around his middle then resting her cheek to his chest, "You should."

Gendry cracked a crooked smile and wrapped his arms around her shoulders, hugging her tight. He pressed a kiss to the top of her head, unwilling to let go, just yet.

"G'night, milady." He said finally, dragging himself away to step away.

She frowned up at him, but the look faded quickly to a smile, "Good Night, My Lord."

Chapter Text

Watching the gulls in the bay was soothing, in a strange spastic kind of way. Arya sat with her foot in that window near all afternoon, watching them dive and soar.

She thought of Jon, and of Bran, and Sansa. She thought of the North, of Sandor and everything else that had brought her here to Storm's End.

The scroll she had received from Sansa upon arriving was cryptic, at best, her sister knowingly withholding her true feelings from the potential of prying eyes. She didn't explain much of anything, only that Jon was being held prisoner and that the North was holding strong within King's Landing in a formidable standoff.

Arya thought of loss and sorrow too, of her lost family and lost childhood. She pondered on happiness and comfort, which inevitably brought her to thoughts of Gendry.

She felt more at ease here, with him, then she could recall having felt before.

Her life of constant movement, vengeance and fear seeped into every corner of her being, making contentment almost unimaginable. But, Gendry had this uncanny way about him, an ability to make her feel most herself, like she had before leaving Harrenhal, before everything else went further to shit.

And in the end wasn't that the point of leaving King's Landing, her list, and the Hound behind anyway? Was to live? To feel?

Gendry was life, and loyalty, and love all wrapped up in a handsome familiar package. The likes of which she surely didn't deserve.

The heart wants what it wants...

She and her heart spent most idle alone time worrying, plotting and calculating, running through scenarios that mostly focused on rescuing Jon.

However, distractions came in many forms, and most here were welcome.

Gendry, as promised, returned to her with her weapons, and showed her his favourite vantage from Storm's End; a stunning view that felt atop the world.

And those stolen kisses in that stairwell...

Not to mention the feast that followed with his family. It felt almost normal being with them. Not mundane, or forced, or stuffy, but normal.

Now, she sat at the end of her bed in her thin sleep shift, tipsy and alone, the dawn seeping through the storm shutter slats, casting long twilit shadows across the slate rock floor. Her heart was still racing, her adrenalin still thrumming under her skin, hands jittery.

Words she had long since felt in her heart tumbled out of her mouth to him. She said the words without care of their implications and potential consequences. She said them knowing full well what it all meant. She said them knowing, deep down, that it couldn't be as easy as loving someone without the promise of complications.

But she felt she owed it to herself, and at least to Gendry, to be honest.

What came next, however, was unknown, and that lack of control turned her stomach.

Arya laid back against the soft furs with a huff and focused on the yellow fabric that covered her canopied bed. The rich colour reminded her of the sunset she and her smith had shared. With that bittersweet memory, she closed her eyes now and willed her pulse to slow. She willed sleep into her bones, willed her mind to quiet some, and before she knew it she was asleep, atop the mess of covers.


~~~


She awoke to Beth quietly leaving her morning meal on a table in front of her crackling fire.

Startled, she jumped as Arya sat up with a loud yawn.

"My Lady! I didn't mean to wake you."

She stretched out her tight muscles as she spoke, "It's alright, I wanted to be up early. Has Mya left for her ride yet?"

"Not yet. She should be leaving soon though. Do you need her for something?"

"No. I'd like to go with her."

"I can let her know."

"I'd also like my clothes if they're ready? Gendry said a seamstress had been working on them?"

"Yes, she said I could pick them up later. But I might inquire further?"

"I would appreciate it."

Beth gave her a cut nod, "I will return shortly."

"Thank you, Beth."

"You're welcome, Lady Arya."

"Just Arya, please."

Beth gave her head a slight shake and replied with a smile, "Right. Of course."


~~~


As Arya broke her fast Beth returned with her newly stitch clothes. She laid them out against the furs at the foot of her bed and from Arya's spot near the fire it looked like far more items than she had arrived with.

"Mya said she'll be ready to leave shortly, said she'll give you some time to dress then take you to the stables."

"Thank you."

"Of course. Can I help with anything else?"

"This is enough."

Beth gave a quick curtsy before leaving the room.

Arya walked with a slight limp today, the pain nothing like it had been over the past few days.

She looked over her fine new garments. They appeared near identical to her previous outfit, though some things were noticeably different.

She ran her fingers over the charcoal leathers, admiring the stitching and skilled craftsmanship. Looking over her new threads she saw that the black leather made the subtle contrast between the amber fur inside lining stand out.

Then, a small stack of delicates caught her eye. She unfolded a few pairs of soft white small clothes and 2 new pairs of woollen stockings, the thickness of which unnecessary in her current climate, but would be very helpful in the North. She picked up a pair of new boots as well, the grip of the soles far superior to what she'd arrived in.

After admiring the small details a pile of colour called out to her next. She carded through a stack of tunics ranging from light white-grey to dark-blue and every blue-hue in between as if the dyer had submerged them each in quick succession. She counted 10 in total, more than she could recall ever owning at once, even as a child, back in Winterfell, since dresses there were, more often than not, mandatory.

Arya felt at odds with such generosity, the looming feeling of gifts often holding a price dampening her beatitude and gratitude. But, she reminded herself who the gifts were from, and the feeling dissipated enough to forget, temporarily. So with that reminder specifically in the forefront of her mind, she washed her face, combed the knots from her hair, mindful of her sutures, and dressed. She then pulled her boots on and attached her baldric around her hips just as Mya knocked on her door.

"Up for a ride, I hear?" Mya said as Arya opened her chamber door.

"If you don't mind me tagging along."

"Not at all, I'd love the company. There aren't many ladies that like to ride as I do. So, this should be nice," Mya replied as she nodded over her shoulder. "Shall we?"


~~~


"I should have come to you for a pair of breeches when I was in need!" Arya said as she mounted her horse.

The habitual movement felt good, the dull ache in her bones welcome, as she began to move about and feel confident in her own skin again. She took to her white horse easily, as the beast's demeanour was cool and collected; like a tepid sea. Arya smoothed her hands down her long white mane, before scratching behind her ears. She was thankful for the animal; thankful that she brought her here, in one piece. Lucky that she had brought her here alive at all.

Lucky...

Arya glanced to Mya and her tall black stallion, the mammoth horse standing a good foot above her mare.

Mya was clearly more comfortable than most ladies were on a horse, a striding the animal like it was her second nature. She wore a fitted pair of dark breeches and a brown jerkin over a bright blue tunic, in the same hue as her and brother's eyes. Her thick, ink-black hair was choppy, wild and barely dusted the tops of her shoulders. It looked like it was recently shorter, and was now in an awkward grow-back stage.

"No offence meant, but my trousers would be far too long on you," Mya said back without pause.

Arya laughed, "Yes. You beastly Baratheons. Giants. The lot of you."

Mya chuckled as she kicked her horse into a light trot, "Are all the Starks so short?" She threw back.

Arya and her horse followed in time, "Fortunately, no. Just me."

Well, Jon too...but...

"Small lethal packages then," Mya replied with a smile over her shoulder.

"I like to think so."

Their gentle trot took them through the castle township, and out the massive southern gate. There the road narrowed to a single line, sweeping slowly between verdurous farmers fields and paddocks on their either side.

The pair rode in silence, a welcome change to the normal chatter that Jeyne and Sansa insisted upon when they rode together. Arya was always forced to go with them, a lifetime ago now, only to have Sansa and her annoying friend do everything in their power to exclude her. This served Arya just fine, however, she still had to listen to them go on and on about useless nothings.

Now, riding behind Mya Stone, she felt relaxed in their shared silence, welcome in their hushed exploration. The humid air gave way to a cool breeze as they rode, their cadence comfortable.

The ridding trail snaked south a long while, moving them towards the mountains and up across a rocky embankment that lined the shoreline. They rode over hills, through chasms carved out by rivers, and deep into the heavy forest of the Rainwood.

The farther they travelled the denser the foliage became, the more moss lined the rocks, the more lush vines and thick trees flanked their path until they were cocooned in a tunnel of green.

Brooks and creeks ran through the tight forest floor, turning the mossy ground below to a soft mush. They passed the very occasional Weirwood growing tall, it's bright red leaves waving in the scarce forest breeze, it's stark white bark like a beacon of light amidst the dark verdant.

Just as Arya was starting to feel a bit claustrophobic, the thick humid air heavy and sticking to her lungs, her free hand impulsively on the pommel of her sword, the passage opened up to a small clearing and a large turquoise pool. An impressive rock face waterfall raged in front of them, dumping churning water into the white cold depths below, the roar of the rapids echoing loud off the rock walls and dense thicket behind them.

"This was the first place outside Storm's End that Edric took me when I first arrived."

"It's beautiful." Arya gaped.

Mya nodded, "Have you seen anything like it in your travels?"

Arya thought a moment, surely something like this had passed her by on her journey. Maybe in near the Riverlands? But, in all honesty, when you're busy looking over your shoulder for the next possible attack or threat, the niceties of life tended to pass one by.

"Nothing like this." She replied simply.

"I brought Gendry here as soon as he'd let me. His reaction was much the same as yours."

Arya smiled at his mention, "There are a few large waterfalls in the North. But, I've never seen them."

The duo dismounted and tied a loose loop for each horse, allowing them both to drink from the available pool. Mya then took some cured meats and hard cheeses out of her saddlebag, along with a loaf of fruit bread and a flask. She offered half her foods to Arya with a silent smile.

"Thanks," Arya said as she sat on a smooth rock formation at the edge of the pool.

"You're welcome," Mya replied settling in next to her.

The roar of the falls rattled deep in Arya's bones as the pair ate, the gentle mist off the basin coating everything in a morning-like dew.

"He seems happy," Mya said quietly.

"Hmm?"

"Gendry."

"Having a safe place to sleep will do that," Arya said as she finished off her meal. She dusted the crumbs off her pants and lifted her hurt foot up onto a few higher boulders, easing the throb she felt from riding.

"I'm not sure that's it."

Arya shrugged, knowing full well the girl's implications.

"He's smiled more in the last few days than he has since he arrived."

"Life of a lord does take some time in getting used to."

"I think he faked it well, at first. But, now he seems to be getting used to the idea."

"I'm sure he still hates it. But he does look the part." Arya replied.

"The common folk here love him. They accepted him almost immediately, much to Edric's surprise. He had worked hard to win their favour, whereas they gave it over freely to Gendry."

Arya smirked again because of course, they loved him. He was one of them. He represented all they wished to be; a low-born bastard tradesman now regarded and legitimized as a noble lord.

"What are your plans after King's Landing?" Mya asked next.

"I'm not sure yet," Arya said honestly. She found Mya especially easy to talk to, so any question the girl asked she felt inclined to answer. Truly, it felt nice to have a woman to confide in again. A feeling she hadn't had since she was in Braavos with Lady Crane. "The council and trial will likely decide all that for me." She continued on.

"I have a hard time believing anyone decides anything for you."

With a sly smile, Arya replied, "You're quick."

Mya laughed lightly as she stood to pack away the leftovers of their meal. She secured their bags again, before moving back to the pool. She filled her flask with the crystal clear water then, sipping at the ice-cold liquid before capping the skin.

"If I'm not too bold, Arya?" Mya asked, still knelt down while turning on her heel.

Arya looked up from the water to catch the worried look upon Mya's face, "Never." She replied quickly.

"Do you love him?"

Her face dropped a moment but she gathered her mask up hastily. She could lie. I should lie... She could convince this essential stranger that she felt nothing but friendship for the smith. Lie... She could tell her that there had been a time where she might have been infatuated with him, but that the time had long since passed. Lie... She could tell her any number of things and make them out to sound like the truth. But, she didn't, determine now to not become the lying, cold-hearted, vengeful bitch that most made her out to be.

So she muttered an honest, "Yes."

Mya nodded and stood, "Do you intend to marry him?"

"No."

"No?" Mya questioned back in shock, "The Storm Lands intend to marry us all off, you know. Come what may at this trial."

Arya felt a wave of uneasiness flood her. The finality of marriage was terrifying, but the thought of Gendry marrying some other woman filled her with sickly jealousy. She knew she had no right to that jealousy, that she held no rights to him as a man, but dammit if the thought didn't still hallow out her stomach.

"He had not mentioned it." Was all she was able to reply with.

Mya came to sit next to her again, both girls attention transfixed on the raging rapids in front of them.

Though the rocks were jagged they looked smooth, polished by uncounted years of water erosion. Trees and vines grew out of cracks and crevices all the way up the falls and all around the pool. Waterfowl paddled around and tucked themselves into small caves and inlets; feeding or protecting their young, a whole habitat centred around something so raging and powerful.

"I loathe marrying someone I do not know. And I hardly know anyone. I'll be lucky if I even like the fella." Mya worried quietly.

Arya heard her voice loud and clear, "Some arranged marriages work. My parents seemed happy, and their match was arranged."

"He was a stranger to her?"

"No. They knew each other. But, they were betrothed to others then."

"See, I won't even know this man. What if I'm not attracted to him? What if he's awful? How will I... How would we... How will... How would I stomach it if..." Mya wrung her hands as she fumbled through her panic.

"You will do everything you can to survive. Just as you always have." Arya said in cool confidence. "Besides that, I can't speak for Edric but Gendry is a good man, a good judge of character, and he won't allow you to be shipped off to some fat, drunk, whoring lord. And if they even entertain the thought, I'll set them straight."

Mya smiled shyly then, nodding her understanding as she looked back up from her hands. "If you love him, why not marry him?"

Arya sat silent for a moment, the urge to lie on the tip of her tongue. But, against her training, she didn't.

"I cannot be a noble lady of any great house." She replied, saying the words to almost convince herself, if no one else, of their validity.

"We live in fairly unconventional times. Perhaps your marriage would be much of the same."

She shrugged, "Perhaps. But perhaps not."

Mya notably took in her argument, but frowned as she spoke, "I would hate to see you separated."

Arya blinked slowly and the full realization of their upcoming parting washed over her. She had allowed herself to fall into this comfortable ease with him, without the full thought of what came after.

What did come after?

She couldn't say anything else, an unknown unspoken explanation lodged in her tight throat. However, she didn't have to say anything else, as nature saved her with a low rumble of bone-rattling thunder.

The sound perked Mya's attention like a wolf howl perks a direwolf's ears.

"We need to head back." She said sternly, yet not panicked.

"Alright."

They rode less leisurely then they had earlier, rushing home to beat the storm. The wind had picked up, the sky darkened and according to Mya, they had less than an hour to make to the 2-hour journey, without getting wet.

The hard gallop felt akin to a hard day spent training, in the most blissfully distracting way. If she focused on the ache in her body as she rode, maybe her heart would hurt a bit less.


~~~


When they breached Storm's End's gates, both girls were soaked to the bone. They quickly made a straight line to the shelter of the stables. There Arya and Mya dismounted and tied their horses up, just to find Davos patiently waiting for them.

"My ladies." He said with a slight bow.

"Ser Davos. Did we keep you waiting here?" Mya asked.

"Of course not. Been making my rounds."

"Everything in order?" Mya questioned absently as she peeled off and handed pieces of her wet riding attire to a stable hand.

"No news is good news." Davos said before he turned his attention over to Arya, "Got caught in the storm did we?"

"Yes. But that'll teach me to leave behind my rain cloak." Mya replied.

"It's not so bad. At least it's warm." Arya said with a shrug, ringing out her gloves.

Davos chuckled, surely at her northern tolerance, "Might we have that word, milady? Or would you like a moment to dry off and change?"

"Now is fine. Lead the way?" Arya replied.

Ser Davos bowed to Mya before gesturing for Arya to move through the courtyard and into dryer corridors, "Milady."


~~~


Ser Davos wove them through hallway after corridor until they came to a small open-air courtyard. An awning each kept the four sides of the square dry and smooth stone benches faced the center focal point; a large seven-tiered water catcher. Stags, antlers, and vines were carved into the stonework, and it looked as old and weathered as the castle keep itself. Arya assumed they used it to catch freshwater for castle use, likely channelling it through unseen aqueducts. But, in the pouring rain, it looked like a beautiful piece of working art.

Davos sat facing the sculpture and she took the seat beside. Though they sat quietly for a moment, Arya could feel that there was something heavy on the old knight's heart.

"So, I wanted to talk to you of Jon." He spoke finally.

"Alright." Was all she muttered in return.

She felt that tingle of uncertainty again, and gods, how it angered her.

"You know that he asked me to come here. He hoped Gendry might keep me safe, knew my wife was here." Davos looked over to her side profile and continued, "But, I feel awful in leaving him behind. I need to make sure he's... I need to know that he's..." His eyes dropped to his gloved and mangled hands, "We're going to get him out, you understand?"

Arya turned to him, "With or without approval, he's getting out." She confirmed with a glint of mischief in her eye.

The onion knight shook his head, "I don't know what we are about to sail into."

"Nor do I. I do know, however, that the pack...survives," Arya smirked a little, feeling her bravery return. "With Sansa, Bran and myself all in King's Landing together, Jon will go free." Convinced, she laid a solid but gentle hand on Davos' shoulder, "I swear it."

She felt his shoulders relax some before a long intake of breath brought out his next question.

"Another word, if I may?" Davos asked, to which Arya nodded, "What are your intentions with our Gendry?"

Her hand dropped from his shoulder and she recoiled slightly, "My intentions?"

"Aye, milady. No disrespect meant it's just that, well, he's a son to me. I don't want him hurt."

Her eyebrow bounced up, "And you think I'll hurt him?"

"Not physically, no. Though I know ya' could. I've seen it."

Arya smirked again and turned back to the pounding rain and overflowing water-catchers.

"The Storm Lands want to see him married."

Her smirk faded, "Mya told me that today."

"He loves you and I can see the toil that's been takin' on him."

She flushed with angry offence, "The toil?"

"Aye, loving somethin' you can't have is a tortuous thing."

Her head and heartfelt heavy all of a sudden, her eyes locked on the ground, "I can't be his lady."

"You know very well that doesn't mean anything to the lad."

Arya gave her head a good shake, "I can't be worrying about all that. We need to make sure Jon is alright."

"Of course, but, you said yourself that he'll be goin' free. So, what happens after?"

"I'll go back home or something." She felt the uneasiness of uncertainty rush her again at that moment, her plans all but up in the air.

"Is that what you really want to do?"

Though there was no silence in their surroundings their lack of words hung thick between them.

"I don't know," Arya spoke softly.

Truly, she didn't fully know what she wanted. But, she couldn't openly confide that to Gendry's stand-in father. No matter how kind and accepting Davos was.

She wanted a bit of both worlds. She wanted Gendry and she wanted freedom. But, their current world didn't allow for a woman to make those choices, really, and if she had to swear off everything, including happiness, in order to keep her independence, she would.

"Just, think on it some. He should be back by nightfall, weather holding." Ayra looked to the raging storm, lightning and thunder overtaking the dark sky in a mess of clouds already. "Might I suggest talkin' to him?"

"I will."

"Very well." Davos replied as he stood with a slight bow, "Milady." He said then, turning on a heel to leave.

"What have I said to you in calling me that?" She scolded after him lightly.

"Old habits of an old man, Arya." He tossed back at her.


~~~

 

Arya returned to her room full of troubled thoughts.

She opened her chamber door to find a bath drawn and a warm meal by the fire.The storm raged on outside, loud claps of thunder followed quickly by bursts of white lightning shook and flooded her room.

Arya slipped from her wet clothes into the warm bath, the temperature change stinging the tips of her fingers and toes. Soaps and oils to ease an achy body were laid out for her, and though she inspected and sniffed every one, she felt only a few were worthy of adding to her brew.

After her bath, she dressed in her new blue-grey tunic and a pair of linen pants she found amongst her newly minted wardrobe. She combed through her hair absently, thinking about everything that had come to pass since arriving here in Storm's End, dwelling on all the layers of emotion and complication. She sat in front of her fire, thinking and bursting until she'd brushed her hair completely dry.

Giving herself a mild scolding Arya sat back with a heavy sigh. She closed her eyes and tried to process, tried to come up with a plan, tried to reason her way out of love.

Or reason my way into it?

Just as she got to the real heart of it a loud pounding rattled her door near off its hinges.

Alert to the urgency Arya bounced up with a wince and walked as quickly as she could to the door. She swung it open as Gendry lifted the latch to let himself inside.

"Agree to marry me." He burst out as he rushed in, dragging rain and mud in with him.

Arya jumped back from the door, narrowly avoiding his wave of wet muck, "Gendry!"

Once in the center of the room, he spun around to face her. There his cloak flung bits of debris and water across her floor and his footing slipped in the mud as he backtracked over his steps to stand in front to her.

He looked like shit; like he'd been dragged through it or like he'd been out on the road for days. Though his riding attire clearly accounted for the unpredictable weather, he looked dirty, worn and ragged.

"Agree to marry me." He reiterated fiercely.

 

Chapter Text

The storm had begun in the blink of an eye. The winds picked up with no warning, the sky then opened and poured more rain than The Citadel had predicted for this time of year. Apparently. 

Fascinating as it were, predictions of the unpredictable were never something Gendry fully understood. How could one look at the sky and foretell what was unexpected? Regardless, he'd learned to expect volatile storms and fickle weather since moving his ancestral lands.

His hard ride to Storm's End from Haystack Hall took less time then he thought it might, however the weather. When he arrived home he all but leapt from his horse, tossing the reins at a poor unsuspecting stable boy before making his way directly to Arya's chambers.

His fists pounded on her door, drops of water bouncing off his skin with the force. Impatient, he shifted his weight before allowing himself to lift the latch. Just then she opened the door to let him inside.

Though unintentional he rushed past her, nerves alit, flight in his bones, heart thudding in his chest and ears.

He wasn't sure if he had even spoken words until he turned around to see the stunned look on her face. At this point, the damage had already been done, and he held true to his convictions.

"Agree to marry me." He said again.

Arya was still rooted at the door before she slowly turned to latch it closed. She stood there a moment, her back turned, shoulders slouched, head hung. When she turned to face him again her demeanour had shifted, gone was the look of shock, and now her face held something he could not quite read. Dread, maybe?

Gendry took a few more slick steps forward, "Why won't you marry me?"

She shook her head, "You know why."

"Marriage... Our marriage doesn't have to be like the rest."

"Marriage is nothing but repression." 

"I will not force you into sewing, and dresses, and childminding. You know this. You know me." He argued.

She scoffed and stepped around his advancing frame, "So you say now."

Gendry caught her by the arm and urged her back to him. She spun around so gracefully, all fierce and fire and ready to fight. But, for every bit of stubbornness she possessed, he held just as much. So he stood his ground, eyes locked on hers as he spoke sternly.

"I will not change my mind." He replied obstinately, "You know me."

She dismissed his argument with a roll of her eyes, "Nothing is promised."

Despite her flippancy, he wasn't discouraged yet, "In our marriage, it could be. I wouldn't be promisin' or vowin' anything to anyone but you. Not to the old gods, or the new, or the seven, or The Lord of Light or God of Death or whatever the hells else. Just you."

Silence hung thick between them then as Arya wiggled out of his grip and moved to stand in front of the fire. She held her hands high above the flames, rubbing them together for warmth, her eyes cast down into the deep orange glow.

"They're trying to arrange a match for me, Arya," Gendry said softly as he came to stand near her again.

She heaved a heavy sigh, "Mya told me today."

"They want me to marry as soon as possible."

"Who wants it?"

"My bannermen, Davos, Edric, the Storm Lands, the council...I don't know...." He sighed deeply, leaning onto the back of an armchair, "That's where I was today. Meeting potential betrothals."

She winced at the words, "Just tell them 'no'."

He laughed darkly, and she frowned notably in response, "You know very well they won't accept that."

"You are their liege lord. You can do as you please."

"You also know that's not true." Gendry reasoned next, "I'm expected to choose a wife. To solidify my claim to the Storm Lands."

She sighed and turned to him, eyes sad and honest, "I am not fit for the role of a wife."

He nearly rushed forward to pull her close, but he refrained, determined to make her hear his words first and foremost, "We don't need a traditional marriage, Arya. I only need you."

"Then why bother with the propriety of marriage at all?!" She asked, throwing her hands up and letting them fall to her sides. "Why can't we be together without the formality?"

He had thought of this, thought that they could just be together, without the words, without the promises, without all the traditional formality. But, he longed for family. A real, full out family. An unshakable bond, the likes of which he had never truly known. He finally had a name that tethered him to the world, equal to her in standing, free to live out his days as he so chose. Apparently. 

If ever there were a time in which they should be together, now would be that time. With King's Landing in ruins, the Old Council dismantled, The Dragon Queen dead, did it not make the most logical sense that they stay together? For safety if nothing fucking else? He loved her like no other, and the idea of a lawful bond with anyone other than her clenched his stomach.

But he didn't say any of that rambling.

"Because." Was all he said.

She looked like she wanted to hit him, a stern look and eyebrow cocked at him, clearly looking for much more reasoning than he was giving her at that moment.

"We need marriage so we can be left alone," Gendry said with another sigh. 

Arya rolled her eyes at him again, and he wanted to scream.

"If we join our houses, bind ourselves to one another, we can fuck off. Do as we please." He reasoned as calmly as possible, "You once wanted me as your family. I know you still do."

"Can't we just call ourselves family?"

He'd been trying to keep his frustration at bay, gods was he. He'd been trying to stay calm to keep her calm, but he could feel his temper bubbling, and he was running out of patience. He needed her to understand that this was a now or never type situation, that time was of the utmost essence, that if she didn't say yes, someone else, a stranger, whom he did not love or even like, would have to.

"Can't we just make something we already know official?" He asked hopefully.

Arya's eyes dropped to the floor then, breath leaving her in irritation. 

"Why can't we just stay like this?" She asked faintly.

"Is that what you really want? Always running? Forever dodging commitment? Do you really want a life that is the void of any real connections?"

Arya remained silent, standing just far enough from him to make an escape, should she need to. But his next words drew her gaze back up to his.

"I love you, Arya. I don't want to be with anyone else."

Without warning, she closed the small space between them, reached up, and kissed him soundly. His arms wrapped around her waist and he lifted her into their embrace as easily as breathing. There was a different sort of desperation within this kiss, the kind that almost made a man want to cry.

"Can't this be enough?" She asked when she pulled back from his lips.

He slowly let her to her feet, arms still encircling her waist. 

"No, Arry." Gendry replied sadly, he reached to brush her hair away, tucked the wild stands behind one ear, his eyes filled with as much love as he could muster, "Me and you? We belong together. That's a fact. But because of who we are, because of our families, they will never allow us to just roam freely alone or otherwise. For the sake of both our freedom, marry me."

She scoffed, "Dramatic."

"This is dramatic!" Gendry yelled. He pulled himself away from her to push back a fresh fall of his wet hair, ready to tear all the strands out, "It's serious!" He replied, exasperated. 

For a moment he thought she might be coming around, though that his outburst might have stirred something, or that maybe the frustrated look on her face was slowly giving way to acceptance and understanding. But just as quickly as the veil was lifted, her mask returned. She stood there as defiant and stubborn as ever, and if he were a lesser fool those qualities alone would have been a swift deterrent from her.

Never the less, he trudged on.

"I will never make you chose between being yourself and being my wife. I want you as you are." He confessed.

He came to stand in front of her again, his hands taking hers between them.

"I want to call you mine." He muttered lowly, "I want to be yours."

He watched a shiver roll over her and had to keep from smiling.

"I can't think of all this while Jon is being held prisoner," She replied.

"He will go free. Weather by honourable means or not." Gendry reminded her, "You know this."

"I do."

"So what happens after?" He asked, "Were you planning on running off again?"

She slipped out of his hold, taking a step backwards, "I hadn't made plans yet."

"Plan to marry me."

She rolled her eyes yet again, "It's not that simple."

"With you and I? It could be!"

"It wouldn't be! We would be the Lord and Lady of Storm's End. Expected to breed heirs, to tend to a whole castle full of people, partake in the game of politics. Forever forced to sit, and stay, and be good."

He heard her, he felt her same worry deep in his bones. But he had a plan for all that, "After the trial, I intend to leave Edric in charge of Storm's End. Permanently, if I can manage it."

"So why bother getting married at all!?"

"For love and family! For the right reasons!!"

"Can we not just enjoy the time we have together now?"

"We're more than that."

All or nothing...

He came out with it, "I don't want to father a bastard."

"There is moon tea."

"We've been fortunate that I haven't put a babe in 'ya yet."

Her mood turned morose, eyes glassy and cast down as she replied, "I don't even know if I am able to have children anymore."

"Do you want them?" He asked with haste.

She did. He could see it. But that thought alone seemed to terrify her, and she shook her head despite the truth in her eyes.

"I know you want to call me your own. Arya. I know it. I can feel it." He plead with her one final time, "I know you want me to claim you as mine. I can feel that too."

"I-I cannot marry."

"You can. You love me. Isn't that enough reason to marry me?"

"Just..." Arya stepped into him again and took his hands in hers this time, "Stay with me." She requested.

He shook his head sadly, "Don't you understand why I can't?"

"What then?! Am I to beg you?"

"No! No." Gendry rushed out, "Please don't." He clarified then, though he was fairly certain she would never beg him, not like this anyway, "We should both get some rest. We've preparations to make before we leave. I'll see you in the morning, Arya." 

He turned then and left her bedchambers, despite his better instincts.


~~~


Once behind the doors of his own chamber he discarded his soaked attire in a heap and used a basin of soapy water to wipe some of the mud and grime away. He wasn't as thorough as he normally would be because his anger had already gotten the better of him. And honestly, he couldn't be bothered. He tossed the cloth and dragged a dry towel over his face in ire.

Shit. Shit...Shit...

He had panicked, that was for bloody certain. 

But, his new reality was all but thrust in his face today, forced down his throat even, and the lack of his own say in this impending new reality had him running from the literal hills.

Lord Errol had paraded his daughters around like prized livestock at the auction yard from the moment they arrived. Shameless in his boisterous bragging. And the women paraded themselves around like finely dressed whores, shameless and relentless in their flirtation.

The border issue as discussed was nothing more than refugees from King's Landing seeking protection in the townships and holdfasts surrounding. The lords talked of the matter briefly, the Baratheons quickly offering up goods and services to those in need. A resolution that could have come by way of a raven, Gendry thought. He swiftly realized that the daughters were the real reason they made the trip and that the journey was nothing but a fool's errand. 

Lord Errol insisted they stay the night as soon as the storm began, deemed the weather completely unfit for travel. He had seen worse; he had ridden through worse. But, Errol had all but barricaded them inside his 'great' hall, and was shocked and near appalled when Gendry didn't concede the moment the offer was presented.

"Do you not want the night to get to know your potential wife?" He gloated.

Edric was keen to stay, puffed up and drunk on the attention, but Gendry was less than inclined. So he told Lord Errol, "No." politely but firmly.

"What? Food, drink and women don't interest you, boy?" The fat lord teased.

Boy!?

"It's Gendry. Milord. And my brother can represent us both. I have matters awaiting me in Storm's End."

He did not wait for a rebuttal. 

He would be damned if he married any one of those women. Or anyone else that some greedy lord dolled up to make a match of, for that matter. The thought alone turned his insides out. Not only did he have eyes for none other than Arya, but the whole idea of forcing some lawful bond for wealth and power or gain seemed, well, wrong.

I won't.

Now, however, he had not thought through his actions with Arya. Which left him alone and disappointed.

Again...

With a self chastising groan he moved to change into a clean pair of pants then sat on the foot of his bed. His head fell into hands, body slouched over his knees.

What was I thinking? Bursting in like that? It's no wonder she said no, again. Gods! Did I learn nothing from my bloody proposal in Winterfell? Or any of the nights since?

He pushed his palms into his eyes, stars forming behind his lids as he allowed the pressure to lighten.

After a few moments of peace, he heard his chamber door slowly creak open. He let out a frustrated groan while trying desperately to ignore Lu, likely sent to unnecessarily tend to his fire, or turn down his stupid fucking bedsheets.

"Gods, Lewis!! No more wood! Please! It's boiling in here already!" Gendry called out angrily, face still buried in his hands.

Stormlanders were fucking obsessed with keeping a fire going, so much so that you'd think they were living beyond The Wall. Orys claimed that the warmth kept the mould and the sickness at bay. An old maid's tale kept true through generations, as far as Gendry was concerned. Though the warmth was a nice reprieve after riding in the rain he often felt like he couldn't get away from the heat.

After his outburst, no one answered, the low crackle of his fire buzzing through the silence. Puzzled to the calm he looked up, burry eyes focusing on a lean figure near the door.

Arya...

She stood silently, like a statue and as his eyes adjusted he noted her casual lightweight attire, along with her bare feet in his soft firelight.

"Arya?" He asked, without need, however. He knew it was her, he could sense that it was her.

She pushed off the door, "I accept." She said then, her voice soft, dauntless and earnest.

His heart stopped, back straightened like a hot rod had been dragged up the length, goose flesh trailing across his skin with her words, "What?" 

"I accept." Arya spoke softly once more, still poised at his door, "I will marry you."

Dumfounded, he gaped at her still, "What?"

"Are you deaf?" She barked back.

"What?!" Gendry shook his head, "No! I mean... I'm j-just, confused?"

In the dim light, he could just make out the planes for her face, the slope of her nose, the soft curve of her lips from a distance.

"I thought it quite simple. I agree to marry you." She replied with a small smile.

"You do?" He croaked.

"Yes." She said lightly.

With that, she stepped further into his room, crept up to him, graceful and primal, as though he was claimed as hers already.

Because, in truth, he was.

She moved to stand directly in front of him, her shoulders drawn back in confidence, chin held high. The possessive look about her had his pulse racing, never mind her words or actions. She knocked his knees out wider, urging him to follow her lead. He fell in line and made room for her hips to nestle in between his thighs. He had to lean back to look her in the eye though so without thought his hands reached out behind himself to stay upright and steady.

"But, I'm not doing it for my honour, or my house, or yours. And I'm not doing it because it's what's expected, or what's proper, or for some fabled child that we may never have. " Arya explained, "I'm doing this for you."

Gendry took a deep steadying breath as she draped her delicate wrists over his shoulders. She stepped in even closer, bringing her body near flush with his, the action going straight to his already half-mast cock.

"Not just for me, I hope." He managed to say, his focus trained on her face.

Her eyes and smile were soft then, "For myself, as well." She confessed, slowly dragging her gaze over his torso, "I do wish to call you mine." She said, watching herself trace down the span of his breastbone to then tap her slim finger against his bare chest.

He breathed deep through the sensation, skin trilling underneath her touch. He brought his hands up to hold her hips, using her solid stance to ground him.

"I can't stand the thought of someone else seeing you like this," Arya said wolfishly.

"What? Shirtless?" He was only slightly mocking her now, "Loads of people have seen me like this. The forge is sweltering, or didn't you know?"

"No, you idiot." Arya laughed, bumping her hip against his inner thigh. Her voice dropped low as she spoke again, "Like this, I mean. Shirtless, clean, hard up and straining against your trousers."

Gendry shuttered, hands gripping into the thick flesh of her hip and ass as she spoke her truths. He pulled her closer and basked in the soft skilled sway she made against him.

"I'll need to see my family, first." She reasoned, a little breathlessly.

"I understand." He said, devoutly.

"And no huge announcement, or anything terrible like that."

He nodded, trying to take her all in before he looked her in the eye again and spoke, "I understand."

"And no big todo or feast or celebration or anything either."

His hands lifted on their own accord, fingers slowly twisting around the loose bow tied into the neckline of her tunic, he watched her lean into him, heard the low hum in her throat, "I understand." He reiterated.

"Absolutely no bedding ceremony."

"I understand." He replied absently now, captivated by his finger-work. 

He tugged the knot open and worked the thread out slack. He watched her breath catch in the slight rise and fall in the valley between her breasts, skin flushed rose. He let out a soft groan then, a finger tracing down her breastbone, mimicking her earlier advance against his own skin.

She sighed deeply, closing her eyes when Gendry pushed her sleeve off the cap of her shoulder, his rough fingers running over the smooth expanse of her cool skin.

"And I-I want to be able t-to travel. With-with you and without you." She explained slowly, as though she had to search for the words through hazy thoughts.

His fingers continued to trace her figure heedlessly, trying to memorize the feel and placement of every scar and freckle. The underlying worry of her changing her mind and running again forever left him reluctant in the time he took admiring her, though tonight, something seemed to shift into place, leaving him with this hunger yet the void of apprehension.

"I understand." He repeated.

Her big grey eyes snapped open and she shoved both heels of her hands hard into his chest, "Stop saying that!"

Pushed back with the force his breath left him with a huff and he fell to the furs. He moved right back into her space again not a second later, "Well?! What else can I say?! I'm pleased, and your requests are sound."

"My demands, are sound." She corrected with a roguish smile.

He rolled his eyes at her needless defiance, "Shut up and kiss me already."

She moved quickly and was on him before he had a chance to savour the motion. Her hands slid into his hair, lips slant over his mouth, body heavy in his lap. With a united sigh he pushed harder into the kiss, brow creased despite his happiness, arms wrapping around her middle.

They kissed as if it were the first time; messy, hard and fervidly.

His hands fisted at the bottom of her tunic, yanking it from her pants, and as soon as she was able she let go of his hair to pull her shirt off. Swiftly she tossed it to the floor and took his jaw in her icy hands, urging him back to her kiss. This hungry push and pull of lips and tongues had his head spinning, but it was nothing compared to the feel of her pert breasts in his cupped hands. 

Her hearty moan broke their kiss and he took the opportunity to kiss along the length of her neck, hands still palming over her as she squirmed under his touch. He tried to keep from closing his eyes too often, resolute in watching every blissful moment of this culmination. As he watched himself now, fingers teasing her taught peaks through her thin small clothes he noticed the angry bruising on her side, where her ribs had been broken. The sight rattled him, made him feel angry, and he ran a warm hand over the discoloration, trying to soothe away the pain with his calloused touch.

It was clear though that the injury no longer bothered her, or she too wound up to care because instead of flinching away from his heavy hand she tugged the strings holding her small clothes together, and quickly got rid of that too.

He sighed in appreciation and took her in his hands once again. He then rolled the pads of his thumbs over her purled nipples, before he kissed every inch of newly exposed flesh.

He felt as though, finally, the gods were smiling on him. After a hard life of running, and hammering, and loneliness, he finally had something of value, something worth protecting, something, or rather, someone worth worshiping. He wasn't about to waste a second with her, and every thought or motion that came to his mind he was set to act upon it.

"Beautiful." He mused against her skin.

"Bias." She breathed back.

"Aye, but not blind." He replied before taking a dusty rose nipple into his mouth.

With her head thrown back, she moaned greedily, while holding the back of his head tight to her body, her hips canting against his stiff cock. Gendry paid equal attention to each perfect handful, drunk on her reaction, her moans, her greedy grapple, her lascivious need fueling him.

"Enough play." Arya whined, rolling her hips to meet his again, "Take me."

He didn't need to be told twice. 

In one swift twist, he threw her onto the bed below him, then hauled her small frame up to the pillows. He loomed over her and from the look in her deep pools of grey, she wouldn't have it any other way right then. Her arms wrapped around her shoulders as they kissed desperately again, her knees hiked high up his sides already.

With lips connected, he used one deft hand to reach between them to undo the strings of her pants. With a helpful lift of her hips, he pushed the threads down, lips following as he took her underthings along with her trousers. He shifted back to discard the last of her clothing, breath catching in his tight throat at the look of her, sprawled across his large fur-covered featherbed, rapt, bare and wanting him... only him.

Without missing a beat, he began laying kisses at the arch of her foot, moving up the inside of her leg and into the soft sensitive skin of her thigh. She whined again, his name this time, and he could barely keep from soiling himself like some green boy. But he loved the needy sound, so he did the same exact thing to the other leg, eliciting the same glorious timbre.

"Enough..." She nearly begged this time, but her words died on her lips as he moved in and swept his tongue up the length of her slit. 

He lapped lazily back and forth before he travelled up to that little bean they both loved so much. He latched to it, suckled gently and she nearly screamed out her affirmation. Her hands were buried in his hair yet again, tugging on him hard, but he was not even remotely detoured by the sharp pain. He ate his greedy fill of her, drenched himself in her sweet scent, all while her thighs squeezed his skull, hands pulling his hair into tight fists.

Just as she began to lose her scenes, her breath choppy, her moans dire, he broke free from her grip and kissed back up her stomach, pausing at each scar on his way up. He kissed her pouting lips intently and moved to undo his own pants then. She caught on and helped push them off his hips with her feet. He kicked the last bit of fabric away and took himself in hand.

"Gendry... Please..."

He growled, "Seven Hells, Arya."

He lined up slipped into her warmth at her plea, forehead falling to her collarbone once fully ensheathed, his own groan rattling deep in his chest. She wrapped her legs tightly around his waist, pulling him in deeper, walls thrumming as he began to set their pace.

It was hard and fast, and bordering on punishment. Needy and greedy, and gods, it felt like nothing else. She feels like nothing else. He spent most of his time trying to focus on his pace, his lips pressed into the crook of her neck, groans and breath burned into her cool skin.

She held onto him like he was the only thing tethering her to this world. Her moans and sighs were a sinfully sweet melody, one full of growls and purrs, the tone of which he hoped to hear for the rest of his lifetime.

She snaked along with his movements, raised her hips to meet each of his powerful thrusts, moving her body to create a friction that had him swiftly on the brink of madness. But before he had a moment to think any farther she was coming undone at the seams, her nails digging into the muscles of his back and shoulders, his name pouring into his ears by way of her long and drawn out moan.

Gendry descended into madness right along with her, her grip drawing him over his edge. He spilled himself as she gasped and writhed below, limbs wound tight around him. He slowed himself to a crawl before he was able to drag his head up for air and a much-needed kiss from her lips.

This had to be his favourite type of kiss. One full of devotion, and love, and a giddy kind of appreciation.

"Gods." Arya gasped, holding him fast, the tremor of a shiver running through her as he laid unmoving, still tucked inside her warmth, "I love you." She breathed against his lips.

He laughed a bit at that, amazed that this might be his life now, "I love you, too." He replied to her wholeheartedly.


~~~


Chapter Text

"What made you change your mind?"

The deep rattle of Gendry's voice sprang her eyes open. Arya had been dozing off and on for a few hours now, long enough for their fire to die down to near embers, her body lulled into contentment by the steady rhythm of his heartbeat under her ear. She shifted her position, moved onto her belly, her head still laid on his chest.

"Did you hear me?"

"I did." She replied lifting her chin to look at him.

He looked too damn smug for her liking, laying there all naked, and strong, and hers. But, if she were honest, his smugness was one of those qualities that happily stirred her up. It was akin to his bullheadedness; his refusal to let anything go without proper brooding or a fight. Though this undercurrent of arrogance was rarely shown, and more so in their youth, it was never unwarranted. The discussion that proceeded this smug little smirk was anything but a fight, and never the less, she found herself wanting him all the moreover.

"So? What made you change your mind?" He asked again.

He moved slowly and tucked an arm under his head, his other hand still tracing up and down her back, matching the rise and fall of her breath. The sensation was calming; like the gentle lap of the sea to your ankles. She closed her eyes and basked in the feel, loving how alive and safe she felt under his touch.

When she looked up again she found him staring her down, that smug little half-smile still pulling at his damned lips, "You did." She confessed.

"I did?" He asked, eyes wide and surprised as ever.

"Yes." She replied.

"You don't say?" He mumbled skeptically.

"Truly. It was something you said."

"I said a lot of things," He replied then, a hint of embarrassment around his words.

She laughed lightly, "Yes. You did."

"What babbling tipped it in my favour?"

"You love me, is that not enough reason to marry me." She quoted without missing a beat.

The quiet confession hung with the silence between them. Their eyes remained love locked, smiles to match, nothing but the profound feeling of this resonating honesty shared.

His voice was low when he spoke again, "That's what did it?"

She nodded, "Yes. If it weren't you, I would not marry."

His smug smile grew into a wide grin, "I feel honoured,"

She scoffed and rolled her eyes at him, "Don't let it go to your head, "

"Likely my wife will keep me in line, "

Arya knowingly adopted his smug smirk and moved to her knees before quickly straddling his lap. With haste, his hands found purchase on her hips and drew her forward.

"She sounds smart, I should like to meet her," She said, somehow, and far breathier than intended.

The drag of skin to skin sent a wave of warmth all over, breath catching and making her shutter. It didn't take much for the slick need between her thighs coat them both, with his gentle push and pull against his stiff cock. His dark hooded eyes watched her, took in her enjoyments, basked in it. She felt dizzy with want, like she was famished at a feast, thirsty and yearning.

He let out a deep huff of laughter, "Aye, you will, if she ever leaves my bed, "

She couldn't help but let out a proper giggle as Gendry sat up smoothly and kissed her soundly. Her hands took his strong jaw as his own hands slid up and down her back, settling on the nape of her neck and base of her spine. He held her close as they kissed, and kept her there even after their lips had parted. With his forehead touched to hers, arms still wrapped tightly around her, he heaved a heavy sigh before he spoke.

"I have to be dreamin'," He confessed doubtfully, "Or dead."

Arya, still delightfully perched on his lap, rolled her hips in a smooth swirl, causing him to groan and press another needy kiss to her awaiting lips.

"You don't feel dead." She replied in soft seduction when they parted for breath, "Rather, quite lively."

She drew her hips up then, felt him move below just slightly so that when she began to sit back down again, she took him in, bit by throbbing bit.

Both sank into the feel; united, with sighs of near relief ghosting across flushed skin. Arya didn't move for a long moment, just took the slowed opportunity to feel him fully. She focused on his breaths, how shallow and almost gasping they were, as if waiting for her to move pained him. She smiled at the thought and began to shift, graceful and deliberate. His heavy hands and lips were everywhere through her leisurely rise and fall, mapping her heedlessly, panting and mindless with pleasure.

This romp was far different than the one they had just shared. Gone was the hasty fumbling need, replaced now with this all-consuming and fluid desire. They moved together like water, steady and rhythmic, ebbing and flowing with an ease that only lifelong partners might feel. He nestled into her neckline, dragging his scratchy shadowed cheek up the column of her throat to kiss her lips once more. He still held her so close, gripped her so tight, sank his blunt nails into her skin as she picked up their cadence. He kissed and bit into her shoulders while she moaned his name, while she rode him, while she took, and took, and took.

Nevertheless, Gendry seemed determined to savour her, she felt him hold her hips tighter, encouraged her, but didn't push too fast. He allowed her to set the pace but moninored it closely, undoubtedly doing everything in his power to revel in this slow, mind-numbing, passionate lovemaking.

But, she could feel the pressure building low in her belly, coiling and threatening to take her, and he couldn't be far off either. With that realization she thrust her hands into his broad chest, effectively breaking his hold and pushing him back to lay down.

A thrill of pleasure surged through her at his willingness to relinquished his control to her, giving himself fully over without any hesitation. He dropped his hold to the yellow linens below them and gripped tight fists into the fabric as she increased her speed even further.

With her hands braced square in the middle of his chest, she used the balance as leverage and pushed them both to the pinnacle of pleasure with skilled ease. She watched as his eyes rolled back, felt him pulse and throb and spill, listened to him gasp and whimper her name, and she too, felt the surreal nature of it all. He, however, couldn't keep his hands off her as she trembled with her own release, sitting upright once more to hold her close. He pressed kisses and mumbled his adoration into her skin, words meant for her ears only, as she worked herself through waves of blinding ecstasy.

Arya turned and kissed his temple while she regained her breathing, "It can't always be like this?"

"It isn't. In my experience." Gendry gasped, twisting to lay her down, moving then to lay along the length of her, "Only it has been with you." He said once his head hit the pillow.

"You're lying," Arya replied, she rolled back into his space the moment she could.

She felt like the sea tide to the shore, drawn to him, still frenzied for him though she felt his seed between her thighs. She shimmied into the bend of his strong arm, forehead tucked into the crook of his neck, lips under his collarbone and breathed deep.

Gendry hummed lowly as she settled in, "Never to you." He confessed.

They rested, just so, all wrapped around each other, like thick vines twisted around a single oak tree. As dawn approached the chill in the air was made all the more obvious by the drying beads of sweat across their overstimulated skin. But, as if to read her mind, the moment the thought crossed her Gendry shifted from her grapple and slid out of bed. 

"Thank you for the new clothing, by the way. It was much more than I needed." Arya said, admiring his bare form from afar.

She had seen many naked men in her life, most unwarranted. She saw many with Yoren's group. Even more, while training at the house of black and white. A few as Cat of the Canals. And dozens as Mercedene of the brothels. But, none of those men looked like Gendry. Even the strongest of fighter didn't compare, the wealthiest of knights and lords held no candle to him. He was brut strength; lean, long and brawny, with a handsome face to top it. She watched his back move as he picked and chose which wood to toss first on the dying embers, marvelling at the grace that hid beneath all that corded muscle.

"You're welcome." He replied as he stepped to his fireplace and added a few small logs. 

"Your seamstress does fine work."

He nodded, watching and waiting for the flames to take, "She came with the castle keep. Her and Orys both. They've been here forever."

"Well, the garments are lovely. Truly, more than I needed."

Gendry turned then and made his way back to bed. Once at the foot he shrugged, awkward and near bashful, still clearly getting used to the idea of having enough wealth to give gifts to others, "You should see what she's making for me."

"Something far fancier, I'd imagine. Something fit for a proper lord." Arya teased.

She softened at his humility. Standing there bare as his name day brought no blush to his high cheeks, but confessing that he had something ornate or embellished made just for himself, well, didn't that cause him to flush outright.

He was quick to respond, "Not really, but she had asked me what I wanted the design to look like. I had no idea. So told her to surprise me."

He moved to his side of the bed again and crawled in under the furs. Arya held out a welcoming arm as he pulled the covers up both their bare bodies. He snuggled in close and wrapped an arm around her midsection as he relaxed against the plush pillows. 

"And?" Arya poked.

"I believe your arrival sparked her inspiration."

"Is that so?"

He laughed, warm and satisfied, "Aye. Some still long for a Stark and Baratheon to marry."

Arya hummed in thought before her reply, "Seems they'll get their wish then."

"They can kick rocks. I've gotten my wish."

With that, he leaned in for another kiss. His lips found hers as though they were always meant to, tongue teasing like the gentle feel of water running through your fingertips. 

"So, what did she make for you?" She asked when he rested next to her again.

"You'll see later when she's finished. I told her that your clothing was to be her priority."

Gods, his voice is soothing... calm, rich...

Arya felt the warm call of sleep as he spoke his last words. She knew she acknowledged what he had said, hummed, or nodded, or something, but the best nights of sleep she's had in years were next to him. They had also just worked each other over ragged, so when her lids began to droop she let sleep sweep in and take her.

~~~

Arya awoke to his feather-light kisses across her collarbones. He pressed them gently to her with no real pattern or path, breathing deep, hard-pressed against her thigh. She turned, smiling and drowsy. She kissed him lazily then, deep and unhurried by any impending anything. 

Bathed in the warm morning light, their whole world was just this, just them, entwined in fine linens and furs. Their breath and touch chased the other, exploring every inch of skin until neither knew where the other began or ended. Until time stood still. Until every other thing of this world mattered not a bit.

But, a sudden thud against the door jolted their lips apart in a gasp, yet their grip remained twined. 

A hesitant knocking came next, followed by a mumbled, "Lord Gendry?"

He looked down to her smirking face, "You locked it?" He asked in a hush.

She nodded slowly, "On my way in last night."

"Smart little wolf." He whispered back, kissing into the crook of her neck again. She sighed her liking, tilting to allow his ease, the scrape of his stubbled beard adding a shivering sensation to her sensitive skin.

"You can't just be realizing this now?" She teased quietly.

"I've known for some time, but it never hurts to voice it." He replied, pressing more feather-light kisses to her shoulder and chin next.

How he was able to melt into this soft lover, this careful being, when he himself was so rough and hard was vexing. He was an enigma, all bristle and flame with the soft underbelly of a muse. She wondered, as his kisses moved over her, how she was able to live so long without him by her side.

Lewis knocked again, and tried the handle for good measure, "My lord? The door?"

"Uh, no thank you Lu, not today," Gendry called out.

Arya stifled a laugh and he shot her a look of worried annoyance. It was quite obvious that he didn't order anyone around here. And surely he had never turned anyone away from doing their work. But today, this morning, was just for their pair. Nothing was going to break this spell, especially not castle life or responsibilities. That was clear, and she was grateful.

Lewis hesitated before he uttered another confused, "M-My lord?"

"I'm not feeling well today. I'd like to just sleep it off."

"I'll send for Maester Orys then?" The boy replied eagerly.

"Uh, no thank you Lu, rest is all I need."

Arya chuckled, only trying slightly to contain the volume, "Rest, is it?"

"My lord?"

"Just...leave some food at the door? Something light, as to not upset my stomach." Gendry called out again awkwardly.

Arya could tell he had never said anything like that before in his whole bloody life and that it felt as awkward as it sounded. She tried not to laugh at him again, remembering what it was like to be new to something you always thought would remain foreign to you.

"Very well," Lu replied after a very drawn-out pause. 

Both lovers listened to the boy's steps recede, before coming together again. Gendry had propped his head in his hand now, the other still comfortably draped across the dip of her hip and waist.

"As to not upset my stomach, said Lord Gendry." Arya teased with the back of her hand feigned against her forehead. She rolled onto her back with more mock dramatics, snivelling like some mummer's maid. 

He followed, rolling with her, body pressed to hers, the bulk of his weight resting on his forearms. Effectively trapping a willing captive. 

His eyes and voice were dark then as he spoke, "Don't call me that."

Arya couldn't help but run her hands up the length of her strong back, mapping the dips and divots of his lean muscle. Her hands travelled over the hard planes of his chest and hooked behind his neck. 

She pulled him freely to her lips and spoke against them, "As you wish, my lord."

He pressed to her, lips and tongues moving in a slow nurse of tender heat, melting into a languid bliss.

They spent the remainder of the day in various states of this circling solace. They separated their pleasure with laughing, talking and resting. They feasted on a tray of figs, plums, and apples, with some bread, preserves and honied butter. Herb tea and sweet milk washed it all down, replenishing both their depleted reserves. Their quiet euphoria was interrupted only once more that afternoon by non-other than old Maester Orys himself.

Gendry was draped along the length of her side again, legs hooked and twisted with hers, head nestled just below her breasts, fingers absently drawing patterns into her belly, ghosting over scars. They were sticky with yet another post pleasure sweat, both having just collected their breath, for uncounted time, not a moment ago.

Orys knocked loudly as he spoke, "My Lord?"

Arya felt Gendry grumble before he answered, "Yes, Orys?"

"Young Lewis tells me you're not well? Won't you let me examine you?"

"Not necessary. Rest is all I need. I'll be fine by nightfall."

Orys tried the door, jiggling the latch as if to change the outcome of its locked state.

Arya smiled down at her smith in his 'could not give two shits' post bliss attitude. Her slim fingers were combing through his thick hair, the dark strands silky and longer than they were when they reunited in Winterfell. Her fingernails would scrap ever so slightly against his scalp and his groan would wash over her like a warm Braavosi breeze. She couldn't stop, too delighted in the sound, awestruck that she was able to elicit such a thing from so little.

"Have you seen our Lady Arya?" Orys asked next. 

She had forgotten the Maester was even outside the door as she continued to pet the man laid across her. She tugged on Gendry's hair and his teeth sank into her side in response, so she did it again, pulling harder this time.

"Yes." Gendry replied, turning to give her a stern look, "She's... exploring."

Arya grinned, wide and unbridled.

"Exploring?" Orys asked, skeptical.

"Aye. Said she was feeling much more lively." Gendry replied cunningly before he kissed where his cheek had just laid, travelling lower to kiss over the soft indent from his teeth.

"I see." The old maester replied, voice low and full of skepticism, "When you see her again, I'd like to check her stitches."

"Alright." He mumbled in reply, absent now and lost in the trail he had settled into.

His kisses tracked back up her body, special attention paid to each supple breast, a smooth tongue swept across each pert nipple. She keened fiercely, arching off the featherbed, gasping for him to stay put.

"We don't need to sneak around, you know." Arya breathed as he came up to her lips.

He kissed her deeply and spoke, "I know."

"We should tell your family before we leave, as I'll be telling mine when we arrive."

"I'm not ready to have them part of it yet. Just, let it be you and I a moment."

Arya grappled her hold around his body tighter, "As my lord commands."

"Gods! Quit calling me that!" He begged lightly.

Arya threw her shoulder into his chest and knocked him off balance. She used the opening to twist and push him to the bed below them, topping him effortlessly, "Annoying, isn't it?"

They rolled and wrested for dominance, laughing and teasing each other all the while, each trying to pin the other down. Here, one thing led to another, which led to another, which led to them breathless once more.

~~~

Gendry lay snoring across her as she watched the sun dip low on the horizon. She had slept some as well, her body exhausted, her limbs sore, as if she spent the day sparring, or riding, or both. She liked the ache though, a reminder, a tender trophy.

He had been using the soft swell of her breast as a pillow for hours now, a hand lightly but possessively laid atop the other as he slept.

She nudged him, controlling the swoon she felt as he stirred sleepily in her arms. He buried his face in the valley of her breasts with a grumbled, the scrape of his beard tickling her again as he roused. She nudged him again harder and spoke. "We should get up, it's almost sundown."

"Just a few more hours." He replied groggily.

Arya chuckled, wiggling under him to jostle his comfort, "In a few more hours we'll have missed dinner entirely."

Reluctant, Gendry frowned and slowly rolled to his back, "Fine, "

Arya punched his arm and leaned in to kiss his cheek, "Come on then. It won't be so bad. We'll sup with your family."

"We'll tell them tonight then?" Gendry asked as he watched her leave the warmth of his bed.

She moved around the room quickly and collected her strewn clothing. He hadn't bothered getting up yet, his eyes following her every move. She slowed her pace, deliberately, organizing her garments, allowing his gaze time to linger.

"I think we should," Arya replied as she slowly pulled her trousers on. Once the laces were strung she slipped into her tunic and half-tucked it in.

"Alright then." He said while he rolled out of bed, "I should like to take you to the battlements first. Catch one last Storm's End sunset."

Gendry gathered a pair of clean pants, taking a crisp tunic and dark blue doublet from inside a large cedar trunk.

"You say that as though we'll never return," Arya said.

Gendry thought a moment as he dressed, "Maybe we won't. Maybe not for a while."

Her brow furrowed, "What do you mean by that?"

"I don't know. Thought we might explore a bit, before settling somewhere."

"Somewhere?"

He shrugged, "Just a thought."

"I rather like it here." She said softly.

Story's End reminded her very much of Winterfell, only far warmer. It was a place where at any given moment you were at the mercy of the elements. She liked that. Land that was harsh and bitter but the foliage was thick, and the fields bountiful. She liked that too. A place where it's people were headstrong and stubborn, and loyal. She felt comfortable here, however brief her stay had been. She felt at home, the idea of peace more believable here than anywhere else as of late. She liked that even more. Her time spent here was formidable and surprising. In her heart she felt like Storm's End might hold a place for her still. But, the call to the wild had never truly left.

He didn't backtrack to appease her now but clearly didn't have a proper argument when he spoke, "I like it too. It was just..." 

"A thought." She interjected with a small smile.

"Aye."

Arya shook her head, "We'll revisit all this." She assured him with a quick and chaste kiss, "But I need a wash, and a fresh set of clothes before we have dinner with your family."

She opened the door and stepped into the hall as Lu was coming around with a kettle for Gendry's own bath.

"Ah, Lewis, would you have Ser Davos, Mya and Edric meet us in our solar for a late sup, please?"

Lu avoided Arya's gaze and headed into his lord's room, pouring the steaming contents of his kettle into a copper basin, "Yes, My Lord." The boy replied.

Gendry caught Arya by the hand before she had a chance to make it far from his door. He tugged her back to him and wrapped her in a strong hug. She sank into his enveloping warmth, breathed in his scent, wrapped her own arms around him just as tight. 

His lips pressed into the crown of her head with a few deliberate kisses before he spoke, "Last night was everything."

A shiver rolled through her with his words, their truth settling deep inside her marrow. She ached for him as she ached for home when she was younger. She felt that undeniable urge to be with him, always. Because he was home, and that was everything.

She lifted up onto her tiptoes to kiss him then; long, slow, and devout.

"It was." She confirmed dreamily.

He stepped back with a lovesick smile while she turned to make her leave. Arya's final glance to him was at the door to her room. She watched Gendry's strapping frame turn and leave down the opposite hallway, stepping lightly and confident, his shoulders drawn.

~~~

Someone, likely Beth, had left a kettle of water off the fire and tended to a roaring flame in Arya's absence. When she entered her room she put the large kettle on and waited on it to boil. A small portion of an untouched meal sat on a nearby table. She picked at the nuts and cheese until the kettle sang.

It didn't take long to fill her small washtub, with her favourite oils and soaps added in to her liking. She disrobed again, eyes sweeping over the scattering of red and purple marks that marred her ivory skin. Her smile grew, a smile that had not truly left her since early that morn.

She quickly bathed and once clean dressed in a wolf grey tunic and her new black leathers. She left her hair loose but pinned back on one side, as she always had, so many moons ago.

Oddly, she felt beautiful. Really and truly beautiful. Like one of those demure ladies and fair maids in the songs. Arya Horseface, Arya Underfoot, Lumpyhead, Arry, Boy, no one, felt beautiful. This new being full of life and love was awakening anew, reacquainting with what happiness felt like. And gods, it felt good.

Too good...

"My Lady?" Maester Orys rapped his old swollen knuckles against her door.

"Yes."

Orys let himself mosey in, his bag of necessities tucked under his thick robe.

"How have you been feeling?" He asked as he put his things down on a nearby table. 

He gestured for Arya to sit by the fire and lamplight so he could check in on her ailments.

"Fine."

"No dizziness?"

"No."

"Lightheadedness?"

"No. It's itchy." She replied as he parted her hair and cleaned at the wound.

"I should be able to take these out before you leave. You've healed nicely."

"Thank you, for assisting me with that." She replied lightly.

He nodded to her midsection, "Your ribs?"

"Better, I can breathe more deeply now."

"Foot? Ankle?"

"Both still tender, but I can walk without much pain."

"That may take the longest to heal, I'm afraid."

"I assumed."

"Very good." Oyrs dismissed while he packed up his few things and washed his hands. Turning back to her with a hesitant look he asked, "Might I ask where you were today?"

"Off exploring."

"All day?"

"Yes."

"I had looked for you earlier."

"I know."

"Peculiar. Gendry spent the day ill."

"Did he?"

The maester's beady old eyes narrowed. He slid his hands into his bellowed sleeves, his wrists held against his belly.

"A raven came for you this afternoon."

A small tightly spun scroll came from deep inside his thick woollen robe then. He handed it over, her Stark family seal unbroken. The parchment crinkled as the wax broke free from the smooth paper. The handwriting inside was distinctly Sansa's, long and delicate, obvious in its scrolling. Arya knew it anywhere as Septa Mordane would often strike her knuckles and used Sansa's pen work as the rule to attain.

"Sansa," Arya mumbled scanning over the script.

"Can I help with anything else, my lady?"

"I should need a pot of moon tea," Arya said as she looked up from her scroll.

They had agreed, together, she and her Lord Smith. She'd marry the brut, willingly; happily. Gods help her, she'd even have his pups one day. But that day was nowhere near this day. That day would be a choice made by both. Those children would not be the result of poor planning or a consequence to the cause, but a choice made.

"Moon tea?"

"Yes."

"I don't understand."

She cocked her eyebrow at him, "Do they not have it here in the Storm Lands?"

"No. Of course, we have it."

"Then?"

The old maester shook his head, "This is highly irregular."

"For whom? I wonder."

Oyrs bristled and gathered all his graces, "I meant no offence, my lady. But the brew is for working women; low borns, victims, and alike. These things aren't meant for a noblewoman."

"Silly me. Here I thought it was meant for any woman requiring it."

"Is it wise to be requiring it at all?" Orys asked with haste.

"Is it wise to question a noblewoman such as myself with her own body's needs?" 

"No, my lady."

"The tea then?"

Orys bowed before gathering his things to leave, "At once."

Arya's attention returned to the scroll in her hands as Orys shuffled out the door. The words written were well thought out, that was true, yet it was still very cryptic. From what Arya gathered, Sansa wanted to press Jon's claim to the throne, that the council had given a king-killing-usurper the throne before, way not again. Only this time to a rightful heir. She also alluded to independence for the North, and the lengths in which she was willing to go for this.

But, something wasn't right.

Jon will not want the throne. He never wanted any of this. And especially not now. No...

She read and reread the letters, wondering, desperate to know what would happen once they all returned to King's Landing and how best to prepare for what was to come.

He won't want that at all...

Orys returned shortly with a small pot of herbs and a set of instructions. She was to drink the tea before bed, and once again in the morning. Most sprigs she recognized; pennyroyal, mint, wormwood. A small dollop of creamed honey and a spoon laid with her cup.

I could have made this myself, saved the old Maester his embarrassment...

"When was your last moonblood?"

Arya froze momentarily. Honest to the gods, she couldn't remember. But, stress and starvation had altered her regularity in the past. And she told the old man as much, just, in fewer words.

"I don't remember."

"The effects of the tea will be nothing to a quickened babe," He cautioned.

She ignored his warning, "It can't have been long ago, one moon past? However, it's not uncommon for it to be irregular."

"Irregular?"

"Yes. From stress, likely."

He wasn't convinced, so he pressed on, "Nausea? Fatigue?"

"No."

"Tender breasts?"

Arya rolled her eyes, "Gods."

"I must ask."

"No."

"Heightened senses? Smell or taste?"

"No."

Still wary he straightened out his posture all the same, "Well enough."

"Thank you."

"As you like, my lady."

"You might take your supper in Gendry's solar with the rest of us tonight."

"Us?"

"Yes."

"Very well."

Orys gave a quick bow and made for the door. As the old man left, her young smith arrived, a bounce in his step as he brushed past his maester.

"Feeling better I see?" Orys said if not in jest.

"As I said, all I needed was rest."

Arya could have sworn she saw Orys' old beady eyes roll before he left them both with a small bow of courtesy. 

Gendry's eyes lit up as he turned his attention to her, happy, as a pig in shit. His look painted her as if she had hung the moon, a notion that would have sickened her as a young girl. Fabled tales of mythical maids. Now, as a woman grown, the idea that he thought so highly of her filled her belly with butterflies and sent her skin thrumming with goose-prickles.

Without thought she was walking to meet him, her hands drawn to the sides of his face, "You shaved."

She had grown used to his thickening stubble, started to like the scrappy shadow that hugged his jawline, especially liked the rough feel between her thighs. But, this look spoke to her. His newly trimmed facial hair made him look younger by at least ten name days. Almost made him look as he had during their time with The Brotherhood, clean-shaven yet left some hair tightly cropped to frame his mouth, just so. And maybe it was the fresh shave, or all the loving, or the high from her accepting his proposal but he looked taller, and lighter, an air of confidence about him that she had not yet seen, outside his bedchamber.

"Only a bit." He replied as he stroked his jaw, "It's been a while. Been distracted lately." He replied taking her wrists gently in his hands.

Her hands slid to his chest as she raised up to kiss him tenderly. She felt him sag into her, the melt of warmth clutched tight. Pulling back she saw him smiling, his eyes still closed. When his gaze met hers again she flashed him a grin, nodding for the door. He saw her new cloak near and helped her pull it securely on. Once fastened he smoothed the grey trimmed fur around her collar and shoulders with an easy smile of his own.

A knowing nod each and they left her room, walking in sync down hallway after corridor until they reached their stairwell. They climbed the stairs in separate silence, but selfishly she wanted to be pressed to him again.

All I need do is ask...

By the time they reached the top her foot throbbed with a dull pain. Gendry pushed the heavy door open for them, flooding the staircase with warm orange light.

The entryway opened up to a much calmer view than the previous night. A cool breeze still cut through the humid air, leaving a chill on her skin with the moisture, but the wind was calm. As they came to stand at the edge of the battlements again, she saw what made Storm's End so tranquil that night. 

A volatile storm raged far off on the horizon, sea waves churning, lightning snapping, dark menacing clouds rolling with thunder. They watched it build and build then move across the sky, taking the remaining light and clouds along with it. Arya drank in the seascape, the vastness of blue, lost in its unknowns. She felt a flutter of panic at its immenseness but his voice brought her back and soothed her.

"I made you something."

He had his back to the view again, choosing to face her instead of the endless beautiful beyond. He leaned on his elbows and forearms, resting on the stone fortress, his ankles hooked. 

She smiled at the eagerness of his voice as she glanced his way, "You did? When?"

"I've been making you something." He corrected.

"Since?"

"Since..." Gendry shifted his weight before finding his words, "Since you left."

Arya softened and turned to him. She couldn't do anything other than shake her head. Reflecting back on leaving Winterfell wasn't something she cared too much for. She had made a mistake. A grave mistake. That was easy to admit. What wasn't easy was admitting how much she knew she had hurt him in leaving.

"I thought... I wasn't sure I'd get the chance to give it to you."

"Gendry..."

"I just made it, in hopes that... Well, in case you lived." He glanced to his feet.

"You hadn't the need."

"I wanted to." He stated definitively looking up to her again, "It helped keep me distracted."

Gendry straightened and moved around a corner briefly. He came back holding a weapon, clearly forged by his own strong hands. 

"It's a replica of your staff, just, made without dragon glass." He offered her the gift.

Intrigued, she took the weapon and inspected his fine craftsmanship, "I see that." 

It looked near identical to her Winterfell Wish, save for some extra detailing work. He had soft grey and yellow leather woven around the handle now. He etched Direwolf decorations into the wood and base of both spears, with little specks of amber inset as gleaming eyes. He also polished and sharpened each blade to a shiny deadly point. No detail amiss.

"Do you like it?"

"I love it."

"Good." He exhaled in relief.

"Thank you."

He shrugged a bit, "You're welcome."

"I wish I hadn't lost the old one." She confessed somberly.

"It's alright. This is better made. Prettier too." He said with a small smirk.

"That it is." Arya smiled. She took a few steps back and spun the spear in her hands, feeling its perfect balance, seeing the shine off both sharp blades, "Thank you, again."

"You're welcome, again," Gendry replied with a small head tilt.

His eyes followed her every step, clearly watching her twist and move around with the weapon he created. Captivated now, he watched her wield it as if it were an extension of herself. His heavy gaze elated her and didn't she show off a bit, just for the rush.

"I'm just happy I got to give it to you." He confessed.

Arya stopped dead and turned back to him. She set her staff against the stone battlement walls and moved, taking both his hands in hers.

"I'm sorry, truly." She uttered, chin tipped up to look him in the eye, "I'm sorry I left as I did. I thought, well, I don't know. Thought I might end my list, thought it would end me. And believed I was alright with that. Turns out, I wasn't." Her gaze dropped with a sad shake of her head, "I should have listened to you."

Gendry's eyes went wide, "I can't imagine I'll be hearing that too often." He teased.

Playfully she threw his hands away, "Stupid."

Before she had a chance to turn or run he grabbed her by the front of her cloak and yanked her back to him. She smirked then, catching the heady gleam in his eyes before reaching up to kiss him rightly.

"I love it when you to that." He declared as she sank back to the pads of her feet.

"Do what?"

"Stand on the tips of your toes to kiss me." He said lowly, thumb grazing the apple of her cheek, "It's adorable."

Arya felt her face flush, "Shut up."

"Are you blushing, Lady Stark?"

"Don't-" 

He silenced their banter with yet another kiss. She melted, gods did she, like wax under a flame, pliant and warm with even the slightest addition of heat. He wrapped around her body and she held him just as tight as lips and tongues touched smoothly.

His low growl rumbled through him when she pulled away, "You'll be the first person alive to call me that." She confessed.

His forehead touched to hers in brief thought, "Adorable?" He asked.

She shrugged, "Yes." 

He looked appalled, "Well, You'll likely catch sick of me saying it."

~~~

Dusk crept in on them quickly. The horned moon crested and glowed with growing vigour, casting pockets of moonlight and shadow onto the ancient stone. Lanterns were lit one by one all along with the fort as they held each other close, the echo of distant thunder melting into the thrashing sea.

"You're sure about all this?" He asked as they swayed to the wind, waves, and awakening stars.

"Yes."

"No matter the outcome in King's Landing?"

"Yes."

"You're sure?"

Arya shoved him back with a growl, "Seven hells, Gendry. Yes!"

"Well?! I'm just so weary of you rich girls." He chuckled, pulling her by the hand to move back inside, "Fickle. Didn't you know?"

She snatched her spear before following him down the stairs, "So says the newly rich boy."

~~~

The pair moved to his solar, talking lightly as they did so. Wine and cheese had been set out on a large table, fire cracking in the hearth. She sat as Gendry poured them both a glass, settled into her high back chair with modest cushion. Edric was first to arrive, bursting through the doors, yelling before he even stepped foot into the room.

"What the bloody hells is wrong with you?! What were you thinking?! Storming off like that? I had to talk Lord Errol off the edge, he was furious, it took-"

Both Arya and Gendry held the same amused and challenging look about them as Edric stopped dead in his steps and rant.

He tone changed in an instant, "Lady Arya. I'm terribly sorry. I'm-I didn't expect to see you here."

Gendry stood behind his chair, sipping at his wine, Arya seated to his right. Her hand was resting on the base of her goblet, fingers tapping the metal expectantly. To the untrained eye, they might look the lord and lady of this great house. And for the first time, the thought alone didn't churn her stomach. The idea of being in a place of power, with him by her side had stirred something thrilling in her. Leading a pack with her mate filled her with a peculiar seance of potential pride; he made her feel stronger. Wholly the opposite of her fears.

"It's quite alright. What were you saying?" She questioned back to Edric with equal ease and kind, voice sweet as honey.

"Oh, I uh... Well... Might I speak to you privately?" He said to Gendry.

"There's no need." Arya soothed.

"There's no need for a scolding either, Edric. Sit. Let's have a good meal before our journey tomorrow." Gendry replied, gesturing to the vacant spot across the table.

Skeptical, Edric softened and sat, "Very well."

Davos and Mya arrived together, chatting lightly, arms modestly linked like a proper old knight and cultivated young lady would.

Arya smiled at the sight, as it reminded her so much of how her lord father and Sansa would enter some feasts. How they would walk arm in arm around Winterfell's battlements every so often. Long ago now. So long that she wondered if it had happened at all, or if it was all just conjured up from her mind.

She glanced over to Gendry's smiling face and couldn't help but match it. Something about it was just so bloody contagious, but, she felt it too. That surge of happiness, that heavy welcome feeling of safety and family.

Sometime during her thoughts, Orys arrived as well, sitting himself at the far end after acknowledging his lords and ladies. 

"My lords. Milady. What a lovely change of scenery." Davos said as he guided Mya to her seat.

After the pleasantries, they settled in and servants began to ferry food into the room. They brought out heaping plates of rolls and biscuits. Steaming pots of roasted beef and gravy were served next, followed by generous portions of potatoes, honied carrots and beans. 

Their party ate quietly, small talk peppered in amongst their dining, wine flowing into awaiting cups. 

Davos went on about their ship's preparations, how the weather seemed alright, at best, and that it should be a mostly smooth sail. He told them of their lodgings in King's Landing and how the events were to transpire once they arrived. Mya voiced her displeasure with being left behind and wished she too was taking the journey. Edric and Orys remained surprisingly quiet.

"I've never been on a ship," Mya confessed as their plates were cleared.

"We're lucky it's such a short trip, the stench of some of these seafolk would make you retch and long for home," Arya commented.

"I can confirm," Davos replied, leaning and nudging Mya with an elbow and a smile.

Her smile was warm as she turned her attention back to Arya, "How did you feel after our ride yesterday?"

"Fine. A bit sore today."

Out the corner of her eye, she saw Gendry quickly bring his goblet to his lips to mask his own self satisfied smile.

"Maester Orys had been looking for you," Mya explained innocently, gesturing to the old man and the end of their table.

"I spent the day exploring," Arya replied.

"Funny we didn't see you." Edric said then slyly, "I spent the day making rounds with Ser Davos."

"Swift as a deer. Quiet as a shadow." Arya smiled cunningly.

"We've decided to marry." Gendry burst out abruptly.

The room fell silent. You could hear a needle drop as all eyes turned to her idiot. 

After dessert, we had agreed. The damned eager fool!

She gathered her shock and stared him down, waiting for him to continue. When he finally glanced to her she gave him a stern glare and a cock of her eyebrow. 

Well?! You started it. Finish it!

"We have?" Davos asked, puzzled. He looked between the pair, noted their proximity, and smiled wildly as all the pieces came together, "You have."

"We have," Gendry confirmed.

Mya clasped her hands over her heart, a giant smile plastered to her lovely face. Arya smiled and nodded at her, watching her eyes well with tears of happiness.

"I'm thrilled, for both of you." Mya gushed.

Edric wasn't so pleased, "Not that I don't enjoy you, my lady, but this complicates things." He said to Arya after a long beat.

She tilted her head in question, "I don't believe it does." She said confidently, "You wanted him married, and now he will be married."

"We had wanted the marriage to strengthen Storm Land bonds."

Gendry shrugged, "Your marriage can do just that now."

"Yes. You'll have your pick of the litter at Haystack Hall," Arya said to Edric. 

He fumed and passed a quick look to Gendry before Davos interrupted the tension.

"And your family knows of this, m'lady?" He asked.

"Not yet. It's not news meant for a raven. I'll tell them in person the moment we reach King's Landing."

"We wanted to tell you." Gendry said to Mya and Davos, "But also in telling you we hope you'd give us something in return." He finished, looking directly at Edric to drive his point.

"My brother remains a prisoner of the Unsullied and Dothraki. Whatever comes of this council or trial, Jon will be going free. With or without permission."

Edric looked like a doe in predator's sight, "I don't understand."

"We're asking for your sword, Edric." Gendry urged.

The room fell silent again as all eyes turned to the oldest Baratheon heir. Davos looked particularly nervous, eyes shifting between Edric's pensive scowl and Gendry's hopeful look.

Edric nodded, voice as honest as Arya had heard from him yet, "Yes. You have my sword and my word. Anything for family."

Gendry's light smile returned as a visible tension lifted from his shoulders. With an exchanged look of relief and gratitude shared between new and old allies.

After another small round of congratulations, details of their travel plans, and a timeline mapped out Mya set the ball rolling with a drawn-out yawn, signalling her impending leave.

"Well, I'm off to bed. Need to rise early. See you lot off." She spoke as she stood.

"With the morning tide," Davos added in lightly.

The rest of the group excused themselves, parting for the morrow, but Orys made a point to speak solely to Arya.

"I will come to you in the morn, take those stitches out before your journey." He said.

"That sounds fine."

"You're sure of your choices?"

Arya gave him a hard look, "Questioning me again, are we?"

"I mean no offence, but in light of this new information, perhaps your tea is no longer needed."

"I appreciate your wisdom, maester. However, your lord and I have agreed. And if we change our minds, you'll be of the first to know."

"As you say, my lady."

Orys spoke a few muttered words to Gendry on his way out the door before the pair moved into his private bedchamber. The warmth of the fire filled the room with a vibrant orange glow, his unique smell melding with the rich fragrance of rain and wood. She saw her lent wooden trunk sat off to the side, she staff and pot of herbs set near it.

"I had your things moved to my room." He said as she gazed over her items.

"Presumptuous." She teased him easily. 

"Was it though?"

She turned from him with a smile and made herself at home. She boiled her water and steeped her tea as Gendry readied himself for sleep. Inconspicuously she watched him move to close the shutters and begin to undress, slowly and methodically. It was very unlike the hurried rush she'd seen him take the last few times she'd seen him completely bare. She watched as he rid himself of his tops and admired the care he took in folding his clothing.

"This will be the first time we go to bed together," Gendry said as Arya finished the last sips of her tea. It was sweet and tasted heavily of mint, the warmth soothing down her throat and into her belly. She brewed a second batch for the morn, and set it on her bedside table.

"We've gone to bed together many times." She replied simply.

"Not like this." He replied and untied his britches, ready to shimmy them off his hips as he spoke again, "Never like this."

She eyed him ravenously, the last shreds of fabric leaving him, "Are you nervous?" She asked noticing the slight quake in his fingertips.

He gave her a soft smile, "Honest?" She answered with a slight nod, so he went on, "Yes."

She chuckled, "I already know you snore."

Gendry pulled back the furs and slid into bed, "I do not snore." 

His breath filled his chest slowly, his eyes heavy through her words, watching, studying, as if to not miss a moment. Gods, she loved how he watched her, loved the mixture of awe and longing set deep in his clear blue eyes. Keen and completely unabashed. 

"You do." Arya argued, making quick work loosening her own clothing, "And I've already seen you bare. Felt your skin to mine. Watched you fall apart. Listened to you moan my name. What's left to be nervous about?"

She smiled at him as she slowly pulled her tunic over her head, caught his eyes dropping to sweep over her newly exposed skin.

"Nothing really, just a feeling." He corrected himself, his voice gravely while he licked at his lips, "Maybe nervous isn't the right word?"

"What is the right word then?" She asked suggestively while she pushed her trousers to the floor, leaving them in a pool and slipped into bed. She laid her head next to his, their pillow shared, "Excited, perhaps?" She asked.

"Excited..." Gendry mumbled, his heavy hand settling on the swell of her hip, drawing her body to his, "Aye."

She hummed happily at the confession, leaning into his embrace. His hand rounded her hip and slid to grasp her ass, urging her leg to hook over him. 

"A fella could get used to this,"

"I should think you will." Arya said as she rolled him to his back and draped herself over his laid-out body, "But, the novelty might soon wear off."

Gendry pulled his hug closer and kissed her head, "Never."

Sleep came quickly in his arms, strength and security wrapped up in warmth. She knew she stirred, but he didn't much, he just laid there all night, snoring soundly, her pillow and her rock.

~~~

 

Chapter Text

Gendry woke to the sharp sting of pins and needles across his whole right arm. When he squinted through the darkness, he saw the cause; the weight of Arya's head and neck was nestled into the crook of his limb, her hair a mess across her cheek. He tried to slip from beneath her, careful and calculated, but his still clumsy movement stirred her awake.

"We don't have to get up yet, do we?" She mumbled, voice soft and thick with sleep.

"You don't."

"I don't." She mimicked back as she curled her arm around his midsection and pulled herself close again.

He huffed a small laugh, "I have to, however."

"You just said..." Her mumble trailed off as she began to doze again.

"I have to see to the last bit of preparations," Gendry explained halfheartedly.

He felt an anxious weight sitting low in his stomach again. The kind of feeling you get right before battle or a storm. It was akin to the feeling that washed over you just before a kiss from a long lost love. Jittery and somewhat nauseating.

"Lords have men for that, you know," Arya said, her voice awake now, and full of mirth.

"Aye, I have Ser Davos for that. But, he asked for me."

"Let me dress then, I'll come along," She replied, stretching out her legs under the covers.

"Orys will be waiting on you once you're dressed. He wishes to take out those stitches." Gendry smoothed her hair back from her face, "Then you'll come meet us at the docks."

He wanted her along, always, really. But Orys was up with the dawn daily, and Gendry could see the beginnings of a grey morning taking over the calm sea swept skyline. He knew the old maester was likely making his way about his duties soon, if not already. Castle life was in full swing just outside their door, and it was only a matter of moments before their attendants would be coming by with water for bathing and food to break their fast. He'd have to grab something from the kitchens on his way out to the docks, but there was no need for Arya to miss out on a hot meal.

"As you like, my lord," Arya said with a cheeky sigh while Gendry slid out of bed.

He dressed quickly, pulling on the same thing he had worn from the day before, "I don't care for this 'milord' jest you've adopted."

Arya sat up and brushed her hair off her shoulders, allowing the furs and linens to fall away from her modesty, "Please, forgive me, my lord." She said sweetly, yet with a devilish smirk.

Gendry drank in the sight and groaned, "Gods..."

He couldn't help but crawl back up the bed to her. As he hovered over she reached up and grabbed his collar, pulling him in hungrily for a kiss. He felt his mind start to cloud as their lips and tongues touched and teased, felt the surge of want rush south, felt his breeches tight already. He willed at his discipline, gods did he, for he knew this was all a very slippery slope into indulgence.  But she seemed to sense his hesitance nonetheless and released him slowly.

"This picture is happily burned into my mind now, I'll have you know." He confessed, dragging his gaze across the soft expanse of her arms, neck and tits.

When his eyes met hers again she replied in low simplicity, with a single word, "Good."

He shuttered and kissed her again, firm and fixed. If not but to wipe that seductive grin off her pretty face. She laughed lightly at his urgency before a knock came at the door. With a groan of annoyance, he moved back from the bed to find young Lu waiting patiently behind the door.

"Perfect timing, Lewis. M'lady is ready for her morning meal." Gendry greeted as he unlatched the lock.

Lu looked down to the large kettle of water in his hands and back up to Gendry already fully dressed, "Oh, Uhm, perhaps I should send for Beth then?"

Gendry tossed a defiant look at Arya from across the room before he replied, "It's alright, milady's not shy. Besides, she covered." 

With that, he flung the door open theatrically and slid past Lu into the long cool corridor beyond.

He knew Arya was quick, knew that the young squire wouldn't get a look of anything more than he should, but he wanted to rile her up, just a bit. He wanted to make her squirm as she did to him. Her faded obscenity tossed at the back of his head revealed that he was, indeed, successful in his poking.

Gendry hurried through the castle's stone halls, past both Mya and Edric's empty bedchambers and down to fresh air. Passing an open courtyard he continued to the bailey and then down to the docks. Men tipped their chins down as he passed, their mumbled 'milords' still sounding forced or foreign to his ears.

~~~

When he arrived at the water's edge he saw his family's crest upon anything that could house it. It was adorned upon every banner, flag, sail, chest plate, doublet, and cape. Their yellow and black colours were sharp against the blue of sea and sky, rippling in the constant breeze. He felt the warmth of pride bloom over him quite unexpectedly when he gathered next to Mya and Edric on the pier. Ser Fellar was standing guard, ginger, broad and towering. He stood back from Mya, yet cautiously close, his eyes scanning the other activity taking place on the docks that morning.

"Has Arya gotten sick of you already?" Mya asked.

She had her arms tucked into the inside pockets of her cloak, hood drawn up against the wind. The garment was pitch-black, the lining as golden as the sun, sweeping and billowing with salty sea air. She looked alert though tired as she spoke, sadness unmistakeable within her clear blue eyes.

"I should hope not. Though, I wouldn't be surprised." Gendry joked, to which Mya rolled her eyes, "Orys is taking out her stitches." He explained.

Mya eyed him as if she were looking for a better explanation, "Why do I get the feeling you two are hiding something?"

He shrugged, honestly, "I don't know."

She shook her head, "You all best come back in one piece."

"We will."

Edric urged Gendry's notice over to the lists he and Davos had been checking as the crew readied their ship for the voyage. Everything seemed to be in order, according to his very limited experience. But Davos seemed confident, and he took everything the old knight said for truth.

His attention slipped past the scraps of parchment at hand when Arya stepped upon the docks. He felt her before he saw her, the short hairs on his nape standing on end. He glanced up her way, watched her confident strides, watched how she held herself in these new situations and was left in awe of her ease. She seemed to belong everywhere she went, bold and sure, and if she were nervous or scared or even a bit apprehensive not a scrap of that dread showed on her face. She smiled simply as she came to Mya, and the women greeted each other with a brief hug, talking closely before looking to the men and their paperwork.

"Take care of those idiots," Mya said loud enough for both her brothers to hear.

Gendry abandoned his duties in favour of being near Arya again. He came to stand next to his beloved, and despite the audience, she leaned into him.

"Gods know I'll have to." Arya shot back lightly, throwing her weight against him.

He absorbed the moment, "Hush now. I've learned a lot."

"That you have," Arya said, a hint of suggestion under her words.

Mya rolled her eyes, "Gods. Keep it to yourselves."

"What, dear sister? Worried about your delicate sensibilities?" Gendry jabbed.

"No. I just don't care to know what you two wildlings do with your own time."

"That's fair." Arya laughed.

"We're ready," Edric said then as he joined their trio, Davos following in shortly behind.

Mya's eyes welled with fresh tears as she threw her arms around Davos and hugged him fast, "Come back." She said.

"Aye, milady. We will."

She hugged Gendry next with a chaste kiss pressed to his cheek. She moved to Edric then, their exchange was far more lingering than each farewell prior.

"This is not the first nor last time we will have to do this," Edric said, trying to reassure his sister.

Gendry knew what leaving family felt like, twice over, at least. But he could only imagine how his brother and sister felt now. They had been through so much together; they ran and fought and won together. They had found a well of strength that ran deep within the other, and parting must have been harder than either had anticipated.

Edric looked pained, this throat seemed tight as he swallowed, "Nothing with split us up again."

"I know," Mya mumbled.

"Storm's End is in your hands. Try not to burn it to the ground while we're gone."

"It would take a lot more than a bit of flame to take down this beast," Mya said confidently nodding uphill to the monstrous drum tower reaching high up in the near distance.

"You're right, but still," Edric said in his best big brother voice.

Davos and Edric boarded their ship then, the onion knight barking demands at their bustling crew while Gendry remained next to his fierce betrothed.

Mya smiled at Ayra, warm and encouraging, "Good luck,"

"Thank you." She replied wholeheartedly.

"I'm glad we got this chance to meet," Mya said sweetly.

"Likewise,"

"Seems we've found a family in this friendship."

"We all have," Arya said as the pair of young women hugged tightly again.

"Well said."

"Thank you for helping me come to my senses."

"A talent I hold, it would appear," Mya said back with a modest shrug.

They held each other a long while as if passing strength from one body to the other, hugging the way sisters might. He didn't know what was said between the two or what had swayed Arya, he may never know, but he couldn't help but feel grateful for his sister's able and collected reassurance.

"Woe is you to be wise beyond your years." Arya bantered back in kind to her soon to be good-sister.

Mya smiled, "Only a bit." She turned her gaze to Gendry, "Don't lose her."

"I won't."

"Don't bother coming back if you do." She replied then, deadly serious.

"I won't." He said honestly, not wanting to think of the weight that promise held.

With a final wave farewell, Arya and Gendry left Mya on the docks and boarded their great Baratheon vessel the 'Storm Wind'. Though she was mighty, towering and swift Davos took every chance he could to reminded them that his ship, the hefty 'Black Betha', was sadly lost at the Battle of Blackwater Bay and that this vessel would, in a pinch, have to do.

~~~

The journey was strange, at first.

Once they broke through the wild waves of Shipbreaker bay the open sea was strangely calm. Rolling white caps were visible every so often as they made their way south, towards the unmistakable shores of King's Landing.

Being afloat and not needing to panic, paddle or struggle felt odd to Gendry. The last time he was buoyant like this he was well and truly alone, in a rickety one-man rowboat, paddling for his life, worried he'd fall in and drown.

This ship felt far more secure than his last vessel, it was also far grander and he was far from alone. Regardless, it was daunting, boarding this great ship when he still couldn't even begin to swim. Arya assured him that no one would let him overboard, and if he was an idiot and did fall in, she'd be sure to save him. If not to hold the good deed over his head for the remainder of their lives.

He was mindful of the taffrail all the same.

As their journey wore on they all fell into a rhythm of light chores or odd duties.

Arya spent their whole trip completely distracted, restless, and eerily quiet. She paced the deck from bow to stern and back again, a near-mute, haunting, like the tales of the silent sisters.

He remained close, watchful, but gave her distance. He tried to read what she wanted at any given moment since she wasn't likely to ask for any help. From what he gathered his being there was all she needed, at that time anyway. He stayed as calm as he could muster throughout their trip. For both their wellbeing.

Davos piled information on him throughout the day, gave him short but precise instructions on everything he did. The old knight explained every bloody thing he was asking for and doing to Gendry in great detail as if he might never captain a ship again. Which he found curious, but was receptive to the knowledge no less.

The sea remained kind, winds at their backs, 'Storm Wind' clipping along smoothly. The murmur of sailors was only a slight undertone to the creaking of ship wood and waves as the wind filled the sails as if they were lungs.

By evenfall, Edric, Davos, Arya and Gendry ate a late sup in his cabin chamber. The room was a smaller box than he'd grown used to as of late, and that at least made him feel more at ease.

When they'd finished their meal, a spread that Arya had barely picked at, they played a few spirited games of tiles, over a few mugs of ale. Arya won most rounds, and she blamed her success on 'beginner's luck'. Though Gendry knew he was the only beginner at the table.

Stars blanketed the dark gloaming sky as their party readied themselves for sleep. Davos pulled Gendry along with him as he made his nightly rounds, checking in on everything from secured knots to bailing buckets in safety skiffs. They stopped and spoke to his first mate, looked over some papers with him again, regarded the stars and moon and their placement. The spoke of the nightly watch, and who was taking lookout first. 

Gendry listened but turned his eyes up to the thick twinkling of stars and took a few deep gulps of crisp sea air.

~~~

When he returned to his chambers Arya was already tucked in snug to their bed.

A dim lantern shone from his night table, bathing the room in a dark orange hue, elongating shadows. He disrobed in silence, and quickly slipped under their covers, cautious of the damp sea chill he brought with him. She was already so warm with sleep when he curved his body behind hers. He pressed a kiss to the back of her neck which she stirred to.

"Your nose is cold." She complained drowsily. 

"Sorry, love. I didn't want to wake you."

Despite her disapproval, she pulled him closer and pushed herself back. Her breathing evened out again into a steady snore, and he quickly lost himself in the sound, falling asleep soon after.

~~~

Desire clutched at them in the pitch of darkness. They made tender love atop the clean sheets of his sea cabin bed, mindful of the thin slatted walls. They held their moans, adoration and whispered words for just each other that night. They pressed their devotion into each other's heated skin, quiet and urgent and gods, he felt connected to her every splendid part.

Arya woke twice more that night, first clutching for her Needle, the next clutching for him, all with a gripping gasping start. Without thought, he held her close as she calmed her breathing. Her mumbled but sleepy thanks were barely heard over the wind and waves outside their small orb window.

But he remained unfortunately awake for the remainder of the night.

Though the ship rocked them gently through the ripples and waves, Gendry felt an uneasy feeling flood him.

Dread... He realized.

~~~

At first light, they rose and broke their fast on the top deck with Davos and Edric.

The sun was bright and the sky clear that morning. Pink puffs of clouds littered the horizon, sharpened by the endless blue where the sea met the sky.

They would be coming to King's Landing within a few hours. The shoreline had changed overnight, turning from a lush green moss to a pale yellow rock and twiggy foliage. Gone were their dense stormland forests, replaced now with sun-washed cliffs and stone embankments.

~~~

Shock washed over him as King's Landing came into their sightline. He had prepared for the feeling, steeled himself against the shock, but the reality was more haunting than he originally thought it might be.

Set off in the distance, atop Aegon's High Hill, shards of the destroyed Red Keep reached for the sky like a bloody clutching hand. Plumes of dark smoke streaked the heavens in black, leaving the air thick with burning.

Their ship cut along silently, save for the creak of shifting wood and the wind in their sails. The apprehension was thick.

BlackWater Bay appeared packed with ships as they moved toward. Skeletons of vessels sank deep into its depths and other grand barges anchored, deploying scows and awaiting port.

Up the BlackWater Rush, just past the damaged Winch Towers, the sounds of life and activity could be heard, people bustling and yelling, voices muffled yet travelling easily over water.

Gendry's stomach flipped, the pungent smell was heavy, even from a distance. He swallowed thickly, the urge to throw up gripping at him. Memories of how he first came to witness the towering Red Keep from the sea unsettled his already queasy stomach.

"It feels wrong to be back here like this." He said in a mutter, trying to distract himself from the queazy feeling that he couldn't shake.

"We won't be needing to stay long,"

He nodded back. Her reassurance felt good however blanketed the words sounded.

Gendry looked over to Arya swaying next to him. She looked sickly green, hand cupping her side, favouring her broken ribs, brows pulled.

This was her first view of the city since she had fled. He didn't imagine it would be easy, emotions would be close to the surface, nerves would be raw. For that, he was prepared. He had braced himself for his own sake as much as hers. 

The wet sadness in her eyes, however, for that, he wasn't prepared. 

Her resilience radiated off her most times, found its way into everything she said or did. She was always confident, dauntless, that was sure, even when he knew her as a child. But, at that moment, all he felt was her sorrow.

"Are you alright?"

"I think so. The smell." She muttered through a scowl.

He stepped in and wrapped an arm around her shoulders, pulling her flush to his side for comfort. Again, for his own sake as much as hers.

As they drifted closer, the port well in their sights now, the stronger the scent grew. There was no denying what it was. He knew it and the rest knew it better. Death. Piles of it. Hidden in every nook and cranny of the city he'd grown up in, death covered every bit of this once-thriving kingdom.

And he couldn't look away.

Coming back to this wreckage left his throat tight and the smell burned in his lungs. He felt the ghosts, the ravens, the loss. But, Arya felt all those things more intimately. She felt it all more deeply. She always had.

Standing there he wanted to be her comfort, wanted to be her rock, regardless of her known courage. She was tiered together like finely foraged steel, with emotion and experience layered atop the other, heated and beat down to build up the warrior woman he knew she was.

He wished to take some of her burdens, carry some of the intense weight with her, if not for a moment.

But he wasn't sure how best.

He settled for physically being there, quite exactly. He rubbed up and down her arm softly, cupping her shoulder with a reassuring squeeze.

"Five days. Not a day more." He said softly.

She turned to face him, soft grey doe eyes looking into his very soul, surely to see if he was lying.

"Five days." She confirmed holding his gaze.

He knew he was the only one she softened for. The only one to see her masks shed. He wanted to see and know every layer, become attune to her every multifaceted feeling, know her every tell. And if he was lucky, all that in due time.

Gendry's smile was small, "We have our plans." He soothed.

"Five days," Arya said again as her arms slid around his lower back and waist, grounding herself to his side.

~~~

The crew dropped anchor a safe distance from most of the port activity. A skiff was readied for their party, their meagre belongings to follow after.

Gendry watched Arya out the corner of his eye as the crew readied everything to go ashore. She still looked sickly pale, hands now clutched against the rail of their ship, lips pursed in a thin line. He came to her side again, hand landing on her shoulder. His move made her jump a bit, but her hand was drawn to the top of his all the same.

Davos, Edric, Arya and Gendry were all rowed swiftly ashore, the trip holding a silent and grievous foreboding. Inconspicuously, Arya held onto his hand the whole way and uttered not a word.

~~~

Once ashore the stench did not dissipate, if anything it mixed with more unpleasant odours and he found himself longing for the clear, moist, sea air of Storm's End.

What remained of the City Watch patrolled, while journeymen and tradesmen worked at the carnage and debris, removing or repairing anything touched by Queen Daenerys and her mighty dragon. Workmen made busy with odd tasks, while women tended to wounds, children and washing.

The capital was busy with life despite all the death, despite all the ruin, despite all the chaos.

Nothing seemed to dampen the buzz of this activity. Fishmongers still yelled out their stock, children still ran amuck, traders still made deals, whores still collected coin. Life, it seemed, went on still.

~~~

Sansa, Bran, Brienne and Podrick were all waiting up the pier, muted grey, white and proud Stark banners ruffling in the breeze behind them.

A slight side smirk pulled on Lady Sansa's lips as they approached afoot. She was as tall and formidable as he'd seen her yet, in all-black attire, head to foot, her vibrant auburn hair fanned out like fire in the wind.

Small crowds of people had gathered around what was left of the Fishmarket. It wasn't every day that extinct houses came to King's Landing, and even less so now.

Gendry found himself scanning the crowd, searching for pathways out. Their plan included having an escape skiff tethered in Davos' smugglers bay, but points of entry and exit were key and weak at that moment.

They had yet to go through the massive River Gate and he was already anxious to find their way out of the city. He knew King's Landing, knew the lower parts best. But now, everything looked like the lower parts.

Sansa stepped forward as Arya broke from his side to greet her towering sibling. They grasped each other's hands and after exchanging a few whispered words Sansa looked past her sister to the trio of men behind her.

"Lord Gendry. Thank you for taking care of our sister." She called out to him.

With his hands held behind his back, he straightened, just as he was always told to and spoke clearly, "Just Gendry is fine, milady. And it was no bother."

Arya stepped aside then and bent to hug Bran, stoically seated in his elaborate chair. She moved up to embrace her sister next in a proper hug. The tall redhead sank into her sister's grip and her eyes slid shut for a brief moment before she pulled back.

"Ser Davos," Sansa said over Arya's shoulder.

"My lady." He replied, stepping in with a sweeping bow, "I'm glad to see you well. How is Jon?"

Sansa shook her head sadly, "He will not see me, asked only for Arya. He knows you're all on your way but hasn't spoken much more to anyone. Tyrion had the chance to speak to him once, so he relayed what he could to me." Her grey-blue eyes slipped past the old knight to Edric, who had reminded surprisingly silent through the whole greeting, "And you are, my lord?"

Gendry watched on as his brother closed his gaping mouth and straightened. If he wasn't mistaken he watched Edric take a much needed moment to gather his graces too.

"Edric Storm, my lady, of house Baratheon."

"Storm, is it? I was Stone, once."

"Stone is our sister. Mya."

"Your siblings." Sansa said to Gendry.

"Aye, milady." His gaze shifted to Bran, feeling the weight of his heavy and somehow knowing stare, "Our ally."

"Our ally?" Sansa asked Arya, a slight arch of her sculpted brow, significance held within the word 'Our'.

"Family," Arya said, bluntly.

Sansa seemed intrigued by that and gave the smaller Stark girl a coy smirk. Arya held her sister's questioning stare before Davos came forward to break the light disquiet.

"We should get everyone settled, catch up somewhere that isn't so chaotic." He said with a nod upcountry.

Brienne looked to her lady for orders and with a subtle nod, their party turned and made way towards the awaiting horses and litter.

Davos caught Gendry by the scruff of his cloak mid-step, "Let em' go alone, lad."

Gendry frowned. They were hardly alone, guards flanked in their wake, with Brienne leading the formation. But he pushed his stubborn need to argue down and followed Davos to their own awaiting horses, Edric tagging along behind.

"That, is Sansa Stark?" He asked once he caught up with Gendry.

He couldn't miss the awe in his brother's voice, "Yes." He replied slowly.

Edric shook his head as they took to their mounts, "They don't look like sisters."

"They're as different as our sun and moon," Davos replied turning his mare to lead their way.

"I can see that."

"In more than just their looks." Gendry offered.

"Both are as fierce as the songs make them out to be, Edric. More so, if you can imagine." Davos cautioned.

"I did not expect her to be so..."

"Finish that sentence with care, lad. She's soon to be your good-sister."

"She's beautiful."

Gendry shot him a hardened look, "Careful."

"What?! As though no one has noticed."

Gendry shook his head and trotted up to Davos, leaving a still awestruck Edric behind with the majority of their men.

~~~

Following the Stark's caravan, they rode through the Mug Gate and took the Muddy Way towards Rhaeny's Hill. To the left, the mighty Great Sept of Baelor was a mighty ruin. It was a sunken rubble filled in with more sand than Gendry knew to be in the Seven Kingdoms. Behind, Tobho Mott's shop was gone, likely the old man along with it too. He felt that sad realization heavy in his chest as they continued through the sacked city.

Next, they came to the mostly intact Street of Sisters, but to their right Flea Bottom was in as much a ruin as the Great Sept was. New camps, tents and pavilions had been set between the Gate of the Gods and the Old Gate, the Dragon Pit off in the distance. It was clear that anyone still left in the city was trying to make the best of this mess.

But, everything still reeked of chaos.

It was bittersweet, his memories of this wretched place. They were far from pleasant. But he had lived there, learned there, had a life there, as his mother had once before him.

The long train of horses, men and wagons came to a stop in front of a vine-covered stonework inn. It was an expansive unit that seemed untouched by any damage, save for some smoke singed walls and scorched treetops. By the looks of it, the dwelling might have been some fancy lord's manse too, with multiple rooms behind a rounded garden in its center. The walls were high and guarded, but inside it was green and tranquil.

Servants at the inn helped their own people take the horses to their stalls for the night and ushered other men forward with their provisions. The inn-keep assigned sleeping arrangements and called out still vacant rooms, shaking a huge sack of coin for anyone witless enough to have not come prepared.

Arya and Sansa swung off their saddles with the same grace, landing in near sync before tuning to help Bran from his litter. Gendry left his mount to a stable hand before making his way up to Arya's side again.

"I'd like to speak with my sister alone if you mind, my lords?" Sansa said when Gendry reached them.

"Of course. We'll make ourselves scarce." Davos said from behind.

Arya grave Gendry a soft reassuring smile and shrug before she happily turned after her siblings.

~~~

Their trio left the Starks and entourage as everyone else made themselves comfortable in their temporary sleeping quarters.

After finding his room Gendry found himself a few blocks down the way with Davos and Edric, sipping mead at a less than favourable alehouse.

The tavern was filled to the rafters, men sloshing and groping and well into their cups even before they had arrived. Their scant table was set near the door, their seats a tactful choice, for vantage and escape. They drank a few rounds, ate a few cornish fowls and made a few fair-weather friends. Some chatty men approached and asked them questions they answered minimally, some whores tried their luck, their womanly wiles nothing short of cunning. Some patrons danced and bounced within the limited space, while the singer sang songs of ice and fire, of love and loss and war.

"And red the grass beneath his feet, and red his banners bright, and red the glow of setting sun, that bathed him in its light. 'Come on, come on,' the great lords called, 'My sword is hungry still.' And with a cry of savage rage, They swarmed across the rill..."

"I've had enough," Gendry said as he stood abruptly.

The melancholy tune sparked his unease and set his stomach coiling again. It made him think of Gold Cloaks, of Lannister red, and of the tickler; of Harrenhal.

He'd had enough of people and his bed was calling.

Davos eyed him suspect, before finishing his mug in foaming gulps. He made to stand and leave with him, but Gendry shook his head and pointed to Edric. The older Baratheon had collected a crowd of spectators as he bested the best at dice.

Davos relaxed into his chair once more and waved over a serving girl. She quietly filled his mug again as he spoke, "Careful, lad, as you leave."

"I'll be fine. This dismal place used to be my home."

"This place has changed greatly since you called it home."

Gendry nodded, "I'll see you in the morn."

~~~

The sun was just setting as he left the warmth of the alehouse and it was clear that the dusky nightfall brought out the real city. The true city. The City Watch and its men were spread thin, too thin, and miscreants took to the night. With his head down and his guard up, he walked the broken cobblestone and gravel-covered streets to his and Arya's room at the inn. Davos had arranged for Arya to have her own space, but they gave it to the captain of their guardsmen, in favour of sharing.

Once inside their room Gendry stripped down and washed, changing into linen sleep pants and shirt. He didn't find himself enjoying the feel of clothing while he slept, but it was a lot more comfortable to sit around in than his stiff leathers were.

He laid out on their bed, atop the covered and waited. He waited for his mind to quiet, waited for the tired feeling in his limbs to take him into slumber, waited for Arya to return.

The noise of the city never used to bother him, and as the years passed the bustle faded into a low hum. But now, having spent the last while away at Storm's End and beyond, where the sound of a raging sea or howling Northern wind felt steady and calming, in a way that city noise could never, now the noise seemed deafening. Though the high walls of the inn dulled the racket, it was still loud enough to keep one awake if they were to let it.

Just as his eyes began to feel heavy the door burst open and startled him out of his thoughts.

In a flash he was standing, broad sword sheathed in its scabbard but clutched in hands. He spun to the door to find Arya charging through the threshold. She was toeing off her boots and kicking them under a chair in a huff when she came to see him standing at arms.

Undaunted, she yelled, "He's talking about exile!"

Gendry shook his head and put down his weapon, "Who is?"

Arya rolled her eyes, "Jon!"

 

Chapter Text

"What?!" Gendry gaped at her.

"I know!"

He shook his head again in a muddle, "That's what he wants?"

"So he says!"

"But I... I don't understand..."

"He's sick with guilt, Gendry. Says he deserves death. But knows we won't have any of that. He said north the wall is as good a place as any for one to be banished to. Says it's the only way to keep the peace." Arya tossed her arms up and let them fall in defeat, "Gods, what an idiot!"

"I see." Gendry hummed.

"He can't. He just can't!" Arya began to pace the length of their rented room, shaking her wary head and wringing her hands, "Exiled?! I'd never see him again!!"

"You'll see him again." He replied slowly.

"I won't!" She argued back like a defiant little greenling.

She had never looked more like his stubborn Arry than she did just now.

"You will." He offered up.

"I don't think you understand what exile entails." She bit back cooly.

He ignored her jab at his limited knowledge of these lordly things and continued, "You once thought that you'd never make it back to your family. Look where you are now! Nothing and no one will keep you from them ever again." He said as she approached her, "You know that."

"These people should be thanking their stars for Jon! Without him, there would have been no King's Landing to sack!"

"I know."

"And he is their rightful heir! The true King in the North and the indubitable heir to the Seven Kingdoms!"

"I know."

"He doesn't deserve any of this!"

"I know."

"Stop saying that!" She barked with a stomp of her bare heel.

"Would you rather me say nothing?!"

She sagged and her face softened, when she looked up to him again her fight was gone, sorrow in its place again, "I can't bear to lose him."

"And you won't. If he is exiled, at least he'll be alive."

"I know."

She turned her back to him, walking to a table that held a small pitcher of wine and two etched goblets. She poured a shaky glass and downed it in big gulps, wiping at the spilled red liquid with the back of her hand across her mouth.

"What of tomorrow?" He asked.

"The trial is to take place midday."

"Will he be there?"

"Yes."

Arya poured herself another out of character glass and threw it back with a slight wince.

"Try to remember who he is. If this is what he's asking for, who are we to keep him from it?"

"I don't want him banished, Gendry. I want him thanked, rewarded, acknowledged."

He let her confession breathe a moment before he continued, "Jon doesn't want any of that."

With pouting lips, she replied, "I know."

"So let's help him get what he wants, Arry. Let's help him find some kind of peace, away from all this." Gendry gestured out the window, "Let's help keep him safe."

"This is not what I had in mind in coming here."

"Me neither."

"I thought we'd be breaking him out, escaping in the dark, running him quietly out of the city, rowing him to freedom."

"I know. But, we will get him out of this city. One way or another. Of that I'm sure."

She turned back to the serving tray of wine as if she were contemplating yet another glass. She nodded her understanding but did not move.

He slowly moved in behind her, his hands capping the tops of her shoulders. The cool leather sank into the palms of his hands as he squeezed into her tense muscles. She smelled a bit like ash and something more floral, like roses or dried leaves, and it clung to her clothing as he tried to massage in deep.

"Undo your jerkin," Gendry said.

Her laugh was menacing, "Really?! That's what you're after?" She miffed back at him with a scoff, "I've only been back inside a mere moment and you can barely keep your pants on! Gods, Gendry, this is serious! I'd have a mind to-"

He held her shoulders tightly as she tried to spin around to scold him further, "Enough! That's not what I'm after." He raised his voice just enough to drive his point before he softened, "Just, undo your bloody jerkin."

Arya balked but relaxed ever so slightly and actually listened. Her fingers worked the strings loose and he helped push the leather off, tossing it to a chair. His hands grasped at the warmth of her shoulders again, her thread-thin tunic providing a minimal barrier to the heat that rested below. He pushed his thumbs down the run of her shoulder blades, massaging into her shoulder muscles once more. This time his grip was able to dig deep, pushing the tension out as he moved up her shoulders to the base of her skull then back down again. Slow and rhythmic.

Next, his hands worked over the length of her neck, gentler, as the skin there was far more supple than the strong range of her shoulder and back muscles. She sank into the softer touch with a long sigh, her slight moan going straight to his already half sprung cock.

You liar ... He scolded himself.

Gendry swallowed thickly while dragging his touch down to her shoulders again, pausing to pay more attention to where he knew her to carry tension.

They didn't say anything, not for a long while. Just the soft sound of rustled fabric, of her breath and occasional moan mixed with the crackle of candlelight as he dug his strong hands into her rigidity.

He almost dared not speak, unsure if any further reassurance was what she needed.

But, he needed her to hear it.

"Everything will work out." He said against her ear, placing a soft kiss just under it, "You're not alone in this battle."

She let out a heavy sigh and dropped her head forward to lull between her shoulders. She shook her head in defiance, withering again as he kept on massaging.

Gendry's hands wandered up her neck again, his thumbs circling softly against her skin and into her hairline. She swayed with the sensation, faltering as she reached forward to steady herself on a nearby table.

"You both have so many people on your side in this. We would all do anything to ensure both your safety." He reminded her.

With a nod and a small whine, she slowly pushed away from the table, forcing herself back against him, making him happily hold her steady. One heavy hand fell to her hip, the other traced her spine from crown to wing-bone.

She shuttered and he spoke against her ear once more, "You're not alone."

As his words trailed off his lips drifted down her neck, soft nipping kisses placed in his path. He pulled her neckline aside and kissed along the slope of her shoulder, ghosting across her back to pay the same care to the other. His hands moved to massage her hip and shoulder in tandem, his deep breath syncing with hers.

"Where did... W-when did you learn to do this?"

"I didn't." He replied, the hand on her hip squeezed in as he spoke while the other slipped into her hairline again, "Learn it, I mean. I just... I thought it would feel nice."

"It feels very... nice." She sighed.

His timbre was low as he replied, "Good."

Her hands gracefully reached back to take handfuls of the sides of his thighs. She pulled him in and pushed herself flush with his body, no doubt feeling him hard-pressed to her backside, judging by her moan.

"Now whose after it?" He berated her lightly.

She rolled her hips back and he nearly saw stars, "Shut up."

His low laughter against the column of her throat gave her a shiver that he couldn't help but laugh at more. He then ran his hands to her arms, rubbing gently into those muscles too until he got to her hands at his sides.

"Unlace your breeches," He said moving her hands into the optimal position.

Gods help him, she did as she was told, moving slow, dazed with want already. She wasn't alone in that feeling, however, and as she worked her laces slack, he pulled off his tunic and then her hips back to him.

Arya arched to him pressed her ass against his stiff cock again, encouraged each subtle rut of his hips, and each earned her a hearty groan in reply. She shimmied her breeches over her hips, the heavy fabric falling to a pool at her ankles.

Gendry wasted no time and dipped his hand below the waistline of her small clothes. He found her wet and slick while brushing past the dewy hair covering her mound. With a groan of his own, he felt his mouth flood with slaver, his heart pounding, his attention sharp and focused. His thick fingers slipped into her warmth, lazily tracing between her lips before coming up to the apex of her sex. Arya wilted towards his hand, her head fell back against his shoulder, a moan rattled deep. He used her move to nuzzle against her neck again, kissing and nipping her skin as he rubbed sweeping circles around her need.

In moments Arya was lost within his touch, whining and writhing and clutching at his hands while he kept up a steady rhythm for her. She had entrusted all her weight to him now, his strong arm wound around her midsection while the other hand worried her into a rapt mess.

He couldn't seem to get enough.

Her voice was a chorus of pleasure, her desire palpable. As soon as the barrier was crossed; he needed it. He needed her enjoyment, her trust, her desire, her release. He held her tight and worked her ragged, dauntless in his pursuit until she was coming apart at the seams for him. Feeling arrogant he revelled in the power of his hands while she shook and cooed his name, and he wondering how it was possible that this was his new truth.

She stiffened and relaxed in one world-shifting moment, and once her body relaxed back she hummed sensually in his ear, "Kiss me."

Gendry turned his head just so and fixed her with a proper kiss. It was sloppy and at an awkward angle, but hungry and searing no less.

"Take this off," Gendry instructed with a tug to the hem of her tunic.

Arya moved to obey, pulling away from his sturdy frame but a moment to pull and toss her tunic. He was still buried below her small clothes as she obliged, his hand wonderfully wet and cupped against her sex while his free hand come to the strings of her undergarments. He tugged them all free, her bindings falling away from her chest in a ravel. And like a moth to a flame, he groped one pillowy breast in his hand before rolling her nipple between his fingertips.

She growled, "Seven hells..."

His fingers slid between her lower lips again, gently smoothing around her swollen arousal, "One more." He requested in a husky whisper.

Arya groaned with protest, "Gendry... Please..."

Skillfully, she snuck her hand in between them and curved around his solid cock through his pants. Her palm and fingers stroked up and down his length, graceful yet calculated dispute the angle, fabric catching and bunching and adding to a maddening friction that he was powerless to control. Groaning he thrust into her hand, shameless in his own need, dire in his own yearning.

Still, he persisted.

"You're so pretty when you fall apart, love. I want to watch again." He said deeply, his touch pawing across her oversensitive bits below.

She whined once more, "I can't."

"I'm sure you can."

His slight encouragement did the trick and without another moment's hesitation Arya opened herself up to him, leaning back again and stepping out of her pooled clothing.

He found his favourite little pleasure point again and massaged the bean below the pads of his two middle fingers. She gasped as he added more pressure, his speed rapidly picking up.

Arya was pliant in his hands, meeting his every move with a sway of her hips, "I'm close..." She muttered fervently.

It was his turn to utter a dark laugh, "Already?" He asked, though surely unsurprised.

She was gasping now, "Y-Yes..."

"Yer' a willful little thing, aren't 'ya?"

Her release rippled through her as she clutched his wrist and arm with a cry. She growled his name and sagged in his arms while she tried to gather her wits. He cupped her both breasts now, palmed over pearled peaks, his touch heedless as he basked in the ripples of her release. Arya's attention turned and sought out his lips again. The angle proved less restricted this time, or he was too lust drunk to notice.

On a pause for breath, he spoke, "Get on the bed, sweetling."

Sweetling? ...

He had never called her something so gentle before. 'Love' had slipped past his lips maybe trice, 'Arry' far more times and mostly when he was trying to convince her of something, but this was completely new. He didn't know where it came from and said it with no fucking forethought. But it felt good, rolling off his tongue. She responded positively to the endearment which charged him with crazed confidence.

He let his grip go and nudged her from behind towards their featherbed. Arya remained silent and once at the bed's foot, she climbed upon the pillowy linens and furs. Gendry watched, the others take him, he watched her naked body gleam with sweat and release as she moved, he watched Arya crawl on hands and knees until she was well within the middle of the bed. He watched and waited for her to turn over and lay back, but she didn't. Gods help him, she didn't. Instead, she remained on hand and knee, bent over and open for him.

He swallowed his own groan, realizing what she was after, "You want it like this?"

"Yes."

Though the past few days allowed a lot in the way of exploration, this...way, was not something they had explored. Not that the offer wasn't tempting, gods was it, but the position itself seemed more primal and far dirtier than the rest of the contortions they had tied themselves into yet.

He quickly found his voice again, "You're sure?"

She wiggled her ass a bit at him and replied, "Yes."

Gendry climbed out of his pants and atop the bed behind her, all while marvelling at his view. He growled something knowingly incoherent and grabbed her by the hips, swiftly yanking back. Arya's small yelp turned into a moan as he eased himself forward, connecting skin to skin. As he drew back again he took himself in hand and pushed through her slickness; teasing, tempting, and coating himself in her need.

With all the control in his hands, he found himself watching and probing against her entrance, nudging at the soft welcome wet between her thighs, tormenting and yet to dive in, savouring this ecstatic excruciating excitement.

"Don't tease." She growled.

"You don't like it?" He asked rubbing the tip of his cock over her wee tumescent nub, making her squirm and moan.

She didn't answer in words so much as in movement. She pushed back on all fours, forcing him to tuck between her lips. One small maneuver and she'd get her way, one small lift and he'd slip in without so much as a push, but his grip was firm. Her moments were limited, and that awareness filled him with a powerful privilege.

Gendry kept her still, connected with his subtle movements until Arya's taught patience seemed thinnest. His own patience was just as thin though and he caved quickly.

He sank in, burning himself deep inside, drawing out a low and simultaneous moan from them both. Achingly slow he sank into her tightness further still, the tenacious sensation becoming almost too much, too deep, too tight.

He had to pause, had to breathe in deep, and his jaw ached from clenching his teeth so hard. He knew he could lose control with any given thrust now. If he got himself too carried away they would be doomed to a very quick fate.

But once he began to move Arya let her arms give and rested her chest and cheek to the featherbed. She gripped the threads next to her ears and lifted her hips. The move opened her, angled her just right and gave him a view he wouldn't soon forget. The splendid curve and arch of her back as he pushed forward, the giggle of her ass, watching himself disappear into her slick depths, feeling himself buried to the absolute hilt all had him feeling a bit enamoured.

Gendry couldn't resist the urge to slap her ass, it was so plump and ripe for the taking. For whatever reason, the urge was sudden and mindless. As he drove into her the slap of skin echoed off their walls, perverse and provoking. His open palm connected with her ass cheek, the loud crack and sharp sting accompanied by her yowl.

Arya groaned, "Again,"

His hand landed in the exact same spot the moment the word left her lips. She cried out and pushed back harder to each throw of his hips. A third slap resonated atop the round of her ass, a handprint glowing red below his touch. He gently soothed over the angry red mark as he kept his cadence, but Arya was after more than just pleasantries.

"Harder." Arya plead, her voice catching in a salacious sob.

Obeying her breathless command he wordlessly complied and gripped both her hips hard enough to bruise. He drew away almost completely, before surging forward and slamming his hips back against her ass. Again, and again, and again.

The rest was an erotic blur.

He built up a punishing rhythm, moans and grunts mixing with the clear snapping sound of skin connecting with slick skin. He nearly had her screaming affirmations of approval, all peppered in with groans of his name and jumbled curses.

Her peak rolled over her, shaking and sudden, "Fuck!"

Her shuttering body and pulsing grip around his cock pulled his release out simultaneously, jolting him into complete consumption. His vision was a white-hot surge as he released himself with a low moan. He continued the slow drag of cock against her, and once he regained control over his body he slumped forward. His sweaty chest connected with her smooth back, both arms wrapping around her waist, pulling her to his body, tighter than ever. He kissed between her shoulder blades, licked the salt from his lips while they both calmed their breathing.

"That was..." Arya mused dreamily.

She laid flat out on her stomach, his grip moving away just as she moved to collapse. She nuzzled into the nook of her own crossed arms with a sigh. He settled in next to her, turned on his side, so best to admire her naked and placid form.

His head hit the pillow next to hers, "I know."

"Where did that come from?"

Gendry couldn't keep from touching her, and even as they spoke his fingers absently trailed up and down her back, "Don't know." He muttered.

"Gods..." She breathed in deeply, and a blissful smile lit up her eyes, despite her closed lids, "I liked it."

He hummed his agreement and caressed the hot red imprint of his hand across her ass cheek, "Sorry 'bout this."

"Don't you dare."

"It's really red." He replied softly.

She smirked blindly, "A welcome distraction."

"Is that what that was?"

"That and so much more, my love."

~~~

They laid against their covers and furs a sweaty mess of contentment. Arya rolled and was draped along the length of his side now, her leg hooked over his lap, toes curled under his thigh. She shuffled in ever closer, her free hand tracing the scars and freckles that littered his chest and stomach. Gendry lost himself in the gentle touch, even after everything else it felt downright euphoric.

Their candles were nearly out now, the soft hiss of each one dying off barely audible over the drowning city noise outside.

"Was it always this loud here?" Arya asked.

He heaved a heavy sigh, "Somehow it seems louder."

They both laid silently then, no doubt both reflecting on the cause of the added commotion.

"Why didn't you tell Jon you knew me before?" She asked him quietly.

Her question caught him off guard. Gendry was stumped, fumbling for his words, "um, I don't... What?"

"Jon said you had never mentioned me to him." She said even quieter still.

He admittedly wanted to tell Jon that he had known Arya, that he had heard all the stories of her favourite brother. He hoped to have the chance to assure Jon that he kept her safe as best he could, honest in having slipped up many times along the way. He wanted Jon to know he tried. But, Davos hardly wanted him to tell Jon his name, let alone spill his whole life story. Then, when the time might have arisen, some more pressing or urgent matter took priority. And then, well, The Long Night...

He didn't know where to start his explanation, so he started at the root, "I thought you were dead."

She pondered this a moment before she spoke again, "But, once you knew I wasn't?"

Shit ...

His fingers carded through her wild hair, waves getting softly tangled up as he swept through them, "I didn't know that until we were inside the walls of Winterfell. He and I didn't get the chance to talk much after that."

"Surely it must have come up?"

He shook his head sadly, "It didn't. Davos didn't know of our connection until you arrived at Storm's End either."

Arya didn't need to say anything else for Gendry to understand.

Jon and his opinion were held in high regard to her. The fact that Gendry had spent time with Jon and offered himself to his cause without Jon knowing of his connection to Arya might have felt like a slight against her or his feelings towards her. As though he were embarrassed, or ashamed, or that the detail didn't matter. But she couldn't be more wrong.

"Did you tell Jon?" Gendry asked steadily.

"Of?"

"Of us."

"Yes."

"And?"

"He was surprised." She said simply.

Gendry snorted, "I imagined he might be."

"He was sure I'd never marry."

"What did you tell him?"

"What I told you. That if it wasn't you, I would not marry."

Despite himself, he felt his cheeks flush, "Is he all right with your decision?"

"After I told him the whole story, yes. Prior, no."

"No?" Gendry mimicked, though unsurprised.

"He was angry at first. Mostly at you for never having mentioned me. He thought it was a spur of the moment pairing."

"And now?"

"He's fine. More than, I suppose. He's glad it's you."

Their last candle faded in a puff of white-grey smoke and the room grew dark, the spill of city light casting long shadows about the room. Silence spread between them again, pleasant and relaxed but long enough that he questioned if she was still awake at all.

"Does Sansa know?"

"She and I spoke of you after the Long Night. I told her the rest of the need to know details today."

"And Bran?"

"He's likely known long before all of us."

"What do they think?"

Arya yawned and answered, "Who cares?"

"I do."

"Stop worrying about it."

"They're your family, Arry. I care. I don't want to disrespect them."

"And you won't. Both Bran and Sansa know more than they let on or say anyway. It's best not to worry about what they think."

"I want them to think me able." He confessed calmly, "I want them to like me."

"They do. I do, and that's enough. Please, love, try not to worry. Let's just get some sleep."

Slumber found her quickly, her body curled around him like vines to a lattice. But the city noise kept him awake for hours after she had dozed off.

To curb his insomnia he counted the large tiles on the walls, the beats of Arya's heart, the silver stars embroidered on their canopy and his own balanced breaths until sleep took him too.

~~~

Just after dawn, the sound of muted knocking woke Gendry from his slumber. Blurry eyed and disorientated he looked down to the tiny she-wolf still curled against his side, her eyes fluttering open to the noise as well.

"Just leave it at the door, please, if you would," Gendry called out into the twilight.

A female voice replied from the hall, "Of course, milord."

He heard the slight rattle of pottery as the tray was pushed up against their door, then the soft shuffle of the serving girls retreating footsteps following down that hall.

Gendry gave his body a deep stretch and accompanied it with a drawn-out yawn as well. Once sleep came he had slept alright, save for all the racket. Arya, on the other hand, had less luck. He'd worn her out, that much was true, however, her mind had woken her throughout the night again, with anxious dreams.

Each time he woke up with her. Whether it be from the loss of her warmth, a jostle of their bed, or her gasps, he would find himself awake alongside her. Arya would soothe him just as much as he did her. She would assure him she was fine and cooed him back to sleep easily. But again, she had less luck with the same. Now, in the light of the morning, she should be rested, yet he knew she felt far from it.

The way she pulled the furs up over their heads with a playful pule gave that fact away all too easily.

After avoiding reality as long as the pair possible could they rose, washed, broke their fast and dressed. Each had packed very lightly, in the event that they needed to flee at a moment's notice, so when Gendry pulled on his new jerkin from the bottom of his satchel, Arya noticed.

"Is this your seamstress' work?" She asked as he slipped into the new leathers.

They fit him like a glove, smooth and snug and fragrant. He'd worn nothing like it, "Aye, it is."

"Are these claw marks?" She inquired further with a bounce of an eyebrow. He nodded back, "Is it implied that my hands are to have done that?" She questioned.

"What? These soft things?" Gendry asked as he swiftly grabbed both her wrists to inspect her nimble and delicate fingers, "Meant to represent the attack of some other noble creature, I'm sure." He explained before kissing the back of both her hands.

As he let go Arya trailed her touch over the soft grey slashes cut into crisp black leather. Her fingers traced over the round of his shoulders and back down his chest, making him bite back on his urges.

She eyed the details slowly and nodded, "I like it."

Her voice was soft and low, the timbre she used when their heads rested against feather pillows. She was impossibly close, the faint pressure of her hands against his chest making him instantly yearn for more.

Gods ...

"As do I." He replied deeply, still trying to curb his again bubbling desires, "They feel nice, these fine clothes."

She hummed her response and tipped up to kiss him. Her arms hooked his neck as his wrapped around her waist. He lifted her up, just so, every inch pressed together.

He'd never known anything could feel as good as this. He kissed her with an ease he rarely felt. An ease that only came from years of practice and determination. An ease that was worked at and harnessed and fine-tuned into a trade. He felt this ease in the smithy, but this here and now was different. This ease came as easily as breathing. This was comfort in its purest form, and it fit so fine.

She opened for him without any prompting, coiled her tongue along with his readily, and left him feeling dizzy and dazzled, despite the day's dread.

"When we're inside, I think it best we keep to ourselves," Arya said softly as they broke away.

He smiled at the disappointment within her voice, "I agree. But our plan still stands, should things go wrong."

"Yes." Arya agreed, reaching up to her tiptoes again, "Get your fill now." She suggested lightly.

He took the invitation seriously and scooped her up again, the press of her lips avid against his own. Her little groan as he slid his tongue along with hers could have set off another wave of cascading desire, were it not for a firm knock on their door.

"M'lord? M'lady?" Davos called out, "Are we ready?"

"Yes, we'll be right out." Arya said, far more confidently than he could have mustered at that moment, "You ready?"

He placed her to her own two feet and adjusted himself, "I am if you are."

"I am."

"Let's get on with it then."

~~~

Their trip to the Dragon Pit was short, the journey taking them just past the corner and up. The switchback road was broken only once as it climbed around Rhaenys' Hill, an easy detour created around the fallen rubble weaving back and up again. Their path ended high above the city at an unmistakable and lofty entrance.

The doors set in front were giant carved rocks and swivelled open with the aid of counterweights. Tall iron gates and their remnants stood proud and rugged, showing weather and age through their colouring. The grand structure was unlike any other building Gendry had ever been in yet.

Once inside they came up to the dome shaped coliseum, a short corridor funnelling them into the center of the pit. The walls around them were broken and crumbled to ruin in spots, while tall and arched overhead in others. With the canopy above a wide hole, the surrounding structure was mostly intact, pillars standing tall, stones paled by the summer suns. A slab platform sprawled out in their path, centred, with stairs disappearing down to gods know where right in front. Atop the dais pergolas stood over neatly arranged chairs, the draped fabric lifting in the breeze, each panel without a sigil.

Gendry tried not to look as out of place as he felt.

He had heard stories of the pit, of what it once held, of the magic and brutality, but the area had always remained off-limits to the likes of his lot. So the small folk romanticized their tales of dragons. The reality, however, was far more menacing. In reality, they were wild and impressive and downright terrifying beings. They were creatures that Gendry was sure were fable. Until they weren't. Until they were real. Until they were burning the dead and the living alike, as easily as breathing.

The Starks walked in ahead of their party, Arya pushing Bran in his silent rolling chair. Brienne fell far behind Sansa, a rarity, as best as Gendry could recall. She walked stolid and indomitable on the other side of Ser Davos. Which made sense, he guessed, as Tarth was an island within the StormLands, or so Maester Orys and his maps led him to believe. Davos quietly mumbled to Gendry who the men with Samwell Tarly were, explained who the young men in the pale blue velvet and yellow southern robes were too, who the weathered young woman and her seaman counterpart were as well.

Gendry and Davos sat together, watching closely while the other lords gathered. Some more surly than others. Samwell sat at the end and gave Gendry a small nod with a friendly smile. He knew Sam and his wife Gilly, their little lad too, from Winterfell. He knew them well enough to make brief yet confident eye contact with the young maester and not feel too out of sorts about it.

But was he a Maester already? Or was he still in his training? Or did it even matter anymore?

Edric sat beside Gendry, leaning in close to speak, "Can you imagine that this place once held dragons?"

"No," Gendry stated firmly.

He did not wish to elaborate. He couldn't imagine anything truly held a dragon anyway. It was a wonder they were gone for so long with how they were caged in and chained up. Man-made things can't begin to tame unbelievable things.

He watched Arya out of the corner of his eye as she sat, her fierce face fixed firmly. With her chin up her cool confidence was thick and intimidating, and if he didn't know any better he would have been on guard to her, specifically and especially.

Just as everyone settled into their seats the Dothraki and Unsullied walked their prisoners out into the open yard.

Jon and Tyrion looked worse than he had ever seen them. Both men had been stripped of their outer layers and weapons, left in only their tunics and pants. Both were barefoot and in desperate need of a shave and a wash, and both brought a sickly sorrowful air with them into the pit. Their shackles rattled as they moved, chains dragged on Tyrion, where Jon had to hunch over just to walk properly; an irritating sight. He saw Arya's mask slip just slightly as Jon came to a stop, the crease in her bow held in a firm line.

The tension was thick and silent. No one uttered a sound, only the wind through the ancient rock was left to cut through the building unrest.

Finally and alarmingly Davos stood, "How shall we begin?" He asked.

"We begin with the Queen slayer." The Unsullied man replied firmly. He shoved Jon forward, nearly tripping him on his own chains.

Gendry felt his temper flare but knew he wasn't alone in that feeling. Davos moved forward to help his liege but stopped abruptly when the Dothraki horseman strode towards the old knight, his manner menacing, prompting Davos to quickly sit. Gendry didn't need to look over to the Starks to know they were furious. That, everyone surely felt.

As Jon regained his footing he looked up to Davos, then straight at his siblings, "My plea is guilty."

Murmurs overtook the meeting, turmoil brewing. But Gendry refused to react, kept his eyes trained on the men holding one of his friends hostage.

"Jon, please. Don't." Sansa said.

But Jon ignored her.

"I had to." He said simply, gaze dropping to the floor.

"She was your Queen!" Yara Greyjoy yelled suddenly.

Jon's voice was angry now, "She heard the bells! We all heard the bells! Yet still, she sacked the city!" Despite the shackles, he turned to the man in grey leathers behind him, "Those Lannister soldiers in the streets, they had given their surrender!"

"You do not give orders. My Queen; our Queen does."

"She did." Jon clarified, an interruption which the Unsullied man did not care for, no less Jon continued on, "Up until King's Landing everyone she killed prior well and truly deserved it. When I confronted her about the innocents, about the women and the children, she showed no remorse. Implied that she would do it again, should the need require it. Said that the lesser folk don't get to choose."

"Surely a more reasonable choice could have been made?" The young lord in yellow inquired.

"And what choice would that have been, I ask?" Jon shook his head sharply, "You weren't here, you did not see..."

Gendry peered at Arya, whose eyes were fixed on Jon. He saw the flash of her remembering, the ghosts of terrors past.

"I was the closest and only option," Jon said softly.

"It was not for you to choose." The Unsullied man said, "She was your queen."

"She would have never stopped. You heard her. From Dorn to Winterfell... You think she would have stopped the killing?"

"Such is the nature of a true monarch." Yara Greyjoy commented.

"We all knew what she was capable of, and until now, until she destroyed thousands of lives with no cause, she was just and true."

"You bend the knee. You know the coast." The soldier stated firmly.

"The unsullied carried out orders and aided in killing thousands of innocents." Jon paused and looked to all the lords, "I suggest that Grey Worm, his men and the Dothraki return to the grasslands, or wherever else they chose, as free men. Away from the seven kingdoms."

"He is in shackles and giving me commands?! He is on trial, I am not."

"We all heard the bells! You chose."

"My queen-"

"Your queen chose too! She chose death. And she paid with death!"

As the words left Jon's lips Grey Worm yanked back on his chains, sending him tumbling to the ground next to Tyrion.

Gendry saw red, and before he knew it he was up and at the ready with Edric, Arya, and Brienne all standing in defence, steel unsheathed. He felt eyes on him as they watched Tyrion and Jon struggle to get the King in The North back on his feet. Once he was upright again Gendry sat, Edric and Brienne following suit slowly. But Arya did not move, she waited for Jon's subtle nod.

Jon dropped his chin and Arya sheathed her weapon, once she was seated again he continued, "I'm not proclaiming my innocence."

Gendry saw the Dothraki man scoff and felt his own jaw clench. He was uneasy in his seat now, rage silently surging through him. Jon didn't deserve any of this. As Arya said, he was their rightful heir, the King in the North and the only person who treated the threat of the others with any sort of truth. It just wasn't right. Any of it.

"I'm only asking you to see that I had no other choice. I loved her. I did not wish her harm. But, she would have been everything we've been fighting against." Jon spoke again clearly.

Silence hung thick, every speck of attention wrapped up with the leader in shackles before them. Jon shared a quick look with Tyrion before he addressed the lords and ladies again.

"Power corrupts, and blood rights blind us. Everything we've lost, everything we've seen, everything we've been through, we cannot keep making the same damned mistakes."

"What of the sentence?" Grey Worm asked the group.

"We should first need a new leader," Tyrion spoke for the first time.

"We have no rightful king left." The blue velvet lord said.

"But, we do, my lords," Sansa replied quickly.

"What? This traitor?!" Yara asked with a bitter nod at Jon, "We ought to string and flay him like his Northmen the Boltons."

"Say another word about killing my brother and I'll slit your throat." Arya spat.

Her voice was icy and true. Enough to leave the Greyjoy gapping for a rebuttal. Tempers flared and weapons were moments from being drawn.

But Round Royce spoke apace, "Someone else then."

"How would we being to determine whom?" Lord Edmure asked.

"You're the most powerful families in Westeros. Pick someone." Tyrion said.

"It's a new age. With the others defeated, might start anew? Completely?" Brienne suggested.

"We once allowed a usurper to take the throne. We might adapt to another?" Round Royce asked.

"I will not bend the knee to a bastard." Yara hissed.

"You wouldn't be. Jon is no bastard. He is as trueborn as you or I."

"I don't want to be king." Jon plead softly.

"Someone else then." Round Lord Royce suggested once more.

"Queen Daenerys wanted to break the wheel. Her ideals were not wrong, her delivery was." Samwell said diplomatically.

Slowly Arya's Uncle Edmure stood to speak, pleading his own case for the crown. He was a war hero, a survived prisoner of war, a nobleman with lands and many loyal bannermen. He got not but a few words in and Sansa asked him to sit. Awkwardly he obliged his niece, looking a sullen lap dog as he did so.

"An interim king, perhaps?" Someone offered.

"Interim how? Kings are not chosen, they are born." Someone else explained.

No one seemed to know what to do from here, clearly, this was all too new to know defiantly how to proceed. Gendry and Edric sat silently, while all the other lords spoke amongst themselves. Jon and Tyrion looked tired of the bickering, and he felt that as well. It was getting late, he was already agitated, and hungry now too. He couldn't imagine how Jon and the imp felt, having your fate held in other's hands, others who were so very indecisive was a troublesome situation to be in, to be sure.

"Well, we have to choose someone." Lord Royce said.

Samwell spoke up next, "Why just us? We represent all the great houses, yes, but whomever which we choose won't just rule over lords and ladies. Maybe the decision about what's best for everyone should be left to...well...everyone."

Stunned silence gave way to obnoxious laughter, comments of giving dogs and horses the vote as well shook Gendry to his very core. He took immediate offence, his hand falling to the pommel of his broadsword for whatever reason, without thought. Next to him, he saw Davos' gaze drop to watch the motion, and the old knight shook his head in a slight yet careful warning. Gendry ran his tongue across his teeth and tried to relax some while the pompous asses squabbled over who best to lead the rest of them.

"I suppose you want the crown then?" Edmure said with a nod towards the half-man.

Tyrion shook his head, "Me? The Imp? No. Half the people hate me for following Daenerys, the other half for betraying her."

"Who then?" Davos asked quickly

Tyrion ran his mouth more, some bullshit about thinking for weeks on end about our bloody history, about mistakes, about what unites people. Was it gold or names or flags? Stories. In the end, a good story was what he came to. Seemingly nothing was more powerful than history and a good story.

"Who has a better story than Bran?" Tyrion gestured to the Stark, who sat pensively, yet to say a single word, "He who fell from a high tower and lived. He knew that he'd never walk again, so he learned to fly, he crossed beyond the wall, a crippled boy, and became the three-eyed raven. He is our memory. The keeper of all our stories. Who better to lead us into the future?"

"Bran has no interest in ruling and he can't father any children," Sansa spoke eloquently.

"Good. Sons of kings can be cruel and stupid, as you well know." Tyrion answered knowingly, "His sons will never torment us. That is the wheel our queen wanted to break."

The arena fell silent again, flapping fabric cutting the eery quiet. Gendry resisted the urged to shuffle uncomfortably in his seat. He snuck a quick look at Edric, who seemed annoyed with the whole ordeal, then he landed his side-eye on Arya. A wisp of a smile pulled at the corners of her lips now, and he found himself daydreaming of their softness.

"From now on rulers will not be born. They will be chosen on this spot, by the lords and ladies of Westeros to serve the realm." Tyrion said, calling everyone's attention to the center again.

Still shackled he approached Bran, "I know you don't want it. I know you don't care about power. But, I ask you now, if we choose you, will you wear the crown? Will you lead the Seven Kingdoms to the best of your abilities? From this day until your last?"

Bran thought but a moment, before he replied in his unwavering voice, "Why do you think I came all this way?"

Tyrion smiled ever so slightly, "To Brandon of House Stark, I say aye."

Sam jumped at the opportunity to agree, throwing his vote in quickly, "Aye."

As the unanimous decision swept around the semi-circle not one lord or lady disagreed. Until it was time for Sansa Stark to speak.

She turned to her sibling, leaning in for emphasis, "I love you little brother, I always will. You will be a good king. But, tens of thousands of Northmen fell in the Great War, defending all of Westeros. And those who survived have seen too much and fought too hard to ever bend the knee again." She paused and looked over the rest of the lords, breathing in a confident breath, "The North will remain an independent kingdom, as it was for thousands of years."

Bran agreed with a slight nod before Tyrion boasted, "All hail Bran the Broken. First of his name, King of the Andals, the Rhoynar, and the First Men, Lord of the Six Kingdoms and Protector of the Realm."

"All hail!" Their voices lifted in acceptance.

The chatter subsided swiftly and Bran spoke up, "Lord Tyrion, you will be my hand."

Tyrion stammered, "No. No, your grace. No, I don't want it."

"And I don't want to be king."

"I don't deserve it." The imp said with a shake of her shaggy hair, "I thought I was wise and I wasn't. I thought I knew what was right, but I didn't. Choose Ser Davos. Please. Choose anyone else."

"I choose you."

"You cannot." Grey Worm spat stubbornly.

Bran eyed the warrior, unfazed by his threatening tone, "I can. I'm king." He replied.

"This man is a criminal. He deserves justice." Grey Worm argued.

"He just got it. He's made many terrible mistakes. He's going to spend the rest of his life fixing them." Bran offered up.

"It is not enough." Grey Worm replied.

"It is, as I say it is."

"Then, what of Jon Snow?" Grey Worm asked, hissing the name between his teeth.

"I will not imprison, execute nor exile Jon." Bran said to him, "I will, however, say he returns to The Wall and holds it as our Lord Commander again. He is to continue with the Night's Watch and it's traditions, as he sees right or fit. He is to serve as trade ambassador; a go-between for the free folk. He will set up aid and help monitor the merging of the free folk and the rest of the realm."

"This is no justice!"

"Why not?" Bran challenged, he waited for the former slave to speak but he did not, "Is it because it does not entail bloodshed?"

"It is not fair."

"Such is life, Torgo Nudho. Of this, you know."

The unsullied commander recoiled and threw a look back at his Dothraki counterpart, who looked just as out of place as Gendry felt. The pair shared an unsettled glance before the horse worrier shook his head 'no,' bells in his braids jingling softly with the motion. This Torgo Nudho looked back to Bran and bowed his head ever so slightly.

"Jon will sail at first light for EastWatch and what's left. There he will help rebuild it into border crossing. He is not to travel farther south than Winterfell for any reason for the remainder of his days. He will hold true to the oaths he took as a brother in black, he will hold no further titles, he will take no wife, father no children and he will hold no lands."

The senseless rage that steamed off Grey Worm was giving way to a processed understanding. By the look on his face, he saw his odds. He kept his attention on their new king as he continued on with his decrees.

"As for you and your men, you are free to leave this foreign land," Bran spoke; fair and definitive. As though the decision had been made moons ago, "You may return to your origins in peace. With provisions and an ally in us, should you accept."

~~~

By evenfall, they had gathered in the Red Keep to vote in a council. Bran wanted nothing to do with any formal coronation but ravens were sent out the moment he dismissed everyone from the pit.

They signed papers in the small council chambers and shared a meal of stewed rabbit, buttered mashed potatoes and honied apple pie for dessert. Wine and ale flowed while singers softly sang along with an ensemble of composers, and you could almost forget that just beyond the red stone walls the city around them was a ruble.

Their party was seated far from the Starks, yet well within eyesight. Gendry kept on his best behaviour and socialized as much as necessary, not a drop more. He watched Arya do the same, her feigned calm smile falling slightly when she thought no one was looking. He was able to catch her eye with a subtle smile every now and again throughout their night.

It was a lengthy meeting but most of the council positions were filled expectedly and favourably.

Commander of King's Guard went to Ser Bronn of the Blackwater, a sellsword turned knight who had been loyal to Tyrion. The black-haired knight was named Master of War for ease as well. Yohn Royce became their Master of Coin and Master of Ships went to Yara Greyjoy. She reminded their new king of her arrangement with Queen Daenerys and became Queen of the Iron Islands as well.

Arya's uncle Edmure accepted the position of Master of Laws, and the realm's Grand Maester position was filled by none other than Samwell. At their earliest convenience, the citadel was to send out one of their best maesters to help Bran and Sam complete his training within the rebuilding King's Landing.

Master of Whispers was the only position that needed to be voted upon, and in the end, Bran said that though it was unordinary, he would take the task. It was due time they did away with lies and whispers anyhow.

Naturally, the Queen in the North became their northern warden as well, with Ser Brienne as the Captain of her Queen's Guard.

Olyvar Sand, the new young prince of Dorn was awarded warden in the South and Arya's cousin Robin Arryn was made warden of the East.

Warden of the West was bestowed to Gendry Baratheon and as the words left Bran's lips the young blacksmith opened his mouth to refuse the position of responsibility. However, Davos' quick kick to his shin under the table was enough to shut him up fast.

"Speak to the king in private." He muttered in warning, his lips barely moving.

Soon after everything was settled and they were all dismissed. Arya waited at the door for him, but Davos spoke gently to her and guided her down the corridor, leaving Gendry behind.

Now was his moment.

"Milord, a word?" Gendry asked Bran. Their new king turned himself around on his custom wheels, his back to the sprawling view beyond what remained of the Red Keep, "I hoped a favour?"

"How can I help?" He responded deeply.

Gendry had practiced this speech countless times in his head, but when it was time to speak the words, he froze. Bran's stare was unsettling, the young man looked past you and your eyes, and gathered things from within that you had yet to know, and he was sure Bran already knew what he was there for.

"Would you legitimize my family?" Gendry spoke up surely as rocked back on his heels, his hands held behind his back, "Edric Storm and Mya Stone." He clarified.

"Your brother and sister."

"Yes."

Bran nodded without any hesitation, "I'll have it drawn up."

He had expected a bit more information would be needed, yet he pressed it no further, "Thank you, my lor-... Your grace."

"Something else?" Bran asked with that sagacious look about him again.

"Would you also make Edric Lord Paramount of the Storm Lands and Warden of the West?"

"You are Lord Paramount of the Storm Lands and Warden of the West." Bran rebuffed with an arch of an eyebrow.

"At the moment, yes, I am. But Edric is far better suited for it."

Bran gave him another inquisitive look, though again something told Gendry that the young man in his elaborate chair already knew the answer to his next question.

But Bran asked it anyway, "And what are you suited for?"

Gendry looked to his boots then back to King, "Honest?" He ventured, to which Bran nodded slowly, "The forage. And whatever your willful sister is up for." He confessed.

A faint smirk ghosted over the young King's features before he answered stoically, "I'll see to it."

"Thank you, Bra-... Your Grace."

"Bran is enough. We are pack, after all."

"Thank you, Bran."

"However," The King spoke firmly, "Storm's End will remain yours. I will permit Edric Baratheon to lord in your stead."

Gendry flinched, "I don't understand,"

"You deserve a just reward," Bran replied gently.

"I don't. I mean, I'm happy. Good. With what I have."

"The battle of the Long Night could not have been won without your smithing. You and your men made fine weapons that armed our people and defended my ancestral home in that Great War. You deserve a home in return."

"I don't... I mean... I don't need..."

"This is not up for a debate."

Gendry caught up with his graces and bowed his head, "Yes, your grace."

"Bran."

"Right. Sorry." He looked back up to Bran finding him holding another wisp of a smile.

"You and Arya will need somewhere to live once you return from your travels."

"As you like. Thank you, again, Bran."

With a knowing nod, Bran gestured for Gendry to walk him out, speaking cryptically was the pair left the council room.

"You will return to Westeros with more than you left with anyway."

~~~

By the next day, their plans for leaving King's Landing were well underway. Arya was with her family, spending the last shreds of their time with Bran, together.

They had all seen Jon off at dawn. The morning matched their moods; gloomy and bitter cold, colder than Gendry felt yet in King's Landing. It was as if the North had come to take its brethren home. The wind whipped off the BlackWater Rush with an icy sting of water to the face.

Gendry gave the Starks their time at the docks. He and Davos stood the pier and waited their turn to say goodbye to their dear friend.

Jon was all in black, Longclaw attached at his hip. He looked himself again; fresh but melancholy. He hugged both men firmly, and his thanks to Davos for his guidance, companionship and loyalty brought tears to the old knight's eyes.

"I'm glad you were there for her, all those years ago." Jon had said to Gendry, his hands solid on both his shoulders, "And that you were there for her after the sacking too.' His tone changed, and his hands squeezed tight, "Now, keep being there. No matter how hard she fights."

"I will." He promised.

It was a promise he meant to keep until death. Beyond, if the gods allowed it.

~~~

Now it had been three full days since Jon had left and he had last seen Edric. Happily, Gendry lost track of time while getting the forges running more smoothly, as per the King's command.

He searched for Edric after their council vote but came up short. Edric had made fast work of his introductions, castle court suited him well, his formal upbringing never more apparent than in these settings. He was likeable and made acquaintances quickly and mingled easily, whereas Gendry couldn't wait to leave.

Aside from the castle forges his only reprieve from palace life were his nights spent utterly and delightfully distracted by Arya.

Today he caught up with Edric and Davos at the inn, checking over the inventory of their soon to be stowaway provisions before they shipped out.

"I spoke with the King," Gendry said as he approached the pair.

"I'll give you both a moment."

"No need Davos, this information can be for you as well."

"Alright."

Edric didn't look up from his parchments, "Spoke to the King of what?"

"I've asked him to legitimize both you and Mya."

That sparked his attention, "What?"

"He said he'll see to it."

"What?!" He repeated dumbfounded, "I-I'm speechless."

Gendry hadn't really thought much of it. He just knew it would make everything easier for both of them. Knew it was the right thing to do. Knew no one else would come forward. So he did. He didn't really think of how long Edric would have been waiting for this legitimacy. How, as a boy, he must have dreamed of his lord father signing the papers, and making him a rightful heir. The realization made him feel guilty for being so nonchalant in his delivery.

But instead of giving the information a moment to breathe Gendry kept on talking, "Also Story's End is yours until I return."

"Until you return?"

"Yes."

"Where will you be?" Davos asked, inquisitive yet calm.

"With Arya. Travelling."

Edric shook his head again, "This is all highly irregular."

"I know."

"You and Arya are leaving?" Davos frowned.

"We're taking a bit of journey."

Edric still looked puzzled, "Where?" 

"North first, with Sansa. Then Braavos, and the rest of Essos. Then whatever is West of Westeros."

"And what of your wedding?" Davos asked.

"No wedding. Well, not really anyway. Just a maester and us. Arya wants to do it at the most northern standing Weirwood."

His brother scoffed a bit, "Unorthodox."

"She is." Gendry smiled and shrugged as he went on, "We are."

"Mya will be most upset that she'll have to miss it."

"I know, but we'll return to Storm's End, eventually."

"Eventually?" Davos snipped, "It's your home, lad, your family birthright. You can't just throw her away." He cautioned.

"And I'm not. I just need some time. We need some time. Arya and I have been running for most of our lives. We want to see what there is to see on our own terms, by our own rules. This is a perfect opportunity for that." Gendry explained.

"You will need to write to Mya often then," Edric said.

"We will."

"Thank you, brother." Edric sighed, "I don't know what else to say."

He let his smirk turn into a smile, "It's alright."

"Good luck?" Edric suggested.

Gendry chuckled, "Thank you." He said, clapping his brother on the back, "One more thing. Now that you're both legitimized, would you please allow Mya to marry when she chooses? None of this needless pressure bullshit."

Edric nodded, "She'll be happy to hear that."

"You'll see to it then?"

"I will."

"Good. Thank you, Edric."

"Make sure you write." Edric said again, "She'll rake me up one side and down the other if you don't."

"We will."

"I don't like the idea of you both being alone out there," Davos said sadly.

"We'll have some men. We'll recruit more while we're north.

"Let me send some of our own men along."

"Don't worry about us, Davos. No one would dare touch the sister of both a king and a queen. And she'll be sure to keep me in line."

"I know she will." Davos gave a light laugh, "You both must come back though, you swore to Mya that you would."

"We will, Davos. I promise."

~~~

Days later Arya stood post at the bow of their ship, her cloak ruffling softly around her calves. Gendry was rooted at the stairs behind, watching. Watching the way she tilted her head back to breathe deeply, the way her shoulders relaxed as the waves crashed and lapped at the hull of their ship.

Steadfast and true they headed North, trading a southern temperate for cooler winds and longer nights.

Their combined sigil would soon be pictured proudly on the sails of a brand new ship. A ship of their very own. A ship that would be worthy of their newfound status. Their house animals would be carved into the galley, notched into the grains of thick treated wood for all to see. Pictured would be a rearing stag and direwolf, back to back, charged and at the ready, their pair against all odds, just as discussed. Soon their family colours would be woven together and would compliment the dark ship wood and vibrant wild sea.

Until then, aboard the Queen in the North's ship the 'Winter's Whip,' the Stark sigil bellowed, their colours of grey and white blending into the cold sea as they sailed on for White Harbour.

Arya was right. Of course. She usually was. She didn't belong in some stuffy castle. She didn't belong as some demure lady of tending and minding. She didn't belong on some council, or sat behind some desk, drowning in scrolls and politics, or made to follow any orders.

She belonged out in the wild.

She was adventure and movement. She was of experiences and exploration.

Yet, as more time passed, he realized that he was as well, and evermore so with her by his side. So the idea of Arya actually being a lady was, and had always been, as odd a thought as him giving up the forage.

She belonged just like this.

She belonged with the wind in her hair and deep breaths in her lungs. She belonged around people who loved her, cared for her; believed in her. Around people that she loved in return. She belonged with her family, whether it be by blood or by choice.

She belonged just like this.

He came up behind her then and rested his chin on the top of her head. His hands slid down from her shoulders to grab her hands, and she twisted their fingers together without a second thought.

"The colours of the sea are like nothing else," Arya told to him.

She rested her weight back against his sturdy frame with a deep sigh. Captivated, he took their hands and wrapped their arms around her chest, before pressing his lips into her hair.

"Aye." He muttered.

"Are you happy?" She asked hopefully after savouring the rushing symphony of crashing waves a long while.

"Very." Gendry's grip slid down around her waist as he bent in to kiss the side of her neck and cheek, "Are you?"

"Honest? I didn't think that I'd get the chance to be." Arya swallowed thickly pulling his embrace tighter around herself, "For so long, I couldn't... I wouldn't allow myself to dream it possible."

It pained him still, knowing all she had endured without him. It was hard not to continually blame himself for her sufferings. Davos often had to remind him that everything needed to happen as it did for their outcome to have been so favourable. Still, the sting remained.

"And now?" He spoke softly against the shell of her ear.

"Now, I'm happy to sail these seas with my love."

He could help but smile every time she called him that, which was more often than the outside eye would come to believe possible. But when it was just their duo she was incredibly soft with him, so much so he dared not call attention to it, as to not spook the endearment from her. Because wasn't it just another layer of reason to love Arya Stark wholly.

She dropped his hands then and turned in his slack embrace. Her hands came up his front to wrap around the back of his neck, fingertips pushed into his hairline. She rose to her tiptoes and kissed him then, intense and wholehearted. He sank in and pulled her close, bending to make her reach less of an awkward one.

They kissed deeply but appropriately for their current surroundings. It was no secret that they were betrothed, or that they belonged to only one another. However, they still needed to command their ship for the remainder of their journey. Sansa had appointed Arya as her captain of their journey, and he; her unofficial second hand. So now he held her close but actively kept his hands from wandering past her waistline as he felt her withhold just the same.

"Shall I tell the crew to keep our pace then?" Gendry asked when she pulled back. He kept his forehead rested to hers, smiling simply because of her own unmasked bliss.

"Yes."

Gendry chuckled quietly, the back of his fingers running across her jaw before his palm cupped her cheek. She pressed into his touch, big grey eyes of wonder slipping closed at the contact.

"As milady commands."