The doctor kept Barra overnight and sent her home the next day, saying she had recovered exceptionally well.
It had ended up being a bad allergic reaction to some over the counter medicine she had taken for a common cold that Mya had gotten her. Gendry had even been shocked that Barra had been to the doctor without his knowledge, Mya taking much more of the initiative to look after her in his distracted stead.
“You’ve been doing this for years, you deserve to live your life,” she had told him and he sighed.
“Doesn’t mean you don’t tell me about shit. She’s my responsibility, I’m her legal guardian, you got to tell me things like this” he reiterated, driving down the highway. “I know you’re here to help but I’ve looked after her since she was five, and it is my job. She’s my sister.”
“She’s our sister,” she snapped and he looked back at the road. “I’ve had a chance to date, and go and do whatever people do without little sisters to take care of. All you’ve done is work yourself to the bone and not allow yourself any happiness. And when you finally find someone, you’re prepared to throw it all away.”
Gendry swallowed the lump in his throat.
“It was an emergency,” he insisted, feeling his insides burn with the guilt for leaving her standing, for rushing them out of their date, for being so damn panicked.
“No, you treated her like shit,” Mya told him pointedly. “You were damn horrible to her, you didn’t even see her home properly. She looked so hurt Gen, and from my experience, people don’t have the patience to be treated like that, I saw her, I know she really liked you.”
He looked back to Barra who was playing on the iPad, her headphones on as she listened to something. She was alright, it had taken some reassurance that she would be after one of the scariest nights of his life. Seeing her in the huge hospital bed, her pale skin and her hair sticking to her sweaty forehead had sent him heart ricocheting against his chest. Although his priority had always been and always would be Barra, he knew that he had found something remarkably special with Arya. Thinking on it, before he got the wretched phone call, he was going to ask her to be his girl, for real. No more having to hide what they were. He would have been in a relationship with her, a step closer to finding someone. Someone for life perhaps.
He loved her.
He had never met a woman who was so caring and gentle, but at the same time, a complete spitfire who knew how to call him out on his mood when he was acting erratically. They bantered, and were themselves but still knew when to be professional. He wanted to be with her in a way that made butterflies flutter in his belly almost painfully but equally calmed his nerves. It was so damn clear that he could see her in the future; pottering around his house, being a part of his and Barra’s life as casually as she had slipped into his alone. He didn’t want to keep her to himself, like a forbidden affair doomed to fail if exposed. He wanted to shout it out to the world that he liked her more than anything he had before.
But he had fucked it up, truly and miserably.
He had let his own anxiety get the better of him, anxiety that was justifiable, to say the least, but not to the extent where he had treated Arya the way he did.
“I need to call her,” he grumbled, running a hand down his face. It hurt to be reminded of what he had done with something that could have been so easy. Watching her curious face as she stared about at the decorum of the fancy restaurant and the intrigue that laced her eyes was enough to fuel how utterly stupid he was for her.
“That’s a start, and then you can get on your knees and beg for forgiveness,” Mya added, rolling her eyes.
“I know,” he breathed and let out a sigh. “I freaked out, and to me, dating is something I’ve always viewed as unnecessary and… It’s not. Not with Arya, it’s… It’s more serious than I can comprehend.”
“She’s not nothing to you,” Mya said softly.
“No she isn’t,” he said through his teeth. “And I know that, I knew that but… Seven Hells I’m awful. I just couldn’t stop the fear, Mya. It overran my senses, I didn’t even know how I was acting. All I knew that I needed to do was get to Barra.”
She put a hand on his shoulder, not meeting his eyes.
“I know, I was the same.”
He smiled softly and focused back on the road, trying profusely to keep Arya from his thoughts.
Once they were back home, he made sure to check Barra’s temperature and keep her warm by wrapping her up in a blanket and setting her up with her favourite kids' show on the couch.
She looked better, the colour returning to her cheeks and her little smile began to light up her ocean eyes once more but he could still tell she was tired.
“You alright?” he asked her, brushing her hair from her forehead.
“Stop worrying about me, I’m fine,” she insisted and he chuckled.
Mya set to work in the kitchen, promising to make lunch for them all and he watched her potter around in his kitchen.
“You mind ringing the school, I reckon Barra needs a couple of days off,” he whispered to his older sister who nodded at him. “I’m going to call her. ”
“Good luck,” she mouthed and he smiled and went to his bedroom, closing the door and sighing.
He paced for a moment, looking down at his phone and trying to work up the courage to pull up her contact. With a sigh, he did and pressed the call button in one fluid motion, putting the phone up to his ear...
He listened to the line ring and ring and ring.
Behind the closed door, he heard Mya and Barra in the kitchen laughing until he reached her message bank.
“You reached Arya Stark, sorry I missed your call, leave a message after the tone.”
He tightened his hold on his phone and waited for the beep.
“Arya, it’s me. Just wanted you to know that Barra’s alright and we’re back home…” he looked at the closed door. “I need to apologise about last night. I was worried and I overreacted but it didn’t mean I needed to be so horrible,” he took a breath. “There’s no justifiable reason to forgive me, only that you mean so much to me Arya and it’s killing me that I hurt you, so please… Fuck I’m not good at words, you know that. I’m not good at any of this, but I fucked up, I know I did... Just call me back or let me know you’re okay. I miss you.”
He waited a moment and hung up.
For a moment he stood still, bathing in the silence of his bedroom and tuning in momentarily to the birds outside his window. But he couldn’t help but feel as though everything was so stationary without Arya in it, even when it had only been a night.
He let out a sigh and sat on the edge of his bed, his elbows on his knees and his face in his hands.
“Hey,” Mya said, and he looked up to see her leaning against the doorframe, a sympathetic look on her face. “Didn’t pick up?”
He shook his head and she gave him a nod.
“Give her some time,” she prompted but the feeling of dread had already begun to settle in. “You explained yourself, that’s all you can do at this point.”
“I could drive to her house, explain it face to face-”
“Give her some time to process,” Mya repeated, walking forward and putting a hand on his shoulder. “You did what you could, it shows you care. And if you really like her, like I know you do, then it’ll work out. Cause you’ll fight for it and she will too.”
“Okay,” he sighed and felt his head drop. It was almost as if he was fifteen again, and someone was pitying him after his mum passed away. He felt lost and disconnected like someone had cut the wire of the landline and that was the feeling that made him want to curl up under the covers with the lights off.
“Come on, Barra looks like she needs a hug and so do you,” Mya offered, her hand outstretched.
Because he didn’t really have the option to remain in a puddle of self-pity. He had a life.
He took his sister’s hand and went out to be with his siblings.
On his bed, his discarded phone lit up.
Arya: glad barra’s ok
It baffled him how quickly the school year had come to an end and soon all Barra could talk about was the holidays.
Gendry closed the buttons on his shirt as he heard Mya tug on her shoes, clunking around in the corridor.
“Can you believe it’s June?” she guffawed, draping her cardigan across one arm.
She was wearing light makeup and she had brushed out her short bangs which made her look different to when he normally saw her; in jeans and or baggy pants, not a dress and pink lipstick. He liked it nevertheless, his sister and him getting dressed up to watch their little sister in a school production.
“It’s mad,” he agreed, fixing his collar and running a hand through his hair. “Time goes quickly when you stick to a school schedule.”
Summer had come in hot if Autumn had been anything to go by, and Gendry was seriously grateful for the sea breeze that came by the coast to relieve them from dying a gruesome death from the heat. In that regard, he was better with heat than he was the cold, King’s Landing summers were relentless and long, and he was well conditioned for them.
He stepped out into the hallway and turned his bedroom light off, checking around the house before grabbing his car keys.
“Were you ever in a play?” Mya asked him as he put his shoes on.
“Me?” he laughed. “Don’t tease me like that. Could you imagine me acting?”
Mya chuckled. “Hey, I think you’d make a particularly nice tree. You’ve got the brooding face for it and the shoulders.”
“Hilarious Stone, truly hilarious,” he rolled his eyes and opened the door.
They strolled out into the balmy night, the wind rustling their clothes as they made their way to his car.
“You think Barra has the acting genes?” he asked her and she strapped herself in.
“I mean, I don’t think Arya is one to pick a lead role out of bias. Even when she was shagging her brother.”
He felt the lump in his throat return at the mere mention of her name. She hadn’t returned any of his calls, just the single message after his first one about Barra that made his heart sink. When he responded, she had just left him on read.
At least she didn’t block you.
He shook himself out his spiralling thoughts.
“No, she definitely wouldn’t,” he replied, keeping a straight face. “She’s not that kind of person.”
“Hey,” Mya said, and he looked up before putting his keys into the engine. “Why don’t you talk to her tonight?”
He nodded, his lips pursed. He had been planning on it, wanting so badly during the last two weeks to go to her house or do something to show her he missed her. But Mya had been right, if she wasn’t returning his calls there probably wouldn’t be a chance she wanted to see him turn up at her door.
“I will,” he told her. “Don’t worry about me.”
She smiled and he turned the car on.
The hall in the city was bustling with parents and children, and Gendry felt oddly paired out even with his sister at his shoulder.
A lot of the parents of Barra’s friends knew about her situation, how her eldest brother was bringing her up, but they didn’t know about Mya.
“Oh hi, Gendry,” Ravella Smallwood, the principal came up to him. She had helped him ten-fold when Barra had first come to the school, helping her adjust and aiding him with some simple tools for helping her with her homework. “And I don’t think we’ve met-”
“I’m Mya, Gendry’s sister, and Barra’s. Half-sister.” she quickly added and the principal smiled warmly.
“Oh that’s wonderful you could come dear, I’ve seen the rehearsals and I have to say, they’re brilliant this bunch. That’s all the work of lovely Miss Stark.”
Gendry swallowed and looked to where Ravella was gesturing, at Arya. She was talking passionately to a pair of parents, her lips pulled into a gentle smile he knew was her professional one. He felt his eyes glued to her, in a way he couldn’t control. His heart began to thump in his chest.
“Oh, we know! Gendry was helping her out with the set up of the hall,” Mya laughed. “Excuse us, we’ll go say hi.”
Gendry’s eyes nearly bugged out their sockets as Ravella left them and his sister dragged him to the woman in question.
“Mya- ” he warned.
“Hey Arya,” Mya called out and his heart began to palpitate. “This is amazing.”
When he looked up, Arya was looking at the both of them, her lips slightly parted before she put on what Gendry could tell was a slightly forced smile.
“Hi Mya, how are you doing?”
“We’re doing great, can’t wait to see Barra,” his sister said overzealously.
“She’s amazing, you’ll really enjoy it,” she returned rather diplomatically.
“Arya,” he greeted and she nodded.
“Gendry,” she met his eyes for a brief second and then looked away. “Hope you enjoy the production, the kids have been working hard on it.”
She turned around and he was two seconds from reaching for her wrist when Mya stopped him.
“After,” she told him in a whisper and he closed his eyes, sighing. “We’re here for Barra.”
“You’re right,” he said and watched Arya go off and speak to some more parents.
It was always strange to see her so social because he was too introverted himself to be that engaging. But he guessed it was her natural charm, that people were just drawn to her like an ant was to sugar. He had fallen in the same hole, and he had just gotten lucky that she cared two licks for him too. Not that she did now, the way she had averted her eyes had been evident. But for some reason, that just made him more determined to win her back, in whatever fashion she’d let him.
When the lights went off, Gendry let himself be excited.
He had been involved in Barra’s other school-related events; bake sales, talent shows, school camps and even sleepovers in the gym. But this was the first production he had ever attended, especially one where his sister had a starring role.
“The hall looks great,” Mya whispered to him. “So it turns out you guys weren’t just making out in here.”
He felt himself burn red.
“No, I actually give a shit about these things,” he snapped and she rolled her eyes. “So does she.”
“I’m teasing, take a joke, you big dork.”
He was about to reply when the curtains were drawn and two boys dressed up in medieval finery were standing stage front. The audience went silent.
“I am Argilac Durrandon, I call upon thee, Dragonlord,” one of the boys announced.
“What is it my lord?” the second boy called, his low-quality wig nearly causing Gendry to laugh out loud.
A light fell on a boy dressed in a jester’s cloak.
“With the threat of Harren Hoare’s conquest looming overhead, Lord Argilac Durrandon made an offer instead.”
He turned to his sister who was smiling.
“I shall give thee my daughter’s hand, lands for dowry for thy protection.”
“Alas, his Grace has already wives, but he shall offer you to the hand of his fiercest warrior, Orys Baratheon.”
A boy dressed in faux armour and a fake beard appeared. Some kid with a trumpet blew on it painfully.
“Outrageous!” the boy playing Argillac banged the prop table with his fist sending the boy tumbling to the ground.
“But I am only a poor messenger!”
“Tell that dragon lord the only thing I shall offer is your hands!”
The boy who played the messenger pretended to cry and ran off.
“I can’t believe I’m laughing at this,” Mya whispered in his ear. “When my ma told me this story I couldn’t sleep for three nights.”
The rest of the play ensued in a comedic fight, a child’s reflection of the Last Storm after Aegon had announced himself as Westeros’ one king. The kids tumbled over the stage, some pretended to fall. The actors for Argillac and Orys fought with swords until Argillac took one of the swords under his arm so it looked as though he were stabbed.
“I am slain! ” the boy dropped dead and there were a few sniggers in the crowd at his dramatic expense as the guards ran off stage.
Then Barra appeared on stage and his mouth dropped, she was adorned in a long medieval gown, striking in gold and black. Her black hair was tousled and loose as if she had been by the sea.
“She looks so beautiful,” he heard Mya whisper and he couldn’t help but agree.
He looked to the side where Arya was and she had the same look of adoration on her face that Mya did. The sight undid him.
“I am Argella Durradon, Storm Queen and you shall not take Storm’s End!”
The rest of the story ensued, the soldiers placing faux chains around her and leading her down the stage. He rolled his eyes at Barra’s stubborn acting, pretending to resist.
“You know we’re technically related to them,” Mya whispered in his ear.
He rolled his eyes and thought about his father, how his legacy trickled down into a band of illegitimate children who had stuck together, through thick and thin. He focused back on the play where a boy who played Orys Baratheon wrapped a cloak around Barra’s shoulders.
“You may take my castle, but you will win only bones and blood and ashes.”
Gendry felt a shiver as the curtains closed and the small hall erupted with applause.
That’s his legacy, he thought.
“Okay, maybe we need to invest in acting classes,” Mya said whilst clapping.
Gendry whistled and stood up as the curtains opened back up and the cast bowed, Barra, standing in the middle with a big smile on her face. He caught her eye and smiled as she gave him a toothy grin.
“I’m not opposed to that idea,” he whispered back to his sister and saw the same smile.
Standing with Mya in the foyer of the hall, he spotted his sister still in her costume.
“Hey you!” he smiled as Barra leapt up into his arms, throwing her arms around his neck. “I think I spy an actress in the midst.”
“Thanks, Gen!” she smiled and kissed him on the cheek. “Did you like it?”
“Liked it? We loved it sis! We got you these, I hope you like them. I think the main star of the show deserves the prettiest,” Mya said as she slid from his arms.
Barra’s eyes widened as large as dinner plates as Mya produced a bouquet of pretty pink flowers. He had seen them in the market and gotten the bunch because they were her favourite colour.
“Thank you!” she hugged Mya who gave her a warm smile and stroked her hair.
“Gen picked them out,” she explained and Barra gave him another hug.
“Did you really enjoy it that much?”
Gendry nodded and kissed the top of her head.
“It was brilliant. You’re brilliant.”
And just as he looked up, he saw Arya smiling at him from across the room, despite looking as though she was in the middle of talking to a pair of parents. He swallowed and kept her gaze until she looked away, the smile still on her lips like an invitation.
I’m not my father.
“Hey Gen,” Barra said and he looked at her with a confused expression. “You should talk to Miss Stark, I think she’d like that.”
His sister gave him a knowing yet wise look
“Just give me a second Bar,” he told her, cupping her cheek. “Stay with Mya alright?”
He took a deep breath in and walked up to Arya, watching her studying him the entire time.
“Hey,” he whispered. “Can I talk to you for a second?”
She smiled at the parents and excused herself politely, stepping closer to him. She was wearing a light blue dress he noted, with flowy sleeves and a long hem with buttons down the front. Her hair was tied up in a bun that spilled tendrils of hair against the back of her neck and he could see she had worn a little makeup. She was beautiful, and he was staring at her like a fool.
“Well?” she cocked an eyebrow. “Can I help Mr Waters?”
“Want to go outside?” he offered and she regarded him for a moment.
He opened the door to the hall for her and she stepped out first, her dress billowing in the breeze.
“Did you like it?” she asked, once they were out from the crowds and walking down the street. “The performance I mean.”
“I loved it,” he said honestly. “You were right, the kids really did put a lot of effort in and not to be biased but... Barra was… Wow, I don’t think amazing covers it.”
She chuckled the sound of her heels on the pavement as the sun-kissed the horizon, bathing her in orange. Her grey eyes flickered up to his and he felt his heart stammer in his chest.
I have to tell her.
“I listened to your voicemails,” she told him suddenly, stopping their walk and his heart thundered in his chest.
“Yeah?” he breathed.
“You were a dick,” she simply said, and he blinked at her.
“But you said a lot of things,” she breathed and looked away. “A lot of things I understand, and some… I don’t, and I don’t know if I’ll ever understand.”
He nodded, to himself more than anyone else. He could accept that, it was hard, the whole situation with Barra so he could comprehend her-
“But I want to,” she said softly. “Because I know you didn’t… You didn’t do it on purpose. It must have been so hard to see her sick. I think I would have done the same with one of my siblings.”
He shuffled on his feet.
“Doesn’t mean it’s right,” he sighed and felt her gaze on his. “What I said… About Barra being my priority, it’s true but it doesn’t mean I have to shut the world off to other people.”
She looked away and sighed.
“Can you forgive me?” he asked her quietly. “Gods know I missed you so much Arya, I’m so sorry.”
Her eyes flickered up to his, her lips pressed together. She looked hurt, he could tell that and he was sure he deserved to be rejected. But he knew amidst the hurt he had caused her, there was something in her eyes that he couldn’t place.
“I need a bit of time to think,” she said, her voice steady but it didn’t hold the confidence he knew she regularly exerted.
“Anything,” he promised. “I’ll wait for however long.”
She nodded and stepped around him to go back the other way. Before she could disappear, she turned back to him and he waited.
“Have a good night Gendry, you should be very proud of Barra.”
She turned and he smiled as her back turned and she headed through the door. Despite his heart pounding in his chest, he couldn’t help but feel a little bit of hope.