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Near Miss

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-Arya-

It’s not the first time Arya has seen him, but today is the first day she’s had the opportunity to really look at him.

His eyes are closed, so she can stare away.

It’s really too bad they are closed because they are such an amazing blue. She’s never seen such bright blue eyes. But it gives her the opportunity to study his tousled black hair, the strong line of his jaw, and the obvious strength in his shoulders, chest, and arms.

He dresses simply, mainly wearing jeans and t-shirts. Mostly black t-shirts. The one he has on today has a silhouette of a large bull’s head that stretches attractively across his pecs. She likes this one and has come to think of him as like a bull: large and strong and surly.

That may be the most intriguing thing: She has yet to see him smile.

He’s big. He’s strong. He’s gorgeous. She regularly sees him on the train she takes to work each morning. He’s on before she is and gets off on the stop before hers, in an area of town called the Street of Steel. The street itself isn’t made of steel, but back in King’s Landing’s early days, there were a lot of blacksmith shops in that neighborhood. Now it’s kind of an artsy, hipster area.

He doesn’t look terribly much like a hipster though. The only thing hipster about him are maybe his boots, but they aren’t pristine and shiny. They are worn, like he bought them for function rather than fashion.

Arya’s gym is one stop later than his, at River Row. She shifts in her seat, readjusting her gym bag at her feet. It’s heavy today because she has a load of fencing equipment in it from the weekend. She silently curses her youngest brother, Rickon, as well as her softness towards him. She wouldn’t have agreed to visit a class on a Friday afternoon to give a fencing demonstration to a room full of semi-disinterested teenagers for anyone else. So now her bag is heavy and bulky, just adding to the stereotypical unpleasantness of Monday mornings. She kicks the bag.

Her movement must have startled him because his eyes open. He looks straight at her and she immediately turns her face, coughing into her elbow, to avert her gaze.

He’s grumpy. She doesn’t want to know what would happen if he caught her staring at him.

Or maybe she does want to know.

She sneaks another look at him and finds his eyes are still open and they seem to be looking at her bare legs.

She definitely does want to know.

 

-Gendry-

Gendry is tired this morning. Stupid cats in the alley behind his flat were either fighting or fucking – or both – at 3 a.m. and it kept him awake until it was time for him to actually be awake.

He is so tired that he doesn’t even notice when she boards the train. Barely notices the train is even moving. It’s dangerous ground, he knows, because he cannot let himself fall asleep and miss his stop. He’s got too much to do.

Reluctantly, he opens his eyes and is immediately rewarded with the sight of her seated directly across from him. And she’s looking at him. For about a second. Then she coughs into her elbow. It’s clearly a fake cough.

Fuck, she’s got those shorts on again, he notes, his eyes dropping to look at her smooth legs. She’s short, but those legs seem longer than they should be. She’s always dressed in workout clothes, figure-hugging garments that show off her tiny toned body. Since the weather has turned hot, that means a lot of shorts and tank tops.

Once or twice he’s felt compelled to pummel some unsavory twat who was ogling her, but he quickly learned that she has a killer glare and has come to realize she is very likely capable of defending herself if the need arose.

Still, if anyone tried anything, he would be the first to step up and start throwing punches.

She pulls out her phone and keeps her eyes trained on the screen, so that gives him more of an opportunity to surreptitiously watch her. Tank top and shorts in navy and gray. White trainers on her small feet. Her hair is dark and blunt cut just past her chin, with fringes skimming her expressive eyebrows. He hasn’t been able to figure out what color her eyes are, but he thinks they are hazel or possibly gray. He’s never seen a color like them but knows it would be super creepy to try to get close to her just to see the color of her eyes.

Even if it wasn’t, Gendry’s not that outgoing.

Her tops often bear the wolf’s head logo of a popular gym on River Row, and he’s not sure if she works there or just goes there to work out every day.

She’s such an interesting puzzle. The fact that she’s beautiful doesn’t hurt either. He keeps hoping she’ll inspire him creatively, but she’s too much of an enigma to be a decent muse thus far.

And he’s too much of a reclusive hermit to try to change that, no matter how much he might wish to.

His stop is next, and he automatically straightens his posture in anticipation. As he stands, he is treated to the sight of this little wolf stretching her arms over her head, revealing a strip of toned stomach.

His mouth goes dry and his fingertips rub together, imagining what that flawless skin would feel like under his callused hands.

The train squeals to a stop and he nearly bolts for the door, just in case she caught him looking.

Chapter Text

-Arya-

“Push harder!” The order comes from Arya’s 5-year-old niece, her little fingers tightly clutching the chains of the swing while her aunt pushes.

“Reina, your mum is going to kill me if you fall off and get hurt,” Arya replies. “Again.” Nevertheless, she pushes a little harder, sending the swing higher.

Arya agreed to keep an eye on her niece while Jon and Ygritte went to the food truck in the parking lot to get them some lunch.

Reina squeals in delight, her dark hair streaming behind her as she pumps her legs to help propel herself higher.

“You are Ygritte’s child,” Arya murmurs. Jon is her favorite brother, and he has many fine qualities, but “adventurous” and “free-spirited” are definitely not among them. “You may look like your dad, but you are your mum through and through.”

A red Frisbee sails past her, close enough for her to notice but too far for her to easily reach and return. She barely gives it a glance, most of her attention appropriately on her young charge.

When her Bull jogs past to retrieve the Frisbee, she forgets to push Reina when she swings back.

He looks good. This is not new. What is new is he is wearing shorts and trainers, and he’s wearing a football jersey for the King’s Landing club.

So he’s not perfect then, Arya wryly thinks, knowing full well her loyalty to her hometown Winterfell team would make her the outsider here in the south.

Still, he’s got really nice legs. Not skinny at all, which is good. She sees too many guys at her gym that don’t have a problem skipping leg day.

Arya frowns slightly, realizing she’s holding him to these high standards when she’s no great beauty herself. There’s no way he’d even look twice at me, hot guy like that. I’m nobody compared to people like Sansa and Margaery and even Ygritte.

“Auntie!”

The firm reproach from her niece snaps her attention away from his retreating form (complete with nicely rounded backside). “Sorry, Ray,” she apologizes, then gives a firm push just as Jon and Ygritte come into view, arms laden with tacos.

 

-Gendry-

“You’re hopeless, honestly,” Gendry says, sighing loudly at Hot Pie’s latest attempt to throw the Frisbee. “For a man who is called Hot Pie, you sure are shit at throwing an item shaped very much like a pie plate.” It didn’t make it very far at all, so he simply watches as his friend walks the eight steps to retrieve it.

“I’m used to working with them this way,” Hot Pie retorts, flipping over the disc, “and filling them with deliciousness.”

“Well stop thinking with your stomach and try again. Willow invited you to play Frisbee golf and you accepted. You need to at least look like you’ve thrown a disc before,” Gendry says.

“If I stopped thinking with my stomach I would be out of business,” Hot Pie says, lifting his arm to throw again.

“Sideface, dumbass,” Gendry says.

“Sideface?”

“Stand sideways. If you stand facing me, you’ll throw it that way,” Gendry reminds him, pointing to the parking lot at his left.

“Oh yeah,” Hot Pie says, turning. “Like this?” he asks, pantomiming the throw but not actually throwing.

“More wrist. Like you’re… sprinkling flour… I think?” Gendry tries.

“No mate, I do that this way,” Hot Pie lifts his hand, fingertips down, then moves them, demonstrating.

Gendry rolls his eyes. “I tried. Now throw before my hair turns gray.”

Hot Pie repositions himself, then throws. His eyes widen and his mouth forms into a silent O when he sees the disc sail straight and far.

Too far. It lands well behind Gendry, near the playground.

“Good one. If you can repeat it, we’ll start working on your accuracy,” Gendry says, then jogs away to go retrieve the Frisbee.

He almost trips when he sees her. She’s pushing a small girl on a swing, and his shoulders briefly drop. Of course she’s married. Why wouldn’t some bloke have already snagged her? He can’t see the girl’s face, but she’s got the same dark hair and pale skin.

She’s small, too, but she’s a child and Gendry has very little experience with children. This girl could be anywhere from three to nine years old, for all he knows.

He tries not to overtly gaze at his wolf girl, but her little shorts and tank top are very distracting. The tank top is short, revealing her stomach again, her little flat stomach that he just wants to worship with his lips before moving lower.

Stop it. She’s got a kid. As he picks up the disc, it occurs to him that the presence of a child doesn’t necessarily mean she has a husband. It just means she had gotten pregnant at some point in the past. And that’s certainly not a deal-breaker.

He also remembers that he’s never seen a ring on her finger, and he has definitely looked for one more than once.

Not that he’s considering asking her out or anything. She wouldn’t want anything to do with me, he figures. I’m just a struggling artist with few friends and no family. Judging by her appearance, she clearly has a successful career of some sort and a happy family life.

Gendry begins walking back towards his waiting friend. Just as he notices Hot Pie’s attention has drifted towards the taco truck in the parking lot, he hears an indignant shout behind him.

“Auntie!”

His lips automatically twitch in a slight smile.

Chapter Text

-Arya-

“You have got to stop yelling at the clients!” Arya scolds, her small stature forcing her to take two steps to every one of her very tall companion’s long strides.

“Well the clients have got to stop being cunts,” Sandor Clegane retorts, his voice its customary low growl. He reaches out and pulls the door open, waiting while Arya walks in before he enters.

“Why did you even want to open a gym if you hate people so much?” she asks. “Hi, two, please,” she pleasantly tells the hostess.

“You know why,” he snaps back as they walk to the table.

“Yeah, yeah, I know… ‘I’m only good at one thing,’ ‘Nobody’s going to want this face to endorse their products,’ ‘I’m too much of a cunt to be a commentator on telly,’” she says, mimicking his tone.

“I never said that last one!” he protests, plopping down onto the bench booth seat.

“I know. I threw that one in for free,” she cheerily says, sliding into her seat. She is just about to pick up her menu when her eyes land on him. Her bull. She’s never seen him here before, so she’s caught off guard. Plus…

Fffffuuuuuuuckkkk.

He’s wearing glasses. He’s wearing glasses and he looks damn fine in them. He glances over and her eyes widen slightly. She feels her cheeks heat as bites her lip and sneaks another glance before burying her face in her menu.

“The fuck is wrong with you?” Clegane demands.

“None of your fucking business,” Arya snaps.

“You’re all red. If you’re getting sick, go home,” he sharply says.

She smiles behind her menu, knowing he’s actually concerned for her well-being and is merely hiding it behind gruff words. “You’re such an old softie,” she goads.

“I don’t want to catch whatever fucking germs you’ve picked up riding that train every day,” he says.

“Right,” she replies, setting her menu down. She watches him while she waits for the waitress to return and take their orders. He looks extra grumpy today, and that combined with the glasses seems to only make him look extra yummy. He also has some sort of black smear on the side of his neck, and she angles her head, wondering how it got there and what it would feel like to wipe off. Possibly with her tongue.

The waitress arrives. Arya orders a chicken pot pie and Clegane orders a large calzone that would normally be a meal for two people. The waitress doesn’t even bother trying to tell him that; he comes to this diner enough that most of the staff know who he is and how much he can consume.

“What the fuck are you staring at over there?” he asks.

“You don’t really care,” she answers.

“I don’t, but you’re pissing me off.”

She gives him an incredulous look. “I’m pissing you off. By looking over there,” she states, hoping to highlight how ridiculous he is being.

He merely grunts and checks a notification that just popped up on his phone.

“That Sansa?” Arya asks, leaning forward to try to look.

He grunts again, which she takes as a yes.

“Tell her hello for me,” she says.

“Fuck off,” he replies.

Arya snorts. “What she sees in you, I’ll never know.”

“Good,” he says.

Just then, she hears a loud bang and looks over to see that her bull has just slammed his water glass down on the table. His hand is clutching the glass rather tightly, and she stares at his long, strong fingers, following the line of them to the corded muscles of his forearm.

He could break me right in half and I would thank him afterward.

“Who’s that twat?” Clegane asks.

“What?”

“The twat wearing glasses sitting with the fat owner. You know him?”

“No. Seen him around a bit, but I don’t know him,” she casually answers.

“You want to though,” he says, surprising her with his perception.

She stares at him. “Fuck you.”

“Fuck him,” he counters. “That’s what you want to do.”

Arya rolls her eyes. “Yeah, that’s going to happen. There’s no way someone that hot is going to look twice at me,” she says, stealing another glance over at him. There’s something about a handsome man suddenly wearing glasses that just amps up the hotness factor. It’s like seeing a guy who normally wears suits dress casually or a guy who normally wears jeans and t-shirts wearing a suit. The brain just goes tilt.

Clegane derisively snorts. “If he doesn’t, he’s a dumber twat than he looks,” he mutters.

Arya blinks. “Was that… was that a… compliment?” she asks.

“Fuck off,” he retorts.

“Whoa, I hope you didn’t hurt yourself,” she continues, thoroughly enjoying herself. She sees Hot Pie stand and start walking away.

“Strawberry!” The yelled word is clear, rising above the moderate noise of the diner. She has no idea why he yelled, but can only chuckle at Hot Pie’s raised middle finger as a reply.

“Place is noisy today,” Clegane grumbles.


-Gendry-

“You run out of contacts again?” Hot Pie asks, sitting in the chair opposite Gendry at his small table.

Gendry looks up from his shepherd’s pie and gives his friend a look that clearly says obviously. “I hate these things,” he grumbles.

It has been a bad day thus far. He woke up later than he wanted, only to discover he tossed his last pair of contact lenses last night and the new ones hadn’t arrived yet. He needs to see to work, so that meant wearing his hated glasses.

Then, he almost missed the train, which meant he didn’t get into the car he normally does, which meant he didn’t get to see his wolf girl when she would normally board at the next stop. He always makes sure to go to the second to last car, but today, because of his lateness, he just barely made it into the last car.

And running late all day meant he was later for lunch than usual. Luckily Hot Pie has been his friend since they were kids, and always makes sure he gets top-notch service.

“They’re not bad,” Hot Pie replies. Gendry merely grunts. “I mean, they look good. Much better than the ones you had when we were 11.”

Gendry groans, setting his fork down. “Gods, everything was ugly when we were 11,” he says. “I don’t know what the seven hells was going on with design during that time, but…” his words trail off as he sees her walk in.

She’s here. In my diner. With…

“Is that Sandor Clegane?” he quietly asks, not wanting to be heard by the very large, very surly former rugby player. Gendry is large and surly, but compared to Clegane, he’s a freaking princeling. Of course, Clegane has just cause to be surly, what with having been forced to retire early from rugby due to a horrific, disfiguring car crash caused by his even bigger, surlier brother, who didn’t even have the decency to survive and live with the consequences of his actions.

Hot Pie turns and looks, seemingly nonplussed. “Oh yeah. He comes in here a lot,” he says, turning back towards Gendry.

Gendry hasn’t told his friend about his little wolf girl or his growing obsession with her. “Who’s that with him, his daughter or something?” he asks, lifting his drink to his lips in an attempt to sound casual.

“Business partner. Haven’t caught her name. They own The Hound and Wolf Gym ‘round the block. She comes with him sometimes,” Hot Pie answers. “They pretty much only talk business, and that mainly consists of her yelling at him to be nicer to the clients. Even so, she’s, like, the only person he tolerates. Her and this tall redhead who comes with him sometimes who I think is her sister. And he’s actually sweet on the sister. It’s really weird, seeing Sandor Clegane, like, soft.”

“How do you know all that but not her name?” Gendry asks.

Hot Pie shrugs. “The waitresses tell me. Neither of them are much for chatting. We only know his name because of who he is. He mainly talks in grunts…”

Gendry is only half listening, because he is too busy trying not to look like he’s watching her. They’ve been seated in a booth not too far away, and she sat on the side facing him. Then she spots him, and he sees her eyes widen for just a second.

These fucking glasses, he thinks, returning his attention to Hot Pie, who is still chattering on. What he doesn’t see is her cheeks flush red a second later as she looks away and then looks right back at him, lower lip caught in her teeth.

“…because he does not tolerate anyone approaching him. Especially fans,” Hot Pie finishes.

“Oh, I wasn’t planning on asking for an autograph or anything. I’m not going to bother him when he’s trying to have lunch. That’s rude,” Gendry says, sneaking a glance at her again.

“Well, you keep looking over there, mate,” Hot Pie points out. Then Gendry cringes when his friend turns and very obviously looks over. Luckily she’s engrossed in her conversation and doesn’t notice. “Oh…”

“What ‘oh’?” Gendry asks, frowning.

“You’re not interested in Clegane.”

Gendry says nothing.

“I’ve always thought she was cute.”

“I see her all the time,” Gendry mutters. “It’s like we have similar schedules or something. We’re on the train together a lot. Then I saw her when we were at the park last month, too.”

Hot Pie’s eyes widen. “By the swings! When I threw the Frisbee good the first time!”

“Yeah,” Gendry mumbles.

“Was that her kid?”

“Niece, I think. I thought I heard her call her ‘Auntie’ when I was walking away.”

“Why don’t you ask her out?”

Gendry just gives him a look.

“What? Come on, mate, if I can ask Willow out, you can ask her out,” he says. “Even though I can see how anyone that can sit and yell at Sandor Clegane for an hour might be a little scary. But still. You could do it.”

Gendry drains his glass and sets it down on the table with more force than necessary. He can see her turn to look at him just with his peripheral vision. “Yeah, because that’s not creepy at all. I can’t just chat up a girl on the train, Pie. Especially not a girl like that.”

“Why not?”

“Because she’s beautiful, and obviously successful, and… has a family and probably a boyfriend. And I’m… basically an orphan who never knew his own fucking father, a struggling artist, and pretty much an asshole to everyone.”

“Don’t forget stupid,” Hot Pie adds. “Because apart from her maybe having a boyfriend and you being an asshole, the rest of those reasons are bullshit.”

Gendry looks at him for a second. His friend does have a very good point, but Gendry refuses to acknowledge it and responds with, “Fuck you.”

Hot Pie laughs and stands up. “I have pies that need my attention. At least they listen to me,” he says.

Gendry glances over to where she is sitting. She is smiling and laughing now. She looks like she’s teasing him. She is teasing. Sandor. Fucking. Clegane. She has suddenly gotten even more intriguing, and his frown deepens as it makes him feel even more unworthy of her. “They’re pies, Pie,” he flatly says, returning his attention to his friend.

“Yes, and they have more brains than you right now. I’ll bring you a slice of blueberry in a few,” Hot Pie says.

“Strawberry,” Gendry yells after him. Hot Pie flips him off, not looking back.

Five minutes later, he returns with a slice of peach pie, which he unceremoniously drops on the table. He’s made a penis out of the whipped cream on top.

Gendry can only shake his head and chuckle to himself.

Chapter Text

-Arya-

The train is unusually busy today, but Arya steps on board, eyes automatically darting around, searching the faces around her without even thinking until… there. There he is, sitting in the corner, frowning, ignoring everyone. One of the few open seats is fairly close to him, so she takes it, trying not to look too obvious about it.

He’s wearing a tight gray t-shirt and dark jeans, bottoms rolled up over the tops of a pair of black boots. The weather has turned cool by King’s Landing standards, so he’s also got on a long trench coat as well.

Damn, Arya thinks, unconsciously licking her lips. She’s a sucker for a long coat on a man, especially one like him. It simply adds to the air of danger he exudes, an air to which she is hopelessly attracted.

He’s clean-shaven today, which makes Arya tilt her head in interest. She wonders why he shaved the attractive scruff, but it’s nice to see that he’s equally handsome without facial hair. As she settles in her seat, trying to keep her gym bag tucked between her feet, he glances over.

She quickly averts her gaze, eyes finding a small dog inside the bag of an older man across the way. She smiles and wonders if it would be weird to move her seat in the hopes of getting to pet the cute little dog.

At the next stop, more people pour in. All the seats quickly become occupied, so some people have to stand. Arya can still see him though, and she keeps glancing at him, trying not to stare at things like his hands, which are large and veiny and really interesting even though his fingers are often stained black (which is the most intriguing part, in her opinion), or his bright blue eyes, or his tousled black hair. Or his thighs, straining the denim of his jeans.

Pretty much any part of him is fair game, if she is honest.

The train stops again, and a few people get off, but more people get on. They all look around, frowning at the lack of seating. A young man decides to try a different car and jumps off, nearly knocking over the old lady who is making her way into the car.

She is at least 80 years old. She moves slowly and carefully, but her eyes are bright and Arya can tell her mind is still very sharp. She can also tell that this old woman was very beautiful in her youth.

As she is contemplating what the woman must have looked like, motion in her periphery catches her attention. He has left his seat.

What? This isn’t your stop! Sit down! Her panicked thoughts settle down and her lips curl into a smile once more as she watches the scene unfolding before her.

He hurries over to the old lady and offers his arm.

“Thank you, young man,” she says, smiling up at him as she takes his arm and allows him to help her up the last step.

As he escorts the woman over to where his seat was, he sees some other young man has taken it. He glowers down at the man, and as the train lurches into motion, he places his hand over the old lady’s to make sure she keeps her feet.

“What?” the seated man says, finally looking up. He’s smaller than her bull, with a weasely quality that makes him look like a rather unpleasant person. Arya wonders what kind of ego this little shit must have to think he could win a fight against the solid wall glowering down at him.

“You’re in her seat,” he says, nodding to the woman.

“You can’t save seats.”

“Don’t you have any manners? Move your arse,” he says. He’s not yelling, but Arya can tell he’s close.

He has a nice voice, even if the words coming out are harsh. Arya shifts in her seat, thinking of standing and offering hers. But she stills herself, somehow knowing that the issue is currently more about principle than anything.

“And if I don’t?” the seated man challenges. “Ouch!”

“Oh, I’m terribly sorry,” the old lady says. “I must have set my cane on your foot.”

Arya snorts a laugh. She clearly saw the woman very forcefully set her cane on his foot.

“Push off or I’ll push you off.” His tone is not to be trifled with.

The young man finally relents, something in the other man’s face and demeanor finally convincing him that it is in his best interest to move. He grumbles the entire time, and Arya is pretty sure that she hears the words “fucking cunt” at least once. She makes sure to give him a good hard stare when he passes.

“Ma’am,” the young man says, assisting her to her seat.

The old lady sits, then reaches over and squeezes his hand. “Thank you, young man,” she says. Then she angles her head up at him. “If I was about 60 years younger,” she sighs. “It’s a damn shame my granddaughter is a lesbian, or I’d be giving you her number.”

Then Arya sees something she’s never seen before. He smiles. Just a little, and not for very long, but it is definitely a smile.

She thinks about it the rest of the day.


-Gendry-

Gendry boards the train to find it already more than half full. He curses under his breath and finds a seat in the corner of the car. He’s not sure what is going on that has the train so unusually populated, but it makes him scowl, watching the two empty seats in his vicinity, hoping they one will become occupied by a certain petite gym owner.

A few minutes later, the train squeals to a stop and the doors whoosh open. Three people get off and a throng of travelers board.

He doesn’t see her at first. But then she materializes, looking amazing as ever, dressed in leggings and a t-shirt knotted in front. Her hair is uncharacteristically down, hanging just past her shoulders in soft, slight waves. It’s longer than the last time he saw it down, and he wonders if she’s letting it grow. Her large duffel bag is slung over her shoulder and she looks around for a second, her eyes passing over him briefly. Then she moves and sits in one of the vacant seats near him. The one nearest him, in fact.

Why isn’t she wearing a coat? Isn’t she cold? He can’t help worrying about her freezing to death. Autumn has descended on King’s Landing and the mornings are decidedly crisp. She looks completely comfortable though. Her cheeks are rosy, but he can’t see any sign of shivering or gooseflesh on her bare arms. Maybe she’s from up north. I've heard those people never get cold.

He’d be more than happy to keep her warm any time, though. She catches him looking at her and quickly looks away, her face softening as she smiles at a little dog being carried by an old man.

But he finally gets to see her eyes. He only caught them for a second, but they are definitely gray. He’s never seen eyes like that before. He closes his for a moment, trying to decide which metal they most closely resemble.

The train screeches again, signaling that it has reached its next stop, and Gendry opens his eyes.

The usuals get off, but more pile in again. One guy reaches the top step and retreats, obviously going to try his luck in the next car.

He nearly plows down an elderly woman, and Gendry sees red. As the woman makes her way up, he notices there are no seats available anymore. And no one appears to notice. Or they don’t care.

He immediately gets to his feet and pushes his way over to assist her, offering his elbow to her because he knows that is less threatening than a hand.

“Ma’am?” he quietly says

“Thank you, young man,” she says. When she looks up and smiles at him, he can see that while she is physically a bit frail, her mind is still as sharp as it ever was. And by the smirk on her face and twinkle in her eye, she must be pretty fucking sharp.

He almost punches the young man who had decided to take Gendry’s seat when he left it. His fingers clench and he glares down at the intruder. Then the train begins moving and he unclenches his fist to gently place it over the woman’s hand so she doesn’t lose her balance.

“What?” the seated man says.

“You’re in her seat,” he says.

“You can’t save seats.” His tone is disdainful, and his pinched little face looks even more ratlike, his eyes shifty under his short blond hair.

“Don’t you have any manners? Move your arse,” he says, carefully controlling his voice. He cannot afford to be barred from riding the train for starting a fight.

Out of the corner of his eye, he sees his wolf girl shift in her seat, and his heart briefly warms knowing she is willing to give up her seat. But she also seems to know that it’s not really about the seat at this point, which is probably why she didn’t say anything.

Or she could just be shifting her position in her seat. But he’s willing to bet that his first guess is correct.

“And if I don’t?” the seated man challenges. Gendry sees the old woman move before the other guy does, and a moment later he yells, “Ouch!”

“Oh, I’m terribly sorry,” the old lady says. “I must have set my cane on your foot.”

Gendry bites the inside of his cheek to keep himself from laughing, and gently squeezes the woman’s hand. He clears his throat and leans down over the other man. “Push off or I’ll push you off,” he threatens.

The seat-stealer grumbles and stands, cursing under his breath the whole time. He walks away from them, to the other end of the car, not noticing the dirty looks he is getting from everyone he passes.

“Ma’am,” Gendry says, guiding the woman to her seat.

She squeezes his hand when she sits and gives him a smile. “Thank you, young man,” she says, holding his gaze for a second. His artist’s eyes can tell she was quite beautiful in her youth, and still is quite striking even now. “If I was about 60 years younger,” she sighs. “It’s a damn shame my granddaughter is a lesbian, or I’d be giving you her number.”

Gendry can’t help it. He smiles, looking down, as he feels heat rising to his cheeks. He doesn’t get embarrassed often, but compliments from little old ladies will do it every time.

When he peeks up, he can see her still watching him.

She is blushing, too, and it looks gorgeous on her. His mind immediately goes off to conjure to other possible scenarios that could bring that attractive flush to her face.

He knows his dreams tonight will likely be quite diverting.

Chapter Text

-Arya-

“You’re sure you don’t want to come in?” Arya asks Meera, still perched in the driver’s seat of the van idling at the curb.

“Nah, I’ve got some shopping that needs doing. I’ll text you when I’m done. Unless you’re ready to go before you hear from me. Then text me,” she says.

“Got it,” Arya says. “Thanks for driving him.”

“No trouble at all. He’d be lost without me,” Meera replies, grinning.

“I would not! I would just have to… make other arrangements,” Bran protests.

“Which means you would be lost. We both know you’re crap at practical things,” Meera insists. “Have a good time, love,” she concludes with a wave, then drives off.

Bran sighs as Arya holds the door open for her brother, who guides his wheelchair through the door and into the coffee shop.

“I’ll go find us a table,” Bran says. “Get me—”

“I know what to get you,” Arya says, waving him off to wheel himself into the table area. Luckily it’s not that busy yet. It’s too late for the morning crowd and not yet lunchtime, so most of the patrons appear to be retirement-aged.

Bran should be in class this morning, but it is the day of his annual visit with Dr. Tarly, his spine specialist in King’s Landing. So his girlfriend Meera drove him down from the Vale, where they are both attending university. He always makes sure to visit Arya when he’s in town, and today he wanted to go to this new coffee shop called Mud Gate Coffee, which is near the River Gate (which everyone calls Mud Gate despite the fact that it’s not its official name).

It was convenient for Arya to slip away from the gym for a bit, since it is nearby. She has to bring the Hound back some “regular coffee, none of that fucking fancy stuff” when she leaves as payment for leaving him “alone with the cunts” at the gym.

Arya places the order and then finds Bran at the table he found. It’s not far from the counter or the doors, unsurprisingly.

“So how was your appointment?” she asks.

He shrugs. “Fine. Still paralyzed,” he blithely answers.

“Shut up,” she laughs. He fell out of a tree at eight years old when the branch on which he was standing unexpectedly broke. It was a large tree and he was very high up, and though his fall was buffered (painfully) by several other branches, his spinal cord was permanently severed.

Bran took it much better than the rest of his family, and is always the first to crack a joke or make an inappropriate comment about his situation. Arya and Jon are convinced that he does it just to mess with them and refuse to be horrified at his actions like the rest of the family.

“Honestly, I’m fine,” he answers. “No change one way or the other from last year, which is good. I’m not going to get better, so ‘not worse’ is the best I can hope for.”

“I suppose that makes… sense…” she trails off as she sees him walk in. She didn’t see him on the train that morning because she went to the gym a little early due to her date with her brother.

So when her hot, cranky bull walks into the coffee shop, she almost loses her train of thought.

“What’s your problem?” Bran asks. He turns, following her gaze. “Since when are you distracted by a hot guy?”

Arya raises an eyebrow. “Oh, so you think he’s hot?”

“I’m secure enough to be able to acknowledge when another man is attractive, yes,” he answers. “Do you know him?”

“No. I just… seem to see him a lot,” she answers, watching as he sits. He pulls out his phone and scowls as he texts. Damn, why is he so cute when he scowls?

Bran nods just as their number is called. Arya gets up to go retrieve their order, and returns to find her brother smirking at her.

“He was watching you,” he says.

Arya rolls her eyes. “Right.”

“He was,” he insists. “He was trying to be sly about it, but he was totally watching your every step.”

She shakes her head, still unconvinced. There is no way.

“Arya,” Bran says. “You said you see him around a lot. Do you think he might also see you the same amount?”

“He’s not going to notice me,” she says.

“He literally did just notice you,” he points out. When Arya says nothing, taking a sip of her drink and breaking off a piece of her muffin, he speaks again. “I dare you to walk past him again,” he challenges.

“Psssh, I can do that,” Arya says, leaning back in her chair. “That’s easy.”

And drop something right in front of him. Something you have to bend over and pick up,” he adds, raising an eyebrow at her.

She raises one right back at him. “Brandon, are you daring me to wave my arse at a gentleman?” she asks. “What kind of brother are you?”

“The kind of brother who wants to see his big sister happy,” he answers. “And if that means getting you laid, then so be it.”

She laughs. “All right then. Challenge accepted,” she declares, lifting her chin. “But only if you promise to tell me his reaction. In detail.”

“I’ll record it on my phone,” he says.

“No!” she says, a little too loudly. “Don’t fucking do that! What is wrong with you?” she quietly whisper-yells. “He could see you doing it and know it is a setup!”

He huffs. “You are greatly underestimating my stealth, but fine,” he answers. “Now go,” he adds, shooing her away with his hand.

Arya squares her shoulders, then stands. Napkins. Go get some napkins. She walks over to the kiosk holding the napkins, straws, coffee stirrers, and the other little extras people need. Luckily, her bull is seated between their table and the kiosk, so she doesn’t have to take an awkward roundabout path. She casually walks past him, fighting the strong urge to turn and look at him.

She gets some napkins and intentionally holds them lightly as she walks back to her table. When she is just past him, she lets one flutter out of her hand.

“Damn,” she mutters, then bends down to pick it up, making sure to bend more at the waist than the knees. She tries not to make too much of a show of it, even though she was tempted to take her time.

Not that I have a lot to wave around back there, she absently thinks as she walks back to her grinning brother.

“There. You happy?” she asks, flinging the napkins at him.

“Ecstatic,” he answers in his characteristic deadpan style. “And your dude was riveted, by the way.”

Arya’s eyes widen. “What?”

“Ri. Vet. Ed,” he repeats, enunciating each syllable. “Mouth was totally hanging open, and the only part of him that moved were his eyes. But he was most definitely checking you out.”

Arya bites her lip. “Really?”

Bran’s eyes narrow. “You think I’m lying?”

“I know you don’t lie,” she sighs. “I just have a hard time believing that a guy that looks like that would even notice me, much less check me out.”

“Why is that?”

“Seriously?”

“Arya, I’m your brother, so you know it pains me to say this, but you are very pretty. I know that’s not what you’ve been told for most of your life, and believe me, if I could use my legs, I would kick Jeyne Pool’s arse around the block, but you don’t have a horseface and your head isn’t lumpy,” he says. “Sansa’s particular brand of beauty isn’t the only kind in the world, you know. Plus, you’re, like, a really good person and it does show.”

She looks at him for a long moment. “Thank you,” she quietly says. “That actually… means a lot.”

He smiles. “If this gets out I’ll deny every word,” he says.

She laughs and looks down into her coffee. “No you won’t,” she says.

“Yeah, you’re probably right,” he allows, chuckling. “Especially because you’re the sibling I look most like.”

“Shut up,” she laughs, balling up another napkin and throwing it at him just as his phone buzzes with the text notification from Meera.

“Time to go,” he says, downing the rest of his drink. Arya gets up and throws away their trash, then starts pushing her brother towards the doors, once again taking her past him.

“Hey, you’re coming home next month for Dad’s birthday, right?” Bran asks, speaking loud and clear just as they pass his table.

“Yeah, of course I’ll be there,” she answers, trying not to look at whatever it is her bull is drawing on a blank notepad on the table in front of him. “I told Mom already, so I figured you knew.”

“Oh right, she might have said something,” he says.

Once outside, she looks down at her brother. “What was that about?”

“Just wanted him to know that I’m your brother and not a date,” Bran says, a sly smile on his face.

Arya might have been mad if she wasn’t so damn impressed.


-Gendry-

Gendry suspiciously eyes the coffee shop, wondering if it is one of those posh places where he can’t get a decent cup of coffee. He walks in anyway, because it is where Davos wants to meet him.

Of course he is there first, so he finds a table within sight of the doors so Davos can easily spot him. He’s buying the drinks because he can never be on time, he thinks, pulling out his phone to occupy himself while he waits. He answers a text from Hot Pie and then pulls up his Instagram.

“Order number 128.” He doesn’t really pay attention since he hasn’t ordered, but something makes him look up at just the right time.

It’s her. Walking right past him, going to get her order. Looking far too good in black leggings and a blue t-shirt from her gym. He keeps his face pointed at his phone, but follows her with his eyes.

Her hair is up, but a few little wisps of hair have escaped and curl against her neck. He wants to spend at least a day as one of those little wisps of hair. He’s been fantasizing about how she must feel, smell, and taste with increasing frequency, and he reasons the side of her neck would be almost the perfect place to gather information. Almost.

She walks past again and he notices there are two cups and two pastries on her tray. Then he sees her sit at a table with a young man and his heart drops.

The young man is in a wheelchair, so maybe he’s some sort of physical therapy client. But she looks a little too familiar with him for that, laughing and teasing. Maybe he’s a family member.

Or maybe he is her boyfriend.

He tries to get a better look at them, but they are both in profile, and he can see her slightly better than him. Normally this would make him happy, but he’s trying to see if they look alike, so it’s an issue.

The gods must be smiling upon him this morning (especially considering he didn’t get to see her on the train this morning), because the young man turns his head and looks in his direction.

Same brown hair. Same strong brows. Same pointed chin.

Maybe it’s her brother.

He’s momentarily saved by a return text from Hot Pie. While he reads it he hears a voice exclaim, “No!” His eyes flick up and he sees her leaning forward, frantically talking and gesturing at her companion. He’s never seen her quite so animated, and it fascinates him. Then she sits up straight, looking proud and defiant for a moment before standing.

He quickly tucks his nose back into his phone, cursing Davos’ lack of punctuality for the thousandth time as she walks past him again, heading towards the display of napkins and things.

She grabs a handful of napkins and strolls past him once more. His eyes are automatically drawn to her, and this time he watches a little less covertly.

When she drops a napkin in front of him, softly curses, and bends over to pick it up with her delectable arse right in front of him, his mouth drops open and he blatantly stares.

It takes him a moment to recover afterwards, and when he does, he stabs out a text to Davos.

Where the fuck are you?

He flips open the sketchbook he brought with him to an empty page, growing more annoyed with the habitually late gallery manager. If Davos wasn’t so bloody good at what he does, Gendry would have gone elsewhere for his shows. But the old man really knows how to display and sell his art.

Not to mention that Gendry does actually like the man, which is a rare thing.

He considers trying to sketch her from across the café, but decides it’s probably a bad idea. And they look like they’re getting up to leave anyway.

His phone buzzes with Davos’ reply: I’m nearly there, lad, sorry. Got caught up with a potential buyer for one of your pieces, so you’re not allowed to be mad.

He is just about to reply when his wolf girl wheels her companion right past him.

The young man looks up and back at her and asks, “Hey, you’re coming home next month for Dad’s birthday, right?”

“Yeah, of course I’ll be there,” she answers. Her eyes flit in his direction for just a second, and he wills his pencil to keep moving. “I told Mom already, so I figured you knew.”

“Oh right, she…” The man’s voice gets lost to the ambient noise around them, but Gendry watches them leave. She smiles and thanks a middle-aged woman who holds the door for her and her brother, and then she is gone.

Definitely brother.

“Who were they?” Davos’ voice snaps him out of his stupor.

“Hmm? Oh. I don’t know,” Gendry answers, but he can feel that his face is red.

“You sure about that? Because you were staring at that little lady like you were a starving man and she was your next meal,” Davos replies, his eyes alight with amusement.

Gendry shrugs. “I just see her around sometimes. We don’t know each other, but we, like, keep similar schedules. Or something.”

Davos gives a placating nod. “I’ll go get us some coffees. You look like you need one,” he says. “Or a cold shower,” he adds, before turning and heading to the counter.

When he returns, Gendry has his sketchbook turned back to the appropriate page and is all ready to discuss business, but Davos sits down and immediately starts in again.

“When’s the last time you got your bell rung, lad?” he bluntly asks.

If Gendry had his coffee, he would be choking on it. “Um… a while, I guess,” he answers, knowing better than to evade the question. He knows the older man is much too persistent for that.

Davos sighs and shakes his head. “I keep telling you, there’s nothing like a nice muse to get the creativity flowing. A nice little lady to inspire you,” he says. “Keep you warm at night and give you a reason to wake up in the morning.”

Gendry does not miss the repeated use of the phrase “little lady,” and knows what his friend is insinuating. He runs his hand through his unruly hair, then flips to a different page in his sketchbook. “She already has inspired me,” he says, then rotates the book so the drawing is facing Davos. “It’ll be done in time for the show, I promise.”

Davos’ eyes widen and then he gives an appreciative nod. “If you say so, lad,” he says. Then he looks up at him. “You do know the show is next week?”

“Of course I do,” Gendry snaps.

“It’s quite good,” Davos says, looking at the drawing again. “How big is it?”

“Huge.”

“Why a direwolf though? That girl is tiny.”

Gendry merely smiles to himself. Their order number is called just then, and Davos gets up to retrieve it.

He returns with a tray containing two cups and two pastries. He sets a rather plain and uninteresting cup in front of his seat, but the cup he sets in front of Gendry is topped with whipped cream and little hard brown bits are sprinkled atop that.

“What the fuck did you get me?” Gendry demands, staring at his drink like he is trying to will it into plain black coffee. Which is what Davos has.

Davos smiles. “Toffee mocha. It’s the special today. Thought you could use a little sweetening up,” he answers with a laugh as he pushes a giant cinnamon roll slathered with thick white frosting towards him.

Gendry scowls, but takes a drink. “Holy shit, that’s really fucking good,” he mutters, then takes another sip while Davos laughs at him.

Chapter Text

-Arya-

He is moving over her, his body surrounding hers. She feels completely consumed by him in the best way. His lips are soft and warm; his tongue tastes sweet.

He kisses a trail down her neck and over her collar bones until he reaches her breasts. He laves a stiffened nipple with his tongue before sucking it into his mouth while he tends the other with his hand. She sighs and runs her fingers into his hair, encouraging him. He lightly bites and she softly cries out.

“Please…” her voice is plaintive, and he responds immediately, settling over her again, his large, rough hand skimming her thigh as she parts her legs for him.

His searing kiss has her head spinning. He feels so good, so right, and when his cock slides into her, it fits so perfectly she sees stars.

“Gods, yes.” Her voice is husky and sounds almost foreign to her ears. Her eyes drift closed and she presses her head back into the pillow. She finds she can’t stand not seeing him, seeing his gorgeous face over hers, and quickly opens her eyes.

She wraps her legs around his waist, pulling her hips tighter against his. He growls in response, and the sound further inflames her. She feels hot and wet at the juncture of her thighs, and the delicious fullness of him sliding in and out of her builds on that warmth. It grows, spreading to the tips of her fingers and toes, the intensity increasing. She opens her mouth in a gasp that becomes a silent scream as—

“Fuck!” Arya swears as she is snapped out of her dream. She turns her head and looks at the clock on her nightstand. It’s 6:15. Of course. She normally gets up at 6:30, and even though there’s no real point in going back to sleep now, she closes her eyes anyway in an almost desperate attempt to rejoin the aborted dream.

It’s no use, obviously, and she presses her legs together in frustration. Seven hells, she thinks, feeling how wet she is. Her hand goes investigating and discovers her panties are damp and there is even some moisture on her inner thighs. Fuck, I never get this wet.

Only two minutes have passed, and she exhales a frustrated huff of a breath, then rolls to the side of the bed so she can pull open the drawer and retrieve her vibrator.

When she comes a minute later, she sees stars again.

She prays she doesn’t blush when she sees him on the train later this morning.


-Gendry-

Her lips slide over his cock, taking him into her mouth. The wet heat of her tongue slides over the ridges as she somehow manages to fit all of him in her mouth, sucking hard before drawing back.

He groans as she swirls her tongue around the tip a few times, then plunges him back inside with a hum of pleasure. He can feel the vibrations from her throat and it makes his eyes roll back in his head. He tangles his fingers into her hair, his hand gentle, not pushing her. As she takes him all the way in again, she sucks hard and his body jerks.

“I need to be inside you,” he says, his voice a throaty growl. He reaches for her and guides her up over him. He wants to see her, see her small lithe body moving atop his.

His hands slide up her stomach and over her breasts, gently squeezing the small, perfect mounds. He feels himself slide into her and he moans. It’s right; it’s perfect. She’s perfect.

“Mmm, yes,” he groans, thumbs tracing circles over her nipples.

She smiles down at him, whispering his name as she rolls her hips, riding him like her body was built to fit to his.

He slides his hands to her shoulders and gently pulls her face towards his. Her lips match his just as perfectly as the rest of her, and her whole mouth is pure sweetness. She bites his lower lip, drawing a grunt from him. The sting of her teeth inflames him, and he hangs on as the sensations begin building and building fast.

She moves her lips to his neck, placing sucking kisses there that make him moan again. Loudly.

Gendry blinks awake and immediately sits up, looking around his room, confused. It’s still very early, but he is very awake.

And some parts of him are more awake than others. “Fuck me…” he groans, leaning his head down into his hands. He is almost painfully hard, this latest dream having been much more vivid than any of the others he’s had.

He flops back onto the bed, then looks down at the tent below his waist, crying out for attention. He sighs and slides his hand down, wrapping his fingers around his shaft.

It doesn’t feel like her – rather, his dream version of her – but it does the job. He is so aroused it doesn’t take long and in seconds he comes hard, spilling over his stomach and chest.

“Seven hells,” he curses, breathing heavily. He’s definitely going to have to avoid her gaze on the train today.

Chapter Text

-Arya-

Arya walks around the gallery, peering at the metal sculptures around her.  Some are small, but most are quite large.  They are all fascinating.

She has no idea why she wandered into the art gallery.  She could see people through the windows with champagne flutes and small plates bearing smaller food and thought why not?  She was only going home to sit in her apartment alone and watch Netflix, since her dinner with Jon got cut short by news of Reina taking a tumble down the stairs.  Ygritte insisted the girl was fine, but Jon still wanted to get home as soon as possible.

Not normally one for crashing parties, Arya felt a bit like an impostor.  But this is an art show.  Open to the public.  Anyone can come in.

Even someone whose area of expertise is decidedly not art.  But while she feels like she never had any talent for the arts, she does appreciate them.  She can tell that even though she doesn’t know what some of the things she is looking at are supposed to be, they are good.  Very good.

Gendry Waters was the name on the posters hanging around the gallery.  She’s never heard of him, and wonders where he is.  His photo is conspicuously absent from the posters, too.  She stops in front of a large sculpture, her brow furrowing at it.  The placard says Bull but she can’t see the shape of anything resembling an animal.

“You need to stand here,” a gruff but kind voice tells her, and she looks up to see an older man with a gray beard and a fatherly demeanor looking down at her with a smile on his face that suggests they’ve met, but Arya knows they haven’t.  He points to a spot on the floor that has been marked with tape.

She moves to the spot and looks at the sculpture again, and suddenly the random pieces of metal align and she sees the great hulking beast.

“Wow,” she quietly breathes.  “Are you the artist?” she asks.

The man chuckles.  “No, no.  I’m his manager and the owner of this gallery.  Davos Seaworth,” he introduces himself, offering his hand.

She shakes it.  “Arya,” she says.  “Nice to meet you.  And thanks for the tip.”

“Of course,” Davos replies.  He smiles that strange, mysteriously knowing smile and says, “Gendry is… around somewhere.  I think.  He’s supposed to be mingling…”  Just then someone calls his name and Davos turns.  “Excuse me, young lady,” he apologetically says, then hurries away.

Arya smiles after him for a second, then turns back to look at the sculpture once more, leaning from side to side, watching the shape un-form and re-form as she moves.  “Cool,” she whispers.  A group of people are approaching, so she walks on, not wanting to get caught in a crowd.

Now that she’s gotten the hint from the manager, she looks for the tape on the floor.  Flames.  Dragon in Flight.  She can even sort out the more obtuse ones.  Street of Steel.  Winter.  An intriguing piece called Enigma that she stares at for a long time.  A collection of weapons, including a large, beautiful warhammer, an ornate dagger, and some exquisite swords that she finds herself coveting.  When she comes to one called Direwolf, she stops cold, her heartbeat speeding up a little in anticipation.  She decides to ignore the marking on the floor, choosing instead to circle it until she sees it.  It’s huge, nearly as large as the bull, and terrifying.

Arya loves it.  She looks at it for a while, even absentmindedly reaching out to touch it before remembering herself and withdrawing her hand.

When she finally turns away, she sees him.

The guy.  The hot guy she always sees.

And boy, does he look extra hot.

He’s leaning against a wall in the back of the gallery, long trench coat open over a pair of dark brown pants and worn brown boots.  His gorgeous hands are casually clasped in front of his stomach, and his slate blue shirt is open at least halfway down his chest.  He is frowning, as usual, his eyes downcast.

He looks extremely bored and extremely attractive.

Arya bites her lower lip to stop herself from saying “Damn” out loud.  Flashes of her dream two nights ago play across her memory, and she feels her cheeks warm.

Then his eyes flicker up and look straight at her.  She meets his gaze and they simply watch each other for a solid five seconds before she summons up her courage and wills her feet to move.

“We seem to see each other a lot,” she says once she is close enough.  “That is… I’ve seen you around.  I… oh.  You… you probably haven’t noticed, but…”

“The train,” he says, his voice a low rumble that makes her move closer to hear him better.  “The Park.  Hot Pie’s.  Coffee shop.”

He did notice me.  Arya isn’t sure if this is a good or bad thing, because he still isn’t smiling.  “Um, okay,” she says after a few seconds of silence.  “I guess I’ll… see you around then,” she says, turning to leave, cringing as she does so.

“Wait.”  She turns back.  He drops his hands to his sides and asks, “What’s your name?”

“Arya,” she says.  She waits for him to give his name, but he doesn’t.  “And you are…?” she prompts.

“Gendry,” he answers.

She furrows her brow.  “You’re the artist,” she dumbly says, and he nods, still frowning.  “Why are you skulking around back here then?” she asks, stepping closer to him.

He sighs.  “I hate these things.  Davos says it will get me good name recognition, but I’m shite at mingling and making fucking small talk.”

“I get that,” she agrees with a nod.  She’s standing right in front of him now, and his size nearly overwhelms her.  Get yourself together, woman.  Sandor is bigger than he is!  Of course, Gendry is a million times cuter than the Hound…

“Seeing you here has been the highlight,” he admits, and suddenly his expression changes from grumpy to soft and a little insecure.

“Oh,” she replies, feeling at a loss for words.  “Um, you’re really talented.”

“Thanks,” he says.  He holds her gaze, and she finds herself in awe in just how blue his eyes are.

They stare at one another for a few more seconds before he speaks again.  “Do you want to get out of here?” he suddenly asks.

“Um, sure, but…” she pauses, slowly looking around them, “Don’t you have to stay?  I mean, this is your show…”

He shrugs.  “Come on,” he says, grabbing her hand and heading further towards the back, to what Arya assumes is a back door.

“Where do you think you’re going, lad?”  A deep voice stops them.  They turn and see Davos standing there, giving them a very knowing look.

“Leaving,” Gendry answers.

“You can’t leave,” Davos replies.  He sounds like a very tired father who has had to repeat the same thing to his stubborn son one time too many.

Arya knows the tone well, smiling as she thinks of her own father.  “How much longer is the show?” she asks, an idea forming.

“Just an hour,” Davos answers.  “Surely you can wait an hour before going off to do…” his eyes briefly flicker in Arya’s direction, “whatever it is you were thinking of doing.”

Gendry huffs in frustration, and Arya turns and places her hand on his chest.  She forgot how far open his shirt is, and while her palm rests on fabric, her fingers land on warm skin.  “I have no plans tonight,” she says.

His eyes light up, just slightly.  “You… you’ll wait?” he asks, sounding rather shocked.

“Sure.  I’ll just hang out… have a few canapés…” she answers with a light shrug.

He smiles.  A full smile.  It takes her breath away.

“Okay,” he agrees.  “You won’t get bored?”

She shakes her head.  “I actually need to text my siblings about something, so if I get tired of looking at your amazing sculptures, I can do that,” she answers.

“Come on, son.  There is a lady who wants to meet you,” Davos encourages, trying to take advantage of the first good mood he’s ever seen Gendry have.

“One hour,” Gendry says, placing his hand over hers, still on his chest.  He gives it a little squeeze, then steps away.

“I’ve never seen him smile like that before,” Davos mutters to Arya.  “Whatever you did to him, keep doing it.”

Arya snorts a laugh and then pulls out her phone.  She starts a new group text with her siblings, including their mother to the group.

I have a great idea for Dad’s birthday gift.


-Gendry-

Gendry hates art openings.  Even when they’re his own.  Davos tries to be as accommodating as possible, basically being Gendry’s personal goalie by steering people that have the potential to wind up punched out of his path.

He still always manages to hide in plain sight, leaning against a wall near the back of the gallery until Davos inevitably comes around to have him meet some “important” person.  Sometimes that important person buys something.  More often they don’t.

Tonight, it’s a little cold and blustery outside, so there aren’t as many random walk-ins as there would have been in better weather, but Gendry doesn’t mind that much.  Random walk-ins tend not to be buyers, more often than not.  Sometimes they just want the free appetizers.

He’s bored.  Which makes him crabby.  He could be working on something back at the forge.  He could be home, watching Netflix.  He could be sleeping.  He could be—

His thoughts scatter as he happens to look up.  It’s her.  And she’s looking straight at me.

And she’s walking right towards me.  Purposefully.

Seven hells, she looks good.

He’s never seen her in anything other than workout clothes, and he is transfixed.  She is wearing brown boots over skinny jeans with a hole in one knee, a gray v-neck t-shirt, and a short leather jacket.  Her hair is back in a braid, but it is a more artful, looser braid, different than the tight utilitarian one she sometimes wears to work.  She looks gorgeous.

“We seem to see each other a lot,” she says.  He likes her voice.  It’s half-child, half-woman, and very appealing.  “That is… I have seen you around.  I… you probably haven’t noticed, but…”

“The train,” he says, the words coming out shorter than he intends.  He’s so overwhelmed that she noticed him that it’s got him a little off balance.  “The Park.  Hot Pie’s.  Coffee shop.”

He curses his natural curtness when she simply stares at him, looking a little bewildered before stammering, “Um, okay.  I guess I’ll… see you around then.”  She starts to turn away, and he forces himself to speak because he’d be a complete idiot to throw away this opportunity.

“Wait,” he calls, dropping his hands to his sides and standing up straight, away from the wall.  She pauses and turns back towards him.  “What’s your name?” he asks.

“Arya,” she answers.  Arya.  That’s a great name.  It really suits her, too.  “And you are…?” she says, and he realizes he hasn’t given his name because he was busy thinking about how much he likes hers.

“Gendry,” he answers, trying to soften his tone a bit even if he hasn’t quite wiped the scowl from his face.

“You’re the artist,” she says, and her face lights up with the realization.  He simply nods and she asks, “Why are you skulking around back here then?”

He sighs, but his heartbeat speeds up a bit as she moves closer to him.  “I hate these things.  Davos always reminds me that it’s good for name recognition and getting my work seen, but I’m shite at mingling and making fucking small talk.”

She gives him a small, adorable smile of understanding  “I get that,” she replies.  She’s right in front of him now, and she’s so small and so beautiful he just wants to wrap himself around her.  He wants to lean in and bury his nose in her neck.

Instead, he blurts, “Seeing you here has been the highlight.”  He tries to steel his expression so she won’t see his panic.

She smiles that small, enigmatic smile again.  “Oh,” she simply replies.  “Um, you’re really talented.”

“Thanks,” he says, holding her gaze, almost mesmerized by the wide pools of mercury looking up at him.

They stare at one another for a few more seconds before he speaks again.  “Do you want to get out of here?” he suddenly asks.  He knows he should stay, but he can’t find it in him to care right now.

She hesitates for a fraction of a second.  “Um, sure, but…” she hesitates again, her wide eyes taking in their surroundings, “Don’t you have to stay?  I mean, this is your show…”

He shrugs.  “Come on,” he says, grabbing her hand and leading her towards the back exit.  He has no idea where they should go, but he just wants to be alone with her.

“Where do you think you’re going, lad?”  Of course Davos spots them, his voice stopping them in their tracks.

“Leaving,” Gendry answers, undeterred.

“You can’t leave,” Davos replies, using that tone that tells Gendry he is 300% done with his attitude.

Arya comes to his rescue, and he almost kisses her.  “How much longer is the show?” she asks.

“Just an hour,” Davos answers.  “Surely you can wait an hour before going off to do…” he looks back and forth between them, “whatever it is you were planning on doing.”

Gendry sighs, but then she surprises him by turning to face him and placing her hand on his chest.  Her small fingers are cool but not cold on his skin, and he likes it a lot.  “I have no plans tonight,” she says.

He can hardly believe his luck.  “You… you’ll wait?” he asks.

“Sure.  I’ll just hang out… have a few canapés…” she answers with a light shrug.

He feels the first real smile in ages stretch across his face.  “Okay,” he says.  “You won’t get bored?”

She shakes her head, and he feels her small fingers curl into his chest slightly.  “I actually need to text my siblings about something, so if I get tired of looking at your amazing sculptures, I can do that,” she answers.

“Come on, Son.  There is a lady who wants to meet you,” Davos interrupts.  Gendry only agrees to go with him because he has suddenly found himself in an agreeable mood.

“One hour,” he says.  Throwing caution to the wind, he puts his hand over hers, lightly squeezes it, then releases her.  He wanted to lift it to his lips, but he controlled himself.

“So, who is this lady?” he asks, glancing back over his shoulder at Arya one more time as he walks away with Davos.

“She’s interested in your Dragon sculpture,” Davos answers.  “She’s a Targaryen, not surprisingly.  They like their dragons.”

Gendry nods.  “And they always have money to spend, which is fortunate for me,” he says.

Chapter Text

“You ready?” Gendry asks, looking down at her.  “Where… where do you want to go?”

“Take me to your studio,” Arya answers, looking up at him.  She’d been spending a good portion of this last hour thinking about where she wants to go with him, and decided she definitely wants to see where he makes all this amazing art.

As he stares down at her, he gets a lost for a moment again and realizes that he definitely lacks the capacity to deny her anything.  Still, his stupid mouth asks, “What?”

“Your studio.  Workshop.  The place you make stuff,” she clarifies, smirking up at his blank expression.

He blinks.  “Right,” he says.  “You’re very… distracting,” he admits.

She tilts her head at him.  “Okay...” she draws out, not really knowing how to respond to that statement.  “Is it far?  Your place where you make stuff?”

He chuckles.  “No,” he answers.  He takes her hand without thinking and leads her towards the doors, then out into the street, heading towards his shop.

“How did the show go?” Arya asks as they walk.  “I really have never been to anything like that before, so… I mean, do you sell stuff there?  What, exactly, is the point?”

“Sell stuff, get my name out there,” Gendry answers with a light shrug.  “I did sell the dragon sculpture.”

“To Lady Targaryen,” Arya answers in a snooty voice.  “I saw her.”

He looks sideways down at her.  “You know her?”  Who is this woman beside me? he wonders, and finds he’s very much looking forward to uncovering her secrets.

“Vaguely.  I don’t think she recognized me,” Arya answers.  “My brother Jon used to be her personal security.  Before she married Drogo.”

“Yeah, who needs personal security when your husband is a giant Dothraki, right?” Gendry agrees.  “Is your brother someone else’s bodyguard now?”

She shakes her head.  “He runs a security service now.  Bodyguards for hire, contract work, stuff like that,” she answers.  “He’s married and has a daughter – oh!  The little girl I was with at the park!  She is his daughter.”  She pauses a second and adds, “You… you did mention the park, right?”

He chuckles.  “Yeah,” he says.  “I thought for a minute that she was your kid.  Then I heard her call you ‘Auntie.’  Not that you having a kid would have been a bad thing, of course.  It was just an… observation.  Another piece to the puzzle.”

“I’m a puzzle?” she asks, smirking up at him.

“Little bit,” he answers.  “You’re very interesting.  Intriguing.  I… want to get to know you better.”

“I want to get to know you better, too,” she tells him, lightly squeezing his hand, which she is still holding.  “Speaking of which: Any other big sales?  How about the weapons?”

“Davos said there were several inquiries on a few of the smaller pieces, but they probably won’t amount to anything.  And the weapons aren’t for sale,” he answers.

“They’re not?  Why not?  They’re amazing!”

“I’m just not ready to part with them yet,” he admits.  “Davos insisted I at least display them, just to show my versatility.”

“I loved the dagger.  It was magnificent,” she says.

“Thank you,” he answers, grateful for the dark so she may not be able to see him blushing as he looks down at the sidewalk in front of them.  A few heavy seconds pass.  “It’s yours,” he impulsively says.

“What?” she asks.

“The dagger.  You can have it.”

Have?  Thank you, Gendry, but… you can’t… I mean, you shouldn’t…” she stops walking, flustered.  “That’s Valyrian steel!”  Arya doesn’t know much about blacksmithing, but she knows her edged weapons and knows that Valyrian is the trickiest technique to master and he could easily charge top dollar for that dagger.

His expression clouds.  “I can and I will,” he shoots back, his voice growing louder.  “I made the fucking thing and if I want to give it away to a beautiful girl I just met, I bloody well will!”

She blinks.  She opens her mouth to speak, but he interrupts before she can.

“I’m sorry,” he says with a sigh, his tone much softer now.  “I… I don’t respond well to people telling me what I can and can’t do.  I shouldn’t have raised my voice at you.  You were only being conscientious and trying to think of me.”

She smiles.  “I understand.”

“You do?”

“I’m exactly the same way.  Almost everything I’ve accomplished in my life has come about because someone told me I can’t do it.”

They stare at each other for a moment, and the already-charged atmosphere around them seems to thicken.

All Gendry can think is I want to kiss her so bad.

All Arya can think is I want to kiss him so much.

A car speeds past them just then, almost recklessly fast.  Gendry quickly tugs Arya further away from the street, switching places with her so he is closer to the road and she is on the inside.

She slips her hand into his and they start walking again.  “Thank you,” she says.

“For?”

“For the dagger,” she answers.  “For needlessly moving me away from the road,” she adds, her voice lightly colored with amusement.  “For calling me beautiful.”  Her voice is serious again.

“You’re welcome,” he replies.

They walk in silence for a bit.  Then Arya asks, “You’re sure you just want to give it to me?”

“Arya.”

“Hmm?”

“Shut up.”

She laughs then, just as he leads them to an alley off the main street.  She doesn’t think anything about it being creepy or dangerous.  She feels completely safe with him.

He comes to a stop in front of a rather nondescript doorway, marked only with a small sign that says Elements.  There is one window, but it is rather dirty and she can’t really see inside.

“Elements?” she asks.

He releases her hand and rubs the back of his neck.  “Um, yeah.”  He unlocks the door and opens it for her.  “It’s like a… a metaphor, kind of thing.  There’s fire to work the metal… metal comes from the earth… air feeds the fire… and…”

“Your last name is Waters,” she finishes, smiling.  “That’s clever.”

His eyes light up, softening his usually somber features.  “You don’t think it’s stupid or… or trite?” he asks.  He opens the door and ushers her inside, flipping on the lights.

“Not at all,” she answers, smiling.  “You really thought about it and it works.”

“Thank you,” he replies, watching her wander around.  She inspects everything but is very careful not to touch anything.  At one point, she lifts her hand to do so, but then remembers herself and withdraws her hand.  “I promise you won’t break anything,” he says.   Except maybe my heart.  “You can touch.”  You can touch anything you want.

“What is this?” she asks, picking up an item that looks like a stone cup with a long handle attached.  She sets it down and peels off her leather jacket.  “Warm in here,” she murmurs, setting it on a nearby bench.

“It’s a crucible.  It’s for melting metal for casting,” he answers, trying not to get distracted by the stretch of her t-shirt across her chest as she removes her coat.  He removes his own coat and begins following her around, answering each of her questions and loving her genuine interest.

“And this?” she asks, indicating a long, thin, vaguely scissor-shaped item.

“Those are tongs.  I guess you know what they’re for,” he answers, laughing a little as she takes them and tries to pick up a nearby hammer with them.

She sets the tongs back where they were and walks towards the anvil.  “What is this called?” she asks, running her hand over the smooth, cold surface.  She knows what it is, but she likes listening to him talk about his work.

“Anvil,” he answers, his voice breaking a little when she hoists herself up so she is sitting on top of it.  I’ll be thinking about that every time I use it now.  He swallows, and when he speaks again, he’s not sure where the words are coming from.  “Do you know what happens to things that are sat on that anvil?” he asks.

Arya seems to sense the change in the atmosphere around them, and even though she knows perfectly well what its purpose is, she responds with, “What?”  Her voice sounds breathier than she would have preferred, but it’s out now.

Gendry walks around so he is standing right behind her.  She can feel the heat from his body on her back.  He leans in close and murmurs, “They get pounded.”

Normally her response to that kind of line would be to laugh, but Arya finds herself quickly spinning around on the top of the anvil to face him.  “Is that a promise?” she asks, raising an eyebrow.

He stares down at her for two seconds before he growls, “Fuck,” and leans down to capture her lips with his, his hands framing her face.

It is like the strike of a match: an instant flaring of heat.  Her legs wrap around his hips to pull him closer, drawing a wonderful groan from deep within his throat.  His hands fist the back of her shirt, bunching the material to keep himself from groping her small, firm body.

Suddenly, an alarm bell sounds in Arya’s head and she pulls away.  “You… you want me?” she asks, incredulous despite the hardness she feels pressed against her center.

Gendry stares down with an equally puzzled expression.  “What?  Of course I do,” he answers as though it is obvious.  “I was actually just thinking the same question though.”

She shoves his chest with her hands, but her legs are still wrapped around him, so he barely moves.  “Why would I not want you?  You’re amazing,” she says.  “Talented, funny, nice to old ladies,” he snorts a laugh at this, “and, come on, you’re super hot.  What’s not to want?”

He blinks.  “Yeah, well… why do you think I wouldn’t want you?  You’ve been haunting my dreams for months now.  I absolutely live for my morning commute because I might see you on the train,” he says, his thumb tracing her lower lip for a second before he leans down and kiss her again.  “You’re the amazing one, not me.”

She smiles and looks down, fingers toying with the open front of his shirt.

“What is it?” he softly asks.

“You’re really going to make me answer?”

“I’m really going to make you answer.”

“Well, I’m not exactly beautiful, for starters.  I’m… unladylike.  Even crass.  I say exactly what’s on my mind.  I like fencing and kickboxing and I don’t do things like wear dresses or makeup…”

“Who said you aren’t beautiful?” he asks, sounding and looking a little angry about it.  “I even told you you were like 15 minutes ago!  You’re fucking gorgeous and I will fight anyone who says otherwise.”

Her lips curve up into a small, slightly embarrassed smile.  “I’ll make you a list,” she says.

“Good,” he answers.  “And that other stuff sounds pretty cool to me.  So whoever told you that those other things were bad is an idiot.”

“That would be my mother, but… you might be right,” she replies.

“Who are you going to believe?  Your own mother or a man you literally spoke to for the first time a few hours ago?” he asks, then tilts her head up to kiss her again.

“Your turn,” she says, pulling away again.

“Hmm?”

“I spilled my insecurities, now you have to tell me why you thought I wouldn’t want you,” she says.

He pauses a second before saying, “I’m nobody.  A poor, struggling artist.  My mum died when I was little, and I only have a stupid, probably wrong idea about who my father might be.  And I’m usually in a bad mood.”

She leans up and places a soft kiss on his lips.  “You’re definitely not nobody.  Your work is fucking magnificent, Gendry,” she says, kissing him again.  “And it doesn’t matter who your parents are or aren’t.  You’re your own person,” she adds, punctuating her statement with another kiss.  “And you’ve been quite pleasant to me.”

“That’s not true.  I already yelled at you,” he points out

“And you immediately apologized for it,” she counters.  “I think you’re a much pleasanter person than you think you are.  I think you’re rather… sweet, actually.”

“You are probably the first person who could honestly say that,” he replies.  

She tilts her head for a second.  “At least you’re self-aware,” she says, then pulls his head down for another kiss.

He tries to start out slowly, but gives up when her fingers sneak inside his shirt to splay against his bare skin.  He moans into her mouth, one hand sliding up to support the back of her head while the other is still around her waist.

“Gendry,” she gasps his name and he trails kisses down the side of her neck.  She gasps again when his lips find a sensitive spot, right above her collarbone where her neck begins to curve into her shoulder.  He sucks at it hard enough to make her sigh but not too hard to mark her.  Not yet, anyway.

His hips unconsciously thrust against her, the hard length in his pants pushing against her hot center, and she moans.

He works his way back to her waiting, swollen lips, needing to lose himself in them again.  She meets and returns every move, push, and pull, her small hands tracing the planes of his torso.

He releases the back of her head and slides his hand down, over her neck, resting on her sternum for a second.  When she tightens her thighs around his waist again, he allows his hand to slide further down.

The sound of his groan when his hand closes over her breast makes her arch into his touch.  She knows the light scruff of his short beard is probably rubbing her skin raw, but she can’t find it in her to care.  Especially when his thumb skates over her nipple, pebbled so hard he can easily feel it through the two layers of her bra and shirt.

She moves one hand out from inside his shirt and up to his shoulder, attempting to tug him closer.  In the process, her hips cant into his and she whines into his mouth.

He unconsciously thrusts back, and her answering gasp snaps him back to reality, and he gently pulls back.

“We need to stop,” he says, his voice a heavy exhale.

“Why?” she asks, arms and legs still wrapped around him.

“I don’t want to do this here,” he answers.  “Not… not for our first time, anyway,” he cautiously adds.

“Oh,” she whispers.  “All right.  Do you… do you live alone?”

“Yes, but it’s up in Flea Bottom,” he answers.  “Bit of a hike from here.”

“I’m on the Street of the Sister,” she says.  “Slightly less of a hike.”

Gendry steps back, but Arya is still hanging onto him so she finds herself lifted off the anvil, hanging on his chest like a baby chimpanzee.

“Seven hells, you don’t weigh anything at all!” he exclaims, starting to walk around the forge.  “I could walk around like this all day.”

“Oh really?” she asks.  She weighs less than 100 pounds, but it’s still rather impressive that he is so unencumbered by her.  “Where do you work out?” she asks.

“Here,” he answers, stopping.  “This is my workout.”

She moves one hand down his shoulder to his arm, feeling his bicep, then moves it to his chest, deliberately slipping her fingers inside his shirt again.  “Nice workout,” she appraises.  Then she releases him, easing herself downward until her feet are once again on the ground.

He makes a very interesting groaning noise when she does so because she deliberately slides her body down against his.  Just before they exit, she stops, turns, reaches up and kisses him again, then heads out the door.

“Gods help me,” Gendry whispers before a broad, slightly wolfish grin spreads across his face.

Chapter Text

The gallery is located between the forge and both their homes, so Arya and Gendry decide to take the train back to Arya’s.  It’s getting late and the weather isn’t getting any warmer.

And they’re both practically vibrating with want for each other, so the sooner they get to a place with a warm bed, the better.

“Feels strange, doesn’t it?  Being on the train together and actually being… together?” Arya asks after they sit.  The car they are in is largely empty.  It’s late-ish on a Friday night, but not so late that people will be heading home from the pubs yet.

“Heh.  Yeah.  Good strange though,” Gendry agrees.  Her hands are clasped on her lap, which he finds unacceptable, so he reaches over and gently pries them apart so he can hold one of them.

She shyly smiles and looks down, then up at him.

“You have incredible eyes.  I’ve never seen eyes like yours.  They’re almost silver,” he says.

“Thank you,” she replies.  “I’ve always thought yours were the bluest I’ve ever seen.  It’s a really striking contrast with your black hair.”  She reaches up with her free hand and lightly ruffles his already-tousled hair.  It’s incredibly soft and thick and she looks forward to pulling on it soon.

Those blue eyes seem to darken a little at her touch, and she bites her lower lip.

“Stop that,” he whispers, shifting in his seat a little.

She chuckles and leans her head against his shoulder.

“I’m on birth control and don’t have any diseases,” Arya suddenly says a minute later.

“What was that?” Gendry asks, looking down at her.

She lifts her head and looks up at him.  “Figured we could address the awkward conversation head-on and before we’re naked.  I’m on birth control and don’t have any diseases.”

He stares down at her with an expression of awe for a couple of seconds before he recovers.  “Right.  Same here.  I mean, I’m not on birth control, obviously, but I don’t have any diseases,” he replies.

“Good,” she says, leaning her head against his shoulder again.  He has very comfortable shoulders.  Must be because they’re so big and bulky, she thinks, eager to see what they look like without anything covering them.  She gnaws her bottom lip a little, still not completely able to believe that this is real.  That she’s actually here, with him, on their way to her flat to fuck each other senseless.  Hopefully more than once.

Not only that, she really likes him.  As a person.  Yes, he’s hot, but his personality seems to complement hers quite well and she has actually enjoyed the time she’s spent with him as much as the time she’s spent snogging him.

“Are you tired?” Gendry asks, breaking into her thoughts.

“No,” Arya answers.  “You’re just comfy.”

He chuckles and turns to kiss the top of her head, enjoying the feel of her against him.  He closes his eyes for a second, taking a moment to appreciate and enjoy what could possibly be the best night of his life.  He was happy to discover that she seems to be even cooler than he imagined, and overjoyed to learn his attraction to her is requited.  He is already beginning to suspect that he’s falling for her and falling hard.

The train stops and he opens his eyes to see where they are.  When he does, his contact lens shifts a little, prompting another, less pleasant realization.

“Shit,” he says, then huffs a sigh.

“What?” Arya asks, looking up at him.  “Do you… have you changed your mind?  We don’t have to—”

“I wear contact lenses,” he interrupts, pointing at his eyes.  “That day at the diner… I was wearing those stupid glasses, remember?  I had run out of contacts.”

“I liked your glasses.  Thought you looked really hot in them,” she comments.

He makes a truly perplexed face.  “Really?  The way your eyes widened when you saw me that day made me think you were like ‘oh no…’”

“Gods, no.  You apparently looked away before I blushed and bit my lip.  The Hound sure spotted it though,” she replies, chuckling and shaking her head.

“Yeah, I did.  And I need to ask you about him later,” Gendry replies.  “But to the matter at hand: Unless you have someplace I can put my lenses overnight…”

She angles her head at him.  “You were planning on staying over?” she asks.

His eyes widen as he realizes he may have assumed too much.  “Oh.  Um.  I… Did you not want…”

She breaks then, her serious face turning soft as she smiles, then laughs.  “Oh, I definitely want you to stay over,” she says, then looks down at her feet.  “And I’m really glad you want the same thing.”

“Oh, I definitely do,” he says, his confidence growing again.  “So do you have contact lens stuff I can borrow, or…?”

“No,” she answers.  “My eyesight is, sadly, perfect.”

“Of course it is.  Matches the rest of you,” he replies.

“Shut up,” she says, giving him a halfhearted slap on the arm.  “We’ll just stop at mine, I’ll pack a bag, and then we’ll go to yours,” she suggests.  “If that’s okay with you, of course.”

“Fuck yes, it is,” he replies, his heartbeat speeding up a little bit at the thought of her staying over.  He wonders if he can suggest she pack for two nights so she can stay until Sunday.

“Are we moving too fast?” she asks, suddenly sounding unsure.

He looks down at her, making sure to hold her gaze.  “Do you feel like we’re moving too fast?  Because I… I mean, I feel like I’ve already known you for a long time,” he slowly admits.

She heavily exhales.  “Oh Gods, that’s a relief.  I was afraid I was being too pushy.  I can be a little headstrong sometimes,” she says.  She places her hand on his chest again.  “There’s nothing about this that feels wrong though.”

He smiles, then takes her hand and lifts it to his lips.  “Good,” he agrees, kissing her fingertips just as the train begins to slow.  “This it?” he asks, knowing that this is the stop at which she generally boards in the mornings.

“Yeah,” she says, releasing his hand and standing up.  She moves to a spot closer to the door, holding a metal pole to steady herself as the train stops.  She leans back slightly when she feels the warmth of his bulk behind her back, and he kisses the top of her head again.

xXx

“You’re pretty close to me actually,” Gendry says as they walk to her flat.  “I’m just on the edge of Fleabottom.”

“Should we walk there then, once we’re done here?” Arya asks.  “It seems silly to get back on the train to go one stop.”

He silently thanks the gods that she doesn’t question how safe his neighborhood is.  Either she doesn’t know, which is unlikely, or doesn’t care, which is possible.  Or she knows she’ll be safe with him, which is what he hopes is the case.

“Yeah, we can do that,” he says, stopping in front of a relatively modest but very nice block of flats.

She heads up a small flight of steps and looks behind her.  “You coming in or are you going to stand there and gawk?”

He jogs up to join her, reaching the landing just as she opens the door.  When he walks in, his suspicions that she is in better financial shape than he is are confirmed.

“Make yourself at home.  Won’t be a minute,” she says, giving his elbow a small squeeze as she walks past him.

It’s not huge, but it is larger than his.  She has it tastefully decorated and her furniture is simple and elegant.  And probably expensive.  It’s tidy, which is nice to see as well.  The only disarray is a jumble of what appear to be fencing foils and other workout equipment shoved into one corner.

“This is a really nice flat,” he says, calling back to her since she has disappeared to what he presumes is her bedroom.  He looks around her living room and his insecurity gets the best of him again.  “Um, are you sure you’re going to want to go to…”

She pops her head out of a doorway and simply looks at him.  “Really?” she sarcastically asks.  He shrugs.  “I’m going to ignore that question,” she says, then disappears again.

He spies a family photo on a side table and picks it up.  Bloody hell, her family is huge.  Her father looks vaguely familiar, but he can’t quite place him.  He decides it must be because Arya resembles him.  Her mother is still strikingly beautiful, and her sister favors her strongly.  He recognizes the one brother from the coffee shop.  The older two brothers are very handsome, and the youngest boy looks like he’s a handful, with unruly curls and a naughty gleam in his eyes.  Gendry smiles sadly as he sets the photo back on the table.

He spies a large trophy in a corner and starts heading towards it when her voice beckons him.

“I’m all set,” she says, fully emerging.  She slings a backpack on her shoulder and begins walking towards him.  “Do you need the loo or anything before we go?”

“Um… no, thanks.  I’m good,” he says, walking towards her.  He reaches out and lifts her backpack from her shoulder.

“I can carry my own bag,” she protests, but makes no move to take it back, almost as if she knows it’s a losing battle.

“I know you can,” he answers.  “But you’re not going to.”

Her lips curve in a small smile and she tilts her head in a gesture of acquiescence.  “Mmkay,” she says, and starts towards the door.  “That’s right, you’re a gentleman,” she says.

He doesn’t quite hear her since she was facing away from him.  “What was that?” he asks.

“You’re a gentleman,” she repeats as they walk outside.  “You know, the kind of guy who insists on carrying a girl’s bag for her or helps little old ladies get seats in crowded train cars.”

He chuckles, reaching for her hand again while they walk.  “I almost forgot about that,” he admits.  “You were ready to give up your seat, weren’t you?”

“Yes.  But I knew that it was more about dealing with that twat that stole your seat at that point,” she says.  “Some people just have no common decency.”

“I wanted to punch him,” he replies.  “But I didn’t want to get barred from riding the train for fighting.”

“Good call,” she agrees.  “I would have stood up for you.  That old lady would have, too.”

“Thanks,” he says.

“I liked that morning, actually,” she admits a few seconds later.

“Why is that?”

“It was the first time I ever saw you smile.”

Chapter Text

“How do you know I’m not a serial killer or something?” Gendry suddenly asks.

Arya looks up at him, incredulous.  They’ve been walking in comfortable silence for a few blocks, and suddenly he pipes up with this.  “What?”

“I mean, I’m not one—”

“Which is exactly the kind of thing a serial killer would say,” she interjects.

He huffs a laugh and stops.  “I’m not one, but how do you know that?  You’re going back to a virtual stranger’s flat.”

She raises an eyebrow at him.  “Gendry, if you were going to murder me, you wouldn’t have moved me away from the street when that car raced past.  And if you were going to murder me, you would have done it in the dark, secluded forge full of sharp and dangerous implements and a convenient furnace for disposing of bodies.  Or in my flat, where you could have made it look like an accident or suicide.”

He stares down at her.  “I suppose I would have,” he answers.  “I… never even thought about that.”

“Which is why you aren’t a serial killer,” she replies with a laugh.  She starts walking again, tugging him by their joined hands.  “And even if you had tried something shady, I can handle myself,” she adds.

“I’m twice your size,” he says, even though he completely believes her.  He just feels like challenging her because that’s the kind of asshole he can be sometimes.

She seems to sense this, and suddenly he finds himself pulled into the grassy expanse of Baratheon Park, which they happened to be passing.

“Come at me, bro,” she says, lips curling in a smirk as she releases his hand and turns to face him.

“What?”

“Try it.  I dare you.”

“I wouldn’t even know how—”

She huffs a sigh.  “Just come towards me with your hands out.  Like you’re going to grab me.”

He looks around.  They are completely alone.  So he shrugs, sets her bag down, and moves towards her.

Three seconds later, he is on his back on the damp grass with Arya over him, one knee on his chest and her opposite foot pressing lightly on his neck.  He hardly knows how he got there, and is stunned, impressed, and immensely turned on.

“All I would need to do is step down,” she says, moving her foot away but shifting so she is seated atop him, straddling his stomach.  She looks down at him and the expression on his face can only be described as awestruck.

“Wow,” he croaks.

She leans down slightly, her face over his.  His pupils are blown wide and his breathing is shallow.  “You liked that,” she whispers, biting her lower lip.

He can only nod, bringing his hands up over her back as she leans down to kiss him.

Once again, they are immediately a tangle of lips and tongues, hungrier for each other than either of them ever have been for anyone else.

“Arya,” Gendry tries to speak between kisses.  “We need to stop… or we could… get arres—”

The telltale bwoop of a police siren cuts his words off, and Arya immediately jumps up and off of him.

“Everything all right here?” a voice asks.  Gendry can make out the silhouette of a man walking towards them as he rises and brushes himself off.

“Yes, officer, everything is fine,” Arya answers.  “I was just proving to my… my boyfriend,” she pauses to grab Gendry’s hand again, “that I could kick his arse if I wanted to.”

A bright beam of light appears out of nowhere and they both wince.

“Arya?”

“Jaime?” Arya replies, lifting her hand to shade her eyes.  Gendry feels a sudden, unexpected wave of jealousy.

It immediately disappears when the policeman turns his face and speaks into a radio on his shoulder.  “Brienne, love, you’ll never guess who I just found having a snog in Baratheon Park,” Jaime says.

“Jaime, you know I’m not going to guess,” a sultry female voice answers.  “Just bloody tell me.”

“Arya Stark and some… guy,” he answers.

Arya snorts a laugh.  “You’re some… guy,” she says.

“Better than other things I’ve been called,” Gendry replies, and Arya just laughs more.

“Is he cute?” Brienne’s disembodied voice asks.

Jaime’s eyes widen.  “I don’t fucking know,” he starts, but then Arya yells, interrupting him.

“Yes, he’s very cute!”

“Good for you, Arya!” Brienne replies.

Jaime pauses a second, then says, “Are you both done?”

“Yes,” both women answer.

“Good.”

“Jaime Lannister, this is Gendry Waters,” Arya introduces them.  “Gendry had an art opening tonight over at the Seaworth Gallery.”

Jaime nods appreciatively, then steps forward and the two men shake hands.  “Nice to meet you.  I assume you are heading home?” he asks Arya.

“To his,” she answers, and they walk back out to the sidewalk.  “Hey, why are you on night patrol?  Did you lose a bet?  Or did you piss off Selmy again?”

“I volunteered for it.  Brienne and I both did.  We traded with Pod and Loras for the week,” Jaime answers.

“Why would you—Oh, Tywin’s in town isn’t he?” Arya asks, smiling.

And Cersei,” Jaime confirms, grimacing.

“Yikes.  I don’t blame you.  See you Tuesday then?” she asks.

“Yeah.  Oh, and Brienne mentioned something about a rematch?  I don’t know what you two have been up to, but…” Jaime replies.

“We were sparring and I won,” Arya answers.  “She may be bigger and stronger, but I’m faster.”

Jaime ponders this for a moment.  “Remind me not to spar with you,” he says, opening the door to his squad car.

“Brienne can still beat you, huh?” Arya asks.

A wicked grin crosses the policeman’s face.  “Yeah.”

Arya laughs again and waves as he pulls away.  “Seems like you’re not the only pervert who likes having his arse kicked by a woman,” she tells Gendry, who has just been staring, dumbfounded, during her entire conversation with Jaime.  “What?”

“You know the Lannisters?” he asks.

“Mainly Jaime,” she answers as they begin walking again.  “Tyrion used to come into the gym until Sandor threatened to use him as a football if he wouldn’t shut up.  It’s really too bad.  He can use the exercise; it’s good for his joints.  I hope he’s found another gym.”

Gendry nods.  “He’s a talker then?  Tyrion?”

“Oh you have no idea,” Arya answers.  “What he lacks in height he makes up for in loquacity.”

He huffs a small laugh.  “Many cops use your gym?”

“Some.  There’s equipment at the station, of course, but sometimes they want to work out someplace that isn’t their job,” she says.

“Understandable,” he answers.  They walk in silence for a little ways, and then he speaks again, something finally connecting in his brain.  “You’re a Stark?”  That’s why her father looked familiar.

She looks down at the ground in front of them.  “I was wondering if you caught that.  Yes, my father is Eddard Stark,” she says.

He slowly nods.  “I had a feeling you were another rich girl,” he says, but it isn’t said maliciously.

“Another?” she repeats.  “How many rich girls do you know?”

“Apart from you?”

“Apart from me.”

He pauses.  “None.”

Now she pauses.  “Does it… does it bother you?”

He stops and turns towards her, releasing her hand to gently cradle her face.  “No.  Not at all.  I like you, Arya.  A lot.”

She smiles.  “I like you a lot too.”

He leans down and kisses her.  It is a slow, sweet kiss this time.  “You called me your boyfriend.  Was that just for convenience sake, or…?” he asks, leaning his forehead against hers, eyes closed.

“Do you… do you want to be my boyfriend?” she asks in return, biting her lower lip.

“Gods yes,” he answers, opening his eyes and tilting his head so his lips find hers again.

“We keep this up we’ll never get to your flat.  Your flat that, I assume, has a bed,” she reminds him.

“Right,” he replies, pecking her lips once more before taking her hand and resuming their walk.

The comfortable silence descends over them once more, but, like the first time, it only lasts for a few blocks.

“So.  Sandor Clegane.  What’s the deal there?” Gendry asks.

“Well, he’s my business partner, as you probably know,” Arya answers.  “And he’s going to be my good-brother come spring.”

“What?”

“He’s marrying my sister.”

“How did that happen?  I mean, how did someone like him and someone like her…?” he drifts off, huffing.  “This isn’t coming out very well.  I’ve never even seen your sister, so I’m pre-judging.  I—”

Arya’s laughter cuts him off.  “You’re not wrong at all though.  I wonder about it myself, almost every day.  My older sister, who is a perfect lady, and the fucking Hound, of all people.”

“Is he really as unpleasant as people say?” Gendry asks.

“Most of the time,” she replies with a chuckle.  “But underneath all the physical and emotional scarring, there is a good person though.  I wouldn’t work with him if he wasn’t.”

“Right, of course,” he says, nodding.  “How did he win the favor of your good lady sister?”

“He was almost literally her knight in shining armor, if you can believe that.”

“I cannot.”

“Do you know the name Ramsay Bolton?”

“Ugh, who doesn’t?  It was national news when they finally put that creep behind bars.”

“My sister would have been one of his victims if Sandor hadn’t come across them.  He pulled that little twat away from Sansa before he got a chance to do anything.  Knocked him unconscious, called the cops, and stayed until they came and got him.  And then stayed with Sansa when they took her to hospital to check her over.  He’d never admit it, but it was love at first sight for him.”  She pauses.  “Quite possibly her too, to be honest.  He resisted for a while, because he’s like super broken – his trauma actually goes back much further than his car accident – and there’s a significant age difference, but Sansa is pretty persistent,” she concludes with a laugh.

Gendry wonders about the reference to the man’s childhood trauma, but decides it’s not his business and there is a possibility that Arya doesn’t know what it is either.  “That has got to be the strangest story I’ve ever heard.  How come he wasn’t given credit for helping in Bolton’s arrest?  He could have used the good press.”

“He didn’t want it.  My parents kept Sansa’s name out of the press, too, at her request.”

“Wow.”

“Hey, you wanna be my plus-one at their wedding?  I’m her maid of honor,” she impulsively asks, not even considering the fact that they might break up before then.

“Fuck yes, I do,” he answers, grinning at her automatic assumption that they’ll still be together.  Because that’s what he thinks too.

“Good,” she replies with a smile.

He guides her down a small side street, and his good humor seems to melt away a bit.  Arya can feel the tension radiating off of him.

“What is it?” she asks.

“My neighborhood is a little… sketchy… sometimes.  And it’s late on a Friday night,” he says.

“I’ll protect you,” she lightly promises, trying to set him at ease.  She knows it’s not just the danger aspect; she can tell he’s embarrassed at his living situation.  She gives his hand a reassuring squeeze.

“I bet you will,” he says with a small laugh as he relaxes a bit.  “Rapers and murderers beware the Northern fury of Arya Stark.”

“Damn straight,” she agrees.  “I teach self-defense at the gym, by the way.  Among other things.”

“I had a feeling,” he replies.  They come to a stop in front of an apartment building.  It could use a little work, but is in relatively good condition.  “This is me,” he says, halfheartedly gesturing with his free hand.  “I’m on the ground floor, thankfully.  There's no lift.”

He doesn’t move though, so Arya prompts, “Are we waiting for something?”

“I don’t know; I’m still not convinced this isn’t a dream,” Gendry answers, gazing down at her.

“You too?  I was having that feeling on the train,” she replies.  When she looks up, she is caught in his beautiful blue stare and what she sees there makes her stomach flip-flop in an extremely pleasant way.  Almost too pleasant.  Scarily pleasant.

“Oi!  If you two are gonna fuck, go inside or charge admission!” a voice calls out, shattering the little bubble they had just crafted for themselves.

Gendry sighs and turns, looking up to where a thin but rugged-looking man is leaning out of his window, laughing.  “Fuck off, Bronn!” he calls back.  “Way to ruin a moment,” he mutters, scowling.  But when he returns his attention to Arya, she is laughing behind her hand.

“At least now we know we’re not dreaming,” she comments, still smiling as he leads her inside the building.

Chapter Text

“This is nice,” Arya says, looking around his small apartment.  She’s not placating him; it is nice.  He keeps it tidy, his furniture is simple and in good condition, and it smells pleasant.

Gendry shrugs, memories of her very nice home – twice the size of his place – still fresh in his mind.

“Hey,” she presses, sensing his thoughts.  “I’m not just saying that.  I like your place.”  Then she remembers they just met earlier that night, despite it feeling like much longer, so she adds, “I don’t say anything I don’t mean.  I don’t see the point in it.”

He blinks at her a few times, wondering who this tiny angel is standing in front of him, and his expression softens.  “Thanks,” he says.  “It’s a good size for just me or… or me and a guest.  But you get three or more people in here and it starts feeling crowded.”

She nods, walking through his small living room, going to the window.  He wasn’t kidding when he said he was on the ground floor.  The bottom of the window sits just above ground level outside, so his apartment is actually half underground.  The window is nice and large, and set into the wall beside it is what appears to be an air conditioning unit, covered for the cooler months.

“You even have A/C,” she comments with a playful smirk.  “Fancy.”

“Shut up,” he replies, laughing a little now.  “Do you want something to drink?” he asks, watching as she walks towards his kitchen.  “I can offer you ale, or… milk?  Water?” he asks, realizing he is very unprepared for visitors.

“No, I’m fine,” she answers.  “Just nosy.”  His kitchen is basically a hallway with cabinets and appliances, including a tiny dishwasher.  She opens it and looks inside.  “This is so fucking cute,” she says, then closes it.

“My dishwasher is cute?”

“It’s little!”

“…Okay.”

She pecks his lips as she passes him to head down the short hallway.  He helplessly follows.

“I don’t have a dishwasher,” she comments, peering into his bathroom.  It’s small, but, like the rest of his place, clean.

“Point for me then,” he replies, shaking his head at her as she tugs back the edge of the shower curtain to inspect the tub.  “Are you looking for something in particular?” he asks.  “Dead bodies, perhaps?”

She laughs.  “I literally just told you I was nosy,” she reminds him.  “There are two whole bedrooms in this place?” she asks, wandering into the smaller of the two rooms.  It appears to be the only disorderly place in the flat.  There is a desk against one wall and the rest of the room is a jumble of art supplies, tools, and bookshelves full of books, video games, and some smaller tools and art supplies.  She likes it though.  It’s very him.

“Surprise?” he says, deciding to just enjoy watching her learn about him by nosing through his stuff.  She picks a book off a shelf, flips through it, then puts it back exactly where it was.  Then she picks up a sledgehammer that was sitting on the floor.  “I need to take that back to the forge,” he comments.

“Do I want to know why you had it at home?” she asks.

He shrugs.  “Serial killing,” he answers.

She snorts and puts it down, then saunters back to where he is leaning against the doorframe.  “There’s only one room left,” she softly says, wrapping her arms around his waist.

“Yes,” he confirms, leaning his head down and resting his forehead against hers for a few seconds before kissing her.

It starts out slow and soft but quickly builds until she is lifting up on her toes and pressing up into him, encouraging him and matching his ardor with her own.

She puzzles for a moment when he moves her arms up over his shoulders, but when he bends his knees and hoists her up into his arms, she immediately wraps her legs around him.  She can feel him walking a few steps into his bedroom, and then feels the wall behind her back.

“Arya,” he breathes, pulling back just enough to talk.  “You still want to…”

“Yes,” she cuts him off.  “You?”

“Yeah,” he murmurs, trailing his lips down the side of her neck again.  “Why is your coat still on?” he  asks, nudging the collar with his nose.

“Why is yours?” she retorts, then lowers her legs so she can stand again.  They both quickly remove their coats and boots before crashing back together again.

Gendry walks them closer to his bed, kissing Arya the whole way.  Her hands have wormed their way inside his shirt again, and he reaches down, hastily yanking it out of his trousers.  She undoes the few buttons that were done and shoves the shirt off of his shoulders.

He responds by pulling her t-shirt up and over her head.

“Wait,” she says, spying something on his shoulder.

“Hmm?” he asks, nearly in a daze now.

“I want to see,” she explains, trailing her fingers over the tattoo covering his left shoulder.  It at first appears to be a collection of black swirls and swoops, but then she sees the horns, and realizes it’s a stylized bull.  “It’s beautiful.  You designed it,” she says, not asking.  She knows.

He nods.  “My mum used to call me a bull because I was stubborn,” he says.  “Still am.”

“That’s what I would call you in my head before I knew your name.  My Bull,” Arya replies.

“Kind of a weird coincidence,” Gendry replies with a slow smile.  “But I like it.”

“You have that one t-shirt you wear a lot.  The one with the bull on it.  I could only guess at you being stubborn.  And these are another reason,” she says, indulgently running her hands over his broad shoulders.

“You were my Wolf Girl.  From your t-shirts, too.  Didn’t know it would be quite so accurate,” he tells her.

She smiles, still sliding her hands over his bare skin.  “I’m still your Wolf Girl, and you’re still my Bull,” she says.

He inhales and closes his eyes.  The feel of her small hands on his skin combined with her words nearly overwhelm him.  “How are you real?” he whispers, just before he swoops down to catch her lips again.  His hands do some roaming of their own, reveling in the softness of her skin as he slides them around looking for the latch on the back of her bra.

Once he finds it, he swiftly undoes it and moves his hands around to the front again, plunging them under the loosened cups of the bra.

She moans a little at the sensation, maneuvering to remove the garment before carelessly dropping it to the floor.

Gendry tears his lips away from hers and drops to his knees, closing his lips around a nipple, sucking the hardened tip into his mouth.  He flicks and licks with his tongue while his hands move to the button at the front of her jeans.

Arya slides her hands into his hair, tangling her fingers into the soft strands.  His hair is dark and lush and he moans when she lightly rakes her nails over his scalp.

Before she knows it, he has her jeans open and he releases her breast to peel her skinny jeans down over her long, lean legs, taking care to drag her panties down right along with them.  Unable to help himself, he leans forward and kisses her inner thigh, just above her knee, his eyes closing at the smell of her arousal.

But when he looks up at her, she is eyeing him with a wary expression, the corner of her lower lip caught in her teeth.  “What?  Do you want to stop?” he asks, standing and placing his hands softly and reassuringly on her shoulders.  “If you don’t want to do this anymore, we can totally—”

“It’s not that,” she quickly interrupts, smiling at his thoughtfulness.  “It’s just… I wasn’t anticipating getting laid tonight.  I… I haven’t shaved my legs in a few days,” she admits, feeling supremely stupid.

He simply raises an eyebrow at her.  “Get on the bed,” he gruffly says.  An order.  Usually Arya doesn’t follow orders.  But something in his tone makes her automatically obey, and she reclines on his bed, watching him, intrigued.

He quickly drops his trousers and boxer briefs and his impressive erection springs free.  He stalks towards her, his voice a low, seductive rumble as he asks, “Does it look like I give a fuck about your leg hair?”

“No,” she whispers, eyes wide, mouth open in a small O as she gazes up at him crawling over her.  He leans down, gives her a short, searing kiss, settling between her open thighs.

As he lowers himself down over her, he slides his cock into her wet warmth.  He groans, dropping his forehead against hers.

Arya bites her lower lip arches slightly beneath him, her brain at odds between already? and oh fuck he feels so good.  She instinctively lifts her hips to meet him as he thrusts one time.

Then he withdraws from her and disappears, dragging sloppy kisses down her body.  “Couldn’t help myself,” he murmurs against her skin.  It was just a small taste and it was torture.  He knew it would be, but he did it anyway.  I must be a masochist.

“Tease,” she chides, but is pleased their foreplay isn’t over.

He lifts his head, raises an eyebrow at her, then drops it again to scatter kisses across her stomach, briefly dipping his tongue into her bellybutton.  She gasps, and he admits, “I’ve been wanting to do that since the first time I caught a glimpse of this.”  He kisses her stomach to illustrate where.

“When was that?” she hazily asks, her mind growing cloudier as he moves lower still.

“One morning on the train.  You stretched and your shirt rode up.  You’ve done it a few times since then, too,” he answers, then trails his tongue in the crease where her torso and thigh meet.  “I was becoming convinced you were trying to make me go insane.”

“Why did you never try talking to… oh fuck…”  Her question falls abandoned as he reaches his target, his tongue deftly sweeping through her folds and swirling around her clit once.  Her fingers curl into the sheet under her, trying not to move too much.  It doesn’t quite work; he’s too good.

He throws one muscular arm across her hips to keep her somewhat still while the fingers of his other hand dig into the soft-firm curve of her backside.  He hums in pleasure, her taste divine on his tongue as he licks and sucks her most sensitive places.

“Yes,” she exhales, moving one hand into his hair, this time tightening her fingers in it, holding him in place and anchoring herself at once.

He is relentless, his tongue firm and thrusting, then soft and languid.  His facial hair is slightly rough on her tender flesh, but she hardly notices it over the almost overwhelming sensations he is drawing forth.

Then he releases his hold on her ass and moves his hand around to slide two fingers into her, slowly pumping them in and out, curving them to drag his fingertips over that sensitive spot inside with every pass.

“Ohmygods,” she breathes, running the words together.  Her back wants to arch; she wants to push closer and pull away all at the same time because it’s all just too, too much.  Her breathing grows rapid and shallow and her limbs start trembling slightly as she grows closer and closer to her peak.

That’s when Gendry decides to withdraw his fingers and back off the pressure of his tongue.

“Motherfucker,” Arya grinds out, trying to push his head down as she thrusts her hips upwards.  Unfortunately, even though she put him on his ass in the park not long ago, he is still undeniably much stronger than she is, and he blithely continues his slow torture.

His tongue is soft and slow, almost lazy, as he draws out her pleasure, delaying her orgasm until he decides it’s time.  Gentle and wet as he circles her clit again and again, giving her just enough to maintain that delicious almost.

It’s simultaneously the most incredible and most frustrating thing she’s ever experienced, and she can’t decide if she loves it or hates it – and him – right now.

“Gendryyyyy,” she whines, writhing beneath him as much as he will allow.

“Mmm,” he replies, unbothered, while he continues his slow assault.  She doesn’t know how close he is to grinding his hips down onto the mattress and releasing all over the bed linens.  She doesn’t know that he’s trying to make this as good as possible for her because he’s pretty sure he’s not going to last very long once he’s inside her again.  And she doesn’t need to know.  All he needs her to know right now is absolute pleasure.  From him.  And from the sounds of things, he’s apparently succeeding.

After what feels like forever, Gendry finally gives in.  He suddenly thrusts three fingers into her and sucks hard on her clit.

Arya loudly cries out, her back arching off the bed as she comes harder than she ever has before.  She literally sees stars and feels completely boneless.

He slowly lifts his head and wickedly grins up at her.  He turns his head and kisses her inner thigh while he slowly withdraws his fingers.  He lifts them to his mouth, but she stops him, somehow finding the energy to sit up and grab his hand.

“Wait,” she says, pulling him towards her.

He kneels, helpless, watching with unbelieving eyes as she brings his hand to her mouth, drawing those three fingers in.  She sucks her own moisture from his fingers, all three at once, then one at a time.  His eyes drift closed, her mouth and tongue on his fingers feeling so much better than he would have thought.  “Fuck.”  The curse is a husky, barely-audible whisper.  He forces himself to open his eyes, wanting to watch as much as feel what she’s doing.

She hears the soft expletive and swirls her tongue around the tip of his index finger before lightly biting it.  “I like your hands,” she says, dragging his hand down her neck to her chest.  “I’ve always liked looking at them.”

“Do you like how they feel?” he asks in a low voice, sliding his hands over her breasts.

“Mmm, so much,” she purrs, pressing them into his palms.  He moves towards her again, starting to climb over her once more.

She pushes back, hooking her leg around his, and he finds himself on his back.

“This is the second time I’ve been flipped by you tonight,” he says, sliding his hands up her thighs.  “I’m a lucky man.”

She leans down and flicks her tongue upwards against his top lip before sucking on, then lightly biting his bottom lip.

He groans and catches her teasing lips with his, gently holding her head to keep her there for a bit longer.

She slides her hands up his chest, then snakes one down between them, reaching for his waiting cock.  His breath hitches when she takes it in her hand.  She strokes him a few times and he groans.

“Oooh,” she hisses, realizing her fingers just reach all the way around his girth.  Her hands are small, but it’s still pretty impressive.  “Mmm, I need you inside me,” she murmurs.

“Yes,” he agrees, releasing his hold on her so she can move into place, positioning herself over him.

She slowly eases herself down and her head drops back, mouth open in a silent moan.  “So full,” she whispers once she is fully seated.  She experimentally moves her hips.  “So good,” she pronounces.

Gendry’s hands find her hips again, helping to guide her as she starts to move.  “You… feel… so… fucking… good,” he grunts out, his fingers digging into her flesh.

He thrusts up into her while she rides him, her hands on his chest, his hands on her hips.  She rakes her nails over his skin just hard enough to draw a groan from him.  Then she reaches down to her sides, grabs his hands, and brings them up to her breasts.

He happily grasps them, his large hands massaging tenderly, his thumbs skating over her nipples, teasing them into hard nubs.

Arya leans forward, her thighs tirelessly working as she moves over him, her rhythm steady.  She kisses him, whimpering as the slight change in position allows him to hit a spot that feels really good.  “Right there,” she whispers.

“There?” he answers, tilting his hips up into her again.  Her responding cry gives him his answer.  He repeats the move, meeting her hips with his until she is gasping and crying out once more, a second orgasm cresting.

He forces himself to keep his eyes open so he can watch her this time.  He is not disappointed.  She looks glorious.

The sight of her sends him spiraling.  She hasn’t fully recovered from her climax, but he can’t hold on any longer.  He grips her hips and gasps, “Arya, I’m…”

“Go,” she cuts him off, sensing what he was about to say.  “Please.”

Her “please” does him in and he digs his fingers into her hips once more and thrusts hard up into her.  His orgasm is intense, his body a coiled spring as he floods into her with a growl.  He wraps his arms around her back, tightly holding her to him for a few long, blissful seconds.

“Seven hells that was incredible,” Arya says, pressing her face into his neck.

“Yeah.  Better than my dreams,” Gendry agrees.

She lifts her head.  “You’ve had dreams?” she asks.  “About me?”

“Obviously,” he answers, lifting his head to kiss her again, simply because he can’t not do it.

“Me too.  Really good ones,” she admits, delicately moving from her position on top of him to cuddle to his side.  “More than once.”

“Shit, at least once a week,” he says, squeezing her.

She laughs and tucks her head under his chin, simply lying beside him for a minute before she excuses herself to visit the bathroom.

When she has once again snuggled in beside him, covers now over them, he asks, “What was that trophy in your living room for?”  He lightly runs his large, warm hand up and down her side.

“Water Dancing,” she answers.  “It’s not actually dancing, it’s—”

“Braavosi-style fencing.  I know,” he answers.  “Blacksmith, remember?”

“Blacksmith?  I thought you were an artist.”

“I prefer to think of myself as a blacksmith first.  I use smithing techniques to make my art.  And weapons.”

“Fair enough.  But just because you make swords doesn’t necessarily mean you know anything about how they’re used,” she points out.  “You may be an exception, but that’s mainly been my experience.  Except in Braavos, obviously.”

“When were you there?” he asks.

“I went to university there.  Just graduated last year,” she answers.  “I… well, my father was rather indulgent with me, so I was fortunate enough to spend my summers there studying starting when I was 15.”

Seven hells.  “You must be very good,” he assesses, pushing aside the automatic and pointless jealousy at hearing her talk about her loving father and privileged upbringing.  “That’s a big trophy.”

“That’s the only one I have out,” she admits.  “The rest are in storage back home in Winterfell.”  She pauses.  “I don’t like to be boastful about it,” she quietly adds, tucking her head further into his chest.  “But I am proud of that one.”

“You should be,” he answers.  He wonders how many she has, but he doesn’t want to make her uncomfortable by asking, so he simply kisses the top of her head.

They fall silent for a few minutes, and she cuddles closer to him.  “You said you had an idea about who your father was?” she prompts, remembering what he said earlier.

“It’s stupid,” he answers, absently wondering if she can read minds.  “Every orphan wants to believe their unknown parent or parents were someone, but… so many people have mentioned the resemblance that it seems likely.  Not that I want to know for sure, but—”

“Gendry.”

“Right,” he comments.  “Babbling.  I’ve been told I look almost exactly like Robert Baratheon when he was young.”

She sits up and looks down at him, studying his face.  He tries not to get distracted by her nakedness, but fails just a little.

“Shit.  Yeah, you do.  From what I’ve seen of him in old pictures, anyway,” she assesses.

“You knew him?” he asks.  “Wait.  Of course you do.”

“He was my father’s best friend.  If he had his way, he’d have been my uncle, actually,” she replies, lying back down.  “He claimed to have been in love with my Aunt Lyanna, but she knew that he was a womanizing drunk so she wouldn’t even give him the time of day.”

“Good for her,” Gendry declares with a nod.

“I look a lot like my Aunt did.  So he always paid a little more attention to me than was appropriate.  Luckily, my dad was aware of this so nothing weird or bad happened,” she says.

“Gross,” he comments.  “But good for your dad.  I’m glad you have a good one.”

“Me too.  And Robert was a cunt.  I wasn’t sad when he died.  You were better off without him, trust me,” she says.

“I was better off being shipped from foster home to foster home while my rich biological father didn’t even know I existed?  Or worse, knew and didn’t care?” he asks.

She sits up again, this time swinging her leg over him to straddle his stomach.  She looks down at him, her expression deadly serious as she takes his face in her hands.  “Yes,” she answers.  “Because all of that made you who you are right now, here, with me.  If he had any influence on you when you were growing, up, you might have turned out to be like his son, Joffrey, who’s an even bigger cunt, if you can believe it.”

He gazes up at her, impressed and awestruck.  “You are truly amazing, Arya,” he says.  “I never really thought about it that way, but you… you’re absolutely right.”  She leans down to kiss him and he knows for certain that he’s already at least halfway in love with this woman he just met whose spirit and heart are at least twice the size of her tiny body.

Chapter Text

Gendry wakes earlier than he expects or wishes, but when he feels the small, warm bundle of Arya Stark still snuggled against his chest, he finds he doesn’t mind that much.

I could definitely get used to this.

He leans his head down, indulgently smelling her hair.  She threw it into a quick braid before they finally succumbed to exhaustion after a very long day and two rounds of the most incredible sex he’s ever had, and now little tendrils of hair have escaped here and there.  He very gently winds one around his finger, rubbing the silken strands with his thumb.

He yawns; she stirs, and he freezes, not wanting to wake her.  She looks far too sweet and cuddly to disturb.  But his bladder will no longer be denied, so he carefully eases his way out of the bed, taking care to tuck the blankets back around her so she won’t get cold.

When he returns, she has flipped over, her back now facing his side.  He flips back the covers and slides back in, pausing a moment to inspect a detail he somehow missed last night: a tattoo of a very large paw print on her hip, with the name Nymeria written under it in small script.

Have to ask her about that later, he decides, and reaches over to his nightstand for his phone.  He unplugs it and sees a text from Davos, sent an hour earlier.  He grabs his glasses so he won’t have to squint at it.  Stark family is buying your Direwolf sculpture, sight unseen.  I think that’s a first.

He stares at the text and can’t decide if he’s angry or impressed as hell.  He looks down at her and decides to go with impressed.  One Stark saw it.

Which one?

Arya.  The girl I left with.  The same one we saw in the coffee shop.  She’s a Stark.

Gendry’s phone vibrates with a phone call three seconds later.  He silences it, mindful of the tiny sleeping form beside him.

Can’t talk right now.  He sends it and then stares at the screen, pondering.  He grins and types She’s still sleeping.

Seven hells, lad!

His grin widens.  You told me to find a little muse to warm my bed, right?  You can no longer accuse me of never listening to you.

He is checking email when Davos replies.  Can you tear yourself away from your den of iniquity to come back to the gallery for a bit this afternoon?

Gendry frowns slightly, glancing down at Arya.  Yeah, I guess so.

Good gods, lad, bring her with, for fuck’s sake.  Then a moment later, another text comes.  I do remember what new love feels like, lad.  Sounds like she’s really something.

Arya sighs in her sleep then curls her legs up so she is a little ball on her side, blankets tucked under her chin.  The nape of her neck is taunting him, with its little wispy hairs curling softly there.  He rolls over, places a soft kiss there, then slides out of bed, knowing the chances of falling back to sleep now are very slim.

As he walks to the kitchen, he texts Davos one last time.  She really is.  I’m pretty well gone for her already.

xXx

Arya wakes to an empty bed.  She sits up, momentarily worried that he’s gone, but then she fully wakes and remembers that they’re at his flat.  So if he is gone, he’ll be back.  But he likely just woke up earlier and didn’t want to disturb her.

She stretches, rolling over to press her face into his pillow for a second.  It’s not even warm, so he’s been up for a while, she guesses.  She closes her eyes again, thinking about the unexpected turn her evening took last night.  Who would have guessed that Reina’s little mishap on the stairs would have been the catalyst that allowed Arya to finally meet her Bull?  And who would have guessed that he was just as into her as she was into him?

There is a pleasant ache between her legs, and she presses her thighs together, savoring it, allowing her mind to drift back to the previous night and how he made her feel.  How he damn near worshipped her.  Twice.  He was amazing.  And even better, he seems to be a truly great person too.  The kind of guy I could easily fall for.

Who am I kidding?  I’ve already fallen.  She smiles and reaches for the elastic holding the end of her braid, pulling it free since it was about half undone already.  When she looks down, she sees a few faint purplish-red blotches on her breasts, and makes a mental note to check her neck when she sees a mirror.  She doesn’t mind the marks, but she really doesn’t want to deal with the snide comments from her business partner if she comes back to work on Monday covered in hickeys.

Her mouth feels horrid and she needs the bathroom, so she sits up and idly looks around his room, looking for something to throw on, not keen on walking around completely naked at this relatively new point in their relationship.  Her eyes land on a heap near the bedroom door, and she slides out of bed, a slow smile spreading across her face.

When Arya emerges from the bathroom, bladder empty and teeth brushed (and all her hickeys thoughtfully in places that won’t show), she finds Gendry sitting at his tiny kitchen table, wearing nothing but a pair of black boxer briefs and his glasses.  He’s scowling down at something, a pencil clutched in his hand.

He somehow manages to look sexy and adorable at the same time.

“Hey.”  Her soft voice alerts him to her presence, but he doesn’t look up right away, finishing whatever he is doing on the paper in front of him.

“Morning, sleepyhead,” he says, then looks up at her.  When he does, his jaw and his pencil both drop.

She’s wearing his long trenchcoat and what appears to be nothing else.  She’s walking towards him, a vision with her hair in disarray.  The coat drags on the floor and he is both totally charmed and incredibly turned on.

“Fuck, Arya, you need to warn a guy…” he hoarsely says once he regains the capacity for speech.

“Where’s the fun in that?” she asks, stopping a few feet in front of the table, her long leg visible through the opening in the bottom half of the coat.  She takes another step forward.  “What are you doing?”

“I was sketching some ideas,” he says, but she can tell his sketchpad is now no longer his primary concern.  He stands so suddenly he nearly knocks the chair over and is on her in a second.

A small squeak escapes her as he practically devours her with his kiss.  She is only vaguely aware of her feet carrying her backwards until she feels the wall behind her back.

He begins kissing down her neck, but stops, lifting his head and reaching for his glasses.

“Leave them on,” she says.

“Okay,” he replies, his hand slipping between them to unbutton the one button she had done on the coat.  “But you need to leave this on then.”  He slides his hands against her soft, warm skin.

“That was the idea,” she replies, dragging her hands down his chest to trace the waistband of his boxers, plucking at it and slipping her fingers just inside.

He groans low and pushes her wrists, encouraging her to peel his boxers down.  She does so, pushing them down far enough so they fall to the floor on their own.  Then she moves her hand up and over his erection, this time taking a moment to look down at it while she caresses him.

“Nice,” she pronounces, slowly raking her gaze over his body, now on full display in the morning light.  “Fuck, you’re gorgeous,” she murmurs, wondering how she managed to catch and hold his attention.

“So are you,” he responds, and if she had any reason to doubt his words, the look on his face and in his eyes would erase any of it.  His hand comes up to gently cup her face.  “I’ve wanted you since the first time I saw you,” he confesses, leaning down to kiss her again.

He tries to go slow, sliding his tongue languorously against hers, trying to show her the feelings he can’t yet articulate, but he can’t hold back for long.  He reaches down and lifts her, bracing her against the wall as she wraps her arms and legs around him.

“Mmm,” she hums her approval, one hand moving up into his hair, guiding his head when he once again moves to trail kisses down her neck.

His hips instinctively thrust forward, pressing against her, trying to ease the ache she created.  She moans and pulls his hair.

He mumbles a curse against her skin as he tries to snake his hand between them, his fingers questing for her center.  She shifts a little to assist him, and hisses between her teeth when he finds his target.

“You okay?” he asks, thinking she might be sore.

“I am so okay,” she breathily answers.

The wetness slipping between his fingertips confirms this, and he continues to rub soft circles on her clit as he moves his mouth to a breast, hitching her a little higher so he doesn’t have to bend so much.

“Fuck,” she gasps, suspended between his arms and the wall, essentially helpless but feeling like she’s floating on a cloud of building pleasure.

“Soon,” he mutters, kissing his way across her chest to the other breast.

“Now,” she counters, arching her back to press further into his mouth.

Gendry chuckles at Arya’s demand, but moves her lower again while he takes his cock in hand to align himself with her entrance.

He groans when he slides into her, bracing her against the wall.  She catches his parted lips with hers, frantically kissing him, holding onto his shoulders as his hips piston at an almost grueling pace.

“I’m… not gonna… last,” he pants out.  He reaches between them again to rub her clit, hoping to bring her closer so she isn’t left frustrated.

“Me neither,” she replies, her thighs beginning to tremble around his waist.  She’s falling fast, and when he thrusts hard and stills inside her, she explodes as well, crying out and clutching his head against her.

They remain entwined for a few moments more, then Gendry begins sinking, easing them to the floor.

There is a moment of awkwardness as they rearrange themselves, but somehow manage to find a relatively comfortable spot with Arya in Gendry’s lap.

“This is much better than wearing one of my t-shirts,” he says, plucking the collar of his trenchcoat.

“I almost went with that,” she says.  “Then I saw your coat.  Which I love.  You look super sexy in it,” she replies.

“Not as sexy as you do,” he says, kissing her again.

“Still gonna steal one of your shirts though.  This is just not practical to wear all day,” she says.

“All day?”

She bites her lower lip, suddenly afraid she has overstepped.  “Is that all right?  I mean, did you have any plans?”

“Well, I didn’t, but Davos wants me to stop in at the gallery this afternoon,” he says, dropping his forehead against hers.

“Oh, okay,” she answers, trying not to sound too disappointed.

“You can… you can come along.  If you want,” he offers.

“Are you sure?”

“I’m sure.  Only if you want to, though.  I can’t promise it will be very interesting.”

“I have no problem with that.”

He hums his approval, then kisses her.  “I want to take you out tonight.  For dinner,” he says, still leaning his head against hers.

“Are you asking me out on a date?” she asks, grinning.

“I definitely am,” he answers.  “Did you pack for tonight as well?”

“Well, I didn’t want to presume, but… yeah, I did,” she admits.  “Did you have a place in mind for dinner?”

“Do you like Dornish food?” he asks.

“Yeah.  There’s a really good place near my flat, actually,” she answers.

“Sunspear?”

“Yeah, that’s the one.”

Arya is quiet for a second, and Gendry can tell she has something on her mind.  “What is it?”

She bites her lip again, and he reaches up with his thumb and gently tugs it free before lightly running the pad of his thumb across it.

“I don’t really have anything to wear, you know, out,” she admits.  “Except what I was wearing yesterday, and I don’t really want to wear that.  I mean I could, but...”

“Easy.  We’ll stop at yours either before or after we go to the gallery and you can change or grab something,” he suggests.

“That’ll work,” she says.  “Do you… do you want to just stay at mine then tonight, since the restaurant is close by?”

He silences her with a kiss.  “I’ll pack a bag,” he whispers.  “That’s a good idea.”

They finally stand up and as they stretch a little, trying to bring their limbs back to life, Arya says, “Feel free to pack for more than just tonight.”

xXx

Some food and a rather dirty shower later, Arya rummages through Gendry’s dresser drawers, looking for his t-shirts.

“Aha,” she proclaims, pulling the top one – the black one with the bull – out.  Right below it is another, identical shirt.  She furrows her brows.  “You have two of them.”

“Yeah,” he admits, admiring the view across his small bedroom while he lounges in bed.  “It’s, um, a custom design actually.”

“Oh?” she asks, slipping the shirt over her head.  It reaches nearly to her knees.  “How very posh of you.”

“Hardly,” he laughs.  “I have a friend who’s another artist.  He does textiles, including t-shirts.”

“Cool,” she replies, looking down at her small body drowning in black cotton.  “Think he’d make me one like this?”

“You can have that one,” he suggests, thinking that he needs to have her put on all of his clothes just to get her scent on them.  Of course, then I’d never do laundry again.

She puts her hands on her hips.  “Perfect.  I’ll just get a belt and I’ll have a cute new dress,” she sarcastically replies, gesturing to the overlarge garment hanging on her body.  “I want one in my size.”

“Children’s small?” he guesses, grinning.

“Adult small!” she exclaims.  “Or children’s extra large,” she sheepishly admits, which causes his grin to turn into full-blown laughter.

“I’m sure he’d do that for you,” he finally says.  “If I can get one of your gym t-shirts.”

She crawls back onto the bed and lies down beside him.  “Oh, well, you’ve got to join the gym to get one of those,” she says, smirking at him.

“Done.”

She blinks.  “Gendry.  I’m joking.  Come to the gym and work out any time you want.  I’ll make sure to print up a card for you.”

“Oh.  Um, thanks,” he answers, but he sounds a little unsure.

“…but?” she prompts.

“What about Clegane?  Will he be okay with that?” he asks, not wanting to ire the man.

“Pssh.  If he doesn’t like it he can kiss my arse,” she dismissively answers.

“If you’re sure.”

“I’m sure.”

“Can I bring Hot Pie?  He can buy his own membership, of course.”

She tilts her head at him, curious.  “Does he want to join a gym?” she carefully asks.

“Yes, he does actually.  He’s got a girlfriend now, and he wants to get in better shape for her,” he answers.

“Well, he should want to get in better shape for himself, but that’s a start, I guess.  I can even set him up with a personal trainer if he wants.”

“Make it your nicest one if you do.  He’s…”

“A delicate flower, yes, I know,” she finishes for him, smiling.  “I do know him a little from the restaurant.  He’s lovely, but there’s a fragile little boy still very much alive inside there.”

“He was bullied when we were kids.  Lommy and I stood up for him,” Gendry explains.  “Lommy is the shirt guy.”

“Ah,” Arya replies with a nod.  She smiles.  “For claiming to dislike most people, it sounds like you have a couple of pretty good friends there.”

“I guess so, yeah,” he admits.  “We all just grew up here in Flea Bottom, no money, broken families… you stick together when some cunt who doesn’t know what your life is like decides they’re better than you.”

“I… I can’t say I can truly understand, but I kind of do.  They’re like your brothers, in a way,” she assesses, and he nods.  “They get on your bloody nerves sometimes, you bicker and fight with each other sometimes, but if someone else wants to start some shit?”  She purses her lips and shakes her head.  “It’s going down.”

Gendry nods, gathering her to his side.  “That’s exactly what it’s like,” he quietly says.  He kisses the top of her head, then says, “I should introduce you to Lommy.  He’d give you a hell of a deal on shirts for your gym.”

Chapter Text

Arya and Gendry pick up some takeaway and bring it to the gallery.  Gendry had texted Davos to let him know they’d bring lunch with them, knowing he sometimes forgets to eat when he’s distracted by work.

“You really are very sweet,” Arya says, smiling as she pulls closer to him, sliding her hand around his arm and giving it a gentle squeeze.

“Don’t let that get out,” he replies.  “I have a reputation to uphold.”

“Oh, wouldn’t dream of it,” she assures him.  “I want Sweet Gendry all to myself.”

“I am 100% good with that,” he says.

“I’ll share with Davos.  A little bit,” she amends.  “But only because you knew him first.”

He laughs and they turn the corner.  The gallery is about a half a block away, which is good, because Arya is getting pretty hungry.

“Was Davos one of your foster parents?” she asks, the thought suddenly occurring to her.

“No.  We both wish he had been though,” he answers.

“He seems to feel rather paternally towards you.”

Gendry nods.  “That he does.”

Arya pulls the gallery door open, since Gendry’s hands are full, and follows him inside.

“Be with you in a moment,” Davos’ gravelly voice calls from somewhere further back.

“It’s just us,” Gendry calls back, setting the bags of food on the desk.

Davos appears as Gendry is unpacking sandwiches and soups.

“No pies?” Davos asks.

“Hot Pie’s wasn’t on the way,” Gendry reminds him.  “And it’s not like you don’t go there all the time already.  Expand… I was going to say ‘expand your culinary horizons’ but then I remembered you wanted tuna.”  He hands him a cylinder wrapped in paper, a disgusted look on his face.

Davos takes it and turns to Arya.  “Hello Miss Stark.  Lovely to see you again, and so soon,” he greets, smiling at her.

“Hi Davos,” she replies.  “I see you’ve learned my secret identity.”

“Yes, and here I thought the Stark family had heard of the lad here and were willing to make a large purchase without even seeing the piece.  So disappointed,” he replies, but he looks anything but disappointed.

“Maybe another time,” she laughs.  “For what it’s worth, I’m the only one who has seen it.  I didn’t know if I would be allowed to take a photo of it.”

“You can now.  You own it,” he says.

“Well, technically, my mother owns half of it.  My siblings and I have split the rest.  Well, except Rickon, who is almost 18 and has no money,” she answers, and walks over to take a picture of the sculpture before she forgets.  She sends it off to the group chat from the previous night, then returns to where the two men are talking.

“I don’t know what you did to this man, but keep it up.  I haven’t seen him this pleasant in… ever,” Davos says in a loud whisper.  Gendry just shakes his head.

“Oh, I’m sure you could figure it out what I did to him if you thought hard enough about it.  Or come close anyway,” Arya saucily answers, picking up her soup, then laughing as Davos sputters and almost chokes on his sandwich.

Arya’s phone buzzes with several notifications while they eat and talk, but she ignores them for the time being, figuring it’s just her family reacting to the photo.  She mostly listens to Davos and Gendry discuss business matters, but enjoys watching the two men interact.

She’s just given the remaining half of her sandwich to Gendry when her phone insistently buzzes, this time with a call.

“Oh, it’s Sansa,” she says, furrowing her brows and standing.  “I’ll just…”

“Please,” Gendry replies, smiling at her as she walks past him, greeting her sister.

xXx

“I’ve been texting you,” Sansa lightly reprimands.  “We all have.”

“Is there an emergency?  Oh gods, please don’t tell me you all hate it...” Arya replies.

“No, no, no,” Sansa assures her.  “No emergency and the sculpture is unbelievable.  Why didn’t you send it last night?”

“Because I didn’t know if I was allowed to take a picture of it.  Davos, the gallery owner, told me it was fine today.”

“You went back to the gallery?”

“…Yes.”

There is a moment of silence, then Sansa asks, “Arya, what aren’t you telling me?”

Arya looks back at Gendry and Davos, and they are still absorbed in conversation.  She still moves a little further away.  “You remember that hot guy I always see on the train?  And have seen few other places?”

“Like the coffee shop?” Sansa asks.  “Bran told me about that.  Bran.  And Sandor said something about a ‘twat’ you couldn’t stop staring at in Hot Pie’s a few weeks ago, which I assume was also him.”

The reproach in her voice isn’t lost on Arya.  “Sorry.  Bran made me bend over in front of him, Sans.  He dared me.”

“Well, then you had to,” Sansa says with a chuckle.  “Family rule.  But we’re straying from the point here.  What about this guy?”

“I finally met him.  And he’s the artist.  He made that sculpture.”

“Wow,” Sansa says, sounding genuinely impressed.  “He’s really good.”

“He really is.  You should see some of the other things.”

“And how is he in bed?”

“Sansa!” Arya exclaims, laughing.  Gendry turns to look at her, hearing her shout, and she gives him a wave and turns away.

“Well?”

Arya pauses a few seconds, trying to find the right words because she knows lying to Sansa or evading the question is not going to work.  “He is unbelievably good,” she finally says.  “Like… shit.  Fuck, how do I say this without sounding corny as hell?”

“Go for corny,” Sansa advises.

“It’s like we were made to fit together.  Or something,” she says.  “And not just physically.  He’s… he’s not like anyone I’ve ever met before.  In a good way.  The best way.  He puts forth this grumpy exterior, but he’s kind, and thoughtful, and so sweet.  Remember when I told you about him with the old lady on the train?”

“Yeah,” Sansa responds.  “You only told me like three times.”

“That was an accurate representation of how he really is,” Arya says, her voice uncharacteristically soft.

“You have got it bad,” Sansa says.  “I’m happy for you.”

“Thanks,” she replies.

“It’s not too late for you to add a plus-one for my wedding,” Sansa suggests.  “Oh!  Are you going to bring him to Dad’s birthday?”

“I was thinking about it,” Arya answers.  “I mean, I want to.  But we can be a lot.”

“True.  Keep thinking about it though.  And I’m putting you down with a plus-one,” Sansa says.

“Okay.”

“Are you still at the gallery?”

“Yeah.  They’re doing some organizational stuff, I think.  Going over sales and shit, I think.  Then we’re going out for dinner later.  Like a proper date, not me randomly crashing an art opening that winds up as a sleepover.”

“Well, I hope your dinner date winds up as another sleepover,” Sansa says.

“Oh, it definitely will,” Arya responds with a grin.

“I can’t wait to meet him.  But I’ll let you go now.  I just had to find out what the seven hells you were doing that was more important than returning our texts.”

“I was eating lunch, actually.  I’ll text you some more pics of his work if you want while I’m hanging around here.”

“Oh, yes, please do!” Sansa enthusiastically replies.  “Talk to you later.”

“Yep, later.”

xXx

When Arya turns around, she startles a little at seeing Gendry a lot closer than she expected.  He’s tinkering with one of his pieces, but where she would expect him to be frowning at whatever he is doing, he has a strange smile on his face.

Then it dawns on her.  “How much of that did you hear?” she asks.

He stands up from his crouch and looks at her.  “I wasn’t trying to listen, honest.  But I heard you say ‘corny as hell’ and it piqued my curiosity,” he admits, unsuccessfully trying to hide his grin.

“Don’t get cocky, Waters,” she says, but she is smiling, too.

He snorts a short laugh.  “I would be sorry about eavesdropping if I didn’t feel exactly the same way as everything you said to your sister,” he admits, pulling her into his embrace.  He leans down and kisses her.  “You are a very easy person to fall for,” he murmurs against her lips.

She pulls back just enough to reply, “So are you,” before diving back in.

A polite throat-clearing reminds them they aren’t alone.  “You’re meant to be fixing that panel, not snogging your girlfriend,” Davos reminds him.

“Sorry,” Arya apologizes, a sheepish grin on her face as she steps back.

“Why don’t you take some more pictures for your sister?” Gendry suggests.

“Oh, that’s right,” she replies with a nod, opening up the camera on her phone.  She snaps a couple of candids of Gendry working, too, and sends those along to Sansa.

Seven hells he is cute!  Good job!  is her sister’s reply.

xXx

They are getting ready to leave when Gendry walks over to the weapons display and picks up the dagger.

“Before I forget,” he says, handing it to Arya.

“You’re sure?” she asks, carefully cradling it in her hands.

“Yes.  It’s meant to be yours, I know it,” he replies.

“Lad… are you… are you giving that to her?” Davos asks.

“Don’t you start in, too,” Gendry replies, turning towards his manager.  “Yes, I’m giving it to her.  It wasn’t for sale anyway, so it’s not like I’m keeping money out of your accounts.”

Davos sighs, then simply says, “Most men give their women flowers.”

“I’m not most men.  And Arya is definitely not most women,” Gendry responds, his gaze turning fond as he looks over at her giving the dagger a loving and thorough inspection.  “Definitely not,” he repeats.

“I can see that,” Davos agrees, not-so-secretly thrilled that his young protégé has found someone that seems to suit him so perfectly.

Chapter Text

Gendry and Arya are led to a small table next to a wall.  It’s not a cozy, secluded booth in the corner, but it’s a nice spot for just the two of them.  And this restaurant doesn’t have any cozy, secluded corner booths.  It’s also not a large establishment, and the tables are a little closer together than normal, but it is definitely cozy.

But the food is excellent, often resulting in people waiting for tables to open up.  Even though the service can be slow sometimes.

They were either lucky or smart tonight, because they arrived a few minutes before they opened and got in amongst the other initial customers.  The waiter eventually makes his way around to them and takes their drink orders, and after they decide on what they are going to eat, they stare at each other for a few seconds until Arya breaks the silence.

“So, why blacksmithing? How did you get into that?” she asks, leaning forward on her hand.

Gendry takes a drink of his water, weighing his next words.  “Um… one of my foster parents was a blacksmith.  Weird, I know,” he says.  He clears his throat, trying not to sound too awkward or uncomfortable.  It’s something he rarely talks about.  “I…”

“You don’t have to tell me,” she quietly interjects, seeming to read his mind.  She reaches across the table and places her small hand over his fingers.  He turns his hand over and surrounds hers with his, grasping it securely but softly.

“No, I want to,” he explains, his thumb idly skating over her skin as he speaks.  “It’s just not something I talk about a lot.  But… I feel like I want to tell you.”

“Okay,” she replies, shyly looking down for a second.  “Thank you.”

“I had some anger issues as a child.  I still have a temper… and I’m still working on it… but I was really angry for a while.  Destructively so.”  His voice is soft and halting.  Somehow the noise and bustle around them seems to help, because they know no one is paying any attention to them.  “Mr. Mott, my foster dad at the time… he decided to give me something productive to beat up.  Turned out I had a knack for it.”

“More than a knack,” she comments, smiling a little.  “And it’s completely understandable that you would have anger issues.  You had a shit situation.  And…”  She trails off, biting the corner of her lower lip, unsure if she should continue.

“What?”

They pause their conversation when the waiter brings their drinks and takes their food order.

“I just… don’t know if I should say what I was about to say.  It’s about your possible biological father.  Robert.”

He closes his eyes.  “He’s got a temper, doesn’t he?”

“A fucking legendary one,” she says, looking down and away.

Arya’s voice is quiet and a little wary, and it gives Gendry an uncomfortable jolt that he wasn’t expecting.  “Arya,” he says, bringing a finger up under her chin to gently tilt her face up towards his again.  “I would never hurt you.  Never.”

She can see the earnest concern on his face.  “I… I think I know that.  But it’s nice to hear you say it,” she replies.  He lifts their joined hands and softly kisses her knuckles.  “Besides, you know that I can kick your arse,” she says, a slow grin crossing her face.

“Oh yeah,” he rumbles, sounding rather pleased about that information.

“Pervert,” she retorts, laughing. 

xXx

“So, Braavos, huh?  What was that like?” he asks, genuinely interested.  He scoops some more food out of the massive skillet between them, being careful not to take all the remaining shrimp because he noticed how much she seemed to like them.

“It’s unlike any place else in the world,” she says, chasing the last bits of rice around on her plate.  “Well, as far as I know.  I haven’t been everywhere,” she replies.  Then she reaches for seconds as well.

“I’ve barely been anywhere,” he replies with a chuckle.

“You will,” she assures him.  “Braavos is similar to King’s Landing in that it’s crowded and dangerous, but it has a beauty all its own.  And it’s completely different from King’s Landing in a way that I can’t even describe.  It’s just a… a feel,” she says.

He smiles, enjoying watching her face grow wistful and the motion of her hands as she tries to put feelings into words.  “People say it’s a romantic place, and it is, but it’s also gritty and ruthless and mysterious.”

“Why did you leave?  Why didn’t you just stay there?  You seem to really love it there,” he says.

She smiles at him, but it’s a smile tinged with sadness.  “My family is in Westeros.  Sure, Jon and Sansa are here, but Bran is in the Vale at uni, and my parents and Robb and Rickon are up in Winterfell.  I do love Braavos, but I was alone there.  I had friends there, but… it was never home.”

“I know what alone feels like,” he says.  She sets her fork down and reaches across the table to take his hand again.  “I can’t truly understand how you feel about your family, about wanting to be near them, but I understand feeling alone.”

“Do you have a place that feels like home?” she asks, her thumb lightly stroking his hand.

“My forge,” he immediately answers.  “I feel the most myself there, if that makes sense.”  She nods, and he continues, looking at his plate.  “When I’m working there, I don’t feel alone.  I don’t feel lesser than anyone.  I’m in control of things there.  It’s the only place I feel like I belong.”  He pauses, his eyes flicking to hers almost shyly for a second before he averts his gaze again and says, “Until I met you, that is.”

She squeezes his hand, and this time she lifts his and kisses it, her heart swelling at his confession.  He feels so deeply but he is used to having to hide it.  “I’d love to watch you work sometime.  If you’ll allow it,” she says.

“You would?” he asks, meeting her gaze again.  He sounds genuinely surprised.

“Well, yeah.  Has no one ever asked before?”

“No one I’ve dated,” he says.  “Not that there have been a lot of those, mind,” he adds with a chuckle.

“Good,” she declares, and he laughs.  She releases his hand to pick up her fork again.  “What about you?  Did you go to uni?  Or was it more of an apprentice situation?”

“Would you think less of me if I didn’t have a degree?” he asks, curious.

“No,” she answers as though it was obvious.  “Anyone who feels that way is a snob.”

He snorts a laugh.  “I do have a degree.  I go a full scholarship to KLIAD,” he says.

“Whoa, that’s really cool!” she exclaims.  “Impressive as hell.”  King’s Landing Institute of Art and Design is one of the most prestigious art schools in Westeros.  Possibly the most.

The waiter returns to check on them, and they ask for a box for the remainder of the food and the bill.

“Not quite sure how it happened, to be honest.  But the combined efforts of Mr. Mott and a couple of my art teachers pushing the hell out of me paid off and paid off well,” he says.  “We did kind of work the whole orphan angle a bit,” he sheepishly admits.

“Well, yeah, why wouldn’t you?” she replies, smiling.  “Were you with Mr. Mott for a long time then?”

“Well, he put up with me the longest.  Every other place was maybe a year at the longest, but I was with him for four.  Probably because he figured out how to deal with me and my anger.  I… I think he and his wife would have adopted me, but then she died and I was already 17 by that point, so it seemed kind of like a waste of effort and money,” he answers with a shrug.

“That doesn’t bother you?” she asks, then immediately wishes she could swallow her words back.  She doesn’t want to open any cans of worms, but it’s too late now.

The waiter brings their box, interrupting them again and heightening Arya’s anxiety over her question.

“It used to bother me,” Gendry answers once they are alone again.  He holds the skillet up for her as she carefully scoops the remaining rice, shrimp, scallops, and mussels into the container.  “But with time and maturity comes wisdom, right?  That’s when I realized that adoption can be a long and expensive process, and that an old man who suddenly found himself a widower maybe had a lot to deal with and I decided I was grateful that he still kept me around after Miss Tavia died.”

Arya smiles.  “Miss Tavia was Mrs. Mott then?”  He nods.  “That’s really cute,” she says, her smile broadening when he blushes and looks down at his hands.  “Do you still keep in touch with him?”

Gendry frowns.  “I did until he died five years ago.”

“I’m sorry,” she says.  “I’m sure he’d be very proud of how far you’ve come with the skill he taught you.”

“He was,” he confirms.  “He got to see some of my shaky beginnings, but the recent successes have been largely thanks to Davos.”

“Davos and your talent,” she reminds him.  “If you didn’t have any talent, Davos wouldn’t be interested in helping you.”

“Thanks,” he replies, allowing a soft smile to cross his face.  “Oh, Lommy went there, too.  To KLIAD.  He got a partial scholarship.  Hot Pie went to culinary school, of course.”

“Of course,” she agrees, understanding his need to redirect the conversation.  “Did you room together?”

“We did,” he answers with a nod.  “Not that we saw much of each other though.  We both had part-time jobs, because I still had to work to live, even with the full scholarship.  I lived in campus housing and ate campus food, but you always need money.  Worked a lot of manual labor jobs basically because I’ve always been big and strong.  Hot Pie tried to get me a job as a bartender at the restaurant he was working at, but I’m not exactly a people person, so that didn’t work out.  I did a lot of factory work.  Anything that had to do with metal.  I wanted to know how to work with as many different kinds as possible.  Sometimes that meant working evenings after a full day of classes.  But I did it.”  He finally stops to take a drink, downing the rest of his ale, and he notices Arya is looking at him with rapt attention, her little pointed chin resting on her folded hands.  “What?”

“First, I think that’s the most I’ve ever heard you say at once,” she says, and he laughs.  “Second, you are incredible.”

“I am?”

“Yes.  I… you have no idea how impressive all that is.”

Gendry is shocked.  “I was just trying to live.  Trying to do the best I could so I would be able to pull my arse out of Flea Bottom and make something of myself,” he says.  He passes the bill and some cash to the waiter as he passes, and tells him to keep the change.

“Yes, and that’s impressive,” she repeats.  “You could have just… done nothing.  Just survived, living on aid or handouts… gotten hooked on drugs… or worse.  But you chose to do better.”

“I still live in Flea Bottom,” he points out.

“In your own flat, with running water and A/C and no roommates,” she counters.  He opens his mouth to argue again, so she reaches across the table and puts her finger on his lips.  “Just… take the compliment, Waters,” she says.  “You are an incredible artist and an even more incredible man.  Now say ‘thank you’ and then shut up about it.”

He gently removes her finger from his lips, then kisses it.  “Thank you,” he obediently replies.  “Shall we?” he asks.

“Yes, I’m sure the people still waiting for tables will appreciate us leaving,” she agrees.

xXx

It’s a little cold out, but not terribly, so the short walk back to Arya’s flat isn’t too uncomfortable.

They talk the whole time, trading little tidbits of information like TV shows they like and favorite foods.  Three blocks from her flat, a man steps out of the shadows, some distance away from them.  Gendry can see a weapon poorly concealed in the man’s hand, and he tightens his grip on Arya’s hand.

They slow their steps as the man draws closer, until they stop about ten feet away from one another.

The would-be assailant takes a long, hard look at the two of them: Gendry, large and menacing, fist clenched at his side, and Arya, small and still and completely fearless, looking a bit like a mongoose facing down a cobra.

“Never fucking mind,” the man growls, then turns and walks away, shaking his head.

Gendry breathes, almost laughing at the predicament, then looks down at Arya.  She’s on her phone.

“Brienne?  Hey, it’s Arya.  Send a squad ‘round my way, please.  There’s a bloke out here looking to mug people.  No, he didn’t… he was about to but I think we might have looked like too much trouble.”  She stops and laughs, then continues.  “About Jaime’s height, but a little stockier.  Dark hair, mustache but no beard.  Oh, I think there was a scar on his forehead, too.  Black leather jacket, big boots.  Was carrying some sort of knife or dagger and not doing a good job of hiding it,” she says.  Then there is a pause and she says, “Oh, okay, great.  See you Tuesday then.”  She disconnects the call.  “She knows exactly who it is,” she tells Gendry with a laugh.

“She does?” he asks, still giving her a slightly awed look

“Repeat offender with a sneaky lawyer.  Come on, you’re probably getting cold,” she answers, then grabs his hand again and tugs him towards her place.

Chapter Text

This time Gendry walks around Arya’s place, trying to be as thorough in his inspection as she was in hers.

He looks again at the photos she has on the wall of her family, still marveling at just how many Starks there are and idly wondering what that must be like.  He is about to ask her about them when something else catches his eye.

He moves to stand fully in front of her framed diploma from the University of Braavos.  “Kinesiology,” he reads.  “That’s like, what?  Phys Ed without the ‘Ed’ part?”

She laughs, walking over to him with a bottle of beer in each hand.  She passes him one.  “Close enough,” she says.  “It’s the study of body movement.  Like how the physical body works and functions.”

“Didn’t know you could get a degree in that,” he says.

“I didn’t know you could get a degree in blacksmithing,” she counters.

“Fair enough,” he allows with a laugh.  He bends and picks up a fencing foil.  “This is cheap,” he declares.  “Oh.  Sorry,” he immediately apologizes.  “Not much of a filter when it comes to this kind of thing.”

“It’s fine.  I know it’s cheap.  It’s a beginner’s practice sword.  I don’t use it myself; it’s a spare for classes,” she says.

“You teach fencing?”

“Obviously.”

“That’s really cool.  What else do you teach at the gym?”  He puts the sword back, then sets his beer down to pick up one of the face masks, which he tries to put on.  It’s too small, so he decides to put it on top of his head like a hat.

“Give me that,” she laughingly says, reaching up for it, but he steps back.  “I teach fencing, yoga, aerobics, and,” she pauses, leaping at him, “self-defense.”  Her instincts were correct and he caught her in his arms.  She kisses him then, and while he is distracted, she yanks the mask off of his head.

He no longer cares.  “Where is your room?” he asks, dragging his lips down the side of her neck.

“You’ll find it,” she assures him, and he begins walking through the living room, heading towards the hallway.

“How old are you?” he suddenly asks, stopping and looking at her.  He didn’t think to take note of the date on the diploma.

“What?” she asks, incredulous.  “You’re asking me this now?”

“Yes.”

“I just turned 23 a couple of months ago,” she answers.  “You?”

“Oof, you’re young,” he declares.  “I’m 28.”

“Pssh, that’s only five years,” she dismissively says.  “Sandor is nearly 10 years older than Sansa.”

“Oh.  That’s… certainly… more…” he answers, not really knowing how to respond.

“Are we going to stand here in my hallway doing maths or are you going to take me to bed?” she asks.

“Oh, definitely bed,” he says, and starts walking again.

He finds her room on the second try and falls backward onto her bed with her still in his arms.  Arya is impressed that he doesn’t even grunt under her weight when they land.  She immediately sits up, laughing at his pouting face.

She trails her fingers down his chest, then walks them back up to open the buttons on his shirt.  With each one she frees, she leans down and kisses the bit of skin she exposes.  By the time she gets to the last one, she can feel his erection under her bum.  She lightly scrapes her nails over his chest, then scoots back so she can open his trousers.

“Hey,” he says, tugging at her top.  “Shirt.”

“Yes, it is,” she replies, moving further down.  It’s more difficult for him to reach her now, but he doesn’t have time to protest because he gets distracted by the way she is hungrily eyeing his cock.

Before he can gather his wits and ask her to remove her shirt, she leans down, plunging his erection into her mouth.

“Fuck,” he groans, his eyes closing.  He clenches his fists, trying not to thrust his hips up into her mouth.

Arya slides her lips and tongue over his length, taking as much of him in as she can.  She mewls in disappointment when it seems like she can barely get him halfway before she will surely gag herself, but then she wraps her hand around the remainder of it.  The sound he makes tells her he approves.  She briefly releases him to lick up and down the entire shaft, adding a little lubrication under her palm.

He moans when she takes him in again, her brown head bobbing below his waist.  He forces his eyes open to watch, entranced by her.  Her eyes are closed in concentration, but then she opens them and meets his gaze, slowly sliding up until she releases him with a pop.

His body jerks with the action, and he grunts a little, his fingers digging into the bedding.  She gives him a sweet little smile, then dives back in, swirling her tongue around the tip, then sliding her lips over him again and sucking hard.  He grunts, his hand coming to rest on her head.  His fingers curl into her hair and she hums her approval, sending vibrations through him.

“Arya… I’m gonna…” he pants out, giving her the choice.  She chooses to lift her head, keeping her hand on him and adding her other one.  She moves them in concert until he tenses and comes, his thick cock pulsing in her hands as he spurts hot onto his stomach.

Her touch softens as she eases him down, and when he seems to have returned to himself, she says, “That was so hot.  Watching you like that.”

He blinks, his brain still a little foggy.  “Really?”

She bites her lower lip and nods.  “Yes,” she answers, then moves to her nightstand to grab some tissues for him.  “I’m, um, sorry I didn’t… you know…”

He abruptly stops and looks up at her, crumpled tissues in his hand.  “You’re apologizing?”  He is truly baffled.

“I thought guys liked it more if the girl swallows,” she answers.  “But I haven’t really done it before, so I wasn’t sure—”

“Arya,” he interjects, throwing the tissues away before pulling her over towards him.  His fingers immediately begin toying with her clothing, almost absentmindedly undressing her.  “You never need to apologize to me after giving me a blow job,” he says, chuckling a little.  “As long as you don’t bite it off, I’m good.”

Her laughter joins his as he manages to remove the shirt he tried to get her to take off earlier.  “I think you’re pretty safe there,” she says, helping him remove her skirt now.

He leas forward and kisses her between her breasts.  “When you say you haven’t really done it, do you mean swallowing or blow jobs in general?” he asks.

“Blow jobs in general,” she answers, running her fingers through his hair as he continues placing kisses on her chest and neck.

He leans back.  “Well that was a very solid first effort, love,” he says, then guides her head down so he can kiss her lips.

A few seconds later, Arya lands on Gendry’s chest.  He had managed to flop them both back onto her bed, still kissing her, his hands never leaving her skin, his pants still around his hips.

“Your trousers are still on,” she mumbles into his mouth.

“Take them off then,” he answers, and regrets his words a little when she disappears to do just that.

She regards him with hooded eyes from the end of the bed for a few seconds before reaching behind her back to unhook her bra.  He lifts up on his elbows, giving her his undivided attention.  She slides the garment down her arms and tosses it aside, eyebrow arching as she sees his cock twitch, coming back to life.  Then she hooks her thumbs into her panties and shimmies them down.

“Come here,” he gruffly says, fully sitting up to reach for her.

She smirks, tosses her hair back over her shoulder, and crawls onto the bed, prowling over him until he is forced to lie back down.  She kisses him, deeply but softly at first, but it slowly builds into something more passionate, almost frantic.

That’s when Gendry decides to take charge again, flipping them so she is under him.  She squeaks in surprise and he lifts his head, gazing down at her with lust-filled eyes as he bites and slowly releases his bottom lip.  Her eyes are just as blown, her hair in disarray around her head, her lips pink and plump from kissing.

“You look like a goddess,” he murmurs, then drops his head to kiss her neck.  His kisses alternate between biting and soft as he explores her skin, his tongue soothing any sting from his teeth.  He reaches her breasts and pulls one stiff nipple into his mouth while he palms the other.

“I like the roughness of your hands on my skin,” she says, her words little more than a breath.  But she knows he heard them when he drags his hand downwards, the calluses on his palm over her nipple just abrasive enough to draw a soft gasp from her lips.

“Your skin is too soft for my hands,” he counters, but doesn’t stop touching her.

“No it isn’t,” she says, arching under his touch.

“Stop arguing with me,” he replies, gripping her hips.

“What if I don’t?” she blurts without thinking.  When he lifts his head and stares down at her, she lifts her chin just slightly and raises an eyebrow at him.

She finds herself flipped on her stomach, her hips lifted off the bed so quickly that she is genuinely surprised.  She even makes an undignified yelp.

Gendry slides his hand up and down Arya’s back, ending on the curve of her rear, which is still raised in front of him.  He presses his hips forward, not entering her, but simply letting her feel the length of him against her.

She groans and presses back, and that’s when he slaps the cheek of her ass, drawing forth another sound of surprise.  His hand immediately caresses the spot, soothing the tender flesh.

“Oh, fuck,” she gasps, then puzzles when she feels him tense behind her.

“Shit, sorry… I should have asked first,” he says, seeming to snap out of whatever was driving him before.  “Is this okay?  I didn’t hurt you, did I?  I can stop if you—”

“Don’t you dare!” she interrupts, turning her head to look back at him.  “You definitely have my consent.  Thank you for asking, but get back to it.”

“As milday commands,” he replies.  Then he bends down, kisses her between her shoulder blades, grips her hips, and buries his cock inside her.

“Ah!” she cries out, grabbing a pillow to support herself.  “Mmm, yes.”

He pulls back and slams into her again, pushing in as deeply as he can.  He repeats these slow thrusts a few times, spanks her once more, then begins driving in earnest.

“So good,” he grunts, moving faster, enjoying the little sounds he is drawing from her.  He moves his hand around to rub her clit while he thrusts, wanting – needing – her to feel as dizzy and frantic as he feels.

She manages to push back against him with every thrust, picking up on his rhythm, and he closes his eyes, hanging on to the last thread of his sanity.

The thread snaps when she cries out his name, her cunt pulsing around his cock.  He slams into her one last time, wordlessly groaning, his fingers digging into her hips as he floods into her.

They collapse together, Gendry curling around Arya, pulling her against his chest.  He kisses the top of her head.  “You’re bloody brilliant,” he says.

“So are you,” she returns, chuckling.

xXx

“Can I ask you something?” Gendry asks a short time later, leaning his face down to nuzzle her hair.

“Of course,” Arya answers, tucked against him in her bed.

“What were you talking about with your sister when you said something like you were thinking about it but you can be a lot?”

“Oh.  Um.  My dad’s birthday is next weekend.  Up in Winterfell.  That’s what we bought the sculpture for; it’s his birthday gift.”

“Oh.  I’m… um, thank you… I mean… I’m honored that you wanted to get it for him,” he haltingly answers.  She didn’t quite answer his question yet, but he has a feeling he knows what she’s going to say next.

“Do you want to come?” she blurts, not looking up at him, like she’s almost afraid to ask.  “I totally understand if you don’t want to or think it’s too soon or whatever.  I have a huge family and that can be really overwhelming if you’re not used to—”

“Arya.  I think I’d like to come.  I think.  I’m a little uneasy with big social gatherings, but I’d like to come,” he admits.

“I had a feeling, especially when I saw you yesterday, hiding in the back of your own art opening,” she replies.  “And if you change your mind, that’s okay.  But I think my dad will really like meeting you, especially because you made his gift.”

“I really hope he likes it then,” he says.

“He will.  No one knows him better than me.  Well, except Mum, and she really thinks he’ll like it too.”

He’s quiet for a moment, then asks, “Are you sure it’s okay if I change my mind?”

She looks at him.  “Are you changing your mind?”

“No… not yet.”

“Well I can’t say I won’t be disappointed if you do, but I don’t want you doing something that’s going to give you anxiety either.”

He lifts his head to lean forward and kiss her.  “As of right now, I’m in,” he softly says, then drops his head back against the pillow.  “But if I start freaking out about it, I’ll be sure to let you know.”

“Deal,” she responds, her voice as soft as his.  She shifts so she can see him without straining her neck.  “I won’t tell them I’m bringing you, just in case then.”

“Won’t your mom appreciate the notification?” Gendry asks.

“She’ll live,” Arya.  “There’s always more than enough food and my house is almost criminally huge, so it won’t be a problem.  Jon has done it before anyway.”

“Oh.  Well.  As long as a precedent has been set,” he drily comments, and she laughs.  “How will we get there?  Do you have a private Stark Family Jet or something?  Is there a helipad on the roof of this building?”

She snorts and lightly hits his shoulder.  “We will be driving.  I do have a car.  I just rarely use it.  We’ll have to leave Friday morning because it’s a long drive.  We can split up the driving though, which will… what?” she stops, seeing the strange look on his face.

“I don’t have a driver’s license.  Never had a need for one, living here all my life,” he admits.

“Oh.  That’s no problem.  I’ve made the drive by myself plenty of times.  It’ll be much nicer with company,” she says.  

“We’re not going to carpool with your brother or sister or anything then?”

“Nah.  Jon and Ygritte will be going up like Wednesday to give Reina more time with her grandparents, and then they’re going way up north to see Ygritte’s family – she’s one of the Free Folk.  And Sandor won’t spend that much time stuck in a car with anyone except Sansa.”

“I don’t know that I would want to spend that much time stuck in a car with Sandor Clegane, honestly,” Gendry says.

Arya laughs again.  “He’s really not that bad, once you get to know him.  Not that he lets many people get to know him, of course.  But I get it.  The man seriously gets on my nerves sometimes.”

Now Gendry laughs.

Chapter Text

-Gendry-

Gendry walks into the gym late Wednesday morning, immediately looking around for Arya.  He didn’t bother texting her before he came over, because when he asked her about it on Sunday night, she simply said, “Pretty much any time I’m there is fine.”

But now he doesn’t see her.  He sees Sandor Clegane behind the reception desk, ignoring everyone and everything.  Gendry summons his will and walks to the counter.

Clegane doesn’t look up.  Gendry looks around to see if there is a bell or someone else or something that will get the big man’s attention without pissing him off.

There isn’t.

“Hello?” he tries.

Clegane looks up.  “What.”  Not really a question.

“Is… um… I’m… looking for Arya?” Gendry says.

“She’s teachin’ a class.  Why do you want her?” he asks, his one good eye narrowing.  “Wait.  You’re that twat from the diner she kept staring at, ain’t you?”

“Um, yes?”

“You always talk like you’re askin’ questions?”

“No,” Gendry carefully replies.  “Arya said she’d have a membership card for me if I stopped in.”

Clegane merely grunts, then stands up and walks to another desk.  Gendry watches him, and notes with a smile that the other desk is clearly Arya’s.  There’s a very large water bottle, an open bag of crisps, and what appears to be the handle from a fencing foil.  She also has a double photo frame, one side holding a picture of her niece and the other a baby boy with wispy dark curls who Gendry assumes belongs to her other older brother.  Clegane opens a drawer and plucks out an envelope.

As he approaches, Gendry is struck by how large this man actually is.  He’s not short himself by any means, but Sandor Clegane is another half a head taller.  His impressive height combined with his horrific scars and surly demeanor all combine to create a perfect monster.

A monster that will soon be related to Arya, Gendry reminds himself as Clegane passes him the envelope.

“There’s one inside for the other one, too.  The restaurant owner,” Clegane says.

“Hot Pie,” Gendry supplies, withdrawing his card and looking at it.

“Stupid fucking name,” Clegane remarks, still shaking his head over the fact that “Hot Pie” is actually the young man’s legal name.  Arya looked it up when they were making the cards.

“It’s good for business,” Gendry absently comments.  He’s one of the few people who actually knows what Hot Pie’s birth name is, but he knows how to keep a secret.  “When is Arya’s class done?”

“About 15 minutes,” he answers.  “She said you can go watch if you showed up.  But don’t get in the fucking way.”  He nods to his left, indicating where the class is being held.

“Wouldn’t dream of it.  I know what she’s capable of doing,” Gendry says, trying not to smile.  He starts to walk away, but Clegane’s gruff voice stops him.

“Waters.”

Gendry turns around and pulls up short when he sees the other man is right there, looming over him.  “Yeah?” he asks, trying not to appear intimidated.

“You hurt her even once and I will reach inside you and pull your lungs out,” Clegane growls in a voice low enough for only the two of them to hear.  Gendry gapes as he tries to construct an appropriate reply.  Clegane notices this and adds, “And I won’t be pulling them out of your mouth, either.”

Gendry closes his mouth, squares his shoulders, and fixes the other man’s eye in his stare.  “I’m pretty sure you’d have to get in line behind Arya,” he says.

Clegane grunts again, and Gendry is pretty sure it is a grunt of agreement.  He gives him a curt nod, then turns and strides towards where Arya hopefully is.


-Arya and Gendry-

He hears her voice before he sees her.  It is coming from an open door in a short corridor, so he heads there, peeking into the room.  She’s standing at the front, addressing about a dozen people.  The students are mostly women, but there are a few men there as well, and he can’t help but notice that they are all small, skinny men.

“…so you thrust the heel of your hand upwards, into the bottom of the nose, like this,” Arya concludes, demonstrating the move on a dummy beside her.  It looks like an armless torso on a pole, and when she makes contact with the head, it rocks back a considerable amount before moving forward again.  She stops it with her hands.  “It hurts like a bitch, and if you do it hard enough, you’ll get the added bonus of breaking the assailant’s nose.”

There are some chuckles and murmurs from the group, and Gendry steps a little further inside, leaning against the back wall beside the door.  Arya notices him then, her eyes catching his just long enough for his heart to lurch at seeing how they shine for him.

He grins and gives her a little wave.  She smiles back, but then her expression changes just slightly into one that makes him a little nervous.

“Okay, so last week, someone asked… Missandei, it was you.  You asked about defending yourself if your attacker was much bigger, yeah?” Arya says, looking at a young, dark-skinned woman near the front, who nods in reply.

Oh, no, Gendry thinks, realizing what she’s about to do.

“Gendry, would you join me up front, please?” she asks, smiling so sweetly at him he can do nothing but comply without a word.  A dozen faces are suddenly staring at him as he walks forward.

“Sorry,” Arya whispers to him as he moves to stand beside her.  “Now,” she addresses the class, “I think we can all agree that Gendry here is significantly larger than I am, yes?”

They all nod and answer in the affirmative, and they are all staring at him again.

“Take your coat off, please,” Arya requests, and, once again, he complies without question.

He pulls his arms out of the sleeves of his long trenchcoat, revealing his black t-shirt and bare arms, and the only sound from the class is a single voice.

“Damn.”

He doesn’t know who said it, but he stifles a snort of laughter as he sets his coat aside.

Arya looks at him like he is her next meal and says, “Indeed.”  There is more laughter, but then she gets down to business again, grabbing Gendry’s hand and pulling him with her to a thick mat on the floor.  “Would you be so kind as to pick me up from behind?  Grab around my middle, pinning my arms down, like a bear hug,” she says.

“All right,” he replies, then walks around behind her, bends his knees, and grabs her, lifting her off her feet.

“Now, it’s unlikely that someone will just sneak up behind you and hoist you up like this,” Arya explains, perfectly at ease as she’s dangling there.  In fact, she’s rather enjoying herself, but she does have a job to do, so she continues.  “You can still access some of the sensitive spots, even in this position.  Which ones really depends on how you are, um, lined up with your assailant.”

She leans her head back, just touching Gendry’s mouth and nose.  “The back of your skull is very thick.  It might hurt a bit to slam your head into your attacker’s nose and mouth, but he’ll be hurt more,” she says.  “Can you turn sideways, please, so they can see?” she asks, and he obediently turns.  “Thank you.”

She once again shows how her head aligns with his face.  “I’m not actually going to smash his pretty face with my skull, obviously,” she says, smiling.

“Thank you,” he comments.

“But you get the idea,” she finishes.  “Another thing you can try is a backwards kick,” she says, showing where her heels connect with his shins.  “Not really the best idea, because you both might fall, increasing the likelihood you would get hurt.  It may also be harder to get away if you’re both on the ground.  But a solid kick to the shins, or, if you’re really limber, the bollocks, could be employed as a last resort.”

“I appreciate you not demonstrating that,” Gendry comments, and gets a few laughs of his own.

“Of course,” Arya replies.  “You can turn back to face them again, love,” she adds, and he does.

He feels his cheeks warm a little at her casual and public use of the endearment.  Seven hells, have I fallen hard and fast.

“If you can bend your arms, go for the fingers,” she says, reaching for his pinky fingers.  “The little ones will be the easiest to grab and pull back, because they are generally the weakest.  Our Gendry here is an artist, so I won’t damage those either.”  She gives his hands a little pat, then continues.  “But you might be able to pry yourself free just by pulling hard on his little fingers.  Might break them, too, if you’re determined enough.”

“Aren’t you getting tired, mate?” one of the men in the class asks, looking at Gendry, who is still standing in a rather unbothered way, his arms full of Arya.

“She doesn’t weigh a thing,” he answers, even shrugging despite his armload.

“But I bet she could still kick your arse!” one of the women chimes in.

Gendry smiles.  “I know,” he replies.

That’s when Arya makes her move, suddenly raising her arms, taking him by surprise and lowering her body.  She manages to get her feet on the ground, then hooks one behind his leg and trips him with it.  They both land on the mat; he is on his back and she is seated, pinning him from the side with her arm and shoulder, leaning all her (albeit meager) weight on his chest.

The students applaud.  Arya moves, kneeling beside Gendry and looking down at his face.  He looks much like he did that night in the park: dazed and turned on.  “You okay?” she asks.

“Yeah, I’m good,” he answers, his voice husky.

“Thanks,” she says, then leans down and pecks his lips, prompting a few suggestive hoots from the group.  “All right, grow up,” she laughingly chides, standing and offering a hand down to Gendry.  “Maybe another time you can join us and I can show them how to get out of being slung over a shoulder,” she says.

“Oh, like this?” Gendry says, bending and doing just that.

“Yes, exactly this,” Arya answers, laughing.  “We’re out of time for the day, but I’ll just say that you should not underestimate the power of a good old fashioned wedgie,” she adds, and as soon as she reaches for the hem of his shirt, she finds herself back on her feet.

“Oh no, you don’t!” he protests, and they all laugh.

“Give it up for my boyfriend, ladies and gentlemen,” she declares, and the class applauds Gendry as they begin gathering their water bottles and coats to leave.

“You are a crazy person,” Gendry says, fondly chuckling down at her as the students file out, saying their goodbyes and thank-yous to them both.

“You love it,” she replies.

“Yeah, I do,” he admits.  “Is it too early for lunch?  Do you have time?”

“That sounds great,” she answers.  “Did you get your card?”

“I got cards, I got threatened, and then I got put on my arse.  Quite a productive trip to the gym, I’d say,” he answers, following her out of the room.

“Threatened?  Who threatened you?  Sandor?”

“Who else?”

“You didn’t try asking him for an autograph, did you?” she asks, wincing a little as she looks up at him.

He stops and looks down at her.  “Do I look like I have a death wish?”

Her face breaks into a little smile.  “He’s such a closet softie,” she laughs.

“Um, sure.  I’ll take your word for it,” he dubiously replies, even though he knows she’s right.

“Come on.  Let’s go give Hot Pie a shock,” she says, grabbing his hand.  “You didn’t tell him, did you?”

He grins.  “Nope.  I was thinking the same thing – that we’d just show up together and see how he reacts.”

“Good thing I’m certified in CPR and basic first aid,” she replies with a laugh.

xXx

Hot Pie’s reaction did not disappoint.  The hostess sat them, and then went off to tell her boss that his friend was there, as she usually does.

He spotted them across the restaurant and stopped dead in his tracks, jaw on the floor.

“Oh.  My.  Gods.”  He finally starts walking again.  “It happened.  It finally happened,” he said, whispering now, but he’s close enough that Gendry and Arya can hear him.

They start laughing.  Other diners start noticing.

“Pie, you’re making a spectacle of yourself,” Gendry says.

“I’m allowed to make a spectacle when my best friend just strolls into my restaurant with the girl he’s been pining over for months!” Hot Pie declares.

Now there are excited and interested murmurs from the other patrons in the restaurant, and Arya is beginning to feel like an unwitting actress in an impromptu dinner theatre.

Hot Pie sits down with them now.  “When did this happen?  Did it just happen?  Did he finally talk to you on the train?” he asks, practically vibrating with excitement.  “Wait, what’s your name?” he asks Arya.

Arya laughs.  “Hi, I’m Arya.  And you’re Hot Pie,” she says, extending her hand, which he eagerly shakes.

“You work at the Hound and Wolf gym, right?  I’ve seen you in here with Mr. Clegane,” he says.

“Yes, I do,” she answers, somehow unable to stop smiling at her new friend.

“She’s the Wolf,” Gendry says.  “Arya Stark.”

“Oh!  From up in Winterhell?”

“Winterfell.”

His brow furrows, while Gendry tries not to laugh too hard.  “You’re sure?”

“I’m sure,” Arya answers with a gently amused smile.

The waitress approaches a little timidly, not sure if she should interrupt.  Hot Pie waves her closer.  “Their lunch is on the house today,” he says.

“Pie—”

“That’s not—”

Hot Pie holds up his hand.  “It’s not really free.  You have to tell me how you two finally actually met.  That’s your payment,” he clarifies.

“Well, first you need to shut up long enough for Jana to take our order,” Gendry says.  Hot Pie presses his mouth closed just long enough for them to do so, then starts in again right away.

“Tell me everything,” he presses.  “Don’t leave out any details.”

“Is he always like this?” Arya says, looking at Gendry.  The gleam in her eyes tells him she’s intentionally stalling just to mess with Hot Pie and damn if he doesn’t fall in love with her a little bit more because of it.

“Oh yeah.  Our whole lives,” Gendry answers, smirking now.  “Our teachers would have to move his seat in class because he would be talking to the person next to him too much.  Then he’d just start talking to his new neighbor.  One tried making him sit alone, and even that didn’t really help—”

“Gendry!”  Hot Pie finally interrupts, his patience at its end.  “I’m dying here.”

“All right,” Gendry relents with a sigh.  “You remember my opening last Friday?”

“Yeah, of course.  I did manage to pop in for a few, you know,” he reminds him.

“Well, about an hour or so after you left, the gods smiled upon us, because Arya decided to wander into the gallery…”

Chapter Text

Arya pounds on Gendry’s door on Friday morning, bouncing on her heels with excitement.  She hasn’t been home since late spring, when she went to give the fencing demonstration to Rickon’s class.  She’s extra excited about going back up north this time, not only because she knows her dad is going to love Gendry’s sculpture, but because she knows her dad is going to love Gendry.

Gendry opens the door with his toothbrush in his mouth.  “You’re early,” he says, his words obscured as he steps to the side to let her in.

“I’m excited.  Sue me,” she says, lifting up on her toes to peck his cheek since she can’t give him a proper kiss.

He manages a small laugh as he wanders back into the bathroom to finish brushing.  Arya walks into the kitchen to top up the tea in her travel mug, knowing he’ll still have some hot water left.

She is just putting the milk back in his fridge when she hears him return, and a moment later a beefy arm is wrapping around her waist and she is pulled back against his strong, warm body.

“I love how you just make yourself at home in my place,” he says, his voice low in her ear before he starts placing minty kisses on her neck.

“Mmm,” she hums.  “I’m glad you don’t mind.”

He turns her around.  “Why on earth would I mind?” he asks before soundly kissing her.  “Mmm, I missed you.”

She laughs.  “We spend most of last night on FaceTime while we packed,” she says, reaching up to straighten his hair, which is still a little unruly.

“Not the same and you know it,” he points out.

She leans up and gives him a lingering kiss.  “I know.  I missed you too,” she admits.  They haven’t been together long – nearly a week – and they haven’t slept together every night during that week, but she already knows that sleeping and waking up beside him is far preferable to not.  I have got it bad.

“Have you eaten?” he asks, pulling back a little.

“Yes,” she answers.  “You?”

He nods.  “And I have snacks packed for us too.  Since you are driving, I thought the least I could do was be an excellent passenger.”

She grins up at him.  “You are adorable, do you know that?”

“Only around you,” he says.  “I have to put my boots on.  Then we can go,” he says, kissing her forehead before reluctantly withdrawing.

“Okay,” she replies.  She’s about to ask him if he has everything she recommended last night: snow boots, parka, thermal underwear, gloves, hat, scarf, but they went over it all last night.  He may not need all of it, but her brothers have been known to break into spontaneous bouts of sport, regardless of the weather, and she has a feeling they’ll pull Gendry along with them, willing or no.

“You’re sure I shouldn’t get some flowers or something for your mum?” he yells from the other room.

“Yes, I’m sure.  The bottle of wine is perfect, trust me,” she answers, shaking her head.  “You don’t need to bring anything but yourself; I told you.”

“I am not going to show up at your parents’ house, unannounced, without a host gift,” he says, emerging looking quite fit in a black sweater and dark blue jeans over his customary work boots.  “What?” he asks, seeing the look on her face.

“You look really good, that’s all,” she says, biting her lower lip as she rakes her gaze over him.

“Don’t start that or we’ll never get out of here,” he replies, resolutely picking up his things.  “Because you are looking far too cute yourself there.”

xXx

“How long of a drive is it again?” Gendry asks, looking through his phone for the playlist he’s been working on for the trip.

“About eight hours, give or take,” Arya answers.  “The weather is good today, so we should make good time.  Dad said they had snow already, but we probably won’t hit that until we reach the border.”

“I’ve never seen a lot of snow at once,” he admits, putting the music on.

“Well, for your sake, I hope we get some this weekend.  As long as it stops by Sunday when we leave, of course,” she replies, smiling.

“Do you ever fly home?  Eight hours is a long drive.”

“Occasionally.  I’ll probably fly home for the wedding in the spring.”  She remembers Sansa asking about bringing him as her plus-one, but doesn’t know if she should mention it yet or not.

“What is the date of that anyway?  I should put it in my calendar so I don’t forget,” he says.

She turns and looks at him for a second.  “Did I… did I already ask you to come?” she asks.

He starts laughing.  “Literally the night we met,” he says.  “You really forgot?”

Her laughter joins his.  “Shit, I even talked to Sansa about it the next damn day at the gallery… she was like I’m putting you down for a plus-one and I was just like okay,” she says.  “That weekend was crazy.  Crazy good, obviously.  Sorry I forgot; I feel like a right arse now.”

He reaches over and puts his hand over hers.  “No worries, Love.  I’m not offended you forgot.  There was a lot going on.”  He gives it a squeeze, then moves his hand to rest on her thigh.

“Thank you.  My memory can be unreliable at times,” she explains.  “The things that it chooses to save and delete are a mystery to me sometimes.”

“Understood,” he replies.

xXx

The conversation wanes for a while, and they enjoy the music.  Arya likes his taste and tells him so.  She also has a tendency to sing wrong lyrics with full confidence, which Gendry finds hilarious and adorable.

“Is your… is your dad gonna freak out when he meets me?” he asks after a while, turning the music down a little.

“What, because you’re fucking his little girl?” she returns, briefly grinning at him.

He rolls his eyes.  “No, because I look like Robert Baratheon.”

“Oh, that.  Nah, I already warned him.  Sent a pic of you and everything just so he won’t freak out,” she answers, gesturing towards her phone.

“Wow, that was good thinking there,” he says.  “What did he say?”

“He said, ‘Yeah, he’s probably not the only one either,’” she answers.  “And don’t worry, Stannis and Renly won’t be at the party.  Robert’s brothers.”

“Shit, I didn’t even think about that.  Thank goodness.  But he agrees that Baratheon is probably my dad?” he asks.

“Yeah,” she replies.  “Did you ever think about that though?  That you might have half-siblings out there?”

“Once or twice.  But I don’t even know how I would go about finding them, if I wanted to.”

“Do you?”

There’s a long pause.  “I don’t know.”

“Fair enough.  Sometimes I wish I didn’t have siblings, especially when I was a kid.  Middle kid syndrome, I guess,” she supplies.  “But then one of them will do something cool, and I’m glad I have them.”

“Well, you’ve got a shit-ton of them,” he comments.  “How old are they all, by the way?  I’ve been meaning to ask you more about them.”

“Robb and Jon are both 28, like you.  Sansa is 26, Brandon is 21, and Rickon just turned 18,” Arya answers.

“Robb and Jon are twins?” Gendry asks.

“Oh.  No, they’re not.  Jon is actually like seven months younger, give or take.  He’s biologically a cousin, but he’s really a brother because my parents adopted him,” she explains.

“Oh,” he simply replies, and she can tell he wants to ask how that all happened, but doesn’t quite know how or if he should.

“My Aunt Lyanna – my dad’s sister – was his mum.  She and her husband Rhaegar Targaryen died in a car accident.  Aunt Lyanna was in labor.  They were on the way to hospital and Rhaegar was driving too fast and hit some black ice.  Skidded into a plow.  He died instantly, but she lived long enough to have Jon and give him a name.  On the side of the road,” she explains.

“Holy fuck,” Gendry comments.

“Right?  She wasn’t alone though – the ambulance had already gotten there,” Arya says.

“Thank the gods for that.”

“So anyway, my parents were the first people called, and Mum and Dad took Jon without question and have raised him the same as the rest of us.  He even calls them Mum and Dad.  Must have been hard for them though, already having an infant in the house,” she continues.

“I can’t even imagine,” Gendry says.  “How come his hair is dark, if he’s really a Targaryen?”

“Stark DNA must be stronger than Targaryen DNA,” Arya answers with a shrug and a smile.

He idly wonders how Stark DNA would match up against Baratheon DNA.  He knows if he had a house full of even tinier Aryas he wouldn’t be mad at all, but decides to keep those thoughts to himself.

“Does your dad have other siblings? What about your mum?” he asks.  “Sorry about all the questions.  I don’t have a family, so it seems I want to know all about yours.”

She smiles fondly at him.  “My dad has a brother, Benjen.  He’s in the military up north, so he would have been in no state to take an infant.”

“What do Starks consider to be ‘up north?’  Aren’t you already up north?”

“He’s at the Wall,” she answers.

“Whoa.”

“It’s really cool.  I went once with my dad.  As big as you think it is; it’s bigger.”

“I’d like to see it someday,” Gendry says.  “Maybe in the summer months though.”

“Still cold then,” Arya says.  “But not as.”  She takes a sip from her water bottle.  “Oh, my mum has a brother, Edmure.  He’s a bit of a twat, but basically harmless.  Managed to get himself one of the pretty young Frey daughters as a wife.  She’s as dumb as he is though, so we’re all kind of hoping they don’t have kids.”

Gendry laughs, finding he’s looking forward to meeting her family if this is the kind of running commentary he can expect.

“Can I ask more?” he asks.

“Of course.  Ask anything you want,” she answers.

“What do they do?”

“Well, Robb is technically a lawyer, but he works on Dad’s staff.  His wife, Talisa, is a nurse, and they have a son, who’s named after Dad,” she answers.

“Okay, that was the other toddler in the frame on your desk.  I figured it had to be a nephew,” he says.

“Yep.  You know what Jon does.  Sansa is a social worker.  She works with women and children who are victims of domestic abuse,” she says.

“Wow, that must be tough,” he responds.

“She’s so good at it though,” Arya says.  “Unfortunately, she has plenty of clients in King’s Landing.”

“Not surprising,” Gendry says.  “Have I seen her?”

“I… I don’t think so,” she answers.  “I don’t think she was ever with me when we were still orbiting one another.  But as you saw in the pic, she looks nothing like me.”

“Yeah, that’s right.”

“We’re so different, it’s hard to believe we came from the same parents.  In behavior as well as looks,” she continues.  “Used to be a big problem when we were kids.  Sansa is a lady.  I was decidedly not.  She was like taking ballet and learning to sew while I was… basically covered in mud like 24/7.  Until I discovered fencing, which my mother consented to because even though it was fighting, it was at least refined fighting.”

“Okayyy…”

“Right?  My mum had a pretty posh upbringing.  She can be a bit of a snob sometimes, unfortunately,” she says with a sigh.

“Noted,” he replies.  “What about your younger brothers?”

“Bran is studying ornithology at uni in the Vale,” she says.

“Ornithology?”

“You know, birds?”

“Yeah, I know.  That’s just… really unusual,” he says.

“That’s Bran.  He’s always been fascinated by birds.  Used to feed ravens out back of the house, and that’s how we discovered that ravens are scary smart birds,” she says.  “They would bring him gifts.”

“What?”

“Yeah!  Like buttons or bottle caps or just random shiny things.  It was wild,” she says with a laugh.  “He named them and everything.”

“Has he always been in a wheelchair?”

“No, it was an accident when he was eight.  Fell out of a tree.”

“Looking at birds?”

“Looking at birds,” Arya repeats with a laugh.  “He’s really good with it though.  He adjusted more quickly than the rest of us did.  I think Mum still hopes, deep down, that he’ll walk again one day.”

“That’s too bad,” Gendry says.

“His spinal cord is severed.  It’s not going to happen,” she confirms.

“Yeah, that sounds pretty permanent,” he says.

She nods.  “Rickon is still in school.  It’s his last year.  He actually had two schools that wanted him to play footy.  Dorne offered him a full scholarship and Highgarden a partial one.”

“Wow.  So he’s going to Dorne then?” he asks.

“No, he actually picked Highgarden.  Told Dorne to give the scholarship to a less-privileged student, which shocked everyone.”

“That’s… wow.  Good for him.”

“I know!  Dad was so proud.”

“So when he goes pro, are you going to leave the gym business and go be his personal trainer?” Gendry asks.

“Shit no,” Arya laughs.  “He would never listen to me, and I’d wind up killing him.”

“Yeah, that’s probably not a good idea then.  But that’s good, too.  You need to stay in King’s Landing,” he says.

“Why is that?” she asks.

“Because that’s where I am,” he answers, giving her leg a gentle squeeze.

xXx

“So who was your first?” Arya asks.  They’ve just gotten back in the car after a quick stop for a bite of lunch.

“My first what?” Gendry responds, just for clarification.

“First girl you had sex with,” she explains.  “And don’t tell me it’s me, because I know that’s not true.  You’re much too good at it.”

“Thank you,” he answers with a chuckle.  “Um, spring break, when I was at uni.  We saved up enough to go to Dorne for a few days.”

“That’s a where, not a who,” she says.

“I’m getting to it,” he says.  Then he heavily exhales.  “The thing is, I don’t actually… remember most of it,” he sheepishly admits.

To his surprise, Arya laughs, loud and hard.  “Oh my gods!” she exclaims.  “College boy goes spring breaking in Dorne and has a drunken fling during which he may or may not have lost his virginity to – I’m guessing – some girl you don’t remember now?”

He bites his lower lip and nods.

“Wait…” she suddenly says, eyes wide as she looks at the road ahead.  “I spent a spring break in Dorne once...”

What?” he exclaims, in a sudden panic.  “I… it couldn’t… no… could it?”

She starts laughing again.  “Gendry!  How old were you when you went to Dorne?”

“I had just turned 21,” he answers.

“And when you were 21, I would have been…” she prompts.

“Oh,” he says, heaving a sigh of relief.  “Right.  You would have been 17.  Probably 16, because if you have a summer birthday, you wouldn’t have had it yet.”

“Not to mention that I would have also been in Winterfell at the time,” she points out.

“So you were just fucking with me then,” he states.

“Obviously,” she returns.  “And I can’t believe how easy it was.”

“I was distracted,” he insists.

“By what?  Traumatic memories of… wait, do you even have any memories from that spring break?” she goads.

After a long pause, he answers, “Some.  Most of them involve waking up with a pounding headache.”  It just makes her laugh again.  “Okay, so who was your first?”

“A boy named Mycah.  We went to prom.  After the dance, we… yeah.  It was… lackluster,” she says.  

“First times often are.  From what I understand,” Gendry says, chuckling a little now.  “Where is this Mycah now?”

“We graduated a few days after prom.  I went to Braavos, and he went to the University of Harrenhall to study agriculture.  I have no idea where he eventually settled,” she says.

“Good,” he declares.

“Oh, possessive now, are we?” she asks.

“Well, yeah,” he answers as though it was obvious.  When he sees her smirk, he says, “Hey, you were the one who publicly declared I was your boyfriend after only knowing me for, what, an hour?”

“Yep,” she simply answers, not the least bit bothered.  “So how many partners have you had?”

“What?”

“Hey, it’s a standard question one actually should ask,” she replies, defending herself.

“I didn’t keep count,” he protests.

“Sure you didn’t,” she sarcastically sings.

He pauses.  “Three.”

“That’s… fewer than I was expecting,” she admits.

“Why is that?”

“Have you seen yourself?”

“Yeah?  What’s the big deal?” he asks.

“You know, if I didn’t know any better, I would accuse you of fishing for compliments,” she answers.  “But I can see you truly have no clue about how off the chain hot you are.”

“I am not,” he argues.

She looks at him for a moment, giving him an oh please expression before returning her eyes to the road.  “You’re seriously protesting my telling you you’re hot?  I, your girlfriend, tell you that you’re hot, and you’re just like ‘nah.’  Trust me, you are.  And you’re also talented and sweet, and that goes a long way as well.”

He laughs.  “I just don’t see it, that’s all.”

“Okay, who do you think is handsome then?” she asks.  “And don’t give me that male hetero ‘I can’t tell when another man is attractive’ bullshit.  You have eyes, and you’re an artist besides.”

He scrunches up his face in an adorable way, thinking.  “Jaime Lannister,” he finally says.  “And Drogo could hypothetically get it.  Oh, and there was this dude I went to uni with… bigger bloke than me even.  Tarly.”

“Tarly?” she asks.

“That was his surname.  His first name was Dickon.  So everyone just called him Tarly because Dickon,” he explains.

“That’s… unfortunate.  What were his parents thinking?” she laughs.

“They were thinking they’d name their baby boy after his granddad who died just before he was born, that’s what.  Still, I’d’ve put it as his middle name,” Gendry says.  “In any case, he was almost too handsome.”

“Thank you for your honesty,” Arya says, tilting her head sideways and pointing at her cheek.  He obediently kisses it, twice.

“What about you?” he asks.

“What about me what?  What women do I find attractive or how many blokes have I had sex with?”

“We’ll start with the sex question.”

“Three as well,” she says.  “Mycah, and two guys in Braavos when I was at uni.”

“Should I even bother repeating your own words back to you?” he asks.

“Which?”

“About it being fewer than I expected.  You’re not only fucking gorgeous, but you’re also… what’s the word?  Charismatic.  Like, people are drawn to you,” he says.

“They are not,” she dismisses.

“I was in your class this week.  Those people were hanging on your every word,” he presses.  “They were fascinated, and I totally understand why, because you are fascinating.”

“Whoa,” she quietly says.

“Too much?”

“No, no… it’s just… the last person who called me fascinating was a creepy-ass professor who tried to chat me up at the end of term.  Dr. H’ghar.  ‘A girl is fascinating… a man would like to see more of a girl now that class has finished,’” she finishes, mimicking his odd way of speaking.

“He talked like that?”

“Yeah.”

“Weirdo.”

“Yeah,” she laughs.  “I turned him down, of course.  Dude was like 20 years older than me.  And, like, really weird.”

“Good,” Gendry declares, and Arya laughs again.

xXx

It is just getting dark by the time they reach Winterfell, and the sun is just setting when Arya turns the car down the lane leading to their house.  She stops at a gate, punches in a code, and the heavy iron doors swing open.

“Fuck me,” Gendry slowly exclaims when the house comes into view.  “That’s your house?”

“It’s Winterfell’s house,” she clarifies.  “It’s the residence for Winterfell’s representative in the Westerosi House of Lords.  My dad has just been in it for longer than I’ve been alive, so it’s the only home I’ve ever known.”

“Cozy,” he comments, taking in the high stone walls, towers that look like turrets, and expansive grounds.  He can see signs of security equipment, but no actual security personnel beyond one man near the gate who simply smiled and waved at Arya as they passed.

“I know, I know,” she allows.  “I’m well aware that I look like a spoiled rich girl right now.”

“Well, I guess it’s a good thing I only want you for your body then,” he comments, glancing sideways at her.

“Whew, that’s a relief,” she says, stopping the car.  She turns towards him.  “I have to admit something.”

He turns to face her as well.  “What?”

“I was a little nervous about the drive today.  I was… I was afraid that we’d run out of things to talk about, or it would feel awkward being trapped in the car with you for this long, or… or we’d even find out we really didn’t like each other.  Like, as people.  Friends,” she says.  He tilts his head at her last word, and she explains.  “It’s important to me that the person I date be someone I actually like.  We can’t fuck all the time, you know.  My mum and dad are best friends as well as husband and wife, and that’s how it shoul—”

Her words are cut off by his lips on hers, fervently kissing her.  “I completely agree,” he says, gently holding her face between his hands, his forehead against hers.  “With everything you said.  I was nervous, too.  And it’s absolutely important that we get along on a platonic level as well.”  He kisses her once more.  “And I can now say that I’m pretty sure I like everything about you thus far.”

She smiles.  “Me, too,” she agrees.  She closes her eyes, opens them, and asks, “You ready for this?”

“Maybe,” he admits.  “But it’s too late to use my anxiety excuse to back out now.”

Chapter Text

“Arya!” a young man’s shout is the first sound they hear, and Gendry turns around to see a tall, thin boy with brown curls barreling towards Arya.  For a moment he thinks her brother is going to tackle her, but she is ready for him as he grabs her in an immense bear hug and lifts her off her feet.

“Rick!  Put me down!” she laughingly yells, just as Gendry sees three of the largest dogs he has ever seen come tumbling from around the side of the house.

Just as Rick puts Arya down, the dogs are on her, and Gendry smiles as she coos and talks to the immense beasts, not even really needing to bend over.  She seems particularly fond of one in particular; one that is brownish gray and white, and just shade smaller than the other two.  One so dark he is almost black, and the third is predominantly gray with just white on his face and feet.  The dark one walks over to sit faithfully beside her brother.

“Hello girl, yes, I’ve missed you, too,” she says to her favorite, burying her face in the fur at the dog’s neck for a moment before turning towards Gendry.

“Gendry, this is my youngest brother Rickon,” she introduces.  “And Shaggydog.”

“Nice to meet you,” Gendry says, smirking at the dog’s name as he extends his hand to Rickon.

“Rick.  And don’t judge Shaggy’s name,” Rick says.  “I was little when I named him.  Nice to meet you, too.”  He turns to Arya.  “Does Mum know you brought a boy?”

“She’ll find out soon enough,” Arya answers.  “That’s Summer.  He’s Bran’s,” she says, pointing to the other gigantic wolf-dog.  Summer flops down and rolls onto his back, tongue lolling out the side of his mouth.  “Believe it or not, he’s a certified service dog for Bran, even though he’s completely ridiculous,” she explains as Gendry laughs.  “And this,” she says, stepping forward with what is presumably her dog, “is Nymeria.  She’s mine.  Hers is the only outside opinion about you that matters to me, by the way.”

“Okay,” Gendry says, suddenly wary.  If he doesn’t pass Nymeria’s inspection, he suspects he might die.

Arya bends down to talk to her dog.  “Nym, this is Gendry.  He’s very special to me, so I hope you like him.”  She strokes her between the ears, then says, “Go meet him.  Be gentle, he looks a little scared.”

Gendry remains still as the big dog walks over, willing his heartbeat to be steady, which is no easy feat after hearing Arya saying he is “very special” to her.  Nymeria sniffs his boots, then snuffles her way up his leg.  He extends his hand, palm-down, to her, and she sniffs that, too.  Then she nuzzles his palm and he turns it over for her to smell that side.

“Hello,” he says, and Nymeria looks up at him, tilting her head just so.  Then she nudges his hand harder, and he takes that as a hint to pet her.  He gently buries his hand in the thickest, softest fur he’s ever felt on any dog, and rubs her between the ears like he saw Arya do.

Suddenly, Nymeria jumps up and places her front paws on his shoulders.  Then she licks his face like he has rubbed it with bacon.

“Oh!  All right then!” Gendry laughs, still petting her.  “Does this – blech, not in my mouth – does this mean I pass?” he asks, trying to look at Arya.

Arya and Rickon are laughing themselves silly together.  “Nymeria!  To me,” Arya calls, trying to catch her breath.  “Yes, she definitely likes you,” she says as the dog bounds back over to her.  “Go back to the garden with Shaggy and Summer now,” she says, giving her a pat on the rump.

The three dogs tear away, heading back the way they came.

“They really listen well,” Gendry says, impressed.

“Oh, Nymeria knows exactly what I’m telling her,” Arya replies.  “Legend has it that Starks have wolf blood, and they know that,” she says, nodding in the direction of where the dogs disappeared.

Gendry shrugs.  “After seeing that, I think I believe it,” he says, leaning to pick up their bags.  He is just about to ask Rickon a question, but the boy has also disappeared.

“He doesn’t want to help carry anything,” Arya says, laughing.  “Which is ridiculous because we have two bags.  Come on; you’re probably cold.”

“Wait, how old is Rick again?” he asks as they walk.

“Just turned 18,” she answers.

“And how old was he when he named his dog?” he asks.

“Um, around five, probably,” she asks.

“But that would make Shaggy around 13 years old,” he says, puzzled.  “I always thought bigger dogs had shorter lifespans.  And those are the biggest dogs I’ve ever seen.”

“They aren’t dogs.  They’re direwolves.  They live a very long time.”

He stops.  “Direwolves?  Like, real direwolves?  I thought they were extinct.”

“Nearly.  Ygritte’s family runs a sanctuary up north.  That’s where Jon’s and Sansa’s wolves are.  Ghost and Lady run that joint,” she says with a laugh.  “They are illegal to own anywhere outside Winterfell,” she adds.

“Oh, so that’s why Nymeria is here instead of down in King’s Landing with you.”

She nods.  “The summers would be too hot for her there anyway.  It’s also why Summer isn’t with Bran in the Vale.  We tried to get some sort of permit, but they’re just so big that it didn’t happen.”

“Does your oldest brother…” he furrows his brow, “Robb? have one?”

“Yes, it’s Robb, and you’ll probably meet Grey Wind tomorrow,” she answers, and they start walking again.  “We each have one.  My dad encountered a litter on one of his hunting trips.  The mother had died and there were these six pups.  As I may have mentioned, my dad has a bit of a soft heart, and he couldn’t just leave them…”

“He didn’t take them to that sanctuary?” Gendry asks.

“He didn’t know about it then.  Plus, they were closer to our home at the time,” Arya answers.  “Mum was… less than pleased, but she saw how much we loved them, and we have more than enough room, especially outside.  So we got to keep them.  They prefer to be outside anyway.  And they’ve actually turned out to be good PR for my dad.”

“That’s… really cool,” he says, grinning.  “I got to see actual direwolves.  I got to pet an actual direwolf.”

“An actual direwolf declared you part of the pack,” she corrects, and opens the door.

xXx

“You’ve got a lift in your house?” Gendry asks, seeing the elevator just off the main foyer.

“Um, brother in a wheelchair, remember?” Arya says.  “His accident was when he was eight.  We had the lift installed a few years later, when he didn’t want Hodor carrying him up the stairs anymore.”

Gendry remembers her telling him about Hodor, their Nanny’s special needs son who was huge but genial and sweet and only ever said his own name.  He nods.  “Right.  That makes sense.”

“If you’re wondering, we paid for it ourselves.  The taxpayers did not,” she says.

“I wasn’t, but that’s really good.  Not every politician would do that,” he replies.

“I know.  It’s probably part of why my dad has had his job forever.  Like, no one even ran against him in the last two elections,” she says.  “Come on, let’s get this over with.  They’re probably in the den.”  She grabs his hand and pulls him further into the house.

They reach a room at the back, the door ajar.  He can hear quiet voices beyond it, and he steels himself, hoping to make a good impression.

Arya knocks twice, then walks inside.  “Hi,” she says, and her parents look up from whatever they were studying on her father’s laptop.

“Arya!  You didn’t tell me you were bringing a guest,” Catelyn Stark says, standing and hugging her youngest daughter, then stepping aside as Ned Stark pulls her in for a hug as well.

Once he releases Arya, she makes introductions.  “Mum, Dad, this is Gendry Waters.  Gendry, my mum and dad, Catelyn and Eddard.”

“Ned,” Mr. Stark corrects as he extends his hand towards Gendry.

“Hello,” Gendry replies, shaking Ned’s hand and smiling at Catelyn.

“Hello dear, it’s nice to meet you,” she says, returning his smile with one that doesn’t quite reach her eyes.  “Arya, I really wish you would have told me. I would have made sure one of the guest rooms was in order for him.”

“Yeah, that’s why I didn’t tell you,” Arya replies.

“Ar—”

“Cat, don’t even bother,” Ned Stark gently interjects.  “Know your audience.”

“You’ve always been far too indulgent with her,” Catelyn counters.

“I pick my battles,” Ned replies.  “And I also do like to occasionally win them, which is why I rarely do battle with Arya.”

“Standing right here, and am also an adult,” Arya says, waving a hand.  Her father simply chuckles.

Gendry already feels like he is about to die from awkwardness when Catelyn Stark makes it slightly worse.

She looks hard at him, her brow furrowing slightly.  “Gendry, is it?  Have we met before?  There is something familiar about you.”

Arya squeezes Gendry’s hand.  She should have told her dad to show mum the photo she sent, because apparently he didn’t.  “We think he might be one of Uncle Robert’s, um…”

“Indiscretions,” Gendry supplies.  “Never met the man, but I’ve been told I look a lot like him when he was young.”

“You really do,” Ned confirms with a nod.  “For what it’s worth, I’m sorry for whatever troubles you had to deal with growing up.”

Gendry gives him a small smile.  “Thanks, but from what Arya tells me, I may have been better off.”

Ned snorts.  “That may also be true,” he confirms.  “Arya says you’re an artist?”

Gendry knows Ned doesn’t know about the gift yet, so he merely nods and says, “I prefer to think of myself primarily as a blacksmith, but yes, I am an artist.”

“A metal artist,” Arya adds.  “He’s really good, too.  We met at his most recent art opening at the Seaworth Gallery in King’s Landing.”

Ned’s eyebrows lift.  “Ah, very nice.  Very impressive.”

“I’d like to see your work sometime,” Catelyn says, and Gendry is surprised to see the sly smile on the older woman’s face.  Then, standing safely out of her husband’s line of sight, she winks at Arya.

“I think that can be arranged,” Gendry says, keeping his face carefully neutral.

“Let’s let them get settled in,” Ned says.  “Have you eaten?”

“Yeah, we caught some fast food Moat Cailin,” Arya answers, ignoring the frown from her mother.  “We’ll be back down in a bit,” she adds, then tugs Gendry’s hand, heading towards the door.

xXx

Upstairs, they hear voices as they make their way to Arya’s room, including one voice belonging to a small child.

Arya smiles up at Gendry and says, “That’ll be Jon and Ygritte.  And Reina.  She’s four.”  They pause outside one of the rooms, which has clearly been set up for a little girl.

Reina spots Arya first.  “Auntie!” she yells, dashing past her parents.

“Hey, Squirt,” Arya answers, gathering the little girl up into her arms and lifting her.  “When did you get here?”

“Last week,” Reina says.

“Wednesday,” Jon corrects, walking towards her, Ygritte with him.  “Any time in the past is ‘last week’ right now.”

Arya laughs, kisses her niece on the cheek, and sets her down to hug her brother.  “Jon, this is Gendry Waters.  He’s the artist who made the sculpture we got for Dad.  And my boyfriend.  Gendry, this is Jon and Ygritte.  And Reina.”  She reaches down and strokes the little girl’s dark curls.

Jon blinks in surprise, but extends his hand in a friendly way.  “Hey, nice to meet you.  Arya didn’t say she was bringing anyone… didn’t even mention she was seeing someone, for that matter,” he says, cutting his eyes sideways at her with a reproachful look.

“You told me yourself that you were super busy because of the Lannisters and the time off you were taking now, so I didn’t want to bother you,” Arya defends herself.  Jon rolls his eyes.

“Hello,” Gendry answers, shaking Jon’s hand, then Ygritte’s.

“Your work is very good,” Ygritte says.  “I sent the photo Arya sent us on to my parents and they are positively green with envy over it,” she adds with a laugh.

“Oh, right, Arya said they run a direwolf sanctuary,” he says.  “And thanks.”  He feels a tug on his jacket and looks down.  “Hello there.  My name is Gendry,” he says.

“Are you a new uncle?” she asks.

Ygritte’s eyes widen and she stammers, “Oh, um—”

“You can call me Uncle Gendry if you want,” he says.

Reina beckons him down, and he crouches in front of her.  “Do you and Auntie Arya… kiss?”

“All right, little wildling, that’s enough questions for now,” Ygritte interjects, picking up her curious daughter.

Gendry tries not to laugh at the little girl’s earnest question, not wanting to embarrass her, but when he stands again he sees Arya and Jon holding one another and positively dying with quiet laughter.

“I love her,” Arya says, gasping.  “How do you live with that every day?”

Jon closes his eyes and shakes his head.  “’How do I live with two of them?’ is the real question,” he says, gazing fondly at his wife and daughter, currently arguing over the cuteness of two different sets of pajamas.

“You love it,” Arya replies, patting him on the arm.  “Anyway, we gotta go get settled in,” she says, and Gendry takes that as his cue to pick up their bags again.

“Nice meeting you,” Gendry says, and Jon replies in kind.  As they walk further down the hallway to Arya’s room, he asks, “You didn’t tell your favorite brother about me?”

“I haven’t had a chance!” she answers.  “I’ve barely even talked to him since we met!  He’s been super busy with the Lannisters in town, and…” she trails off when she notices Gendry is smiling.  “You’re not upset.”

“I’m not upset.  I know how it can be sometimes,” he confirms.  “And I know you told your sister about me, so it’s not like you were keeping me a secret or anything.”

“Never,” she confirms, turning into a room at the end of the hallway.  “This is my room,” she announces.

He walks inside and looks around.  The room is large and decorated largely in gray and black, but the walls are pale blue.  There are more fencing trophies on a shelf, and a few posters on the walls for bands and movies.  “Yes.  This is definitely your room,” he confirms with a smile.  He looks through a doorway and sees a small bathroom with a stand-up shower.  “You have your own bathroom.  I would have killed for my own bathroom.”

“You wouldn’t when you find out you have to clean it yourself,” she says, flopping down on her bed, which is also bigger than any bed he had growing up.

He sits beside her, and she pulls him down beside her so she can cuddle into his side.  “This is a big bed for a little girl,” he comments.

“You’re the first boy who’s ever been on it,” she tells him, answering the question he wouldn’t allow himself to ask.  “I mean, apart from my brothers, but they were mainly sent in here to wake me up.  Robb used to just drop Rickon on me.  It was annoyingly effective, because toddlers do not have a snooze button.”

He laughs, pulling her closer.  “It’s comfortable,” he says.  “But we’ve been driving for a while, and I have to pee.”

xXx

“You took your car?” Catelyn asks later, coming to join them in the family room in front of the television.

“Yes,” Arya answers.  She inwardly sighs, knowing what is likely coming next.

“I’m surprised that old heap still made the journey.  What about Gendry’s car?” Cat asks.

“Oh, um, I don’t drive, ma’am,” he answers, not knowing why he feels like he’s failing some sort of test.

“Oh,” her mother replies, clearly trying not to say a few things.

“That’s pretty common in King’s Landing, Mum,” Arya says.  “Most of the people who live there, with a few exceptions, only drive if they have to do so for their jobs.  Or they’re people not originally from there.”  She points at herself then.  Then she turns to Gendry.  “Do Hot Pie or Lommy drive?”

“Lommy does,” Gendry answers.  “Because he used to make deliveries for Hot Pie before he had his own restaurant.  But he hasn’t driven in ages.  And no one wants Hot Pie behind the wheel of a car.”

“You’re probably right,” Arya says with a laugh.

“In fact, the only heavy machinery Hot Pie should ever be operating is an oven,” Gendry adds.

“Hot Pie?” Ned asks, curious.  “That’s a person?”

“He’s a friend of mine, sir,” Gendry answers.  “Since we were kids.  He’s an amazing chef and baker.  Has a great restaurant in King’s Landing.”

“Next time you’re there, we’ll go,” Arya assures him.  “You’ll love it.”

“Sounds very interesting indeed,” Ned assesses.  “So, Gendry.  Blacksmithing, you say?  How did you get into that?”

xXx

“So what’s Hot Pie’s real name?” Arya asks Gendry later, curling up at his side in her bed.

“Hot Pie,” Gendry answers.

“No, his birth name.  I know that’s his legal name now, but I know his mother did not name him Hot Pie,” she says.  “And I know you have to know what it is.”

“I’ve been sworn to secrecy,” he says, but knows it is futile.  She will get it out of him, but he’s going to make her work for it.

She pushes him, rolling him onto his back as she straddles his waist.  “You can tell me,” she purrs, trailing her fingers down his bare chest.  “I won’t say a word to anyone.”  She slowly rolls her hips a little.  “I can keep a secret.”

“So can I,” he says, but his voice breaks and he silently curses at himself because now she knows she’s got him.

“From me?” she asks, eyes widening innocently.  “You would keep a secret from me?”  She moves her hands from his chest to the hem of her t-shirt.

“I’ve…” he swallows, “I’ve known him practically my whole life.”

She pulls the shirt over her head.  “But I’ve got better tits,” she counters, and he proves her point when his hands immediately go to them, thumbs skimming over her nipples, already stiff in the cool air of her room.

“You make a very compelling argument,” he croaks, watching her with interest as she leans down and kisses him.  It is a soft, deep kiss that sends most of the blood in his body to his groin, leaving almost none in his brain.  “Hothar Bakewell,” he whispers once she lifts her head.

She considers the name for a moment, then sits up and says, “I would change my name to Hot Pie too.  But his real surname is actually Bakewell?”

“His family have always been bakers, going way back to the time when people’s surnames were determined by what they did,” Gendry says, his hands still idly roaming her flesh.  “Lommy’s, too.  His family name is Dyer, but he uses ‘Greenhands’ professionally.  Turns out his several-times-over great-grandfather was also called Lommy and everyone called him Lommy Greenhands because his hands were—”

“Green, right,” Arya supplies, her fingers drawing little patterns on his stomach.

“He was a dyer’s apprentice, they say.  Textiles, of course,” Gendry explains, his attention to the conversation waning as he grows increasingly distracted by the enticing body still straddling him.

“Hmm.  And what did the Waters family do?” she asks, sliding off of him.  He is momentarily disappointed, but then he feels her fingers trailing his waistband.

“Shipping,” he says, then captures her lips with his again, and there is no more conversation for a while.

Chapter Text

-Gendry-

Gendry is disappointed to find himself waking up in an empty bed.  He groans and rolls over, burying his face in Arya’s pillow for a moment before dragging his naked body out of bed.

You were out cold.  Come get breakfast in the kitchen whenever you’re ready.  -A.

He smiles at the note and then shuffles into the bathroom, deciding to take a quick shower in order to keep presenting his best self to the Stark family.

Showered and dressed, he makes his way downstairs, hoping he remembers where the kitchen is.  The house, if you can even call it a house, is enormous.  And very old.  Ned had told him last night that it was originally a stronghold for the North, but had undergone so many renovations and updates, the only way you’d know it is because it’s “bloody immense.”

He can barely hear conversation drifting from the back of the house, and heads in that direction.  One of the voices sounds like Arya’s, so even if it’s not the kitchen, she’ll be able to point him to where the food is.

“…hoped that owning a business would have put you in contact with a better class of people.”

Gendry stops.  That voice sounds like Mrs. Stark.

“Gods, Mother!  Will you come off it already!” Arya replies, her voice harsh.  Gendry silently moves closer, feeling like a creep, but needing to hear.

“Come off what?  Wanting the best for my children?” Catelyn replies.  “I’m sure this Gendry is a nice young man, but he’s an artist.”

“Blacksmith.”

“Whatever.  Artists are notoriously… unreliable.  What about security?”

“I own half of a very successful gym, Mum.  Security is not an issue.  Plus, what year are you even living in?  I have no intention of marrying myself off to some rich politician so he can take care of me.”  There is an edge to Arya’s voice that tells Gendry that she very possibly stuck a metaphorical dagger into her mother’s back.

“I’m going to pretend you didn’t say that,” Catelyn replies, her voice so cold Gendry thinks he sees icicles in the air.  “You are the daughter of Lord Eddard Stark, Representative of Winterfell in the Westerosi House of Lords.  You should be with a better class of man than an artist.”

Gendry has heard enough.  Appetite gone, he turns and walks away, taking great care to be silent as he heads towards the foyer where his coat and boots are.

 

-Arya-

“And you are the wife of Lord Eddard Stark, and as the wife of the longest-sitting member ever of the Westerosi House of Lords, you should be a lot more open-minded,” Arya snaps back, having no idea that Gendry had just overheard all the awful things her mother just said about him.  Having no idea that he is no longer listening.

“How dare you!”

“No, Mother, how dare you!” Arya yells, standing so forcefully she nearly knocks her chair over.  “How dare you presume to tell me that Gendry isn’t good enough for me?  How dare you presume you have any say over anyone I date?  Yes, I am your daughter, but I am an adult.  Did you raise me to have bad judgment?  Did you raise me to make poor decisions?  Did you raise me to keep bad company?”

Catelyn says nothing, staring blankly into space, her face a careful mask.

“Did you?” Arya prompts, moving closer to her mother, forcing her to look up from her seat at her furious daughter.

“I did not,” Catelyn answers.  “But...”

“No.  ‘But’ nothing.  Do you truly think so little of me then?”

“How can you even ask that?”

“I think it’s pretty clear how I can ask that question, given how pleasant our conversation has been  this morning.”

Catelyn sighs.  “I trust you, Arya.  And I think the world of you.  I’m sorry I haven’t been better about telling you these things.  You’re right though.  Your father and I raised you as best we knew how, and all of you turned out better than we could have ever hoped.  And…” she pauses, shaking her head.  “I know you and I don’t always see eye to eye—”  Arya snorts a laugh at this, and Cat smiles a little, “but I am proud of how well you’ve grown up.”

“Thank you,” Arya whispers.  They sit in silence for a few long moments.  Catelyn sips her tea, wincing at how cold it has gotten, so she stands to take her mug to the microwave.

“He’s got a degree, if that helps.  Got a full scholarship to KLIAD,” Arya says, feeling a little triumphant when her mother sharply turns around.

“Oh really?” she says.  “Those aren’t easy to get.”  She knows this because she didn’t get one.

Arya sits again.  “That’s how good he is, mum.  If you weren’t so fucking blinded by your prejudice, you might have seen that.”

“Language.”

She ignores the reprimand.  “He makes me happy.  Even in the short time we’ve been together.  He makes me very happy.  You always said you just wanted us to be happy.”  Silence.  “Was that a lie?”

The microwave beeps, and she withdraws her mug before answering.  “No,” she says.  “I just…” she sighs, defeated.  “You’re right.  If he makes you happy, that’s what’s important.”  She sets her mug on the table and sits beside her daughter, placing her hand over hers.  “I’m sorry, Arya.  Truly.  He really does seem to be a nice young man, and he’s clearly quite smitten with you.”

Arya smiles and looks down.  “Yeah, that goes both ways.  I really, really like him.  More than I’ve ever liked anyone,” she quietly admits, blinking back tears she doesn’t quite understand.

“He’s really quite handsome, too.  If you don’t mind my saying,” Cat says, smiling.

“Mum!” Arya exclaims, starting to laugh.  “Doesn’t he look like Robert though?”

“Oh, darling… Robert never looked that good,” Cat says, and Arya’s eyes widen in shock before she bursts out laughing.

xXx

Arya leaves the kitchen, intending to go wake Gendry, who apparently has decided to have a bit of a lie-in.  She is surprised and puzzled when he isn’t in her bed or room.

She hurries back downstairs, wondering if she somehow missed him, but he still wasn’t in the kitchen.  She sees Rickon in the backyard playing fetch with the dogs, so she grabs her coat and boots – not noticing that Gendry’s were not there – and goes outside.  

“Hey, Rick,” she calls, absently petting Nymeria when she came bounding up.  “Have you seen Gendry?  I thought he was still sleeping, but he’s not, and I don’t know where he is.”

“Oh yeah, he came out a bit ago.  Went that way,” he points towards the pond.  “Looked right pissed.  I thought maybe you’d had a row.”

Alarm bells start sounding in her head.  Shit shit shit.  “Thanks,” she absently says, then starts heading in the direction Rickon had indicated.  “Nym, help me find Gendry,” she says.  Nymeria trots ahead, her nose to the ground.

xXx
-Arya and Gendry-

“Gendry, there you are,” Arya says when she sees him.  He is standing, his hand shoved in his pockets, staring across the frozen lake.  As she approaches, she can see the muscle in his jaw twitching.  He even ignores Nymeria happily bounding around him, celebrating her victory in locating him.  “Hey, I—”

“She’s not wrong, you know,” he quietly says, not turning around.  “You should be with someone better than me.”

Arya stares at him, not believing the words that are coming out of his mouth.  “Excuse me?” she asks, walking right up to him.

“I heard you and your mum this morning,” he explains, looking down at her.  “And she’s not wrong.  You do deserve better.  You’re a Stark.  Your family are somebodies.  I’m nobody; I told you that the day we met,” he answers.

“And do you remember what I told you the day we met when you said the same stupid thing?” she demands, putting her hands on her hips.  Then she stops.  “You know what?  Never mind.  I can’t even talk to you if you’re going to act like a complete idiot,” she says, then turns and stalks away, Nymeria dutifully following

“Arya…” he starts, finally turning around.  But she’s already gone.

xXx

“Oh, Arya, there you are,” Catelyn says when Arya comes stomping back inside.  “I was thinking we could—”

“He heard you, Mother,” Arya snaps, angrily yanking her coat off and throwing it on the floor.  She rips her boots off, then says, “He heard you and he agrees with you.”

“What?”

“Gendry!  You have no idea what you’ve done!  He… he’s…” she huffs, angry, upset, and frustrated, because she can’t – won’t – betray his trust by telling her mother about his past and insecurities and how her words would have felt like the re-opening of an old wound to him.

Cat looks stricken.  “Arya…”

Arya holds up her hand.  “Just… don’t.  Not now.”  Then she disappears up the stairs, taking them two at a time.

xXx

Gendry quietly comes back into the house a short time later, after berating himself beside the pond for several minutes.  He removes his boots and coat and hurries upstairs, looking for Arya.  She’s not in her room.  She’s not in Reina’s room.  He heads back downstairs, listening for signs of life.  He walks past Lord Stark’s office and can hear muffled conversation behind the closed door that he ignores.

I’ve learned my lesson.

He sees Rickon still outside with the dogs and notes that Nymeria is there, so he figures Arya must be in the house somewhere.  In the massive house with which he is completely unfamiliar.  There are probably secret passages and shit in a place like this.  She could be anywhere.  He quickly looks out front and sees her car is still there, and he exhales.

He thinks he hears sounds from the kitchen, so he goes back there, not even realizing that he still hasn’t eaten anything.

Thankfully, it’s just Jon and his family, so he walks in.

“Uncle Gendry!” Reina exuberantly greets him.  “You want a pancake?”

“Hi Reina,” he manages a smile for the little girl.  “No thank you, sweetheart,” he answers, then turns his attention to Jon.  “Have you seen Arya?” he cautiously asks, remembering that he is the brother to whom Arya is closest, so if anyone knows where she is, it would be him.

“You don’t know where she is?” Jon asks, his brow furrowing.

“Look at him, Love,” Ygritte says.  “Something’s wrong.  You two get in an argument?”

Gendry nods.

“What did you do?” Jon immediately asks.

“Why do you think it’s me that fu-messed up?” Gendry asks, mindful of the child there.

“Because you look like someone stomped on your heart,” Ygritte says, wiping her squirming daughter’s face.

“Mate,” Jon says, leaning back in his chair.  “It’s Arya.  She may be a willful pain in the arse who tends to do as she pleases, but 99% of the time, she’s right.”

“It was me that messed up,” Gendry admits.  “And I need to fix it.”

Jon chuckles.  “She’s probably hiding then.”

“Yeah, I figured that much out, mate, thanks,” Gendry replies.  “Do you know where?  You know, so I can apologize before Clegane finds out and pulls my lungs out of my…” he leaves the rest hanging.

Jon blinks at him a few times.  “I… I don’t even want to know the story behind that,” he says, standing.  “Come on.  I’ll show you.”

“Can I come?” Reina asks.

“Not this time, Monkey,” Jon answers, leaning down to kiss her head.

“But I want to help find Auntie Arya!” she protests.

“Tell you what: You wait here with Mum for Auntie Sansa and Uncle Sandor, and I bet if you ask Auntie Arya later, she’ll be more than happy to play a real game of hide-and-seek with you,” Jon says.

“Uncle Sandor’s coming?” Reina asks, clearly excited.  Gendry is gobsmacked.

“Poppet, we told you Uncle Sandor was coming,” Ygritte says.  Then she looks up at Jon and mouths “Go” to him over their daughter’s head.  “I bet he’ll give you a ride on his shoulders again if you ask really nicely like last time.”

Jon and Gendry make their exit while Reina is sufficiently distracted, and as Jon leads him through the house and up a set of stairs in the very back of the house, Gendry can’t hold his tongue any longer.

“Reina likes Clegane?”

“She fucking loves him,” Jon answers.  “If you think the idea of him being soft for my sister Sansa is weird—”

“I do, and I haven’t even met her yet,” Gendry interjects.

Jon huffs a laugh.  “Yeah.  Well, be prepared to see the giant beast that is Sandor Clegane bent to the will of a 5-year-old half-wildling child whose favorite thing is riding on his shoulders so she can taller than everyone else.”

Gendry can’t help but laugh, but his mirth quickly dies as Jon points to a door at the end of the hallway.

“Her secret hideout.  Where she would always go when she was mad or upset or just wanted to be left alone,” Jon says, his voice quiet.  “I strongly recommend knocking.”

“Okay.  Thanks,” Gendry says.  “I know you didn’t have to help me, considering it was me that fucked up.  So I really appreciate it.”

“I can see you’re suffering,” Jon replies, “and I’ve been there.  With both Arya and Ygritte.  And I know you want to make it better, so that’s why I helped.”  Gendry nods again, and Jon adds, “But if you don’t patch things up, Clegane won’t be the only person you’ll have to worry about.”

“Get in the queue, mate,” Gendry sighs, then starts walking towards the door.

xXx

Surprisingly, Arya lets Gendry in without a fuss when he softly knocks.  He almost thinks he was hearing things when he heard her soft, “Come in,” through the door.

When he steps inside the small room, she is sitting cross-legged on an old futon, looking at her hands in her lap.

“I’m sorry.”  His voice is soft.  “I’m just so used to…” he trails off and sighs.

She finally looks up.  Her eyes are red, but dry.  “I expected it from her.  She’s always had a huge snobby streak,” she says.  “I didn’t expect you to fucking agree with her.”  She stands and starts slowly walking towards him.  “I didn’t expect you to be so fucking primitive as to presume you know what I deserve.”

“I know, and I’m so, so sorry,” he says, swallowing hard and blinking his eyes a few times to try to stave off the tears he feels threatening.  “I do remember what you said when we first met, too.  I do.  It’s just…”  He lowers his head, sighs, and says, “It’s not an excuse, but when you’re told you’re worthless for most of your formative years, you start believing it.  And it’s really hard to undo that stuff.  It’s so easy to just slip back into that mindset, especially when you hear things like that from someone like your mum.”

“Someone like my mum?” Arya asks.

“You know… a real adult,” Gendry clarifies.  “Like a successful, respected person.  And a mother.  I’m particularly susceptible to mothers, I’m afraid.”

She stops, still not close enough to touch, but her demeanor softens as her heart melts a bit.  More than a bit.  “That’s very understandable,” she says.  “And I’m sorry my mother made you feel less than.”

“I don’t need any help in that area,” he replies with a humorless laugh.

“For what it’s worth, she’s been doing that to me my whole life.  Trying to tell me who I should be, who I should be with, what I should do.  She wanted another Sansa, and what she got was… basically another Jon,” Arya says.  Then she finally moves close to him.  “You must have stopped eavesdropping before I gave her an earful.”

He reaches for her and she allows him to pull her into his embrace.  “You did?” he asks, resting his chin on her head.

“Of course I did,” she answers.  “I gotta defend my man,” she adds, lifting her face and kissing his jaw.  “But listen closely, Gendry Waters, because I do not want to have to keep saying this.”

He eases his hold on her a bit so they can more easily see one another.  He intently looks down at her, giving her his undivided attention.

“You aren’t nobody, and you are exactly the person I want to be with.  I’m not going to say you’re worthy of me because that would imply that I’m better than you, and I’m not.  We haven’t been together that long, but… we work.  We fit together, and I don’t just mean physically,” she says, smiling a little at the end.  “And yes, I will fight anyone that dares say otherwise.  Including you.”

“Yes, m’lady,” he replies, his voice raspy, his eyes watery.  He tightens his hold on her, resting his cheek on the top of her head.  Gods, I already love this woman.  He squeezes his eyes closed, wondering if it’s too soon to say it.  “I’m sorry,” he whispers one more time.

“I forgive you,” she says, realizing she hasn’t actually said it yet.  When he heavily exhales, she squeezes him tighter.

“I can’t promise I won’t be stupid like this again, but I will promise I won’t run away from you again,” he says, gently easing back to look down at her again.  “I… gods, this is insane, we haven’t known each other that long, but I can’t express how desperate I was to make things right with you again.  I literally felt sick.  That’s never happened before.”

She leans up on her tiptoes and softly kisses him.  “I promise I won’t run away from you either,” she quietly says.  “We’re both a victim of our old habits, I guess,” she says, waving around the room they are in with one hand.  “This is my hiding place, and because we are here… this is where I felt compelled to go.”  She blinks once.  “Jon showed you where it was.”

The corner of his mouth turns up in a half-smile.  “Yeah.  But only because he could see my pain.  He also threatened me, so now I have two people to worry about kicking my arse if I hurt you.  Three, actually, because you’re the first person on that list.”

Arya laughs then, and it’s the best sound Gendry has heard all day.  He leans down and kisses her once more, his hands gently cradling her face.

They are interrupted by a polite knock at the door.  “Arya?  Gendry?  Are you in there?”  Catelyn Stark’s voice sounds, startling them both.

“Yes, Mum,” Arya answers, and Gendry releases her hold on her, sliding his hand down to grasp hers as the door opens and Cat walks in.

She looks rather upset and contrite.  “I… I wanted to tell you both that I’m sorry,” she says.  “I should never have said what I said, ever.  It was narrow-minded and… and bitchy, and while I pray that you do not think less of me, you have every right to do so.”

“Thank you, Mrs. Stark,” Gendry says.  “I… I don’t think less of you.  You only want what is best for your children.”

“You just have a shitty way of going about it sometimes,” Arya adds, but her voice is light.

Catelyn’s lips purse for a moment before she answers, “I deserved that.  And… I’m able to see now that what is best for Arya is for Arya to decide.”  She steps closer to her daughter and gently places her fingers under her daughter’s chin, tilting her face upwards slightly.  “You’re not a little girl anymore.  It’s very hard for a mother to accept that her children don’t need her in the same way they used to.”  Then she laughs a little and said, “Of course, you’ve always been frustratingly independent and stubborn.”

Gendry snorts a laugh, and Arya says, “Laughing at the pot, Mr. Kettle?”

“Yep,” he freely admits, lifting their joined hands to his lips so he can kiss her knuckles.

Arya rolls her eyes at him, then returns her attention to her mother.  “Thanks, Mum.  I appreciate that you came and sought us out.  Really.”  Then she lets go of Gendry’s hand and hugs her mother, surprising her.

“You’re very welcome,” she says, her arms around her daughter.  “I’m sorry for what I said, and I’m sorry I caused a rift between the two of you.”

“Unfortunately, I have to share some of that blame,” Gendry admits.  “I let my insecurities get the best of me.”

Arya returns to his side, and Cat merely shakes her head.  “No, dear, the blame lies solely with me.  If I hadn’t said those awful things, you would have had no cause to feel that way in the first place.”

“Well, it’s a bit deeper than that, but—”

“But that’s a conversation for another time,” Arya gently interjects, squeezing his hand.  “You don’t need to tell my mum your life story right now.”

“While I would love to hear more about you, Gendry, Arya’s right.  Besides, I was wondering if the two of you wanted to go into town for a bit.  Arya said you’ve never been to Winterfell before, so I thought she might like to show you around,” Catelyn suggests.

“And pick up what for the party?” Arya asks, grinning knowingly.

“Well…” Cat starts, trying not to smile, “it would be lovely if you could pick up the balloons.  And flowers.”

“Sure, we can do that,” Gendry answers.  “I’d love a personal tour.”

“Can we take the van then?” Arya asks as they walk out of the little hidden room.

“Of course,” Catelyn answers.  “Gendry’s sculpture is at my office, in the back storage room.  If you want to stop in there and make sure it survived being transported, feel free.”

“Yeah, that would probably be a good idea,” Arya says.

“Though I can’t imagine what could happen to it.  That thing is pretty solid and stable,” Gendry says.  “Be nice to see it again though.”

“It’s really amazing, Gendry,” Cat says, stopping to look at him.  “Mr. Seaworth included a diagram so I knew how to properly view it.  Incredible.”

Gendry smiles.  “Thank you, Mrs. Stark.  I hope he likes it.”

“He’s going to love it,” she replies.

Chapter Text

“Sansa!  You’re not going to believe what— oh, wait, first.  Sansa, this is Gendry.  Gendry, my sister Sansa,” Arya says, barreling back into the house after their trip into town and some of the surrounding areas.  She quickly hugs her sister, then steps back.

“Nice to meet you,” Sansa says.  “I’ve heard a bit about you,” she adds with a small smirk.

“Same,” Gendry says.  “Clegane, nice to see you again,” he politely nods at the big man standing just behind Sansa.  He’s suddenly very glad that this morning’s unpleasantness has been cleared up.

“Waters,” Sandor returns in a growl, not smiling.

“Be nice, Sandor,” Sansa says, turning and placing a gentle hand on his chest.

“That is nice for him,” Arya comments with a laugh.  “Come on, help us with these bloody balloons and flowers, and I’ll tell you the best story of the day.”

The four of them gather the balloons and flowers and head towards the lift, where Arya pokes the button to take them to the top floor.

“So.  I was showing Gendry around Wintertown, and we stopped for a bite of lunch,” Arya starts.  “And guess who I caught ogling my man, with her big jealous face.”

Sansa’s eyes widen.  “No!” she gasps.

Yes,” Arya replies.  “Jeyne Pool, Queen bitch herself.  I had gone to the ladies’ and when I came back, I spotted her looking at Gendry like she was hoping he was on the menu.”

“Of course,” Sansa rolls her eyes.  “Did you say anything to her?”

“Gods no,” Arya says.  The lift doors open and they step into a ballroom.

Gendry’s eyes widen and he forgets to start walking.

“Move it, twat,” Clegane growls behind him, bringing him to his senses.

Arya and Sansa keep talking as they walk around, setting out the flowers and balloons where they hope their mother will want them.  “I did make sure she saw us though.  Naturally I told Gendry who she was and what her deal is, so he was immediately on board with being disgustingly cute,” Arya says with a laugh.

“It was a real hardship,” Gendry volunteers, setting his armload down.

“It was epic,” Arya replies, laughing as she pulls him down so she can kiss his cheek.  “I mean, even before he knew what was up, she was already gaping at the fact that he was with me.  Arya Horseface.”

“Do horses look different up here, or…?” Gendry asks, looking at Sansa.

Sansa looks at the ceiling and lightly shakes her head.  “Arya never looked like a horse,” she says.

“I didn’t even have to ask him to play along,” Arya continues.  “I just told him my childhood bully was over there and checking him out, and he immediately took my hand, kissed it, and held it on top of the table while we waited for our food.  We fed each other bites of our food.  Played footsie under the table.  It was hilarious.  And fun.”

Sansa ignores the derisive grumblings from her surly fiancé and laughs.  “Who was she with?”

“I don’t know.  Some other daft bitch,” Arya answers, sitting at a table.  The others join her.  “Sorry to kind of… use you,” she says, looking at Gendry and taking his hand.  “But I would do the same for you, you know.”

“I know,” Gendry says.  “And it was no big deal, really.  I don’t normally go in for PDAs, but it was kind of fun.”

“Do you even know what she’s doing these days?” Arya asks Sansa.

“No.  You know I haven’t spoken to her in like a decade,” she answers.

“Yeah, Arya says you used to be friends with her, but then you realized she was a bloody great cow or something?” Gendry says, turning towards Sansa, curious.

“Yeah,” Sansa says with a heavy sigh.  “Until I was about 16 or so.  Did you not tell him the whole story?”

“Didn’t get that far yet,” Arya says.

“She was my best friend for years,” Sansa starts.  “But she was always making fun of Arya, picking on her, saying she was ugly and not good at anything useful, and no boy would ever like her, all that kind of stuff.  She had that sort of misplaced strength and confidence bullies have, and while I was insecure and weak, I was…”

“Pretty and girly,” Arya provides.

Sansa demurely clears her throat.  “Yes,” she admits.  “So I was ‘acceptable’ to be her friend.  Anyone not like her – us – was automatically less-than.”

“Bitch,” Sandor mutters, surprising Gendry, but he keeps his attention on Sansa.

“Yeah.  Then, when we were 16, she went on a two-week holiday with her family.  She had isolated me, I realize now, so I had no other friends, and I found myself in the company of my family a lot more.  With Arya, sometimes.  Other times, just watching how people interact with each other.  It was kind of the beginning of my interest in psychology.”  She pauses, then continues.  “We went to one of Arya’s fencing matches.  I began noticing how other people reacted to her.  Her teammates, even people with whom she was directly competing.  I noticed that not only was our family cheering for her, but her teammates’ families around us were also cheering for her, just as hard.  People liked her, I finally realized.  Arya was the cool one, not Jeyne.”

Gendry nods, and when he glances at Arya, she is blushing and trying not to look at anyone.  He takes her hand and she gives him a slightly embarrassed smile.

“When Jeyne came back from vacation, I told her off.  I had already started trying to make other friends and even started trying to be nicer to Arya.  She didn’t make it easy for me, and rightly so,” Sansa says.

“I would expect nothing less,” Gendry chuckles.  “And I don’t imagine Jeyne went quietly either.”

“No, she did not.  But once I, her now-former best friend, stood up to her, others started doing so as well,” Sansa replies.  “I’m not trying to sound like a hero or anything, but that’s just the way it happened.”

“Sometimes it just takes one person,” Gendry says.  “That’s how I met my best friend, Hot Pie.  He was being bullied and I stood up for him.  Me and one other mate, and the three of us are still friends.”

Sansa nods.  “Yes, exactly.  And now, looking back, I can see exactly why everyone liked Arya.  It’s because she’s always Arya.  She has never pretended to be anything other than who she is.  She never felt that she had to change her behavior or personality to ‘fit in’ or conform to any sort of bullshit norm.  If you didn’t like her, that was your problem.”

Gendry smiles at her, knowing in his heart that is one of the things he likes best about her.

“It’s a rare quality in an adult, but in a child, especially a teenager, it is even rarer.  Once I was able to let myself see that, and once she was able to forgive me for being a cunt, we started getting along, even though we are as different as night and day in nearly every way,” Sansa concludes.

“Our differences are what make us interesting,” Gendry says.  “And Arya is definitely interesting,” he adds with a fond chuckle.

“Couldn’t have said it better myself,” Sansa agrees.

“Are you both quite done fangirling over me now?” Arya asks, pulling her phone out of her pocket.  “Oh.  Bran’s almost here.  We should go back down before Mum has a fit anyway.”

“Yeah, she seems a bit strung out already,” Sansa says, standing.

“Oh, you have no idea,” Arya dryly comments as they head towards the stairs.

xXx

Meeting Bran and Meera is rather low-key.  Bran is Bran, with his quiet, still demeanor and dry sarcasm.  Meera is her usual charming self, and laments the fact that she opted not to join them in the coffee shop that day.

“It sounds like you had quite the time there,” she comments.

“She nearly gave me a stroke,” Gendry admits.  “Bending over like that, right in front of me.”

Arya laughs.  “Blame Bran!  It’s his fault; he dared me!”

“It was the highlight of my day, actually,” Gendry says.  “So I guess… thank you for being my wingman?” he asks Bran, who gives him his slight, mysterious smile.

“Wheelman,” he corrects, gently petting Summer, who had immediately decided he was On Duty as soon as he spotted his person.

“That was so bad,” Arya says.

“You’re laughing though,” Bran points out.  “We need to get settled in,” he adds with a sigh.  “Nice to meet you, Gendry.”

“You too, Bran,” Gendry replies.  “And Meera,” he nods at the woman standing on Bran’s other side.  She smiles back.

“I think we’re sitting together for dinner, so we’ll get to catch up some more,” Arya says.

“Oh, good!” Meera exclaims, moving to press the button for the elevator.  As Arya walks past her, she whispers, “He’s really cute,” to her.

“I know,” Arya whispers back.  She still has trouble sometimes believing that he’s hers.

xXx

Gendry hadn’t realized that there were assigned seats for the dinner.  As they all make their way up to the ballroom, he begins to worry that he might be in over his head.

“I’ve never been to a fancy party like this before,” he whispers to Arya as they climb the steps.

“This isn’t fancy,” she counters.  “You should see the parties they throw after elections.”  As she tells him this, she realizes that he just might, one day, as she is always expected to attend the celebrations following her father’s re-election to the House of Lords.  It’s not an election year, but they are always coming.

“Would I need a tux for one of those?” he asks, and somehow she knows he had the same realization.

“Yep,” she answers, giving his hand a reassuring squeeze.  “I bet you’d look super hot in a tux.”

Gendry doesn’t get a chance to reply because he’s once again dazzled by the ballroom, which is now completely decorated.  Once he regains his wits, he does a quick look around at the other men and is relieved to see he isn’t underdressed.  Arya had assured him that the shirt and tie would be just fine for the evening.  She had tried to convince him that he didn’t even need the tie, but he insisted.

“I told you you wouldn’t need the sport coat,” she says, reading his thoughts.

He remembers Jon’s words from this morning about Arya almost always being right, and smiles.  “Yes, of course you were right.”

“Oh, there’s Robb, finally,” she says, tugging his hand over to a very handsome man holding a toddler and standing next to a beautiful woman.

“They look like a greeting card,” Gendry comments, and Arya bursts out laughing.  “Shit, did I say that out loud?” he asks, eyes wide as he looks down at her.

“Yes, and you’re not wrong,” she replies.  “Hey,” she says, greeting her oldest brother.

“Arya!” Robb exclaims, leaning over to hug her with one arm.

“How’s my favorite nephew?” Arya says, poking the little boy’s nose.  He immediately buries his head in his father’s chest.  “Robb, Talisa, this my boyfriend Gendry,” she introduces.  “Gendry, my brother Robb, his wife Talisa, and their son, Eddard.  We call him Teddy.”

“Nice to meet you,” Gendry greets, shaking their hands.  “Hi,” he waves at the boy, who is significantly more reserved than his cousin.  Teddy hides his face again, but then peeks out at him.

“He’ll warm up once he sees how much Reina loves you,” Arya explains.  “He’s a year younger than she is, and—”

“And a lot less exuberant,” Talisa interjects with a laugh.  “He gets braver when he’s with her though.”

They chat for a bit until people start finding their tables.  When Reina learns that she isn’t sitting with Arya and Gendry, she is about to stage a full-on revolt, but then she sees Teddy is seated with her quickly settles.  Then Uncle Sandor plunks down right next to her and she completely forgets her anger in favor of talking the large man’s ear off.

Gendry watches this and cannot help staring at how attentively Clegane is listening to Reina’s jabbering.

“You’re staring,” Arya says.  “Don’t let him see you.”

“Shit, right,” Gendry replies, adjusting his chair so he’s fully facing the table.  Bran and Meera join them first, followed by Rick and another young man.

“Who’s this?” Arya asks.

Rickon rolls his eyes.  “Arya, you know Gawen,” he says.

“Gawen Glover?  Oh gods, it’s been years,” she says.  “How are you?  How’s your sister?”

“We’re all good,” Gawen answers.  “Erena just got her driver’s license.”

“Oh shit, she’s old enough?  Damn,” Arya says.  “You’re graduating this year too, right?”

“Yeah.  Going to Oldtown next year,” he answers.

“That’s not too far from Highgarden,” she observes.

“Yeah, well…” Gawen blushes, glances at Rickon, and looks down.

“I didn’t realize there was a university in Oldtown,” Arya says, furrowing her brow.

“There isn’t, but there’s a Culinary Institute there that’s supposed to be really good,” Rick says.

“That’s so cool!” Arya exclaims.  “I didn’t know you liked cooking.”

“Baking,” Gawen says.  “I want to be a pastry chef.”

“Nice,” Arya pronounces with a nod.  “And Oldtown is, what, a couple hours from Highgarden?”

Rickon nods.  “Yeah, we’re going to try the long-distance thing.  He might make it to some of my games, but I’m not going to be upset if he can’t.”

Gendry watches this exchange with interest.  Arya hadn’t mentioned that her youngest brother was gay, but clearly the two boys have feelings for each other and she is aware of them.

“How did I wind up at the kiddie table?”  An unfamiliar voice interrupts them.

“Ugh, this was the cool table until you got here,” Rick says.  “You and Roz can trade with… Lyanna and Maege.  Yeah, that would work.”

“Why, so you can sit by your girlfriend then?”

“Theon, shut up and sit down,” Arya says, rolling her eyes.  “Hey Ros,” she greets, and the other woman returns the friendly greeting.

“Who’s this then?” Theon asks as they sit, looking at Gendry.

“Gendry, this is Theon Greyjoy and his girlfriend, Ros Rivers,” she says.  “Gendry is my boyfriend.”

“Nice work,” Ros pronounces, nodding approvingly, and Arya laughs.

“Oh!  You’re the bloke who made the—”  Ros cuts him off with her hand over his mouth.

“Don’t give away the surprise!” she says.  “You don’t know who can hear!”

“Theon is almost family,” Arya explains.  “He’s a little thick and very obnoxious, but his heart is mostly in the right place.”

“Even if his brain isn’t,” Bran adds.  “You know damn well Lyanna Mormont isn’t Rick’s girlfriend, dumbass,” he says.

“Oh, right.  The gay thing.  Forgot,” Theon says.

“Rick came out this past summer,” Arya whispers to Gendry while Rickon introduces Theon and Ros to Gawen.  “None of us were really surprised, but it’s still kind of new.”

Gendry nods.  “Good for him,” he says.

“Yeah, it had really been weighing on him,” she agrees.  “It’s good to see him happy and comfortable with who he is.”

xXx

After dinner, Catelyn walks into the empty space in the middle of the tables.  She doesn’t say anything, but the conversations quickly come to a stop.  She has everyone’s attention in less than a minute.

That’s an impressive skill, Gendry thinks, and he’s not surprised she has it either.  I bet Arya could do that.

“Thank you all for coming out tonight to celebrate Ned’s birthday,” she says.  “I know it may seem a little odd to have such a large affair for a 52nd birthday, but as we were unable to throw him a proper 50th due to the election, and last year… well, you know what happened last year.”

“What happened last year?” Gendry whispers.

“Big car accident.  He almost died,” Arya answers.

“Oh shit, I remember hearing about that on the news,” he replies.  “That must have been terrible for you.”

“It was,” she responds, and he squeezes her hand.  It is not the time for further discussion on this topic, so he doesn’t ask anything else.

“So this year, since we’re just so happy he’s here to have a birthday, we decided to make it a big one,” she continues.  A few people start clapping, and soon everyone is applauding Ned, who looks embarrassed, but his years in politics have taught him how to remain poised in these situations.  He gives a friendly wave of acknowledgment.

“While I know we specifically said ‘no gifts’ on the invitations, the children and I do have a gift we’d like to give Ned,” she says.

On cue, the six Stark children move to join their mother in the center.  Gendry anxiously clenches his suddenly-sweaty fists, his foot tapping under the table.  He’s suddenly quite nervous.  He’s had several shows at Seaworth, but this is the first private unveiling he’s attended of one of his pieces.  The fact that it’s a gift for his very new girlfriend’s father only adds to the pressure.

“Mate,” Theon says, pushing Gendry’s drink towards him.  “Chill.  He’ll love it.”

“Thanks,” Gendry croaks.  “Have you seen it?”  He watches, his hand clutching his water glass, as a large item is pushed into the room on a flat cart.  It’s covered with a large gray cloth.

“Robb sent me the photo Arya took.  It’s really cool,” Theon says.

“Thanks,” Gendry repeats.

“Ned, would you join us please?” Catelyn says.

“What on earth have you done?” Ned asks as he stands and walks over.  “This had better not be a statue of me.”

“Who told?” Rickon loudly demands.  It is silent for a split second before Arya starts laughing, followed almost immediately by the rest of her siblings, then most of the guests.

A laughing Ned steps around Catelyn and presses a kiss to the top of his youngest child’s head.

“If you would do the honors,” Cat says, gesturing towards the gray lump.

Gendry smiles when she sees several people taking out their phones, including Arya.  He wonders if he should do the same, but decides Arya is closer and she’ll definitely make sure he gets a copy.

Ned carefully removes the gray cloth cover.  The room is silent.  “It’s… what is it?” he finally asks.

Gendry expects Arya to guide him into place, but Cat does.  “Stand right… here, Darling,” she says.  “Now look.”

Gendry holds his breath.

Ned’s eyes widen and his jaw drops.  “Bloody amazing,” he says after what feels like forever.  “Incredible.”

“What is it, Ned?” someone yells.

There are chuckles again, and Ned tears his eyes away from the sculpture.  “It’s a brilliant sculpture of a direwolf,” he says.  “But only if you look at it the right way.”

“You like it then?”  Arya’s quiet voice breaks through the awed murmurs.

Ned turns towards her.  “I love it,” he says.  “Thank you.  Thank you all,” he adds, hugging and kissing his wife and children.  “Where ever did you find… wait…” he trails off, then starts looking around at the tables.  When his eyes find Gendry, his heart stops.  “Is this yours?”

Gendry clears his throat.  “Um… well… I rather think it’s yours now, sir,” he answers, earning a few chuckles.  “But I did make it.”

“Come out here, lad,” Ned requests, beckoning with his hand.

Gendry’s cheeks feel like they’re on fire, but he cannot refuse Ned Stark.  He stands and makes his way over, conscious of everyone’s eyes on him.  When Arya reaches for his hand, he grips it like a lifeline.

“Not only am I blessed to have my wonderful family give me this beautiful and unique piece of art, depicting something so meaningful to the North, but we are also fortunate to have the artist who created this amazing piece with us,” Ned says, placing a strong but gentle hand on Gendry’s shoulder.  “Gendry Waters, blacksmith artist, from King’s Landing.”

Everyone applauds, and all Gendry can do is smile, blush, and look down before awkwardly waving.  “Thanks,” he says, but most people don’t hear it.

“I really need to see more of your work now,” Ned quietly tells him, and shakes his hand.  “Next time I’m in King’s Landing.”

“Yes, sir,” Gendry agrees.  He’s incredibly relieved and overjoyed that he likes the sculpture, but he mainly wants to get out of the spotlight.

“Okay, kids, go sit down,” Ned says, dismissing them.

When they get back to their table, Arya takes a minute to settle Gendry’s nerves with a soft kiss before they sit.  “I told you he’d love it,” she whispers, wrapping her arms around his waist.

“I know you did,” he replies, resting his forehead against hers.  “Thank you.”

Sit down, Arya,” Ned repeats with a laugh.  “You can congratulate him later.”  This is met with more laughter.

“Sorry, Dad,” she says, then pulls away from Gendry so they can both sit.

“Now, I know you’re all eager to come see what all the fuss is about with this, so I’ll get out of the way so you can all come over and take a look,” he says.  Then he takes Cat’s hand and leads her back to their table.

xXx

Dinner finished, the party transitions into mingling and general revelry.  There is drinking, but everyone seems to be on their best behavior so far, and the cake has been set up, cut, and put on small plates at one side of the ballroom for people to serve themselves as they wish.

Arya is catching up with Lyanna Mormont, having lost track of Gendry somewhere.  Once people started filing through to look at his sculpture, he became a very popular party guest.  She hopes that he gets a few commissions out of it.

“Yeah, I don’t know if I’m quite ready to leave the North just yet,” Lyanna says after Arya suggests she think about moving down to King’s Landing after she graduates from university.

“Well, if you change your mind, let me know.  Clegane and I are thinking about expanding our services to include PT and massage therapy,” she says.

“Really?” Lyanna says, suddenly looking more interested.  She pauses, then says, “I will definitely give it some thought.  I worry about Mum though.  Part of me doesn’t want to leave her alone, even though I know she’ll be just fine.”

Arya smiles.  Maege Mormont is beyond “just fine” and well into “downright impressive” as far as being able to take care of herself.  Not only herself, but any and everyone she encounters.

The woman in question currently has the rapt attention of Brynden and Edmure Tully across the room, clearly explaining something of great interest to the two men.

“Oh, I have no doubt she—”

“Auntie Arya!  Look what Uncle Gendry can do!” Reina yells, running up to Arya, followed by Teddy, who is pulling Gendry by the hand with him.

Arya’s lips curl into a saucy half-smile as she looks at Gendry.  “What can he do?” she asks.

“Look!” Reina squeals, then runs over to him.  He obligingly bends his knees and extends both arms, bent at the elbows.  Reina and Teddy each grab one and hang on.  Then he lifts them both off their feet and he stands, a child dangling from each arm.

Arya raises an eyebrow at him.  “Impressive,” she says.  Should I be turned on by this? Because I definitely am she thinks, but then Gendry raises the stakes and straightens his arms, raising them at his sides, iron-cross style, and all she can think is Damn.

“That’s quite a man you’ve got there,” Lyanna quietly comments.  Arya can only snort an undignified laugh as she nods her agreement.

Reina and Teddy squeal in delight, just before Teddy starts losing his grip.  Gendry feels his little hands slip and lowers his arms just in time so the boy doesn’t fall.

“Again!” Reina exclaims, tugging Gendry’s sleeve.

“Okay, you two, why don’t you let Uncle Gendry rest his arms for a bit,” Arya says.  When they both give her disappointed puppy dog eyes, she bends down on one knee and beckons them closer.  “Go find Uncle Sandor and see if he can do it,” she says, her eyes twinkling with mischief.  “If he says no, tell him that Uncle Gendry did.”

“Okay!” the two children chorus and then rush off.

“That was playing dirty,” Gendry says, but he is chuckling.  “He’s going to hate me even more now, too.”

“He doesn’t hate you,” Arya assures him, sliding her hand down his arm to catch his hand.

“How do you know?”

“You’re still here.  And alive.”

“I suppose that’s true,” he concedes.

“Gendry, have you met Lyanna?  Her family and ours go way back,” Arya says, gesturing towards her friend with her free hand.

xXx

The party finally winds down around midnight, and the Starks and their guests wearily make their way back down to their rooms.

Gendry makes a detour to the kitchen for bottles of water for the two of them, and is surprised by Ned Stark.

“Gendry, a word?” he says, extending his arm in invitation.

“Of course, sir,” Gendry replies, joining the older man in his office.  He waits for Ned to sit before taking a seat in a chair opposite the desk.

“I’m not one to beat around the bush, so I’m just going to get right to it,” Ned says, steepling his fingers in front of him.  “In the position I’m in, I have access to excellent resources.  I believe I have it in my power to see about getting you some… compensation from your biological father’s estate.  If this is something you want.”

Gendry blinks.  This is not at all what he thought Lord Stark pulled him aside to discuss.  “Um…”

Ned’s brow furrows.  “I realize it’s a bit of a shock.  And while Robert was a very close friend for many years, almost like another brother, I am well aware of the… less flattering aspects of his character.  I’d like to help in any way I can.”

“No… I mean, yes, it is a shock, but…” he exhales.  “I thought you had me come in here to give me the standard ‘don’t hurt my little girl’ speech.”

Ned suddenly laughs.  “Oh!  Sorry, sorry, yeah, I can see how you would have thought that.  And I suppose my serious demeanor didn’t help matters much there.  I’ve always had a bit of a… I believe the term is ‘Resting Bitch Face.’”

Gendry smiles.  “Yeah, me too,” he says with a chuckle.  “Anyway, um, thank you for your offer, Lord Stark, but unless you can promise the same for the rest of Robert’s bastards, I’m afraid I’m going to have to decline.  It just… wouldn’t be fair, yeah?”

Ned slowly nods.  “Yeah,” he agrees.  “Good point there, lad.”  He stands then, and Gendry follows suit.

“Thank you, sir,” Gendry says.

The two men walk towards the door, and just as Ned reaches for the knob, he places a firm hand on Gendry’s shoulder.  “You’re a good man, Gendry.”

“Thank you, sir,” he answers.

Then Lord Stark looks him dead in the eye and says, “But don’t you dare hurt my little girl.”

“Wouldn’t dream of it,” Gendry answers.  “She’s my favorite, too.”

Chapter Text

Things are quiet for the next few weeks.  Now that Gendry has met Arya’s family and survived, the two of them settle into a rather comfortable relationship, growing closer every day, and rarely spend nights apart.

Arya can’t help noticing that they spend more time at her place than his, but reasons that it makes sense because hers is one train stop closer to both of their jobs.  She notices him leaving more and more of his things over, too, and wonders how long it will be before they decide to just live together.

Strangely, the idea doesn’t frighten her or make her feel uncomfortable.  She likes the idea of him being there all the time.  I’ll have to find out when his lease is up.

Sansa and Sandor’s wedding is coming closer, now three months away.  Going by Sansa’s growing anxiety over making certain everything is perfect, one might think the wedding was three days away instead.

Which could be why Arya, frustrated after a morning of dealing with Sandor in a Bad Mood (worse than his usual bad mood) and lunch spent talking her sister off of the proverbial ledge, impulsively strides into a hair salon.

Forty-five minutes later, she finds herself walking down the Street of Steel, hardly seeing anything around her except for her destination.

She quietly opens the door to Elements and slips inside.  Then she locks it behind her.

She walks through the small showroom he has in front, slowing only a little to take a look at some of the pieces he has on display, things she didn’t get a good look at the last time she was here because it was dark.  The night they met.  She smiles at the memory, then silently heads to the forge in back.

His back is to the door and he is standing in front of the furnace, heating a long piece of metal.  He also has earbuds in.  She takes her time watching him, admiring his muscles and how his body moves.  The confidence in his movements.

He is dirty and sweaty and she can clearly see the muscles of his back flex beneath the white t-shirt he is wearing.

Yum.

He finally turns around, the end of the metal glowing bright orange as he brings it to the anvil.

Do you know what happens to things that are sat on that anvil?

She smiles and takes a step forward.  Watching him hammer on the metal gives her serious feelings.  It’s already warm in the forge, but Arya feels even more heat pooling between her legs.

He lifts the piece and starts to turn back to the furnace.  That’s when he sees her.  He stares for a moment, stunned, blindly setting the piece of metal aside.

“You cut your hair,” he finally says.  It’s more an exhale than a sentence, and he’s looking at her with wide eyes and an open mouth.  He pulls the earbuds out of his ears and sets them on a bench, then pulls his phone out of his pocket and stops whatever he was listening to.

“Yeah… It was pretty impulsive, but—”

“It looks really good,” he interrupts, wiping his hands on a cloth as he walks towards her.  “Really good.”

The look on his face is making her all warm and tingly, and when he just drops the cloth to the floor, she knows she’s not going to make it back to the gym any time soon.  “Thanks,” she whispers.

“It’s almost like it was last summer.  I liked it then, too.”

She smiles.  “You remember that?”  Her hair had been blunt-cut that summer, just below her chin like it is now, only this time she has fringes covering her forehead, highlighting her large, expressive eyes in a very flattering way.

His arm is around her waist now and his other hand is sliding against the side of her neck.  “Mmm-hmm,” he nods, moving his face to the other side.  “Now I have unfettered access to your neck,” he murmurs against her skin.

“I’m not complaining about that,” she says, sliding her hand up into his hair, which is damp with sweat.

“I’m all sweaty and gross,” he says, still dragging his lips over her skin.

“I don’t care,” she gasps.  “You are so fucking sexy right now.”

Now he lifts his head.  “I am?”

She bites her lip and nods.  “I could watch you work all the time.  But if I did, I’d never get any of my own work done, and you’d be interrupted a lot.”

“Fuck,” he swears, merely a rough breath, but his hands are back on her, no longer caring if he gets her dirty because she clearly wants him to.

“Please,” she replies, and he laughs before catching her lips with his.  Her hands reach behind him and untie the leather apron around his waist.  He pulls away to pull it over his head, then drapes it over the anvil with the inside facing up before lifting her and very deliberately setting her on it.  She bites her lower lip and reaches for the hem of his shirt.  He whips it over his head and carelessly drops it to the floor.

Arya’s mouth goes to his chest like a magnet, kissing and licking and sucking the sweat off of him.  His head falls back and he groans, his hands shoving under her shirt.  When she lightly bites one of his nipples, he jumps, prompting her to giggle before helping him peel her shirt off.

“Just drop it,” she says when she sees he seems hesitant to let it fall to the dirty floor.  “I don’t care,” she adds, squirming out of her sports bra.

Gendry carefully drops the shirt and bra on top of his discarded shirt, then grabs a foot and pulls her trainer off.

“You locked the door, right?” he suddenly asks, shoe in his hand.

“Yeah,” she says, shifting her bottom on the anvil to peel her leggings and panties down.  “Leave it,” she says when he reaches for her other shoe.  She pulls one leg completely out, leaving the garments hanging off of her still-shod foot.

Gendry busies himself opening his jeans and shoving them and his underwear down just enough to free his hard and straining cock.

Arya pulls him close, wrapping her legs around his waist so she can rub her center against him.

He groans again, leaning his head down to wrap his lips around one of her nipples, sucking and flicking it with his tongue a bit before wedging his hand between them to touch her.

“Gods you’re so wet,” he gruffly whispers, his fingers circling her swollen clit.

“Well, yeah,” she answers as though it was obvious.  “Stop teasing me, Gendry.”

“As my lady commands,” he says, then slides into her.

“Mmm, yes,” she moans, leaning back a little, hanging onto his shoulders.

He takes advantage, leaning down and latching onto her neck as he withdraws and then slams forward into her.

“Oh!” she gasps.

“Sorry,” he immediately apologizes.

“No, do that again.  Just like that,” she encourages him, digging her nails into his shoulders a little.

He happily complies, making good on his threat the night they met.  He is unrelenting, planting his feet and setting a punishing pace.  Little gasps and grunts escape her lips with each thrust, and it only spurs him on.

Gendry drags his lips up Arya’s neck, heading back to her lips.  They slam together almost painfully, and her feet become unhooked behind his back.  She nearly slips off the anvil, but he holds her securely.  His hands move down to grip her thighs, bracing her open for him.

She gasps, one hand reaching behind her to support herself on her small perch.  “Wait, wait… I have a better idea,” she pants.

He immediately stills, looking confused.  “Am I hurting you?” he asks.

“No, but I feel like I’m gonna fall off this thing,” she says.

“I’ve got you,” he promises her, and her heart melts at the look in his eyes as he gazes down at her, still fully seated within her.

“I know,” she says.  “But let’s try…”  She gently pushes him away, then turns around so her back is to him.

“Oh yeah,” he agrees with a grin, understanding immediately.  He slides his hand from her waist up to her shoulder, easing her forward over the large block of metal.  “Perfect height,” he murmurs, then takes himself in hand and slides back into her.

“MMmnnnnnnggg,” she groans, loudly and hoarsely, her hands finding the base of the anvil to hold onto.  “Harder… like you were doing before,” she prompts.

“’Kay,” he manages, grabbing an ass cheek in each hand and gripping tightly.  He slams forward into her again and is rewarded with a broken cry of elation.

His goal becomes to make her make that noise again.  And again.

Arya lets go of the anvil with one hand, groping for her breast.  She rubs her thumb over her nipple, circling and flicking it before pinching it.  Then she feels Gendry’s hand move from her butt, sliding forward to rub circles on her clit.

“Yes,” she gasps.  His rhythm falters just a little and his fingers aren’t as steady as usual, but she hardly notices because her peak is building fast.

He clenches his jaw, trying to hold on a little longer.  He knows she’s close, but he knows he’s very close and isn’t going to last if he keeps up this pace.  So he drives into her, deep and hard, and stays still, his fingers working her until she starts trembling and whimpering.

Then he rears back and thrusts in deep and hard again.  She cries out, her feet lifting further off the ground as she climaxes.

He can feel her clenching around him and it triggers his own release.  His fingers dig into her hips and he groans a garbled combination of curse words and her name.  Then he slumps forward over her.

“Gods, Arya,” he sighs after a second.  He kisses her spine, then moves back to let her up.  “You are brilliant.”

She pushes herself up and turns around.  “Thank you,” she says.  “That was fun, if a little strenuous.”

“Good thing you’re in such great shape,” he says, shamelessly appraising her mostly-naked body as he pulls his pants back up.

Arya laughs, bending down to put her foot back into her panties and leggings.

“Loo is through there if you need it,” Gendry says.

“Yeah, I’d like to tidy up a little,” she says.  She picks up her shirt and bra, then pecks his lips before walking away.

xXx

“To be honest, I needed that,” Arya says when she returns to the forge.  She is fully dressed again apart from her shoe, which Gendry is holding out to her.

“Rough day?” he asks.

“Just a lot of small annoyances building up,” she says.  She finds an empty spot on one of the benches against the walls and hops up on it.  “I didn’t have an appointment made to cut my hair, if that tells you anything.”

His brow furrows.  “It… doesn’t, but okay,” he says.

She tells him about her morning dealing with Sandor and Sansa, concluding with, “And when I passed the salon, something in me just went ‘go in there and just do something.’  So I did.”

“I’m still not sure I understand, but if it’s what you needed to do, it’s what you needed to do,” he replies, leaning against the bench beside her.

“You’ve never had, like, a bad or frustrating day and just gone ‘fuck it’ and done something impulsive?” she asks.

Gendry moves, turning to stand in front of Arya.  He places his hands on her knees and slides them apart so he can stand between them.  “You mean something like attempting to ditch one’s own art opening to run off into the night with a beautiful stranger?” he asks.  He leans forward, pecks her lips and adds, “Yeah, I think I might have a bit of experience with that.”

xXx

“This is new,” Gendry says, looking down at the mat just beside the inside of Arya’s apartment door.

“It’s for your sooty boots,” she says, getting up off of the couch.  She had gone home instead of back to the gym after her visit with Gendry at the forge, deciding she doesn’t want to deal with Sandor until tomorrow.

“Oh, okay,” he replies, dutifully placing his boots on the mat.  Then he takes the bag of food he has brought with him to the table and sets it down.  “Have I been ruining your carpet?”

“Not yet,” she says, walking towards him.  “But I can’t help noticing more and more of your things have been gradually drifting over here.”

His eyes widen.  “You have things at mine, too,” he weakly says.

“Yeah, a spare toothbrush, a pair of flannel pajama bottoms, and emergency knickers,” she says.

“And I have…”

“A toothbrush, shaving supplies, deodorant, contact lens stuff, one sketchbook that I know of, and the gods only know how many articles of clothing.”

“You’re just better prepared than I am,” he tries, not sure if she’s annoyed or not.  “We also spend more time here than at my place.”

“This is all true, but… Gendry, when is your lease up on your flat?” she asks, tilting her head to the side as she looks up at him.

“You’re not mad?” he asks, her question not fully registering yet.

“No, I’m not.  I’m actually asking if you just want to stop mucking about and just move in with me,” she answers.

“Oh.  Yeah.  Yes.  Yes, I do.  I really do,” he says, realization dawning.  He cups her face in his hands and leans down to kiss her.  “My lease is up at the end of the year,” he finally answers.  “I’ll let the management company know that I’m not renewing it.”

“Good,” she declares.  “Now, I’m hungry.  What did you bring me to eat?”

Chapter Text

They decided to fly to Winterfell for the wedding, so they didn’t have to do the long drive again.  It was a bit of an indulgence, but they managed to get a good price and relatively decent flight times, which made them both very happy.

They got to Winterfell two days before the wedding, which irked Catelyn a bit, but Arya pointed out there was really no reason for them to be there any earlier.  “Sandor isn’t even coming up until Friday afternoon, and he’s the groom,” she pointed out.

Gendry finished the commission he got from the Tully family (thanks to Ned’s birthday party) the week prior, so he was able to get that all squared away and shipped out to Riverrun in plenty of time to relax a bit before the wedding.  He has ideas for new projects, and Davos has promised him a few more commissions soon, but he decided he needed a few days of downtime.

Especially if he is to attend a large wedding with the Stark family.  And potentially be faced with Baratheons who may be related to him.

“Dad said he talked to Renly Baratheon about you,” Arya tells him as she joins him in her bedroom, where he is unpacking.

“Oh, is that where you disappeared to?  Found your dad?” Gendry asks.  “What did he tell him?”

“He said that I was dating someone who is probably one of Robert’s, and that he should under no circumstances pursue the issue,” she answers.  “He said if he wanted to talk to you about it that was fine, but that you weren’t interested in any compensation or inheritance or anything like that.”

“Okay.  I can live with that,” he answers.  “I… might actually want to meet him.  You said Renly is the nicer of the two brothers?”

“Yeah.  He’s very charming and very gay.  Stannis is about as warm and soft as a glacier.  And his wife is crazy.  Their daughter is cool though.  She’s got grayscale scars on her face, so don’t stare,” she says, then drops a resigned sigh as she looks at her bridesmaid’s dress.  “Oh and Renly told Dad that he would talk to Stannis and make sure he knew what was up, so Dad wouldn’t have to.”

“She had grayscale and lived?” Gendry asks, walking over to see why Arya is sighing.  “That’s amazing.”

“Perks of being rich,” she explains.

“Ah.  Right.  Why are you frowning into your closet?” he asks, resting his chin on top of her head.

“I hate my bridesmaid’s dress,” she says, pulling it out and removing the plastic from it so he can see it.

“What’s wrong with it?  I mean… besides the color,” he says, brow furrowing as he looks at it.

“That’s most of the problem,” she says, hanging it on a hook so he can get a good look at it.  “I don’t know when the trend of wearing dresses that match the wearer’s skin tone started, but it needed to stop a year ago so Sansa wouldn’t have chosen it for my dress.”

“I mean… it’s not a horrible dress,” he assesses.  The dress is surprisingly simple.  He would have expected more frills or lace coming from Sansa.  It has spaghetti straps and a plunging V neckline on the bodice, which is embroidered with flowers in almost the same color as the fabric.  The skirt is long and flowing, but not puffy or fussy.  “At least you don’t look like Little Bo Peep or something.”

Arya laughs.  “True.  But I barely have enough boobs for the top, and they had to take up the hem so much they could have made me a shawl from what was left over.”

Gendry kisses the top of her head, then bends down further to kiss her neck.  “I’m sure you’ll look beautiful in it,” he says.

“You’re biased,” she retorts.  “Or at least you had better be.”

“Oh I definitely have no objectivity left when it comes to you,” he confirms, still kissing and nuzzling the side of her neck.  “But you’ll still look beautiful.”

“Thank you,” she finally says, then turns around to face him so he can kiss her properly.

xXx

“Is that Beric Dondarrion?” Gendry leans over and whispers to Jon during the rehearsal, noting the best man.

They are seated in the chairs set up for the guests on a large patch of land behind the Stark’s home.  Most of the family is there and enjoying the warm spring evening, watching the wedding rehearsal.  And waiting for the dinner to follow.

“Yeah.  He’s one of the few people Clegane can stand,” Jon explains.  “They were team—”

“Teammates, yeah,” Gendry finishes, briefly overlapping Jon.  “Shame about his eye.”

“Yeah, I can’t help thinking that’s part of the reason they get along.  Shared trauma or something,” Jon says.  “He was in the same car accident that burned Sandor.”

“Oh sh—shoot, that’s right,” Gendry replies, censoring himself because Reina is sitting on his lap.  The little girl immediately climbed onto him as soon as she was done practicing her duties as flower girl.

“You were gonna swear,” she chides him.

“And you are far too clever for your age,” Gendry replies.  “And you’re right.  I was going to, but I didn’t.”

Reina gestures for him to lean down a little, so he does.  She whispers in his ear, “I’ve heard swears before.  My mummy says them when she drives sometimes.  And when she cooks sometimes.”

Gendry swallows his laughter.  “Well, as long as you know you’re not supposed to say them,” is all he can think to say.

Then he looks up to the front and sees Arya watching him instead of paying attention to the rehearsal.  She looks radiant in the late afternoon sun, her hair, still blunt-cut just below her ears, shines where the rays hit it.  She’s wearing skinny jeans and the bull t-shirt he got Lommy to make for her, and she is the loveliest thing he’s ever seen.

He smiles at her and she smiles back at him just before Sansa nudges her.

xXx

Gendry spots Renly Baratheon fairly easily, and has to admit there is a resemblance between himself and his probable uncle.  He finds Stannis less easily, only identifying him when he sees a girl in her late teens with half a scarred face talking animatedly to Rickon and Lyanna.  A very stern-looking man approaches her and she leaves with him, so Gendry assumes the man is Stannis.  He doesn’t see much of a physical resemblance, but he wonders if that’s how he looks to other people when he goes around scowling most of the time.

He manages to avoid them both until the reception.  He did meet Shireen through Rickon, and decided he agreed with Arya’s assessment of her.  Especially when she tilted her head at him and said, “So we might be cousins?”

“Um, yeah.  That’s the general consensus,” he replied.

“Brilliant,” she decisively said.  “Renly and Loras don’t have any kids, and I really don’t see Cersei’s spawn, which is fine.  So it would be nice to have a decent cousin for once.”

Gendry could only smile at that.  “I’ve never really had any family at all,” he admitted.

“Well, you do now, cousin,” she replied.

Gendry is getting a drink at the bar before the dinner when he hears a voice behind him.

“I understand we might be related.”

He turns around and looks into a face that is too familiar for a man he has never met, and says, “Ned seems to think so.  I’m Gendry.”  He offers his hand.

“Renly,” Renly answers, shaking the offered hand.  “I feel like l’m looking into a mirror that is also a time machine.  How old are you?”

“I’m 28,” Gendry answers.

Renly merely nods, like something makes sense to him.  “Robert was due to marry Cersei around the time you were born.  He said something about ‘last hurrahs’ and ‘sowing his—”

Gendry holds up his hand.  “I’m sorry, but I don’t really want to hear it,” he interjects.  “I don’t mean to be rude, but I don’t care about Robert at all.  I mean it’s nice to have confirmation that he was probably my biological father, but… I don’t want any backstory or explanations.”

“Fair enough,” Renly says.  He reaches into his inside coat pocket and pulls out a small case.  He withdraws a card from the case, and hands it to Gendry.  “If you ever need or want to contact me, I’ll be more than happy to talk to you.  About anything.  If you do decide you have questions, or… if you want to get to know some of your biological family.  Or even if you just want to be friends.  Feel free.”

Gendry takes the card and stares at it a moment.  “Thanks,” he says, almost absently.  “Um, wait.”  He digs out his wallet and fishes one of the few cards he keeps in there, just in case.  “Here.  In case I do call… then you’ll be able to identify the number.”

“Oh that’s right!  You’re that amazing metal artist!” Renly exclaims.  “I saw the direwolf sculpture you did.  Amazing.  Just amazing,” he gushes.  “Loras!” he calls to a man about 20 yards away.  “Loras, come here!  You have to meet Gendry!”

Gendry feels his cheeks color with embarrassment as Renly and Loras Baratheon-Tyrell begin tag-team complimenting him.

But it all ends with them promising to commission something, so Gendry supposes it is worth feeling a bit embarrassed.

Then Renly decides he should meet Stannis, and Gendry’s mood drops again.

Stannis is serious and brusque, and his wife Selyse is just as quiet but Gendry feels judgment radiating off of her.

“So you’re one of Roberts?” Stannis asks.

“That’s the theory, Sir,” Gendry answers.

“What do you hope to achieve by making this information known?” he asks.

“Nothing.  It was Lord Stark that made the information known, not me.  And the only reason he did that is so you lot would be forewarned about possibly seeing me, since I apparently look like a Baratheon,” Gendry answers with a vague gesture towards a fervently-nodding Renly.

“Hmm,” Stannis grunts.

“Stannis, don’t be a shit,” Renly says.  “Gendry is a good lad.  Ned vouches for him.  If he says he doesn’t want anything, then I believe him.”

“How nice for you,” Selyse says.

“I’m sorry, Selyse, but how, exactly does this concern you?” Renly asks, then immediately turns his attention back to his brother before she can answer.  “You don’t have to talk to him again or anything if you don’t want to.  I simply thought you might like to meet this young man who is probably your nephew.”

“Very thoughtful of you,” Stannis coolly replies.  “It was nice to meet you, Gendry.  If you will excuse us.”

“Of course, Sir,” Gendry says.

“I think he likes you,” Renly comments once Stannis is out of earshot.

When Gendry turns to give Renly a befuddled look, he sees the other man is barely holding his laughter in.  When the dam bursts, Gendry can only join in.

“He’s got a perpetual stick up his arse, and Selyse is unbearable to be around for longer than five minutes,” Renly says.  “It’s amazing Shireen turned out as well as she has.”

“Yeah, I met her already.  She’s really cool,” Gendry agrees.

He thinks he could get along with Renly and Shireen, at least.

xXx

Arya pulls Gendry to the dance floor after only mild protests.  He doesn’t love dancing but he doesn’t necessarily hate it.  He just doesn’t do it.  But he also knows Arya likes dancing and he realized long ago that he will quite literally do anything she asks, so he dances.

When the song switches to something slow and he pulls her into his arms, he decides there are definitely benefits to dancing.  Especially when she closes her eyes and rests her head on his chest, giving him her complete trust to keep her safe and on her feet.

“Tired already?” he asks, kissing the top of her head.  It tastes like hair spray, but he doesn’t really care.

She lifts her head and looks up at him.  She’s always beautiful, but with her hair and face professionally done for the wedding, she’s absolutely breathtaking.  He’s never taken much stock in makeup and doesn’t care if women wear it or not, but whoever did Arya’s makeup today was a real artist.  Her true, natural beauty is merely highlighted by the cosmetics.

“Not really,” she answers, giving him a small smile.  Her lips have only the faintest hint of color left from her lipstick, partly due to food and drink and partly to Gendry.  “Are you having a good time?”

“Surprisingly, yes.  Jon and Ygritte have been keeping me quite entertained.  And Reina, too, of course.  Before she passed out,” he chuckles, glancing over to the side of the ballroom, where there is a little girl inexplicably asleep on an air mattress against the wall.

“I wish I could have at least sat with you for dinner,” she sighs.  “I don’t like the head table.  It felt like everyone was watching me eat.”

He laughs again.  “Well, I was, but I don’t know about anyone else,” he replies.

“Creepy much?” she asks, laughing with him.

His laughing grin fades into something softer and sweeter as he gazes down at her.  “I love you,” he sighs, saying it like it was the easiest thing in the world.

She lifts up and kisses him softly and sweetly.  “Been holding that in for long?” she asks, smiling up at him.

“Ages,” he answers in a heavy exhale.

She laughs and kisses him once more, then says, “I love you too.”

“Oh good,” he says, and she laughs again until he stops her giggles with his lips.  “I was right, you know,” he says, lifting his head to look down at her.

“About?”

“You do look beautiful in this dress.”

“We’ve already established that you’re biased,” she points out.

“Do you always have this much trouble accepting compliments?” he asks.

“Oh, probably,” she allows.  “You know my deal.”

“Yeah, I do,” he says with a nod.  “But you’re going to have to get used to the idea that I find you beautiful, and I love you, and my life was empty before I met you.”

She melts a little, looking up into his earnest blue eyes.  The song ends and the music turns fast again, so she pulls him away from the dance floor.

“Where are we going?” he asks when she keeps walking, away from the reception.

“I want to be alone with you right now,” she answers as they make a beeline for the house.  She pauses.  “Is that all right?”

“Fuck yes,” he answers.  She starts walking again and he willingly follows, just as he knows he will be doing for the rest of his life.