The day things in King's Landing changed started out as normal as any day. Arya had a lesson with her dancing master and Sansa had lessons with Septa Mordane, all while things in the castle around them were set into motion. King Robert had come back early from the hunt, injured but alive, and their father had gone to attend him carrying a secret that neither of them had any idea about. They of course learned about it later that day during court when the queen and her brother were brought in front of the king in chains.
King Robert wasted no time exposing their crimes before he ordered their execution. The lives of Joffery, Tommen, and Myrcella were spared only due to the plea of their grandfather Tywin and were thus, exiled to Casterly Rock as bastards. Arya didn't care much for Joffery being exiled feeling a deep hatred for the boy. She thought he got what he deserved. The court was further shocked by King Robert's statement that he refused to remarry and many of his lords advised against this course, after all he'd need heirs now that the truth about the Baratheon children had been exposed but he ignored their words.
It was only when they were leaving court that Arya glanced at Sansa and saw her face. Arya had thought that she'd be devastated that her betrothal to the Prince was now effectively broken but she saw a hint of relief in her sisters face. She didn't comment on it until they reached their chambers and the door was firmly closed behind them.
"Are you alright Sansa?" She asked as she sat on the edge of the bed and patted it. Her sister joined her easily.
"I'm actually relieved." Sansa revealed, meeting Arya's eyes. "I know marrying the prince would have made me queen one day. I know that's all I used to talk about, everything I wished for as a girl, but I've grown up. I know now that it isn't at all like the songs that people sing."
"You said once that you loved Joffery." Arya said and Sansa shook her head.
"I was a stupid little girl who couldn't see past the title he had. I know better now." She said. "Joffery's a monster. He was cruel to me, and to others, he would have been a terrible king and and even worse husband."
"You're right. He would've been." Arya agreed. "Now Father can make good on his promise and make you a match with someone who is worthy of you."
Sansa blushed and Arya raised an eyebrow at her as she studied her sisters face.
"Or have you already found someone yourself?" She asked with a light smirk. Sansa became even more flushed as she wrung her hands together in her lap.
"I was betrothed Arya." She said. "It would have been improper for me to find another man more desirable than my intended."
"Uh huh." Arya said, her smirk becoming more pronounced. "Well, if you did happen to find your mind wondering to another perhaps father would find it appropriate to pursue a match."
"He would never allow it." Sansa said, the sadness in her voice making Arya stop her teasing as she stared at her sister.
"Why not?" She asked quietly. "Is he an inappropriate choice for a lady? If he is, I could help you. You could run away with him, I'd cover for you, give you a head start."
"Arya!" Her sister protested but she had an edge of laugh in her voice. "He has a name, a house, but father would not find him appropriate because of his reputation. Besides, I don't even know if he thinks of me in that way. He is hard to read. Sometimes I think that maybe he does and then he does something to change my mind. It's so frustrating."
"Can you tell me who he is? Maybe I could help." Arya asked. Sansa chewed on her lip, hesitance obvious on her face. "I won't tell anyone."
"You promise?" Sansa asked.
"You have my word." Arya assured her. Sansa sighed.
"Sandor Clegane." She said quietly. Arya's mouth fell open as she stared at her sister in disbelief. She wasn't sure what she had expected to come out of her mouth but that certainly wasn't it.
"The Hound?" Arya asked. "Why in the seven hells?"
"I know he seems angry and gruff, he is angry and gruff, but underneath all of that there's something." Sansa said, standing from the bed as she began pacing the floor, frustration clear on her face. "He scares people and I know he's killed people before, mostly on Joffery's orders, but he can be gentle as well. At least with me."
"What do you mean, at least with you?" Arya asked. She was hesitant to believe that the Hound was anything but a terrible killer. She hadn't forgotten that he'd killed her friend Mycah and she wasn't likely ever going to but she had to admit that she knew he'd done it on Joffery's orders. She'd even said as much herself.
"Joffery hit me." Sansa said quietly. "I never said anything to anyone but he was there, he was Joffery's sworn shield after all, anyway he wiped the blood from my lip. He was gentle for such a large man. He warned me to give Joffery what he wants and save myself some pain."
"He should have done something about it." Arya protested, her arms crossing in front of her. The story didn't make her feel any better, it only pissed her off more to know he'd let Joffery hurt her sister.
"Joffery was the crown prince. He couldn't have done anything without risking his own life." Sansa protested and Arya could see that her sister wasn't going to change her mind about this. Arya decided that she'd just have to watch him closely and if he ever hurt her sister, she'd kill him.
"I'm not going to pretend to understand it." Arya said with a sigh. "But if it makes you happy, if he makes you happy, I'll deal with it. I understand why you think father wouldn't approve."
"He'll never allow me to marry him." Sansa said softly.
"You want to marry him?" Arya asked, genuinely surprised though she didn't know why. Sansa had always fantasized about marriage and babies and, though she claimed that she didn't believe all the songs anymore, Arya knew that not all of it had left her. She was still hoping for a love like the songs.
"Maybe." Sansa said. Arya was about to comment further but a knock at their door distracted both of them moments before their father pushed it open and came in. Sansa rejoined Arya on the edge of the bed as they looked at him.
"What were you girls talking about?" He asked and they glanced at each other with wide eyes.
"Nothing!" They said in unison. Their father's raised eyebrow told them that he didn't believe them for a second but he wasn't going to push it. Arya cleared her throat.
"What's going to happen now?" She asked, glancing at Sansa for only a moment. "Are you still going to send us home?"
"No." He shook his head. "In fact, your mother and brothers are coming to King's Landing for a visit."
"Really?" Sansa asked in excitement, matching smiles crossing their faces.
"Aye. They're going to come to see the new prince crowned." He informed them and Arya's brow furrowed.
"The new prince?" She asked. Their father nodded.
"Seeing as Cersei Lannister's children are not his, he needed an heir." He explained. "I happened to meet his bastard son not long ago. Robert has legitimized him, he'll begin lessons here in the keep soon. The Lords and Ladies have been summoned to swear fealty to him."
"Will we meet him?" Sansa asked.
"At some point." Her father said before he cleared his throat and pulled a chair over to sit in front them. "The new prince will need a wife. Robert refused to marry again so he can not provide more heirs. His son will need to."
Arya heard Sansa's sharp intake of breath even as she stared at her father. With the knowledge of what Sansa had just revealed to her, she didn't want her sister to be forced into another betrothal for the sake of the Kings wishes to have the Stark and Baratheon houses joined, so she did the one thing she thought would prevent it.
"I'll do it." She said quickly. Sansa and her father both looked at her, matching expressions of shock on their face but she pushed on. "I'll marry him."
"Arya..." Her father began. "You're young."
"I've already flowered father. I'm old enough to marry." She insisted. "Let me do this."
"You've spoken openly about how you'll never marry. About how you don't want to be a lady." Her father said. "Why now?"
Arya bit her lip. She wasn't very well going to tell her father that Sansa's heart belonged to someone else, someone he wouldn't approve of, so she latched onto the only part of Sansa's confession that would give her a valid reason for her decision in her father's eyes.
"Sansa was betrothed to Joffery with the assumption that he was the king's son and it turned out he wasn't." Arya said. "She's confided in me that he was cruel to her. He hit her. She just got out of a betrothal with him, she's been through enough and I don't want to force her into another one so soon. It's okay father, I know the king wants our houses joined, so I'll do it. Allow Sansa to be free of this."
"He hurt you?" Her father asked, his eyes going to Sansa. "Why did you not come to me?"
"He was the crown Prince. I didn't think there was anything you could do." Sansa said quietly before glancing at Arya. "Please father, don't make me do it again."
"You're okay with this?" He asked Arya. "You're sure?"
"Yes father." Arya said.
"Okay. I'll inform the King of your agreement." He said, standing from the chair before he looked at Sansa. "And I will also discuss what you've told me with him. Joffery isn't a prince any longer, something will be done about his treatment of you."
He left the room as quickly as he had come and they remained silent for a long moment before Sansa turned to her.
"I'm sorry." She said sincerely. "I know that you never wanted to marry some lord."
"It's okay." She said softly. "Besides, the new Prince hasn't been raised as a lord, perhaps he will not be so full of himself like other lords."
"Still, I'm older. It's my responsibility." She said and Arya shook her head.
"You are my sister and I'll protect you where I can." She said. "Besides if I marry the prince, I'll be a princess, and no one tells a princess what she can and can't do."
She and Sansa laughed together and the statement as they fell back onto the bed. It was only much later when Arya was laying in her bed as she stared at the ceiling that she let herself fret over her decision.
It was true that she'd always said she didn't want to marry but she, like Sansa, had grown up while they were in the capital and she had learned that you couldn't always get what you wanted. She knew the marriage would benefit her family and the north immensely and it would keep Sansa from having to marry someone she didn't love, at least for the moment, and she'd meant what she said. People didn't tell a princess what she could or couldn't do so she'd make sure that she could continue her sword training. Perhaps she could even use her position to make changes to help the people. She could only hope that the new prince was nice.
When Lord Stark once again visited the forge and asked for Gendry he was expecting for him to have a job for him to complete. He could have never expected what had actually happened. He'd been on edge from the moment Lord Stark told him that he was to come with him to the Red Keep and the feeling only got worse when he was brought to the solar where the king was waiting for them. The doors closing behind him had felt like a death sentence and his thoughts were running through his head, trying desperately to find a reason for him to be here. It was only when the King moved from his seat and grasped his face in his hands that Gendry thought for sure that he was going to die here not knowing what he'd done to deserve it. His thought process only made him more surprised when Lord Stark motioned for him to have a seat and the King began speaking.
"You were right Ned." The King said. "No denying it once you look at the boy."
"Have I done something wrong?" Gendry questioned, unable to keep quiet any longer.
"No." Lord Stark said. "But we've brought you here for a reason."
"Okay." Gendry said cautiously as he studied both men. The King cleared his throat and began speaking once again.
"My whore wife has been sleeping with her brother. The children I thought were mine are not so I'm in need of an heir." He said and Gendry looked at him with wide eyes. It was a lot of information delivered in a couple of sentences but it still didn't clear anything up. He was a blacksmith, he didn't see how that could possibly help in this situation.
"I don't see where I fit into this story, Your Grace." He said quietly. Lord Stark cleared his throat.
"You remember the first time I came to visit you?" He asked and Gendry nodded. "I was following up on something the previous Hand had been researching. He visited with you as well, I believe."
"Yes, milord, he did." Gendry confirmed, his brow furrowing.
"He suspected, as I did, that the King's children were not his own which was correct." Lord Stark said. "I, like him, studied the books containing records of the great houses of Westeros and discovered that all true born Baratheon children had certain features that the Lannister children did not posses."
"Okay." Gendry said again. He felt like there was something crucial he was missing in this conversation given the way they were both looking at him. King Robert sighed.
"You're my bastard son, boy." He said. "And seeing as I don't have any other heirs, you're to be legitimized. You're the Crown Prince."
"What in seven hells are you talking about?" Gendry said, shock freezing him in place. "I'm no prince. I'm just a bastard blacksmith from Flea Bottom."
"Not anymore." The King said. "You will be given a room in the Red Keep and you will be crowned in front of all the lords and ladies of the court. You are now and forevermore, Prince Gendry Baratheon of the Seven Kingdoms."
"You have the wrong person." He protested before repeating. "I'm just a bastard."
"I know this is a lot to take in." Lord Stark said, placing a gentle hand on his shoulder. "It will be difficult to adjust but you'll learn. You will be given lessons in etiquette as well as reading, writing and numbers. You are the rightful heir."
"I don't know how to be a prince." Gendry said, his voice soft and unsure.
"Like I said, you'll learn." Lord Stark said. King Robert cleared his throat bringing their attention back to him.
"As you are my heir and I don't plan to marry again, you will need a wife." He said and Gendry's eyes widened. "I've already spoken with Lord Stark and you will marry one of his daughters. The Houses of Stark and Baratheon will be joined."
"You want me to marry someone I've never met?" Gendry asked incredulously.
"You will meet her before the wedding, I assure you." Lord Stark said.
"She's a lady from a great house." King Robert said. "It's a sound match."
"Fine." Gendry said, still trying to wrap his head around everything that he'd just been told. He couldn't quite believe everything that had happened, he'd started the day as a lowborn bastard blacksmith and ended it as a prince. It certainly wasn't where he'd foreseen the day going.
"Let's let the boy rest before we discuss anything else." Lord Stark suggested. The King agreed and Lord Stark pulled him up from the chair and began leading him through the castle. He'd never been inside a castle before and he found himself taking in every detail as they walked. He almost ran into Lord Stark, who had stopped in front of a set of doors, as he had been so caught up in studying his surroundings.
"These are your chambers." Lord Stark said. "It may take you a while to find your way around the place but you'll have a guard with you at all times so they'll know where to take you. I've had a bath drawn for you and the kitchen staff have brought up something for you to eat."
"It all seems unbelievable." Gendry admitted. "Like I'm going to wake up soon and this will all have been a strange dream."
"It's not a dream." Lord Stark said, a hint of smile on his face. "Tomorrow, you will begin lessons. I know this is hard to grasp, I know it seems like it will all be taken away, but it won't. Many things have changed, not just in your life, but in the kingdom itself. It's going to take time to adjust, for everyone, but if you ever need anything or you just want to talk, you can come to me."
"Thank you, Lord Stark." Gendry said sincerely. He was one of the few highborns that Gendry had met who wasn't rude to him in some way.
"Of course Gendry." Lord Stark said. "We'll be family soon anyway, I figure it can't hurt to be friendly."
"Right." Gendry said, his face flushing quickly at the mention of the marriage he'd been told he'd have to be a part of. "Your daughter, when will I meet her?"
"You can meet her tomorrow, after your lessons." Lord Stark said. "I'll make sure to speak to her about it."
"And she's agreed to this marriage?" He asked quietly. "I'm not in the business of forcing anyone to do something they have no desire to do."
"She's agreed." Lord Stark confirmed and Gendry thought he saw something like approval in the older man's eyes when he looked at him.
"Alright." Gendry said. "I suppose I should rest then, it sounds like tomorrow is going to be a busy day."
"It's here that I leave you then." Lord Stark said and Gendry began to bow as he stepped away to leave and he heard a quiet laugh as Lord Stark caught his shoulders and pulled him back up. "You don't need to bow to me, your grace."
"Right." Gendry flushed again. "That will take some getting used to."
"You'll get the hang of it, I'm sure." Lord Stark said. He nodded to him. "Goodnight."
"Goodnight." Gendry returned. The guard that had followed them from the King's solar opened the doors to the chamber for him and he stepped through. The doors shut behind him just as quickly as they'd opened, leaving him alone to stare at the room before him.
There was a table at the edge of the room with a plate of food on it making Gendry realize just how hungry he was. There was a large featherbed in the center of the room and at the other corner, opposite the table, was a large tub with steam coming off it. Gendry chewed his lip as he looked from one side of the room to the other before he decided to eat first before he took a bath. Everything here seemed so luxurious that he almost couldn't believe it was real.
He ate the food quickly, the meat warm and flavorful in his mouth and the bread soft and light. He didn't think he'd ever eaten something that tasted so good in his life. It was when he was stripping off his clothes to bathe that he noticed the clothing laid out on the bed. He picked up the tunic and breeches, the fabric soft in his hands, nothing like the course fabric of his current clothes. He was almost afraid to dirty the material, still a little afraid that this wasn't real, that it must all be some elaborate joke and if he messed up he'd be tossed back out onto the street.
He sat the clothing back on the bed and continued stripping off his things. He sank into the tub, the water warm on his skin, and his muscles began relaxing. He'd never had a bath like this before. Most of his baths consisted of a bucket of water and a rag to wipe himself down with or a quick dive in the sea. This gave him time to enjoy the water warm around him as he washed himself. Working in the forge left him covered in soot and the smell of smoke so having the opportunity to clean his skin was welcome.
He stayed in the bath until the water went cold before he dragged himself out of it and dried off. Pulling the fresh set of clothing on, he felt how soft the material was and it surprised him hat something could feel that nice against your skin. He laid down in the bed hesitantly, still half waiting for someone to scold him for it, but it never came. The bed was softer than anything he'd ever laid on and he sank into it easily, staring at the ceiling as he did.
The day had been full of surprises. He could hardly believe what he'd been told but it didn't seem like anyone was going to contradict it so he had to let himself acknowledge it. He was a prince just like that. The king had decided to acknowledge him and suddenly he was lifted in position to one of the highest places in Westeros, not to mention that he was apparently betrothed already and expected to marry soon. It was all almost to much for him. He could only hope that Lady Stark wasn't disappointed in having him as a husband, a bastard boy from Flea Bottom. She'd probably dreamed of some fancy knight or lord and been stuck with him. He hoped he could make her see past that as they'd be spending the rest of their lives together.
Arya spent much of the next day lost in her thoughts after her father told her that she'd be meeting to new prince later which resulted in a few extra bruises when she lost her concentration with Syrio. She wondered what he'd be like and hoped he wasn't as much of an ass as Joffery was but somehow she didn't think he would be, he'd be raised as a lowborn bastard blacksmith after all so he'd certainly be less entitled than the little shit at least.
The downside to meeting the prince was that Sansa insisted that she needed to make a good impression which turned into her forcing Arya into a dress before she began combing through her hair with a brush. The tugs on her scalp made Arya even more irritated about the whole situation.
"I don't really see why all of this is necessary. I could just wear my breeches, he should know what he's getting into anyway." She complained but Sansa just rolled her eyes and ignored her comments as she braided her hair loosely in a more northern style just like their mother wore hers rather than the southern style that was popular in Kings Landing.
"I wonder what he's like." Sansa said. "I wonder what he looks like."
"Does it really matter what he looks like?" Arya asked, rolling her eyes. After all, Sandor Clegane wasn't the most handsome man around and her sister was still all about him.
"Well, not really." Sansa said, chewing on her bottom lip. "I'm just wondering if he looks more like the king than Cersei's children do. He must, otherwise how would they even know he's really the king's son."
"You really think he looks like King Robert?" Arya asked hesitantly. She wasn't really obsessed with looks but the thought of having to look a King Robert's face on her husband for the rest of her life was not a pleasant one.
"Well obviously not how he looks now but when he was younger maybe." Sansa shrugged. "I hear he was quiet handsome when he was still just a Lord and not the king of anything, back when they were fighting the war against the Targaryens."
"I suppose." Arya said quietly, her mind still wondering. She almost wished time would speed up just so that she could see what he actually looked like instead of making up an image in her head. A thought occurred to her that made her turn to met her sister's eyes. "Did father even mention how old the new prince is?"
"I don't think so." Sansa said. "But he did mention that he was a blacksmiths apprentice so he can't be that old. Anyway, we'll meet him soon and we'll have our answers, now sit still while I finish this."
Arya turned back around and allowed her sister to finish with her braids before she pulled her up from the chair to look over her again. She seemed to pass the inspection because her sister nodded to herself, a self-satisfied look on her face that made Arya roll her eyes. She knew the image of a perfect lady that she was putting out right now would make the shock of her actual personality even worse later but she knew there was no changing Sansa's mind so she didn't even try.
She knew that she wouldn't be meeting the prince until later, after he'd finished his lessons for the day, so she left her chambers. After managing to escape Sansa, who warned her not to mess up the dress or hair she'd worked so hard on, she decided that angering her sister was probably not a good idea so she didn't go to the training yard to sneakily work on her skills. Instead she wandered the castle aimlessly trying to find something to occupy her time until she had to meet her father in the King's solar to be introduced to the prince.
Her wondering brought her to the kitchens where she stole a few cakes before leaving again. She'd been staying in the Red Keep with her father and Sansa for over a year already but she still didn't entirely know her way around yet which led to her getting slightly lost in the hallways. She knew she could ask the guards stationed throughout the castle to lead her back to somewhere she knew but she was determined to figure her way out for herself. Eventually she found a doorway that led out into a courtyard and she shrugged to herself as she wandered through the flowers and other plants until she came out onto the streets of King's Landing.
The castle stood tall behind her and rather than try to find her way back through the courtyard and maze of hallways she decided to just walk back to the front and go through that way. Being in a dress called attention to the fact that she was a lady so wondering through the streets without acknowledgement wasn't as easy as it was when she was wearing her usual breeches and tunic. She usually didn't get a second look but now she saw people noticing her and inclining their heads politely all while keeping an eye on her out of the corner of their eyes.
She knew they just being cautious and trying to keep from doing anything to slight her in he least but the attention put her on edge anyway. She figured she'd have to get used to it considering that she was now betrothed to the prince and would be their future princess, though none of that had been announced yet. As far as the smallfolk knew, the queen had been charged with adultery and incest alongside her brother and the previous heirs to the throne had been named bastards and banished. She knew that the King had also announced the legitimization of his bastard son and named him his heir, though no one had met the new prince yet aside from the king himself and her father.
She remembered when she was young how she would protest marriage and swear she'd never marry but here she was, agreeing to marry the prince to save her sister heartache. She'd never have pictured it herself but she was nothing if not fiercely protective of her family so doing this had only made sense to her. The thought of marriage, and more specifically the marriage bed, still filled her with something akin to fear but it had lessened throughout the years. She could only hope that her betrothed was kind and would allow her to continue her training with Syrio. She hoped being raised away from the court had made him less inclined to try to lord his newfound power over her like Joffery had with so many people but when her father spoke of him, he seemed to genuinely like him so she knew he couldn't be all that bad. Her father was a good judge of character after all.
Arya was so caught up in her thoughts as she entered the Keep that she hadn't been paying attention the where she was going at all leading her to slam into something firm and solid. She closed her eyes and waited for the fall to give her a few bruises but it never came, instead an arm wound around her waist preventing her from falling before pulling her upright once more. When her eyes opened they met solid deep blue ones looking at her with concern and something close to panic.
"I apologize sincerely m'lady." He said as he released her from his grip. His head was down and he was glancing between her and the floor as if he wasn't sure if he should even be looking at her in the first place.
"It was my fault." She said quietly as she shook her head. "I wasn't paying attention."
It was then that she noticed the two guards behind him who were watching them both impassively. They were wearing the Baratheon colors marking them as palace guards and making her eyes trail back to the boy in front of her. His dark hair was falling into his eyes and he had his hands clasped behind him while his shoulders hunched slightly forward as if he were trying to make himself as unobtrusive as possible, not an easy feat for someone of his size, and it all connected in her mind then.
"You're the prince." She said. His cheeks flushed then.
"I...I mean, I guess so." He said shyly and she had to fight to keep the grin off her face. He seemed to not believe it himself, unsure of his position, making the statement sound like a question. She gave him a soft smile, she was sure all of this change couldn't be easy for him.
"Well, between you and me, you're much better than the last one." She confided making him look at her with wide eyes.
"You don't even know me m'lady, I could be horrible." He said. She studied him for a long moment before pursing her lips and shaking her head.
"I don't think you are. You have kind eyes." She said confidently before glancing at the guards and leaning closer to him to whisper. "Besides, anyone would be better than Joffery. He was a bit of a cunt."
Her crude language seemed to startle a laugh out of him as he looked at her. Her smile widened on her face.
"Your grace, we need to be going." One of the guards spoke up. "You're meant to meet the King and his Hand soon."
"Right." He seemed to remember where he was in that moment as he straightened his shoulders and she could see him trying to put on a air of confidence as he turned to her. "I must bid you goodbye then, m'lady."
"You don't have to." She said. "I'll walk with you."
"My lady, he's to meet with the King." The guard protested.
"Yes, I'm well aware of that." She said, glancing at the guard. "But since the meeting with the King is about his betrothal to me, I don't think it will matter all that much."
"You're the Hand's daughter?" The prince spoke up.
"One of them." She confirmed as she turned to look at him. Their eyes met once more and she could see curiosity in his gaze now. "My name is Arya Stark."
"I'm Gendry, m'lady." He said softly.
"My lady." She corrected gently. "Although, you can just call me by my name. In fact I'd prefer it."
"As you wish, m'lady." He said and she could see a smile tugging at the corner of his mouth. She didn't bother correcting him again, instead she slipped her arm into his and began leading the way to the King's solar. So far, the new prince seemed nice enough for which she was glad. Maybe being his wife wouldn't be so bad.
The King and Lord Stark had seemed surprised to see them arrive together but hadn't been upset about it in the slightest. Instead they'd sent them on their way seeing as they'd already met one another with the King suggesting they took a stroll in the gardens to get to know each other. Gendry still didn't know where he was going having only been in the Red Keep for a full day so far but Lady Stark seemed to know the way so he allowed her to lead him. She looked like a proper lady and it made him a bit nervous, particularly the hand she had wound through his arm. At Master Mott's he'd been taught not to touch the Ladies that came in with their husbands or fathers, he was meant to bow and speak only when spoken to. The rest of the time he was supposed to stay out of the way.
He'd been afraid she might shy away from him because he was a low born bastard even if he was supposedly the prince now but she didn't seem to particularly care. He noticed the other Lords and Ladies they passed eyeing them curiously, the first glimpse of their new prince getting them all excited, but no one approached to try and speak to them just yet. Lady Stark seemed content just pulling him along beside her as she'd made no effort so far to make conversation and he wondered for a moment if she thought him too stupid for it. He cleared his throat which caught her attention immediately.
"So, how do you like living here in the Red Keep?" He asked, figuring he'd start a conversation if she wasn't going to. She seemed to study him for a long moment before she shrugged.
"It's alright I suppose, better now without Joffery and Cersei, but I miss home sometimes. Winterfell is much colder than here in the capitol so that took a while to get used to but it's kind of nice." She gave him a small smile.
"Was Prince Joffery really so bad? That's twice you've mentioned him in an unfavorable way." He asked quietly, genuinely wanting to know what the other boy was like. He didn't know anything about being a Prince but Joffery didn't seem to have many fans either. Perhaps it came with the position.
"I could never say this while he and his mother were around without fear of retribution but he was truly a horrible person." She chewed on her lip as she explained. "He acted cruelly towards the servants and wasn't above abusing them for anything he perceived as wrong or a slight to him. He used his position to his advantage, he knew that no one could touch him because he was the crown prince so that allowed him free rein to do as he pleased."
"Were you betrothed to him?" He asked.
"Why would you think that?" She asked, looking up at him. She was truly a small girl and it made him wonder for a moment just how old she actually was.
"I just assumed that since you're betrothed to me that you had been to him. I guess I thought they'd just changed the people in the agreement around after the King decided to legitimize me." He shrugged.
"Well they kind of did just change the people around. The agreement was that a Stark girl would wed the Crown Prince which is still true, just with a different prince and a different Stark." She explained. "My sister was betrothed to Joffery and my father at first intended for her to wed you when things changed but she didn't want to."
"What, she didn't want to marry the bastard they'd plucked off the streets?" He asked and even he could hear the edge in his own voice. She stared at him for a moment, bringing their movement to a stop as she shook her head.
"That's not it at all." She said, a heat in her eyes that let him know she was a little annoyed he'd even assumed it was due to that. "When she was betrothed to Joffery, he was cruel to her just as he was to the servants. He hit her. She didn't want to be forced into another marriage pact so soon after just for the sake of joining the houses so I told my father that I would do it even though I'm younger."
"I'm sorry." He said quietly. "I didn't mean to offend, I'm just not used to this. I can't imagine why any lady of high birth would want to marry me, crown or not, I'm just a bastard."
"It's okay." She said as her eyes softened. "I've found that all the best boys are."
"What's that supposed to mean?" He asked, raising an eyebrow.
"My favorite sibling has always been my bastard half brother Jon but don't tell Sansa. She'll get horribly cross." She said, as she began pulling him along again. Her teasing tone made him laugh, thankful that his blunder hadn't made her so angry that she left him here alone but something else she said caught his attention.
"You said you're younger than your sister." He stated, making her eyes come up to his face. "How old are you exactly?"
"I'm five-and-ten." She said, studying his face. "Don't worry, I'm a woman grown. Old enough for marriage."
"I only ask because you're kind of tiny." He said and he didn't miss the way her eyes narrowed to slits as she whipped her head to look at him. If he wasn't so terrified that she'd throttle him, the expression of indignation on her face would have made him laugh.
"I am not tiny!" She exclaimed. "It's not my fault that you're so overgrown."
"Apologies m'lady." He said, trying to contain the grin on his face. "I'll refrain from mentioning your size in future, it seems a sensitive subject."
"I told you not to call me that." She said as she stepped on his toe deliberately.
"It seems strange to call you by your name." He admitted, ignoring her still sullen expression. "I was taught to always address a lady by her title, lest I offend her."
"I feel as if I should warn you." She sighed heavily, pulling him over to a bench that sat next to an elaborately carved fountain. "Since we're going to be married and all."
"Okay." He said hesitantly.
"I'm not much of a lady." She said and he raised an eyebrow as he took in her dress and hair and she huffed. "I don't usually look like this so I wouldn't get to used to the sight if I were you. My sister insisted I dress well to meet my future husband but I'm usually wearing a tunic and breeches, and I carry a sword of my own which I've learned to use quite well, so if you're expecting some lady who's going to sit around all day sewing and allowing you to put children in her then you might want to tell the King to arrange a different match."
He stared at her for a moment, trying to reconcile the girl she was describing with the one sitting in front of him and it was then that he noticed the fidgeting that he'd put down to nerves at meeting him was actually her pulling at the fabric encasing her body. She obviously wasn't used to wearing it and her hand kept drifting to her side where he imagined her sword hang from her belt usually. Her body even gave clues of the truth to him now that he was looking for it, the way she held herself as if she was always ready to spring into action, the muscles in her arms obviously a result of training, and he felt a smile fall onto his face.
"I don't mind having a wife who's not much of a lady." He said, meeting her eyes immediately. "It means she won't mind when I'm not much of a lord. It's a relief really, I don't think I'll be a very good lord."
"I think you're wrong." She said, seeming thoughtful of his answer. "I think you'll make a fine Lord. Like you said, you're a low born bastard by birth, even if you're the prince now, you'll always remember that and it'll help give you a better understanding of the concerns of the people. A lord who understands his people is the best kind of lord and will make an even better prince."
He felt his cheeks heating at her words and hoped he could play it off as being due to the heat.
"So you really carry a sword?" He asked to change the subject back to her.
"Yes." She said, narrowing her eyes as she studied him for his reaction. "Is that a problem?"
"No." He shrugged. "Maybe you should even teach me something about wielding a sword seeing as I'm not particularly adept at it."
"Weren't you a smiths apprentice. I'd think you'd know more about swords than I would." She said and he shrugged.
"I know how to make them and make sure they're balanced but I don't know anything about using them properly." He admitted.
"And you wouldn't care being taught about it from a girl?" She asked and he could hear the skepticism in her voice.
"Why would that matter?" He asked and she responded with a shrug.
"A lot of men would take it as a slight to his honor." She said and he rolled his eyes.
"Lots of men are idiots." He said sincerely as he chewed on his lip and debated saying what he was thinking. In the end he made the choice to speak. "To speak truly I like the thought that you could protect yourself if you needed to and wouldn't have to rely on anyone to defend you."
"Really?" She asked, glancing at him.
"Absolutely." He nodded.
"Well, I'm sure the King has set up lessons for you to learn swordplay but if you wanted you could come to a session with me. My father hired a man called Syrio Forel to teach me, I'm sure he wouldn't mind teaching you as well." She said and he looked at her in surprise.
"Your father hired someone to teach you how to sword fight?" He asked and a small laugh drifted from her lips. The sound immediately made him want to figure out ways to make it come more often just so he could hear it again.
"I was always really rough when I was younger, especially with my brothers, always running around after them and wanting to participate in all of it. My father, and especially my mother, tried to discourage it and steer me toward more womanly pursuits but it never took. Eventually my father seemed to accept that I wasn't going to change and told me that if I insisted on fighting then I'd better learn how to do it properly. It was the best day of my life when I found out." Her smile lit up her entire face and it was that moment that he realized just how pretty she actually was.
"And you're good at it?" He asked.
"Yeah, at least I think so." She said.
"Well, maybe I will join you in a lesson sometime. If only to see you fight." He said and she smiled again.
A polite clearing of the throat distracted both of them and brought their eyes to the entrance of the path that led to them sitting on the bench in front of the fountain. A young woman was standing there with a slight smile on her face. He noticed the dress she was wearing was a soft blue color with cutouts along the sides exposing her skin to the light. She had wavy brown hair that hung around her face and an upturned nose. Even he recognized that she was beautiful. Arya stood up next to him prompting him to follow her lead.
"Lady Margaery, lovely day to stroll in the gardens isn't it?" Arya said next to him. He could detect an edge in her tone that told him immediately that she didn't particularly care for the woman but she wasn't going to be impolite.
"Of course, Lady Arya." Margaery said sweetly. "I was just taking an afternoon walk and noticed you both here. I've heard so much about the new prince that I wanted to introduce myself to him now that I've gotten the chance."
Gendry cleared his throat as he glanced between the two of them before he stepped forward hesitantly. He took the woman's hand and placed a light kiss on the back of it as was customary before letting her go once again and stepping back next to Arya quickly.
"It's a pleasure Lady Margaery." He said as civil as he could make it with the obvious tension. Arya looked seconds away from glaring at the other woman, though Gendry was still unclear as to why and not really sure what to do in this situation. He'd never spent much time around highborns so he wasn't entirely sure what was appropriate or not.
"You're the talk of the castle, your grace. Everyone is excited to meet you." She responded with a smile. She seemed sweet but the way Arya was looking at her made him hesitant.
"I'm excited as well." He definitely was not. Arya cleared her throat next to him and slipped her hand into his arm once again.
"I'm sure my father is wondering where we've wondered off to, if you'll excuse us." She said, her smile looking more like a bearing of teeth.
"But of course. I should be meeting with my grandmother soon anyway." Lady Margaery said, the smile still on her face even as her eyes took in the contact between the two of them. She stepped to the side to allow them past her as Arya began leading him back the way they came, the guards falling in line behind them. When they were a considerable distance away from the courtyard he glanced at the girl on his arm out of the corner of his eye.
"What was that about? You don't like her?" He asked and she shrugged.
"Margaery Tyrell is Sansa's friend. She's alright, funny and sweet, but she'll do anything to get her claws into the nearest man with a certain amount of power." She shrugged. "I've no doubt that she'll try to lure you into her bed at some point, don't let her. She'll claim that she's with child or some such and you'll be forced to marry her instead. She's always wanted to be queen, even tried to get Joffery to marry her at one point, fair warning."
"She tried to marry Joffery while they were betrothed and your sister is still her friend?" He asked and Arya nodded.
"Sansa didn't particularly care about Joffery, in fact she'd probably have welcomed Margaery to marry him if a broken betrothal wouldn't have reflected badly on our family." Arya admitted.
"Hmm." He said but didn't comment on it further, not wanting to upset her so he addressed the other part of what she said. "You know you don't have to worry about her being in my bed right? You and I are betrothed, I'd never dishonor you in such a way."
"Yeah, but you didn't choose this betrothal." She said, glancing at the floor to avoid looking at him. "You could chose to bed whoever you wanted, your father certainly did it enough throughout his marriage."
"I would never treat you in such a way. I may not have chosen the betrothal or title but I will be true to it." He said, pulling them to a stop as he turned her gently to face him and lifted her chin with his hand so that their eyes met. "If you ever find that I have dishonored you in any way, I give you permission to run me through with your sword."
He could see the smile in her eyes even if she refused to allow it onto her face despite her twitching lips.
"You probably shouldn't give me free rein to stab you." She said quietly and he rolled his eyes.
"I'm not giving you free rein." He said with a smile. "Only if you find me with another woman, which won't happen, so it doesn't really count."
"If you say so." She said. They began walking again and soon found themselves outside a chamber door. She turned to face him again as she pulled her hand from his arm. She glanced at the guards for a moment as she chewed on her lip before she looked up at him with hesitance on her face.
"What?" He asked quietly, eyeing the guards himself. They were a respectable enough distance away to give them the illusion of privacy.
"You and I are to be married." She started quietly. "But I've never even kissed a man before."
"Okay." He said with a shrug. "That's alright."
"I..." She sighed and shook her head.
"Tell me." He said, his voice dropped low as he stared at her intently. Whatever she wanted to say, he wanted to hear.
"I just don't want my first kiss to be in front of all the important lords and ladies of the seven kingdoms." She said, her cheeks flushing bright red as she refused to look at him. "It's stupid, not to mention embarrassing."
"I don't think it's stupid." He said quietly and her eyes flickered up to meet his. He made a decision in that moment and cradled her face in his hands before he pressed his lips to hers. She made a surprised sound but he didn't release her and after a moment she relaxed into the feeling and her hands curled into the front of his shirt as he ran his tongue along her bottom lip before pulling back, not wanting to get in too deep in the hallway outside her chambers with guards that would likely tell someone if they got inappropriate. Her cheeks were flushed for an entirely different reason and the look in her eyes made him want to say fuck it all and shove her back against the wall to kiss her again but instead he gave her a soft smile and stepped away from her. "There, now your first kiss was just for us and no one else."
"Thank you." She said softly, sounding almost dazed.
"Of course m'lady." He said, bowing to her slightly with the intent to leave her there but she huffed and rolled her eyes.
"I told you not to call me that." She said in annoyance. He smirked lightly.
"Sorry." He said, and she narrowed her eyes at him like she knew he didn't truly mean it. "I'll see you tomorrow Arya."
"See you tomorrow Gendry." She said softly.
He turned and forced himself to walk away from her instead of kissing her again. He was almost sure that if her father saw him kissing her like he wanted to then he wouldn't care whether he was technically the prince or not, he'd probably ring his neck, but as he walked back to his own chambers he found himself wondering when she'd allow him to kiss her again. She was nothing like he'd expected when he'd been told he was to marry a Lady from a great family and he found himself thankful for that fact. She'd obviously been trying to make a good impression just as he had but he saw a fire in her that told him that she wouldn't be afraid to challenge him. It made him almost excited. He wasn't sure what he'd done to land him where he was now but he thanked all the gods above that he had. He couldn't imagine a life where he didn't get to meet Arya Stark.
While lords and ladies from the realm began pouring into the capitol, Arya and Gendry spent as much time together as they could manage outside their separate lessons. Gendry had picked up on mathematics rather quickly but was still struggling with his letters so sometimes, he and Arya would spend time in the gardens while she helped him practice them. Other times they'd go to the stables and ride the horses in the training yard, which Gendry wasn't very good at, but he was learning and they had fun with it. Arya's favorite thing was when they finally got time to attend lessons with Syrio together. Gendry was stronger than her but she was quick on her feet and managed to get past his defenses quite often though he was getting better at anticipating her movements with each lesson.
They found that he was much better with a war hammer like the one his father carried into battle years ago but he would only practice it with the trained soldiers in the yard. He had admitted that he was afraid he'd hurt her if he practiced with her as he couldn't yet measure his own strength with the blows. She'd been put out about it for a few days until she had seen him practicing and he'd dented his sparring partners armor by accident and she'd been able to tell he hadn't even been using his full strength. It was then that she figured he was right not to practice it with her.
Their betrothal had yet to be announced despite their time spent together, with King Robert wanting to wait until Gendry was officially crowned in front of the whole realm, meaning that more and more women of the court attempted to speak to him or flirt as they were walking around the castle. Arya could tell Gendry hated it but she reassured him that it wouldn't be long before it would all stop as no one would want to interfere once their betrothal was announced for fear of offending either family. Her family was meant to be arriving soon, having been the last to make it to court on account of being so far away, and once it was announced they were to be married everything would be happening quickly. The kingdom needed heirs after all.
"Now, begin." Syrio's voice rang out and Arya grinned as she and Gendry moved around each other cautiously.
The first clash of their wooden swords sent a wave of energy down her arm and from there they truly began. She blocked each of his blows easily as they moved around the floor. Their movements were almost a dance and she finally understood why this form of sword fighting was called water dancing in Braavos. She watched Gendry's movements closely and the moment he left himself open, she went for it. Her sword touched his belly and she laughed quietly.
"Dead." She said, teasing obvious in her voice, as Gendry rolled his eyes.
"Again." Syrio claped his hands together.
Gendry and Arya went back to the positions they started in and it all began again. It ended much quicker this time as something outside caught Gendry's attention and his concentration faltered. She tapped him lightly with the edge of her sword to regain his attention.
"Don't get distracted." She said before they went back to their starting positions for the third time without having to be told.
Their swords clattered together over and over but now that they were both truly focused on the task it was harder for either of them to break through. Arya was faster but Gendry had learned her movements thoroughly so getting the upper hand was more difficult even though she'd been training much longer than he had. Arya pulled in a deep breath as she watched his body intently for any slight movement that would allow her to anticipate his next move but that only allowed her to block his attacks. Now that he was focused, it was clear that he'd learned where his own weak spots were and had figured out how to cover them because she couldn't figure a way through.
"Arya!" Her mother's voice came from the doorway and distracted her thoroughly as she glanced over to see her mother and brothers coming in. A tap against her hip brought her back to the fight and Gendry was raising an eyebrow at her when she looked back at him from where he'd just hit her with the flat of his wooden sword.
"Ow!" She exclaimed but she knew he could tell that he hadn't actually hurt her because he smirked.
"Don't get distracted." He teased, throwing her own words back at her. She rolled her eyes as she threw herself back into the fight even as a small smile found it's way to her lips.
She pushed him back, forcing him to a defensive position so that he couldn't attack, and their swords came together even faster than before as they each tried to gain the upper hand. Finally he seemed to remember that he was stronger than her and slammed his sword into hers, forcing her hand and sword to the side before reaching out in a fluid motion and grabbing her other hand to spin her around in an almost dance and pull her into him roughly. She was too close to him for her to adjust her sword in any way that would be effective in attacking anymore. The tip of his sword, on the other hand, rested right below her breast and if it was a real one he could kill her easily.
"Dead." He said, his voice quiet. Her eyes came up to his slowly and a soft smile made it's way onto her face.
"You're learning." She said, her voice just as quiet. Something flashed in his eyes as they darkened and it was then that she realized just how close their bodies were and her eyes flickered down to his lips. They hadn't kissed since that first one outside her chambers and she kind of wanted to do it again. He seemed to be thinking the same thing because the arm around her waist tightened slightly and he looked like he was about to move his head toward her when a sharp clap brought them back.
"Very good." Syrio said, and Gendry released her quickly. "I think we are done for the day. I'm sure Lady Arya's family will wish to spend time with her."
That made Arya spin around to the door where her family still stood. Her mother's lips were pressed together in a thin line and Arya knew it was because she disapproved of both the sword fighting and the clothing she was wearing. Robb stood slightly behind her, his eyes studying her and Gendry intently, with Rickon next to him. Arya knew that Bran had been left behind as the Stark in Winterfell because Robb had to swear fealty as the acting Lord of Winterfell so she wouldn't see him for some time. Sansa stood beside her mother, the smirk on her face barely hidden as she raised an eyebrow at Arya and her eyes flickered to Gendry for a moment before coming back to her. Arya wanted to roll her eyes but knew that if she did, her mother would scold her for it.
"Your father said we might find you here." Her mother said, glancing at Gendry for a moment before she inclined her head. "I wonder if I might steal my daughter for a time, Your Grace."
"Oh." Gendry looked at her as his hand came up to rub at the back of his neck, a nervous habit that Arya had picked up on in the time they'd spent together. "Yes, of course Lady Stark."
Gendry turned to her as Syrio took the practice swords from them. She smiled at him as he took her hand in his and placed a kiss on her knuckles.
"This is where I leave you, m'lady." He said. He never said such a formal goodbye to her unless they were in the presence of other lords and ladies and he still called her m'lady even though she'd heard him correct himself with other ladies of the court. She suspected he did it just because he knew it annoyed her so much, which was evident by the mirth in his eyes as he released her.
"Of course, Your Grace." She said, inclining her head to him. All the formality made her feel like they were kids playing pretend as they were never very formal with each other in the first place, both hating the titles, and it made her want to laugh. He left the room quickly, his guards taking up their posts behind him as he went, leaving Arya alone in the room with her family.
"Where is father?" Arya asked.
"Your father is busy with a small council meeting." Her mother answered as she came over to stand in front of her. "This activity is really inappropriate for a lady, Arya. You're going to be married soon."
"Gendry obviously doesn't care." Arya argued. "You just saw him here with me. He doesn't mind that I know how to use a sword."
"Still. People will talk." Her mother said, leading them all out of the room. "They'll say things about him allowing you to do this when you're meant to be providing him with heirs."
"Let them talk." Arya said, rolling her eyes. "He's the prince and once we're married, I'll be a princess. They can't tell me that I can't do this, besides I don't think knowing how to sword fight will in any way prevent me from providing heirs."
"People already have plenty to say about him Arya. He's a bastard, just because he's been legitimized doesn't mean people will easily forget that." Her mother said. "You don't want to add fuel to the fire."
"People can mind their own business." Arya told her. "He's the prince, that isn't going to change, so they're just going to have to deal with it."
She looked like she was about to say something else when Robb came up to walk beside them making both of them glance at him. He was staring at her with a look on his face like he wanted to ask something but wasn't sure how to.
"What?" She asked. He glanced around, seemingly trying to determine if they were alone, before he leaned into her and spoke quietly.
"Has he been inappropriate with you?" He asked and Arya raised an eyebrow.
"No. Gendry would never dishonor me like that, he's a good man." She said firmly. "Why would you ask me something like that?"
"Because," Robb raised an eyebrow. "The way he was looking at you makes me wonder about his so called honor."
Arya's cheeks flushed at the implication of her brother's words.
"I'm to be his wife." She snapped, not wanting them to think Gendry was a bad person. "Shouldn't he look at me a certain way?"
"You wouldn't want a question of your honor is all." Robb said. "Like you said, he's the prince, they will want proof that the marriage has been consummated once it takes place. You'll need to be able to provide that."
"I will." She said angrily. "And I don't like what you are implying here about me or Gendry, brother."
She spun away from him and began marching down the hall, forcing her family to hurry after her. Once she reached her chambers, she flung the door open, startling the poor maid that had been making her bed. She took a deep breath and apologized to the girl before asking her to start a bath for her knowing that her mother was likely going to demand it anyway.
When she turned back to her family, Robb had a contrite look on his face as he hovered by the door as if expecting to need a quick escape should she decide to actually impale him but she ignored him. Her mother and Sansa stood side by side once again, neither looking quite sure what to say, and Rickon was standing in the middle of it all glancing around at everyone as if trying to figure out what was going on. She took another deep breath before smiling at Rickon.
"You've gotten so tall since last I saw you." She said gently. "Soon, you'll be taller than me."
"That's not so impressive a feat." He said, the grin on his face very satisfied. She reached out and shoved him lightly.
"Hey now, no jokes about my height allowed." She said, putting on a stern voice but it just made his grin grow wider.
"Don't worry, at least you'll always have someone to reach high places for you. The prince is pretty tall." He teased. She pushed him over quickly, leaving him on the floor even as he laughed. She rolled her eyes.
"Father said the prince is going to be formally crowned tomorrow and there's to be a feast afterword. The king is like to announce your betrothal then." Sansa said before their mother could reprimand her and Rickon. "We should pick something for you to wear."
"Yes." Her mother agreed. "You can not show up to the feast in breeches and a tunic so we must find something suitable. I've brought some of the dresses you left behind in Winterfell along with me, we can see if any of them still fit. We should be able to work with them if they need minor adjustments."
"Of course mother." Arya agreed, knowing that there was absolutely no way out of it. Her mother would rather die than have her daughter show up to a feast among all the lords and ladies in a less than presentable manner, especially considering the betrothal.
"I shall go and see if father is finished with the meeting." Robb said and Arya knew he was just trying to escape all the talk of dresses and manners. "I should like to see more of the city."
He dragged Rickon out of the room with him, the door closing firmly behind them, as her mother trailed over to the wardrobe in the corner of the room. While Arya's bath was being made ready, her mother and Sansa pulled all of the dresses out of her wardrobe and laid them out before her mother called for her own case to be brought to the room. They added the dresses she'd brought along to the others and she could hear them discussing colors and cuts.
She wasn't paying a big amount of attention, just nodding or shaking her head when asked a question, instead allowing her mother and sister to do what they wished. It would have turned out that way even if she'd actually cared about it so she didn't really mind. Whatever they chose, she was sure it would look nice. When the bath was finally ready she shed her clothes and sank into it, her aching body relaxing, as their voices drifted over to her.
She found her mind wondering away from dresses to Gendry. She still thought it was stupid that she had to get married in the first place but she was slowly finding that she didn't mind so much that it would be him. In the time they'd spent together, she'd come to actually like him as a person. He was so different from other lords she'd met and she knew it was because he didn't grow up as one. He'd grown up as a bastard boy in Flea Bottom and because of that, he was honest and frank in his words instead of talking around a subject for an undue amount of minutes and she liked that about him.
He also never told her that she talked too much or that she needed to dress differently. Her took her as she was and didn't ask her to change, he even seemed to like her spirit and her tendency to talk back, and she figured that was why she didn't mind him. She knew he'd be kind to her and never ask her to give up a part of herself to be with him which is more than she'd ever hoped for. She knew it wasn't love but they had a good friendship and mutual respect, which was never a bad thing. She knew that maybe one day, they could grow to love one another like her parents had but they were starting with a pretty good base anyway.
Thinking about him, inevitably led to her picturing him in her mind. That was another thing she'd been reluctantly scared to admit, she was attracted to him. She'd never thought much of what happened between and man and woman in the marriage bed, or when men would go to pleasure houses, and when she had thought about it she'd been slightly scared of it but since she'd been spending time with Gendry, she'd found herself curious instead. She'd overheard some of the married women in the castle say that it hurt but then she'd also overheard others saying that it was a pleasurable thing. More than once she'd found herself staring at Gendry a little too long when he wasn't looking and wondering.
He was objectively very handsome, she knew that, she'd seen other women looking at him as well. He had muscles built up from working in a forge for much of his childhood and he was of a decent height. His eyes were a deep blue that she was almost sure she'd only seen in the sea and his dark hair that fell into his face at times made him a very appealing person to look at. He was strong, she was very aware of that from sparring with him, and all of that together made it impossible for her mind not to conjure up images. She'd never actually seen the act itself performed but Septa Mordane had given her a book to read the moment she'd found out about the betrothal so she had a basic understanding of it which, in the long run, didn't actually help her state of mind.
She and Sansa had poured over the book together, though Sansa had already read it on account of her own betrothal, trying to figure out what was truth or not about what they'd overheard others saying. They were still no closer to the answer but Arya figured she'd know soon enough and she'd definitely tell Sansa all about it, disregarding propriety and all. Needless to say, thinking about Gendry and marriage didn't make her as nervous as it had before.
Gendry was woken early the next morning and forced into a bath as things happened all around him. The septon who'd been teaching him to read was prattling on about the ceremony and his responsibilities as a servant moved about the room laying out finer clothes than he'd ever worn before. He recognized them as being in the Baratheon colors just like many things he now owned including his own bed sheets. He was already tired of looking at the colors yellow and black together but suspected he'd be seeing them a lot throughout the rest of his life.
He stayed in the bath for as long as he could manage as he tried to avoid what was coming that day. He'd be paraded in front of the most important people in the seven kingdoms just to have them watch a crown being placed on his head. He thought all the pomp and circumstance was a little excessive but he knew it had to be done so he'd grin and bear it. After climbing out of the bath and drying off, the servant was quick to approach him and begin dressing him. He wanted to tell him he could get dressed well enough on his own but knew it wouldn't do any good.
The breeches he pulled over his smallclothes were black and made of soft supple leather that felt comfortable to wear. Over that he wore a tunic in a soft yellow color that was made from a finer fabric than he'd ever worn before and it slid against his skin easily. Over all of that, was a jacket that had long sleeves and covered him from his neck to the middle of his thigh and laced together to hide the tunic from sight completely. It was a soft golden color with swirls of black in a pattern on it. Next was a belt around his waist which held a sword in it's scabbard at his side. He slipped his boots onto his feet last and the servant adjusted his clothing slightly until he finally seemed happy with it. Gendry, on the other hand, had never felt so uncomfortable in his life.
The clothing was too restricting and he was almost certain that it cost more than he made in an entire year, maybe two, and he wanted nothing more than to rip it off but knew he couldn't. He was a prince now, so decreed by the king, and he'd have to get used to it eventually. He paced his room after the servant and septon left him trying to dispel the nervous energy running through him until finally it seemed to be time for him to go to the throne room. A guard led him through the halls, though he was becoming familiar enough with them himself to make his way around, and as they turned a corner he found himself face to face with Arya and seemingly her entire family.
His eyes fell on her almost immediately and it took him all of two seconds to realize she was wearing a dress. He hadn't seen her in a dress since the first time they'd met and it almost surprised him to see her looking so much like a proper lady. The dress she wore was a soft grey color and had wolves embroidered along the hem which he knew was a nod to her house. It had long sleeves that were tight to her arms and he knew it would allow her to move freely without extra fabric getting in the way. The neckline plunged in a way that would be indecent on a woman with a more ample chest but she could get away with it without looking improper but he still had to make a conscious effort not to allow his eyes to linger on the exposed skin for too long. Finally around her waist he noticed that for the first time, she wasn't wearing a weapon. Instead she had a silver chain that wrapped around her waist and settled on her hips, bringing attention to her womanly shape, and at each end of the chain was the head of a direwolf.
"Prince Gendry." Her father spoke the greeting from beside her, finally drawing his attention away from her.
"Lord Stark." He inclined his head politely.
"This is different." Arya spoke, motioning to him. His hand came up to rub the back of his head as he grimaced.
"Yeah." He said nervously. Arya broke away from her family and came to stand in front of him.
"You look nice." She said, a small smile on her face.
"So do you." He returned. "Not used to you looking like such a lady."
"Yeah well, I thought I'd make an effort. Special occasion and all." She looked up at him and he could hear the teasing in her voice.
"Well, since you made such an effort, I'll make my own effort not to screw this up." He said, only slightly japing. She rolled her eyes at him.
"You won't. All you really have to do is kneel in front of the king and let him say a few words over you before he puts a crown on your head. It's simple really, I doubt even a blacksmith's apprentice could screw that up." She said.
"Arya!" Her mother reprimanded from behind her but Arya ignored her. Gendry glanced over at her for only a moment before his eyes came back to Arya's.
"Are you sure? I'm sure I could find a way." He said but her words had calmed him slightly anyway.
"You've got this." She said quietly before doing something that surprised him and her family as well, if her mothers sharp intake of breath was anything to go by. She lifted up on her toes to press a soft kiss to his cheek, using her hands on his shoulders to balance herself. When she pulled back, she had a reassuring smile on her face that he easily returned. He took her hand in his as she dropped back to the ground and pressed his own kiss into the skin on her wrist. "I'll see you at the feast, Your Grace."
He nodded, unable to think of a single thing to say to her in that moment, and she and her family made their way down the hall and into the throne room. He sucked in a breath and steeled himself for what was about to happen before straightening his shoulders and continuing his steps toward the room. He knew that all the lords and ladies would be waiting inside and he knew they'd be judging him from the first moment they saw him, the bastard prince , he'd heard more than one person call him. He knew some of them were just waiting for him to fail but he wasn't going to give them the satisfaction of seeing him do it now so with Arya's words in his mind, he took his first step toward the rest of his life.
Inside the throne room, the lords and ladies were crowded to the sides, leaving the center empty like a walkway leading up to the throne were the King sat. He saw Lord Stark standing next to the throne but slightly back from it and knew he must have just taken his place seeing as they'd just seen each other in the hall. Gendry forced himself not to look at the lords and ladies, not wanting to see their thoughts about him on their faces as he began walking toward the king. His steps seemed loud in the quiet of the room and he was aware of all the eyes on him but he refused to allow himself to cower, making an effort to keep his shoulders straight and his head high, until he stopped below the steps leading up to the throne.
The room was silent as he and the king stared at each other for a long moment and everyone seemed to be waiting for something to happen. Finally, the king stood from the throne and Maester Pycelle moved toward him.
"You all know why you're here. Today we crown a new prince, my true son and heir, and put the unfortunate past behind us." Robert Baratheon's voice came out loud and steady as his eyes came to rest on Gendry. "Kneel."
Gendry sank down to his knees immediately and the king came down the stairs with Pycelle following close behind to stop in front of him.
"Today, in the sight of god's and men, we recognize the true heir to the Iron Throne." Pycelle said as King Robert took the golden crown from his hands. The crown carried a design similar to the antlers of a stag and Gendry knew it was because of the sigil of House Baratheon.
"I name you Gendry of House Baratheon, First of his name, Prince of the Seven Kingdoms and rightful Heir to the Iron Throne." The king spoke clearly as he placed the crown on Gendry's head before motioning for him to stand. Pycelle came over with a small bowl in his hands and he diped his thumb into it before tracing a shape over Gendry's forehead, which he knew from his preparations was to anoint him as prince. Once it was over, the king took his hand as turned him to face the lords and ladies, who immediately began to clap and just like that it was official. He was the Crown Prince, there was no going back now.
Following the ceremony, he'd been led back to a room where a long table sat. He'd been told by Lord Stark that it was where small council meetings took place and that he was to wait there as the feast was laid out and the lords and ladies had all been led to the great hall. He was told that someone would be sent for him when the time came for him to make his entrance. He thought it was all a bit stupid but he wasn't going to argue with the Hand of the King so he'd stayed.
There wasn't much for him to do in the room by himself so he'd taken to looking outside at the city below them. He could see almost everything from the Red Keep and memories of being a boy wondering those very streets begging for money or food came to him. He was a far way away from that now but he'd never forget those days of his life and he vowed to make it better for the smallfolk where he could. He actually had some power now and he would use it to help. The sound of the door opening brought his eyes away from the outside and he turned to find Arya coming into the room.
"Is it time to make my grand entrance?" He asked with a small eye roll. She grinned at him.
"Not quite." She said, approaching him easily. "A few more minutes I think."
"I think it's all a bit much." He admitted, knowing he could speak to her freely. "I mean, I've been standing here doing nothing for close to an hour just so that all the lords and ladies can stare at me when I come in. I just don't see the point."
"Me either." She said. "But, you'll be escorting me so maybe it's not all bad."
"Really?" He asked, smiling down at her. "Because I was under the impression that you were a pain in the ass."
"Now that is just unkind." She said but she had a matching smile on her face. "And anyway, you'll be escorting me because we are going to be married soon so you'll have to deal with me being a pain in the ass for the rest of your life. Might as well get used to it."
"I don't think I mind all that much." He said, hesitantly reaching out to pull her closer to him. His eyes darted to the door where the guards were presumably on the other side. "Should we be alone in here? Is it not improper?"
"Depends on what you're planning to do." She said with a raised eyebrow. He flushed.
"I didn't mean it like that." He said quickly. A smirk slid onto her lips.
"No?" She asked, looking up at him as she pressed her body more firmly against his. He looked down at her, his eyes tracing over her face to look for any sign of protest, before his arms tightened around her and his lips met hers for only the second time since they'd met. Her hands slid into his hair almost instantly, knocking his crown askew, but neither of them paid it any mind.
He leaned back against the table, making their height difference less of a problem as she moved to stand between his legs, their kisses becoming heated as his hands roamed along her sides. He bit into her bottom lip gently and she made a sound that went straight to his cock. It was that that made him come back to himself as he pulled away from her suddenly.
"I was right. We shouldn't be in here alone." He said, trying to keep his voice light even as he was breathing heavily. She was staring at him with lidded eyes, her lips pink and swollen from their kiss with a flush high in her cheeks, and it took everything in him not to drag her back in again. He cleared his throat. "People are probably wondering where we are."
"Right." It seemed to take her a moment to collect herself before she pushed away from him completely. "Well, we must't keep them waiting."
She reached out and straightened his crown on his head once more before straightening her shoulders and holding her arm out. He laughed and took it easily.
"They're going to wonder what took us so long." He said as they began walking and she shrugged.
"Let them wonder." She answered. "Whatever gossip they come up with, I'm sure will be entertaining to hear."
"I'm sure it will be but I'm not sure your lady mother would approve of whatever they're going to say." He said, glancing at her. She rolled her eyes.
"My lady mother doesn't approve of many things I do. Inspiring gossip will just be one more." She told him.
"Is there a reason they sent you to get me instead of a servant anyway?" He asked curiously.
"Your father is going to announce our betrothal at the feast. He thought us arriving together would send a clear message." She said before adding. "And then tomorrow, planning for the wedding will happen. It will likely take place soon since all the great lords and ladies are already here instead of them all having to come back in a couple of moons. I suspect the wedding will take place in the next fortnight."
"Seriously?" He asked, shocked by her statement.
"Of course." She shrugged. "I've already had many fittings for my dress ever since the betrothal was decided. It's almost finished and now that you are officially the prince, you'll need a wife as soon as possible so that your position cannot be challenged. I assumed your father would have told you about it."
"I haven't really spoken to him all that much since I came to the Red Keep." He admitted, looking at her seriously as he stopped them in the hallway outside of the grand hall. He could hear the sound of the lords and ladies drifting out but he didn't let it distract him. "It's all happening so quickly that I never got the chance to ask you if you truly want to marry me at all."
"Do you not want to marry me?" She asked, her voice small as she refused to look at him. He moved his hand under her chin and forced her eyes up to meet his.
"I want to marry you. In the time I've spent with you, I've come to respect you and call you a friend and I hope it's the same for you." He said steadily. "But I want to make sure that you aren't being forced to do this just because it's what the king wants. I don't want you to have to do anything that you don't want to."
"I never thought much of marriage, I even swore I'd never get married." She admitted and his heart started racing with the thought that she was about to tell him she wanted out but she didn't. "But, as much as I say I'm not, I am a lady from a great house. I know that no matter how hard I fight, one day my father would have had to say yes to someone and you are far from the worst person I could have ended up with. You're a good man, I know that, so being married to you is something I don't think I'll mind very much." She reached up to touch his face lightly. "Now, we really are late so come on."
The guards standing at the doors opened them as they approached and announced their arrival making the room go quiet as they stepped in. One glance at Arya's mother let Gendry know she disapproved of their obvious lateness and he decided then and there to avoid the woman as much as he could because he was almost certain she wanted to question him extensively about their absence to determine if he'd dishonored her daughter. Arya smiled at him and pulled him deeper into the room so he took a deep breath and prepared himself for whatever was about to be thrown at him.
Once they entered the great hall they quickly had the attention of everyone and Arya knew that it was even more obvious that they were late. She just hoped that her appearance didn't give away the fact that they'd been kissing not long ago because she did not want the lecture it was sure to bring from her mother. Their arrival signaled the start of the feast and Gendry left her with her family while he took his seat by the king's side at the high table. Her mother looked like she wanted to reprimand her already but she refrained. The food began to be brought out then allowing Arya to ignore her mother's disapproving looks as she ate. Sansa leaned over once conversation started flowing throughout the room to speak to her.
"You and the prince were certainly late." She said causing Arya to roll her eyes.
"We were talking." Arya told her. "We lost track of time."
"Uh huh." Sansa said, clearly unconvinced. "In any case, I'll expect full details when we're in a less public setting."
She went back to her food as if she hadn't implied that Arya and Gendry had been doing something improper before they'd shown up here. They hadn't, not really, but she knew that even kissing him the way she had would prompt a word from her mother so she hoped that Sansa wouldn't say anything where she could hear her. The feast passed by with loud conversation all around her and she tried to avoid speaking as much as she could. She'd answer if she was addressed but otherwise kept to herself.
She spent the majority of the feast watching Gendry as subtly as she could. After each course he'd stare down at the table with a furrow in his brow and she knew he was concentrating hard trying to remember which utensil to use for which dish. He'd been doing extraordinarily well in the time that he'd been in the Red Keep but she knew that some things where still difficult for him to grasp as he'd not been raised with them his whole life and she knew it frustrated him when he couldn't figure it out. The utensils was one of those things. Typically if they were eating together, he'd use his hands which she didn't mind but they both knew he couldn't do that in the company of others so she imagined that he was really annoyed right now though he was doing a good job of not showing it.
She knew he was likely having a hard time recalling which utensils to use because he escaped the lessons on it as much as he could because he found the whole thing tedious. She also knew that when he did manage to escape his lessons, he'd typically find his way down to the castle forge to work on making things. He'd told her about it when they'd run into each other as he was coming back to his chambers. He'd been covered in soot and smelled of smoke and metal but he'd been more relaxed than she'd seen him since he'd come to the Red Keep which she liked. She'd asked him to show her what he was working on but so far he hadn't had the chance. She was looking forward to it.
When the feast was coming to a close, the king stood from his seat causing the entire room to fall into silence almost immediately as they turned to look at him. Arya knew he was about to announce her betrothal to Gendry and she caught his eye. They shared a small smile before both turned their attention to the king along with everyone else.
"Now that you've all had the chance to meet your new prince, I am pleased to announce that the Houses of Baratheon and Stark will finally be joined with the marriage of my son Gendry and Lady Arya of House Stark." He said, loudly. "I invite you all to stay in King's Landing to attend the wedding a fortnight from now."
The room was filled with applause, congratulations being thrown to both her and Gendry, before the musicians in the corner began playing music. The food was all taken away, though the wine still flowed freely, and the lords and ladies were given leave to socialize. Sansa dragged Arya away from the table and to the middle of the floor where she proceeded to spin the around in rapid circles. Arya could tell by the flush on her cheeks that Sansa had had a bit too much wine with her dinner which is what had likely resulted in their current position.
Others danced around them and Arya took a moment to admire how free her sister looked in that moment, much happier than she'd looked in a while, and Arya was happy for it. She hadn't realized how much being tied to Joffery had affected Sansa but she was glad that he was gone now and couldn't hurt her anymore which is why she didn't immediately abandon her among the crowd and instead waited until she made herself dizzy before pulling her to the side.
She caught sight of their parents dancing together and smiled at the obvious love that shone out of both of their faces. She had never doubted that her parents loved one another and she hoped that in time, she and Gendry could be the same. She pressed a goblet of water into Sansa's hand in the hope that it would help negate the effects of the wine.
Her eyes trailed along the crowd taking everything in as she stood away from it all. Sansa had moved to sit in a chair close to the wall, unsteady on her feet as she was, allowing Arya to observe things without worrying about her. She saw Robb dancing with Margaery and wondered for a moment if the girl was trying to set up a match for herself. Arya didn't think the rose of Highgarden would particularly like Winterfell with their summer snows but figured it wasn't her place to tell her that as it would likely make her seem as if she didn't like her. She didn't actually feel much either way for her but she knew that Sansa liked her so she couldn't be that bad. If her brother did make a match with her, she was far from the worst he could do.
Her eyes fell next on Rickon, who was lurking at the edge of the room similar to her own position, just taking in the crowd. No one seemed to interest him in particular but she knew there were still a few years before her mother would be trying to make a match for him so she supposed that it didn't matter all that much. Finally her eyes found Gendry. He was speaking to his uncle, Lord Renly, and he had a smile on his face.
She'd never seem much resemblance between him and King Robert beyond the hair and eyes but now, looking at the two men together, she knew there was no doubt of his parentage. He seemed to feel her gaze on him as his eyes left Renly and came to meet hers immediately without him searching the room. He said something to Lord Renly before he started moving through the crowd toward her and she smiled at him as he came to a stop in front of her.
"Enjoying your evening, your grace?" She asked, aware of the eyes now on them.
"It's been lovely. I've met many wonderful people." He answered, though she could see the urge to roll his eyes on his face. He held out his hand. "I wondered if you might honor me with a dance."
"I'm not very good." She said, causing a smile to come to his face as he leaned toward her.
"That's okay. Neither am I." He whispered. She stared at him for a long moment, the earnestness on his face making her want to kiss him again, before she slid her hand into his. He pulled her back into the crowd, who all seemed to now be paying attention to them, and the music changed to a soft slow song.
He used one hand to spin her around slowly before he pulled her in and they began to move around the floor. Their movements were hesitant and sometimes not well executed but she didn't mind. After a few moments, people finally joined them in dance. They were obviously still eyeing them as they moved but now it was much less obvious making her feel less exposed.
"You do realize that everyone is watching right?" She asked and he sighed.
"Yes, I know." He said, his voice showing his annoyance. "It's really annoying actually."
"I agree." She told him. "But I expected it after your father announcing our betrothal. They're all going to want to gossip about us even more than they did before."
"It's not just that." He admitted. "It's the way they all speak to me now that I'm their prince. Before, when they'd come into the shop for some weapon or armor to be made, they'd ignore me at best or be completely rude to me at worst and now it's like I suddenly matter when I didn't before just because the king decided to acknowledge me. The way that a lot of them treat the smallfolk makes me angry because I know what that's like."
"Look at it this way, now that you're a prince, you could change things for the smallfolk. Make them better." She said, meeting his eyes. "Ignore the lords and ladies. A bastard blacksmith or a prince it doesn't matter, you have always mattered Gendry. Don't let them make you feel any differently."
"So you're saying that if you'd met me as a bastard blacksmith, you'd have cared about me even then?" He asked and she gave him a serious look.
"Absolutely. Being a prince doesn't suddenly make you a different person." She said , touching his face lightly. "And I happen to like the person you are, so yes, I would have cared about you even then."
"You're kind of amazing you know?" He said, a soft smile on his face. They'd stopped dancing and were now just standing at the edge of the floor with their arms around one another.
"You think so?" She asked playfully. "Because I recall you calling me a pain in the ass not long ago."
"One of your many charms." He answered making her laugh. She was about to say something else when her mother appeared beside them from seemingly nowhere with her father in tow. Gendry released his hold on her immediately, his arms folding behind him as he greeted her parents respectfully, and Arya almost sighed as she turned to meet her mother's gaze.
"Mother." She greeted. "Having a lovely evening?"
"Quite." Her mother answered. "I was just coming to retrieve you. We have much to do tomorrow so I thought an early night would be for the best."
Arya knew her mother's words weren't the suggestion that they sounded like and were meant to be headed as a directive. She was essentially sending Arya to her room like a misbehaving child but she didn't want to cause a scene so she wasn't going to say anything about it. She would be a married woman soon and her mother couldn't keep treating her like a child so she'd grin and bear it. She loved her mother, truly she did, but her attitude sometimes annoyed her to no end.
"Of course mother, you're right." She said quietly before turning to Gendry. "I'll speak to you tomorrow, your grace."
"Tomorrow then, m'lady." He said. Her father quickly pulled him away, moving to introduce him to other lords he hadn't had the chance to meet while Arya followed her mother out of the room. They stopped in the crowd to collect Sansa, who was still obviously in her cups, before leaving the hall completely.
Arya tuned out her mother's speech as she went on about propriety and tardiness, she'd heard it all before and could probably recite it herself from memory, and she was glad when they reached her chambers. Sansa had apparently decided that she was staying here for the night when she began removing her dress before she brushed out her hair and climbed into the bed. Arya followed at a much slower pace, not used to wearing dresses and finding it difficult to undue the laces, as her mother finally seemed to exhaust her rant.
"I just want what's best for you." Her mother said finally, as Arya was taking a brush to her own hair.
"I know mother." She assured her. "But even you must know that people are going to gossip no matter what. If Gendry and I hadn't been late, or if we hadn't danced together, they'd be gossiping about that. They're always going to find something to talk about, that's just the way it is."
"But the things they were already saying before you two came in." Her mother said. "Things about the prince being improper with you, things about your honor, you can't just ignore that Arya."
"Gendry and I are going to be married soon so even if he had been dishonorable with me, which he hasn't, I don't really think it would matter that much." Arya said, rolling her eyes. "And anyway, they can mind their own damn business."
"Arya..." Her mother started but Arya sighed.
"I'm tired mother. Can we speak about this later?" She asked. Her mother sighed but didn't press any further. She bid goodnight to both her and Sansa before leaving the room. Arya climbed into bed where Sansa was already asleep and hoped against hope that her mother would drop the subject completely instead of trying to bring it up again, she didn't expect that to truly happen though. She fell asleep rather quickly with that thought still in her mind.
I have to say that I was truly surprised when I received your raven. You were always so against marriage when we were younger that I half expected you to run off into the woods if father ever brought it up but here you are marrying the new prince and seeming happy about it. I do hope that you are happy little sister because you deserve to be, but know that I'm always here if you need me. You can always write to me whenever you wish and I hope that you will. If you are truly happy with the match then I guess I should send my congratulations and wish you good fortune in your marriage, may it be a long and prosperous one. I'm sorry that I can't be there to see it but perhaps you can come for a visit once everything settles down. I love you.
The raven from Jon had made her smile more than she had all week. She'd sent him a letter after she'd found out about the betrothal and met Gendry and had been waiting for his response. He'd always been her favorite brother because she'd always felt like they were very similar and his approval made her feel better. She wished he could be here but she knew he couldn't betray the vows he took or leave the Wall so having a raven from him was better than nothing.
She'd spent the last few days secluded in her room with her mother and Sansa along with a seemingly never ending list of things to do. They had to approve of floral arrangements and dress altercations as well as food choices and everything else that she didn't really care about. She allowed her mother and sister to make most of the decisions as she truly didn't care but she still had to be present anyway. She'd finally manged to escape the planning when she'd been whisked away for her final fitting of the gown she was wearing for the wedding.
She'd never been so grateful to leave a room before. Her mother and Sansa had stayed behind, finalizing things for the ceremony and feast afterword, so after her fitting was complete Arya took her time in returning knowing they'd be too engrossed in their task to notice if she took a little longer. What she didn't expect was to run into Gendry, quite literally, in a way that was reminiscent of the first time they met. He raised an eyebrow at her once they'd steadied themselves.
"I must say, I'm surprised to see you." He said.
"My mother." She said by way of explanation. "She's had me practically locked in my chambers finishing the planning for the wedding. I finally managed to escape for a while only because she thinks I'm doing a fitting for the dress."
"I wouldn't think there'd be much left to plan." He said. "The wedding is in two days."
"It's really just confirming decisions now but she still makes me be present for it." Arya shrugged as her eyes trailed his body. "You've been in the forge."
"Aye." He confirmed.
"That's not fair. Why aren't you being locked in a room and forced to make decisions?" She asked. He grinned at her.
"I apparently annoyed them enough with my insistence that I didn't care about what was being served at the feast or the colors that they left me alone." He said.
"So, what you're saying is, I got saddled with all the decisions because you refused?" She said accusingly. He shrugged lightly.
"Sorry?" He said, not sounding sorry at all.
"I could kill you right now." She growled out. His eyes flickered to Needle strapped to her side.
"I have no doubt of that m'lady." He said. "But you won't."
"You're sure about that?" She asked, her hand going to the hilt of her sword even though they both knew she wouldn't use it.
"I am." He said confidently, taking a step toward her before reaching out suddenly and pushing her back against the wall, making her realize just how alone they were in that moment as not even his normal guards were with him. "You want to know why?"
His voice was low and the heat in his eyes made something low in her belly clench as she stared up at him.
"Why?" She asked, her voice breathier than she would have liked.
"Because, you like me too much." He said, his arms coming up to rest on either side of her, effectively trapping her against the wall. "You know, threatening your prince is treason."
"What about threatening an ass?" She retorted even as her hands settled on his shoulders. He laughed softly as his eyes traced over her face and her eyes fell to his lips before snapping back up to his.
They stared at each other for a long moment before he finally moved to capture her lips. Her hands tightened on his shoulders immediately as she pushed herself closer to him. She was sure she'd never get tired of kissing him. His hands left the wall to fall on her hips and close the distance between their bodies completely so they were pressed flush against one another. He nibbled along her bottom lip causing her to gasp and he used the opportunity to press his tongue into her mouth. She was sure that what they were currently doing was improper but she couldn't find it in herself to care.
Her hands moved from his shoulders to tangle in his hair as his hands began wondering over her body. His lips left hers to leave a trail of kisses down her neck as one of his hands moved to cup her breast. His movements seemed to hesitate for a moment before he cautiously ran his thumb over her nipple and even through her tunic, it sent a wave of sensation zipping down her spine and a soft gasp left her lips. He pulled his lips back from her neck to look at her, a question clear in his eyes, but she just dragged his lips back to hers and pressed herself to him more firmly.
He seemed to take that as encouragement as soon his other hand came up to join the first one and he began to tease her breast lightly. He pinched her nipples between his fingers and she moaned softly in her throat. They were both so caught up that she almost didn't hear the footsteps coming toward them. She shoved him away very quickly and rushed to straighten out her shirt before Jory came around the corner. He took in both of them, raising an eyebrow as a smirk floated onto his face, and Arya cleared her throat. She knew it was obvious what they'd just been doing and there was no covering it up.
"Jory." She said in greeting.
"Your mother is looking for you. She sent me to see if you were done with your fitting." He said, his eyes trailing over to Gendry as his smirk grew. "Should I tell her that you're still occupied?"
"No!" She said quickly. "I'll go find her."
She rushed past him, throwing an apologetic look over her shoulder at Gendry. She knew Jory wouldn't say anything about what he'd seen but he was almost definitely going to give Gendry a hard time about it. When she reached her chambers, she paused outside the doors and took a long moment to sort herself out before entering. The last thing she needed was for her mother to even suspect what had taken her so long to get back. All Arya could think was that their wedding couldn't come soon enough, they'd obviously have no problems on their wedding night.
Gendry finally finished the project he'd been working on in the forge with the help of the master smith on the day before the wedding and so he found his way to Arya's chambers with the gift he'd made for her. Knocking on the door, he was left to wonder if it was proper for him to be there without an escort but his worries were alleviated when the door was opened by her sister so at least he knew they wouldn't be alone in her room. When he stepped inside, he came to realize that not only was her sister there, so was seemingly her entire family. Her mother was staring at him with a disapproving look but he pushed forward anyway. Arya was standing next to the table and he approached her easily.
"M'lady." He greeted. She raised an eyebrow at him.
"Your Grace." She returned. "Did you need something?"
"I made you something." He said after clearing his throat. He was very aware of her family's stares. "While I was working in the forge I mean, so I wanted to give it to you before the wedding tomorrow."
"Oh?" She asked and he could see the surprise in her eyes as they fell to the box he carried in his hands.
"When you marry me you're going to become more than just my wife, you're going to become a princess." He explained as he opened the box and presented the crown he'd made for her, similar in design to the one he'd been crowned with not that long ago. "I had the master smith help me with forging this."
She reached out and picked it up, the gold reflecting the light coming in through the window, and he watched as she ran her fingers along the band of the crown and the delicate golden antlers at the front of it. There was a jewel pressed into the front of the band, directly between the antlers. Her eyes came up to meet his and he knew she recognized the designs etched into the band.
"Direwolves." She said and he nodded.
"You're a Stark. You'll take my name after the wedding but I wanted this to be a reminder to you and everyone else that you'll always be a Stark, I'm not expecting you to forget that." He explained. "I would ask that you wear this tomorrow when we wed so that you can carry a part of your family into our union."
"Yes, I'll wear it." She said, her voice soft as she smiled at him. "Thank you, Gendry. It's lovely."
"Of course, Arya." He responded before once again glancing at her family. He cleared his throat again before sitting the box in his hands onto the table. "I'm sure you have much to do, as do I, so I'll take my leave."
He leaned over, ignoring her family's gaze, and place a soft kiss on her cheek before bowing to her and turning to leave. The look in her eyes told him that she wanted to ask him to stay but she glanced at her mother and didn't speak as he turned to leave the room. He knew that her mother didn't particularly like him and he wasn't sure if it was because she thought he'd already been inappropriate with her daughter or because he was a bastard but he definitely wasn't about to ask her. He just hoped she'd warm up to him eventually since they were going to be family soon.
As he was walking down the hall away from Arya's chamber's he heard a voice call out for him and he stopped with a sigh. When he turned to the voice, he found himself looking at Arya's brother Robb, who he knew was the acting Lord of Winterfell as he'd sworn fealty to Gendry along with the other lords of Westeros. He waited for the man to walk over and stop in front of him.
"Lord Stark, what can I do for you?" He asked.
"Walk with me?" Robb asked and Gendry nodded his assent as they both began on the path he'd been taking in the first place. They were silent for a time, Gendry waiting for Robb to start whatever conversation he obviously wanted to have. Finally the other man seemed to find his words. "You care for my little sister don't you?"
"Of course. I'm going to marry her." Gendry said and Robb sighed.
"Yes, but that was all arranged." Robb said, looking at him seriously. "You have to understand, Arya never cared much for marriage. She fought against it for years but now she seems okay with getting married, despite it being arranged. She told me she agreed to the match before she even met you to protect Sansa so that she wasn't forced into another match so soon after Joffery but I can tell it's different now."
"What do you mean?" Gendry asked. He'd known about the reason for her to agreeing to the match but he wasn't sure he understood what Robb was trying to say. The other man stopped walking and turned to look at him fully.
"She likes you, I can see it when the two of you interact, and I think that you like her too. I don't think you love each other, it's much to soon for that, but you're friends at least." Robb said. "I guess what I'm asking really is, do you think you'll love her one day? I want her to be happy and you seem to make her that way but I want her to know love in her life too and not just friendship. I want my little sister to have a good marriage, she deserves that."
"I'll do everything I can to make her happy, I promise you that." Gendry assured him. "And to answer your question, yes. I think I could love her one day. I think I will love her one day, for as long as she'll let me because you're right, she deserves it. She deserves everything good in the world."
Robb laughed quietly and Gendry looked at him with a furrowed brow.
"You sound like you're already a little in love with her." He said in explanation and Gendry flushed.
"Perhaps." He admitted with a shrug. "She's easy to love."
"Well, I'm glad that you think so." Robb said. "Most people think she's a pain in the ass."
"She's that too." Gendry said with a smile. "But I guess I just don't mind that much. Keeps things interesting."
They parted ways with a laugh and Gendry felt like he at least had the support of someone in Arya's family which was a start. He hadn't thought much about his feelings for Arya before that moment with Robb but he found that he wasn't lying. He was already kind of in love with the girl he was going to marry. He loved her spirit and her steadfast attitude, he even liked her stubborn nature, it complimented his own after all and he just hoped that one day she'd share his feelings. He thought that maybe she would.
The day of the wedding started just like the day he'd been crowned prince, with a servant forcing him into a bath and a septon talking his ear off about the ceremony, and honestly this time he was too nervous about the whole thing to not pay attention so he clung onto the septon's words like a life line and desperately hoped he wouldn't absolutely screw the whole thing up.
He was dressed in clothes similar to the ones he'd worn when he'd been crowned but this one proudly displayed a stag on the front. The last thing to put the outfit together was the crown on his head. He looked every bit the prince he was supposed to be and it surprised him. Even after being crowned and having everyone call him your grace, he hadn't really felt like he was a prince but now he looked like one and it took him back for a moment. Like this, there was no trace of the lowborn bastard blacksmith and it was a bit disconcerting so he forced himself to look away. He swore to himself that he wouldn't be like the lords who looked down on the smallfolk. He'd make sure to always remember that part of himself and do everything in his power to make things better.
He was left alone in his chambers while things throughout the castle were set up for the feast after the wedding until a guard came to fetch him and bring him to the Sept of Baelor where the wedding would be taking place. The room was decorated copiously with flowers and there was a clear walkway up to the front of the room where Gendry was directed to stand as a cloak was shoved into his arms. The High Septon stood at the front in full ceremonial robes and the lords and ladies of Westeros were crowded into the room. Gendry caught sight of Arya's family standing near the front of the crowd right beside the king, who no matter how hard he tried Gendry couldn't call his father, and it hit him in that moment that this was happening. It was real and he was about to be married to a girl he was half in love with already and he wasn't entirely sure how he'd ended up here. His life had changed so much in such a short time that it kind of astounded him.
The sound of the door opening signaled the musicians in the corner to start playing and Gendry knew that meant that Arya must have entered the room. It took everything in him not to turn around and look for her as a hush fell over the room, the music playing being the only sound he could hear over the beating of his heart. It seemed to take forever for Arya to make her way to him and her father kissed her cheek before he allowed Gendry to take her arm and lead her the rest of the way to stand in front of the High Septon.
Her dress was in his house colors just as his outfit was and her hair was pulled up off her neck and into an intricate hair style that curled around the crown on her head, he thought she looked beautiful. He smiled when he seen that she'd actually worn the crown he made for her and she returned the smile easily before they both turned to the Septon in front of them.
"We are here today in the sight of god's and men to join these two lives together." The High Septon spoke loud and clear, his voice flowing through the room. "You may cloak the bride and bring her under your protection."
Gendry unfolded the cloak in his arms quickly as she turned her back to him and draped the fabric over her shoulders securely. She turned back to the Septon and he motioned for them to join their hands, which they did easily, and he tied them together with a length of fabric.
"Look upon one another and say the words." He said. They turned to one another, their hands still joined, and their eyes met as they said the words that would bind them together forever.
"Father. Smith. Warrior. Mother. Maiden. Crone. Stranger."
"I am his and he is mine."
"I am hers and she is mine."
"From this day until the end of my days." They finished the words in unison and Gendry didn't wait for prompting as he leaned over and claimed her lips with his to seal the marriage vows. It was a much chaster kiss than the last one they'd shared but it still made him forget everyone else in the room for the brief moment before she pulled away. The cheers in the room faded into the background as she looked up at him with a radiant smile on her face and he couldn't resist picking her up and spinning her around in a circle. Her laughter at the movement made his heart sing. He couldn't believe he got to call her his for the rest of their lives but he thanked all the gods above that he got to keep her.
They were soon being led out of the Sept and into a carriage that would take them back to the Red Keep in a wave of well wishes. The guards fell into step around them as the carriage began to move and Arya turned to look at him, a smile still on her face.
"That's it then." She said. "You're stuck with me for the rest of your life now."
"I don't mind." He said. She tilted her head as she looked at him, a smirk falling onto her lips.
"No?" She asked.
"Definitely not." He said before pulling her to him for a kiss that would have been improper in front of a crowd. She gave into it easily, pressing herself to him as best she could in their seated position. One of his hands came up to cup her face as the other went to her hip and pulled her closer as he deepened the kiss.
The carriage hit a bump and knocked them to the side and he caught himself before he fell on her completely but the movement had left them in a position that made his brain stop working for a moment as he hovered over her as her back was pressed against the seat. He knew what it would look like they were doing if someone opened the door right now and the thought of it made his mind go to much dirtier places than he'd normally allow it to. Arya looked up at him, surprised by the abrupt movement, and he found himself kissing her once more.
Her hands moved to tangle in his hair without protest as his hands resumed their positions on her face and hip and she didn't seem to care when he relaxed slightly and pressed his body into hers. She wiggled under him and he pulled out of the kiss to ask her what was wrong but she huffed before he could say anything and rolled her eyes.
"Stupid fucking dress." She spat and it made him realize that his knee had ended up on the edge of her dress, preventing her from moving too much and he laughed softly as he moved his leg and she was able to shift in the seat. He placed a kiss on the furrow between her brows as he moved back to his place and pulled her up to sit next to him. She gave him a put out look.
"Sorry love but your annoyance is cute." He said and she rolled her eyes.
"Why'd you stop kissing me?" She asked, a pout on her face and he laughed harder.
"We've got to be almost back to the Keep by now. Your mother already doesn't like me, if she thinks I couldn't even wait until we got back to our chambers she's going to hate me even more." He said.
"We're married now. It's not like there's much she could say if we were doing anything." Arya protested and he grinned.
"Still, we have plenty of time for that." He shrugged. "We still have to get through the feast after all."
"Fine." Arya said, still very much pouting. He leaned in to drop a quick kiss on her lips before leaning back and wrapping his arms around her. She leaned into him despite her apparent annoyance and it made him smile widely. He knew he wouldn't mind being married to Arya Stark.
The feast quickly started as they made their entrance in the great hall. They had been seated at the high table as was customary and she could see her father and King Robert sitting together at a table close by along with her mother. The received many well wishes throughout the meal and Arya could tell that all the attention was making Gendry a little uncomfortable as he, like her, didn't like to call attention to himself so this was a lot for both of them but she knew they had to grin and bare it. She was glad when the feast ended and the music became a little more upbeat leading people to dance throughout the hall meaning they were paying less attention to her and Gendry.
She looked over at him as their plates were taken away by a serving girl and he gave her a small smile as he took her hand. Sansa interrupted their staring when she appeared in front of their table and Arya raised an eyebrow at her.
"Sansa." She greeted.
"Your grace." She replied, a teasing tone to her voice and Arya rolled her eyes.
"Ugh. Please don't." She said and Sansa laughed. "Enjoying your evening?"
"Of course." Sansa said but her face gave away her true feelings as she leaned over to speak quietly. "Mother is already trying to arrange another match."
"Tell her you're not going to become a spinster any time soon." Arya suggested. "Maybe she'll back off."
"I doubt that." Sansa said.
"Don't you want to get married?" Gendry asked quietly, his eyes studying Sansa. A flush came over her face and she shared a glance with Arya.
"I do." She said quietly. "But my choice is not someone either of my parents would consider or even approve of."
"Don't worry Sansa, maybe I can speak to father about it." Arya said and Sansa's eyes went wide.
"Have you gone mad?" She exclaimed. "If father even suspected my feelings, he'd likely send him away."
"I don't think he would. Father wants you to be happy, if you maybe talked to him about it..." Arya trailed off. Sansa shook her head.
"It's not like he's from some great house or anything. It wouldn't make for a particularly advantageous alliance." Sansa said. "Father would never agree."
"What does it matter if he isn't from a great house?" Gendry put in, rolling his eyes. "I'm a bastard who didn't have a name or house for most of my life yet here I am. I don't think a family name should be all that important if he makes you happy."
"Maybe." Sansa said, chewing her lip before she blew out a breath. "Anyway, if I were you, I'd escape the feast soon before anyone can call for the bedding."
Arya knew Sansa was using the opportunity to change the subject but she didn't call her on it as she made a solid point anyway. Gendry looked at her with a furrow between his brows.
"Call for the bedding? What does that mean?" He asked and Arya and Sansa both looked at him with raised eyebrows.
"It's common during the wedding feast for someone to call for the bedding. When it happens, it means that it's time for the newly married couple to retire to their chambers to consummate the marriage. The guest usually strip them down and carry them to the marriage bed." Arya explained and Gendry's eyebrows disappeared under his hair as he looked between them like he was expecting them to start laughing.
"Seriously?" He asked, his voice incredulous. "Highborns do that?"
"Is that not tradition for lowborn weddings?" Sansa asked, genuine curiosity in her voice.
"No." Gendry said, shaking his head as if the very thought offended him personally.
"Oh." Arya said quietly, her eyes flickering around the room but no one seemed to be in their cups enough to call for the bedding yet. "Well, in any case, Sansa is right. We should slip out now before someone decides it's the right time for it, I don't particularly want to be stripped down in front of everyone anyway."
"Yeah." Gendry said. "That's not happening."
His voice sounded firm in that moment and he stood from his seat and pulled her up by her hand. They bid goodbye to Sansa before he began pulling her across the room, both of them keeping an eye on the other people in the room but no one seemed to be paying them any mind just yet despite them being the newly wedded couple, all of them too caught up in drink and socializing to pay attention.
Slipping out of the room was much easier than she had expected it to be and soon the sound of music was fading behind them as they moved toward the marriage chambers. The guards waiting by the doors seemed surprised to see them so soon and, she suspected, so fully clothed. Neither of them commented on it though as they went inside and Gendry closed the door firmly behind them and placed the bar over it.
It was much quieter in the room and she cleared her throat before moving over to the vanity where she began to undo her hair from the intricate style that her mother and Sansa had put it into. It took a few minutes and she could hear Gendry moving around behind her but he didn't say anything. The silence stretched between them as she finally managed to free the crown from her hair and sit it on the vanity before undoing the rest of the braids and allowing her hair to fall around her face. She ran a brush through it before finally standing and turning to face Gendry once more.
He was leaned against the corner post at the end of the bed just watching her and she raised an eyebrow. He made no move to reach out or to touch her even as she pulled on the laces at the side of her dress to loosen them. She knew the dress had been made in a style that was easy for her to get off for a specific reason and it hit her as she pushed the fabric off her shoulders that she was about to face that reason head on. She allowed the fabric to fall to the floor and pool at her ankles leaving her in just her shift. Her cheeks heated a little as she watched his eyes trail over her and he finally moved but instead of coming toward her like she expected, he turned and moved toward the desk in the corner of the room which had a box on top of it that she hadn't noticed when they came in.
"What are you doing?" She asked. This honestly wasn't where she expected the night to be going. He looked up at her and motioned her over to him prompting her to cross the room to stand next to him.
"When I was making your crown, I made you something else too." He explained. "A wedding gift of sorts."
"Really?" She asked, glancing from him to the box.
"Really." He answered with a smile before he motioned to the box. "Go on."
The box on the table was small and she couldn't think of anything that could be inside it so she looked at him once more before she reached out for the box and pulled it across the desk to rest in front of her. It was a plain wooden box and there was nothing special about it but she pulled open the lid anyway. Inside rested two twin daggers with intricate detailing in the hilts and she could see that one had a direwolf pressed into the blade near the hilt while the other had a stag. She lifted one out easily and tested the balance on her hand with a smile.
"I don't know if you remember but I was an armorers apprentice before I was legitimized. I was taught how to make blades and armor more than jewelry and the like. It's why I needed help with your crown, but these I made all by myself." Gendry explained. "I also made sheaths for them that you can strap to your arms. Do you like them?"
"I do." She said, smiling at him. "Thank you."
"Of course." He said and she put the blade in her hand back into the box and slid it away as she turned to face him and her smile changed to a grin.
"Bold move gifting me with weapons on our wedding night. What if I decided to stab you?" She teased and he rolled his eyes.
"I was confident that you'd hold back on that m'lady." He said as his hands fell to her hips and her pulled her to him gently.
"Oh yeah?" She asked and he nodded. "Why is that?"
"We've been over this before. You like me far too much." He said before capturing her lips with his and preventing her from saying anything else. She didn't mind.
She pulled away for a moment and lifted the crown off his head and sat it on the desk beside the box before pulling at the laces on the front of his clothes. She pulled him back in as she shoved the outer layer off his shoulders. His tunic followed very quickly and she ran her hands over the exposed skin as she pressed herself closer to him. In the haze of their kisses though, she realized very quickly that he hadn't moved his hands from her hips as they still laid firmly on them. She pulled away to look at him with a raised eyebrow.
"It's okay to touch me you know." She said as she took his hand and started pulling him toward the bed. In a moment of complete confidence she tugged her shirt over her head and dropped it to the floor leaving herself completely bare to him before she climbed into the bed and sat up on her knees to look at him. "Come on then."
She beckoned him closer with her hand and he walked toward the bed as his eyes trailed over her body. He rested his hands on her sides, higher up than her hips, but still not really touching her.
"You had your hands all over me before and now suddenly you're shy?" She teased and his eyes came back up to meet hers as he chewed on his lip.
"I don't want to hurt you." He said quietly and she gave him a soft smile.
"You won't." She assured him.
"How do you know that?" He asked, a furrow between his brows. She reached out to touch his face gently.
"Because I trust you." She told him honestly. "It's okay. I'm okay."
His eyes traced her face as if he was looking for a sign of a lie but whatever he saw there seemed to reassure him because he nodded and suddenly his hands were moving. They traced up her sides lightly before coming to a rest with him cupping her breast in his hands as he ran his thumbs over her nipples. She sucked her lip in between her teeth as they quickly became hardened peaks. His hands were rough from a lifetime of working in a forge and the sensation of them sliding along her skin left her a little breathless as they finally left her breast.
His fingers were quickly replaced with his mouth and she breathed out a sigh as he ran his tongue around one nipple and then the other and back again. She was so distracted by his attention on her breast that it surprised her when she felt one of his hands between her legs and she gasped. He released her breast and gently pushed her back to lay on the bed before he kicked off his boots and climbed on. His eyes seemed to study her face as he began to run his fingers over her and she clutched onto his forearm with her hand.
In his exploration of her, he hit a spot situated at the top of her that sent a shock up her spine and she made a soft sound as her hips moved into him almost involuntarily. She looked up at him as he ran his fingers over that spot deliberately and their eyes met for a moment before he leaned over and kissed her again. Her hands moved to tangle in his hair and her soft moans were muffled by his mouth on hers. He pressed a finger inside of her at the same time as his tongue pushed into her mouth and her hands tightened in his hair as he started to move.
Sensations flooded her body and she was distantly aware she was making needy little sounds as she moved her hips against him. He added another finger easily as his mouth left hers to trail down her neck and the sounds that were being muffled were now falling freely from her lips. Her hands left his hair to trail down his body again, tracing the lines and ridges of his body, as she felt a pressure begin to build low in her belly and her movements became frantic.
His hand moved quick against her, pumping his fingers in and out of her at a rapid pace, and her nails dug into his skin lightly as her breathing became ragged. It didn't take long for the pressure inside her to burst over and her head pressed back into the pillows as her eyes squeezed closed and she was almost sure she saw stars behind her lids. Her entire body relaxed after few moments, though she was still breathing heavily and she was pretty sure she was shaking, and she felt movement beside her. He had pulled away from her entirely making her open her eyes to look at him.
He was stripping his breeches and smallclothes off, leaving him just as bare as she was, and she found herself tracing his body with her eyes in much the same way as he did her. She'd seen a naked boy before, she and her brothers had all visited the hot springs together in Winterfell after all, but this was different. He was bigger than she expected, though why she expected something else she wasn't sure because he was a big man in the first place, but she reached out for him anyway. He came to her hesitantly and allowed her to touch him.
She ran her fingers over him gently and he hissed out a breath but didn't reach out to stop her so she figured she hadn't done anything wrong. She glanced up at him, unsure what to do, and he reached between them and showed her how to curl her hand around him and move along his length. She sat up so that they were facing one another on their knees and she watched his face as she moved her hand. He chewed on his lip as his head was bowed slightly and he was huffing out small puffs of breath until finally he reached out to remove her hand from him entirely.
He pushed her back into the bed once more and settled himself over her, holding himself up with a hand on either side of her, and their eyes met as their hips came together. She felt him hard and heavy against her and she sucked in a breath as she lifted her hips slightly. Their bodies slid against one another and he breathed out a sigh before he reached between them and she felt him press against her entrance. He seemed to hesitate for a moment, his entire body stiff above her, before he pushed into her. She felt a sting of pain as he breached her maidenhead and she sucked in a breath which caused him to stop moving altogether as his eyes flew to hers. She could see the concern clearly and she reached up to cup his face in her hands.
"I'm okay." She breathed out.
"Are you sure?" He asked quietly, his concern bleeding into his tone.
"I'm sure." She said. "It hurts but I expected that. I've gotten injuries during sparring that hurt more than this, I'm fine. The pain is already fading."
"Really?" He asked, seeming unconvinced.
"Really." She assured him before she pulled him down for a kiss. She shifted her hips against him to prove her point and he began to move again, slower this time as if he was waiting for her to protest but she didn't.
Soon their bodies were moving together and she wrapped her legs around his hips loosely as he rocked into her. It didn't take long for the movements to start sending waves of pleasure through her body and she moaned as she lifted her hips to meet his, her hands clutching at his shoulders as her chest heaved with her breaths. The movement of their bodies quickly made kissing awkward so they abandoned it and she pressed her face into his neck.
He held himself up with one hand as the other moved along her body again. He ran his fingers against her nipples again, the sensation shooting right to her core and her back arched to press herself more firmly against him. The room was filled with the sounds of their coupling, soft moans and skin against skin as their bodies became slick with sweat, and something inside him seemed to release as his hips slammed into her more firmly than they had before as if he finally realized he wasn't going to hurt her.
The renewed vigor of their hips meeting made her breath come in puffs of air with each thrust and pressed him firmly against that spot at the top of her with each pass and her moans became higher pitched as each touch sent shocks through her body. She began breathing heavily as her nails dug into his shoulders and he seemed to realize quickly what was happening as his hand slid from her breast down to were their bodies were joined and he pressed his fingers firmly against that spot and rubbed it as he slowed his thrust slightly and it didn't take long for the sensations to roll over her.
Her entire body clenched as the world around her seemed to go fuzzy. Her body broke out in goosebumps as she stopped breathing for a moment and she couldn't form a coherent thought in her head. She was almost certain she couldn't tell you her own name if she'd been asked in that moment. Gendry was still moving through it all but his thrust were slow and inconsistent until he grunted softly and his hips stuttered before stopping completely and he laid down firmly on top of her.
Neither of them moved for a long moment until Arya's hands unclenched from where they were digging into his shoulders and instead she began running them gently along his back. One hand came up to settle in his hair as the other continued moving, both of them taking a moment to catch their breaths. His face was buried in her shoulder and the feel of his breath in her rapidly cooling skin made her shiver. He seemed to take that as a cue to move and he rolled to off to the side of her, his body slipping out of hers as he went, and he moved to pull the sheets up over them. His hand came up to run through her hair and when she turned to face him, he was already looking at her.
"Are you okay?" He asked softly and she smiled at him as she took his hand in hers.
"I am." She said before placing a kiss on his knuckles and another on his lips.
"I'm going to love you one day, is that alright?" He asked softly and her smile grew.
"Yeah." She said. "I'm going to love you one day too."
The words felt like a promise held between them.
The moon was high in the sky but neither of them had gone to sleep yet. He'd thought she would go to sleep after they'd consummated their marriage but she didn't seem inclined to do that just yet. She chewed on her lip and looked at him for a long moment before she spoke.
"Would you do something for me?" She asked and he nodded immediately.
"What do you need?" He asked and she sighed.
"We got married in the Sept of Baelor which I understand, the faith of the seven is the dominate religion in the south, but I'm from the north. I was raised in both faiths because my mother is southern, from the Riverlands, and my father had a Sept build in Winterfell for her when they married but I've always felt closer to my father's gods than my mothers." She said quietly, looking at him with something close to apprehension. "Would you go with me to the heart tree in the God's Wood? It's not as big as the one we have in Winterfell but it'll do. We're already married but I'd still like to confirm it in front of the Old Gods and ask their blessing."
"Of course I'll go with you." He said, kissing her knuckles softly. "Though I was born in King's Landing, I've never really thought much about religion. I could care less if we got married in some tavern instead of the Sept but if it means something to you to do this then I'll do it. You're my wife, I respect your values and beliefs."
She smiled and kissed him quickly before she was rolling away from him and off the bed. She picked her shift up off the floor and pulled it over her head as he sat up to look at her in confusion.
"What are you doing?" He asked and she glanced at him.
"Going to the God's Wood." She said as she moved to fasten a cloak around her shoulders without bothering to dress in anything other than her shift.
"Right now?" He asked, raising an eyebrow and she nodded.
"Come on then." She said, beckoning him with a wave of her hand. He shook his head but got out of bed without protest and pulled his breeches and tunic back on before joining her by the door to their chambers. He lifted the bar from the door and pulled it open before following her out.
The guards were still at their post outside the doors and gave them confused looks when they saw them but neither said anything as she grabbed his hand and began dragging him through the Keep. Gendry wondered for a moment if the lords and ladies were still at the feast or if they'd all went back to their chambers to rest but the thought was quickly pushed out of his mind as he followed Arya outside.
She seemed to know exactly where she was going as she pulled him through the garden and down a path leading into some trees. They finally came to a stop in front of the weirwood tree with the face carved into it. It looked ghostly in the light of the moon, the white of it's bark almost glowing and the red leaves looking darker than they did in the day. Gendry got a weird sense of being watched by the carved eyes and it made him wonder if Arya felt it too.
She let go of his hand to kneel in front of the tree and he joined her easily as it seemed strange for him to just stand there while she was kneeling. She gave him a soft smile before she folded her hands together and bowed her head. He could see her lips moving but couldn't hear what she was saying and he knew she was praying to her gods. He felt a little awkward just sitting there and watching her so he followed her lead and bowed his head.
He'd been telling her the truth when he said that he never thought much of religion but it obviously meant something to her so he figured he could attempt a small prayer. He wasn't sure if the gods truly existed, no matter which faith it was, but it couldn't hurt to be thorough just in case. He wasn't sure what to pray for but she'd said she wanted to ask for their blessing on their marriage so he figured that would be good enough.
He cleared the thoughts from his mind and pushed aside his disbelief to ask the gods for their blessing. He put his own wishes for their marriage into the prayer, that they'd have a long and happy life together, that they'd grow to love one another as he hoped they would, that they'd have children one day. A light breeze blew over them from the sea and a strange calmness overtook him. He thought then that maybe the Old Gods weren't as far off as he thought. Arya shifted next to him making him glance at her and she smiled at him once more.
"You don't have to pray, you know. I'm not expecting you to follow my beliefs." She said gently and he shrugged as he smiled at her.
"Figured I'd cover my bases." He told her. "It can't hurt."
"Thank you for doing this." She said, her voice serious even with the smile she was returning.
"Of course." He said. "If you ever need anything from me, just ask. I want our life together to be a happy one and that can only happen if we're open with each other about the things we want and need."
"Okay, but only if you do the same." She said and he nodded.
"Sounds good to me." He said and she laughed softly before she pulled him to her for a kiss. She stood and pulled him back up with her.
"Well, it wasn't a traditional northern wedding but it'll do." She shrugged. "It had the most important parts at least. We committed to one another in the sight of the gods."
"If we just basically got married again, does that mean we need to consummate it once more?" He teased and she rolled her eyes but the grin on her face told him she wasn't annoyed.
"Perhaps it does." She said, raising an eyebrow at him. "Are you going to take me to bed then, husband?"
Her jerked her in for a rough kiss. "You never have to ask me that."
He began pulling her back toward the Keep and their chambers, her giggles floating through the air, and Gendry thought he wouldn't mind if the rest of his life was spent like this, with her carefree and happy.
The next day found them woken early by a servant coming in with food for them to break their fast. When they left the bed to sit at the table and serve themselves, she moved to the bed and began stripping it down and changing the sheets. He ignored it when she balled the sheets up in her hands and left with them when she was finished. Arya had told him it would happen, that the king would expect to see the sheets and know that they had consummated the marriage, so he tried to keep his mind off it. It was a common practice in highborn marriages and it didn't seem to bother Arya so he would let it go.
They ate their food in silence, Arya looking a little grumpy to be awake this early in the day making him want to laugh, before she caught his attention when she moved to the door and asked one of the guard to find Sandor Clegane and bring him to her solar. He raised an eyebrow at her when she sat back down.
"Why do you need to talk to him?" He asked.
"When my family goes back to Winterfell, Sansa will be staying here with father and I as she has been since her betrothal to Joffery." She explained. "He kept Joffery from getting himself killed for years so I figured he could look after Sansa well enough."
"If you're worried about your sister, I could have one of the Baratheon guards stay with her, or I'm sure your father would assign someone from his own household." Gendry said. He didn't want her to think that her family wouldn't be protected.
"I promised Sansa I wouldn't say anything but, you're my husband." Arya said, looking at him seriously. "I can trust you with my secrets can't I?"
"Absolutely. I'd never betray your trust." He told her immediately.
"I'm not worried about Sansa's safety, not really." Arya told him.
"Then why - " He started to ask but she cut him off.
"You remember last night at the feast when Sansa and I were speaking and she said something about our father not approving of who she wanted?" She asked and he caught on to her meaning immediately.
"Seriously? Sansa likes him? Why?" He asked. He'd only met the man briefly but even that one interaction let him see the man's brash attitude and gruff way of speaking and he just couldn't figure out how Arya's prim proper sister and him fit together.
"When Sansa was betrothed to Joffery he was cruel to her, I've told you that, but I didn't really go into detail about it." She said quietly. "He hit her, and sometimes he'd order members of his guard to do it for him. Clegane was his sworn shield at the time but Sansa told me that he was the one guard who never hurt her. He even tried to prevent her from getting hurt a few times." She shrugged. "I'm not sure if she actually likes him or if she's just infatuated because he wasn't cruel to her when everyone else was. Making him guard her will mean they'll spend a lot of time together and she can figure out if she actually does like him or not. It will also give me the opportunity to observe them together for myself."
"Haven't you seen them together before. You and your sister have been in the Red Keep for a couple of years." He asked and she sighed.
"Sansa and I weren't that close when we were younger." She said. "We fought all the time so we'd find excuses not to be around each other that much. I've seen them together, of course, but it's different now because I actually know what's going on with my sister. I never had a reason to think much of their interactions before but now I do."
"Well, what are you going to do if there is something there? Sansa seems to think that your father would never agree to the match." Gendry said and Arya sighed.
"I haven't figured that part out yet but, like I told Sansa, Father wants us to be happy more than anything so if I could convince him it would be good for Sansa then I'm hoping it could work." Arya said and he nodded.
"They seem like a strange match but if it makes her happy, I guess." He said.
After Arya had left go meet Clegane in her solar a servant had informed him that he'd been summoned by the king. He had sighed but made his way to the king's solar anyway where he found not only the king, but Lord Stark as well.
"Father." He greeted even though the word felt wrong in his mouth, he knew it was expected of him to call him that. He inclined his head to Arya's father. "Lord Stark."
"Your grace." He returned politely. Gendry's eyes came back to the king, who was looking at him with a smile on his face making Gendry wonder if the man was already drunk.
"You wished to see me?" He asked and King Robert nodded.
"You and I haven't spent much time together since you came to court. I want to remedy that." He said and Gendry did his best not to grimace.
"If you wish, your grace." He said.
"I've had a hunt organized and I'd like you to go with me." He said and Gendry nodded.
"Who else will be joining us?" He asked as politely as he could. He had no desire to get stuck in the woods with the king all by himself.
"Ned and his son Robb will be coming along as well as my brother Renly and a few other lords from the court." Robert said. "Some knights and the like probably as well."
"If your hand is going as well as me, who will sit the throne while we're away?" Gendry asked in confusion.
"You have a wife." Robert said immediately. "She's the new princess. We'll see how she does in our absence."
"Are you sure that's a good idea, your grace?" Lord Stark asked, letting Gendry know he was surprised by the answer as well.
"You don't think she can handle it?" Robert asked and Lord Stark sighed.
"She can handle it but people will not like it." He said. "They will not be expecting you to leave a woman in charge."
"They will deal with it. I am king, what I say is to be obeyed." Robert said. "Before we leave, I will inform the court of my decision to leave her in my place and that's final. She'll have to learn to deal with the demands of the people eventually Ned, she's going to be queen."
"As you say, your grace." Lord Stark said and Robert turned back to Gendry where he was still standing by the door.
"We leave tomorrow." He said and Gendry nodded.
"I'll tell Arya." He said.
"How do you think she'll do in our absence?" He asked and Gendry got the feeling the question was a test but he wasn't sure how he was supposed to answer so he went with honesty.
"I'll think she'll do a good job, your grace." He told him. "She's kind and compassionate but she's knows how to handle herself too. I don't imagine she'll have much issue dealing with stuck up lords while we're gone, we just might have to soothe a few wounded egos after she destroys them."
King Robert laughed heartily.
"Yes, your wife does seem the type to hurt a man's ego." He said.
"Not just their egos." Gendry said, a grin crossing his face that he knew was probably borderline sappy. "She's amazing."
He saw Lord Stark hide a smile at his words as King Robert nodded
"Anyway, you should prepare to leave then." He said and Gendry heard the dismissal for what it was.
He left the room and quickly made his way back to his chambers to grab his crown from the desk. He was supposed to be listening to petitioners soon, something that King Robert had suggested he do to learn more about the realm he'd be ruling one day, though he suspected that the real reason was that the man just didn't want to do it himself, so he had to put up appearances. He knew his plain breeches and tunic was not what they would be expecting him to wear but he wasn't about to change into some stuffy clothes to hear the complaints from the common folk and if the lords who were petitioning had a problem with it, he didn't really care.
Arya wasn't in the room when he got there and he figured she was either still with Clegane or spending time with her family, either way he'd see her later. He settled the crown on his head and made his way to the throne room as he went over the conversation he'd just had with the King. The last thing he wanted to do was spend a week trudging through the woods but he knew he couldn't refuse. He just hoped that having other people around would make the whole thing more bearable, still he wasn't looking forward to it.
The night before Gendry set off with his father and many of the other men at court was spent with them learning each other's bodies more thoroughly before they were forced out of bed when the sun had barely risen. The court gathered on the steps in front of the keep to see the king off after he'd informed them that she'd be handling things while he and Gendry were away. She was a bit nervous about sitting the throne herself but Gendry and her father had both assured her that they thought she'd do a great job at it and told her not to worry so much. As they were preparing to leave, Gendry came to stand in front of her and she smiled at him.
"Good luck on the hunt." She said and he rolled his eyes.
"I've never been hunting in my life. I doubt I'm going to do very well." He said and she snorted.
"I'll pretend like I'm very impressed when you come back with a pigeon or something." She teased.
"Thank you for that, m'lady." He said, a grin on his face.
"Seriously though, just have fun with it." She said, reaching out to grab his hands in hers. "Your father just wants to spend time getting to know you, you should at least try to talk to him. Plus, my brother and father will be going as well so you can get to know them better too while you're all out there trudging through the forest."
"Sounds like so much fun." He said, sarcasm clear in his voice.
"It's only a week." She reminded him. "It won't be that bad, you'll be back to your featherbed soon enough."
"It's not even that. I've slept on worse things than the ground for most of my life, I'm just not sure I'm ready to get up close and personal with the king." Gendry said. "It feels weird to call him my father when I haven't even known him for most of my life."
"You'll get used to it." She assured him. "And it's not like you have to become close to him, he didn't spend much time with Cersei's children when they were here, I think he just wants to make it seem like he cares. I'm sure he'll get over it soon enough and go back to ignoring you."
"Hopefully." Gendry agreed, glancing over at the group that were now only waiting for him as everyone else had said their goodbyes. He turned back to her with a small smile as his hands came up to cradle her face. He leaned over and placed a soft kiss on her lips, keeping it brief for the sake of propriety, before pulling back. "I'll see you when I get back."
He turned and walked back toward the group and mounted his horse easily. He still wasn't the best at riding a horse but he was getting better at it each time, still she knew the next week riding through the woods wouldn't be the easiest on him. Sansa moved to stand next to her as they departed, the Hound trailing her like a shadow, and she looped her arm through hers as they turned and went back inside. Their mother was talking to some of the other women of the court and didn't pay them much mind, while Rickon was running around with Shireen Baratheon under the watchful eye of Ser Davos Seaworth.
The first few days he'd been here, Rickon hadn't taken a particular interest in anyone apart from his family until he'd met Shireen and now the two were practically inseparable. She knew they were still a ways off from a marrying age but still they could be betrothed at their age. She was thinking of talking to Rickon about it before going to her father to arrange a match. She'd seen the way other boys had looked at Shireen, at the greyscale scars on her face, and turned their noses up at her but Rickon didn't seem to care about the marks at all. Her wild little brother seemed infatuated.
One look at Sansa, who'd been observing the two of them as well, told Arya that their fondness for one another wasn't just in her head. Once they were inside away from everyone else, Sansa looked at her with raised eyebrows.
"So?" She questioned.
"So, what?" Arya asked.
"How was it?" She asked and Arya knew immediately what she was getting at. She glanced at the Hound, who was still following behind them, before her eyes came back to Sansa.
"You really want to talk about that right now?" She asked and Sansa shrugged.
"It's probably the only time we'll be able to talk about it without mother overhearing. She's distracted by the other ladies right now." Sansa said, as she led Arya into her solar. The Hound took up a position at the door and looked as if he wasn't paying attention to them at all, though Arya knew he was, and she shrugged. If her sister didn't care then she didn't either.
"It was...not what I was expecting." She said and Sansa's head tilted as she looked at her.
"What do you mean?" She asked and Arya shrugged.
"Septa Mordane and mother both told me that it was a wife's duty to lay with her husband so I thought it was going to be....well, not awful but not very nice either, but I was wrong." She told her. "It hurt, at first, but mother told me it would so I was prepared for it but after, it was pleasurable."
"Pleasurable?" Sansa asked, her eyebrows raising. "How?"
"I don't really know how to describe it." Arya said, her cheeks heating slightly as she glanced at the Hound. He still wasn't looking at them but she knew he heard everything they were saying. "That book that Septa Mordane gave us to read about the process doesn't do anything to describe what it's really like. He touched me and it was like....I don't know, it was just nice."
"He touched you?" She asked, her voice going down to a whisper. "Down there?"
The surprise on her sisters face almost made her want to laugh.
"Yes." She told her. "We had to consummate the marriage Sans, what did you think would happen?"
"Well..." She blushed prettily, her eyes going to her guard at the door, seemingly becoming conscious of him being there for the first time and she shrugged. "I guess I kind of assumed they just shoved it in and got it over with."
Arya snorted when she heard the Hound give a soft huff by the door but Sansa seemed too caught up in her embarrassment to notice his reaction.
"Well, I assume that some men do but Gendry didn't." She told her. "We did eventually get to that part but he took his time with it. He didn't want to hurt me, he said, so he made sure that I was okay first."
"I like him." Sansa said, a smile on her face. "I'm glad that your husband is kind to you. You deserve that."
"So do you." Arya said, reaching out to grasp Sansa's hand. "Whoever you marry will never lay a hand on you like Joffery did, I'll make sure of it."
"Thank you Arya." Sansa said, her voice soft and Arya smiled.
"There are some good things that come from having a princess for a sister." She said and Sansa laughed.
"I suppose so." She answered. After that, Arya made a point to change the subject.
"So, Shireen and Rickon."
Later that same day found Arya with her crown situated firmly on her head as she sat on the Iron Throne to hear petitions from the people of King's Landing. The throne was perhaps the most uncomfortable thing she'd ever had to sit on but she made sure that her face was open and friendly as she greeted the people who came before her. She wanted them to feel comfortable speaking to her.
Most of the issues that came before her were easily fixed, squabbles between shop owners and the like, but she listened to them attentively anyway and gave her council as best she could. The issues brought before her though made her aware of the fact that she didn't truly know the city as well as she had thought because for her time here she'd been confined mostly to the Red Keep. She knew that Gendry had grown up in Flea Bottom, the poorest part of the city, and he'd likely know better than her the issues that the common folk were facing and it made her determined.
After she had seen to the petitions of the day, aware of the eyes of the lords and ladies lingering on the edges of the room, she'd made a firm decision to visit the lower parts of the city and wouldn't allow anyone to dissuade her. Her mother counseled her against it but she ignored her advice and went about informing the guard that she'd be going. Many of the Kingsguard had gone with Robert and Gendry, leaving her with the regular palace guards along with Ser Meryn Trant and she didn't like him much so she insisted he stay behind while the Baratheon guards accompanied her. He'd sputtered and raged against it but he had to obey her order since she was the princess.
They tried to insist that she ride in a carriage but she refused and had them saddle her horse for her instead. While all this was happening, Sansa had suddenly decided that she was coming along as well, much to the displeasure of their mother. This meant that the Hound was also accompanying them as they rode away from the Keep. Sansa had never been a confident mount and her hands were gripping the saddle of her horse tight enough for her fingers to turn white but she otherwise seemed happy to be going with Arya, which struck her as strange. Sansa had grown in the last couple of years but she was still very much, a prim proper lady, so defying their mother alongside Arya was not something she expected.
"What's going on with you?" Arya asked, her voice quiet as she waved at the people who came out to see their princess riding by. Sansa was smiling and waving too but Arya could tell she wasn't really paying attention.
"I just needed to get away from mother for a while." She answered and Arya raised an eyebrow.
"Why?" Arya asked.
"She told me she's considering talking to father about making a match with Willas Tyrell." Sansa said. "I don't want that but she won't listen to me."
"Talk to father. If you tell him you don't want to be forced into another match so soon then he won't do it." Arya said.
"I know but it's just frustrating how she won't leave it alone." Sansa said. "I know she just wants what's best for us but I'm starting to understand how you felt all those years when you were the one refusing a match."
"Seems strange we should feel this way now. It's like we've changed places, I've happily married the prince and you're fighting against a match, it's almost funny." Arya shared a grin with her sister. "If our younger selves could see us now, they'd surely be bewildered."
"Things have change a lot since then haven't they?" Sansa asked, her voice almost wistful.
"Does that make you sad?" Arya asked seriously.
"Not as much as I thought it would." Sansa said. "I've grown up a bit since then and realized that the things I want aren't the same anymore and that's okay. People change and I'm learning that that isn't always a bad thing."
"Well, I'm glad." Arya said truthfully.
They dropped the conversation once they entered Flea Bottom and Arya took note of the guards moving closer to her and Sansa. The people in Flea Bottom didn't seem any less friendly to her than the people they'd seen on their way here but she wasn't going to argue with them. She stopped her horse and climbed off of it, two guards taking up posts beside her immediately as she moved to walk along the street.
The people looked at her guards cautiously as if they expected them to cause some kind of issue but she tried to reassure them with smiles. She wondered if any of these people knew Gendry, if he'd passed by them on his way to or from the street of steel each day. She felt a little sad when she saw the run down buildings surrounding her as she thought of him as a child, living on the streets after his mother died, and she wanted to help but she wasn't sure how.
She saw a small child poking her head out of the door of a building before their eyes met and she quickly ducked back inside. Arya approached the building cautiously and peered inside to see many more children sitting around on the floor. She moved inside, quickly spotting two women, and she approached them easily with a smile. They seemed to study her for a moment before smiling back hesitantly.
"Your grace." One of them spoke as they both curtsied. They both had long blond hair that hang around their thin faces and light blue eyes. They were obviously related, sisters she'd guess, both wearing plain dresses.
"Hello." She greeted as she glanced at the children all around. "Who are all these children?"
"Orphans, your grace." The other one spoke. "This building has been empty for years so they come here when they've got nowhere else to go. It provides a warm dry place, even if just for a day or two. Our mother had a soft spot in her heart for them when she was still living and she brought them small bits of food whenever she could spare it so we continued doing it after she passed. We can't spare much but we do what we can."
"What are your names?" Arya asked.
"I'm Sera." The one standing closest to Arya said before motioning to the other. "And this is my sister, Myrah, if it please your grace."
"Do you live here in Flea Bottom as well?" Arya asked.
"Yes, your grace." Sera answered. "We work at the tavern just down the street and the owner allows us a room the stay in."
"Well, your kindness is very admirable." She told them, looking back to the children. "I'm sure that they are thankful for anything you are able to spare them but I don't want you to worry about it. I'm going to make sure that they are looked after from now on, and you both as well." She turned to the guards with her. "Send someone back to the keep and gather some food to be brought back for these children."
"Yes, your grace. Right away." One of the guards moved to the door and spoke to another before coming back to her. The two girls smiled at her.
"Thank you, your grace." Myrah said.
"It's really no problem." Arya said. "The children of King's Landing should be taken care of. I will make sure that happens."
While they were waiting for the food to be brought back, Sansa joined Arya inside and they played with the children alongside Sera and Myrah. The children smiled happily whenever any of them would join in on the games they came up with and Arya was happy to see it. She knew that these children had far less than she'd ever had but they were still happy and full of life despite the hardships and it made her even more aware of her privilege and she swore then that she'd do everything she could to help make things even a little bit better for the common folk.
Once the food was brought in, she stood by and made sure that each child got a bowl of the soup that had been brought and a piece of the soft bread. While the children ate Arya sat with Sera and Myrah, who had their own bowls of soup, and spoke to them about what they felt was most needed for the smallfolk. They spoke to her easily and after a time she had a list of things she wanted to accomplish based on what they told her.
When they left as the sun was sinking low in the sky, Arya felt like she'd accomplished something that day and knew she'd made the right choice to visit and see what the people were really dealing with in the city she was going to rule from one day. She had things in her mind that she wanted to discuss with Gendry when he got back and get his perspective on them as he knew better than most what it was like to live the way the common folk did but she already knew some of the things that she wanted to change once she got the chance.
They got back to the Keep just as it got dark and Arya felt that her first day as a legitimate ruler had gone well. She was far less nervous about it than she had been that morning at least. When she and Sansa entered the Keep, they parted ways almost immediately to go to their own chambers and clean up a bit from the day they'd had. Arya was thoroughly surprised when she entered her room to find someone already inside and she saw the guards at her side tense the moment they registered the presence, ready to jump to her defense should they need to, but Arya knew who the person was immediately even though he wasn't facing her.
Jon turned around when he heard the door open and a giant smile came over both their faces. She rushed across the room and threw her arms around him and he returned the hug. They held each other tightly for a long moment before she pulled away.
"What are you doing here?" She asked.
"I meant to get here before the wedding." He told her. "Lord Commander Mormont gave me leave to be here for it, it was going to be a surprise, but we had a bit of a delay in the road."
"How long are you going to be here?" She asked immediately.
"A full moons turn." He answered. "Yoren is looking for recruits for the Night's Watch."
"I'm so glad you're here." She said, hugging him once more before turning to the guards still hovering at the door. "You can go."
"Your grace...." One spoke hesitantly but she rolled her eyes.
"He's my brother." She said. "He's not going to hurt me."
"Very well." He said as they turned to leave. She knew they'd be right outside the door should she need them but she also knew that she wouldn't. She pulled Jon over to sit at the table and offered him a goblet of wine.
"So, I'm told your husband has gone on a hunting trip along with the king and father." He said and she nodded.
"They'll be back in a week." She said. "I think you'll like him though."
"Is he kind to you?" Jon asked.
"Yes." She told him truthfully.
"Then I'm sure I will like him." He said with a smile before he began chewing on his lip. "Are you truly okay with this? You never wanted to marry before."
"I am." She said. "At first I just agreed to marry him because I didn't want Sansa to have to be forced into it so soon after Joffery but then we began to spend some time together and I really do like him. He's kind and sweet, he can be a bit stubborn and he can sometimes have a bit of a temper, but he's a good man. I know that he'll never do anything to hurt me and marrying him was a good decision."
"Well then, I'm happy for you little sister." He said. "And I look forward to meeting your husband."
She was glad Jon was here. She'd missed him since they parted ways and he'd always been her favorite sibling so having him around, even if it was only for a moons turn, as she settled into her new role as princess made her happy.
As they rode deeper into the woods Gendry found himself grateful that the king was ignoring him just as he did in the Keep, seemingly more occupied with talking to Lord Stark than he was anything else, leaving Gendry to ride along in relative silence. He still wasn't the most confident on horseback and was trying desperately to make it seem like he knew what the hell he was doing. His quiet didn't last long though as Robb left the throng of other lords riding around them began riding along beside him.
"Your grace." He greeted and Gendry grimaced.
"You don't have to call me that." He told him. "We're family now, after all."
"Gendry then." Robb said with a smile. "Is this your first time hunting?"
"Yes." Gendry said. "I'm going to make an absolute fool of myself I'm sure, so feel free to laugh."
"I'm sure it won't be that awful." Robb said with a laugh. "Trust me, I'm almost sure that some of the lords that came along with us are worst shots than my sister Sansa so it'll be fine. No one will notice if you're not the best."
"If you say so." Gendry said, already knowing that Robb was wrong. He was the bastard prince, all the lords were just waiting for him to mess up so they'd be able to criticize him for something.
"When we were younger, Arya always begged to go when father took us hunting but mother never allowed it." Robb said. "She's probably very jealous."
"She could have come along." Gendry said with a sigh. "I wouldn't have cared, but my father wanted to see how she'd do on the throne while we were away."
"I think she'll do great." Robb said. "She was always much more comfortable around the common folk in Winterfell. There's no better leader than one who understands the needs of their people and respects them."
"I agree." Gendry said, a smile crossing his face at the mention of Arya. "Hell, she'll probably do better at it than I ever could."
"I don't think that's true." Robb said. "You understand the needs of the people probably better than she does, certainly better than any lord who'd been raised with privilege, you'll undertstand the struggles and complaints they bring before you more intimately than anyone else so you'll be able to determine a better solution that someone who hasn't endured the things you have. I think the two of you together will be good for the Seven Kingdoms."
"You really do?" Gendry asked, genuinely surprised. Most of the lords he'd met thus far had spoken to him with false politeness and pretty words but none of them had told him they thought he'd do well as a leader. The only person who'd said anything like that to him since he was legitimized had been Arya.
"Absolutely." Robb smiled at him. They fell back into silence after that, content to ride along beside one another, as Gendry pondered the man's words.
He'd thought, when he first met Robb, that he hadn't liked him and he'd assumed that it was because he was a bastard and Robb didn't think he was good enough for his sister but now he knew he'd read the situation wrong. Robb had been distant because he wanted to get a gauge of him before he made any decision about his opinion on them and apparently he'd finally decided that Gendry was okay. In fact, aside from her mother, most of her family seemed to like him well enough. He took that as a good sign. Of course there were two brothers that he hadn't met yet but he didn't think he'd have any problem with them either.
He wasn't really sure why her mother seemed to dislike him so much, if it was because he was a bastard or because she thought he'd been inappropriate with Arya before they got married, but he resolved to speak to her about it when they returned to the Keep. He wanted her to like him.
They rode until it started to become dark and it would be dangerous to keep riding and the camp began to be set up all around them. Gendry knew the next day, they'd start actually hunting now that they were far enough away from the city that the animals would be in more abundance. The tent set up for him was massive and had a featherbed laid in the corner which made him think of Arya teasing him about missing his featherbed. Obviously, she was wrong and the thought made him laugh.
The camp was filled with chatter that floated to him as he stood in the center of his tent and he found himself wondering if they'd find anything the next day to hunt or if all the animals would be scared off by the amount of noise that was happening. He rubbed his hands along his back and stretched as he blew out a breath. He was sore from riding a horse all day but it was no where near as bad as he could feel after a day of hammering away in the smithy as he had been doing since he was a child so he could mostly brush it off. He wondered out of his tent a little while later when he became hungry and went in search of food.
It was after he'd had a meal of rabbit cooked over the fire and dried fruits that had been brought along from the Keep that he found himself wondering a little ways away from the noise of the camp and into the woods. He was still in sight of the fire and his guards had followed him the moment he stepped away so he felt relatively safe as he stared up at the sky. The moon was full and heavy, providing enough light that he could see without the aide of the fire, and the stars were sprinkled across the darkness. He almost wanted to lay on the ground so that he could look up at it without craning his neck but knew he'd look particularly strange to his guards if he were to do so.
He heard the approaching foot falls but didn't look away from the sky to see who it was. He knew that his guards wouldn't let anyone who meant him harm to approach so he wasn't afraid.
"Admiring the stars?" Lord Stark's voice made him finally look away from the sky as he glanced at him.
"When I was a kid, before my mother passed, she'd sometimes take me down to the beach after she finished working in the ale house and we'd lay on our backs and stare at the stars. She'd point out patterns or shapes in them and make up stories. I don't remember any of them, I don't even really remember her, but sometimes when I look at the stars, I think of those nights on the beach." He explained. "She was always so busy trying to keep us alive that it was rare for it to happen so when it did, I savored the time with her. I always thought I'd have more, more time, more days at the beach, just more of her, but life doesn't work that way. So now, when I get the chance, I'll stare up at the sky and remember her."
"I think that's a nice thing to do." Lord Stark said. "Remembering the ones we lost is important."
"I wish I remembered more about her." Gendry said quietly. "I don't even know what her name was. She was always just 'mama' to me."
"I'm sorry." Lord stark said, his voice sincere. "But, I think she'd be proud of the man you've become."
"Do you?" Gednry asked, looking at the man fully.
"From what I've seen, you're a good man." Lord Stark said. "You're honorable and you don't abuse the power that was given to you even when you easily could, you're not cruel or abusive, you care about your wife and I know that you won't dishonor her. There is a lot for your mother to be proud of."
"I suppose so." Gendry said, a small smile on his lips from the man's words. "Anyway, I really just came out here to get away from the noise of the camp. I'm not sure we'll have anything to hunt tomorrow with the noise they're making."
"Perhaps not." Lord Stark laughed, his eyes lighting up with mirth and the expression made Gendry instantly think of Arya. He could tell that she took after her father more than her mother when it came to looks.
"You know it's strange, I've been gone for less than a day and already, I miss her." He said quietly. "How is that possible?"
"You care for her." He said simply. Gendry sighed lightly.
"I didn't think it would be like this." He said. "I knew we'd have to marry from the very beginning just as she did, so we worked on becoming friends because it was better than hating one another but somewhere along the way, it changed. I won't say I love her, not yet, but I didn't expect to care so much for someone in such a short space of time. We've only known each other for a moons pass but already it feels as if she's ingrained in my very existence."
Lord Stark laughed softly next to him drawing Gendry's eyes back to the man. He had a kind expression on his face as he met Gendry's eyes.
"You might not say you love her but you do." He said gently. "What you just said about her being ingrained in your life proves that without a doubt."
"Robb said something similar about me loving her but it's far too soon to be saying something like that." Gendry protested.
"Sometimes love takes time." Lord Stark said. "And sometimes, it hits you early and all at once. She's your wife and you love her, it's not a bad thing."
"You think I should tell her?" Gendry asked. "She won't think it too soon?"
"She may, or she may say the same, either way it's better to say it than to not." Lord Stark shrugged. "Some people never get the chance."
"I suppose you're right." Gendry said quietly. Lord Stark made a humming noise before he looked over his shoulder to the camp.
"I'll leave you to your thoughts then, your grace." He said, inclining his head before he moved away, back toward the camp, and Gendry went back to staring at the stars.
He'd tried not to think the words when he was with Arya and the feeling of warmth and contentment would settle over him but now that Lord Stark had spoken them out loud, he couldn't help it. He loved Arya, he loved her, and there was no denying that. His instincts were still screaming that it was too soon for all of that but he pushed it away and instead thought about what Lord Stark had said about how love sometimes hit you early and all at once and he certainly felt like he'd been hit. Even just the thought of her made his heart clench in his chest before it started racing rapidly and brought stupid smile to his face. He never suspected he'd be the lovesick fool but here he was, brought down by a girl with the fierceness to rival her house sigil and a smile that could bring men to their knees. He found himself suddenly very thankful that she was his wife.
Sorry it's a short one today. Hope you guys liked it anyway.
Arya woke early the next morning and called a small council meeting immediately. Her father, Renly Baratheon, and Barristan Selmy who were on the small council had rode out with the king's hunting party but she was still left with Varys, Maester Pycelle, Lord Baelish and Stannis Baratheon. She didn't particularly like any of them but she had to deal with them anyway so she pushed away any negative feelings so they wouldn't show on her face before she entered the council chambers. They were all already seated when she came in but they stood to greet her before taking their seats once more. She moved to sit in the seat usually reserved for the Hand of the King and folded her hands on the table in front of her before she began to speak.
"I visited the lower city yesterday and found things that I'd like to change." She began, looking at each man before continuing. "First, I've heard that some maesters in the citadel have done studies that have found that access to clean water can help keep a population healthy. Is that correct Maester Pycelle?"
"Indeed, some studies have shown that, your grace." He answered and she nodded.
"Good. Due to those findings, I want a well to be built in the lower part of the city for the people to use so that we may have healthier citizens. I expect that it will decrease the amount of disease outbreaks that we have during the year." She told them, making sure that her words were being noted before continuing. "Second, on my visit I came upon an empty building on the street with a multitude of shops around it. It was unused and, according to the people, hasn't had anything inside it for some time. I found that it was being occupied by street orphans."
"Do you wish for us to have the city watch rid the place of them, your grace?" Littlefinger asked and she raised an eyebrow at him.
"No, Lord Baelish." She said. "I want to purchase the building on behalf of the crown and turn it into a legitimate orphanage with caretakers for the children. Furthermore, I want food to be delivered three times a week so that I know the children are being fed and I want bed rolls to be provided for each child."
"I don't think that's necessary, your grace." Maester Pycelle said. "Street children are not the responsibility of the crown."
"I beg to differ Maester." She said firmly. "It is the crown's duty to take care of it's citizens, the orphans included. And on the topic of caring for our people, I also want a ration of food to be put aside and taken down to the city to be handed out to the people. Each household will receive a ration of bread and grain each month henceforth so that they may feed themselves."
"Are you sure, your grace?" Stannis asked. "Hand the people something for free and they'll expect even more the next time."
"Looking after the people is my priority." She said, glaring at each of them in turn. "I did not call this meeting to ask for your permission, my lords, because I do not need it. I called this meeting to tell you what I expect to be done so that you can find the money and the people to make it happen. I will be making regular visits to the city to ensure that my plans are being carried out in a satisfactory way so I expect you complete them as I have asked."
She left the room after that, leaving them to work out the details. She knew they'd need to find builders for the well she wanted and caretakers for the orphanage but she felt better knowing that her plans would be seen to and the people would be better for it. She knew some of the lords probably wouldn't like it and would likely complain about it but she could handle their whining if it meant that the people were taken care of.
She made her way back to her room to get ready for another day of hearing petitions and found Sansa and her mother already inside. She glanced at them with a raised eyebrow as she made her way over to the desk to pick up her crown and carry it with her to the mirror on the other side of the room.
"Can I help you with something?" She asked and she noticed her mother eyeing her attire.
"Is that what you're wearing to hear petitions?" She asked and Arya had to refrain from rolling her eyes.
"Yes, mother, it is." She said.
"You're a princess Arya." She said. "You shouldn't be wearing breeches."
"As you said, I'm a princess. I can wear what I want." Arya said as she ran a brush through her hair before she plaited it and tied the end. She pushed her braid over her shoulder and placed her crown on her head before turning back to face her mother and Sansa. "Now, I'm sure you didn't come here to lecture me about my clothing so what are you here for."
"Sansa told me that you were planning to talk to your father about a betrothal between Rickon and Shireen Baratheon." She said. Arya glanced at Sansa over their mothers shoulder and she mouthed an apology. Arya sighed and nodded.
"I was." She said. "They seem to like each other well enough and Shireen is from a great House in good standing. They're too young to marry but they could still be betrothed and Shireen could visit Winterfell for a time when you all travel back."
"I don't know if I agree with the match Arya." Her mother said.
"Why not?" She asked. "It would be a good alliance for our family and Shireen is a sweet girl."
"You're already married to a Baratheon and Robb seems entirely enamored with the Tyrell girl. The northern lords will want some sort of marriage alliance with our family and since we already have an alliance to House Baratheon through your marriage, they may disagree with the match." She said.
"If father makes the match then they'll have to respect that decision." Arya said. "And besides, you were trying to propose a match to House Tyrell through Sansa so it's not like she would have married into a northern family either. Plus, you still have Bran. I'm sure you could make a match for him with one of the northern houses, he's Robb's heir until he has children of his own, after all."
"There have been no official plans made for a betrothal to your sister, it's all just talk right now." Her mother said. "And since I expect that your brother will soon announce plans to marry the Tyrell girl I won't pursue the match to one of her brothers just yet so there may still be a chance of her marrying into a northern house. We need to think of our choices carefully Arya."
"I am thinking carefully. The Baratheons are a powerful family, Shireen is the niece of the King, a marriage with her will strengthen our families position, but I'm also thinking about my little brother and his happiness in all of this. They get along, they like to play together, I don't think either of them would oppose a match and they'd be good together." Arya explained. "It would be a good move politically and personally and, as I said, the northern lords would respect father's decision."
"Fine, we can speak to your father about it when he returns." She said finally. "But, we will have to make a marriage alliance with a northern house for at least one of my children so I expect help from both of you to make a match for Bran, and we will have to talk about a match for Sansa at some point."
"Mother, I don't want to be betrothed again so soon. Joffery was horrible." Sansa protested and Arya knew she was trying to stall as much as she could until she could figure out a way to convince their father to betroth her to Sandor Clegane.
"You're not a child Sansa, you will have to marry." Their mother said.
"I know but I just want a little time before I have to think about it, please mother." Sansa said.
"She's still young." Arya added in, trying to help her out. "Even if you hold off on marrying her to someone for a time, she'll still be able to bear children for her husband when the time comes."
Their mother looked between them for a long moment, her lips pursed tightly and a disapproving look on her face, but finally she blew out a sigh.
"Fine, I will leave it for now." She said, before she waved her hands as if to dispel the conversation they'd just had as she turned back to Arya. "I'm sure the people are waiting for you to begin the petitions. We should all make our way to the throne room."
The petitions for that day were much the same as they had been the previous day, minor squabbles between shop owners, and Arya found the whole thing rather boring but she made sure to give her full attention and appropriate responses. She saw the lords who'd stayed behind from the hunt once again lingering at the edges of the room, listening to her words, and she had no doubt they were all judging her heavily. Some of them were still grumbling about the king leaving her in charge but she did her best to ignore them as she motioned for the next petitioners to be brought in. It was a man and woman who looked to be of an age with her parents and the woman had a fussing babe in her arms.
"Your grace." The woman greeted, giving a curtsie as best she could with the child in her arms.
"Speak your names." She said.
"I'm Alyane, if it please your grace, and this is my husband Gerald." The woman spoke.
"We own a small tavern in the lower city, your grace." Gerald added.
"What matter have you brought in front of the court today?" She asked, studying each of them in turn as Alyane bounced the babe in her arms.
"One of the girls working in our tavern was attacked last night, your grace." Alyane said. "A man came in and he took her up into the rooms. We don't like to meddle in the lives of the girls working for us so we didn't say nothin' about it but then he came down and she didn't."
"She's not one to shirk off work so when she didn't come back down, I went up to check on her, and I found her in one of the rooms." Gerald took up the story with a dark look in his eyes and he visibly shuddered. "I ain't never seen anything like it, your grace. The things he did to her, I can't even imagine."
"Where is she?" Arya asked seriously.
"She died, your grace." Alyane said. "My husband wouldn't allow me to see what was done to her, said it wasn't for a woman's eyes, but he wrapped her up and took her out of the city where he buried her. This is her babe, Aemma."
"Are you able to look after her?" Arya asked.
"We have five children of our own to look after, your grace." Alyane said, genuine sadness in her voice. "We just don't have the resources to take in another one."
Arya nodded as her eyes searched the room for a moment before landing on Varys.
"Do we have a wet nurse in the Keep?" She asked.
"Yes, your grace." He answered.
"Send for her immediately. Aemma will be fostered here until I can find a suitable place for her and I'm sure she's hungry." She said and he bowed low before leaving the room and Arya's eyes turned back to the people in front of her. "Do you know who this man was who came into your tavern?"
"Yes, your grace. We saw him once before." Gerald said, his eyes darting around the room for a moment before settling on her. "It was the false prince. Joffery."
Arya heard the soft intake of breath from Sansa and she sucked in a deep breath. Just the name made her boil with rage and the knowledge that he'd come back to King's Landing and hurt someone when he'd been banished just added to the fire building in her. Her eyes searched the room once more before they found the person they'd been looking for.
"Lord Tywin." She said, her voice echoing through the suddenly quiet room. He stepped to the center of the room from the corner where he'd been watching.
"Your Grace." He bowed. She glared at him.
"It was upon your insistence that the lives of your grandchildren were spared. They were banished to Casterly Rock with the assumption that they'd be kept there, something you assured the king of, and now I find that Joffery is in King's Landing once again." She said.
"I left guards to ensure that he stayed there when I was summoned to the court for the crowning of Prince Gendry, your grace." Lord Tywin said. "He must have bribed them to allow him out."
"It sounds to me as if you need better guards, my lord." She said, the words harsh in her mouth. "Since it was your duty to keep him in Casterly Rock and you have not done so, you will join the city watch as they search for him."
"I hardly think that's necessary, your grace." He said and she glared at him.
"I will decide what is necessary." She snapped standing from the throne and pacing toward him. "You will deliver Joffery to me by dawn. You will tell him that he and his men will answer to me because today, I am King, and I will punish those who defy me. Remember your children, Lord Tywin. Do not test my power and do not tempt my fury."
Lord Tywin looked at her, his eyes angry, but she refused to be the one to break first. They stared at one another for a long tense moment, where it seemed like everyone in the room was holding their breath as they waited to see what would happen, before Tywin broke their gaze and bowed once more.
"Yes, your grace." He said before turning and leaving the room entirely. She sent one of the Baratheon guards along with him to inform the captain of the city watch who they were meant to be looking for. She looked around the room at the lords and ladies watching her.
"Let it be known that henceforth, any crime committed against the smallfolk will be treated with the same severity as if it had been committed against a lord or lady of the court and will not be tolerated." She spoke the words clearly, her eyes trailing over the gathered lords and ladies, letting them know that she was serious about her words.
The wet nurse she'd sent for came into the room at that moment and took the babe from Alayne's arms and she and her husband left the room with a bow to her and she told Varys that she was done with petitions for the day before she left the room snagging Sansa's arm along the way, and dragging her sister along with her.
She didn't want Joffery running around the city freely. He was cruel and dangerous and she didn't want him to have the opportunity to hurt anyone else, he'd already killed one person and she knew he'd do it again if he got the chance. She wanted him to be dealt with swiftly and, more than that, she didn't want Sansa to have to worry about him anymore. She turned to the Hound as they reached Sansa's chamber doors.
"Stay with her until he's found. I don't want my sister harmed." She said and he nodded.
"You really think he'd going to come to the Keep?" Sansa asked, a small amount of fear in her voice.
"No, but it's better to err on the side of caution." Arya told her. "Just stay in your chambers until they find him."
"Okay." Sansa nodded. "I will."
Arya left Sansa in her chambers and made her way to her own. She hoped that the city watch wouldn't take long to find Joffery because she didn't want to have to worry about him running around and causing chaos. She also wanted him found because she didn't want the small folk to be in danger and she also really didn't want to have to explain to Robert Baratheon why the city had gone to shit while he was away. She was trying to make King's Landing a better place to live for the smallfolk and the last thing she needed was Joffery coming in and fucking it all up. When he was found, she already knew that there was no way she could let him live.
Yes. I did borrow that line from Reign but I thought it fit here so hope you guys don't mind.
Gendry woke up the next morning to the sounds of the men moving around the camp and he quickly joined them. The King and Lord Stark were speaking quietly by the fire while Robb was sitting on the opposite side from them speaking to Renly Baratheon and he motioned Gendry over as he came out of his tent so he moved to sit with them. He'd met Renly after his coronation and the man had been nothing but kind to him so he actually liked him. He hadn't said anything about Gendry being a lowborn bastard and didn't seem at all resentful about his legitimization so he didn't mind sitting and talking with him.
"Are you feeling ready for the hunt, your grace?" Renly asked and Gendry shrugged.
"As ready as I can be I reckon." Gendry said, accepting a bit of bread with meat stuck between it from one of the men moving around the fire as he spoke. "I'm just hoping that I can hit something at least."
"I'm sure if your aim is truly horrible, Arya can teach you a bit when we get back to the Keep." Robb teased. "She's pretty good with a bow, not as good as she is with a sword, but still sufficient. I'm sure she wouldn't mind teaching you."
"I've no doubt she'd mock me the whole time." He said, a smile gracing his face.
"I don't think you should worry too much about it. I reckon you'll be a natural." Renly said and Gendry huffed out a laugh.
"You don't have to worry about offending me, I know I'm going to be shit." Gendry shrugged. "I can admit when I'm not the best at something. My pride can take the hit."
"You're better than some men then." Renly said, his eyes pointedly going to his brother, making his point without saying the words out loud.
"It's my humble beginnings I suspect." Gendry said sheepishly. "Couldn't really afford to have too much pride. It was like to get you killed where I came from."
"I think the kingdoms will do better for it." Robb said with a shrug. "We could do with a little less pride all around."
"I agree." Renly said.
Gendry blushed lightly as they both smiled at him but he was glad that at least some people supported him. He knew that many of the lords were still hesitant to support him, thought they'd never say it where they could be overheard, but he was glad to find that at least a small portion of them did and he'd just have to work hard to convince everyone else that he wasn't going to fuck up.
It wasn't long after that they started getting ready to move further into the forest for the hunt. They were leaving the camp where it was with plans to return to it in the evening after a full day of hunting so a few of the servants that had come along were left there to ensure that the camp would be ready for when they returned. To Gendry's relief, they made their way further into the forest on foot rather than horseback, with the King stating that they'd make less noise that way and it would make hunting the animals easier. Gendry didn't think they were at all quiet, with some of the men stomping through the forest with all the grace of a bull, but he wasn't going to protest. The less time he had to spend on horseback the better in his opinion.
As they got deeper into the wood though, the group split, making it much easier for them to be quiet. Robb and Renly walked close to him, with Lord Stark and King Robert a little ways ahead of them with the other men, but none of them spoke as their eyes searched the wood for any prey. He could hear King Robert talking loudly to the men around him but he was far enough ahead that he couldn't make out the words.
It was darker in the forest than it had been in the clearing where they'd set up camp, with the branches and leaves overhead blocking most of the sunlight, making it a bit more difficult to see but Gendry kept his eyes wondering anyway. His pace slowed as he looked around, prompting Robb and Renly to slow next to him and putting them further from the hunting party. It worked in their favor as, with only the three of them, they made far less noise and began noticing more animals as they walked though none big enough for them to bother shooting at.
It was as they were walking through a section of wood with less dense trees and a small clearing to the left of them that Robb threw out his arm so suddenly that Gendry ran into him and stumbled slightly before his eyes snapped to the man with a question in his gaze. Robb placed a finger in front of his lips signalling that they should be quiet as he jerked his head to the clearing and Gendry turned to see a large pheasant picking at the ground. Robb lifted the crossbow that had been dangling from his hands and aimed it easily. The arrow whistled through the air a moment later and the bird dropped to the ground quickly as Robb gave a cheer and rushed forward to grab it. He hung the bird from his belt and they continued on, catching up with the rest of the group who seemed to be having some luck as well as a couple of them already had birds hanging from their belts the same as Robb.
Many of the lords managed to kill pheasants as it seemed they were in abundance in these woods and some of them even got a few squirrels but when they got deeper into the woods was when they started coming across bigger game. Lord Stark managed to take down a small deer, though many of the animals they came across darted away before anyone could aim at them, until Gendry heard twigs on the ground breaking and hurridly quieted everyone down as he moved away from them and crept closer to the sound. What he found was a large boar nosing at the ground and snorting.
The tusks on the animal were large and dangerous looking so he moved as quietly as he could so that he wouldn't attract it's attention. Robb, who had followed him away from the group when he'd moved to check out the sounds, clapped him on the shoulder lightly and pushed the crossbow into his hands despite his rapidly shaking head and wide eyes. Robb raised an eyebrow and tilted his head toward the boar.
"This is your chance." He whispered. "Take your shot."
"Have you lost your mind, what if I miss?!" Gendry whispered back frantically. "That will just piss the damn thing off!"
"Then I suggest you don't miss." Robb said with a smirk that made Gendry want to hit him as he concluded that the man was definitely trying to get him killed.
Gendry turned back to look at the boar. It was still nosing at the ground, digging up whatever it could find to eat, and he pulled in a deep breath as he positioned the crossbow just like he'd been taught. The boar looked like it probably weighed more than him and Robb combined and Gendry knew that if he missed or if he only injured the thing rather than killing it, it could do a lot of damage with it's tusks so he needed to get this right the first time.
He took in a few more deep breaths and steadied his slightly shaking hands before he aimed carefully. He sent a prayer up to the gods, just in case they were listening, before he pulled the trigger and sent the arrow flying through the air. By some miracle, he managed to hit the animal in exactly the right spot that caused it to start bleeding rather quickly and it went down easily. His breath came out in a relieved huff as Robb cheered him on, bringing the rest of their group to them to see what was going on, and Gendry saw more than one of the Lords glance at him in surprise when they saw the boar. King Robert patted him on the back roughly.
"Well done lad!" He exclaimed. "An exquisite beast that is."
The men had to heft the beast up onto a cart to bring it back through the forest to the camp after they'd concluded their hunting as none of them could carry it back on their own. Gendry was still stunned as he'd fully expected not to have anything to show after tromping through the woods for a week and he'd gotten something so large on their first actual day of hunting. He was strangely proud of himself for managing it and he thought he'd seen some of the men giving him looks of respect after they'd seen the boar.
He'd been worried what they'd think of him when they realized that he wasn't going to catch anything during the trip but he wasn't anymore. Even if he didn't catch a single other thing on this trip, he knew it wouldn't matter. They were all impressed by his skill and he let them believe it was skill rather than tell them the truth, that it had been down to a stroke of luck that he'd gotten the boar in the first place. He figured it didn't matter either way, they at least respected him a bit more now.
It was after the sun had sunk from the sky and he'd retired back to his tent that King Robert came to see him. He moved to the chairs in the corner the moment he entered the tent and motioned for Gendry to follow him leaving them facing one another.
"Do you know why I asked you to come hunting with me?" He asked and Gendry shrugged. King Robert sighed as his eyes flitted over Gendry's face. "It's because I wanted to get to know you better, I wanted to know how you'd be as a ruler. You weren't raised as a highborn and I didn't know if you'd be a good ruler, I still don't, but what I do know is that you are a far better person than Joffery ever was. He was a little shit and I knew he'd be a terrible ruler when it came time for him to take the throne but I ignored it. I never spent much time with him, never tried to teach him how to rule, and I know that if he'd become King he'd have made a mess of things and it would have been my fault. I don't want to make that same mistake with you."
"From what I've heard about Joffery, you will never have to worry about me being as bad as him, your grace. As for the other part, I don't know if I'll be a good ruler but I hope I will. I hope that I can do what's right for the people." Gendry told him.
"I want to do what I can to help you. I never took an interest in my children before, I was a terrible father, I can admit that now." King Robert said, staring at him with a serious expression. His eyes were clear and Gendry didn't think he'd been drinking recently, which was a surprise in and of itself even without the words he'd just spoken. "I know that you are far too old to need a father now, and you seem to have gotten along fine without one for all these years, but I want to at least try with you. Finding out that the children I thought were mine weren't put some things into perspective for me and made me realize that for the last few years, I've been bad at almost everything and I want that to change."
"What do you mean?" Gendry asked quietly.
"I've been a bad husband, a bad father, and an even worse king." He said. "I fought for years to become king. I wasn't fighting for the throne, mind you, but I did end up with it when the wars were over and I've not made the best decisions in the years afterward. I want to try and change all of it, I don't plan on being anyone else's husband but, I want to try and be a better father and a better king, if you'll allow me."
Gendry stared at the man for a long moment. He seemed sincere in his words but Gendry hadn't grown up with a father in his life at all so having one now, when he was a man grown with a wife already, seemed strange to him. Still, King Robert seemed to be trying to do better and he knew that in the long run, it would be better for everyone, so he knew he had to at least try with the man.
"Okay." He said simply. "I don't know what it's like to have a father, I don't know what I'm supposed to feel here, but we can try and figure it out together."
"Good." King Robert nodded. "That's good."
They sat in silence for a moment before Gendry cleared his throat.
"You were betrothed to Arya's aunt." He said quietly, looking at the other man. "What was she like?"
"She was....kind and beautiful but she had a wildness about her." He said, his voice filled with sadness. "She wasn't afraid to speak her mind and she never cared much what people thought about her. She was fierce, a fighter, and she never allowed anyone to talk down to her. She always stood up for those in less fortunate positions than herself, she was selfless and charitable, and everyone loved her."
"She sounds like Arya." Gendry said quietly and Robert's eyes came to meet his.
"Your wife is a lot like her." He agreed. "She reminds me of Lyanna, she even looks like her. I hope that you and Arya have a much happier story than mine and Lyanna's."
"As do I." He agreed quietly.
He somehow knew it would be.
By midday, Joffery still hadn't been located and it was putting her on edge. One of the guards suggested that they should send someone to inform the king about what was going on but she refused. If he hadn't been found by nightfall, she'd do it, but she wanted to try and handle this on her own and prove that she could rule in their absence. Sansa had been confined to her room since the day before, following Arya's advice and staying out of sight just in case, and she wanted to find Joffery desperately so that her sister didn't have to worry about him ever again.
She decided against hearing petitions that day and instead focusing all the attention on finding him. She even sent a few of the palace guards out to help the city watch as she trusted them to do a better job of searching and she knew he couldn't have gone far. She knew that he wouldn't go far and that he probably wouldn't even try to hide or run if he saw the city guard because he thought he was above it all. The city had half a million people living in it so she knew it might be difficult for them to find him even if he wasn't trying to hide but she still didn't like how long it was taking.
To distract herself from all of it, she took a bow from the armory and went out to the practice yard to shoot as focusing on getting the arrow to hit the bulls-eye allowed her to clear her mind. The sun had moved position in the sky as she'd stood there aiming at targets and she knew it was getting later but she forced herself not to think about it. The repetitive thumps as the arrows hit the targets almost made her miss the sound of footsteps approaching but not quite. She glanced over her shoulder to see Jon coming toward her and she smiled at him.
"You've gotten better." He said, nodding at the target.
"Been practicing." She said, leaning the bow against the wall as she turned her body to face him.
"Your husband doesn't mind that?" He asked and she grinned.
"Not at all." She said. "He even practices sword fighting with me, though it's not his weapon of choice."
"Oh? What is?" Jon asked curiously.
"War hammer." She said and his eyebrows rose.
"Really?" He asked, genuinely surprised. She nodded.
"He's strong." She told him. "He's really good with it. He'd be quite formidable in an actual fight."
"He sounds like quite the man." Jon said.
"He is." She smiled. and Jon studied her face.
"I can tell that you think highly of him." Jon said and she shrugged.
"He's amazing really. A better husband than I ever could have hoped for." She told him seriously. "He never tries to change me or to tell me to be more like a proper lady. He likes who I am."
"I'm glad." Jon said. "Truly I am. I'm glad that you'll have him when I can't be here."
"I could get him to release you from your vows, you know." She said tentatively. "You could stay here in King's Landing with me."
"You know I can't do that Arya." He said seriously. "I took a vow and pledged my life to the Night's Watch. A man should keep his word."
"I know." She said quietly. "I just miss you is all."
"I miss you too, little sister, but you can always come visit." He said, ruffling her hair like he'd done when they were younger. She batted his hand away even as a smile came to her face.
"Yeah, maybe I will come to visit sometime. I've always wanted to see the wall." She said and he grinned.
"Good. I can show you around and you can meet my friend Sam, I think you two would get along." He said.
"I'll look forward to it. Anyone who can deal with your broodiness enough to be your friend is someone I want to meet." She said, her smile changing to a grin as he shoved her lightly.
"Sod off, I'm not that broody." He said and she snorted.
"Tell yourself that enough times and you might actually start to believe it." She told him and he rolled his eyes.
"You're impossible." He said.
Their conversation was interrupted by the loud clearing of a throat and she spun to see a guard in a gold cloak marking him as a member of the city guard and the smile fell from her face as she looked at him.
"I'm sorry to interrupt, your grace, but we found him." He said and she nodded.
"I'll join you in a moment." She told him. He bowed and turned to retreat from them. She turned to look at Jon once more with an apologetic look on her face but he waved her off.
"Go on, be a princess. We'll talk more later." He told her.
She nodded and turned to move in the direction the guard had gone, finding him waiting just inside the walls of the keep, and he began to escort her toward the throne room. He told her that Joffery hadn't been hard to find once he'd left the inn he'd been staying at as he'd been walking the streets like he owned them and she knew that in his mind, he still did. He'd been raised to believe he was better than everyone else and the attitude remained even after the truth about his mother and his birth had come out. She knew he thought he was above punishment and she would relish in showing him that he certainly was not.
She followed the guard that had woken her to the throne room, where Joffery was on his knees with chains around his wrists and two guards standing on either side of him. He glared up at her with absolute hatred in his eyes as she stepped in front of him.
"You have been accused of murder." She said seriously. He scoffed.
"A tavern wench who meant nothing." He spat. "Hardly what I'd call murder. She was lower than even my dogs."
"She had a babe that depended on her. She had friends and family that you took her away from." She snarled. "You are worth less than she was, you utter piece of shit, and you will pay for the crimes you committed against her."
"What right do you have to punish me you bitch?" He growled out and one of the guards standing next to him cuffed him on the back of the head hard enough that he rocked forward slightly.
"I am the princess of the seven kingdoms and my husband will be King one day. That's what right I have." She told him before she turned to the guards. "Put him in the black cells. He will stay there until the king returns and he can be tried for his crimes. No one is to see him."
They nodded and dragged him out of the room even as he fought against them and spewed insults. His eyes were wild and she saw the madness in them that he'd mostly kept hidden when he was the prince. She knew he couldn't be allowed to live even if they did give him a trial, he was far too dangerous to them and even if he wasn't, King Robert wouldn't like that he'd come back to King's Landing when he'd been banished. She felt better now that she knew where he was and knew that he couldn't hurt them.
She sent someone to inform Sansa that he'd been found before she made her way back to her own chambers and changed into her night dress before falling onto the bed. It was still hours before the sun would go down but the stress of the last few hours coupled with the fact that she hadn't slept much the night before meant she was exhausted already so she curled under the blankets and fell asleep quickly.
She wasn't sure what woke her but her eyes opened to a darkened room and let her know that night had fallen as she slept. She sat up on her bed and glanced around the room for a moment before she stood and made her way over to light the sconces along the wall. She only got two of them lit when it became apparent to her what must have woken her in the first place as she saw a man standing close to the door.
"Guards!" She called out immediately. A smirk fell onto his face when no one responded to her call and her eyes darted to the desk on the other side of the room where she'd laid her belt with her sword attached. She moved to dart past him but his arm swung out and she felt a sharp stinging pain in her side that made her steps hesitate allowing him to shove her backwards.
She glanced down and saw blood rapidly staining her night dress from a long thin cut on her side. She could tell from the amount of blood that was already coming from it that the injury was deep and she took note of the dangerous looking dagger in his hand. She tried to push past him again but he was stronger than she was and he brought his hand up to hit her. The blow made her fall to the ground as she tasted blood in her mouth.
He leaned down and shoved her until she was flat on her back and he pressed his knee into her stomach to keep her in place. She shoved at him with her hands, ignoring the dagger for the moment, and he took her wrists in one hand and slammed her hands down onto the floor before leaning much of his weight on them as he pressed the dagger to her throat. She stopped moving immediately.
"What do you want?" She snapped, refusing to allow him to see the fear she was feeling.
"Release Joffery Baratheon from the dungeons." He said.
"He's not a Baratheon." She spat. "He's a bastard."
He drew the dagger across her collarbone and she hissed in pain as the blood rolled down her skin.
"He's the rightful prince and your husband is a pretender." He said. "You will release him and declare him as the legitimate son of the King."
"I don't have the kind of power." She growled out, bucking her hips in an attempt to knock him off. He slammed her hands into the stone floor once more causing a sharp pain to erupt in her right hand, making her almost certain something was broken, and he pressed his knee into her stomach harder making it difficult to get a breath.
"Yes you do." He growled out and she scoffed.
"I'm not the fucking king. I can't grant legitimization to anyone, that's not how it works." She spat and he pulled the dagger over her side again, right above the other cut, and she could feel blood pooling under her. She was kind of concerned about the amount of blood she was losing at the moment but she couldn't focus on it right now.
"Fine, then release him and force the king to do it." He said.
"You really think he'd listen to me?" She scoffed. "He doesn't listen to anyone, not even his Hand."
"He'll listen if we have something over him." The man said, smirking down at her. "Like, if we had his daughter-by-law captive. I'm sure that would get his attention, aren't you?"
She didn't answer and instead glared at him until he started moving. She knew he was planning to take her out of the Keep in order to hold her somewhere else and use her against the king but his movement allowed her to wiggle underneath him and she knew that if he just moved a little bit more, she'd be able to get free. He didn't seem to think she'd try anything when he removed his knee from her stomach and crouched over her so that he could pull her up but it gave her the opportunity to strike back. She pulled her leg back and kicked his knee hard enough to cause him to lose his grip on her wrist and unsteady him at the same time allowing her to scramble away from him. Standing up made her dizzy but she didn't pause in her movements as she rushed across the room.
"Guards!" She shouted once more, hoping someone heard her as she did. She made it to the desk on shaky legs and pulled her sword just as she heard the sound of her door bursting open. She spun to see who it was but the movement made her vision go blurry and she had to catch herself against the desk as a commotion took place in front of her.
When her vision finally cleared, she saw Jon standing in the doorway with a bloody sword and the man who'd attacked her on the ground by his feet as he stared at her with horror on his face.
"Arya." He breathed out as he moved toward her, his voice sounded distant.
"I'm okay." She said softly.
"You're not." He shook his head. He lifted her into his arms the moment he got close despite her protests and the weak pushes she sent his way. He laid her on the bed and brushed her hair from her face. "I'm going to find someone to send for the maester. I'll be right back, okay?"
"Mmm." She answered softly. She felt sort of like she was floating and she knew that wasn't a good sign but she couldn't feel the fear she thought she could. Her vision went black around the edges before enveloping her completely.
She woke to the sound of soft voices near her and the events of the night came back to her quickly causing her eyes to flash open as she sat up suddenly. She felt the pain immediately at the movement and groaned softly. Her mother was at her side suddenly, a hand on her shoulder.
"Easy." She said gently. Arya nodded and allowed her mother to help prop her up with pillows behind her back as she glanced around the room. Jon, Rickon and Sansa were all sitting around the table and the empty chair next to them told her that her mother had been sitting there as well. There was a man by the door that she recognized as the captain of the palace guard standing next to the Hound, who had an expression on his face that said he was less than impressed with the man.
"How long have I been out?" She asked, her voice rough. Her mother handed her a cup filled with water and she drank deeply from it.
"Only a couple of hours." Jon answered. "Maester Pycelle has seen to your injuries already. He says you should rest for the next couple of days."
"How bad?" She asked as she touched her side lightly. She could feel the bandages underneath the night dress she was wearing, a new one she noted, and her right hand was wrapped tightly with a length of cloth.
"The cuts on your side both needed to be stitched back together but the cut on your collarbone wasn't as bad and just needed to be cleaned." Her mother told her. "Your right hand is broken, I'm afraid. The maester said it would need to be wrapped for at least a moons pass as it heals."
"Well, at least it wasn't my left hand. I couldn't hold my sword then." She said, trying to make a jape. Everyone in the room looked far too serious for her liking, though she knew they had cause to be. Her eyes turned to the captain of the guard at the door. "My guards didn't respond when I called for them, in fact I don't think they were even there."
"I know, your grace." He said. "I don't know where they were but they will be reprimanded."
"Reprimanded?" She asked incredulously. "I could have been killed! Who was on duty?"
"Ser Ulric and Ser Edmund, your grace." He answered immediately.
"I want them found and put into cells until I can question them on where in the seven hells they were, not just reprimanded." She told him. "No one is to see them but me. I want to find out if they were just terrible at their jobs or if they were paid off by someone to leave me unprotected. They will not be released until I know if this was intentional or not."
"Yes, your grace. It will be done immediately." He left the room entirely.
"I swear to the gods. Fucking incompetent." She said, shaking her head and saw her mother wince out of the corner of her eye.
"I wish you wouldn't swear Arya." She said and Arya sighed.
"Sorry mother." She said quietly, grunting softly as she shifted on the bed.
"Are you in pain?" Sansa asked, halfway out of her seat as she spoke. "I could go ask the maester for something for you."
"I'm fine, Sansa." She said, making her sister sit back down.
"Did the man who attacked you say anything?" Jon asked. "Do you know why he was here?"
"He said something about releasing Joffery from the cells." She said. "He said that he was the rightful prince and he wanted him to be legitimized. I think Joffery must have had something to do with it, it might have been why he came to King's Landing. I don't think he intended to be arrested but the legitimization, I think this was the plan in the first place. I think Joffery paid him to do this."
"Killing you would hardly have gotten him legitimized." Sansa said. "It probably would have gotten him killed faster, in fact."
"He wasn't intending to kill me, he hurt me because I fought him. He wanted to kidnap me." She said. "He mentioned that if he had me, they'd have leverage over the king."
"Well, now Joffery's out of the picture." Jon said. "He's in the black cells, he can't pay anyone else off from down there. Still we should keep our guard up until he's dealt with completely, just in case."
"We're not going to let anything happen to you." Her mother said. "I've already spoken to our household guard and they're going to look after you from now on."
"Okay." She agreed, knowing there was no discouraging her mother from this even if she told her that she could take care of herself.
"The King should be back soon to deal with him soon anyway." Jon said and Arya looked at him with a furrowed brow.
"They're on a hunting trip. They won't be back until next week." She said.
"Ser Ronnel sent one of the guards out to inform them of what happened before you woke." Sansa told her. "They didn't know when you'd wake up and the attack against you was serious Arya. The king needed to be told."
"Right." She said softly. "He left me in charge and I couldn't manage three days without them here."
"He's not going to blame you for this Arya." Her mother protested immediately. "You did a great job as a ruler in his absence. Even the king couldn't handle a kidnapping attempt on his own, it doesn't make you less worthy of the crown, you couldn't have predicted this."
"I suppose that's true." She said with a sigh before a thought came over her and her eyes went to Sansa once more. "Are they going to tell Gendry?"
"Of course, he's with the king, I doubt they'd be able to keep it from him." She said, raising an eyebrow. "He isn't going to take it well."
"No, he is not." She said.
The guard rode into the camp just as the sun broke over the horizon, causing quite the fuss as men stumbled out of their tents as they were awoken. Gendry had already been awake, still in the habit of waking early to work in the forge even though he hadn't had to do that it well over a moons turn, but the commotion brought him out of his tent as well. He knew by the outfit that the guard was wearing that he was a part of the palace guard and this was further confirmed when he asked to speak with the king. King Robert came out of his tent moments later after Lord Stark went to fetch him and the guard dropped from his horse to bow to him.
"Your grace, you're needed back at the Keep." He said.
"I left Princess Arya there to handle the matters of the Seven Kingdoms for the duration of this hunt. Can she not handle whatever it is that sent you out here?" He asked. The guards eyes flickered to him where he was standing next to Robb and he cleared his throat as he looked back to the king.
"It's about the princess, your grace." He licked his lips and Gendry got a bad feeling from how nervous the man seemed to be acting.
"What about her?" King Robert asked. The guards eyes flickered to him once more before he blew out a breath.
"She's hurt." He said finally and Gendry felt his heart skip a beat.
"Hurt?" He broke in, moving to stand in front of the guard. "What happened?"
"She was attacked." He said and Gendry sucked in a breath. "The false prince Joffery was found to be in King's Landing and she had him arrested then she was attacked. The captain of the guard believes the incidents to be connected."
Gendry spun around to face the King. "We have to go."
"Yes, we do." King Robert said.
Things started happening quickly after that as the King called for his horse to be readied and Gendry did the same. His mind was racing and he felt like he couldn't focus on anything, he vaguely registered that Lord Stark and Robb were both readying their horses as well but he was too caught up in his thoughts to notice much else. All he could think about were the guards words, Arya was hurt, she was attacked, and through the numbness that hit him at the news he started feeling a small burning flame of anger in his mind.
When they rode out to follow the guard back to the Keep, leaving the other lords behind to pack up the camp and follow later, that small flame kept growing the more he thought about it. Someone put his hands on her. Someone hurt her. He wanted to hit something, wanted to hit the person who hurt her, and not stop until the were begging him to. Maybe not even then.
The guard had said they thought it had something to do with Joffery but he knew, without a doubt, that it definitely did and he wanted to kill the smarmy piece of shit. He'd never even met the man but he'd heard enough about him, from both highborns and smallfolk, to know that he deserved it. His head was full of anger and worry in equal measure. He wanted to see Arya, to make sure that she was okay, and he wanted to hurt anyone who'd ever even thought of hurting her.
The whole ride back to the Keep, he could hear the men around him conversing, likely questioning the guard for more answers about what exactly had happened, but he was fixated on Arya. The closer they got, the more the worry overtook the anger and he pushed his horse to gallop faster even though he wasn't the best rider. The anger hadn't left him, he could still feel it burning under his skin, but it was pushed aside by his need to see her and assure himself that she was fine before he let the anger take over.
When they finally reached the courtyard of the Keep, many people were waiting on the steps to greet them and welcome them back but he didn't pay them any mind as he dropped from his horse and brushed past all of them and into the Keep, his steps not pausing at all, even as he heard one of the guards stationed along the wall greet him. Robb was the only one of the group to remain at his side as he rushed toward his and Arya's chambers, their fathers having gotten caught up in the people waiting, but he didn't pay him any mind.
He shoved the doors to their chambers as soon as he reached them and stepped inside. His eyes searched the room, taking note of Arya's family at the table and a man in dark clothes with his hand on the hilt of his sword as he stood half out of his chair, his resemblance to Arya allowing him to conclude this was her brother Jon, until finally his eyes landed on her. She was standing next to the fireplace wearing only a night dress and Gendry felt a moment of relief that she was awake until it was overtaken by the anger coming back to the forefront of his mind when he registered the bruises along the side of her face.
"Arya." Her name fell from his lips like a prayer as he rushed forward and wrapped his arms around her. She returned the hug, burying her face in his neck as she did, and he twisted his neck slightly to press a kiss to the side of her head. He was holding her as gently as he could as he wasn't sure what injuries she had and he didn't want to hurt her further but she was squeezing him tightly. They stood like that for a long moment, breathing each other in, until he pulled back slightly to place his hand against her cheek as he ran his thumb gently over the bruises.
"I'm fine." She said quietly as their eyes met.
"I will kill him." He growled out. She laughed softly.
"Too late." She said. "Jon already did that."
"Pity." He said, glancing over his shoulder for a moment to see her family watching them quietly before something occurred to him. "How did this even happen? Where were the guards?"
"I don't know. The men who were supposed to be on duty were nowhere to be found when I called for them." She told him. "I had them put into cells until they could be questioned about it."
"I should pay them a visit." He said, his anger roaring through him now that it had a target to be directed at. He turned towards the door, fully intent on going down to the cells and beating the shit out of the guards until they told him what he wanted to know, or until he felt a little better, whichever came first but Arya caught his wrist.
"Stay." She said, her voice soft and vulnerable in a way he hadn't heard it before. "Please."
Her eyes had a pleading quality to them so he blew out a sigh and turned back to her immediately. He couldn't leave her side when she was looking at him like that so he pushed aside the anger for now and moved to kiss her softly.
"Okay." He breathed out quietly. A clearing throat made them both glance at her family, who had moved from the table where they'd been sitting together to the door in the time they'd been speaking to one another.
"We'll give you two some time." Robb said, his eyes studying Arya. "I'm glad you're okay."
"Thanks." She said, a slight smile on her face.
"I'll send a servant to draw a bath." Lady Catelyn said, glancing at him. "I'm sure you'd like one after spending a few days in the woods."
Her family trickled out of the room, closing the door firmly behind them and Gendry turned to Arya with a raised eyebrow.
"I think your mother just told me I need a bath." He said and she snorted.
"She definitely did." She said with a grin but he could still see the pain behind it and he became serious again.
"Show me." He said, his voice quiet and controlled.
She sighed and nodded before pulling at the edges of her nightdress until it was up and over her head. She had bandages wrapped around her abdomen and he moved to unwrap them, taking care to be gentle, until her injuries were revealed to him. There were two long thin cuts along her side, just under her breast, where the skin had been stitched back together so he knew they'd been quite serious. There was another cut along her collarbone but it didn't seem to be as bad and he ran a finger along them gently as his breath rushed out of him.
Someone had used a blade on her and it hit him all at once how close he'd come to losing her. He leaned his forehead into hers and took a moment to collect himself before he kissed her again, harder than before, and pulled her back into him. He held her close, paying no mind to her state of undress, and sent a thank you to whatever gods were listening for not taking her away from him. She'd only been in his life for a short time but he knew if something had happened to her, he wouldn't have been able to survive it, she had become everything important to him in a short space of time.
"I love you." He breathed the words into her skin, unable to hold them back any longer, and she tensed against him for a moment before she pulled back to look at him.
"What?" She asked, her eyes searching his face as if she wasn't sure she'd heard the words right.
"I love you." He repeated seriously. "I know it might seem like it's too soon but - "
She cut of his words by pressing her lips to his once again as she buried her hands in his hair. The kiss lasted longer than the previous two but eventually she pulled away and smiled at him.
"You love me." She said, wonderment and laughter in her voice. He smiled back as he pushed her hair back from her face.
"I do." He agreed. "You don't have to say it back, I just wanted you to know."
"I can't say it back yet." She said quietly. "I think I will soon, just not yet. When I say it I want to mean it with my whole heart, is that alright?"
"That's alright." He told her. "I can wait. I'd wait forever for you Arya, if that was what you needed."
When the bath was finally ready, he sunk into it quickly and Arya joined him. He expressed concern about her stitches but she ignored him and slid into the water to lean back against him and he had to accept it. He didn't mind so much.
He ran his fingers along her skin in a repetitive pattern as the steam rose around them, his tense muscles relaxing now that he knew she was safe, and he leaned his head back against the edge of the tub. They weren't speaking, both content to sit in silence as they held one another, and Arya moved her hand to intertwine their fingers making him smile softly as he leaned up to press a kiss to the back of her neck. She let out a small contented sigh.
"I missed you." He said, keeping his voice soft in the quiet of the room.
"Mmm." She hummed quietly as she leaned her head back against his shoulder. "I missed you too."
"Are you sure you're okay?" He asked quietly and she shrugged.
"I'm a little sore obviously and I lost quite a bit of blood but overall, I'm fine. Really." She said. "I am annoyed that I have to keep my hand wrapped though. I just know it's going to become increasingly annoying as the days go on."
She lifted her hand from the edge of the tub where it had been laying since they got in, still wrapped tightly, and wiggled her fingers slightly. He pulled the hand that wasn't intertwined with hers out of the water and grabbed her wrist to bring her hand to his mouth and press a kiss to it.
"I'm sure it won't be that bad and it's better to let it heal the way it needs to." He told her. "Besides, it would probably hurt if you unwrapped it so maybe think about that when you get frustrated with it."
"I suppose you're right." She said finally. "Anyway, let's not think about it too much. I'm okay, the man who attacked me is dead, and Joffery is in the black cells where he can't plot anything else. Let's just take a moment to stop thinking too deeply before we have to leave this room and deal with it all."
"Alright." He agreed quietly.
"I know something that could take our minds off of it for a while." She said, an edge in her voice that he easily recognized as she moved his hand lower, only stopping when she'd pressed his hand between her legs, and she even shifted slightly to give him more access. She let out a soft sigh as his fingers slid against her.
"You're hurt." He protested but he didn't move away from her.
"Then I guess you'll just have to be gentle with me." She breathed out.
He used his free hand to turn her face toward him and he joined their lips as he began moving his fingers against her. He rubbed circles around the small bud situated at the top of her cunt that made her produce small whimpering moans and he relished in the sound. He slid his other hand down from her face to tease her nipples into hard peaks as he pressed a finger inside of her and she pulled out of the kiss as a low moan fell from her lips.
He trailed his lips down the side of her neck lightly until he reached the junction of her shoulder where he began sucking a faint mark into her skin and she tilted her head to the side to give him better access. He pressed a second finger inside of her next to the first one and moved them in and out of her rapidly as her breath came in pants and she sucked her bottom lip in between her teeth to muffle the sounds coming from her mouth. He curled his fingers inside of her, hitting that spot deep inside her that made her suck in a breath as her head fell back against him, and began circling his thumb around that nub at the same time.
"Fuck." She breathed out and the sound of the curse word coming from her mouth made him smile. She wasn't shy about cursing but she always tried to restrain herself around other people and for some reason the sound of such harsh words coming from her mouth always turned him on.
He curled his fingers to hit that spot again and her hips bucked up into his hand for a moment before she moved her hand to pull his away from her. He was about to ask if she was okay when she turned to face him, the water splashing around her, and kissed him roughly. He returned the kiss eagerly as she bit his bottom lip just enough for it to spark a small bit of pain but not actually hurt too bad. She shifted until she had a knee on either side of his legs and, without breaking the kiss, she reached between them and took him into her hand to position him before she sank down, taking him fully into her.
She was tight around him as she started rolling her hips into his and a soft groan fell from his lips, muffled by her mouth still on his, and he moved his hands to her hips to help her move. She finally broke their kiss as she focused on chasing her pleasure and the water in the tub was rippling around them with every movement but neither of them were paying much mind to it. In the position she was in now, it only covered her to slightly above her waist giving him full access to observe her and his eyes traced over her body. The stitches along her side stood out darkly against her skin but he forced his eyes away from them not wanting to dwell on it right now.
His eyes trailed up until they stopped at her breast, her chest was moving rapidly as her breath came in gasps and moans fell from her lips, and he took a moment to appreciate how perfect they were before raising his eyes higher once more. She had her bottom lip captured between her teeth once more and her eyes were closed as she concentrated on the movement of her hips against him, a faint flush across her cheeks. Even with the bruises on her face, she was breathtaking.
"Gods, you're beautiful." The words came from his mouth with no conscious thought on his part and her eyes fluttered open to meet his. He kissed her softly, the gesture a juxtaposition to what they were currently doing, and she smiled at him when he pulled back as her movements slowed.
"You're a sap." She said, sounding breathless even as her voice had a teasing edge to it. "Who would have known."
"Yeah, yeah." He said, rolling his eyes and she laughed softly. He twisted his hips under her and bucked up into her, effectively cutting her laugh off with a moan as her head fell forward and her fingers curled around his shoulders, her nails digging in slightly.
He wrapped an arm around her waist and, without separating them, turned in the tub so that her back was pressed against the edge of the tub that he'd just been leaning against. He made sure that he wasn't hurting her with the position before he began rocking his hips into her and her legs came up to wrap around his waist. He held her up with the arm he had around her waist as he used the other to brace himself against the side of the tub and leaned down to run his tongue around her nipples, licking the water from her skin to taste her underneath it. She sucked in a breath as her back arched up, pressing her breast more firmly into his mouth, and he felt one of her hands slide down from his shoulder to move between them.
He pulled away from her breast to glance between them and he saw her touching herself, rubbing against that nub, and his eyes flickered back up to her face. Her eyes were closed once again, soft moans falling from her open lips before a whine left her mouth.
"Please, please, please." She whimpered. He began slamming his hips forward rapidly, their wet skin slapping together, as he pushed her toward her completion. He could tell when she got close because the rhythm of her breaths changed and she started spasming around him.
"I've got you. Let go." He said softly.
A few more thrust and she clenched around him, a high moan leaving her lips as her body shook around him while her lashes fluttered, and he moved through it all. The tightness around him was making him see stars.
"Shit." He hissed as his hips stuttered and he forced himself to keep moving, to savor every moment, until he slipped over the edge after her. He slammed his hips forward, burying himself as deep as he would go, as he released and a shaky breath left him. His entire body was enveloped in pleasure for a time but he finally came back to himself as Arya ran her fingers through his hair in a soothing motion and his eyes fluttered open from where they'd closed to find her staring at him with hazy eyes and a soft smile. He leaned down to kiss her softly once more before pulling back to look at her.
Neither of them moved for a moment, their bodies still joined, as their eyes met. He felt like he was floating and she seemed to feel the same, leaving them staring at one another in silence, until he finally regained some control of himself and pulled out of her. He shifted them around until they were back in the position they started, with her leaning back against him, as the water started cooling around them and he knew they'd need to get out soon but it wasn't unpleasant enough just yet.
"Did I hurt you?" He asked softly and she shook her head.
"No." She said.
"Are you sure?" He asked. She turned her head to press a kiss to his cheek before leaning back to meet his eyes.
"I'm fine, Gendry. I promise." She said. He searched her face, looking for even a hint of pain, but he didn't find any.
"Okay." He said, pressing a soft kiss to her lips.
Gendry finally got Arya to lay down and rest after they got out of the bath. She protested for a time, claiming that she was fine and complaining that it was still light out but eventually, after making him lay down with her, she fell asleep. He knew she must not have gotten much sleep in the last few days because she was usually a light sleeper but she didn't even stir when he slipped out of the bed. He pulled the blankets up over her and brushed her hair from her face to press a kiss to her forehead before he left the room.
There were guards outside their chamber doors but he noticed quickly that they weren't Baratheon guards. He knew from the clothing they were wearing that they were guards from the Stark household making him realize that her family likely didn't trust the palace guards to do their job. He was inclined to agree after what had happened so he didn't protest the choice.
As he left the corridor where the royal apartments were he turned toward the cells and began to make his way there. His anger had been diverted by Arya for a time but was now back in full force and he fully intended to find out exactly what had happened while he was gone. He was stopped at the entrance to the cells by a set of knights.
"I want to see the guards who were supposed to be guarding my wife when she was attacked." He said. They exchanged a look before one of them cleared his throat.
"Princess Arya said that no one was to see them except for her." He said and Gendry rolled his eyes.
"She obviously didn't mean I couldn't see them when she said that, I'm your prince." He snapped. "You will take me to them like I have asked. Now!"
"Your grace." They bowed immediately and one of them turned to lead him deeper into the dungeon while the other turned back to keep watch. He followed behind the knight down a set of stairs and past a load of empty cells until they reached the end of a dark corridor. In the last cell sat two guards, still in their uniforms, and they both looked at him with apprehension and slight fear in their gazes as he came to a stop outside. Good, they should be scared, he thought. He turned to the knight who'd led him down.
"Leave us." He said. The knight hesitated for a moment, his eyes flickering to the other men, before he handed the key to Gendry and spun on his heal to leave.
Gendry unlocked the cell and stepped inside, slamming it closed behind him so hard that it shook and made a loud banging noise that echoed through the space. His eyes flickered between them as he spoke.
"Do either of you want to explain to me where the hell you were when my wife was being attacked?" He growled out the words.
"Your grace, it was a mistake." One of them rushed to say.
"A mistake?" He spat. "My wife could have been killed because you weren't there to do your job."
"We weren't gone for that long. We thought she'd be okay." The other one spoke. "Everyone knows Princess Arya can fight. We didn't think it would matter if we weren't there for a time."
The hit connected with his jaw before Gendry even realized he was moving and the man fell to the floor at the impact.
"You were obviously gone long enough for her to be attacked, which was far too long when you were supposed to be doing your job. Which, might I remind you, is guarding our chambers, for which you need to actually be present to do. It doesn't matter if she can fight. You left her unguarded in the middle of the night, at a time when she was at her most vulnerable, and you thought it wouldn't matter?" He scoffed, his eyes jerking to the other guard. "Tell me, what was so important that you felt the need to leave in the first place?"
"Uh...." He said, his eyes wide as he stared at the man on the floor.
"What? Did you forget how to speak?" He hissed.
"We were at the tavern." He said finally, his head hanging. "A bunch of the other guards were going and we didn't want to miss it."
"So you were getting drunk while you were supposed to be protecting Arya?" He asked incredulously, his anger burning bright at the explanation. He didn't even wait for an answer before he swung again, knocking the second guard backwards into the bars of the cell, as the first one was still on the ground with blood dripping from his lip.
The anger consumed him in that moment and he hit the man again and again, feeling uncontrollable, until his face was a mask of blood and Gendry came back to himself enough to let him drop to the floor before he couldn't stop himself and actually killed him. He didn't want to do that, and he knew Arya wouldn't like it, so he turned to the other guard, who had gotten up from the floor at some point and moved as far away as the cell bars would allow as he stared at him in fear.
The anger inside him sparked once more as he remembered the injuries on Arya's body and he moved toward the guard and slammed a fist into his side, knocking the breath out of him, before he grabbed the man and pushed him back against the bars harshly enough that he knew it would leave bruises. He stared at him for a long moment before the fear in his eyes was too much for Gendry, he couldn't hurt someone who was looking at him with that much fear no matter how angry he was, so he jerked him away from the bars and threw him down on the ground next to the other guard in frustration.
"My father will decide what to do with you but I can assure you, whatever he decides, you will never be knights in any of the Seven Kingdoms if I have something to say about it." He told them, as he started turning to the door.
"We're sorry. We never meant for her to get hurt." The one he'd thrown to the ground said in a pleading voice. "We've worked our whole lives to become knights, you can't take it away. Please."
"I don't care." He said, glaring at them. "You should consider yourselves lucky I didn't kill you instead of worrying about your knighthood. You'd make terrible knights anyway, seeing as you can't do your fucking job."
He spun away from them and left the cell, locking it behind him as he went, and following the corridor back the way he'd come. The knights on guard duty outside the cells both glanced at the blood on his hands as he handed the key back but neither commented on it which he was glad for. He could still feel the anger burning under his skin but he knew that if he'd stayed in that cell, then he would have done something he'd regret. Like kill one of them. All he could hope was that Arya wouldn't be too angry when she found out what he'd done.
Arya woke feeling warm, the heavy weight over her waist making her smile even before she opened her eyes. The sun was shining brightly, letting her know instantly that she'd slept through the rest of the day and the entire night before. She was honestly surprised that she hadn't woken even once but she had been exhausted so she was thankful for rest she was able to get. She knew that her father and Robb were probably eager to see her but she couldn't bring herself to leave the bed just yet. Her movement though, seemed to wake Gendry as his arm tightened around her waist for a moment before he loosened his grip.
"Sorry." His voice was rough with sleep as he pulled his arm from around her waist, obviously thinking he'd hurt her.
"It's okay." She assured him. "I'm fine."
She rolled over to face him and he kissed her softly before raising his hand to brush her hair back. His bruised knuckles caught her gaze and she took his hand into hers as she raised an eyebrow at him. He had a sheepish look on his face.
"I may have paid the guards a visit in their cells last night." He admitted.
"Oh, and did you find anything out or did you just go straight to the violence?" She asked.
"I found something out." He said, shrugging one shoulder. "But what they said pissed me off, that's where the violence came in."
"Hmm." She said. "And?"
"They were at the tavern with some of the guards who were off duty, or so they said, it will be easy enough to check the legitimacy of their story." He told her. "They said that you could fight on your own so they thought you wouldn't need them."
"Right." She said, rolling her eyes. "So they're not traitors, just idiots."
"It would appear so." He said before looking at her seriously. "Are you angry I went to see them?"
"No." She shook her head.
"Are you sure?" He asked, his brow furrowed and she grinned at him.
"Do you want me to be?" She asked, her voice teasing. "I'm sure I could muster up a bit of anger if I wanted to."
"No." He said, rolling his eyes. "I think I'll be fine without it."
"Good." She said before she sighed lightly. "We should get up soon. I'm sure my father will want to see me and your father is likely preparing for the trial that will have to happen, or maybe he's just drinking, either way you should probably go see him. Tell him what you've learned."
"I suppose." Gendry said but neither of them made an effort to move. They laid there for a bit longer until a knock on the door alerted them to the presence of someone else and Arya groaned.
"I told you we'd have to get up soon." She grumbled, rolling out of the bed and pulling a robe over her nightdress before moving to the door. She heard Gendry moving around behind her and knew he was likely pulling on some clothes as well. She pulled the door open expecting a servant or guard ready to summon them to somewhere else in the Keep and instead found Jon. "What are you doing here?"
"I can't come to visit my little sister?" He asked and she raised an eyebrow.
"Not this early." She said but she stood to the side to allow him in anyway.
"Well, you're right. It's not just a social visit." He informed her. "Father sent me to inform you that he wants to see you, when you get dressed of course."
Arya nodded and turned to go to the wardrobe in the corner. Gendry was standing next to the desk, his eyes studying them both as they spoke and Arya glanced between them for a moment before speaking.
"Jon, this is Gendry." She said, waving her hand between them. Jon bowed immediately.
"Your grace." He greeted. "It is a pleasure to finally meet you. My sister spoke highly of you."
"She did?" Gendry asked, glancing at her and she smiled.
"What, you thought I was telling everyone you were horrible?" She asked and he rolled his eyes again.
"Obviously not." He said, before his eyes went back to Jon. "I'm glad to finally meet you as well. Arya has spoken of you fondly since the day we met and I had hoped to meet you one day but it was my understanding that you were at the Wall. I suspected it would be a long while before we could actually manage it."
"I got leave from the Lord Commander to be here for your wedding." Jon explained with a shrug. "We had a little issue on the road and I didn't manage to make it in time but I will be in King's Landing for a few weeks so I hope we will have time to get to know one another better."
"As do I." Gendry said.
Arya had turned from them when they started speaking to one another to begin pulling out clothes for the day and a smile came to her face as they seemed to be getting along. She had hoped that they would at least like one another but she hadn't been sure that they would, even when she'd told Jon she thought he'd like Gendry. Jon was a bit broody and Gendry was less than inclined to make friends so she hadn't been sure they'd mesh well, though Gendry seemed to make more of an effort in befriending her family than he did with anyone else so maybe she shouldn't have worried in the first place.
Once she had her clothes in hand, she moved behind the screen to begin getting dressed as Jon didn't seem inclined to leave the room until she was ready to go with him. She heard Jon and Gendry continuing their conversation but she tuned out the actual words as she ran through the things she needed to get done that day in her mind. She wanted to check up on the babe that had been brought to the Keep when the news of Joffery's presence in the city was announced and she also wanted to check in with Sansa. She hadn't had a moment to speak to her sister about anything of actual relevance in a while so she was determined to make an effort today.
She knew that the trial for the guards would likely take place today but she didn't feel the need to actually be present for it, she trusted Gendry and the King to handle it themselves. She would go to the trial for Joffery but she knew that setting up for that trial would take longer so it wouldn't happen today, leaving her free to spend her time as she wished.
She heard a servant enter the room and she brought food to break their fast, Arya knew that without even leaving her place behind the screen because of the scents that floated through the room. She hurriedly finished dressing as the smell of food made her realize that she hadn't eaten in some time and her belly grumbled. When she came to the table, she found that Gendry had insisted that Jon join them despite her brother's protests and she grinned at him.
"Eat." She commanded, shoving a plate at him. Jon rolled his eyes but finally took the plate from her hands and picked a few bits from the selection of food. "Is father in his chambers or is he already with the king?"
"He was going to the small council chambers when I left him." Jon informed her. "So he's likely with the king and other members of the council. I suspect they're already working on the trial for Joffery and the guards."
"Mmm, probably." She said, as she nibbled on some fruit.
"I suspect my presence will be required at the king's side for most of the day." Gendry said and Arya nodded.
"That's likely." She agreed and he glanced at her.
"What are you going to do with your day?" He asked, his eyes dipping to glance at the spot her injuries were for a moment before they came back up to meet hers. "You probably shouldn't do anything to strenuous, like training."
"Are you commanding me not to?" She raised an eyebrow.
"Just suggesting." He said, his voice even. "I don't want you to hurt yourself, is all. Training will still be there once you've healed."
"I wasn't planning on training today." She told him after a moment. "I'll probably spend the day with Sansa, after I've been to see my father."
"Good." He said quietly, bringing his hand up to brush across the bruises on her face. "Carry your sword today. At least that way, I'll know you're safe."
"I always carry my sword." She assured him. She was glad that he still knew she could take care of herself and that the attack and her subsequent injuries didn't make him doubt that at all. She leaned over to press a soft kiss to his lips.
When they finally made their way to the small council chambers they found the entire council crowded around it. Even the king was present, which seemed to surprise most of the council members who Arya knew were not used to seeing him in their midst. Her father stood from his seat and moved toward her the moment he saw her, pulling her into a gentle hug before moving back to cradle her face in his hands.
"Are you alright?" He asked, his voice calm and steadfast as it always was even as she could see the anger in his eyes as he took in the bruises.
"I'm alright." She assured him. She felt like she'd been saying it a lot in the short time since she'd been hurt.
"How bad were your injuries?" King Robert asked and Ara shrugged.
"Not too bad, your grace." She said and she saw his eyes immediately go to Maester Pycelle.
"You attended her, I presume." He said.
"Yes, your grace." He said. "She lost quite a bit of blood but she is correct in saying that the injures weren't that bad, especially considering that it could have been far worse."
"He wasn't trying to kill me." Arya put in, drawing the attention of everyone in the room.
"What do you mean girl?" King Robert asked.
"He only hurt me because I made him angry." She told him. "He wanted to kidnap me, he said as much himself. He thought he could use me against you and force you to legitimize Joffery as the one true prince."
"Why?" Gendry asked. "Everyone knows he's a bastard born of incest. Even if the King were to legitimize him, which he just wouldn't, no one would follow him."
"I don't think he thought it through much." Arya shrugged. "He's used to getting what he wants with just the snap of his fingers, he likely assumed it would be far easier than it turned out to be. He didn't even try to hide the fact that he was in the city even while knowing that he wasn't supposed to be, he still thinks he has power."
"Well, he's going to learn very quickly that he doesn't." King Robert spoke. "He can not be allowed to live after this."
"We still have to have a trial." Lord Baelish spoke up.
"Why?" King Robert asked. "We know he's guilty and I don't think any of the other Lords or Ladies are going to care that much when we execute him. He was cruel and sadistic, I doubt they'll miss him."
"What about Tywin Lannister?" Ser Barristan asked. "This is his grandson."
"His bastard grandson, who he was meant to keep in Casterly Rock." King Robert said. "His family has proved already to be a traitorous group. He knows the Lannister name has fallen out of favor within the court, he can't afford to be seen as defending treason. He will not interfere with this decision."
"So we'll forgo a trial then?" Renly asked.
"Yes." King Robert said. "I want him executed tomorrow."
"As you say, your grace." He nodded.
Arya and Gendry exchanged wide eyed glances. She certainly hadn't expected for things to play out this way, she'd been expecting a trial, but no one was going to speak against the king. She didn't even particularly want to, Joffery deserved to be executed, and she had to admit that this was probably better anyway. If they had held a trial, she was almost certain that he'd have found a way out of it.
"What of the guards?" Her father asked. "They were supposed to be guarding my daughter, yet they weren't at their post."
"I've already questioned the guards." Gendry put in quietly. "I don't believe that they were working with Joffery. They were just idiots."
She noticed the king take note of the obvious bruising on Gendry's hand with something like pride in his eyes before he nodded.
"Very well." He said. "We will have a formal trial for them later today."
After that, the small council began discussing other matters and Arya escaped the room quietly. Gendry stayed behind, intent on learning how things were run as he'd be leading the Seven Kingdoms one day and would need to know. She went in search of her sister after leaving the council room, eventually learning from a passing servant that she'd been last seen in the gardens, so she made her way there.
The sun was shining brightly as she stepped outside and she found that it seemed almost half of the court were outside enjoying the lovely day. She noticed that many of them would glance at her before darting their eyes away as if they didn't want to be caught staring and she knew it was because of the bruises on her face. She suspected they looked worse in the daylight. She ignored the others as she walked through the gardens, her eyes searching for her sister.
She found the Hound first, his dark armor and massive body being far easier to spot than her sister, and she moved toward him. Sansa was sitting at a table with Margaery Tyrell and a few other ladies that Arya recognized only in passing, Sansa was far better with names than she was. They all greeted her respectfully when they noticed her at the edge of the circle.
"I was hoping that I could steal my sister away for a time." She said politely.
"But of course, your grace." Margaery said easily, her eyes turning to Sansa who had stood from her chair. "We'll talk again soon."
"That would be lovely." Sansa returned before coming to Arya's side.
"Perhaps you could join us next time, your grace." Margaery directed at her and Arya smiled.
"Perhaps." She said before she bid them goodbye and looped her arm through Sansa's to lead her sister back toward the Keep. The Hound took up his post behind them immediately and they made it back inside the Keep before Sansa broke the silence between them.
"What is it you needed?" Sansa asked.
"I just wanted to spend some time with you. We haven't had the chance to speak for some time." Arya said and Sansa smiled.
"Oh." She said. "Well, I'm happy to spend time with you any time you wish. I know you've been a bit busy the last few days, being princess and all, I didn't want to be a bother."
"It's alright." Arya said with a shrug. "You're my sister. You'd never be a bother."
"If you say so." She said. Arya glanced at the man behind them before looking at her sister seriously.
"So, that thing we discussed." She began, trying to ask the question without letting on that they were talking about him. "Real or not?"
"Real, I think." Sansa's cheeks flushed prettily.
"I'm pleased for you then, Sansa." She said easily. She didn't want to accidentally say something to tip him off and she feared if they spoke about it too much then she would. She wasn't very good a being coy, much preferring to be blunt in her words, so she changed the subject after that. "Anyway, I wanted to check in with the babe that was brought to the Keep."
Sansa nodded and they made their way to the nursery that she'd made sure was set up for the child. She felt bad that the babe had been left an orphan and wanted to make sure that she was taken care of so she had made sure that a caregiver was assigned to the child almost immediately after she'd been brought to them. She'd also insured that the child was clothed properly and had put her in one of the unused room in the Keep. She knew that many people would disagree with her decision, the girl was a lowborn bastard after all and many of them wouldn't like that she had been given a room in the Keep and a nursemaid of her own but Arya didn't care. She was going to take care of the child whether they agreed or not.
When they entered the room, the caregiver was rocking the babe gently in her arms and she smiled at them as they came in. The room was sparse, with only a small cot for the babe and a small bed in the corner for the caregiver but she seemed happy enough with it. The babe was clad in a white dress made of simple material, there was no embroidery or embellishments, but it looked soft so Arya was happy with it. The babe looked healthy so she couldn't complain too much.
"How is she?" She asked, keeping her voice gentle.
"She's okay, your grace." The caregiver answered. "A sweet girl."
"What's your name?" Arya asked, not wanting to refer to her as just a caregiver in her mind.
"Elenna, if it please, your grace." She said and Arya nodded as she moved closer. Sansa stayed near the door.
"May I?" Arya asked, reaching out for the babe.
"Of course." Elenna said, passing the babe over gently. Arya bounced her gently in a way she remembered her mother doing with Rickon when he was small and the babe looked up at her with big green eyes. She had dark brown hair on her head and her skin was soft to the touch making Arya smile.
"Hi, Aemma." She said softly, recalling the babe's name. "You're just a pretty little thing aren't you?"
Sansa moved closer to look down at the babe and she ran her hand gently over her hair before she smiled at Arya.
"She really is quite sweet." She said and Arya nodded. She glanced at Elenna.
"If you ever need anything, or if she needs anything, just let me know." She told her. "Come directly to me, not anyone else. I'm going to make sure that she's taken care of."
"I will, your grace." She said.
Arya looked don at the babe in her arms once more. She was much smaller than Arya had expected and it made her feel protective of the small life in her arms. The longer she looked at the babe though, the more she started imagining her own child in her arms, a child with dark hair and blue eyes like Gendry. She'd never given much thought to children or being a mother but looking down at Aemma, it was all she could think about, and she thought that maybe it wouldn't be entirely awful to have a child with Gendry. A perfect mixture of the two of them. She wanted that, more than she'd ever wanted anything, in that moment.
The trial for the two guards was organized and carried out swiftly, with both of them being stripped of all ranks and titles they possessed and banished from the Keep, and Gendry wasn't sad to see them go. He was also thankful that no one asked about the obvious bruises that both possessed because it meant that he didn't have to explain himself though he suspected that both King Robert and Lord Stark knew he'd been the one to give them the bruises but neither of them seemed to be inclined to reprimand him so he figured that they didn't actually disapprove.
Arya hadn't been at the trial and he suspected that she was still with her sister somewhere in the Keep because Sansa wasn't present either. Once the trial was over, his suspicions were confirmed when he and Lord Stark began to search for them and found them sitting in Sansa's solar with their mother. Arya smiled and left her seat to greet him with a soft kiss, almost making him want to blush as he was aware of her parents watching them, before she dragged him to the table with her making her father follow along.
"Father, we wanted to discuss something with you." She said and Gendry noticed the weary look on Lord Starks face making him want to laugh. The man seemed helpless to deny his daughters anything so Gendry knew that the words coming from Arya made him hesitant. He looked almost as if he regretted sitting at the table alongside them.
"What is it?" Lord Stark asked, his voice full of caution.
"Well, I noticed that Rickon and Shireen seemed to be getting close." Arya began. "I was thinking that they'd be a good match and was hoping you'd discuss it with Stannis. It would be politically advantageous and they're friends so they'd both be happy with it as well."
"You want me to discuss a betrothal with Stannis for his daughter?" Lord Stark asked in disbelief.
"Yes." Sansa said. "We think it would be good for both of them and she could travel back to Winterfell with our family when they go. She could spend some time there alongside Rickon and they could get to know one another even more. It's a good match."
"And what do you think about this?" Lord Stark turned to ask his wife. She pressed her lips together for a moment as she looked at each of her daughters in turn before she spoke.
"We already have an alliance in place with House Baratheon through Arya but I can't deny that Shireen does make Rickon happy. They're good friends and I think they balance each other out well, she makes him calmer and he draws her out a bit more." She said with a light shrug. "I know the northern lords are going to expect at least one of our children to marry into another northern house but I do agree that this betrothal would be a good one for Rickon."
"Alright then." Lord Stark nodded. "I will discuss it with Stannis and hopefully come to an agreement."
"Good." Arya said before turning to Gendry. "Now, I think I'd like to take a walk in the gardens. I think some fresh air might do me good."
Gendry noticed Arya pointedly ignoring her sister rolling her eyes and muttering under her breath, something about already having been in the garden today, but he paid it no mind as he stood and took her arm in his. They left Sansa with her parents and made their way outside to the gardens and Gendry quickly noticed how quiet Arya was. Usually she was full of chatter, speaking of her day at length, but she seemed less inclined to do that today. She was chewing on her lip and she seemed to be fidgiting more that usual.
He waited for her to speak, not wanting to push her into a conversation if she didn't want to talk about whatever was on her mind just yet, but when they'd made a full loop of the gardens and she still hadn't said anything he pulled her over to a bench and sat down. He took her hands in his and forced her to look at him.
"Is something wrong? You've been quiet." He asked gently and blew out a sigh when she shook her head.
"I'm just thinking." She told him and he raised an inquiring eyebrow.
"Thinking about what?" He asked.
"I went to visit the babe that was brought in by the smallfolk who informed us of Joffery being in King's Landing. He killed her mother and she didn't have anyone else so I told them she'd be kept here until I could find a place for her." Arya said and he nodded.
"Is she alright?" He asked, wondering if something had happened to her to cause Arya's strange mood.
"She's fine." Arya said. "She's a sweet babe. But while I was visiting her, I started thinking."
"Okay?" He said, still not entirely sure where she was going with this. She looked up to meet his eyes, a serious look on her face.
"I never thought much about children or being a mother but, seeing Aemma and holding her, it's all I could think about." She told him and he finally caught on to what this conversation was about.
"You want to have a baby?" He asked and she shrugged lightly.
"I do." She said, seeming hesitant to confirm it.
"Well, that's kind of our duty isn't it?" He asked, trying to make a joke but her eyes dropped and he quickly realized it didn't come out like he meant it to.
"Yeah." She said softly and he sighed as he put his hand under her chin and drew her eyes back to his.
"I didn't mean it in a bad way." He said. "It is our duty to have children and continue the Baratheon line but that's not all this is. I'd like nothing more than to have a child with you. A little piece of me and you together. I think it would be amazing."
"Really?" She asked, a soft bit of hope in her voice and he smiled as he cradled her face in his hands.
"Really." He confirmed, kissing her softly before pulling back to grin at her. "Who knows, maybe we've already managed it. We haven't exactly taken precautions."
"Maybe." She agreed, her hand dropping to press against her stomach for a moment. His mind wandered then, imagining her growing with his child, and he felt himself hoping. He, like Arya, never gave much thought to parenthood, being a low born bastard with not much to offer, but with her it was different. With her it felt like the most amazing thing, creating a life with their love for one another, seemed like a miracle. He felt almost unworthy of the thought but he was so glad to be able to have it.
"Let's hope we have." He said finally, pushing her hair back from her face. She looked at him, her smile transforming into a smirk.
"And if we haven't." She said easily, leaning toward him. "We can always try again. After all, practice makes perfect."
The heat in her eyes left no room for misinterpretation of her words and his eyes darted to her lips as heat licked through his body. He spared a thought that this maybe wasn't the most appropriate spot but he dismissed it as she crashed their lips together. He dragged her closer to him on the bench, his hand sinking into her hair, and she made a soft sound in her throat. He was fully aware that she was wearing a dress today as opposed to her usual breeches and tunic, meaning it would be much easier to shift her clothing around to touch her, making his breathing a bit more erratic as he felt himself harden.
She bit his bottom lip and he hissed softly as the spike of pain tingled down his spine. He opened his mouth, allowing her to slip her tongue in with ease, and she pressed herself against him more firmly. He felt her shifting around and knew she was about he climb into his lap. The clearing throat startled both of them thoroughly and made them jerk apart. Arya let out a small embarrassed sound when they both turned to realize that her brother was standing at the end of the walkway.
Robb was looking at them with disapproval plain on his face though he didn't voice it. Margaery Tyrell was standing next to him, her arm looped through his, and she was looking at them with a grin. Her face was a juxtaposition to her companions but Gendry had a feeling that that had to do with the fact that she wasn't related to either of them so she found the situation amusing whereas Robb obviously did not. Gendry turned bright red, ducking his head to avoid Robb's gaze as he and Arya separated and straightened out their clothes.
"Robb." He greeted, clearing his throat as he rubbed the back of his neck.
"Your grace." Robb returned.
"Gendry and I were just leaving." Arya said in a rush, grabbing his hand and beginning to pull him down the path.
"Yes, it certainly looked that way." Robb said, his voice unimpressed.
"Oh, leave them alone." Margaery's sweet voice pushed in. "They're newly married. You can hardly blame them."
Gendry was almost certain he couldn't turn any redder but her comment made him wonder. Arya seemed to ignore the words as she continued forward.
"Enjoy the rest of your walk brother." Arya said as they brushed past the other couple. Gendry managed a small wave in their direction before Arya had hauled him away.
Neither of them spoke as they made their way back into the Keep and away from the awkward encounter until Gendry finally pulled her to stop in an empty corridor and leaned against the wall with a groan.
"Your brother is never going to look at me the same way again." He pushed out and she rolled her eyes.
"He'll get over it." She said with a shrug. "It's not like he doesn't know we have sex. You're my husband."
"Yeah, but I doubt he expected us to be doing it out in the open." He told her.
"We weren't actually having sex." She said with a shrug and he gave her an unimpressed look.
"As if we wouldn't have been if he'd come by a little later." He said and she raised an eyebrow.
"Okay, you have a point there." She conceded before shrugging again. "But at least it wasn't one of my parents."
"Thank the gods for that." He breathed out. She looked at him, a contemplative look on her face, before she spoke.
"So, my only question is, are you too embarrassed now to continue?" She asked, her voice dropped low as she leaned into him once more. He felt the heat in him reignite and he kissed her roughly before pulling away again.
"Our chambers, now." He said.
As night fell, the joined her family for supper and to his surprise he found the King was also present along with Margaery Tyrell. Robb seemed to be avoiding looking at either of them but their were enough people present that no one seemed to notice. Gendry also noticed that Jon was sitting at the table next to Rickon, much to the obvious displeasure of Lady Catelyn, but Arya seemed happy to see him there.
Supper was a quiet affair, small conversations going on around the table, as no one seemed to want to address more serious topics that night. Gendry found it actually pleasant and even managed a short conversation with his father, who surprisingly seemed to be forgoing any wine, and he could tell that Arya enjoyed it too. The quiet was disrupted by Robb standing from his chair noisily gaining the attention of all in attendance.
"I'd like to announce a celebration. I have asked Lady Margaery to be my wife and she has graciously agreed to accept." He said, a big smile on his face as he raised his glass. The others around the table raised theirs in answer and a round of congratulations began. It was no big surprise to any of them that Robb had asked Margaery to marry him but they all celebrated together anyway.
Gendry noticed Sansa immediately launch into wedding preparations with Margaery the moment the other girl sat down along with Lady Catelyn but Arya seemed content to talk to him and Jon for the remainder of supper before she retired to their chambers rather than getting involved with the planning. Gendry had every intention in following her but Jon pulled him to the side as the others left the room so he stayed. He and Jon sat back down at the table, each with a goblet of ale, and Jon looked at him seriously.
"I wanted to speak to you but I haven't had the opportunity to get you alone." He said.
"What do you need?" Gendry asked, wondering why Jon needed him alone.
"We need more men on the Wall." Jon said seriously. "We are seriously undermanned and we can't hold off the Wildlings if they choose to attack the wall, they have many more fighters. And there are other things beyond the Wall, terrible things, and we need help."
"Other things?" Gendry asked. Jon chewed on his lip, the move reminding Gendry suddenly of Arya, as he seemed to gather his thoughts.
"Look, I know you've lived in the south your whole life and I know you were a lowborn bastard for most of that time, but you must have heard the stories even just in passing. The stories about the Others." Jon said and Gendry nodded.
"Of course. Ghost stories and the like, used to frighten children into behaving." He shrugged. "What about them?"
"They're not just stories." Jon said, his voice sounding haunted.
"What do you men?" Gendry asked, confusion overtaking him at the other man's words.
"I've been beyond the Wall. I've seen what's out there, things you wouldn't believe, and I'm telling you that if we don't get more men on the Wall to fight them then Westoros is going to be facing a big problem." Jon said and Gendry studied his face. He wasn't sure if he believed that the stories were real but he could find no trace of a lie on Jon's face. Even if it wasn't real, the man in front of him believed that it was.
"What do you want me to do?" Gendry asked. He needed to understand what was happening here.
"You're the prince." Jon said. "I need you to compel the Seven Kingdoms to send men to the Wall. Even if you don't believe me about the Others, the Wildlings are still a very real threat that need to be dealt with. Can you do that for me?"
"I will discuss it with my father." Gendry assured him. He was Arya's brother, her favorite brother, Gendry would do whatever he could to help him even if he still wasn't sure he believed him.
"Thank you, truly." Jon said.
"Of course. I'll do whatever I can to help." Gendry assured him. He hoped he could get his father to agree.
The next morning found Arya and Gendry getting dressed in all their finery which she found entirely unnecessary but couldn't argue against. The execution of Joffery was set to take place that afternoon and she and Gendry were expected to be present alongside the king. As they were representing the royal family, that meant that they had to look the part. Neither of them was particularly comfortable in the fancy clothing but Arya did have to admit, if only to herself, that the sight of Gendry in his fine leathers was worth it.
She had been forced into a gown made of soft yellow fabric with black threaded embroidery around the bodice. It was made in a style that was popular in King's Landing with shorter sleeves and was cut low in the front. It wasn't indecent by any means but it was much less fabric than she was used to wearing and she found that she didn't actually mind the dress all that much. It didn't restrict her movements at all and she knew that if she needed to, she could still wield her sword in it as it didn't tangle around her legs as she moved.
She braided her hair carefully in the northern style that her mother favored before settling her crown on her head. She forewent any other jewelry or embellishments and fastened her sword belt around her waist to complete her outfit. Gendry came over to her, his own crown situated on his head, and pressed their lips together in a soft kiss before he brushed his fingers over her cheek. She knew the bruises were still visible on her skin, though they had begun to fade, and he pressed another kiss to them.
"I know it may be bad to say but I'm glad he's going to die." Gendry spoke softly.
"I think the Gods will forgive you this time. Joffery is a horrible person and dangerous, it's better for everyone if he isn't around anymore to cause problems." She told him. "I do feel kind of bad for his brother and sister, they've already lost so much, but they're probably better off without him as well."
"His brother and sister aren't like him then?" Gendry asked and she shook her head.
"I didn't spend much time with them while they were here but from what I could tell they were good children. They were sweet and kind, nothing like their brother or their mother." She said. "Tyrion Lannister isn't a bad man either, he'll make sure that they're taken care of, I'm sure."
"And what about Tywin Lannister?" He asked. "Should we worry about him?"
"Tywin Lannister is a great military commander and he has a great political mind, he knows how to pick his battles and I don't think this is one that he will take up." She mused. "Still, the Lannisters are the richest family in Westeros and they have the power to cause problems should they choose to. We should keep an eye on them, though I imagine that the Master of Whispers is already doing that."
"Alright." He said. "I suppose we'll just have to wait. See what they plan to do, if they do anything at all."
"Yeah." She breathed out as she turned away from him to look out of the window. Their chambers faced the city and she could see all the way to the gates of King's Landing in the distance. "Anyway, I was thinking that after the execution takes place this afternoon that we could visit the city. I want to look in on the things I've asked the small council to do."
"Oh?" He asked. "And what's that?"
His question made her remember that they hadn't had a chance to speak about anything she'd been doing while they had been on their hunt as everyone had been consumed with the attack against her. It reminded her that she'd been wanting to ask for his input on the matter.
"Before everything happened, I took a trip into town with Sansa and discovered a few things that I wanted to change." She explained as he wrapped his arms around her waist and she leaned back into him as they continued gazing out together. "I had them start plans for building a well in the lower town so the smallfolk would have access to clean water and I found an abandoned building that some of the orphans were staying in that I asked to be purchased and made into an orphanage. I told them to make sure that each child had a bed roll to sleep on and had them begin searching for a caretaker to stay there alongside them."
"That will be good for the children. I remember what it was like before I started my apprenticeship trying to find a safe place to sleep where you wouldn't be harassed by people." He spoke softly and she ran her hands along his arms in a soothing gesture. She hated the thought of him wondering the streets as a small child all alone.
"I made sure that food would be delivered to the orphanage three times a week so they wouldn't have to worry about where they'd get their next meal." She continued. "I also decided to have food rations delivered to each household at the start of each moon turn. I think it will help a lot and the smallfolk will be taken care of."
"It will help." He assured her and she turned in his arms to face him.
"I wanted to speak to you about it. You know what it's like to live like that so I was hoping that you could help me." She said, studying his face. "I've done what I thought would help the most but I don't know what they need aside from what I've already done. I was wondering if you had any ideas that could help improve their lives a bit more."
"What you've done already is more than any highborn or ruler has ever done for the smallfolk." He said, smiling at her. "But if you truly want my opinion on it, I think lessons would be a good start."
"Lessons?" She asked, her brow furrowing.
"Many of the small folk can't read or write and they aren't familiar with their numbers." He explained. "Some of them, the ones who own shops, know the basics. Enough for them to get by, but not really a sufficient amount, and the orphans and children know none of it. I think it would help them a lot. They could use the knowledge to help them get apprenticeships so they could start earning their own money and wouldn't have to resort to stealing to get by."
"That's actually a great idea." She said, excitement clear in her voice. "I'll discuss it with the council at our next meeting."
"Good." He said, smiling down at her. "I admire the interest that you're taking in the well being of the smallfolk."
"How could I not, when my husband came from smallfolk himself?" She said playfully. "And besides, they're just the same as we are. They're people who deserve our respect just as much as anyone else. Just because I had the fortune to be born to a good family with a good name, it doesn't make me better than they are."
"You know, you might be the only highborn I've ever heard say something like that." He said, a soft look on his face. "I suspect that's part of why I love you."
She smiled and pulled him down to her for a kiss before she pulled back and breathed out a soft sigh.
"We should go meet with the king." She said quietly. "They're probably waiting for us."
"Alright. Let's get this over with." He said and she laughed and the resigned tone in his voice as she grabbed his arm and pulled him out of their chambers.
The walk to the king's solar was quiet, both of them taking the time to calm their minds and prepare themselves for what was about to happen, so when they stepped inside they were ready to face whatever came their way. Her father was already inside with the king and he acknowledged them with a quiet nod as King Robert's eyes landed on them. For the first time since she'd met him, his eyes seemed clear and she noticed that there didn't seem to be any wine in the room. That fact actually surprised her though she didn't comment on it and she wondered if maybe the whole thing with Cersei had changed his perspective on things.
He was dressed in fine clothes similar to the ones that Gendry wore, with a metal clasp at the throat in the shape of antlers, and his crown on his head. Sitting there, with his back straight and his eyes clear, Arya could almost see the echo of the man she'd heard countless stories about, the man he'd been before the Rebellion.
"So, in just over an hour the execution will take place." He said. "I've made sure that the Kingsguard will be in place to protect both of you should something happen, though I don't expect anything to go wrong today. I just wanted to make sure that you were both aware of that."
"Thank you, your grace." She answered politely.
"Of course." He said, and she noticed his eyes flickering over the bruises on her face for a moment. "We will not allow anyone to hurt our family again."
"Shall we go then?" Her father asked, joining them where they still stood by the door.
King Robert stood from his chair and moved toward them. They all allowed him to leave the room first, as was customary, and they took their places behind him. She knew that the execution was going to take place on the grounds that were used for tourneys so they had to take a wheelhouse from the Keep down to them. She'd have much preferred riding a horse but even she had to admit that saddling all the horses would take more time than it was worth so she climbed into the wheelhouse along with the others with no complaint.
She could hear the people outside the wheelhouse as they tried to catch a glimpse of the king but he didn't seem to pay them any mind. It was an extremely warm day and Arya found herself thankful that her dress didn't have long sleeves as the wheelhouse got a bit stuffy during the short ride. When they finally came to a stop, King Robert got out first, followed by her father, and when it came time for her and Gendry to get out he held his hand out to help her. She didn't actually need the help but she took his hand anyway and allowed him help her down to the ground.
The guards formed a barrier around them immediately upon their exit and ushered them toward the platform that held a makeshift throne for the king and two smaller chairs for them to the side. Her father stood behind King Robert's shoulder, his pin reflecting the sunlight and marking him as the King's Hand, as she and Gendry took their seats. Many of the smallfolk were standing around the field watching them curiously and as her eyes swept over them she caught sight of the wagon with a cage on the back of it. She could make out Joffery's blond hair but he was too far away for her to really see anything else.
The lords and ladies of the court were crowded into the stands as if this was some big show they were putting on and for a moment she felt angry that they were treating it like entertainment. A person was going to die today, and even as horrible as Joffery was, she didn't like that it was being turned into a spectacle. She understood why it was happening, he was being executed by the king himself, but she still found it unsettling that they were all so eager to watch the death of someone else. She caught sight of Sansa, high up in the stands with the rest of their family, and realized that her sister was feeling the same. She could tell by the expression on her face that, though she had been happy about the outcome, she didn't particularly want to watch.
Her eyes left her sister after a moment and landed on Ser Illyn Payne who was standing beside the executioners block in the center of the field, a sharpened axe in his hand, and the cold look in his eyes made her shiver. Finally, two of the guards stepped away to open the cage and drag Joffery out, the chains binding his wrist making faint tinkling sounds as they pushed him toward the block. They forced him to his knees in front of it and she saw the hate filled rage in his eyes as he glared at them. She could feel his gaze burning into them and she shivered. In the next moment, she felt Gendry take her hand and squeeze it lightly,gaining her attention as he gave her a reassuring look. He couldn't hurt them anymore. King Robert stood, causing the crowd to go silent as they all waited for him to speak.
"This man has been found guilty of treason." His voice rang out, causing whispers to start up immediately. "He hired a cutthroat to kidnap my gooddaughter and attempted to usurp my son's place as Prince of the Seven Kingdoms. His efforts were thankfully thwarted and Princess Arya is safe but the punishment for treason is death." His eyes turned to Joffery. "Speak your last words now."
Joffery maintained his glare but said nothing. She noticed King Robert wave his hand and the guards on either side of Joffery shoved him down onto the block forcibly while Ser Illyn pulled on his executioners mask. It happened quickly after that. She saw a brief glimmer of fear in Joffery's face as he finally seemed to register that this was actually happening and then the axe whistled through the air and it was all over in an instant.
After they returned to the keep, they didn't get a chance to go back into the city as it had been deemed to dangerous by the guards as they were unsure how the smallfolk were going to react to the execution just yet. She had to agree with them, albeit reluctantly, as she told them that they would be going tomorrow. Gendry left her side to discuss something with his father and her mother caught her arm as she attempted to make her way back to her chambers. She had been intending to change and train some with Syrio but her plans were dashed in that moment.
Her mother led her through the halls and into her solar. The table had been set with various types of fruit and tea, none of which looked appetizing to Arya at the moment, but she sat with her mother anyway. Her mother didn't speak for a time, filling their cups with tea and nibbling on the fruit, until Arya finally became frustrated with the silence.
"Did you need something?" She asked finally. Her mother looked at her with a peculiar look on her face.
"I wanted to speak to you." She said and Arya nodded.
"About?" She asked.
"Robb told me that he came upon you and Gendry in the gardens yesterday and you were in quite a compromising position." She said, her voice delicate and Arya rolled her eyes immediately.
"He's my husband. It's not like we were doing anything wrong." She said.
"I know that." Her mother said, pressing her lips together. "I was young once, I know all about that feeling of being newly married."
"Mother!" She exclaimed in disgust.
"I"m just saying that I understand it, Arya, and I'm not trying to reprimand you for it but you should probably keep that sort of activity to private places." She said and Arya blew out a long sigh.
"I know. We just got a little carried away, is all." She shrugged sheepishly. Her mother nodded as she seemed to study her face.
"I wanted to speak to you about something else as well." She said and Arya nodded.
"Okay." She said hesitantly.
"Is he kind to you?" She asked. "In that aspect I mean. I know some men just take their own pleasure from it and don't bother to think about how the woman feels."
"He would never hurt me." Arya said firmly, understanding what her mother was asking without her having to actually say it.
"Good." He mother nodded. "That's good."
They went quiet for a moment, Arya trying desperately to forget that her mother even asked about her having sex with her husband and vowing to kick Robb the next time she saw him for even mentioning it, before a thought occurred to her and she breathed out a sigh before looking at her mother seriously.
"What's it like having a babe?" She asked quietly and noticed her mother's eyes snap to her. She bit her lip. "I only ask because I'm hoping for a babe soon and I want to know."
"It's amazing." Her mother answered immediately. "I'm not going to lie to you, not all of it is pleasant but the end result makes it all worth it."
"It's not all pleasant?" Arya asked. "What do you mean?"
"Well, in the first few moons you'll likely be sick more than you're not and in the last few moons, as you grow bigger, your back and feet start to hurt." She said with a smile on her face. "And the birth, that hurts the worst. The pain can be so intense that you'll be sure you're dying but you aren't. But then, when it's all done and they lay your babe in your arms, all of that pain doesn't matter anymore. You'll look down at this incredible little person and it's like your heart grows and with each child, it grows even more."
"Really?" Arya asked, wondering how so much pain could result in something so wonderful.
"Really." Her mother assure her. "You'll see when you hold a babe of your own in your arms."
"Will you come back?" Arya asked quietly. "When I do have a babe?"
"Of course I will." She said, pulling Arya into her arms.
She and her mother may not always get along but Arya knew that her mother loved her and knowing that she'd be by her side when she became a mother herself reassured her more than she had expected that it would. She was glad to have her in her life.
After coming back from the execution Gendry immediately sought out his father for a private word and was led back to the man's solar. It occurred to him that this was only the second time that he'd been alone with his own father which was a strange thought but he didn't allow himself to dwell on it as he took a seat. He was facing his father from across the table that sat in the corner of the room and the quiet was a little unnerving so he was grateful when the king started speaking.
"So, what did you want to speak to me about?" He asked and Gendry pulled in a long breath as he forced himself to focus on what he'd come here for in the first place.
"I had a conversation with Jon Snow last night." He started. "He told me that they need more men at the Wall. He said that the Wildling attacks are getting increasingly worse and they need extra hands to help fight against them."
He had decided against mentioning the other things Jon had said about the stories all being real as he assumed that telling his father that would not get the result he was wishing for.
"You trust the word of Jon Snow? A bastard?" He asked and Gendry's eyebrows rose.
"I'm a bastard too, in case you've forgotten. Just because I've been legitimized, it doesn't change the fact that I was born without a name or anything to call my own. The fact that he's a bastard doesn't make him less trustworthy than any other man." He said, irritation clear in his voice. "And besides that, he's Arya's favorite brother and he saved her when our guards didn't. I have no reason not to trust him. He's a good man, honorable, I believe him."
"Alright then." Robert said, seemingly ignoring the annoyance that he was expressing as he looked at him with consideration on his face. "And what do you suggest we do?"
"We could send out ravens to all the kingdoms telling them to send men." He said immediately, already having thought about it. "If you tell them to send people then they will. The defense of Westeros is of the utmost importance, they should understand that."
"Yes, I suppose they should." He answered with a nod. "I'll have letters sent to all the great houses and order them to send men to reinforce the Night's Watch."
"Thank you." Gendry nodded, thankful that he'd be able to tell Jon that he could help.
"Now that we've settled that, I wanted to speak to you about something as well." He said and Gendry nodded as he studied the other man's face.
"Okay." He said hesitantly, wondering what his father wanted to discuss.
"I've asked the small council about your wife and how she was doing at ruling while we were away, before everything happened, and they've informed me that she's been making some changes." He said, folding his hand in front of his mouth as he leaned forward to lean his elbows on the table.
"Yes, she's told me about it." Gendry told him.
"And what do you think about the changes." He asked and Gendry couldn't tell what the other man wanted his answer to be so he went for the truth.
"I think the changes she's made are great." He said honestly. "Looking after the smallfolk is the duty of the crown and just as important as looking out for the lords and ladies. If the smallfolk are happy, there's less chance of a revolt or unrest in the Kingdoms. A ruler who is loved has more power than one who is feared, or at least that's my belief. I agree wholeheartedly with her decisions."
"She will be a good queen." His father said finally. "She actually cares about the people. That's more than I can say about most people who have sat on the Iron Throne, especially in recent years."
"What about you?" Gendry asked. His father shook his head and sat back suddenly, sinking down in the chair as he blew out a long breath, looking suddenly exhausted.
"I never really cared about the common people, even when I pretended that I did." He admitted, shame lacing his words. "And then I let politics get in the way and let alcohol make my decisions for me. I sat by while the Lannisters corrupted the crown, but I won't do that anymore. I want to be a better king, and when the time comes, I want you to be better than I ever was. It makes me relieved to know that your queen is kind and fierce. I know that the two of you will make the Seven Kingdoms better."
"She makes me a better person." Gendry agreed. He'd never thought approval from the man who'd sired him would matter much to him as he was growing up without him but he felt pride at the man's words.
"You love her." He said, his eyes roving over Gendry's face. "That's good. Being married to someone you don't love is an awful thing."
"Did you ever love her? Cersei?" Gendry asked quietly.
"No." His father answered immediately. "I married her after the rebellion because the Lannisters were one of the most powerful families in the Seven Kingdoms, certainly the richest, and I was a new king. I needed the alliance to strengthen my position but I never loved her. My heart belonged to someone else and has ever since."
"You were a king, I'm sure any lady would be all too happy to marry you." Gendry said. "And I'm sure you could have waited to find someone who you at least cared about."
"Do you know what the rebellion was about? What started it, I mean?" His father asked suddenly and Gendry shrugged.
"I've heard passing stories but I never really listened. People like to embellish tales when they tell them in taverns or on the street." He admitted. "I've been learning the histories since I came to the Red Keep but we haven't gotten to the recent histories yet."
"All lot of things led to the Rebellion." He started after a moment. "Aerys Targaryen found joy in burning people alive, he liked to use wildfire and listen to them scream. The people, highborn and common alike, were already unhappy with his rule and the Kingdom was primed for a revolt but what pushed it over the edge into a rebellion was the Tourney at Harrenhal."
"What happened?" Gendry asked, leaning forward to listen.
"Rhaegar Targaryen won the tourney and when they gave him the crown of roses to crown the Queen of Love and Beauty everyone expected him to give it to his wife but he didn't." His father said. "He rode right past her and laid the crown in the lap of Lyanna Stark."
"Lyanna Stark?" Gendry asked quietly. He'd known they had been betrothed but he hadn't heard the story behind what had gone wrong and sparked the rebellion in the first place.
"She was Ned's sister, your wife's aunt." He said, sadness plain in his voice. "I loved her."
"What happened next?" Gendry asked, wanting to here the rest of the story.
"After the tourney, she disappeared. We came to find out that Rhaegar had kidnapped her and that was the first spark in the rebellion." He blew out a long breath. "Her older brother Brandon came here, to the Red Keep, and demanded that Prince Rhaegar return his sister and be punished for taking her. The Mad King took him prisoner and sent word to his father in Winterfell, called him to answer for his son's actions, but when he came they took him prisoner too. The Mad King had Brandon Stark brought to the throne room in chains and forced him to watch as he burned his father alive. Brandon strangled himself trying to save him."
"Gods." Gendry breathed out, the horror of the story hitting him.
"The King then sent a letter to Jon Arryn asking him to deliver mine and Ned's heads to him. Jon refused because we fostered in the Vale with him when we were boys and he saw us as family." His father explained. "Ned married Catelyn, she'd been betrothed to Brandon but when he died, Ned became Lord of Winterfell so they married instead, and Jon married Catelyn's sister Lysa. That drew the Vale and the Riverlands into the war along with the North. We won the war when I killed Rhaegar at the battle of the Trident and the Lannisters joined our cause. They took King's Landing and killed Aerys Targaryen."
"How did you become King?" Gendry asked. "If the Lannisters were the ones who took the capitol and the Rebellion was sparked mostly by the Starks? Why is Lord Stark not the King then?"
"The lords and ladies of Westeros allowed me to be King in part because it was my military plans that helped us win. The other reason was because of my blood." He explained and Gendry looked at him with furrowed brows.
"Your blood?" He asked.
"Targaryen blood. My grandmother was Princess Rhaelle Targaryen. The blood tie is what allowed me to claim the Iron Throne over the other men who fought in the rebellion alongside me." His father said. "Anyway, after the Rebellion was over and I took the throne, Ned went to retrieve Lyanna. He'd found out that she was being kept in Dorne, in the tower of joy, but by the time he got to her she was already dead. Jon Arryn urged me to marry Cersei when the news came, he was convinced that it would be good for the Kingdom."
"But you couldn't love her." Gendry concluded.
"No, I couldn't." His father said, his face weary.
"What was she like? Lyanna?" Gendry asked quietly. He'd asked his father about it before but now, hearing the full story and his father seeming to be in a talkative mood, he wanted to know more.
"She was wild and fierce. Beautiful." He answered, his eyes getting a distant look as he spoke. "Your wife looks just like her. I believe I've already told you that."
"You have." Gendry confirmed.
"Sometimes, looking at her is like looking at a ghost." He admitted before shaking his head. "I only know that she was the one thing I ever wanted. Someone took her away from me and seven kingdoms couldn't fill the hole she left behind."
"I couldn't imagine losing Arya." Gendry admitted. "When I found out she was hurt and I didn't yet know how bad, I couldn't think about anything else. She's everything I ever stopped myself from wanting when I knew I couldn't have it. Knowing that she's mine, the thought of anyone taking her away is something I can't even handle."
"No one is going to take her away." His father told him seriously. "I won't let it happen again. You and Arya are going to have a better ending than Lyanna and I had, I'll make sure of it."
"Thank you." Gendry said sincerely. His father nodded before clearing his throat.
"Now, you should run along and have those raven sent out." He said, going back to the original point of their conversation and Gendry got the message that he was done talking about the past.
"I'll do that." He said, allowing the subject to drop as he stood from the chair and inclined his head to his father before he turned and left the room swiftly, allowing his father to relive the past on his own.
After making sure that ravens were sent out to all Seven Kingdoms Gendry went to find Arya. She wasn't in their chambers when he checked and she wasn't training with Syrio, but he eventually found her in the training yard with her brothers. They were practicing archery, something he hadn't seen her do much of as she preferred a sword, and to his surprise he saw Sansa watching from the edge of the field.
Arya had a wide smile on her face as she helped Rickon adjust his stance and spoke quietly to Jon. He couldn't hear what she was saying from where he was but the genuine happiness on her face made him smile as he approached. Robb took note of him before the rest of them and bowed immediately in greeting alerting the rest of them to his presence. Arya practically bounced over to him on the balls of her feet and he caught her in his arms instinctively. She looked up at him with her eyes shining bright leading him to press a soft kiss to her lips, keeping it brief as he was aware of her siblings not far off.
"Would you like to join us?" She asked. "I don't think I've ever seen you with a bow, though Robb says you handled a crossbow well."
"Sure." He said, allowing her to lead him back over to the group. Robb handed him a bow immediately.
"Let's see what you've got then." He said and Gendry sighed, already knowing that he wasn't going to be very good at it. Arya gave him an encouraging smile as she handed him an arrow and he knocked it. He took aim before pulling the bow string back and letting the arrow fly. It buried into the very outside of the target but he was just glad to have actually hit the damn thing.
"You're standing wrong." Arya said before she immediately moved to adjust his posture. She pushed his hips lightly until he was standing in a way that satisfied him before making him raise the bow and knock another arrow. When he pulled back the string this time she pushed his elbow before putting her hand between his shoulder blades forcing him to straighten his shoulders. "Okay, now."
When he released the arrow this time, it hit much closer to the center and he saw Arya grin.
"Good." She said.
"I'm not going to be able to do that very quickly." He said, smiling back at her. "And I don't think you'll have the time to adjust my posture on the battlefield each time I take a shot. I think I'll stick to the war hammer."
"We can work on it." She said with a shrug. "You'll get the hang of it eventually, I'm sure, but the bow isn't for everyone."
"Oh, and I suppose you're good at it?" He asked, raising an eyebrow at her.
"I'm decent." She said coyly. He handed the bow to her before gesturing for her to take his spot.
"Show me how it's done then." He said. Jon and Robb both laughed at his words and he got the distinct impression that they were laughing at him rather than with him. He really should have known by now not to challenge her.
She seemed to blow out a long breath before she picked up an arrow and, in quick succession, she sank three in a row into the very center of the target with deadly precision and speed. Fuck me, he thought. His breath left him in a surprised rush as she spun to raise a mocking eyebrow at him and the confidence in her posture coupled with her prowess with a weapon made him a bit hot under his thin tunic. All he wanted to do in that moment was kiss her roughly but he refrained from doing it, it wouldn't do well to get carried away in front of her brothers.
"You're getting better." Robb said, steering Gendry away from that train of thought as he turned to see the man looking at Arya with an almost proud expression.
"I've been practicing." Arya shrugged.
"Aren't you supposed to be sewing and having tea in the gardens with the other ladies?" Jon asked in a teasing voice and Arya's hand flew out in a blur to land a punch directly to his ribs.
"You're not funny." She said flatly before she turned to Rickon, who had moved to the side to continue his own practice when Gendry had come over ad distracted the others, and she began speaking to him again.
"You're doing well Rick." She said, ruffling his already messy hair and pointedly ignoring all of them. "You'll make a fine bowman. I think we should practice from horseback sometime soon, before you go back to Winterfell."
"That sounds a bit dangerous." Robb put in immediately, his voice transforming into one of authority but Arya just rolled her eyes at him.
"The Dothraki teach their sons to shoot from horseback by the time they're four." She said. "I think Rickon can learn now without injuring himself."
"And what about the people around him?" Robb asked, an unimpressed look on his face.
"They'll move." She shrugged and Gendry had to stifle a laugh at the nonchalance in her voice.
"I'll make sure the practice grounds are cleared before they attempt it." He piped up and Arya shot him a smile.
"Please don't encourage her." Jon said, his voice still holding a playful edge. "She's already dangerous enough on her own two feet. She'll be a terror on horseback."
"I know." Gendry said with a grin, his voice full of fondness. Arya moved back to him and looped her arm through his.
"Keep practicing Rick, we'll train more tomorrow." She said, before turning to look at him. "I'm ready to go inside."
He nodded and said goodbye to her siblings before turning to led her back inside, not even caring that he'd just joined them a few minutes earlier, and she was only quiet for a moment before she glanced at him.
"I wanted to speak to you about something." She said.
"Something wrong?" He asked and she shook her head.
"No." She assured him. "I was just wondering if maybe we could go with my family when they return to Winterfell."
"Why?" He asked and she shrugged.
"I want to see my brother Bran. I haven't seen him since I came to the capitol with my father years ago and I think it would do us well to get out of King's Landing for a while." She said. "Plus, the North is quite different from the South and I think it'd be good for you to see it, to really understand that."
"I've never even left King's Landing." He admitted. "But I think I'd like that, to see where you grew up."
"Really?" She asked with a smile.
"Of course." He said before frowning. "But, I don't know if we could leave right now. I don't know if my father might need us around."
"Right." She said, her smile dimming slightly. "We could ask, at least."
"Yeah." He said quietly. "We definitely can."
He pulled her to a stop, pushing her back into an alcove and pressing her back to the wall as he smiled down at her, determined to remove the sad look from her eyes.
"In the mean time, seeing you with that bow was insanely attractive." He said, pressing his body firmly to her. "I had to restrain myself from taking you right there."
"Oh?" She asked, a smirk on her lips as she raised an eyebrow at him. "Is that so?"
"Mmm." He hummed.
"Why don't you do something about it then?" She asked, her voice dropped into a whisper and he moved immediately to capture her lips.
The sad look was wiped from her face quickly replaced by a heated gaze and he dragged her to their chambers quickly. They spent the rest of the day exploring each other's bodies and ignoring the world outside their chambers. He didn't mind spending his day in that way.
Sorry this update took so long, had a bit of writers block with this story. Hope you guys enjoy the update.
The sun streaming through the window shined on her face and woke her, making her squint in the brightness and groan softly until Gendry moved from where he was sitting behind the desk in the corner of the room to close the curtains and block out a portion of the light. She stretched her arms above her head before pulling on his discarded tunic from the night before to cover her nakedness and padding over to him.
"What are you doing?" She asked, running her fingers through her hair in an attempt to tame the mess it was in.
"Just looking over a couple of things." He said before he dropped the papers from his hands onto the desk. He turned to face her, pulling her into him by her hips, as he kissed her softly. "How'd you sleep?"
"Fantastic." She said with a grin. "The multiple orgasms helped."
"Oh yeah?" He smirked before dipping his head to drop a few kisses on her neck, the day old growth of his stubble tickling along her skin and making her giggle, as his hands kneaded her hips gently.
"Yeah." She said, tilting her head to allow him more access as she leaned into him. A knock on the door pulled them both out of their playful flirting.
"May I come in?" It was Sansa.
"Enter." Gendry called. The door pushed open moments later and her sister came in, already dressed for the day with her hair styled, and Arya raised an eyebrow at her.
"You need something?" She asked. Sansa's eyes flickered between them.
"I'm not interrupting am I?" She asked, obviously having taken note of Arya's attire.
"Not at all." Gendry said, pulling his hands away from her entirely as he turned to face her sister.
"Alright then." Sansa said, her eyes coming to rest on Arya. "I just wanted to check in with you about the trip to Winterfell."
"You're coming?" Arya asked.
"Of course. I want to see Bran too." Sansa shrugged before shaking her head. "Anyway, that's not what I came here for. I was just wondering if you had anything that needed altering before we go. Most of the clothing we have here is entirely inappropriate for the weather in the north so I've been altering a few things that I brought with me when we came and I thought I'd offer to do the same for you since I know sewing is not really your best skill."
"You're altering things you brought with you years ago?" Arya asked. "Do any of them even still fit you? You've grown quite a bit since then."
"I have to lengthen the hem and let out the top in most of them to make them fit but they're good as new then." She said.
"I don't need anything altered." Arya said, answering her sisters original question. "You go ahead with your own. Sounds like a lot of work anyway."
"You're sure?" Sansa asked and Arya nodded.
"I'm a princess Sans, remember?" She said. "I don't have to worry about having an appropriate wardrobe, all I have to do is ask and it's all sorted."
"Well, alright then." Sansa said, shrugging again. "I've got to start packing for the journey."
She left the room after that, presumably on her way back to her own chambers, and Arya sighed as she moved away from Gendry to get dressed for the day. They had much to accomplish today, not the least of which was speaking to the king about leaving in the first place, so she dressed quickly. She ran a brush through her hair but decided against styling it anymore than that as she didn't really feel like taking the time to do so. She knew that her mother would likely scold her for it later but she didn't really care.
She and Gendry made their way to the king's solar where they'd agreed to meet him and found that he had food laid out on the table for them to break their fast together. Her father wasn't in the room and she knew that he was likely with her mother, spending as much time together as they could before her mother went back north, leaving them alone with the king. The room was quiet at first as they all served themselves food from the selection laid out in front of them and it was only when they'd all began eating that the king spoke.
"So, what's this about?" He asked. "The two of you have asked to meet with me so I assume you must have a reason."
"I have a request actually." Arya answered, drawing his attention to her easily.
"Alright." He nodded. "Speak then."
"My family will be departing the capitol soon and I'd like to go with them. I'd like for Gendry to come as well." She explained. "It would only be for a visit. I think it would be good for Gendry to see the North and get to know the people a bit better as it's quiet different from the South."
"And with everything that's happened in the last few weeks, we thought it would be good to get away for a time." Gendry added. "Only if it wouldn't cause problems, though."
"Hmm." King Robert hummed, his eyes studying each of them in turn as he considered their words. "I don't see a problem with that. You're right after all, he should know the concerns of all of his people and the concerns of the Northmen are quite different to others. It would be good for him to see that."
"You don't think it will cause problems for your sole heir to leave?" Gendry asked.
"Of course not." King Robert waved his hand. "Especially if we frame it as a political visit."
"A political visit?" Arya asked. "How could you make this visit sound, in any way, remotely political?"
"Your brother is getting married to the Tyrell girl, correct?" He asked with a shrug. "He's the acting Lord of Winterfell and my son's goodbrother. We can use his presence at the wedding as the reason for you travelling north."
"Are you sure it's okay?" Arya asked.
"Yes." King Robert said. "Go. Visit your family, show your husband the north, we'll be fine here."
"If you're sure." Gendry said.
"I am." He said firmly.
Once that was settled they spent the rest of the meal speaking about less serious things and just taking the time to spend time together. Arya found it strangely calming to just sit with both of them and talk about things that didn't involve politics or running the Seven Kingdoms and she hoped they'd have more time to do it in the future.
After speaking to King Robert about taking a trip to Winterfell and being granted permission to do so, Arya was very happy about the whole thing. She hadn't been back since she'd come to King's Landing with her father years ago and she was excited to be going back. She was even more excited that she was going to get to see Bran, who'd still been asleep after his fall when she had left which had prevented her from saying goodbye to him properly. Shireen Baratheon was also coming along with them, with the intent for her to be fostered at Winterfell until she came of age after her father had been convinced of the match between her and Rickon. Margaery Tyrell was also coming along as she and Robb were going to be married when they reached Winterfell.
As a result of all of that, their procession was quite the spectacle when they rode out of the city as many banners were flying and many guards where surrounding them. Sansa, Margaery, Shireen and her mother were all in the wheelhouse near the center of the procession but Arya opted out of joining them and instead chose to ride her horse alongside her brothers. Rickon was more comfortable on his horse than he had been when they'd been practicing shooting arrows earlier in the week so she was sure that with a bit more practice to get him comfortable with it, he'd be quite good at staying seated when shooting.
Arya was sad to be leaving Jon behind in King's Landing as he finished up his work for the Night's Watch before he traveled back north but he promised to stop by Winterfell on his way through so she knew she'd see him again in a few weeks. Gendry rode on her other side, much more comfortable riding than he had been when they first met and looking every bit the regal prince that he was in his fine clothes. He'd complained that morning about having to wear them, citing that they were just going to get ruined with the weeks of travel, but he'd grudgingly put them on anyway when she reminded him that they had to ride through the city where people would see them and he had to look the part.
After leaving the city, they rode past small villages for the first few hours but eventually they gave way to the trees on either side of the Kingsroad. Rickon chattered on about Winterfell, about the things that had changed in her absence and the things that hadn't, never seeming to tire even hours into the trip. When the sun started dipping low and the decision was made to stop for the night only a couple of hours after they left, Arya cursed the fact that they hadn't left King's Landing until the afternoon as she was eager to reach their destination and having to stop so soon made her slightly disappointed.
She retired to her tent the moment it was put up, deciding against socializing, with the idea that the sooner she fell asleep the less time it would feel like was passing. The cot set up in the corner looked quite inviting and she smiled as she removed her dust covered clothes. Gendry entered the tent only moments after she had made herself comfortable under the covers, his hands rubbing his back as he looked at her.
"Gods, riding this long is not pleasant." He said and she grinned at him.
"Is your little princely bum sore?" She teased and he rolled his eyes even as his lips twitched.
"You're not funny." He said, as he stripped his tunic off.
"No, I'm hilarious." She retorted, making him roll his eyes.
"Maybe you think so." He said, moving toward her as he did. "But you're wrong. Just so you know."
He kissed her to stop any response she may have had before quite literally rolling over her to get onto the cot. She shoved him lightly.
"You're going to crush me." She complained and he grinned down at her.
"Am I?" He asked, purposely dropping more of his weight on her. She rolled her eyes, giving up on her attempts to shove him away and instead shifting slightly to allow him to cover her. He was warm and heavy over her but it wasn't a bad thing, in fact the position was strangely comfortable despite everything. She ran her hands through his hair absently as they laid together until finally he shifted to lay next to her.
She turned so that her back was facing his front, reaching back to grab his arm and draw it forward around her, pressing their bodies together tightly. She felt him shift behind her as he wiggled under the covers and his fingers brushed against her skin in a soothing movement as he kissed her bare shoulder lightly.
"I'm looking forward to it, you know? Seeing Winterfell." He said, speaking softly as to not disturb the atmosphere that had developed around them in the tent.
"Really?" She asked.
"Truly." He answered. She smiled at the earnestness in his voice.
"I can't wait to show you all the places I used to play." She told him.
"Oh yeah?" He asked. "And what's on this tour?"
"The hot springs are first obviously." She told him playfully. "From there is the Godswood, where I spent quite a bit of time with my father when I was younger. And of course, there's the crypts. I might even show you the forge since you're so fond of them."
"And what about your chambers?" He asked, his voice teasing.
"Well, I imagine we'll spend quite a bit of time there." She answered.
"I certainly look forward to that." He said.
"Really?" She asked, turning to look at him with a raised eyebrow. He shrugged with one shoulder as he grinned at her.
"What can I say? Seeing you naked has become a favorite pass time of mine recently." He said, pulling her closer to him and she rolled her eyes.
"Right, well you can keep it in your pants until we get to Winterfell." She told him. "I'm not having sex with you while surrounded by my family. I certainly don't need them hearing that."
"You are certainly loud." He said and she smacked his arm lightly in reprimand.
"Shut up." She said and he laughed.
"I love you." He said.
"I love you too." She said.
The moment the words left her mouth, her eyes widened and she felt him freeze against her as she realized exactly what she'd just revealed. It wasn't some grand gesture or huge proclamation, just the words coming from her mouth as they made the journey to her childhood home. There was nothing about it that was special or significant aside from the fact of it being the first time she'd said it to him.
"What?" He breathed out quietly. She sucked in a huge breath before she turned in his arms so she could see him. His eyes were on her face immediately and she saw the hope and happiness in his eyes that he was trying to keep from shining through.
"I love you." She said it like it was a fact. Like she'd say the sky was blue and water was wet, and she felt stupid for not having realized it earlier. Of course she loved him, how could she not?
"Gods, Arya." He blew out before dragging her in for a deep kiss which she returned happily. "I don't know what I did to deserve you but whatever it was, I'm so fucking glad."
"Me too." She said.
They spent an inordinate amount of time after that kissing and whispering the words to each other softly before finally drifting off the sleep with their arms still wrapped around each other and smiles on their faces. It was the happiest she'd ever been.
On the way North to Winterfell they took a detour to the Riverlands to visit Lady Catelyn's family at Riverrun. Hoster Tully was happy to accommodate them for a few days and Gendry found no complaint for a rest before continuing. Lady Catelyn seemed happy to spend time with her father and brother and even her uncle, who everyone called the Blackfish, though he wasn't entirely sure why.
Sansa spent much of her time with Lady Margaery, with Arya joining them occasionally, but more often than not he found his wife in the training yard with Rickon. He seemed to be determined to become skilled with the bow and she seemed determined to help so they were usually together. That left him to spend a large portion of his time with Robb which he didn't mind all that much as they'd become friends over the weeks since they'd met.
"I imagine you're quite excited." He said, looking at Robb who sat next to him as they observed Arya and Rickon in the yard. "To be getting married, I mean."
"I am." Robb said. "Margaery is great."
"Do you think she'll like Winterfell?" He asked and Robb shrugged.
"Winterfell is quiet different to Highgarden or the court in King's Landing." He said, pursing his lips in thought. "It's simpler in Winterfell. The people are more honest in a way that can sometimes seem a bit brusque but I hope she likes it anyway."
"I'm sure she'll find it agreeable." Gendry said, trying for a diplomatic answer. "I can't wait to see it myself. Arya speaks of it with obvious fondness and I think it'll be great to have her show me her favorite places when we get there."
"She'll have you climbing trees and getting into trouble the moment we get there." Robb said with a fond smile and Gendry laughed.
"Probably." He shrugged as his eyes found her once more. "But any trouble we manage to get into, she's worth it all."
"You really do love her don't you?" Robb asked and Gendry nodded automatically.
"I do." He confirmed. "She's amazing."
"Well I'm glad." Robb smiled. " She's my little sister, I've always wanted the best for her. I like knowing that she'll be happy with you."
"She will." He assured him. Arya glanced over her shoulder as if she could feel his eyes on her and he smiled at her when he noticed making her smile back as she leaned over to say something to Rickon before making her way over to where they were sitting.
"Robb, go help Rickon." She said making her brother raise an eyebrow at her as he stood from where he was sat.
"As you command, your grace." He bowed to her in an exaggerated way and she hit his shoulder before shoving him toward their brother. He went with a grin on his face and Gendry turned his eyes to look at her.
"You need something?" He asked and she shrugged.
"Let's go for a walk." She said, reaching out her hand and wiggling her fingers until he intertwined their hands and allowed himself to be pulled away from the training grounds and through the castle. She led him out to the Godswood of the castle and looped her arm through his as they walked through the trees.
"Are you alright?" He asked.
"Of course, why?" She asked and he raised an eyebrow.
"I was just wondering." He said. "Since you pulled me through the castle and into the Godswood without saying anything at all. I thought something might be wrong."
"Nothing's wrong." She said with a shrug. "There's just been so many people travelling with us and in the castle that I feel like we haven't spent any time alone together. There always seems to be someone around, I just wanted you to myself for a while."
"Yeah?" He asked, looking at her with a smirk before pulling her further into the trees where he knew they wouldn't be visible if someone happened to look out a window before pushing her back against a sturdy looking tree. "Why's that?"
She looked up at him with heat in her eyes as her tongue came out to sweep along her bottom lip.
"I want you." She breathed out. "Gods, I need you to touch me."
"I thought you said I had to keep it in my pants until we reached Winterfell." He teased as he dragged his lips across her collarbone and she let out a shaky breath.
"That was when we were surrounded by my family in thin tents." She said. "But now we're in a castle for a few days. I thought we should take advantage of that fact."
"Hmm." He breathed out. "You know there's a perfectly good bed in out chambers. You didn't have to drag me to the Godswood."
"If we were in our chambers they could come looking for us." She said. "If we're in the Godswood, they won't bother us until we come out."
"Sound logic." He said before dragging her into him as he finally kissed her.
She made a soft sound as her fingers curled into the front of his tunic and she pressed herself even closer and he thanked the gods that today was a day she chose to wear a dress because it made it easier for him to drag the fabric up and sneak his hand underneath. He pulled in a breath of surprise when his fingers touched her skin and he realized that she wasn't wearing anything underneath her dress. She didn't give him much time to process that information before she was pressing her hips forward in an attempt to get him to touch her were she wanted.
His lips left hers to leave a trail of open mouthed kisses down her throat as he slid his fingers against her and she let out a soft gasp of pleasure. He grabbed one of her legs and pulled it up to curl around his hip as his other hand worked to bring her to the edge. He pressed two fingers into her easily and her hands tightened on his tunic as soft moans fell from her lips. He curled his fingers, trying to find the spot that always got her over the edge, and he knew he hit it when her hips jerked suddenly and he head fell back against the tree.
He paid extra attention to that spot with each thrust of his fingers and it wasn't long before she gave a long moan and her eyes fell closed as she clenched around his fingers tightly. Her entire body seemed to relax after a moment and she dragged him in for a rough kiss which he happily accepted. He pulled his fingers out of her as her hands trailed down to pull on the laces of his breeches.
"You're sure you want to do this here?" He asked.
"I'm sure." She said, sounding breathless as she finally got the knot undone and shoved his breeches down quickly. His cock sprung free, already hard, and she stroked him a couple of times before looking up at him. "I want you to fuck me."
He didn't need to be told twice. He pushed her dress up further so that it was out of the way and took his cock in his hand to line it up with her entrance before pushing into her quickly. He cursed under his breath as she engulfed him in slick wet heat and his hips jerked rapidly. Both of them were breathing heavily, the wet sound of their bodies meeting clear in the quiet of the woods, and her soft moans increased in both frequency and volume as she clutched at him.
He kissed her to slightly muffle her sounds just in case someone else came into the Godswood, which she accepted easily as she slipped her tongue past his lips, as pleasure engulfed both of them. He was clutching at her hips to keep her firmly against the tree as he snapped his hips forward chasing his pleasure. She gave a soft surprised moan as she reached her climax once more, quicker than either of them expected, and clenched tightly around him. He kept his hips moving in an effort to extend their joining but he fell over the edge after her embarrassingly quickly and released deep inside her. He stopped moving with his cock still buried deep inside her and leaned his forehead against hers in an attempt to catch his breath.
"Well, that was quicker than expected." He said, still breathless and she snorted quietly as she looked at him with amusement.
"Don't be so hard on yourself. It has been a week since we've had sex, after all." She said. "You were probably just over eager."
He pulled out of her and dropped her to her feet before helping her rearrange her clothing and tucking himself back into his breeches.
"You say that as if you didn't come before I did." He said and she rolled her eyes.
"Alright, so we were both overeager." She said. "I suppose we'll just have to practice some more. Get our stamina back up."
"Sounds like a plan." He said, pulling her to him with a hand on her hip and kissing her deeply again.
By the time they left Riverrun a couple of days later, he and Arya had spent a considerable amount of time in their chambers together and he knew by the looks they received from her siblings that they all knew exactly what they'd been doing but he couldn't bring himself to care. They were newly married, as Margaery had pointed out, and he was happy to use that as the excuse for their copious amount of sex.
Once they got back on the road, he noticed that Arya had started spending a lot of time with Shireen. The girl was intelligent for her age and he'd noticed that the longer they were away from her parents, the more she opened up and smiled. Rickon seemed smitten with his betrothed, he'd caught the boy staring at her more than once and he would happily sit and listen to her read stories from her books when otherwise he'd been running all over the place and Gendry knew that Arya had been right to ask her father to make a match between them.
When he saw Arya sitting with Shireen and braiding the girls hair as they spoke he found himself lost in his thoughts. He knew that Arya wanted a child because they'd discussed it and as he looked at the two of them together he felt like he was glimpsing the future for just a moment. He knew that their children would likely have a similar look to Shireen and he found himself wanting it just as much as Arya seemed to. He wanted to see her growing round with their child and teaching them to use a sword or running around the castle grounds with them.
"You'll have a child of your own soon." Lady Catelyn spoke, her voice startling him as he was unaware of her presence until that moment.
"What?" He asked.
"You will have a child of your own soon." She repeated. "I imagine with the amount of time you spend together that I should expect a grandchild rather quickly."
"I hope so." He said, his cheeks heating at her words.
"An heir is important to you, I would guess." She said and he shrugged.
"I mean, sure that is important, but it's more than that. Arya wants a child and I want to give her everything so I hope we have one soon." He said, his eyes trailing back to Arya and Shireen. "I think I'd love having children with her, she'll be a good mother."
"She's always been kind and friendly, even with the castle staff and smallfolk, so I agree. She'll be a fantastic mother." She said before she turned to face him fully. "I wanted to apologize."
"What for, My Lady?" He asked in confusion.
"When my daughter was first betrothed to you, I fear I was rather judgemental and rude about your status and I'm sorry." She said sincerely. "You care for my daughter, anyone would be able to see that, and you are kind and compassionate. You are not at all what I suspected and I was wrong to judge you for the circumstances of your birth so I'm sorry."
"There's no need to apologize." He said quietly. "I know that you just want the best for your children."
"I do." She nodded. "And you are what's best for Arya, I know that now. You've never asked her to change, which I admit to being guilty of doing. You love her for exactly who she is. That's all I've ever wanted for any of my children."
"I think it worked out well for both of us." He admitted. "I don't know what I'd do if I had been made to marry one of the ladies of the court who act as if dirtying their clothes is the end of the world."
"Well, luckily that didn't happen." Lady Catelyn smiled at him. "You and Arya are an almost perfect match, almost like fate."
"I suppose." He smiled.
They moved toward the fire that had just been lit in the center of camp and the next few hours were filled with stories and laughter. Arya leaned into him until he wrapped an arm around her and she sighed happily. He ended up having to carry her to their tent after she fell asleep against him but he didn't mind too much, happily tucking her under the furs after removing her boots and joining her himself. She rolled toward him in a sleepy daze and wrapped herself firmly around him, tucking her face against his neck as she did, and he smiled as he pulled her closer. He thought maybe Lady Catelyn was right, their relationship felt like fate.
Once they reached Winterfell, Arya wasted no time in showing Gendry all of her favorite spots and taking full advantage of the hot springs beneath the castle but that only filled one full day. The next few days were spent greeting her brother's bannermen and spending time with her family in the great hall. Robb had announced his betrothal to the men on the second day that they were in Winterfell and many of them grumbled about the match because he hadn't chosen a northern bride and many of them had daughters or sisters that they wanted to marry off. They also took issue with the fact that Margaery would be the second Lady of Winterfell who was southern.
Her own marriage and Rickon's betrothal, both to members of the Baratheon family, had set them off even worse meaning that Robb spent much of the day reassuring them and fielding questions. It was decided then that Bran, as next in the line of succession, would marry a daughter of the North just as her mother had suspected. Many of the men also inquired about Sansa but Robb managed to deflect most of the attention from her. Arya knew that her sister would need to speak to their father very soon if she was going to avoid being married to someone that she didn't wish to be, especially considering that most of her siblings were either betrothed or married already.
Finally though, after assurances from Maester Luwin that Bran was still fully capable of producing heirs despite his injury, the bannermen accepted it. Many of them had even agreed to send their eligible daughters and sisters to Winterfell in the coming months with hopes to secure an alliance. Arya could tell that Robb was happy that they'd come to terms with his marriage before the wedding was set to take place as it freed his time up to show Margaery around. To Arya's surprise, she seemed to actually genuinely like Winterfell. Arya had expected her to hate it as she was used to a more temperate climate and more fanciful clothing and buildings but she obviously didn't. Margaery even seemed to like the frank way the people spoke despite them sometimes being unintentionally disrespectful and her attitude made Arya wonder if she was actually relieved to get away from all the scheming and lying in the southern court. Whatever the case was, Margaery took to Winterfell easily and this made the people serving in and around the castle take a liking to her.
It was two days before the wedding was set to take place that her mother called her, Sansa, Margaery and Shireen into her solar for tea and cakes while she sent the men out riding. Arya knew that Robb and Gendry, along with Jon who'd finally made it back to Winterfell from the south, were taking Rickon out to practice with his bow again. Even Bran had gone with them, his special saddle making it easy for him to ride alongside them, and he was what they were discussing.
"We have to pick a bride wisely for him." Her mother said. "Someone who will not treat him strangely because of his injury."
"I don't think Bran would want a lady who is super prim and proper either." Arya said. "He didn't like Lady Hornwood's niece when she visited. He said that she complained all the time about her dress getting dusty if they spent time in the library."
"I think he'd like someone strong." Margaery agreed, giving her a smile. "Like his fierce older sister."
"He's quite picky." Sansa said, chewing her lip. "Perhaps we should wait until he shows an interest in one of the girls who comes and then we'll be able to ascertain what it is he prefers."
"That's a smart choice." Shireen piped up quietly. "He may not even know what he'd prefer until he meets someone so picking who you think is best for him might not end up being the best choice after all."
"That is true, I suppose." Her mother nodded. "But, we will keep all of what was just said in mind. It might make the whole thing easier."
"Anyway." Sansa said, taking the opportunity to change the subject as she turned to Margaery. "Have you finished your maidencloak yet?"
"Yes, I have." Margaery smiled. "I almost can't believe that I'm getting married in two days. It's very exciting."
"I was quite nervous before my wedding." Arya admitted. "Excited but still nervous. It was lovely though."
"I suspect that the nerves will settle in the closer it gets but for now, I just can't wait." Margaery said. "Your brother is amazing and I can't wait to call him my husband, officially."
"You'll be the Lady of Winterfell." Shireen said. "That must make you nervous."
"Oh, it does but I'll have Lady Catelyn here with me." Margaery smiled at their mother. "She was the Lady of Winterfell for many years. I'm sure that she'll help me adjust to the role after the wedding."
"Of course." Her mother said graciously. "You'll make a good lady, I think."
"I hope so." Margaery said, sounding genuinely nervous. "I'm not sure that Robb's bannermen agree but I will try to do my best at it."
"They'll come to accept you soon enough. You just have to keep showing them that you will be good for the North and eventually they'll get over the fact that you're southern." Their mother told her gently.
"Good." Margaery nodded.
"So Shireen, how do you like it here in Winterfell?" Arya asked, attempting to include the girl. Shireen gave her a wide smile.
"I love it here. The snow is very pretty and I quite like the weirwood tree even though I don't follow the Old Gods." She said, her voice excited. "And Rickon introduced me to Shaggydog. He's amazing, a real life direwolf. I've read about them in my books but actually seeing one was so much better."
"Did he let you pet him?" Sansa asked, smiling at the girls enthusiasm.
"He did." Shireen smiled.
"Do you enjoy spending time with Rickon?" Their mother asked her. "I know he can be quite wild sometimes."
"I do." Shireen nodded, a slight blush on her face. "He's never mean to me about my scars."
She touched her cheek lightly with her hand as if she wanted to hide the marks on her face after bringing attention to them.
"He's a nice boy." Margaery said, smiling at the girl.
"He really is." Shireen said, glancing at their mother. "And I don't mind that he's wild sometimes. He's funny and he always includes me in his games so I think he's quite nice to spend time with."
"Well that's good, maybe when you guys are spending time together he can even teach you to shoot a bow. He's been practicing a lot." Arya suggested, ignoring the look that her mother shot her.
"Do you think he would?" Shireen asked, seeming intrigued by the prospect.
"I bet if you asked, he definitely would." Arya told her.
"But you should only do it when there is someone around to help you, just in case something happens." Sansa was quick to put it. "Ser Rodrick is the master-at-arms here in Winterfell, I'm sure he wouldn't mind overseeing it."
"Okay." Shireen nodded. "I'll make sure he's around."
Arya continued ignoring the exasperated look on her mother's face and by the slight amusement on Margaery's, she could tell that the other girl found this whole thing to be particularly funny. They spent the rest of the afternoon speaking mainly of Robb and Margaery's upcoming wedding, with her mother carefully going over everything that would happen for a northern wedding ceremony so that Margaery would be prepared and know what to do when the time came. Arya wasn't sure when the boys had come back from their ride through the woods but they were already in the great hall when she and the other girls came in for supper.
She sat next to Gendry at the high table as they all listened to Bran explain, in minute detail, everything that happened while they were riding. She was happy to see that her little brother seemed in good spirits for the first time in a long time. Gendry's hand rubbed circles on her back as he smiled and listened to the conversations going on between her family, occasionally putting his own thoughts in, and she became rather sleepy. It had been a long day and even though she hadn't done much at all, she was exhausted. She excused herself early into the meal to go to her chambers and sleep.
The next day dawned bright and early making her realize that she hadn't even noticed Gendry coming to bed. She must have been deeply asleep when he came in because she normally noticed when he got into the bed as he moved quite a lot. The sun was shining through the window, illuminating the room with early morning sunlight, and Gendry's arm was around her waist. He was pressed against her back, his little puffs of breath teasing the back of her neck, and the furs were kicked to the bottom of the bed. She sifted slowly away from him, trying not to wake him as she did, and she was finally able to slip off the bed. She grabbed the furs and yanked them back up to cover him, pressing a kiss to his cheek, before she got dressed quietly.
She was unsure when he came to bed the night before but she suspected that it was quite late. The faint scent of ale on him made her think that he'd stayed up with her brothers the night before so she would let him sleep in a little. If he wasn't up by the afternoon, she'd drag him out of bed, but for now he looked too peaceful to disturb. She left the room as quietly as she could and, intent on finding some food, made her way down to the kitchens. Her stomach was rumbling but the closer she got to the kitchens, the more she thought it was a bad idea. Something wasn't agreeing with her and the scent made her queasy.
She quickly changed her mind about eating and stumbled out into the cold air to release the contents of her stomach onto the side of the castle wall. After she finished, she ran the back of her hand over her mouth and took a long deep breath as she added quickly in her head. She wasn't stupid, she knew that the sickness and the exhaustion pointed to one thing and thinking back, she realized quickly that she hadn't had her moonblood that month. She leaned back against the castle wall for a long moment with her hand pressed to her stomach and she was almost certain that she looked a little shocked. Finally, a smile made it's way to her lips and she blew out a breath and sent a small prayer of thanks to the Gods.
She was with child, she was almost certain of that fact, but before she told Gendry she wanted to be absolutely positive so she rushed back into the castle towards Maester Luwin's chambers. She knocked on his door, bouncing impatiently on her toes, until he finally opened it. He looked at her with obvious surprise on her face as he moved aside to let her into the room.
"Lady Arya, what can I do for you?" He asked and she turned to him with a smile.
"I believe that I am with child. I was hoping that you could confirm it for me before I tell my husband." She said and she saw his eyes widen in surprise for a moment before he seemed to collect himself.
"Very well." He said, motioning to the small cot situated at the edge of the room. She moved to it easily, sitting down on the edge until he told her to lay down. He performed a thorough exam, part of which she had to get undressed for, and asked her many questions. He recorded his findings in his book after completing all of it.
"So?" She asked eagerly.
"You were correct in your assumption, my lady." He told her. "You are indeed with child. By your answers and my exam, I estimate that you are very early in you pregnancy still, two moons at most. I suspect that the child will be born in the fall."
"Thank you." She said sincerely.
"Congratulations, my lady." He said, smiling at her.
She hopped off the cot and left the room, making her way back to her own chambers, completely forgetting about her plan to let Gendry sleep in a bit longer. This was far more important and more exciting anyway so she was sure that he wouldn't mind being woken up. She burst through their chamber doors quickly, making Gendry jolt awake immediately, and he sat up quickly to look around for the source of the noise. He was obviously on guard but he relaxed when he saw that it was just her.
"Seven hells, Arya!" He exclaimed. "There are easier ways to wake me."
"Sorry." She said, but she couldn't get the smile off her face so she knew it didn't come across as sincere as she meant it. He stared at her as she made her way across the room to sit on the edge of the bed.
"Why are you so happy this morning?" He asked, slight suspicion in his voice. She grinned.
"Don't worry, I didn't do anything we'll have to explain later." She said and he raised an eyebrow.
"Why don't I believe that?" He asked and she laughed.
"I really didn't." She insisted. "I've just been to see Maester Luwin is all."
"Why? Are you sick?" He asked, his concern breaking through their joking manner as he leaned forward to press his hand against her forehead. "Why didn't you say something?"
"Gendry." She pulled his hand away from her head and brought it down to rest against her belly. "I'm not sick."
She watched as he stared at their joined hands over her belly for a long moment with a furrowed brow as he worked out her words. She could see the moment it clicked in his mind because his eyes widened and flicked up immediately to meet hers.
"Really?" He asked, voice soft and reverent. She nodded, her smile growing larger.
"Really." She answered.
He dragged her in for a kiss almost immediately before rolling her onto the bed as she giggled. He pulled away only to plant kisses all over her face, making her laugh even harder, until finally he stopped and leaned back to meet her eyes. They both had wide smiles and his eyes were twinkling with happiness.
"We're having a baby." He said.
"Yeah." She nodded.
They looked at each other for a moment before she pulled him down for another kiss. They spent the rest of the morning celebrating the news before they had to get dressed and go out to meet her family. Her heart felt light and happy the whole day and she knew Gendry's was the same. They were going to be parents and she, for one, couldn't wait.
They had informed Arya's family of the news soon after she had told him and everyone was very excited about the prospect of a babe in the family. Lady Catelyn and Sansa had both already started making clothes, which he thought was a bit eager, but he appreciated it anyway. That night though, they had something else to celebrate. The time for the wedding had come and the Godswood was filled with people from the castle to watch their Lord marry alongside the Starks.
Lady Margaery's grandmother and brother Loras had made the trip to Winterfell to witness the wedding as well and both seemed happy enough about the match. He got the impression from her grandmother that she didn't think anyone was good enough for her granddaughter but even she seemed to warm up to Robb after a time. He'd allowed Arya to drag him out to wait in the crowd after she'd finally left the chambers that Margaery was staying in, with Sansa following not far behind, and their arrival seemed to signal something because he noticed Robb stand up straighter. Even the crowd, which had been murmuring quietly to one another moments before, fell quiet.
It was only two minutes later when Margaery entered the Godswood, escorted by her brother, and even he could admit that she was beautiful. Her hair was in a simple style that he'd noticed was popular in the North and the smile on her face was radiant. The white dress she was wearing emphasized her tanned skin from living in the South and when she passed them, he caught the elaborate roses sewed into the back of her maidencloak with golden thread. Robb looked almost surprised, as if he couldn't quiet believed that this was happening. Gendry could relate, he'd felt the same on his wedding day. Maester Luwin was waiting by the Heart Tree, so when Margaery and her brother finally stopped in front of it, he proceeded quickly into the ceremony.
"Who comes before the Old Gods this night?" His voice rang out.
"Margaery of the House Tyrell, a woman grown, true born and noble, comes to be wed." Loras Tyrell answered. His voice hesitated on the words just enough to tip off that he wasn't exactly familiar with the ceremony, more accustomed to southern wedding traditions, but no one really paid it any mind. "Who comes to claim her?"
"Robb of House Stark, acting Lord of Winterfell and Warden of the North." Robb said, his voice strong and clear. "Who gives her?"
"Loras of House Tyrell, her brother." Loras replied. Maester Luwin looked at Margaery.
"Do you take this man?" He asked and her smile widened as she nodded.
"I take this man." She said, stepping away from her brother and accepting Robb's outstretched hand. He removed her maidencloak and placed his own over her shoulders before leading her closer to the heart tree where they knelt to pray and ask the blessing of the Gods. The stood a few minutes later and the crowd around them cheered and swept them away to the great hall where their wedding feast awaited.
Arya's hand on his arm held him back and they made their way back to the castle at a more leisurely pace. The moon was large and bright in the sky, illuminating their way quite easily, as snow fell around them. It was technically still summer but Arya had informed him that they got summer snows frequently this far North.
"I like it here." He told her after a moment. "It's nice. It feels like a place you can just breathe and not have to really worry about anything. It's nothing like King's Landing where the people are all liars and the air smells of shit."
"You thinking of running away?" She asked, smiling up at him. "I'd understand. You weren't raised in this life, it must seem overwhelming."
"Sometimes I think I'd be better off if I'd never been discovered and made a prince. I hate having to deal with all the lords and ladies and trying to find solutions that will keep everyone happy while still protecting the common people that sometimes seem impossible. I hate the thought that I'm going to be king one day even more, I don't know how to be a lord let alone being king and ruling over all seven kingdoms as opposed to just a small portion of the country." He said seriously before meeting her eyes. "But then, I never would have met you and that's worse than all the rest I think. Dealing with it all, I can handle it as long as you're by my side."
"We could run away together." She suggested, a smile on her face and her voice wistful but he knew that she wasn't being totally serious.
"It's a nice thought." He agreed quietly.
"Sometimes I think running away from it all would be great. We'd have no responsibilities or stress." She said. "But then I remember that I love my family too much to leave them behind and I truly do care about the common people. Who would look after them if we didn't?"
"That's true." He said. "If we have to rule then at least we can do good things while we do."
"Yeah." She said before beginning to pull him more quickly toward the castle. "Now come on, I'm starving."
They dropped the subject then and made their way inside. No one seemed to have taken note of their absence as they slipped into their seats, all too busy paying respects to their Lord and new Lady or tapping along with the music being played by the minstrels in the corner, so they were able to dig into their food without having to explain where they'd been.
The later into the night and the more ale being consumed, the rowdier the crowd became. The music became livelier and soon the space between the tables had been turned into a dance floor for the guests. Even Robb had taken to whirling Margaery around a few times and he noted that a few of the men had been brave enough to approach Sansa. She had graciously accepted but he'd caught her glancing at her sworn sword a few times, reminding him of what Arya had told him about her sister's feelings.
It was well into the night before one of the rather drunk bannermen called for the bedding ceremony. Being lowborn and having dragged Arya away from it at their own wedding after hearing about it, he'd never seen the tradition in action himself until this moment. He stayed in his seat, truly not wanting to get involved, and he noticed Arya and her family do the same.
The bannermen made quick work of stripping Margaery down to her shift and carrying her out of the room to the wedding chambers but he noticed that many of them were careful not to touch her any more than would be respectable which he hadn't expected. The ladies didn't seem to have the same qualms about Robb because Gendry had caught more than one of them sneaking a grope as they undressed him and dragged him away in a storm of giggles. He still didn't fully understand the tradition and he thought it was fully barbaric but no one else seemed fazed by it as they went back to chatting and eating.
"What is the reason for the bedding ceremony?" He asked Arya quietly. "It just seems a bit invasive and inappropriate."
"It's to ensure the consummation of the wedding." She told him. "While it can be embarrassing, many of the women don't protest it because it's less invasive than practices in the past so they just decide to deal with it."
"How much more invasive could it get?" He asked. "They strip them down in front of everyone."
"It used to be that they'd have people in the room after the marriage, usually a Maester and a few other high ranking Lords, to witness the consummation themselves. Now, most times they'll trust that the consummation has taken place without it. Sometimes they'll check the sheets, like they did ours, but that's only for the more important marriages." She shrugged and he gave her a look of disbelief.
"Why?" He asked incredulously.
"Because if a marriage isn't consummated then it's technically not legal." She explained. "And our consummation was so important because you're the prince. Our marriage is dependent on producing heirs so making sure that it was consummated was necessary."
"And what if we never produced heirs?" He asked. "What would've happened then? You said our marriage was dependent on it."
"If I never produced an heir then the King could have our marriage annulled, or you could, and you would be free to remarry." She said, before dropping her hand to her belly. "But that's not something that we need to worry about."
"I wouldn't do that, even if you never had a child." He said seriously. "I love you."
"You likely wouldn't have much of a choice in the matter." She told him. "But I appreciate the thought anyway."
"I'd refuse to remarry then." He said stubbornly. "I couldn't be compelled to do it so I wouldn't."
"You're sweet." She said, leaning over to kiss him but the smile on her face told him that she appreciated his words.
"I still don't like the bedding ceremony." He said as they pulled back and she laughed.
"You're stubborn." She told him.
"I know." He replied.
Within the next few days, girls from keeps and castles close to Winterfell began arriving and Arya informed him that they were there hoping to secure a betrothal with Bran. The boy himself seemed receptive to the idea and he saw him wheeling around the castle with a different girl beside him a few times, obviously doing his best to spend time with each one of them, and he found that he didn't envy him. He could hardly imagine having to make small talk with some of the girls, who looked far to ladylike for him and others who seemed to have absolutely nothing interesting to say.
A few of them had tried to talk to him about King's Landing and being a prince but seemed to quickly realize that he wasn't much of a conversationalist because they'd find a reason to abandon the conversation quickly afterwords. He was grateful that none of them seemed to eager to converse for long periods of time. Arya found his constant admirers and resulting sour attitude amusing, smirking at him when she caught him trying not to roll his eyes.
Most of the time though, she was with her brother Jon. He was set to go back to the wall in a couple of days and she was spending as much time with him as she could before he went as they didn't know the when the next time they'd see each other was. Jon had thanked him for getting his father to compel people to send men when he'd told him and the look on the other man's face had got him thinking seriously about things.
He had an idea that he wanted to work out but first he needed to talk to Arya about it so he was thankful when he retreated to his chambers early that evening and found her already inside. She was standing by the window, looking out at the courtyard below as the setting sun turned the sky pink and when he joined her, he found that she was looking at Rickon and Shireen playing some sort of game that involved standing a few feet apart and throwing a ball while Shaggydog ran between them. The massive direwolf dwarfed both of them but never seemed to knock into either of them, even by accident, as he humored them in whatever they were doing.
"They're a good match." He said, laying his hands on her shoulders and she smiled as she leaned back into him.
"Yeah, the really are." She said. "I think they'll be good for each other."
"Me too." He said, pressing a kiss to the top of her head. "Anyway, I wanted to talk to you about something."
"Oh?" She asked, tilting her head back to look at him.
"I know that you're enjoying your time here in Winterfell with your family." He started. "I am too. I love seeing where you grew up and exploring your favorite places but I was thinking when Jon left that maybe we'd go along with him. Make a visit to the Wall."
"You planning on taking the black?" She teased and he rolled his eyes as he grinned.
"They're not allowed to have wives or children." He said, moving his hands from her soldiers to settle on her belly. "I'm quite happy having both and I don't really want to give them up."
"Then why the sudden urge to visit?" She asked, curiosity obvious in her voice.
"The Wall is one of the most important parts of the Seven Kingdoms and since I'm going to be ruling them one day, I thought it was prudent for a visit. I can hear their concerns and take them back to my father." He said. "Plus, there's something that Jon said that I want to check out for myself."
"What's that?" She asked, turning to face him fully.
"He told me that there's more than just Wildlings on the other side of the Wall." He told her seriously. "He said that the stories about the Others weren't just stories. I want to talk to the men at the Wall, hear what they have to say about it, because if what your brother had said is true then we have a huge problem that we need to deal with. It's something that we'll have to take measures to fix."
"I've never known Jon to be a liar." Arya said, obviously catching the seriousness of the conversation. "But you're right, we should speak to the other men on the Wall. We can start preparing to leave tomorrow and go with Jon when he departs, this is more important than spending time with my family. We'll have to come back to Winterfell to retrieve Sansa before journeying back south anyway so we can say goodbye to them then."
"I'm not quiet sure what we're supposed to do if it turns out that Jon's fears are founded." He admitted and she chewed her lip, a concerned look on her face.
"We'll figure it out." She said determinedly. "But first we have to understand the extent of the issue."
"You're right." He agreed. "I just hope that it's something we can handle."
"Me too." She nodded.
The trip to the Wall took a week and the cold become more bracing with each step so she was happy when they were welcomed into the hall and there was a blazing fire in the hearth. The men seemed curious about their presence but none of them questioned it as Jon introduced them to Lord Commander Mormont, who thanked Gendry again for commanding the kingdoms to send people to the Wall.
They sat with Jon in the hall and he introduced them to his friends. Arya was surprised to see a girl among them who had a baby resting in a basket surrounded by blankets but everyone else seemed used to her presence leading Arya to believe that she'd been among them for some time. She also noticed that Jon's friend Sam was particularly close to the girl, whose name she learned was Gilly.
"I thought men of the Night's watch weren't allowed to have children." She said, looking pointedly at the baby.
"He's not mine, your grace." Sam said quickly. "I rescued Gilly and little Sam north of the Wall and brought her here. Lord Commander Mormont has allowed her to stay until we can find a place for her in Moles Town."
"Oh." Arya said, still not entirely sure that she believed him as she could see that the man had a soft spot for Gilly and her baby but she let it go.
"Anyway." Jon said in an obvious effort to change the subject. "Reinforcements should be coming to the Wall soon so we'll have more people to man the wall and fight, which will be a lot of help."
"Gendry told me about what you told him." Arya said, looking at her brother fully. "How bad is it?"
"Really bad." Jon said, his brow creasing in worry. "The white walkers are slowly making their way south to the Wall and they have far more in their army than we can even comprehend."
"And that's not mentioning that anyone who dies fighting them just becomes another body in their army." Ed said.
"They can really raise the dead?" Gendry asked and she could tell he was still trying to work out if he believed it or not.
"They can." Sam nodded. "I've seen it with my own eyes and so have they. Their eyes turn ice blue when they come back."
"How do you kill something that's already dead?" She asked.
"The wights you can just burn or use dragon glass." Jon said. "The white walkers require either dragon glass or valyrian steel weapons."
"What's the difference between the two?" Gendry asked. "I mean, why is it easier to kill one than the other."
"The wights are the corpses of people or creatures that have died and been reanimated." Sam explained. "The White Walkers are something entirely different. I'm not really sure how they work or where they came from but I know it must be some sort of magic that created them. The White Walkers are the ones who can bring things back to life. They're sort of like commanders in a living army, they direct the others where to go. They are far harder to kill."
"And what exactly is dragon glass?" Arya asked. "Is it magical or rare like valyrian steel is?"
"No." Sam said. "I read in a book that Dragonstone is built on a mountain of dragon glass. If you could find a way to mine it then making weapons from it would be quiet easy."
"That's good." Gendry said with a nod. "When I get back to King's Landing I can have people sent to start mining it immediately."
"We appreciate any help you can give us. Truly." Jon said.
"We'll want to speak to the Lord Commander about this threat while we're here as well." Arya said. "But that can wait for a time. Why don't you show us around Jon?"
"There's really not much to see but I guess I could give you a tour." Jon said, smiling at her and seeming more relaxed than he had been in a long time.
She and Gendry stood from the table and bid Jon's friend's goodbye before following her brother out of the warm hall and back into the open courtyard, where she noticed Gendry pulling his cloak tighter around himself as the wind blew through. She would have liked to mock him and his southern blood but she had to admit that even she felt the brutal cold sending a chill up her spine. She had no idea how the Night's Watch even operated in these temperatures but every one of them they passed as they followed Jon seemed perfectly content standing around in the cold. She supposed that you probably got used to the temperature after a while, though she didn't think she'd ever adjust to it.
Jon showed them the various parts of Castle Black, including the kitchen and latrines, before he ushered them into a wooden box attached to a wench that took them to the very top of the Wall. She and Gendry both stayed much further back from the edge than Jon but the view was still breathtaking. She could see the vast wilderness beyond the Wall for miles from their elevated position and it was beautiful, all covered in snow as it was.
The stayed on top of the Wall for some time before she and Gendry both became too cold to bear it anymore and Jon lead them back down to the bottom. He was intending to take them to the chamber they'd be staying in until he became distracted by the silent white wolf that padded up to him. She felt Gendry grab her arm, his eyes wide as he stared at the direwolf, and she found herself smiling.
"You've seen a direwolf before." She reminded him. "Shaggydog and Summer were both running around Winterfell when we were there. Why are you acting so weird about Ghost?"
"One, he's much bigger than the other two and could probably eat me if he wanted." Gendry said, prompting her to snort in laughter. "And two, he's eerily quiet. If he came from another direction, I never would have heard him coming."
"He's not going to eat you." She told him, rolling her eyes in amusement. When she turned back to Jon she found him watching their exchange with a grin on his face.
"She's right, Ghost won't hurt you." He said. "He's a gentle giant unless faced by an enemy, which you're not."
"Still, it's a bit unnerving." Gendry maintained, eyeing the giant wolf. "But I suppose he hasn't done anything I should be worried about so it's fine."
"Come on." Jon said, still grinning. "I'll finish showing you to your chambers."
They followed him the rest of the way to the room they'd be staying in. It was much smaller than their chambers at the Red Keep and at Winterfell but she didn't mind and she knew Gendry didn't either, having grown up where he had. The room was cozy, with a bed covered by furs and a fire blazing in the hearth that chased away the brutal cold from outside, and she was quick to slip out of her clothes and climb into the bed. She left her shift on though as she figured it would likely get much colder as the night went on and she wanted some barrier between her skin and the open air.
Gendry was quick to join her, leaving his clothes next to hers, and he pulled her close to him the moment he was covered by the furs to share their body heat. They were both quiet for a time and she thought he'd fallen asleep as his eyes were closed and his breathing was even but when he spoke it made her realize that he'd just been thinking.
"I don't know how we're going to deal with this threat." He admitted. "Even with the extra men being sent here to the Wall, it won't be enough."
"I know but now we know about the dragonglass at least we'll have weapons for the men." She said. "And I'm sure your uncle Stannis will have some idea of the other weapons we could modify or add dragonglass to. He's a battle tested war commander, he'll know something."
"Hopefully it'll be enough." Gendry said and she could tell by the tone of his voice that he was worried.
"You could also send a raven to the King and have him start the mining on Dragonstone before we return instead of waiting to see him in person." She suggested. "That way, there will already be some to work with when we get back."
"You want me to tell him in a letter that literal dead men are marching on the Wall and we need weapons to fight them?" Gendry raised an eyebrow as he glanced at her. "I'm sure that'll go over well. He'll think I've lost my mind."
"Well maybe don't mention that part but you can tell him that the dragonglass is to make weapons for the Night's Watch." She said. "We can tell him that they're short on weapons and the dragonglass will cost the crown less than arming them with steel and that a member of the Night's Watch suggested it himself because the material makes sturdy weapons. We can save the whole dead men thing for when we see him in person."
"That's fair enough." Gendry nodded. "I'll have a raven sent out tomorrow. For now, we should get some sleep. We still have to speak to the Lord Commander in the morning."
"I suppose you're right." She agreed, snuggling even closer to him before she closed her eyes and fell asleep.
She woke late in the night and it took a moment for her eyes to adjust to the darkness of the room. The fire had burned low, making the room feel much colder than it had when they went to sleep, and as much as she wanted to just curl further under the furs she forced herself to get up and stoke the fire. She added a few small logs of wood and waited until they had caught before she turned back to the bed. She padded quietly across the floor but before she could slip back under the furs, she noticed that Gendry's eyes were open and looking at her. He looked sleepy as she laid down next to him and he flung the furs back over her, letting them settle over her body easily.
"Sorry, I didn't mean to wake you." She said, her voice sounding loud in the quiet of the room.
"It's okay." He answered, his voice sounding rough from sleep. "Is it morning yet?"
"I don't think so." She shook her head. "We can go back to sleep for a few more hours I think."
"What if I don't want to go back to sleep?" He asked, sounding much more awake as he smirked at her and she raised an eyebrow.
"Oh yeah, and what exactly is it you plan to do if not to sleep?" She asked and he rolled her onto her back and slotted himself between her legs, holding himself above her with a hand on either side of her head.
"I have a few ideas." He said.
Before she could respond, he leaned down and covered her lips with his own and she responded eagerly. Her legs wrapped around his waist, pressing him even more firmly against her and she let out a soft whimper as she felt him hard and ready through his smallclothes. Her hips bucked against him without conscious thought as his tongue slipped into her mouth and her hands wove into his hair. His hips rocked into her as his tongue explored her mouth and with each thrust he stimulated that little bud situated at the top of her slit and she found herself wondering if she could come just from this. The sharp punctuation of pleasure with each thrust told her probably.
She tugged at his hair lightly, making him groan, as her feet pressed against his lower back to drive him against her harder. She pulled her mouth from his as pleasure zipped up her spine and she moaned quietly. His lips immediately attached to her neck and her back arched as she felt that pressure building in her belly embarrassingly quickly. A few more thrust of his hips and she was flung over the edge as her nails dug into his shoulders and her entire body tensed for a long moment. He pulled away from her neck and looked down at her with a mixture of surprise and pride on his face.
"I barely touched you." He said in astonishment.
"Shut up." She said, her face flushing.
"No need to be embarrassed. It's a compliment really." He said with a grin. "A boost to my ego."
She pushed at his shoulders until she was able to flip them over and straddled his waist.
"As if you need a boost." She said, looking down at him. "You already know that all you have to do is touch me and I'll let you win any battle. I enjoy my husband, nothing wrong with that."
"Nothing indeed." He said, pulling at the fabric of her shift to bring her down to him for a kiss.
She went willingly as her hands worked at the ties on her smallclothes and she managed to get them off fairly easily. She yanked at his smallclothes enough to free his cock, not bothering to get them off completely in her impatience, and in only a few minutes she was sliding down onto him.
They groaned softly in unison as she slid down onto him completely. She rocked her hips slowly, savoring the feeling of having him sheathed fully inside her, and pleasure rolled through her. His hands went to her hips and she felt him grip her tightly as he lifted his hips from the bed to meet her, their bodies moving in sync as they shared this intimacy. Soft breaths fell from her lips as they moved together and her skin broke out into goosebumps making her nipples harden.
He surprised her when he sat up, his hand sliding from her hips as he wrapped his arms around her, and he drew her into another kiss. This position felt much more intimate than any other and their pace slowed. His hands pulled at the back of her shift before he pulled it up and over her head, breaking their kiss for only a moment, and dropping it to the bed beside them.
Her breath came in gasping moans, the sound muffled by his lips, and the hair on his chest tickled her bare skin. Her nails ran lightly across his shoulders and she felt him shudder at the sensation, his thrust becoming harder once more. The change in pace and angle allowed him to hit that spot deep inside her and she jerked out of the kiss in surprise as a bolt of pleasure hit her.
Their eyes met and she could see that the blue of his eyes was almost completely swallowed by the darkness of his pupils but underneath the desire and lust she could still see the love he had for her.
"I love you." She gasped out.
"I love you too." He said, his voice rough, and the sweet kiss he dropped on her lips felt like a contrast to what they were currently doing.
They kept eye contact as he brought her closer and closer to release with his movements, making her grip tighten on his shoulders as her gasping breaths increased, and his hand came up to cup her cheek.
"Come for me." He said softly and his voice tipped her over the edge.
Her eyes fell closed and her breath left her in a long sigh as she clenched tightly around him. Her ears were ringing and she felt a bit hazy but she could still feel his hips driving into hers before he released inside her with a soft curse. He buried his face in her neck and they held each other as they came down from the high.
They had threats from beyond the Wall and no idea how to deal with it yet but for tonight, they could set it all aside and just be with each other. She knew they had a long road ahead and many people to convince of something that sounded impossible but she was glad she had him by her side to face it all with. They'd do this together.
They met Jon in the courtyard the next morning with the intent of having him show them to the chambers of Lord Commander Mormont so that they could discuss the issue beyond the Wall further and he greeted them with a slight redness in his cheeks that Gendry chalked up to being from the cold wind blowing. Ghost trailed behind them silently and Gendry was still a bit unnerved by the pure white direwolf and it's red gaze but he did his best to ignore it as he pulled his cloak tighter around him to ward off the chill. Arya and Jon were speaking quietly as they spoke about their family and the developments taking place, such as Rickon's betrothal to Shireen and Robb's marriage, until they reached the chambers that served as the Lord Commander's solar.
When they stepped in, Jon closed the door behind them to block out the chill and discourage any eager ears at the same time before he took up a post beside the desk where an older man sat. His beard was neatly trimmed, as was his hair, and both were white giving context to his age. He seemed to study Gendry and Arya both for a long moment before motioning for them to take the seats in front of his desk.
"Thank you for meeting with us, Lord Commander." Arya said. The man nodded in acknowledgement.
"Jon tells me that you agreed to have more men sent to the Wall." He began, his voice was deep to match his large size. "I thank you for that. It's truly needed."
"Of course." Gendry said. "Jon informed us about the true threat beyond the Wall, we'll do anything we can to help. If what we've heard about the White Walkers returning is true, then it's a problem for all Seven Kingdoms not just the North."
"And on that matter, I had a few questions." Arya piped in.
"Ask them. I'll answer as best I can with the knowledge I have." Lord Commander Mormont said, waving his hand for her to continue.
"Old Nan used to tell us stories about Bran the Builder and the Wall. She said that it was reinforced with spell work from the Children of the Forest." She said. "The Wall has stood for thousands of years so I have to assume it's true. With that in mind, can the White Walkers even cross the Wall?"
"Truly, I don't know." Lord Commander Mormont said. "We have to be prepared for that possibility either way."
"I suppose that's true." Arya said, chewing her lip. "I guess, the next logical question is what will they do if they can't. The rangers and night's watchmen that we've spoken too have said that they are moving further south than they ever did before. Assuming that they're making their way to the Wall, they must have some plan as to how they'll get past."
"Again, I don't know." He sighed. "I'm hoping that we'll be able to stop them before they get that far."
"And the Wildlings?" Gendry put in. "Jon has told us that they are attacking the Wall even more than they did before. Does that have something to do with this?"
"I assume that they're just trying to get south of the Wall." Jon put in, finally joining the conversation. "The White Walkers are ruthless. They kill everything in their path, be it man, woman, or child, and anything that they kill is just brought back as one more soldier in their army. The Wildlings are dying in droves because they have no way to defend themselves. They have no dragonglass or valyrian steel, all the weapons they have are useless against the Army of the Dead."
"So, the longer they're on that side of the wall, the stronger the Army of the Dead become." Arya concluded and Jon nodded.
"We can't just leave them out there." Gendry said, looking at each person in the room. "They're people who deserve our protection and if we abandon them, we are basically helping our enemy."
"You can't seriously be suggesting that we let them through the Wall." Lord Commander Mormont said and Gendry blew out a long breath.
"That's exactly what I'm suggesting." He said. "We could meet with them, form a truce, present them with conditions of coming south of the Wall."
"People won't like it." Jon warned. "Sworn brothers and Northmen alike will be against it."
"I don't think we have much of a choice here." Arya said. "People may not like it but it will be better for everyone in the long term."
"Better for everyone?" Lord Commander Mormont asked. "How exactly do you suppose it will be better for everyone to have Wildlings living alongside them."
"Because it will be less they'll have to fight against when the Long Night comes again." Arya said seriously.
"How many Wildlings are there beyond the Wall?" Gendry asked.
"Over a hundred thousand." Jon answered.
"A hundred thousand." Gendry said, looking at each of them seriously. "A hundred thousand more soldiers for our enemy to use against us. It's better to have them come south of the Wall and deal with figuring out how to live with them than having to deal with them when they're mindless killers in a war we can't afford to lose."
"Say I agreed with you." Lord Commander Mormont said in a pondering voice. "How do you propose we meet with them?"
"Jon said that you've gotten word that they're amassing into a group under the leadership of Mance Rayder, who they call the King-Beyond-The-Wall." Gendry said. "It's likely that meeting with him would be the best chance at securing an alliance."
"Right, and you're just going to walk up and offer it?" Lord Commander Mormont scoffed. "They'd kill you the moment you stepped into their camp."
"Perhaps we could get word to them that we want to set up a meeting under a peace banner." Arya suggested. "As I understand it, Mance Rayder was a black brother before he abandoned his post. He'll know what that truly means."
"And you're going to meet with him yourself?" Lord Commander Mormont asked, looking at Gendry intently.
"If that's what it takes." He said, determined to make this work.
Lord Commander Mormont and Jon studied him for a long time, neither speaking a word, and he could practically see the wheels turning in their heads as they considered his words. He hoped that he hadn't just made a fool of himself but Arya looked proud of him so he assumed that he'd done well, though he couldn't really tell from their reactions. Finally, Jon blew out a breath and looked at Arya.
"You support this plan?" He asked.
"Completely." She nodded and Jon sighed.
"Fine. I'll try to get word to the King-Beyond-The-Wall." He said. "I wouldn't expect much though, the Wildlings are a proud and stubborn people."
"It's worth a try." Arya shrugged. Gendry suspected that the conversation was winding down so he took a moment to speak before they left the room.
"When we go back to King's Landing, preparations should have already begun as we're having dragonglass weapons made to be sent to the Wall." He informed him. "You have the full support of the crown. We'll meet this threat together."
"Thank you, your grace." Lord Commander Mormont said.
"You're welcome." He replied as he and Arya stood from the chairs.
They left the room with Jon once again leading them and a thought occurred to Gendry, making him stop and look at Jon.
"Do you have any dragonglass here at Castle Black?" He asked. "I'd like to examine it if I could to see what the best way to forge it to weapons would be."
"Sam has some in his chambers. We could go get it." Jon said and Gendry nodded.
"Lead the way." He replied.
Arya had gone back to their chambers, stating that she wasn't feeling well, while Jon had taken Gendry to retrieve the dragonglass before showing him to the forge where he laid it out on an empty table to examine. After a moment he noticed Jon staring at him with a strange expression on his face prompting him to raise an eyebrow at the other man.
"Something wrong?" He asked and Jon blew out a long breath.
"I feel as if I should warn you. My chambers aren't that far from the one that you and my sister are staying in." He said, confusing Gendry even more.
"Okay?" He said, the word coming out like a question.
"The walls are quite thin, is all." He said, his expression becoming pinched and Gendry suddenly got his meaning making him turn bright red.
"Ah." He said, rubbing the back of his neck. "Sorry."
"She's my little sister." Jon said. "There are some things I don't need to know."
"Yeah, of course." Gendry nodded. "We'll be quieter."
He turned his eyes back to the dragonglass, which he stared at intently to avoid looking at Jon, as it occurred to him that that probably wasn't the best response. It had basically confirmed to him that Gendry was having sex with his little sister, which while being obvious as they were married, probably still didn't help ease Jon's discomfort.
"Right." Jon said suddenly. "Um, thanks."
He spun on his heal and abruptly walked away, removing himself from the awkward situation and giving Gendry time for his blush to go away. Gendry focused on the dragonglass, determined to forget the conversation with Arya's brother entirely, and found himself so absorbed in his work that he didn't realize the passing of time until the sun began to set.
In the time he'd been in the forge, he had worked out that despite the name the material wasn't actually glass but rather a form of rock. He'd also discovered that it was brittle when heated meaning that smithing it would be a bit more difficult as you had to have a light hand when forming it. He suspected that jewelry smiths would be able to help others who were less familiar with forming difficult material but thankfully it didn't seem like an impossible task. He'd have to remember to send word to King's Landing to recruit jewelry smiths to help out.
He cleaned up in the basin next to the fire of the forge before making his way back across the courtyard to the room he shared with Arya, already having become familiar enough with the castle to make it at least that far, and when he stepped in he found that she already had food sat out on the table. He greeted her with a light kiss before sitting down.
"Are you feeling better?" He asked and she nodded.
"Much better." She said, dipping her spoon into the bowl of stew in front of her.
"That's good." He replied, soaking up the broth from the bowl with his bread to soften it enough to eat.
"So, the Wildlings." She said, chewing her lip. "Do you think we're doing the right thing bringing them south? Jon's right, people aren't going to like it at all."
"I don't see what other choice we have." He admitted. "We can't afford to let our enemy get stronger. They're already near impossible for us to fight, we can't let them gain more soldiers. Besides, I meant what I said, they're people who deserve to be protected. The only thing that makes us different from them is that we were born on the right side of the Wall and they weren't."
"I suppose you're right." She mused. "It will be difficult but it's something that needs to be done. People will just have to learn to accept it."
"Yeah." He nodded.
They fell quiet for a moment as they ate in companionable silence before he blew out a long sigh and glanced at her. Her eyes were on him the moment the sound left his mouth and he knew his next words wouldn't be received lightly.
"If Jon manages to get word to Mance Rayder and he agrees to meet, I'll have to be among the men who ride out for the meeting." He said and she nodded.
"I know." She said and he pursed his lips.
"You can't come." He said. Her eyes narrowed to a glare and the anger in them told him that his suspicions were correct, she wasn't going to take this well.
"Is that a command, your grace?" She snapped, her tone and formality making him wince.
"It's not a command." He said gently. "It's a request."
"Why?" She ground the word out through her teeth.
He shifted his chair closer to her before reaching out a hand to rest low on her belly reminding her of the babe that grew inside of her. Their babe.
"If something happens to me out there, you're carrying the future heir." He said softly. "If it were any other time, you know I'd have you by my side but I need you to be safe. I need both of you to be safe. Please Arya."
Her hand came to rest over his as she glanced down at her belly. Her eyes softened slightly and she sighed.
"Okay." She said softly. "I'll stay here at Castle Black."
"Thank you." He breathed out, placing a soft kiss on her forehead.
"You'll come back." She said, her voice sure. "Nothing's going to happen to you out there."
"How do you know?" He asked.
"Because if you get hurt out there, I'll kill you." She said with a smile and he laughed.
"I'd expect nothing less." He grinned. She stared at him for a moment before leaning forward to kiss him thoroughly.
"I love you." She said as she leaned back.
"I love you too." He replied.
They'd make it through this together. He knew it. There was no other option.
It was a week later before they received a response from Mance Rayder, who agreed to meet with them, but he'd insisted on Gendry coming along which she had expected. It made sense that he'd want a guarantee from the Prince himself. She knew that Jon would be going along with him as well, along with two of the Kingsguard that had come North with them - the other two would be staying with her at the Wall - and she had to trust them to protect each other beyond the Wall.
They'd be leaving the next morning at first light and according to Jon, they wouldn't be back for a few days. She was nervous for both of them but she knew that this meeting needed to happen and she could only hope that Mance Rayder would agree with their plans. She wished that she could go with them but Gendry was right, she was carrying the future heir and she didn't want to do anything to endanger their babe so she'd stay here at the Wall and let Jon and Gendry go without her. She suspected that she'd be a nervous wreck until they came back.
"What are you doing?" Gendry's voice startled her. She'd been sitting on the edge of the bed just staring at the floor as he undressed for the night instead of sliding under the covers like she had intended. She shook herself out of her thoughts as she glanced up at him and shrugged lightly.
"Worrying." She told him honestly. He sighed and come over to sit next to her as he cupped her cheek.
"It'll be okay." He said gently. "I'll be fine and so will Jon and we'll be back in a few days."
"I know." She said. "But going north of the Wall is dangerous, especially considering that you'll be meeting with the Wildlings. What if they betray us? You're not taking nearly enough men to beat them if they do."
"They're not going to betray us." He said.
"How do you know that?" She asked.
"Because, we're giving them what they want." He said simply. "We're letting them through the Wall peacefully. They have no reason to betray us because if we don't come back, they know that they'll never get through the Wall without a fight."
"Yeah, and what about the White Walkers?" She asked. "I doubt they have any intention of a peaceful resolution. They probably don't even know what that means."
"If we run into White Walkers, your brother has fought against them before, I'll follow his lead." He said. "Nothing's going to happen that we can't handle."
"I don't want to lose you." She said softly.
"You won't." He said, kissing her gently. "I'll come back."
"Please." She whispered softly. "Don't leave me alone in this world."
"I have no intention of ever doing that." He said, his voice low and serious. "I'll fight the Gods themselves if they try to take me away from you."
"Good." She laughed and it was a bit teary but he didn't seem to mind as he dragged her in for another kiss.
"I love you." He said.
"I love you too." She answered easily.
He pushed her back onto the bed and positioned himself above her before leaning down for a deeper kiss, making her wrap her arms around the back of his neck, and she buried a hand in his hair to keep him in place as she nibbled lightly on his lips. After a time, his lips left hers to trail along her neck until he found that spot just below her ear that made her moan softly as her back arched into him. Her hands left his hair and trailed down the pull at his tunic until he sat up and yanked it over his head and dropped it to the floor. She took the opportunity to slide further onto the bed and he followed easily.
As he went back to that spot below her ear, she allowed her hands to trail along the muscles playing along his back before she pressed her nails lightly to his skin and ran them along the same path and she relished in the soft puff of breath he let out as he shivered. She did it again and it elicited the same response making her smile before she moved her hands around to work at the laces on his breeches, pushing them down slightly when she got them loosened, and she took him into her hand. His hips jerked with the first stroke and his breath left him in a rush as he stopped sucking at that spot and just pressed his face into her neck instead.
She kept stroking him, keeping a steady pressure, until he grew fully hard beneath her hands and he pulled away for a moment to push at her shift until it was up around her waist before he yanked her smallclothes off. He lined himself up and in the next moment he was slipping inside her causing both of them to let out low moans. He kissed her again as his hips began moving and it was rough and filled with teeth. He pushed deep with every thrust and she cried out as he hit a spot deep inside her making him slow slightly in an attempt to find it again. He found it easily and adjusted his thrusts to hit it with every stroke making her breathless as the pleasure rolled through her.
The frame of their bed was shaking and banging against the wall with each movement and she spared a thought for whoever shared walls with them but she didn't care enough to stop. Her hips lifted, meeting each thrust eagerly, and her hands were running over every inch of his skin that she could reach. He was breathing heavily and his thrusts were hard and fast pushing her steadily toward a release.
She felt the familiar pressure building low in her belly and she slid her hand between them to stimulate that little nub at the top of her slit to push her over that edge. She pushed her other hand into his hair and dragged him down to attach their lips once more as the pressure finally exploded and tipped her over over that edge. She made a soft sound that was muffled by his lips as her hand tightened in his hair and her entire body tingled. She clenched tightly around him and she felt his hips falter for a moment before he regained his rhythm.
His hips slowed after a moment and each thrust became purposeful as his chased his own release. She clenched around him again, lifting her hips to meet his once more, and after a few minutes he found his release. His body shuddered and he leaned his forehead against her shoulder as his breathing slowed and his body calmed. She stroked his back gently, holding him close, until they both had a moment to collect themselves and he rolled over to lay next to her. He reached over and pushed her hair away from her face.
"As long as I have you here waiting for me, I won't let anything keep me from coming back. I promise." He said softly. She turned over onto her side to look at him, placing her hand over his and intertwining their fingers.
"I'll always be waiting for you." She said.
"Good." He said softly.
They fell asleep wrapped up in each other, both with soft smiles on their faces.
When morning dawned, she was still nervous but she felt much better after having talked to Gendry the night before. She joined him in the courtyard as he and the others who were going beyond the Wall finished getting everything ready for their journey. She noticed Jon look at them for a moment before he quickly found something else to do and refused to meet her eyes. She watched him with a confused expression for a moment before she turned to Gendry.
"What's up with him?" She asked, motioning to her brother. She didn't actually expect Gendry to know because he'd been with her all morning but when his cheeks went red and he ducked his head she knew that he had to know something so she raised an eyebrow at him.
"Um." He cleared his throat. "Your brother told me that his chambers weren't far from ours and I kind of forgot about that last night."
"Oh." She said, her cheeks coloring just as his had as she glanced over at her brother again. "Oops."
"He's going to kill me beyond the Wall and make it look like an accident." Gendry commented and she rolled her eyes.
"He's not going to kill you." She said. "You're my husband. I'm sure he's aware of what happens in our chambers."
"Sure, but I don't think he appreciates hearing it." Gendry pointed out and she pressed her lips together.
"Okay, I'll give you that." She said with a sigh before straightening her shoulders and marching toward her brother. He was going to say goodbye to her whether he was embarrassed or not.
He noticed her coming toward him and made a face like he wanted to melt into the ice and snow around him but he didn't walk away which she took as a win. She stopped when she was only a few steps away from him and placed her hands on her hips as she stared at him.
"Were you just going to leave without saying goodbye to me?" She questioned. He rubbed the back of his neck as he stared at the ground in an obvious attempt to avoid her eyes.
"Of course not." He mumbled.
"Really? Because you haven't looked at me since I came out her to the courtyard." She said, rolling her eyes. "Look, I'm sorry for anything you may have heard but I am married and not doing anything wrong so stop being stupid about it and hug your sister goodbye."
He glanced up at her with wide eyes before a small grin crossed his face.
"You've got this whole princess thing down quite well." He said.
"Shut up." She said, rolling her eyes but the mirroring grin on her face gave away that she wasn't actually annoyed.
"Sorry." He said before pulling her into a hug. She wrapped her arms around him and held on tightly, breathing in his scent, until she felt a presence behind her and let him go. She glanced over her shoulder to see Gendry standing there with a cautious look on his face and she reached over to grab his hand and drag him closer.
"You two look out for each other out there." She said seriously, looking at each of them in turn. "I expect both of you to come back."
"We will." Jon said with a nod.
"You'd better because if you come back hurt, I'll - ." She began in a growl but Gendry's soft laugh cut off her words.
"We know, you'll kill us." He said, sharing a smile with Jon.
"I will." She insisted, hands on her hips again.
"Oh, I believe you." Gendry said, holding his hands up.
"Me too." Jon said.
"Good." She nodded.
The men around them started climbing onto their horses and she turned to Gendry and pulled him down for a quick kiss. He leaned their foreheads together and cupped her face in his hands as they took a moment to just be there with each other.
"I'll keep your love with me while I'm gone." He said softly.
"And I'll keep yours here." She returned. He kissed her softly again before on of his hands dropped to rest on her belly for a moment and she pressed her hand over his as their eyes met.
"I'll return to you." He said, a promise in his voice.
"I know." She replied. She was still unsure but she knew that he needed to hear it from her. "And we'll be waiting."
"I love you." He said.
"I love you." She said.
He kissed her one last time before pulling away and going to mount his own horse. She raised a hand to wave at him and he waved back before following the rest of the men to the entrance of the gate that led out to the lands beyond the Wall. She watched until they were out of sight before she forced herself to turn away and to her surprise she found Gilly standing not far behind her with her baby in her arms. Arya hadn't noticed Sam in the group but he must have been if Gilly was here. The girl looked at her and the shared a moment of understanding before Gilly spoke.
"They always come back." She said. Arya thought she was trying to reassure her.
"Yeah." She said softly. Gilly pressed her lips together before taking a step closer to her.
"Would you like to come to my chambers for some tea?" She asked softly. "Perhaps the waiting and worry won't be so bad with someone to share it with."
Arya studied the girl for a long moment before deciding that she was probably right.
Beyond the Wall, it was somehow even colder than it had been on the Wall itself and he was finding that he wasn't particularly fond of the ice and snow. He refused to let himself complain though as it seemed that everyone around him was having a far easier time of it and didn't even seem to notice the cold wind that rushed around them and he didn't want to seem like a spoiled highborn Prince. He remembered very well where he came from and wasn't going to let his newfound position turn him into one of the people that he'd despised when he'd been younger.
Jon kept pace with him as he made conversation with Sam on the other side which Gendry appreciated. He seemed to be taking his word seriously about them taking care of each other beyond the Wall and hadn't let him stray behind. They'd even managed to have a conversation with one another since leaving the Wall behind until Gendry started shivering so violently that his teeth chattered and he could no longer keep the conversation going. He didn't mind the quiet though as it gave him time to truly think about what they were doing right now and what he'd say to Mance Rayder when they met.
He tried to remember all of the points that he'd gone over with Arya before leaving in the hope that he wouldn't screw this up entirely. He dragged his cloak further around his shoulders and pushed his horse a little faster. The sooner they got this over with, the better it would be for everyone. That was his thought at least.
"You know, you ride well for someone that only learned less than half a year ago." Jon commented, turning back to him after finishing his conversation with Sam and Gendry shrugged.
"I've been doing a lot of riding lately. I figure I've got to get good at it sometime." He said. "Besides, I know that one of Arya's favorite things to do is ride so I've been trying to get better anyway."
"That's a fair point." Jon nodded before he went quiet for a moment as he seemed to study his face. "You make her happy."
"I do my best." He said lightly, his cheeks coloring lightly. He hoped that the redness from the cold masked it well enough.
"You know, she was the last person that I would have expected to marry a prince and to do it happily." He shook his head. "It's almost unfathomable to me but when I see her with you, it all sort of makes sense. You truly care for each other."
"We do." Gendry nodded.
"It's rare for a match to be so.....perfect." Jon said, chewing on his lip in a way that reminded Gendry of Arya.
"We were lucky." Gendry agreed, his voice soft. "She never judged me for being lowborn or for being a bastard, as I know almost any other highborn lady would have. She never looked down on me, not once, and she was always kind to me from the very beginning. If she'd been someone different, I don't think it would have worked as well as it did but.....she let me in, she let me get to know her as a person first and not as a lady while she did the same with me. She's everything that I never thought to ask for."
"She loves you, you know." Jon said and he smiled.
"I know." He said, fondness plain in his voice. "As I love her. She's an easy person to love."
"Not for everyone." Jon said with a shrug. "There are many men who'd have a problem with her strong willed personality or her fondness for weapons and swordplay."
"They have no idea what they're missing and I thank the gods for that. If they knew how truly amazing she was, she'd have been married before I even knew I was a prince and I'd never have gotten to know her for myself." Gendry said with a soft smile.
"I'm glad that you seem to truly understand her." Jon said honestly. "I was afraid for the longest time that she'd end up with someone who'd take that light that burns bright in her and snuff it out."
"I'd never do that." Gendry assured him. "Everything that other men would disapprove of, I find extremely attractive in her. If you took all of that away, it wouldn't be her anymore."
"You're right about that." Jon agreed before shaking his head. "I think it will help her in the long run though, being as head strong as she is I mean. I think she'll make an amazing queen one day. She's certainly not going to be one that allows the lords of the realm do whatever they please at the very least."
"Yeah." Gendry nodded. "She'll be far better at ruling than me, I reckon."
"I don't know if I'd say that." Jon said. "I think you'll be a good ruler as well and I think that you and Arya will balance each other out when it comes to making decisions."
"You really think that I'll be good at ruling?" Gendry asked in surprise. "I wasn't raised at court. I truthfully know next to nothing about the politics behind it."
"You'll learn." Jon said with a shrug. "And you're willing to listen to people and hear their worries and complaints before making decisions that will affect them which is a good quality for any leader to have. I doesn't matter that you were lowborn, in fact I think that will make you a better king. It certainly makes you less inclined to let your pride or status affect your judgement."
"You think so?" Gendry asked.
"You're here aren't you?" He asked. "Any other man in your position would have dismissed our words for falsehoods and not concerned himself with the very real threat. It says something that you were so willing to come yourself and that you haven't complained or whined for special attention just because of who you are."
"I don't think I should get special treatment." Gendry shrugged. "That's why I haven't asked for it. We're all here for the same reason and we're all taking the same risk by coming beyond the Wall, there's no reason I should get something that everyone else doesn't."
"And that is exactly why you'll make a good leader." Jon said with a smile. "You see everyone as equal despite their background or titles. It means that you'll be fair and just no matter what."
"I suppose that makes sense." Gendry said. "But I'm still glad to have Arya by my side through all of it. I know that I'd be handling it a lot worse without her."
"I'm glad that she has you." Jon said. "That you have each other. It makes me feel better knowing that she has someone that cares so much for her by her side when I can't be there."
"There's no place I'd rather be." Gendry said.
Their conversation ended after that as they continued marching along through the snow and he noted for the first time that it was actually rather beautiful. beyond the Wall if you disregarded the brutal cold and the wind. It was a wild kind of beauty that he wasn't used to seeing as he'd grown up in King's Landing but he found that he appreciated it.
The ice clung to the branches and looked like crystals where it hung down from the limbs while the fresh snow ahead of them blanketed the land and looked like it sparkled in the weak afternoon sunlight. The land here looked as if it had been untouched for thousands of years, though he knew that wasn't true. It was quiet and calm but for the sounds of their group moving along and he thought that it was actually quite peaceful. He couldn't imagine the threat that he'd been told about coming from this place but he'd heard enough to believe it. He hoped that he didn't have to face it. He felt like it would ruin the image of beauty that he saw here and, glancing at Jon and his Night's Watch brothers, he found himself wondering if it already had for them.
When they made camp that night, it was inside an abandoned village that was made up of only a few stone buildings that might have been used as houses when they were first built but had now become ruins. Jon told him that many of the villages closest to the Wall had been found abandoned and that they could only assume that they'd either left on their own to join Mance Rayder or that they had become a part of the army of the dead. There was no way to know for sure but he was just glad for the shelter that the buildings provided from the wind.
It grew colder as the sun sat and he, along with the others, huddled around the fire that had been built in the cent of the village in an abandoned fire pit. Jon and Sam sat close to him as they ate their dinner that consisted of dried meat and hard bread. As he was eating, he thought of something and turned to look at Jon.
"What do you know about Mance Rayder?" He asked. "I figure I should know as much as possible before we go into this meeting with him."
"I know that he was a sworn brother before he abandoned his post to join the Wildlings." Jon said. "I'm unsure how he became their leader or how he got them all to work together without killing each other but I do know that he was highly respected before he broke his vows and ran off."
"Do you think they'll agree to our terms?" Gendry asked, wiping his hands on his breeches after finishing his food.
"I don't see why they wouldn't." Jon said, but Gendry could hear the underlying worry in his tone. "We're giving them what they want without bloodshed or fighting. It would make no sense for them to refuse, they know just as well as the rest of us what's out there. Getting south of the Wall is in their best interest."
"They're not going to want to bend the knee to me though." Gendry said with a sigh. "They've lived here beyond the Wall for generations. I have to assume that they're accustomed to doing whatever they please."
"That's likely true but...." Jon glanced at him seriously. "To save their own lives, they might be willing to compromise on a few things."
"Are you sure about that?" Gendry asked.
"You haven't seen the White Walkers." Jon answered, his eyes haunted. "They're the worst thing I've ever had to face and I've only had to deal with them for a short amount of time. They've been dealing with them for far longer and on a far more regular basis. Trust me when I say, they'll be willing to compromise. Anything that will get them south of the Wall the fastest, they'll be willing to deal with."
"I hope you're right." Gendry said with a sigh. "Because if they're not willing to compromise, I doubt it's going to go well for us when we do meet them."
"Everything will work out." Jon said, sounding determined.
"We can only pray that that's true." Gendry said, rubbing his hands together.
Their conversation was interrupted after that as the men around them divided up the watch duties between them. Gendry was partnered with Sam and given the first watch duty which he took without complaint as everyone else retreated to their spots for the night. He took one side of the camp and Sam took the other, both agreeing to patrol them for an hour before meeting back at the fire to warm themselves and repeat the process until it was time for the second watch.
Ghost followed after Gendry, which he found odd but didn't comment on and after a few minutes he was almost able to forget the wolf trotting beside him as he was so quiet. The moon was large and full on the sky making it easier for him to see through the trees, though the shadows made it difficult, and he found his mind wondering. He knew that the decision to let the Wildlings through the Wall was not going to be a very popular one and that maybe even his own father would question it but he knew that there was no other option at this point. He hoped that it wouldn't make the people of the Seven Kingdoms doubt him even more than they already did.
He knew that he couldn't have the approval of everyone, all the time, but he also knew that if he had too many opposing lords when he did eventually take the throne that it would present a problem. The last thing he wanted to deal with was another rebellion. All he wanted was to be able to protect Arya and their babe while also protecting the rest of the Seven Kingdoms but he knew that many of them wouldn't believe the threat from beyond the Wall. The attitude of many of the southerners about any of the stories that came from the North, stories he was learning were rooted in truth, were just that, stories, and not something real that they would need to deal with. He wasn't sure how he was going to explain his decision to his own father, who likely wouldn't believe him, but he was hoping that Lord Stark would be able to help him on that front. All in all, it was a complicated issue.
He was so lost in his thoughts that he didn't realize when an hour had passed until Ghost began pushing him closer to the fire where Sam was already sitting so he joined the other man. Sam smiled at him when he came over and Gendry returned the expression without really thinking about it as he sat down. They were quiet for a time as they both held their hands out to the fire to warm them.
"Jon told me that you and Princess Arya were expecting a babe." Sam said finally and Gendry glanced at him. The man's face was open and honest and Gendry decided then that he liked Sam. He was a nice guy.
"We are." He nodded.
"It must be very exciting." Sam said enthusiastically.
"Yeah." Gendry nodded. "It is actually."
"Babies are a blessing." Sam said with a soft smile. "They're a lot of work, especially in the beginning, but worth it I think."
"Well, you'd know best." Gendry said. "With Baby Sam and Gilly and all."
"Baby Sam isn't mine." He said, a slight blush on his face.
"But you love him as if he is." Gendry returned. "And you love her. I imagine it's not much different caring for a baby of your own blood than it is to care for one who isn't."
"It is to a lot of people." Sam shrugged. "Different, I mean."
"I suppose you're right." Gendry shrugged. He was well aware of what it was like for a bastard. "But I think it depends on the person. Some people don't care whether they share blood or not but to others, it means a great deal. I don't think I'd care really."
"You wouldn't care if Arya had a bastard?" Sam asked. Gendry's brow furrowed and he sighed.
"I mean, I'd care now because if she had a bastard that would mean that the child wasn't mine and I don't think I'd like it if I knew she'd been with someone else now that we're married." He said with pursed lips. "But if she'd had a bastard before we were married or if she'd been married previously and had a child from that union then I don't think it would have mattered that much to me. You don't have to share blood with someone to care about them, though I know many would disagree."
"That makes sense." Sam nodded. "Sometimes I don't understand why everyone so obsessed with bloodlines."
"Me either." Gendry agreed. Sam shook his head.
"Anyway, I wanted to give you my congratulations." He said, the smile coming back to his face. "I think the two of you will make fantastic parents."
"Thank you, Sam." Gendry said, patting the man on the shoulder as he stood. "We should get back to patrolling."
"Yeah." Sam nodded, joining him in standing.
They went their separate ways once more and he began his path around the edge of the camp again. This time he refused to let his mind wonder and instead focused entirely on staring through the trees for any hint of a threat. He wasn't about to let himself get distracted and potentially hurt. He had something to fight for he wasn't going to let anything, White Walkers or Wildlings, keep him from making it back to the Wall and to Arya. Whatever judgement came from the Seven Kingdoms, he could worry about later.
Being at the Wall without her husband and brother quickly became very boring. All of the men who'd been left behind had duties to perform each day to keep the castle running which left her mainly on her own most of the time so she decided to help Gilly with her chores. They first went to the kitchens to help the cook, Gilly helped take the feathers off of the quail that he was going to use to prepare supper that night while Arya cut up the root vegetables to put into a big pot over a fire. It took them a couple of hours to complete that task before they moved on to finish the rest.
Gilly carried Baby Sam around in a small basket with handles as they moved about the castle to clean but when they began sweeping up and dusting in the library, she tied a length of cloth around her body and laid him inside of it to carry him easier. Arya noted that while he was in the cloth carrier, Gilly was allowing him to feed as she moved about. He seemed to be a happy babe and he didn't fuss much at all which Arya thought was a bit strange as most of the babe's she had encountered cried quite a bit.
After they finished cleaning in the library, Gilly sat down at the small table situated at the side of the room and motioned for Arya to join her. Arya sat quickly, placing the rag she'd been using to dust onto the table in front of her, as she met Gilly's eyes.
"He's a good babe." She commented, glancing at Baby Sam and Gilly smiled.
"He really is." She agreed. "I didn't expect for him to be so calm but he's been that way since he was born. It's like he's studying the world around him and just taking it all in."
"Seeing him does make me wonder what my babe will be like." Arya admitted. "I've been told that I was quite a difficult babe, which isn't really a surprise to me, but it makes me wonder if my babe will take after me in that regard."
"Perhaps the babe will take after your husband." Gilly said. "What was he like as a babe?"
"I don't know." Arya said with a shrug. "He was only recently legitimized and his mother died when he was just a child. There's no one around to tell us what he was like then."
"Oh, right. I'd forgotten about that." Gilly said, chewing her lip. "Well, anyway, I'm sure your babe will be loved even if they are a bit fussy from time to time."
"Definitely." Arya agreed. She stared at Gilly for a long moment before she spoke again. "How painful is it to have a babe? My mother has spoken to me about it as well as others but the all say you forget about the pain once you're holding your babe in your arms and, I guess I just wanted to know if there was any truth to that."
"I'm not going to lie, it was very painful, but it was worth it in the end because I got him." She said, running her finger along Baby Sam's cheek. "But, anyone who says you forget about the pain when you hold your babe has either never had a babe or has forgotten what it was like in the first place. You don't forget about the pain, it's just that it doesn't seem to matter after you have your babe in your arms. You'll still be in pain but you'll ignore it because your babe is more important in that moment. I think that women say you forget about the pain because of that but it's not entirely true."
"I suppose that makes more sense." Arya said, nodding her head as her hand came to settle on her stomach.
"Are you excited?" Gilly asked, glancing at her stomach.
"I am." She smiled. "Gendry and I spoke about having children before I got with child and we both agreed that it was something we wanted. I didn't expect it to happen so soon, we've only been married a few months after all, but I'm happy with it."
"That's good." Gilly commented. "I think that the two of you will make great parents."
"I hope so." Arya said before she glanced at Gilly and changed the subject. "So, what's going on with you and Sam? It's obvious that he cares about you."
"He'd never break his vows." Gilly said quickly, her eyes wide, and Arya knew that she was scared of getting him in trouble.
"I know." She said in a calming voice. "He seems like an honorable man and I'm not going to get him in trouble. I was honestly just curious because the two of you seem so close and he obviously cares about your son as well."
"He saved me." Gilly said quietly after a moment. "My father only wanted daughters and he used each of us to produce more children for him as we got old enough. Anytime one of my sisters would have a boy, he'd take them out into the woods and give them to the White Walkers. Living there was horrible and it was even worse after I had Baby Sam. I knew that he'd be taken from me as soon as the others found out that he was a boy and I wanted, more than anything, to keep him. Sam came back to my father's keep right when Baby Sam was born and he got us both out." She explained, looking down at her baby. "He brought us south and killed a White Walker with dragon glass to protect us before we got to the Wall. He's the reason we're both here and alive. It's why I named my son after him, because when he grows up, I'd be so proud if he turned out anything like Sam."
"You love him." Arya concluded and Gilly flushed lightly.
"I do." She admitted. "But I know that nothing can ever come from it. He's a sworn brother of the Night's Watch and I've heard the vow they swear, a vow that he'd never break."
"I think he loves you too." Arya said gently before shrugging. "Maybe that's enough."
"Maybe." Gilly said.
They went quiet after that, their conversation tapering off as they both got lost in thought, until Maester Aemon came in some time later jolting them both back to the present. Gilly got up to help the man to a chair at the other end of the table and she took the raven scrolls from his hands so that she could read them out for him. Arya took her leave, bidding goodbye to each of them, and made her way back to the chambers that she and Gendry had been given.
After being alone for some time, she decided to go back to the top of the Wall which allowed her to look out into the vast wilderness beyond it as her mind wondered to Jon and Gendry. She knew that being beyond the Wall was dangerous and the fact that her two favorite people in the entire world were out there made her feel on edge. She hoped that Gendry would be able to convince the Wildlings to agree with the plan without getting hurt. She didn't know much about the Wildlings beyond what they'd all been taught but she can't imagine that they had the same rules that they did south of the Wall. They likely wouldn't care at all that Gendry was the Crown Prince if he offended them and they'd retaliate.
Hopefully though, having members of the Night's Watch with him and the fact that he was offering peace would be enough to keep them from doing anything to rash. She truly believed that bringing them through the Wall would be better for everyone in the long term so she supported the plan fully but having Gendry be the one to deliver the terms wasn't good for her nerves. She wished that she could have gone with them but she also understood Gendry's desire for her to stay behind to protect their babe. She would just have to trust in the Gods plans and trust that they'd all come back safely.
Being atop the Wall also reminded her of the vastness of the Seven Kingdoms that it was set up to protect and that fact that she and Gendry were responsible for everyone within them. She knew that technically, King Robert was responsible for them but she knew that he didn't truly take an active part in the day to day running of the Kingdoms though perhaps that had changed recently. She remembered Gendry telling her that his father had stopped drinking so much after everything that had happened with the Lannisters so it might just be that he was trying to do better as King and as a father. Either way, being here reminded her of how much was really on their shoulders.
She was so caught up in her thoughts that she didn't notice anyone else joining her until Lord Commander Mormont cleared his throat to get her attention. She turned to look at him and gave him a polite smile when she realized who was with her.
"Lord Commander." She greeted.
"Your Grace." He returned. "I was told you had been up here for some time and I thought I'd come up myself to check on you."
"Thank you for your concern, Lord Commander, but I'm alright." She replied. "I was just thinking."
"It's a good a place as any for it, I suppose." He said, glancing around them. "Anything I can do to ease your thoughts?"
"I don't think so." She said with a soft sigh. "It's just the reality of all of this setting in I guess."
"It's a lot to take in." He nodded. "I understand that."
"I just......" She trailed off with a long sigh. "I don't know how we're going to prepare for this threat. It's my job to look after the Seven Kingdoms and yet I can't think of a single solution to this problem."
"Perhaps that's because there isn't just a single solution." Lord Commander Mormont suggested. "Perhaps we'll have to come up with multiple possible solutions and use them all in the end."
"Maybe." She agreed, chewing her lip. She looked at him seriously. "Do you think we're making the right choice? Bringing the Wildlings south of the Wall?"
"I do." He nodded. "I know that I seemed to be against it when you and your husband first brought it up but it is really the best solution. Many people will oppose it and disagree with the decision, that's true, but it will be better for everyone in the end. The less soldiers the Army of the Dead have, the better or odds will be for winning this war. The Wildlings know better than all of us what is out there, I think they'll agree to whatever terms your husband has to allow them south of the Wall and the rest of the Seven Kingdoms will understand why you made the choice that you did when it comes time to fight."
"Good." She said, blowing out a breath. "We'll need the support of all Seven Kingdoms when the time comes."
"You're right about that." Lord Commander Mormont nodded. "But I truly believe that with you and your husband ruling, we'll have the support we need to win this war."
"Gendry and I aren't ruling." She said seriously. "King Robert is still on the Iron Throne."
"That may technically be true but you and your husband are the ones that the people look to." He commented.
"Perhaps." She said, pressing her lips together.
"Whatever happens in the next few months or years as this war grows closer, I know that the two of you will do what is needed to protect everyone." Lord Commander Mormont said. "And I don't mean to bad mouth our King, but he's never been that interested in anyone who doesn't serve him personally. You'll be far better rulers than he ever was."
"You don't even really know us." She said, glancing at him.
"I know enough." He said, meeting her eyes. "I know that the two of you listened to us when we told you of the threat beyond the Wall when everyone else has dismissed it and I know that you're both doing what you can to help. You're honorable, both of you, and you actually care. Those are important qualities for a ruler to have. Believe me, I've lived through two different Kings on the throne, both lacking in those qualities, and each of them were bad Kings in their own ways."
She laughed softly, the sound coming out almost incredulous.
"Everyone seems to have more faith in us than we do." She said quietly.
"That's good." He said and she looked at him.
"It is?" She asked.
"Yes. If people have faith in you, it means that your doing something right." He commented. "But if you start to have too much faith in yourself and your decisions, you might begin to make bad decisions because you're so sure that you're right even if you're really not. Any good ruler doubts themselves sometimes."
"That actually kind of makes sense." She said, pondering on his words. He patted her shoulder lightly in a fatherly way that made her want to smile as it reminded her of her own father.
"Anyway, now that I know you're fine, I should head back down." He said after a few minutes of silence between them. "Don't stay up here too long Princess. I wouldn't do for you to catch a chill."
He left her to her thoughts once more and she stayed on the top of the Wall for another hour until the sun began to set before she made her way back down. When she got to her chambers, she found that someone had left her a bowl of stew and she ate it happily even though it had gone cold in the time she'd been atop the Wall before she burrowed under her furs. She grabbed the pillow that Gendry had used and pressed it to her nose to inhale his lingering scent as she drifted to sleep. Her last thought was that she hoped everyone was right about her and Gendry because the last thing she wanted to do was be a bad queen and let everyone who believed in them down.
After two days beyond the Wall, they had finally reached the meeting spot that they'd agreed upon to find that Mance Rayder and the wildling envoy had already made it and were waiting for them. There was a large tent set up which Gendry assumed was where Mance was as it was guarded by two fierce looking wildlings and, after exchanging a look with Jon, he took a deep breath and moved toward it. The two wildlings on guard moved immediately to allow him to enter with Jon following closely behind alongside Sam. Inside the tent were three more wildlings and he glanced around in an attempt to determine which one was Mance before a large man he hadn't noticed at first came from the back of the tent, pushing a flap of fabric out of the way as he did. Jon stepped forward, keeping an eye on the wildlings around them, and cleared his throat.
"You stand in the presence of Gendry Baratheon, Crown Prince of the Seven Kingdoms, rightful heir to the Iron Throne." He said, his words crisp and clear. The man, who he know assumed was Mance, gave them both an unimpressed look before speaking.
"You sent a raven asking for this meeting." He said, his voice low and gravelly. "You can dispense with the niceties and just tell me what it is you want."
"I've come to offer you peace." Gendry said, stepping up beside Jon.
"Is that so?" Mance asked.
"Yes." Gendry said, keeping his voice firm. "I answered a call for aid from the Night's Watch and they've informed me of what we're all fighting against. I know that you all keep attacking the Wall because you want to cross it to get away from the White Walkers and the Army of the Dead. I'm offering to allow you safe passage south."
"And I suppose you want us to bend the knee to you?" Mance asked and Gendry sighed.
"No." He shook his head. "I'm not going to ask you to bend the knee, only that you agree to a few things."
"And what are those?" A large man with red hair asked from the corner of the tent.
"If we let you south of the Wall, you'll be given land in the gift to live on and animals to farm. In exchange you will agree not to pillage nearby villages." He said. "And secondly, when the time comes you'll join the rest of us in the fight against the dead."
"I don't believe you." Mance said and Gendry let out a frustrated sigh.
"Why?" He asked.
"No Lord, and especially, no Prince I've ever met has given people anything without demanding that they swear loyalty or bend the knee." He said, looking at him with a serious expression. "So the fact that you have makes me think you're attempting some sort of trick. If I bring my people south, are they just going to get slaughtered at the gates?"
"It's not a trick or a deception." Gendry insisted. "I'm not concerned with having you prostrate yourselves before me or swear fealty or anything like that, I'm just interested in living and I know that you are too. Who you serve or your loyalties, none of it matters right now, we're all on the same side in this."
"How can we be." The man from before asked.
"Because we're all breathing." Jon put in. Gendry looked up to meet Mance's eyes.
"You know what's out there. You know you can't fight it alone." He said seriously. "I understand that you may not trust me but my offer is genuine. I'm giving you the opportunity to save your people, can you really afford to refuse?"
Mance seemed to study him for a long moment before he glanced at the others in the tent.
"We need to discuss this between ourselves before we agree to anything." He said finally and Gendry nodded.
"Of course, a wise man always listens to counsel before making a decision." He said. "We'll leave you to discuss but we won't be far away. Just send someone to get us when you've made a decision."
He left the tent, bringing Jon and Sam with him, and they made their way back to the larger group who'd come with them. Many of them glanced at them with questioning looks but only Pyp spoke up.
"Well, you're not dead so can I assume that it went well?" He asked.
"I'm not actually sure." Gendry admitted. "I hope I said enough to convince them."
"What do we do if the refuse?" Sam asked. "We can't just leave them here to die."
"I don't think we have much choice." Jon said with a sigh. "If they refuse to come south, we can't exactly force them."
"Let's just hope that they agree." Gendry said as he moved closer to the fire that the men had built while they'd been speaking to Mance. "I'd hate it if we came out here for nothing."
"I'm sure they'll agree." Jon said, clapping a hand on his shoulder. "You were right after all, they really can't afford to refuse."
The group went quiet after that, everyone focused on their own thoughts, allowing Gendry a moment to breathe and think about the words he'd said and about everything that was riding on this meeting. They needed the wildlings to agree to their terms so that they could get them south of the Wall before the White Walkers had a chance to add them to the Army of the dead. They were already up against less than favorable odds so anything that could tip the scales in their favor was important so having the wildlings refuse would be detrimental and he didn't even want to contemplate that option.
He stared into the fire as his mind ran wild with all of the possible outcomes and the affect that each one would have on their efforts, and he was so focused that he failed to notice the passage of time until Ghost came over and flopped his head into his lap. He looked down at the large wolf in surprise for a moment before he dropped his hand to his head and scratched gently behind his ears. Jon came over to sit on his other side, making Ghost lift his head for a moment before he dropped it back down, and he seemed to have a thoughtful look on his face.
"He likes you." Jon said and Gendry smiled.
"It seems so." He said.
"They're a good judge of character." Jon said. "Direwolves, I mean. It's a good sign that he likes you."
"Arya told me that the direwolves like me because they know I'm pack." Gendry told him, his smile softening at the thought of his wife.
"It's likely." Jon said with a shrug. "They're intuitive creatures."
"They're amazing." Gendry said. "Terrifying, but amazing. Kind of like Arya."
"She'd like that description, I think." Jon laughed.
"I don't know why he's taken such a liking to me." Gendry said, bringing the conversation back on track. "The others seemed to tolerate me well enough but none of them were quiet this.....attached."
"I don't know." Jon said with a shrug as he patted Ghost's head. "They're strange sometimes. They form bonds to certain people for reasons that we may not ever understand."
"Well, whatever the reason, I don't mind." Gendry said, running his fingers through the wolf's fur.
Jon looked as if he was about to respond before one of the men blew a horn to alert them to an approaching wildling and they both stood to move toward him. Gendry recognized the large, red-headed man who'd been in the tent as he approached and moved forward to meet him. Jon kept pace with him and they met the man in the middle and Gendry gave him an inquiring look.
"Mance accepts your offer of truce." He said, meeting his eyes seriously. "But if we get to the Wall and find that this was some sort of trick, I'll gut you like a fish."
Gendry noted Jon move as if he was going to block him and he caught him by the arm.
"It's not a trick but I understand." He said before holding out his hand. The man looked at them both for a moment longer before he reached out to clasp his forearm and shook.
"We've sent word to the rest of the Wildlings and they'll meet us here by tomorrow." He informed them.
"We'll make camp here tonight and begin the journey back to the Wall after they've joined you." Gendry said.
The man nodded and spun on his heal to walk away while Gendry let out a sigh of relief.
"Alright, now all we have to do is convince the rest of the Seven Kingdoms that the threat is real." He said and Jon shook his head.
"I have a feeling that's going to be harder." Jon said and Gendry sighed again.
"I believe you're right." He agreed.
The next day dawned bright and early with a heavy snowfall that made the prospect of climbing on his horse and travelling south even more miserable but he conjured the image of Arya in his mind and reminded himself of what was waiting for him at the Wall to get himself going. They'd already met with Mance early in the morning when the sun had barely been in the sky to speak about the logistics before they began the trek back to the Wall.
It took until the late afternoon for all of the Wildings to make it to the meeting place from wherever they'd been before and Gendry was astounded by the sheer amount of them and it made him feel more confident that this was the right choice. He noted that the Wildlings that had joined them weren't just made up of warriors like he'd expected but also included older men and women and young children running around which made him feel even better about allowing them through the Wall.
When they were finally ready to begin travelling again, Mance chose to ride up front with him and the rest of the Night's Watch men which he accepted easily. The trek back was much slower than it had been when they'd made their way up and he knew it was partly because of their much larger group and partly because of the snow and sharp cold wind. He noted a few of the Wildlings, including Mance, glancing around at the snow with apprehension on their faces.
"Is something wrong?" He asked finally.
"It's not winter." Mance said and Gendry looked at him with a furrowed brow. He knew logically that it actually wasn't winter but that was hard to remember this far north and he thought that having lived beyond the Wall for as long as they had that the Wildlings would have grown used to the cold and snow.
"I know that." He said and he knew that his confusion shined through in his words because Mance looked at him seriously.
"We usually don't get snowstorms this bad until winter sets in." He said. "Not unless the White Walkers are close by."
"What does that mean?" Gendry asked.
"The White Walkers don't just show up." Mance said. "They announce themselves if you know what to look for and this snowstorm is loud and clear."
He broke off from their group and moved toward the Wildlings riding behind them, his voice raising above the whistling wind as he called for them to protect the children. Gendry watched as the entire army moved almost in unison to usher the children into the middle and form a wall around them. Jon urged his horse close to his making Gendry look at him.
"He's right." He said, his grip going to the sword at his waist. "This storm means they're close. We should be ready."
Gendry gripped his battle hammer as well even though he knew it was basically useless against the enemy. He sent a silent prayer up to any god that deemed to listen as they all stopped moving and listened intently. The wind became harder and louder, blowing the snow into his eyes as it swirled around, and he squinted to keep it out as he gazed out into the storm.
He couldn't see anything but white snow, having lost sight of the trees minutes before, and the only indication of anything was the sudden screams and the sound of weapons meeting. He and Jon exchanged a look before moving toward the sounds and he found himself freezing when they finally reached their destination. There were dead men with glowing blue eyes everywhere, their clothes and skin ripped and revealing bones, and they didn't even react when blades were plunged into them.
They moved quick, quicker than he expected the dead to move, and they ripped their way through their opponents spraying red blood along the white snow below their feet without a care. After a long moment, he heard Jon call his name and he shook off his shock before launching into battle. He urged his mount towards the carnage and swung his war hammer through a line of the dead. It didn't kill them but it did slow them down as it managed to knock some of their bones loose and allowed the others a chance to move in and dispatch them.
He got lost in the heat of the battle until it was just him swinging his hammer at the seemingly endless line of dead men. His vision narrowed to just the next opponent which is why he didn't see it coming when one of the Army of the Dead launched itself at him and knocked him from the back of his horse. He hit the ground hard and it knocked the breath out of him for a moment as he stared up at the sky but he was forced to react when the wight that knocked him down climbed on top of him and attempted to behead him with an ax.
He blocked the move with the handle of his hammer, which he'd thankfully kept his grip on, before shoving the wight off of him and bringing the hammer down on it's skull. It's arms were still swinging the ax wildly but he was able to dodge it easily as he struggled back to his feet and a wildling came out of nowhere with a dragonglass dagger to shove into the wight.
"Thanks." He coughed out, still slightly out of breath. She nodded at him and rushed off to launch herself into battle once more while he took inventory of the pain radiating through his body. He didn't think he'd broken anything but he knew he'd be bruised like all seven hells later.
He took another moment just to breathe before he straightened his shoulders and moved toward the battle once more. His eyes caught on Jon almost immediately, fighting only a few yards away, and he noticed that he was fighting a White Walker. His promise to Arya rang in his head and he moved toward him immediately, he wasn't about to let her favorite brother die out here.
He was only a few feet away when Jon finally got through the White Walkers defenses and his sword plunged through it's chest. Everything seemed to stop for a moment as the Walker looked down at the sword before it burst apart in a shower of ice crystals and the wights still running around all dropped to the ground. Gendry looked around with his mouth slightly open in surprise and he noticed that he wasn't the only one looking at the wights with apprehension.
"I don't understand. What happened?" A wildling man asked.
"By the Gods." He breathed out, his eyes meeting Jon's. "They all fell when you killed the Walker."
"Maybe he's the one who made them." Jon said, his eyes wide. They stared at each other a moment longer before Gendry glanced around again.
"Maybe that's how we can beat them." He said. "Take out the Walkers and the rest will fall."
"They'll never leave themselves exposed." Jon said, shaking his head.
"Maybe not but it's something to take into consideration." He said as he sat the end of his hammer on the ground and leaned on it. Jon looked at him in concern as people started moving around them to gather the dead and build pyres.
"Are you alright?" He asked.
"Just a few bruises." He said, rolling his shoulders. The movement caused him to wince slightly and Jon raised an eyebrow.
"Arya's going to kill you." He commented and Gendry sighed.
"I know." He said, before his gaze went to the others again. "We should help. We need to get this done quickly and get to the Wall. We can't afford another confrontation."
They moved to help and Gendry felt his resolve set in. He didn't care what it took, he'd convince his father about the threat coming from beyond the Wall. This was a threat that they'd need to full force of the Seven Kingdoms to meet.
She was in her chambers drafting a letter to her father to inform him of what they'd discovered at the Wall when the sound of a horn broke through the silence and made her sit up straight. She knew that the horn sounding was to alert everyone of the men returning so she quickly got up and left her chambers to rush down to the courtyard, passing brothers of the Night's watch as she went, and arriving to find Lord Commander Mormont standing on the small platform overlooking the area as they waited for the men to come through the tunnel from outside.
She met Gilly as her feet touched the solid ground of the courtyard and they shared a small smile before bodies started streaming into the space in front of them. The sheer amount of bodies and noise that erupted from the group meant that it took her a few minutes to spot Gendry and Jon where they were standing with a large wildling man that she assumed to be Mance Rayder. She made her way over to him at the same time as Lord Commander Mormont but she got there first as she had been slightly closer than he was.
Jon broke off immediately to speak to his Commander and brought Mance along with him leaving her and Gendry standing off to the side together, prompting her to throw her arms around him and pull him close. He gave a soft grunt that she recognized as a painful sound and he held his body stiffly even as returned her embrace and it made her step back to look at him in concern.
"You're hurt." She said and he sighed.
"It's just a few bruises." He told her and she raised an eyebrow.
"How is it that you ended up with bruises after going to retrieve the wildlings?" She asked, glancing around at the people in the courtyard with them. "Did they hurt you?"
"No." He shook his head. "We were ambushed by those.....things."
"Are you alright?" She asked, her eyes tracing over him for injuries.
"Hey, look at me." He said, reaching out to cradle her face in his hands. "I'm okay."
She glanced around at the people once more, noting that Jon seemed to still be caught up in a discussion with the Lord Commader and Mance Rayder, and she figured that they could handle things for a while without their presence so she grabbed his hand and began pulling him toward the chambers that she'd just vacated.
"Come on." She said.
"Arya." He protested, glancing back over his shoulder. "What if they need us?"
"They don't." She said. "At least not right now and I need to get a look at you."
"I told you I'm fine." He said and she shrugged.
"All the same, I'd like to make sure for myself." She said.
They finally made it back to their chambers a few minutes later and she latched the door before turning to him and pushing him lightly until he was seated on the bed while her fingers worked quickly on removing his cloak and jerkin before pulling his tunic over his head to get a look at his skin. She pulled in a sharp breath when she saw the brilliantly blooming bruises that covered his back and wrapped around his left side in shades of deep purple and green.
"Are you sure you haven't broken a rib or something?" She asked, brushing her fingers lightly over the bruises.
"Sam doesn't think so." He said, catching her hand in his and bringing it up to place a kiss to her knuckles. "I'm alright, love. It's nothing that won't heal."
"I thought I told you not to get hurt." She said, trying to lighten the mood in the room and he chuckled softly.
"Sorry." He said before drawing her in for a soft kiss.
She allowed herself a moment to get lost in the sensation of finally being back in his arms before she pulled back once more and leaned her forehead against his as they breathed each other in.
"I missed you." She breathed out.
"I missed you too." He replied, his grip on her waist tightening slightly. They were quiet for a moment before he pulled away slightly to meet her eyes. "We can't let the Seven Kingdoms ignore what's happening beyond the Wall."
"I know." She said seriously.
"We're going to need all the help we can get." He said, his voice low.
"What were they like?" She asked hesitantly. He got a strange look in his eyes for a moment before he seemed to shake it off.
"Like nothing I've ever seen before." He said, a slight shudder running along his body. "I thought they'd be slow because they're just corpses but they're not. They move quickly and quietly and they use the snow to hide themselves until they get close enough to attack. It's like death itself is coming for you and you don't know how to fight it."
"We'll figure it out." She assured him. "We're not just going to let the Seven Kingdoms fall."
"I just hope that whatever we do is enough." He said, sounding haunted.
She looked at him for a long moment before shoving him down onto the bed and climbing up to straddle his waist. His hands dropped to her hips immediately even as he looked up at her with confusion in his eyes and she leaned down to kiss him thoroughly.
"We need a distraction from all these negative thoughts and I've missed my husband while he was away." She said in explanation before kissing him again.
His hands tightened on her hips and he returned her kiss easily, nipping along her lips until she opened enough to allow him to slip his tongue in, and she made a soft satisfied sound as their tongues wrestled for dominance. When she pulled back, he looked flushed and the haunted look had left his eyes to be replaced with a much happier emotion which had been her goal and she smiled.
She grabbed the edges of her tunic to yank it over her head and Gendry's eyes immediately dropped to her breasts and they darkened as his hands slid up to cup her teats and run his fingers over her nipples. She bit her lip as her nipples raised into hard peaks under his fingers and a gasp left her throat when he pinched them gently. He made to sit up and she pushed him back down gently while shaking her head.
"You're hurt." She breathed out. "Let me take care of you."
She slipped from his lap to kneel by his feet and remove his boots, kicking hers off as well, before making quick work of the laces on his breeches. He lifted his hips to allow her to yank them down his legs and drop them onto the floor with the rest of clothes before she motioned for him to slid further onto the bed and he moved until he was in the center, his eyes tracking her movements as she slid her own breeches off before climbing onto the bed next to him, and she gave him a deep kiss before sliding down his body.
She pressed gentle kisses to the bruises that littered his skin before moving further to press kisses along his hips as she took him in her hand and began moving in slow, steady, strokes. He sucked in a shaky breath as she stroked him to full hardness and she ran her tongue along his length before sinking her mouth onto him.
"Fuck." He breathed out, his hand moving to intertwine in her hair.
She worked him over with her hand and her mouth working in tandem, swirling her tongue around the head with each pass, and his breathing became heavy as his hand tightened. His hips bucked up and she had to pull back slightly to keep from choking but after a few thrust they got into a rhythm and soft groans and grunts began falling from his lips. Her eyes flickered up to watch his face as she suckled lightly, enjoying the slight changes as she brought him closer to the edge, until suddenly he used the hand in her hair to pull her off and guide her face up to his to kiss her deeply.
"I don't want to come like this." He said, pressing the words into her skin. "I need to be inside you."
She felt his arms wrap around her as if he was going to flip their positions and she moved back quickly to prevent him from doing it. She shook her head and pulled at his arms until he released her and she could guide his hands to her teats.
"Let me." She said. "Remember?"
She didn't wait for his response as she reached between them and guided him to her entrance before sliding down onto him. A soft moan left her lips as she took his length into her fully and she began rolling her hips into him, feeling the pleasure radiate through her, as he squeezed her teats lightly. He began pinching her nipples again and it made her grind her hips into him even harder.
He began lifting his hips once again to meet her movements and the slick sound of their bodies meeting made her arousal heighten even more. She placed her hands on his chest for leverage before she began lifting her hips and slamming back down as she chased her pleasure. Gendry's hand slid up to the back of her neck to bring her down to him once more, their lips meeting again as their tongues mirrored the movement of their bodies, while his other hand slid down to rub circles around that sensitive bud between her legs and she broke their kiss with a sharp gasp as zipped up her spine.
Gendry slid his lips along her neck and sucked what was sure to be an impressive love bite into her skin while she ground her hips down harder to meet the pressure of his hand against her, her breathing coming in sharp gasps, until she felt that building pressure low in her belly.
"Please, please, please." She breathed out with each gasp.
"Come on, love." Gendry said, his voice coming out rough. "Come for me."
He set his teeth into her shoulder and the slight prick of pain threw her over the edge. Her climax came over her almost violently, making her bite down on her lip to muffle the moans as her body shook slightly and she felt herself tighten around Gendry. He cursed softly, his hips lifting in a frantic pace, until his grip on her tightened as he pushed deeply into her one last time and she felt his release.
After a moment, his hands slid over her skin until his arms were wrapped around her again and she sank down to lay against his chest while their breathing calmed. He pushed her sweaty hair back from her face and drew her into a much softer kiss, this one filled with love and fondness, and they were both smiling when they pulled back.
"I love you." She said, tracing his lips with her finger.
"I love you too." He said before pulling her back in for another gentle kiss.
The next day, they left the Wall at the head of the wildlings to escort them to the Gift before they had to go back to King's Landing and begin preparations for the war to come and to her delight Jon was travelling with them as well. Lord Commander Mormont had sent him and a few other of the Night's Watchmen along to get the wildings settled and to enforce the rules that they'd agreed to follow during the meeting with Gendry. It wasn't going to be a permanent thing but she knew that her brother would be among the wildlings for the next few moons.
She was glad for the extra time to spend with him, even if it was spent mostly riding, as she knew that she likely wouldn't see him for quiet sometime after she left the North. In fact, the next time she saw him could be when they were coming together again to fight against the Others. She noticed that Jon seemed to strangely fit in with the wildlings, more so than she'd ever really seen him fit anywhere, and it made her happy to think that he'd be somewhere where he was actually happy at least for a time.
Aside from all of that, her mind was running through all the things that needed to be done. She'd sent the letter she'd been writing to her father and she hoped that he would be able to soften Robert up to the things they needed to discuss before they returned because it would be easier for everyone if they didn't have to spend an exorbitant amount of time convincing him that the threat was real in the first place and instead, were able to start working on a plan right away.
They'd need all the time they could get before the threat closed in on them.
Just a short little chapter for you guys. Hope you enjoy.