Sansa is as discreet as she can be with her invitation for Gendry to join her in her private room at the inn.. Some of the ladies had been offered rooms at The Hightower, but the last thing Sansa needs is to encourage the rumors that have circulated about her in the past year or so. Thankfully, she has been able to procure a large, private room in one of the finer inns in Old Town.
There is a rap on her door, likely signaling Gendry’s arrival, so Sansa takes a deep breath and calls out, “You may enter.”
Gendry is led inside by a House Stark guard, who announces, “Your Grace, Lord Baratheon of Storm’s End.”
She hasn’t seen him in several months, but he looks much the same. The major difference is the beard he has grown. It is thick and black and Sansa realizes that she likes the look, though it obscures his attractive jawline. He stands by the door, a bit stiffly until the guard leaves. Once the heavy footsteps fade down the hallway, his entire body relaxes and those bright blue eyes of his soften.
Sansa had not had enough wine to impair her judgment, but just enough to make her absurdly bold.
And it was that boldness, combined with loneliness, that led her to his door.
The Gates of the Moon had not changed since her last visit, though she had. She had gone by the name Alayne the last time she’d walked the halls. The keeper, Lord Nestor Royce, had offered her a room in the East Tower so that she did not have to find a room at an inn or stay in a tent while visiting for the Tourney.
He’d also offered Lord Baratheon a room, which Sansa now stood outside of, wondering whether her bravery was leaving her when she hesitated to bring her fist up to knock. She took a deep breath, closed her eyes, and rapped gently on the door three times. She kept her eyes closed until she heard the creak of the door swinging open.
“Sansa?” He smiled, immediately moving aside to let her in.
She wondered if it crossed his mind at all that letting a woman into his room in the middle of the night was scandalous. She turned to him as he closed the door, giving herself a few moments to gather her courage.
Gendry was confused, she could tell, brow furrowed and blue gaze searching her own. After all, there were not too many reasons a queen would have for showing up in the room of a lord wearing nothing more than a dressing robe with a thin gown beneath.
She tugged at the belt and let the robe fall open. Gendry watched in confusion, his eyes traveling to the opening of the robe and then back to her face, bewildered. She didn’t speak though. Instead, she shimmied out of the robe and let it fall to the floor, knowing that the light flickering in the fireplace would illuminate her form from beneath the thin material of her gown.
“Lady Sansa? I mean, Your Grace…” Gendry fumbled, his eyes darting around the room in an effort to keep from landing on her body.
“I’ve never done this before,” Sansa said softly, fighting away any shame she felt. “Well, once before…” But she pushed that far from her mind as she pushed herself away from the door and closed the distance between them.
Gendry looked panicked, caught as he was between his new lordship and a lifetime of looking away from high-borns so that they might not interpret his gaze the wrong way. But Sansa was not his queen. She had no power over what he did or did not do.
She laid a surprisingly steady hand on his shoulder and the other across his strong jaw, urging him to look at her.
“I just want to forget.”
“What are you trying to forget, my lady? I-I mean, Your Grace,” he stumbled again.
Sansa bit into her bottom lip, wondering if he would understand, wondering if he felt even a fraction of the loss that she was feeling.
“I’m trying to forget what it’s like to hurt.”
Recognition dawned in his eyes then and she didn’t know if he understood which pain she was trying to forget, but he certainly understood that there was enough pain going around that Sansa was feeling it acutely.
“Is it your brother, Your Grace?” He asked, still not moving under her touch. “Or…or your sister?”
Truth be told, it was all of it. She hurt because Arya had left her. She hurt because Bran had left her. She hurt because she didn’t see Jon nearly as much as she wanted. They were all alive but they were all gone . But she shook her head.
“The man I love died in King’s Landing,” she whispered, and with that confession a surge of emotion threatened to choke her. “I have no appetite. Sleep evades me. It has been more than a year since I lost him and the wound is still open and bleeding. I just-I want to forget.”
Gendry’s hands wrapped around her in a loose embrace and he pulled her to his chest. “I’m sorry for your loss, Your Grace.”
“Sansa,” she gently reminded him, her words slightly muffled against his tunic. “Call me Sansa.”
Gendry hesitated for a moment, then asked, “Who was he?”
“A good man,” she said. “Someone brave and gentle and strong. Someone who never lied to me. Someone who did their best to protect me. Someone who loved me.”
To his credit, Gendry did not try to offer any empty words, did not tell her that there was someone else out there for her. He just held her, rubbing gentle circles into her back.
She might have been content with that. She had crept into his rooms to forget, to try to convince him to lay with her so that she would have just one night of something other than tears and pain. But then she felt his fingers on her chin and he tilted her face up to his. Then he leaned down and kissed her.
“I want to forget too,” he whispered against her mouth. “She isn’t dead, but...she is lost to me.”
Sansa pulled back, the question on the tip of her tongue. She wondered who it had been that he had lost, and to something other than death for that matter.
But Gendry shook his head and leaned back down to brush his lips against the side of her mouth. “Not- not now,” he implored, so she let the topic drop.
Sansa stands from her chair and crosses the room, coming to stand just in front of him. Her breathing is a bit labored and Gendry likely attributes this to something else. His eyes flicker across her face, evidently searching for any minute changes in her that he may have occurred since the last time they saw one another. It seems that he can’t go another minute without touching her, and he reaches up to grasp her arms gently at her elbows, his thumbs drawing circles on the inside of her arms. The part of her that recognizes only desire is glad that she has dressed appropriately for the warm weather of Old Town and has chosen a dress with cap sleeves. If she had worn her normal gowns with sleeves that came all the way down to her wrists, she wouldn’t have been able to feel him against her skin.
It matters little that the gown reveals numerous scars gifted to her by Ramsay. Gendry has seen it all already.
The words that Sansa has come all this way to tell him stick in her throat as she stares at him. She knows that she is a hard woman to read, that the mask she has learned to wear to keep herself safe often proves difficult to let down even in situations in which she needs to display her emotions.
She doesn’t want to hurt him. She truly has never wanted to hurt anyone, if she was honest with herself; but Gendry is probably the very last person in the world she wishes to hurt. Over the years she has learned that he is one of the truly good men left alive, uncorrupted by power, loyal until the end. It is his loyalty that will aid in breaking his heart today.
Gendry’s open expression changes to one of concern as he studies her face. One hand leaves her arm, lifts so that he can caress her cheek. She sighs and leans into his touch, closing her eyes for just a moment so that she can take in the comfort he is offering.
In the next heartbeat, his mouth is slanting over hers, making her gasp at the sensation because even as many times as they have done this now, he still leaves her a little breathless.
Her arms wind around his neck as she returns the kiss, a part of her that she has little control over thrilling at the feel of his hands against her skin.
But then she feels selfish and sick and this is not what she came here to do . Not this time.
She pulls away abruptly, her teeth sinking into her bottom lip as she ducks her head. She worries about what she will see when she looks into his eyes. She worries that she’s not going to be strong enough to keep her hands off of him.
When she thinks she can finally look at him, she meets his eyes and there is confusion and maybe something like hurt.
The thought that her rejection could hurt him twists something in her gut.
Do not worry, she thinks. Soon you won’t care about me pulling away from you. That hurt is nothing compared to what I’m about to do.
Sansa has always had a tender heart.
Despite what she has been through, she has never lost the ability to feel for others. She breathes in slowly; she has to look away from him again, but she reaches for his hand as she breathes out.
“Sansa…” Her name on his lips is heavy and she knows she is worrying him. “What is it?”
She doesn’t know how to tell him. In that moment, she tries to remember how Arya told her that Sandor had died, then quickly remembers that she didn’t .
She closes her eyes briefly, steeling herself, digging deep for the strength she will need to handle this.
“It’s Arya,” she tells him, finally lifting her eyes to his face.
His brow furrows and – while she hopes that he will just somehow know, will hear it from the misery in her voice – he looks confused. She remembers Arya teasing him a bit in those days before she sailed away, telling him that he was not the sharpest sword in the armory.
His mouth opens, and Sansa knows that he is about to ask her what about Arya , so she rushes ahead of him, squeezing his fingers in what she hopes is a comforting way. “She fell ill. She – I’m so sorry, Gendry – she passed away some weeks ago. The captain of her ship sent me a message. I came to Old Town to…” collect her body , she means to say, but Sansa can’t finish her sentence.
“Fell ill,” he croaks, and it is not a question.
“An illness unknown to Westeros,” Sansa supplies, though she doubts that Gendry truly cares about what it was that took her. He will only care that she is gone.
His left hand is still occupied, but his right comes up to cover his mouth with the back of his hand. He looks like he might be sick. His eyes dart around and Sansa releases him and quickly points in the direction of the chamber pot.
He promptly rushes over and empties his stomach, heaving for long minutes as Sansa politely averts her eyes.
She can see from the corner of her eye, though, that he has braced himself against the wall with both hands as he vomits. He is shaking badly. Only when he turns back around does Sansa realize that it is not from the heaving, but from his sobs that the shaking originates.
“She’s gone.” Again, not a question. It’s not disbelief. He knows that Sansa would never lie to him, would never deliver him false information. She watches as he fills a cup with water to rinse out his mouth and surges on with the news.
“Her crew is…bringing her to Old Town. I don’t plan on attending the tournament now. I have to meet the ship so that I can take her home.”
“I never…when she left I thought…”
Sansa knows what he thinks. He thought that she would be back. He thought that once the wanderlust had faded that she would come back to him.
Perhaps she would have, had she lived.
“Am I being punished?” He blurts out.
His words startle Sansa. She turns to him fully, knowing she must look confused. She closes the space between them, too tentative to reach for him yet, but needing the proximity for her own comfort.
“Punished?” She questions him.
Gendry drags his hands through his hair. “For…this,” he waves his hand between the two of them. “For you.”
Sansa knows that it is only his way of trying to understand how this happened, why Arya was taken from them, but the words cut her to the bone. She flinches and, a second later, so does he. His shoulders sag while Sansa fights to keep her composure, straightening her spine and averting her eyes.
This is not about you , she tells herself, trying to get over the acute pain from knowing now, unequivocally, that Gendry regrets their trysts, even going so far as to look at them as a reason that gods may have taken Arya from him.
“I-I didn’t mean that how…” Gendry cuts himself off, squeezing at the bridge of his nose.
Sansa attempts to put him at ease, to assure him that she took no offense to his words. “It’s fine,” she rushes to tell him, waving her hand to dismiss his half-formed apology. It has not occurred to Sansa though, that losing her sister may be punishment for lying with the man she apparently loved. She supposes that it would be a fitting punishment for a particularly vindictive god.
But Sansa no longer believes in the Seven.
And anyway, she had not known that Gendry loved Arya when she first lay with him.
Sansa lost herself in the feel of his lips - pressing kisses against her mouth, sucking bruises into the skin of her neck, tugging gently at her earlobe as he walked her back to his bed.
Their clothes fell away quickly and Sansa tried not to linger on thoughts of what her body looked like as Gendry trailed his fingers over the silvery scars.
But when she found the courage to look back up at him, he was not looking at her scars at all - but at her breasts. And he didn’t look disgusted.
Awed was the more appropriate word.
He leaned down and pressed a kiss to her sternum, then one to the inside of each breast. She panted as she cradled him between her legs, a little overcome with the desire that flared in her when he looked at her.
It’s his eyes , she reasoned. He has such beautiful eyes.
When she felt his lips close over a nipple, her hands went into his hair, tugging a little harder than she meant to. But Gendry only groaned and sucked at her breast harder, making her arch off the mattress.
She felt his hand trail down her waist to the outside of her thigh before sliding inward, his thumb rubbing circles into her skin.
And she was overcome with the need to tell him to touch her already. Her hips lifted of their own accord, shifting in an attempt to get him to touch her where she ached.
His mouth returned to hers and she whimpered when he slid his tongue inside, rolling it against the roof of her mouth as his hand moved to finally play at her core.
When he found her hot and slick, he let loose another groan and dipped a finger into her.
“Yes, please,” she whimpered into his mouth.
He added another finger and within seconds, Sansa’s hips were rolling against his hand. Gendry’s thumb brushing against her clit in a way that had pressure building fast. She writhed and panted as his fingers and thumb worked her over, crying out when she released quicker than she’d ever been able to in the past.
He pulled his fingers from her and lined himself up against her, his cock nudging gently at her entrance.
“Please,” she said again, wrapping her legs around his waist, giving him little choice but to sink into her.
“Gods,” he croaked, burying his face into her neck. He was still for several moments, and Sansa closed her eyes, surprised at how good it felt.
When he started rolling his hips against hers, Sansa had to kiss him again, if only to keep herself from babbling about how good it felt. Gendry had tilted his hips in such a way that with every forward roll, his pelvic bone brushed her clit, sending waves of sensation that she felt through her whole body. It wasn’t enough for another release at the pace he had set, but it a sweet, beautiful torture that pulled low moans from her throat.
He shifted then, pulling her legs away from his waist, throwing one over his shoulder. He slid in deeper, hissing in pleasure as Sansa’s fingers clawed at the sheets beneath her. His pace changed too, hips snapping into hers with more purpose, drawing gasps from her every time he hit a delicious spot inside her.
Then his fingers were on her clit again, rubbing circles as he drove into her.
Sansa bit hard into her bottom lip, trying to hold in the sounds fighting to escape her throat as the pressure built again before cresting and rolling through her body, making her tremble as she released as Gendry lost rhythm, pulling out of her just before spilling his seed on her stomach.
He rolled to the side, falling onto his back on the mattress as he caught his breath. Sansa turned her head to look at him, only to find he was already studying her, perhaps trying to figure out what had just happened. He rolled to his side and Sansa did the same, unable to stop a slow, satisfied smile from curling on her lips.
She’d had every intention of leaping out of bed and dressing herself as soon as it was done; instead, she lay curled on her side, mirroring Gendry, her eyes searching his face.
He was so handsome, and she was mildly amused that she had waited so long to appreciate it.
His eyes slid closed, but his breathing indicated he was still awake.
Of its own accord, her hand crept up, landing against his stubbled cheek.
Bright blues eyes opened again, studying her with a hint of bewilderment. She watched as his brows furrowed and his mouth opened, as though he were contemplating what to say.
Another smile tugged at Sansa’s mouth and she watched as his eyes flickered to the upturned corner.
“You’re very beautiful,” he murmured.
Sansa had heard it many times, so often in fact that she was quite tired of the sentiment. But when he said it, it didn’t come across as a compliment necessarily, or even as a bid to please her.
He said it as though it was just an observation, as though he’d only just realized it.
“Thank you,” she said, surprised to feel her cheeks heat with a blush.
He smirked at her, those startling blue eyes twinkling. Then he turned his head and laid a kiss against the inside of her wrist.
“Who was she?” Sansa asked suddenly, remembering the love he had lost.
He clearly knew who she meant. She could tell by his reaction to her question. His throat bobbed as he swallowed and he frowned, his eyes flitting away from her face.
Sansa felt her smile fade as an uneasiness settled in her chest. “Do I know her?”
He pressed his lips together, a stubborn look crossing his face, and for a moment, Sansa was sure he wouldn’t tell her.
“Who?” She pressed.
“Your sister,” he said quietly.
Sansa lay still, the words echoing in her head. She moved suddenly, scrambling round under the tangled covers in her effort to sit up. Gendry stayed still, looking straight ahead as she managed to get up on her knees, the coverlet pressed tightly to her bare chest.
“What?” She gasped.
His eyes slid to her briefly, before flitting away again. He swallowed heavily and scratched at the back of his neck.
“Arya?” She asked again, her voice taking on a higher pitch than she thought possible.
“Aye,” he muttered, picking at an errant thread on the blanket.
“You...and Arya?” Sansa felt faint. She pressed a hand to her forehead. “Oh, gods.”
“It was...a brief affair,” Gendry said, as though this was supposed to reassure her. “She said she just wanted to know what it was like before…”
“What?! So she had never...you were her…?” Sansa collapsed back onto the bed, staring at the canopy.
It was true that she had never really spoken to Arya about her love life. Sansa’s own experiences with lying with man had been so traumatic that she had never brought it up with Arya; and by the time Sansa had experienced one good memory of having someone properly make love to her, Arya had already headed South to kill Cersei, and then had subsequently left the continent. No, they had never traded pillow talk, had never had the time for it. Sansa wasn’t even sure if Arya would have divulged the information anyway.
“Wait,” Sansa said, though Gendry had not volunteered any more information. “Did you love her? Or was she just…” Sansa trailed off, turning her head to look at Gendry.
“Yes,” he murmured, turning his head so that he could meet her eyes. “I love her. But it doesn’t matter now, does it?”
And he didn’t have to explain to her why it didn’t matter. Sansa knew already how he felt. Arya had abandoned him just as she had abandoned everyone else. “No, I don’t suppose it does.”
He crosses the room tentatively, his head down, his face twisted in conflict. Sansa has the same urge she’s always had, to smooth over awkwardness, to put him at ease. But the unexpected twist of pain his words brought her distracts her and she is unsure what to say to him.
“I should not have said that,” he says to her feet, now standing within arms length.
Sansa wrings her hands and keeps her head held high. Taking a deep, fortifying breath, she pushes through the hurt. “You said how you felt, my lord.” She had not meant it to come out sounding so cold and formal. “I know that...you’ve been conflicted about…” Our affair. Our dalliance. Our mistakes. “....Us.”
His eyes move to her face then, and it’s as though he must have read her thoughts because he says, “I don’t regret this. I didn’t mean it that way.”
Without warning, her anger takes hold, and she snaps out, “Then what did you mean?”
His brows wrinkle and his mouth twists in anger, and evidently they have forgotten about one another’s tempers.
His hands lift to her cheeks, bracketing her face, forcing her to look at him. But as fierce as he looks, his hands are gentle.
“I meant,” he says quietly, “that I wonder if I’m being punished because I was trying to put her behind me and now she’s...” He closes his eyes, cutting off as though he just can’t finish the sentence.
Sansa shakes her head, trying to throw off his hands, but his grip tightens on her, though it is still gentle. “Gendry, it’s fine. I understand. You loved her, she hurt you, and now she’s gone and there’s no chance of reconciliation. I only meant that…”
“You don’t understand,” he cuts her off, stepping more into her space, chest to chest. The look on his face is one of torture. While he has become more educated and infinitely more articulate since being named Lord of Storm’s End, Sansa knows that some words still escape him, some emotions are too complicated to explain. But he tries. He takes a deep breath, his eyes shifting between both of hers.
“Then help me understand,” Sansa says tiredly, her hand lifting to rest on his chest. Her fingers dig into the wool of his doublet. “I’m hurting too. She was my sister. And I didn’t...I didn’t know that I was betraying her when I came to you that first time. But then, after I knew, I didn’t stop. But I don’t have guilt over it. I don’t feel like her dying is punishment for me…” Using you. Needing you. Falling in love with you . “...trying to find some comfort in your company.”
She sees the moment that resolve settles into Gendry’s features and he gives a little nod as though he’s ready to spill it all.
“When I was on my way here,” he says, his eyes softening, “I was going to tell you that it was over.”
Her heart twists in her chest and she clenches her teeth together hard, breathing through her nose steadily. She can’t look at him anymore, so her eyes flit away, finding a random spot on the wall, waiting for him to finish. She can’t speak. The emotions are too close to the surface.
“Sansa,” he says, his voice so soft. “I wasn’t going to end it with you. I was going to tell you that it was over between Arya and I. That I was letting her go for good. That I was done holding onto the past.”
Her eyes snap back to his face, her mouth falling open in surprise. He lifts his brow when he realizes she understands.
He goes on, “I wanted to tell you that I wasn’t going to let her get in the way anymore. She left years ago and I’ve heard nothing from her. I’ve been holding onto something that’s not even real, if only because it’s all I knew.” He shrugs his shoulders, lifts his eyes to the ceiling as though the words falling from his mouth are ridiculous. Then he looks back at her, and he looks...scared. “I didn’t know you were going to tell me she’d died and that’s why I feel like I’m being punished. I let her go and then I learn she’s died,” he huffs out an unamused laugh.
Sansa finally finds her voice, clearing her throat delicately, she says, “Why, after all this time?”