Arya Stark had always known that her rebellious personality would put her at odds with her family one day. As a child, she’d never much been one for wearing pretty dresses and having tea parties in the garden like her sister, Sansa. Arya had been much happier knee-deep in the mud, kicking a ball or wrestling with Jon. In her early teenage years, her mother had tried desperately to get her to behave like a “proper young lady”, but no matter how many dresses she’d been forced into and despite the weeks of etiquette classes she’d been forced to take, Arya had never quite been able to resist a good footie match with her brothers.
So, she knew her mother would put her foot down one day and demand Arya do something that would reflect well on their family. She’d expected finishing school, or an internship at her father’s company, possibly even being forced to cancel her gap year plans and start studying at university as soon as she graduated. She had not expected a marriage.
“I’ve just turned seventeen,” she yelled, unable to comprehend what she was being told. “I’ve never even had a bloody boyfriend and you’re expecting me to marry some cunt I’ve never even met before?”
“ Language , Arya,” Catelyn Stark sighed, her face schooled into the disapproving and exasperated expression Arya had known since she was a child. “You’ll have plenty of time to get to know Elmar before the wedding actually takes place. We’ve just begun working out the details with Walder, but your engagement will be announced within the year, as soon as you’ve both turned eighteen.”
“No,” Arya turned to her father with pleading eyes. Out of both her parents, he was the one who had always loved her for who she was. She knew her mother loved her, she
her mother after all, but she had always tried to force Arya into being someone she wasn’t. Her father had always smiled softly whenever Arya came home covered in mud and he’d played on her team when she and her brothers played footie in the garden. He of all people would never force her to marry some random boy. “You can’t really expect me to go through with this? I haven’t even gotten to date! I haven’t had any ex-boyfriends or stupid summer flings! I’ve never been in love before! I’ve never even had my heart broken! How can you expect me to just give up on all of those experiences to spend the rest of my life married to some boy I don’t even love?”
“Arya, love,” her father’s eyes were impossibly soft. Couldn’t he see how wrong this was? “You will learn to love the Frey boy one day. We’ve been trying to absorb old Walder’s company for years now. Robb was supposed to marry one of his daughters, but he was in such a serious relationship with Jeyne, and Sansa obviously couldn’t be married into his family. He seems like a very nice boy.”
Arya couldn’t believe what she was hearing. Her father was really agreeing to this bloody marriage scheme. She shouldn’t have been so surprised. It was for his benefit, after all. But she’d thought her happiness would have been more important to him than owning another company. This had not been what she was expecting when he’d called her into his study after supper.
Her mother was going into more detail about the arrangement. Arya thought she heard her talking about setting up some dates with this Elmar bloke, but she wasn’t really listening. Her head was spinning and she felt like she was going to puke. Her mother and father weren’t paying much attention to how she was feeling, though. They were more concerned with planning her entire life out for her. Gods, did they expect her to have kids with this boy?
The thought was too much for her and she shot up out of her seat and ran for the front door.
“Arya,” her mother called after her. “Where do you think you’re going?”
But Arya couldn’t be bothered to answer. She grabbed her bag from the floor and her keys from the bowl on the table in the foyer, then she was out the door.
She got into her car and sped off before her parents had even made it out the door. She drove for a few minutes without even knowing where she was headed, but as soon as she turned left onto the familiar street, the one that would lead her further into town, she knew where she needed to be.
She had parked her car and was making her way towards the doors of the pub before she realized she didn’t even know if he was working today. She figured that if he wasn’t she could always go to his flat, but she really needed a pint and he was the only one at the pub who’d serve her without ID nowadays.
She let out a little sigh of relief when she stepped into the dimly lit room and saw him working behind the bar. His eyes shot up from the glasses he was cleaning when he heard the bell above the door ring, and he gave a little lopsided grin when he saw it was her.
“Come back to pester me into giving you a free pint?” Gendry smirked as Arya plopped into her usual seat at the bar.
She rolled her eyes at him and threw a few pounds onto the bar. “Just give me something that’ll get me drunk quick.”
He chuckled as he poured her beer and pushed it across the bar to her, the liquid sloshing out of the glass. “Rough day?”
“Tell you at yours later?” Arya asked. “I’ll need to be proper pissed to get through this one.”
“You keep coming over to steal my liquor and I’m gonna start chargin’ ya.”
Arya snorted into her beer but didn’t say much in the way of a reply. “What time are you off, then?”
Gendry glanced up at the clock on the wall and groaned. “Not for another three hours. You planning on sitting here that whole time or are you just coming ‘round later?”
“Well,” she said. “I can’t go home. Might as well watch some footie and enjoy a few pints.”
Gendry scoffed, but before he could send another sarcastic reply her way a girl further down the bar called him over to refill her drink.
Arya nursed her own drink and watched Gendry work. It had been years since she’d started coming to the pub. Now, she barely even drank whenever she was there, preferring instead just to chat shit with Gendry whenever he wasn’t too busy with customers. Most nights, she’d sneak out her bedroom window and catch a cab to the pub where she’d wait until his shift was finished. They ended those nights sitting in his flat, watching shit movies and drinking the cheap beer he always kept in his fridge. She rarely stayed over, but when she did he made sure to drop her back at her place before the sunrise. If her parents were to ever find out where she went nearly every night, she’d be on house arrest until she was thirty. If they ever found out who she spent those nights with, she’d never see the light of day again.
Gendry was Arya’s secret.
She’d been fourteen when Jon, Robb, and Theon had come home from Uni for the summer and started going to pubs, and she had practically begged them to bring her along. Of course, they’d just laughed and ruffled her hair, promising they’d bring her along on all the pub nights she wanted once she turned eighteen. Arya had not been satisfied with that, though. So, two days later she skipped eating lunch with Mycah and went instead to find the Waif.
The Waif was what she and the rest of her school called her. They didn’t know the girl’s real name and it didn’t really matter, she was the one you went to if you needed to know which pubs served minors or where to get the best weed. Of course, she also made the best fake IDs out of anyone in her year.
Two weeks later, Arya’s shiny new fake was in her wallet. She shakily applied some eyeliner around her eyes and some gloss to her lips before she snuck out her window and shimmied down the drainpipe for the first time.
She knew the boys tended to frequent Castle Black when they went out for a pint- sometimes, if they were in more of a clubbing mood, they went to Chataya’s instead- and Arya had half a mind to show up there and prove to them she was old enough to come along whenever they went to the pub. But something told her Robb would be more likely to drag her home and toss her new fake ID than he would be to order her a pint and the Waif had told her about a pub in town that didn’t care if your ID was fake, so she’d gone to the Crossroads instead.
The bouncer at the door had given her no problems, neither had the first bartender she ordered her drinks from, but when the shifts changed and a boy with messy black hair who looked to be about Robb and Jon’s age was behind the bar she ran into her first issue.
“You look a bit young to be drinkin’ that, love,” he’d said, pointing to the gin and tonic Arya was holding between her hands.
In truth, Arya hadn’t even liked the taste of the drink, but she’d spent nearly an hour standing in front of the mirror, trying on outfit after outfit until she found one that made her look less like a fourteen-year-old boy and more like a proper eighteen-year-old girl. So, she swallowed the rest of her G&T in one big gulp and held out her glass, raising a brow at the bartender. “I’m old enough for another.”
“Show me your ID, then.”
Arya had huffed, but she pulled the fake out of her wallet and tossed it onto the bar in front of her. “See for yourself.”
The bartender barely looked at it for a second before he let out a long, low whistle. “This is impressive, but there’s no way you’re eighteen, Arya .”
She snatched the ID out of his hands and scoffed. “I am eighteen-”
She realized she didn’t know his name, but he was more than happy to rectify that judging by his cheeky grin. “Gendry.”
“Well, Gendry , I’d like another gin and tonic,” she shook her glass for emphasis.
Gendry sighed and ran his hands through his hair, not seeming to care that he was messing it up even more. It was then that Arya noticed the tattoos on his wrist and bicep. “You’re sixteen at most and gods know the stupid shit I did when I was pissed at sixteen. How ‘bout this? I’ll give you all the beer you want, but none of the hard shit. I know some of the bartenders serve minors here, but I can’t lose this job if the boss sees me and nobody gives a shit about a teenage girl drinking a pint.”
She considered his offer. She’d tried a few different drinks that night, but the Sex on the Beach had been too sweet and the Jack and Coke was not her style. She’d quite liked the gin and tonic the last bartender had made her, but after the second one, she’d felt a little too dizzy to carry on guzzling them like she had been. Maybe drinking a few pints would be a good end to the night. ”Fine then, but none of that cheap shit.”
Gendry had chuckled as he poured her a beer straight from the tap. “Whatever you say, love.”
The pub was dead, so her and Gendry talked a lot that night and he eventually promised to serve her beer if she came back to keep him company during his shift the next night. So she did.
It took him nearly four months to figure out she wasn’t even sixteen. She hadn’t ever actually lied to him, save for when she’d tried to convince him she was legal to drink, but he had stuck to his original assumptions. They were sitting in his flat, a small little one bedroom in the basement of some townhouse. It wasn’t until she’d let slip that she was in secondary school that Gendry had put two and two together.
“Secondary school?” His eyes went wide. “You’d have to be like fifteen, then, Arry?”
Arya chewed her lip. “Not exactly.”
“What did you fail your GCSE’s or something, then?”
“I actually haven’t taken them yet.”
“Arya,” Gendry’s tone was weary. “How old are you?”
“I’ll be fifteen in two months,” Arya chewed her lip again.
Gendry practically choked on his beer. “You’re fourteen? You told me you were sixteen! Gods, I told you about that girl from the pub I shagged and everything! And I’ve-”
“I never told you I was sixteen,” she cut him off. “You assumed that first night at the pub. Besides, I’m not a child, Gendry, I know how people shag- I do have two older brothers, well three if you count Theon.”
Gendry only put his head in his hands and groaned. “My best friend is a fourteen-year-old girl.”
She smirked and bumped her shoulder against his. “Your best friend, eh?”
Arya smiled now at the memory. It had been three years since she’d met Gendry, and they’d been nearly inseparable for all of it. Still, she kept his existence a secret from her family. If her mother found out how much time she spent alone in a dingy flat with a boy five years her senior, her marriage would be moved up to tomorrow.
Arya groaned and took a healthy swig of her beer. She’s nearly forgotten about the marriage.
“Ready to go?” Gendry asked as he pulled on his leather jacket. Arya had bought it for him for his twentieth birthday, and he’d hardly gone a day without wearing it since.
“Yeah,” she finished her lager in one quick gulp and tossed him her keys. “You’re driving.”
They made their way out to her car and climbed in, Gendry had a bad habit of messing with all her radio presets whenever he was driving her car, but Arya couldn’t even find the energy to be annoyed at him. Not when she was already so annoyed with her parents.
“Lommy and Hot Pie are at mine right now,” he said as they neared his flat. “Lommy’s mum kicked him out again, so he’s been sleeping on my couch.”
“What’d he do this time?” Arya asked.
“She caught him smoking a spliff,” Gendry shrugged. “Turned his whole room upside down until she found his stash. Even found what he sells, too.”
Arya sucked in a breath between her teeth. “Fucking hells.”
He nodded. “He showed up on my doorstep and promised me he’d be out within the month. I doubt it, though. She threatened him with rehab this time, seems like she’s pretty fed up. On the bright side, he’s set a couple of spliffs aside for me as a thank you.”
Arya chuckled as they pulled up in front of Gendry’s flat. If her and Gendry were attached at the hip, Lommy and Hot Pie were practically conjoined at the head. The two had one brain cell left between them, and wherever Lommy went Hot Pie followed. A couple of spliffs wouldn’t be enough for Arya to put up with that for longer than a couple of hours.
She didn’t wait for Gendry to get out of the car before going into his flat. She didn’t even say hello to Lommy and Hot Pie who were currently lighting up a bong on Gendry’s coffee table. She went straight into the kitchen and pulled a handle of vodka- the one Gendry kept specifically for her- out of the freezer. She grabbed a Red Bull from the fridge and the biggest travel mug she could find from the cupboard and mixed her drink. Calling it a Vodka Red Bull would be generous, she may have filled her cup, but she’d barely used half the can of Red Bull.
“Slow down there, killer.” Gendry chuckled behind her.
She handed him two beers from the fridge, rolling her eyes. “This is well deserved.”
“Ah, this about whatever you needed to be ‘proper pissed’ to tell me about?”
Arya sighed. “Yes, and I’m nowhere near proper pissed, so sit down and let me drink in peace.”
He only laughed as he followed her to the couch.
It wasn’t until she had finished her entire mug and taken a few hits off the bong Lommy had brought with him that Arya was ready to spill.
“My parents are forcing me to get married,” she blurted out in the middle of a brief silence from the boys.
Gendry choked on his beer and began coughing loudly. Hot Pie, who’d been stuffing his face with crisps, let his mouth fall open in shock, revealing enough of his chewed up food to make Arya gag. Lommy sat up from where he’d been laying on the floor and stared at her.
“You’re only seventeen,” he said.
Arya, who was the only person sat on the couch with Gendry, was busy slapping him on the back to try to stop his coughing. “I know. They’re still arranging the whole bloody thing, though. Mum says they’ll announce it once we’ve both turned eighteen and then we’ll be married a year later or somethin’ like that.”
“Why?” Hot Pie asked, his mouth still filled with chewed up crisps.
“The cunt’s dad owns some building company my father has been trying to buy out, the Twins or something like that,” Arya shrugged bitterly. “Apparently, it takes more than money to buy a company these days, you have to sell your daughter like cattle too.”
Gendry was surprisingly quiet as Arya complained, but she assumed that he was just trying his hardest not to start coughing again.
“What are ya gonna do?” Hot Pie asked.
Arya bit her lip as she thought about it. “I don’t know what I can do, mate. If I refuse, they’ll just find more ways to ruin my life, force me into the company, make me cancel my gap year plans, all of that. Either way, I lose.”
“You could always run,” Lommy suggested. “But, I still have the rights to Gendry’s couch. First come first serve and all that.”
Gendry was still quiet beside her, but he’d started drinking his beer again, so at least he wasn’t choking on it anymore.
“It’s just not fair,” she cried, knowing full well she sounded like a child. “I’m only seventeen! I’ve never had a proper boyfriend! I’ve barely gotten any proper snogging in! For fuck’s sake, I’ve never even shagged anyone before!”
Gendry choked on his beer again. Gods, must Arya teach that boy to do everything ? How hard could it be to take a sip of your own gods-damned drink?
Lommy chuckled. “How have you never shagged before? You’re, like, proper fit! Right Gendry?”
Gendry had just managed not to asphyxiate on his beer, but the redness that took over his face made Arya wonder if maybe he couldn’t breathe. She raised an eyebrow at him.
“Yeah,” he mumbled. “Proper fit.”
“What about that Ned bloke you brought round the pub a few months ago?” Hot Pie asked. “You didn’t do it with him?”
“No,” Arya shrugged.
“You guys were hanging out for, like, two months!” Lommy exclaimed. “You had to have done some stuff.”
“Well,” Arya really hoped she wasn’t blushing. “I did blow him in the bathroom of a pub, once.”
Lommy said, “That’s it?” at the same time Gendry grumbled, “You gave him a blowie in the bathroom of our pub?”
“Not our pub, some Dornish place he wanted to try. Drinks were awful,” she said to Gendry, then turning towards Lommy she blushed. “And that's not all . He tried fingering me a couple times.”
Gods, Lommy was almost as bad as Sansa when it came to gossip. “Well, he tried to, but it never really worked. I just ended up faking it to make him feel better.”
Gendry was choking on his beer again, he truly was going to die if he kept it up. Arya blushed as Lommy roared with laughter. “Pretty boy Ned Dayne can’t even finger a girl properly? Gods, what a joke, must have something to do with his soft little hands! I could’ve sworn he’d had a manicure last time I saw him!”
“Lommy,” she groaned.
Lommy wiped some tears from the corner of his eye and tried to calm down. “Sorry, sorry, it’s just funny is all.”
Gendry was looking at Arya like it wasn’t funny in the slightest. “Never in our pub, then?”
“Never,” she confirmed, bumping his shoulder with her own. “He didn’t really like going there. Said I spent too much time bothering you while you worked and not enough actually speaking to him.
“You’re never a bother,” Gendry smirked. “‘Least not when I’m working. Here you’re a right pain in my arse.”
Arya punched him in the arm, but she was still smiling. “You love it.”
Eventually, the combination of alcohol and weed caught up with them all and Lommy and Hot Pie were dead asleep on the floor of Gendry’s living room. Gendry’s head had somehow ended up on Arya’s thigh and she was using the armrest as a pillow. His hand was stroking softly up and down her arm, which was laid across his chest. She could feel the rough calluses on his palm and fingers, leaving goose pimples wherever he touched her.
“Hey, Arry?” He said, his voice sounding tired as they both drifted off.
“For future reference,” he sounded like he was smirking. “It was definitely the soft hands.”
Her eyes shot open, but Gendry was already snoring not ten seconds later.
Arya woke up the next morning unsure of what time it was or how long she’d slept. She didn’t know much of anything really, except that her head was pounding and there was a truly ridiculous amount of weight keeping her body pinned to the couch. Sometime in the night, she’d moved and now she was laying flat on her back with Gendry’s arms wrapped around her waist and his head resting on her stomach. Her fingers were tangled in his hair and his breath was ghosting over the skin where her shirt had ridden up in her sleep. It wasn’t enough that she was deceptively strong for her size, Gendry might as well have been a ton of bricks weighing her down for how obnoxiously giant he was.
She couldn’t quite seem to mind, though. Gendry had always run hot, like a bloody furnace, and his body heat made up for the fact that she didn’t have a blanket. His hair felt nice under her hands, softer than she would have expected, and she found herself closing her eyes and rubbing her fingers against his scalp lazily.
“Mmmmm,” Gendry moaned sleepily. “Whatcha doing that for?”
Arya blushed and pulled her hands back from Gendry’s hair. “Didn’t realize I was doing it really.”
“Felt nice,” he yawned, nuzzling his face into her belly and squeezing her waist a little tighter as he fell back to sleep.
Arya was sure the fluttering in her stomach was a new hangover symptom, she really shouldn’t have had so much vodka the night before. Just as she was beginning to contemplate threading her fingers through Gendry’s thick, fluffy, bedhead once more, Lommy burst into the living room from the door that led to Gendry’s bedroom.
“Rise and shine, sleepyheads,” he shouted at a volume that was not doing Arya’s headache any favors. “Time to face the day.”
Gendry, who had just begun snoring softly in his sleep before Lommy so rudely woke him up, buried his face in Arya’s shirt and groaned. The sensation of his entire body rumbling against hers sent a tingle down her spine.
“Fuck off, Lommy, go cuddle up next to Hot Pie or something and leave me to sleep,” he moaned.
“Mate,” Lommy quipped. “I’d like you to open those baby blues of yours and take a look at your current position, then repeat what you’ve just said one more time.”
Arya could only see the back of his head, but judging by the way Gendry tensed she figured he hadn’t been quite as conscious as she had the first time he’d woken up.
He tilted his head up to look at her, then, and she suddenly felt very self-conscious. His hair was a mess, likely from her running her fingers through it, and it was falling down over his forehead and into his eyes. The icy blue color stood out even brighter against the black of his hair. Arya wondered how long after smoking one could go before developing cottonmouth, her mouth was becoming dry and her tongue started to feel heavy.
“Morning,” she smiled down at him, trying to ignore the way her voice cracked slightly.
Something in Gendry must have snapped when she spoke because he was suddenly trying to pull his arms from around her waist and sit up at the same time. Gods, the boy’s a bloody idiot, Arya thought as his lack of coordination sent him rolling and landed him flat on his arse on the floor.
Lommy let out a loud laugh. “Cheers, mate. Can one of you get up off your arse and help me wake Hot Pie? He’s taking up the whole bed, nearly pushed me off when he rolled in his sleep!”
“You and Hot Pie slept in my bed and left me and Arry on the couch?” Gendry muttered as he rubbed his eyes.
Gods, he'd been calling her Arry a lot lately. He only did it when he was sleepy nowadays. The nickname had bothered her so much when she was younger; she’d known a boy in primary school named Arry and she’d always felt like Gendry, Lommy, and Hot Pie were making some kind of comment on her boyish appearance. He’d given it up nearly a year ago, but the other two still used it and sometimes it just slipped out.
“You looked so cozy,” Lommy smirked. “Figured you wouldn’t mind us stealing your actual pillows, seeing as you were using Arya as one.”
Gendry flushed a deep red color and turned to face her. “Sorry ‘bout that.”
“It’s fine,” she shrugged, grinning cheekily at him. “You’re so bloody warm, made up for the fact that you’re a terrible host and didn’t offer me a blanket.”
He gave her a small grin in return before he stood up from the floor and offered her his hand. “Let’s go wake Hot Pie and grab breakfast. I’m bloody starving.”
Waking Hot Pie turned out to be more difficult than any of them had anticipated. He groaned and grumbled and flat-out refused to wake up for at least thirty minutes. Finally, with the promise of pancakes, he rolled out of bed and agreed to go to breakfast.
“Don’t you have to be home by now, Arry?” Hot Pie asked from the backseat of Gendry’s old, beat-up sedan.
“I wish,” Lommy groaned. “Then I’d be sitting in the front and we wouldn’t be listening to this absolute shite.”
Leave it to Lommy to make the same complaint every time they drove somewhere. It didn’t matter that neither him nor Hot Pie actually owned a car of their own or that neither of them chipped in for petrol, he would forever be annoyed about not getting the passenger seat. If they took Gendry’s car, the spot was reserved for Arya, who usually was able to pester Gendry into letting her pick the music too. In Arya’s car, Gendry sat in the front seat. Arya liked to tell Lommy that Gendry was just a bloody giant and his legs were too long to expect him to cram himself into the backseat of her little BMW. In truth, she just would rather his presence next to her over Lommy’s. At least Gendry didn’t try to pick the music, though he did have a horrible habit of telling her how to drive.
“You know the rules, Lommy. No car, no claim,” Gendry spoke as if reading Arya’s mind. He turned to glance at her for a second, before giving his full attention to the road ahead of them. “Won’t your mum go absolutely mental at you for being out all night?
Arya shrugged, it was nearly noon and she had not a single missed call from either of her parents. They must not have been too concerned. “I’ll tell her I stayed at Meera’s or something. It wouldn’t be the first time. She can be as mad as she wants, I don’t bloody care. She wants to marry me off to some prick from the Riverlands, she can deal with me staying out all night.”
Arya didn’t miss the way Gendry’s knuckles went white as he clutched the steering wheel tightly at her words. He really did hate the idea of her mum banning her from seeing him. Though they’d talked about it enough times and Arya had assured him that she wouldn’t let her parents’ disapproval get in the way of their friendship. Gendry could be so bloody self-conscious sometimes.
“Hey,” she smiled as she punched him lightly on the shoulder. “Ease up, you big bull. You’ll rip your steering wheel out and we’ll go straight through one of the shop windows if you keep on with that grip.”
“Don’t tempt me,” Gendry joked. “I’d do just about anythin’ to get Lommy to shut up right now.”
Lommy, who was still complaining in the backseat, seemed to finally realize that nobody was listening to him. “Hey!”
Arya smiled. Her friends might be bloody idiots, but they were her bloody idiots.
By the time Arya made it back to her house, it was nearly dinnertime.
Gendry had walked her out to her car from his flat, grabbing her wrist before she could get into the driver’s seat.
“Hey,” he said, looking her in the eye but smiling sheepishly. That boy was a mess of contradictions lately. “Whatever your parents say, we’re still going on your gap year. I have all the money saved up and everything. Okay?”
She gave him a small smile. “Okay.”
He dropped her wrist, but he wasn’t done speaking. “And I don’t give a fuck what Lommy says, if you want to run you’ll always have first dibs on my couch. He can sleep on the bloody floor for all I care.”
Arya chuckled as she climbed into her car, but something about what he’d said had warmed her up in a way she wasn’t quite used to. She wasn’t sure why, but she knew she had to say something as she rolled down her window.
“Gendry,” she called, stopping him on his way to the door. “Thank you.”
His smile as she pulled away was enough to keep her dread at bay all the way home.
Now though, sitting across from her mother’s disapproving and entirely unsubtle glare, Arya’s dread was weighing in her stomach like lead. She pushed her potatoes around her plate, wishing she hadn’t come home at all.
Bran and Rickon sat on either side of her, nearly oblivious to the tension between Arya and their parents. Rickon was only eleven and didn’t pay much attention to anything besides whatever video game he was playing. Bran was simply too stoned to care much about the awkward way their father avoided looking Arya in the eye or their mother’s increasingly stern glares being thrown her way.
Robb was there but seeing as he knew everything their parents did, Arya figured he’d known of their plans to marry her off long before she did.
When her mother had finally deemed dinner finished, Arya had been more than ready to run upstairs to her room until everyone else went to bed. Gendry was off that night and she wanted to get back to his place as soon as possible.
Of course, her mother had other ideas. “Arya, please go wait for us in your father’s study. We’re just walking Robb out to his car, we’ll only be a minute.”
Arya huffed with disappointment as she stalked into her father’s study. Just twenty-four hours prior, they’d called her into the same room after supper and told her she would be getting married. She should have known they’d drag her back after she’d run away and spent the night out of the house.
As a child, Arya had rarely been allowed to go into her father’s study. Much of the time he’d spent in there had been used to conduct business and Arya and her siblings had been told by their mother never to interrupt. On very few occasions, Arya’s father had allowed her to slip inside and watch him work, entertaining her questions and talking about whatever she’d wanted. On those days Arya had loved her father’s study more than any other room in Winterfell Manor.
Now though, after a few too many bad experiences, she tended to stay as far away from the study as possible. Whenever she was called in it usually meant bad news.
For a while Arya just sat in the chair in front of her father's desk, staring at the wall and waiting for her parents to come back inside before she grew restless and began to poke at her father's things.
As she began to make her way around the desk, she accidentally knocked into the small rubbish bin at its side, sending the contents flying out onto the floor.
“Fuck,” she muttered as she bent down to pick the papers and other rubbish up as quickly as possible.
She was scrambling to put everything back in the bin when she found the letter. A thin envelope from the First Royal Bank of Winterfell addressed to Miss Arya Stark.
She contemplated putting it back and pretending she’d never found it, but her curiosity as well as her anger at her parents for the bombshell they’d dropped on her the day before won out.
Miss Arya Stark,
This letter has been written to inform you that your preliminary access to your trust fund will soon begin under the terms of your trust. Six months prior to your eighteenth birthday £100,000 will be released from your trust to be used at your discretion. Below is a message from the grantor(s) of your trust:
We may not agree on very much as your grandfathers, however when we started each of you and your siblings’ trusts we both agreed on this. As university draws nearer we thought it best that you be given a small bit of money to enjoy your last few months as a carefree college student. Use this money to buy a car, go on holiday, or for anything else you may wish. Good luck on your A-levels and have a wonderful last year of sixth-form.
Grandpa Hoster and Grandpa Rickard
To withdraw your preliminary funds, please schedule an appointment with a representative from our bank at your earliest convenience.
Director of Trusts
First Royal Bank of Winterfell
It took Arya a moment to comprehend what she had just read. She knew her grandfathers had set up trust funds for her and each of her siblings, but she’d never heard Robb, Jon, or Sansa mention getting one-hundred thousand pounds at seventeen.
She didn’t have much time to contemplate it though. Just as soon as she’d finished throwing everything back into the bin and stuffed the letter back into its envelope, she heard her parents coming through the front door.
Quickly, she tucked the letter into the waistband of her jeans and pulled her shirt down to hide it. She scrambled back into her chair and did her best to look bored just seconds before her parents stepped into the study.
“Arya,” her mother began as she made her way to stand behind her father who took a seat behind his desk. “We understand that you’re upset by the news of your marriage, and while we feel for you, we truly are doing what is best for you.”
“Best for me,” Arya scoffed. “Or best for you and the company?”
Her father visibly paled, but Catelyn Stark’s expression only became fiercer, her lips pursed into a thin line and her brow furrowed. “What’s best for the company is what is best for you. By marrying Elmar Frey, you’re securing a future family and furthering Stark Industries, which you are set to inherit a rather large share of.”
“I’m seventeen, I don’t care about securing a family. I just want to have a life and not be forced to marry someone I’ve never met.” Arya argued.
“I understand your hesitation to marry a boy you’ve never met before,” her mother’s tone told Arya she wasn’t going to like whatever she said next. “However that’s easily remedied. We’ve set up a date, next week, for you and Elmar to get acquainted. By the time of your wedding, you’ll know him quite well.”
Arya couldn’t even find the energy to protest, whatever she said her mother would just find some solution and continue on as if forcing her youngest daughter into an arranged marriage wasn’t absurd.
So, she zoned out. Her mother continued talking, though whether it was about dates or grumpkins Arya had no idea. The words Lommy had said the night before were ringing in her head. You could always run.
She could run, she realized. She’d thought she’d have to wait until she turned eighteen to go on her gap year, but if her grandparents had truly released one hundred thousand pounds to her…
The wheels in her head were still turning as she made her way up to her room and into bed. She was only briefly snapped out of her thoughts by the ding of her phone.
Gendry: You coming round tonight?
It would be almost too easy to shimmy down the drainpipe and run to her car, but her mind was spinning with half-made plans, and the only way she’d be able to finish them would be if she stayed home.
Arya: can’t. i’ll see you tomorrow after your shift?
Gendry: Everything okay?
Arya: yeah, tell you all about it tomorrow.
She threw her phone down onto the covers and rolled onto her back. She was in for a long night.
Arya shifted uncomfortably in her chair, not used to sitting with her legs crossed. She was beginning to regret putting on her one and only black dress, even though she’d paired it with her most comfortable cardigan.
“Miss Stark,” a man dressed in a very crisp and uncomfortable looking suit smiled down at her, extending his hand for her to shake. “Brynden Ashwood. I’ve been told you wish to withdraw your preliminary funds. Please come into my office and we’ll get started.”
She was thanking all of the gods, old and new, that Sansa had left her old suitcases after her move to Highgarden. If she’d been left with just her ratty old rugby duffel and backpack she wouldn’t have been able to pack nearly enough.
Now, her entire room was a mess of clothes. She had cardigans, sweaters, and jeans, shorts and tees, and every crop top and bikini she owned strewn across the room. It was taking her a bit longer than she’d anticipated, and quite a few more bags than she had hoped, but she would be prepared for whatever climate she encountered. After all, she wasn’t planning on calling home should she forget something.
She huffed for what felt like the hundredth time as she had to sit on her third suitcase just to get the zipper closed.
She hadn’t thought about her car being a problem until she remembered just how easily her parents could call Jon and ask him to put out a search for her. Having family in law enforcement was more trouble than it was worth most days.
A quick Google search was enough to calm her nerves. Sure, she wasn’t quite as used to driving an old pickup truck as she was her BMW, but it would have plenty of space for all of her bags and enough room for multiple passengers. Not to mention, at only three thousand pounds it was considered a steal.
Arya did have a hard time parting with so much money, though. But Meera, who had come with her to make the purchase, had finally gotten her to do what was needed.
As she parked her new truck down the street from her home, her whole body began to tingle with nervous excitement. She pulled out the new phone she’d bought, complete with a new number and no tracking device installed by her parents, and smiled to herself.
Tonight, she thought.
As she stood outside the door, duffel bag in hand, Arya realized that this was the first part of her entire plan that had actually made her nervous. Everything else she’d done, withdrawing money from her trust, secretly buying a car, getting a new phone, and sneaking out several bags- one filled solely with cash- had seemed like a walk in the park, but this final step had her legs shaking and her heart racing.
She took a deep breath, steeled her nerves, and then knocked on the door.
It took a moment, but she soon heard movement from inside the flat.
“That better be the takeaway!” Gendry yelled.
He opened the door to find something that was decidedly not the takeaway.
“Arya,” he sounded confused as he took her, and her duffel bag, in. “What’s going on?”
“I’m running away,” she pulled her duffel bag further up her shoulder. “You coming or not?”
Gendry stared at her for a few seconds, mouth hanging open and his thinking face on. Finally, the pained expression subsided and he smiled his wide, crooked, beautiful smile. The one he typically reserved for her. “Yeah. Yeah. Just, um, just let me grab my stuff.
Catelyn Stark woke up that morning feeling rather pleasant. It was Sunday. Ned would be home from work, Rickon’s rugby season was finally over, and Arya had spent the weekend at Meera Reed’s house. Today was finally a day she could relax, maybe bake some cookies or draw herself a nice bath.
Of course, her children had other plans.
“Mum!” Rickon yelled down the stairs as she sipped her morning tea. “I can’t find my ball for the footie match today!”
She sighed, a mother’s work was never done. “Have you looked everywhere?”
“Arya will have one that you can borrow, then.” She called up to him.
“I know,” her youngest son sounded rather exasperated. “But she’ll kill me if I go into her room. Can you get it for me?”
Catelyn sighed, but she knew he was right. "Sure, dear."
She made her way up the stairs and into her youngest daughter's bedroom. At first, she was pleasantly surprised by how clean it was. Usually, Arya had a mess of clothes all over the floor, and her desk was overflowing with crumpled bits of paper and other garbage. Today, her floor was clear and her desk organized.
Her room was so clean, in fact, that it took Catelyn only a moment to locate the ball she was looking for. She walked over to the desk and grabbed it from the chair, before a piece of paper- along with Arya’s mobile and car keys- laid out on top of the desk caught her eye. It was the letter from the bank, detailing the release of Arya’s preliminary funds. On the back was a note in her daughter’s handwriting.
Dear Mum and Dad,
Going on a gap year (or two or twenty), don’t wait up!
PS. No chance in all seven hells am I marrying that Frey boy!