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Dilettante

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He looked over at the giant clock up on the wall above the ancient portrait of former King Aerys Targaryen, his brows furrowed as he plucked his cell phone from his pocket and checked the time on there as well. She was late. In all the time she had been coming to the library, on all the days that he worked, she always came at exactly the same time. She had for the passed eight months. And before that, she had come on a different day, at a different time, at exactly that same time.

Did he feel a little sketch for knowing her schedule as well as he did? Kind of. But, he pushed his self loathing aside for the moment and looked back at the clock. He didn't know her to be late – well, he didn't really know her at all, per se. He knew of her, he knew about her, he didn't actually know her. Contrary to what his fantasies would suggest.

He went back to re-cataloging the Photography section, trying his hardest not to think about her or the fact that she was late. He got all the way through the D's before looking back at the clock – fifteen minutes. She was late fifteen minutes. He shook his head, pushing her from his mind momentarily and kept cataloging, disappointed in humans in general for being so sloppy and inconsiderate, because really, it wasn't that hard to put back a book in its rightful place.

He thought about her – because really, when wasn't he thinking about her? He thought about how long he had eyed her, when he first even saw her. He remembered seeing her at school when they were younger, he was two years older than her so it had only been fleeting. She was young back then, with hair past her shoulders and a tiny frame. He hadn't spoken to her, never once caught her eye in the hall, it was like they never even existed in the same space and time. Then she had started showing up at the library on a regular basis, studying, reading, playing on her computer. He had watched her, admired her, wondered about her.

She had been coming to the library for two years now, and in those two years he had never even been able to muster up enough courage to even look her in the eye. She was a mystery to him, a Manic Pixie Dream Girl if he'd ever seen one. Maybe he was just watching too many movies, reading into too many literary devices.

He chanced a look over to the lounge chairs, surprised to find her now sitting over there with her legs thrown over the arm and a book in her hands, clearly going by him unnoticed at some point. He felt his heart thump oddly in his chest.

He felt pathetic – well, he felt pathetic on the daily – but he always felt extra pathetic when it came to Arya Stark.

She was just... everything he wasn't. She was loud and vivid, cheeky and unconcerned. She was unconcerned with how people thought of her, looked at her, felt about her. She was blasé and cool, just so effortlessly that it made him mildly jealous. But, she was also so inviting, in her own intense way. It was her eyes, he thought, they were wide, expressive pools of grey that lingered too long or not enough.

Her hair was up today, he noted. Her long bob that usually hung to her shoulders in straight, dark brown strands was pulled up into an odd sort of messy ponytail, pieces falling down around her slender neck, tucked behind her ears. She tugged at a piece as she read, seemingly unaware of the action.

He turned away quickly as he felt her shift her gaze from the book and over to where he resided, he went back to putting away the Photography books. He didn't look at her again for a long while.

He thought about her often, even with her open, approachable nature and younger age, she just seemed so inaccessible, so out of his league. Because she was so out of his league.

Even with the two year age difference, she was leaps and bounds better than him. For one, she was attractive, exceedingly so. She had grown from tiny to petite, with smirking eyes and a great... chest – he blushed a little at the thought of her tits, shaking his head. She was bright, he figured out that she had graduated a year early, mostly from the switch in times when she came to the library. And, mostly, she wasn't a shy, nerdy, twenty year old virgin who worked part time at a library. That alone made her unreachable to his pathetic mind. Add in the fact that she didn't even know he was alive mixed with how vivacious and loud she was just spelled out: never going to happen.

But that never stopped his mind from lingering to her. He thought about the way she looked up from her lashes, over a book, downcast as she read. The way she would bite at her lower lip when she was thinking, making him want to groan. He liked the way she picked horror-thrillers to read or delved into Shakespeare, Tennessee Williams, and Arthur Miller. She was interesting and beautiful and so unlike him.

Maybe that was why he liked her so much. She wasn't boring or lame, he imagined she didn't spend her days off playing video games or reading comics, masturbating to someone who didn't even know she was alive.

No, Arya Stark was cooler than that. She probably went to concerts and dated guys from her fencing class – he knew she fenced from the Instagram he definitely didn't stalk or anything. She probably flirted with bartenders and got drinks on the house, dozens of people vying for her attention. That was probably why she didn't see him, she was too busy with all the other cool, attractive people to be bothered by him. By a nobody.

He wondered if she'd ever noticed him here, ever once looked over and thought casually – hey, that guy looks vaguely familiar. Probably not.

He pulled the cart around to another row to start on another genre of books that were out of order. He sighed as he did so. He wasn't cool, he was lame and boring and basically nothing special. He was a twenty year old art student at King's College, he spent his time working at a fucking library and his Godfather's Auto Repair shop. He had an apartment that his friends Hot Pie and Podrick often crashed at and read a lot of books. He liked comics and Shakespeare and Keats, he listened to underrated music and spent most of his weekends under the hood of a car or eating pizza with the two of them in front of a tv.

He sighed – what the actual fuck would Arya Stark want with him?

The answer was, nothing.

With his self loathing and insecurity dialed up a notch, he left the cart of books where they were, walked over to the front desk and clocked himself out for lunch. He just needed to clear his head for a bit, think about something else other than Arya Stark for two fucking minutes. He pulled on his jacket and told his boss that he'd be back in an hour, then headed out of the library in search of food and another topic of interest.

He completely missed the way her eyes followed his movements, all the way until he walked out the door.

Arya sat up in her armchair as she watched him stalk from where she'd been spying on him in between bookshelves, over to the front desk. She watched him shrug on his jacket a little harshly, grabbing a book from behind the counter and make his way out of the building. She felt a little put out, one of the reasons she liked coming here so much – aside from getting away from the crack den she called a house and her sister being all romp-y with her boyfriend – was because he was here. She liked watching him. She didn't know his name or who he was, but she liked watching him.

She had noticed him first when she started coming to study here last year. She'd been trying to cram everything in and get excellent marks so they would let her graduate early, and seeing as how her house was crazy and loud, and Sansa's apartment held her sex-capades, she retreated to the safety of the public library downtown.

Technically the King's Landing Public Library was also kind of the King's College Library – she wasn't entirely sure how that worked or whatever, but she was sure if she really wanted to know, someone would explain it to her. She wondered if that's how he'd gotten a job here.

He was young, he had to be. There was no way that he was significantly older that her, if she had to guess she'd say he was somewhere between her and Jon, definitely around Sansa's age. Which lead her to the question, didn't someone have to be, well, old to be a librarian? Which then of course lead her to the feeble, somehow correlation of the two libraries, his age, and that he went to King's College. Clearly she should be a detective with all of this amateur sleuthing she had going on.

But, aside from her hypothesized connection about him being a college student and his age range, she knew nothing else about him. And for whatever reason, she hadn't cared to find out more. Mostly because he liked to pretend she wasn't in the room.

She knew that he was aware of her presence, she could feel his gaze on her all the time. It made her feel sexy, attractive, so she never stopped him. But, he had never spoke a word to her in all the time that she'd been coming here. He would stare at her from across the library, rows of bookshelves between them, and never once had he made a move. Although it empowered her that she might've made him nervous, it also made her annoyed.

He was cute though, in that quiet boy way. She could tell he didn't have a ton of confidence, it was in the way he carried himself, with his head bowed and his eyes downcast. She wasn't sure why though, he was attractive. He had a handsome face, with intense blue eyes and dark hair that she wanted to run her hands through.

She'd thought about the nameless boy, the one she saw every day at noon. She thought a lot about him actually – especially at night, or in the shower, or to drowned out the sound of Sansa's sexual wails from down the hall. He looked strong under his slightly baggy t-shirt, she often wondered what his body looked like. He probably really had no idea how attractive he was, he seemed like a guy who had no idea. She wondered why he had no idea, or why he was so shy, or why he never made eye contact with her or never said hello. Like, he only stalked her life in the library and the guy couldn't manage a quick, “Hello, my name is...”?

Arya wasn't a weak woman, she was strong and independent and did as she pleased most of the time. She wasn't a damsel, she was hardly ever in distress, and if she wanted something, she took it. Because that's who she was. But, there was just something about the nameless boy, the way he stared at her, it made her want him to take her. It made her want to sit by and let him figure it out, to buck up and make the first move. That was mostly why two years had gone by and she still didn't know his name.

But, there came a time where she had to put away her desire to be dominated, for someone to suppress her intense personality and take charge. She'd given him the opportunity, she'd worn her tightest jeans, her most alluring skits, her most tit enhancing shirts. Nothing.

She had dropped books and fully bent over to retrieve them, she let her fingers absently play with the necklace near her breasts, she'd even reached high for a book she'd never be able to grab. All for naught. He never even budged.

She had used all of the tricks in Sansa's book, all the subtle flirting ways her sister had taught her had proven unsuccessful with him. Sansa had thought that maybe he was just gay, and it had made her think about it as well. But, she remembered the way his breathing would quicken or how he would discreetly try to adjust his erection when she pulled a stunt. He wasn't gay, he was just avoiding her existence.

That should've put her off, but it didn't. It only made her want to figure him out that much more.

Sometimes she wondered what if she got to know him and he was horrific and strange? Or lecher-y and crude? It would basically dash her dreams.

She had been lusting, wondering, and sighing about a boy she didn't even know the name of for two years. Two fucking years. What was wrong with her?

She was startled from her thoughts by the sight of him walking back into the library. He was sipping on a soda as he went to the front desk to presumably clock himself back in from his apparent lunch break. She watched as he nodded to the woman sitting at the desk before resuming the work that he had previously abandoned in his earlier haste to leave the building. She decided then that enough was enough, she was done waiting. It was time to let Naughty Arya out to play.

She waited a while, letting him get back to work for a bit. She wasn't even pretending to know what the words on the pages in front of her meant, she was too eager to care. She was going to do it, she was going to go get a name out of that boy. She closed the book in her hands, marking it, and setting it on the chair with her bag as she stood. She smiled as she slinked over to where he was a few rows down, putting books back into their rightful places.

She walked up to where he stood, stopping before him and waiting for him to take note of her presence. “Hi.”

He turned quickly to look at her, his blue eyes wide and shock written all over his features as she stood in front of him. She smiled up at him, two parts nice and innocent, one part sultry. She never realized how tall he was from across the room, it made her want to climb him.

He blinked, trying to swallow and appease his suddenly dry throat. Arya Stark was standing in front of him, speaking to him. Did he fall asleep? Was he dreaming?

He noted the way her wide, grey eyes held his, the smirk-smile on her bow-shaped lips. Her pale skin was flawless up close, it looked smooth, like glass. His eyes quickly drifted down her neck to her chest and the vast expanse of pale skin that was displayed before him. Her black crop top had a wide front, almost making it off the shoulder, barely holding on to the tops of her shoulders. It then dipped down into a low sweetheart neckline, basically the whole of her upper chest and cleavage was staring him in the face.

Fuck.

Looking at her fully now for the first time today, her whole outfit made him want to groan. The black crop top, paired with her tight black skinny jeans was almost too much. And to add to the list of cool things about her, she pulled her outfit together with a dark green plaid button up that was loosely hanging off her shoulders. She looked like she stepped right out of a Nirvana music video.

She couldn't help the slight smirk that was added to her smile as she watched him quickly sweep her outfit, before bringing his eyes back up to look into hers. Never had she been more happy that she was a lazy bitch who didn't like to do laundry and had stolen one of Sansa's push up bras. When she got home, she was going to kiss that saucy little red head.

“I'm Arya.” She continued on, hoping he would get the hint and talk to her. So far, it wasn't happening. He just swallowed thickly and kept staring into her eyes. She smiled a little wider, her sarcastic playful side coming out. “Usually this is where you would introduce yourself back...”

“Oh.” He said, shaking his head and looked away sheepishly. “Yeah. I'm, ah, Gendry.”

“Well, Gendry,” She watched his jaw tighten at the way she added a slight purring quality to his name. Sometimes she hated herself for hanging around Sansa and her friends so much, she was never this flirty or overtly sexual, but he brought it out in her. And so did her sister, the bitch. “Could you help me find a book?”

She smirked, this was going to be way too easy.

He cleared his throat and nodded, “Yeah, ah, yeah I can help you.” He took a second to slow down the fast beating of his heart, to get his shit together. She was speaking to him, noticing him, and he was fucking blowing it. He started again, hopefully less hopelessly awkward. “What are you looking for?”

He should've known by the mischievous swirl in her grey eyes or the not so casual upturn of her lips that this wasn't going to be good. Apparently sight and reason had left his brain the moment he'd noticed her standing there beside him.

“The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty.”

He had to try really, excessively hard not to let out the groan that was so desperately trying to break free. The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty? Was she for real? She might as well asked for Lolita or fucking Fifty Shades of Grey. Either way, he now wanted to kill himself. The thought of her reading a book, from his library, about sex, alone, in her bed, possibly touching herself...

He almost forgot to breath.

He was flushing, the small blush creeping up his neck in splotchy stains, his eyes widened a bit as she said the title. Oh, way too easy. Now she knew all he could think about was her and that book and whatever fantasy was playing out in his head.

He definitely wasn't gay, and he most certainly seemed to be into her by his odd, but endearing reactions. So why the fuck couldn't he have gotten his shit together and come ask her out two years ago?

She watched as he cleared his throat, his eyes pulling away from hers to look down, away from her. “It's, ah, it's over...this way.”

He turned and started to walk in the direction of where the book was located, leaving her to follow behind him. He was stuttering slightly, unfocused as he spoke. It made her insides swell that she had this affect on him, made her feel womanly and powerful.

She followed closely behind him, coming to stand a little too close as he scoured the bookshelf for the book she was looking for. He could feel her body heat, her breath against his shoulder. He tried to brush it off, act professional, he didn't want to scare her off. He plucked a book from the bottom row, turning and handing it to her. She was still staring at him, attempting to catch his gaze once again, she smiled. She looked down at the book in her hands, flipping it over and glancing at the back.

“Thanks.” She looked back up at him, catching his eyes with her own, smirking a bit. “It's a prefect read for my bath later.” She watched again as he desperately tried to contain some form of emotion that he was unwilling to let go in front of her. Uptight? It would be fun unlacing him. “Well, thanks again, Gendry. I hope I see you around.”

She gave him one last lingering look and sly smile before strutting back over to the lounge chairs where her belongings were placed, her hips swinging a little more knowing that he was watching her go. She grabbed her giant bag and the other book she had been reading and then headed up to the front desk to check out the two books. Then, she left.

Gendry let out a deep sigh as he watched her leave, running a hand through his hair and over his face. He let out a low, “Fuck.” Unsure of what to do now that he had an image of a naked, soaking wet Arya touching herself because of that book was surgically implanted into his brain, he went and sat down at the front desk, offering to cover for his boss so she could get something to eat. He could use the time to sit and hide his erection.

He sat in the comfortable chair behind the desk, zoning out and replaying the whole meeting with Arya. Could he have been more of a bumbling idiot? He was embarrassed to even think about the fact that he'd almost – almost – moaned in front of her more than once, but then when he recalled what he had actually said? Or, didn't say for that matter.

He spent the majority of his run in with her silently standing there as she smirked up at him. Was it possible to kill himself with sticky notes? Because he wanted to try.

He had just been flirted at by one of the single sexiest girls he'd ever seen in real life, and he just fucking stood there. He stood there! Staring down at her, tripping over his own words, acting like he was still fourteen. God, he was fucking ridiculous.

He may not have much – okay, any – experience, but he was still a functioning human most of the time. He wasn't fourteen anymore, he wasn't in high school, she wasn't an unobtainable object of desire. She was a girl. A girl he absolutely fancied and fantasized about a lot more than he'd ever admit to, but she was still just a girl. A girl who had flirted at him, about a naughty book and a bath and basically admitted to wanting to see him again.

That thought alone was enough to drive himself mad.

Maybe... maybe he'd talk to her when she came in next. Like, actually speak to her and not just stumble all over himself like an uncultured mess. He shook his head, his life was an embarrassing joke.

He pulled out his phone, seeing a text from Hot Pie and another from his Mom. Great, the only two people texting him were his mother and his annoying best friend. He was such a loser, no wonder Arya practically ran away from him today.

He opened his Instagram, seeing he had a notification. He clicked the notification icon and felt his heart stop momentarily and then speed up very quickly. Arya Stark had just followed him. She had found him and now she was following him. What was this life and how did it happen to him?

He quickly accepted her request and in a show of courage he didn't normally have, he followed her back. He was following Arya Stark, she was following him, they knew who each other were now, this was crazy.

He quickly exited the app, trying to move his mind away from Arya, she didn't need to worm herself into his brain right now.

He responded to the texts that held questions of when he was getting off work and what he'd like for dinner, and attempted to spend the rest of his shift actually getting some work done seeing as he'd been distracted all day. He sent out the late notices on their email, responded to the questions about books people couldn't find, and finally finished replacing all the ink in the printers by the time his shift had ended.

He clocked out, said goodbye to his boss and made his way out to his car. The traffic wasn't bad from the library to his apartment building, making it easier to get home and quicker than usual. He went up to his apartment and left the door unlocked for Hot Pie who was bringing dinner over soon. Gendry threw himself down on his comfortable bed, running his hands over his face.

He removed his phone from his pants pocket, texting Hot Pie that he was home and the door was unlocked. He then went onto Instagram to kill some time – and definitely not obsess over the fact that Arya was now following him. He scrolled through the feed of pictures, finding them all to be predictable and not what he wanted to see. He found himself typing in her username before he could stop himself. About three hours had passed since Arya left, since she had added him, since he pretended she didn't exist so he could get his work done, he wasn't sure what she would even post in that time, but he was looking anyway. Because he was a fucking stalker and whipped as hell.

There was a new picture from an hour ago, it was of her sitting in her bath tub, cropped strategically so that nothing below the swell of her breast was shown above the water in the tub. She was biting her lower lip in the same smirky-smile she had given him, the book in her hand beside her. The caption read simply; About to start a new book, whose surprised? The answer is no one.

It already had a ton of likes, he was sure they were mostly because she was very much naked in a bath tub and people though that if they liked it, she'd post more pictures like that. He clenched his jaw as his eyes swept over the picture again. Fuck. He felt himself go hard again at the sight of it. The longer he looked, the harder her got, the more his mind turned dirtier and dirtier.

He looked at the time, trying to calculate how long it would be before Hot Pie came over, if he had enough time to take care of himself. The answer was most likely no.

Gendry closed out of the app and threw his phone beside him, getting up and going into the bathroom to splash some water on his face. He needed to cool himself down, the last thing he needed was Hot Pie noticing his hard on and start in on his own fantasy girl – grisly details and all. He blanched a little at the thought.

He walked into the living room and threw himself down on the couch, turning the tv on. He flipped through the channels and settled on the rerun of X-Men, while he waited. It wasn't long after that when Hot Pie showed up, Gendry always knew it was him because he was the only one who came blustering in all loud and clumsy. Also, because he was one of the only people who came to Gendry's apartment. He held back a self-deprecating sigh.

“Oy! Dude, I'm here.”

Gendry sat up on the couch and turned to face his best friend. “No shit.” He stood and walked into the kitchen were Hot Pie was setting down the food he'd brought and ignoring Gendry's crank ass attitude. He lifted a brow, “No, Pod tonight?”

Hot Pie just rolled his eyes and snorted, “Nope, the little shit has too much “studying” to get done. Lame.”

Gendry just shook his head at Hot Pie's oblivious rudeness towards their missing friend, Podrick was even more shy and quiet than the three of them combined. He was a good boy, who did what he was told and made the grades to appease his parents and keep his scholarship. Hot Pie didn't understand Pod as well as Gendry did, but they had all been friends for a long time. “What've we got tonight?”

One of the awesome things about being best friends with Hot Pie was his amazing talent at cooking food – which was the basis of his childhood nickname. The bigger boy was in the Culinary program at the college, but had gotten hired as a chef at this unbelievably great restaurant and would bring them dinner when he got off on an early shift. It smelled divine.

“Steak. And a bunch of other shit.”

Very eloquent, Hot Pie was.

Gendry smirked and moved around the small kitchen to grab plates and utensils for them. They ate and watched X-Men, talked about the plans they had for the weekend, their work schedules, anything interesting involving the people they went to school with. Which of course lead to Hot Pie moaning on about how in love he was with Margaery Tyrell, a senior, who was head of the sorority at Kings College and from a prominent family.

Margaery was beautiful, kind, and iridescent. She was a lady if Gendry'd ever seen one, polished and poised, groomed for greatness. Everyone at the school wanted Margaery, so Gendry hadn't been at all surprised when Hot Pie had first told him of his crush on her last year. Would she ever go for anyone like his best friend? Probably not. She dated frat boys that hung around with her brother, sons of important political families, not someone like Hot Pie. That hadn't dwindled his friends bone for the older girl, if anything, it made him want her more.

Gendry could understand, he wanted Arya more than he wanted a first edition copy of The Complete Poems of Robert Frost or a signed Everything is Illuminated DVD. More than he wanted to meet Sir Ian McKellen and talk about Gandalf or a tour of the Las Vegas Crime Lab set during the graveyard shift. He got it, he understood where Hot Pie was coming from. He was there right now.

They eventually made their way into the living room, playing Call of Duty once X-Men had ended. That's how they spent the rest of their night, playing video games and talking about the girls they'd never have sex with. It was a typical thursday night for them.

Hot Pie left a few hours later, leaving Gendry to take a shower and go to bed. They both had class in the morning and Hot Pie couldn't miss anymore classes than he already had, the Master Chef already though he was lazy as it was. Gendry bid his friend goodnight and locked up after him, throwing the dirty dishes in the dishwasher and set it to clean while he was out tomorrow morning.

He made his way into his bedroom, shedding clothes as he did. He turned on the shower and waited for it to heat up, he looked at himself in the mirror as he was waiting. Dark, messy hair, boring blue eyes, a lanky frame. He was not impressive, or striking, it was the main reason why girls didn't look twice at him.

He jumped in the shower, letting the hot water run over him. He laid his head against the tile and thought about her, again. He thought about her wide grey eyes, expressive and bright. Her tight little body, that smirking mouth. She was just so... alluring.

He felt himself grow hard at the thought of her, at the thought of her outfit today, her presence so close to his, her obvious innuendo, that fucking picture with that fucking book. He let out a groan as he grabbed himself and started to stroke.

He wasn't sure why she had this hold over him, why he was even as into as he was. There was just something about Arya Stark, something he couldn't place, that made him completely unlike his normal self. She made him intense and wanton, horny all the damn time, she made him want things, want to be different, to be better.

He bit at his bottom lip as another low moan escaped him, he pictured her in her bathtub, petting herself, her head thrown back, biting her lower lip. He could hear her moaning, moaning his name as she came, picturing them doing things from that book. He pumped his fist a little faster at the thought, leaning his forearm against the shower wall.

He pictured her on top, riding him hard and fast, in control as always. But then he thought about flipping her over and taking control of her, dominating her, making her beg for him. And she would, because she loved the way she felt with his cock inside her.

He came hard right then, his breathing haggard, leaving him breathless as he leaned into the cool tiles. What had gotten into him?

He washed himself quickly, rinsed out his hair and then shut off the shower. He dried himself and pulled on his sleep pants, laying down in his bed. He reached for his phone to plug it in, ignoring the text from his uncle about work tomorrow. He laid his head on his pillow, closing his eyes, and tried not to think about how she would look asleep beside him.

Chapter Text

Arya jumped out of her car and practically ran into Sansa's apartment – she had started on and off staying there once they had moved in three years ago and hadn't really left since. Before that, Sansa had begun spending more and more time at her Sandor's place, bringing more and more of her belongings until he had finally took the hint her sister had been desperately trying to drop and suggested they actually move in together and get a place of their own. Arya had come not too long after that, jumping at the chance to get away from the full house that was their family home – annoying life lessons, cheesy montages and all. She always mentally flipped off Bob Saget when she got the chance.

Staying with them was actually one of the ways she had come to accept the Hound and his mildly inappropriate relationship with her sister – although, the two of them still held a private annoyance with one another, but they were all much closer now. Including Arya and Sandor.

Arya had been unofficially living with them since she graduated a year early last summer, spending what would have been her senior year of high school doing absolutely nothing. She didn't have a job, she deferred her college acceptance for a year, and she wasn't making any serious plans about her life. Sansa worried about her, Arya knew that. That's why Sansa was letting her live here without question, she was worried.

They had become very close, as shocking as it had been to everyone that had known them when they were younger. They use to hate each other, be at each others throats over everything – every stupid decision, every remark, every eye roll. After their parents died it had stayed the same for a while, they kept up with the only normalcy they had left in their life – which just happened to be hating each other. Slowly that wore away into pain and sadness, and Arya and Sansa leaned on one another in a way they never had before, in a way that she had only reserved for Jon. They became close friends after that.

Sansa had changed since she started dating Sandor – and usually when a girl changes for her boyfriend, it was a bad thing. This time though, it wasn't. Sansa used to be judgmental and prissy, tattle-tailing and being petty all the time. But, after their parents died and she had started to grow up, meeting Sandor in the process, and she changed. He was good for her, he calmed her, excited her, loved her. He made her a better person, and everyone saw it. Maybe that's why Arya had softened for him, she wasn't a child anymore, she saw the way the Hound made her sister smile. She got it.

Now, she wasn't sure what her life would be like if they weren't close, all three of them – probably boring.

She opened the front door to the sounds of moaning and slapping flesh, Arya pulled a disgusted face at the sound and slammed the door loud enough to hopefully make it fucking stop. This she did not miss. This she could certainly go back in time and live without. What had happened to Sansa? She had use to be so prim and proper. Arya snorted, remembering that Sansa hadn't even let Joffrey kiss her until they'd been actually dating for a whole month. Now here she was, living with her significantly older boyfriend and having storms of loud sex. Literally. They would straddle make-out during movies they were watching, fuck during all hours of the day, everywhere, all the time.

What the actual fuck?

And, Arya chose to live here. That's what Sandor would say when she groaned about their annoying sex-capades – she chose to be here. It was true, she did live here by choice and clearly was mental for doing so.

The noises stopped soon after she had slammed the door, alerting them to her presence in the apartment. Arya made her way out of the living room and down the hall to her own room – aka the big guest bedroom, that was totally only Arya's, because let's be honest – and was so happy that the two of them decided to be normal humans and have sex in their bedroom this time, instead of the various other rooms of the house that Arya had caught them in. Arya shuddered as she remembered walking in on her sister pinned to the kitchen counter as the Hound pounded into her. Nope, never again.

Sansa came out of her room not too long after and made her way down the hall into Arya's room, leaning against the doorway. “Hey.”

Arya looked over to her sister and smirked. Sansa was wrapped in her dark silk robe, her long hair was mussed, and her chest heaving from labored breathing. “Hey.” Arya sat down on the bed, staring at her sister and smirking. “Sorry for disturbing you two.” Her dark brows furrowed then, “Wait, were you guys, like... finished, or whatever?”

Sansa gave her younger sister a secretive smile that Arya had often tried to replicate. “No.”

Arya sighed, a smile still on her lips. “He's gonna throw a tantrum about me being a cockblock again, isn't he?”

Sansa let out a laugh, “I'll make it up to him later.”

Arya just shook her head, “And I really don't want to know how.”

Sansa just smirked, saying nothing on the subject. “So,” She began. “How was your library time?” Her brows furrowed as she looked at the clock on Arya's beside table, “You're home early for someone who went late.”

“Yeah well, it's not my fault that Bran took ten hundred years in the shower this morning and then another five for him to get ready so I could drop him off. I mean, really, who is that monkey trying to impess?” Sansa laughed at her portrayal of their younger brother and Arya kept going. “I did have an encounter today.”

Sansa's eyes lit up, “Oh! You did? Tell me.” She came and sat down beside Arya on the bed, excited about the girl talk that was about to commence. It wasn't often that this happened – or that Arya allowed it to happen was a more accurate statement – and Sansa was going to lap it up while she could.

“I did. So, you know nameless boy, right?”

“Correct, I do.”

“Okay, well, I made contact today.”

Sansa gave a yelp of excitement, smothering the chuckle at the way Arya spoke of him like he was an alien. “I thought you were waiting for him to make a move? Did he finally make one?”

Arya shook her head, “No, not exactly. He seemed extra angsty today – which was super hot – and he was steadfastly ignoring my existence, as always, and something just clicked. I went and made the move, got his name and everything.”

Sansa squealed again, causing Arya to make an annoyed face, which Sansa promptly ingored. “What is it?”

“Gendry.”

“Wow, it sounds dashing.”

Arya leaned back on the bed, throwing her arms over her face, groaning. “Fuck, he's so hot, Sans. Like, so nerdy and hot, I just want to throw him against a bookshelf and fuck him.”

Sansa laughed at that, shaking her head at her sister. She had basically no doubt that Arya would certainly do just that if she really wanted to. “So, you made contact, got a name,” Sansa glanced down at her outfit. “Looked super cute and fantastic while doing it. Anything else?”

“I definitely flirted, real hard. I think he almost had a heart attack. He was blushing and stumbling over his words, it was adorable. You would've died, Sans.”

“Oh, god, what I would give to have nerdy virgins blushing all over me.” Sansa stated, a dreamy look coming to her eyes as she fanned herself at the thought.

Arya rolled her eyes and scoffed, “They do. Every time we walk into the record store or the coffee shop, they all immediately start sweating and think of every geek fantasy they have, putting you in them.”

Sansa swatted Arya's arm, “They're looking at you too, you goon.” She pushed Arya once again for good measure, trying to implant it into her brain that she was beautiful and sultry and everybody's fantasy girl. “Tell me more about, Gendry.” Arya ignored the way she purred his name.

“Well, I did the only thing I could think of.” She smirked. “I asked him to help me find a book.”

Her sister smirked as well, knowing it was totally something Sansa would do or had done in high school. “What book?”

“An erotic book. A book with a lot of sex happening in it.”

“Good girl.”

“He got it for me and then I may or may not have casually mentioned that I would be reading in the bath later.”

Sansa laughed whole-heartedly at that, the peels of laughter making Arya laugh as well. “I can't believe you said that! Oh, we've trained you well.” She sloppily pushed away tears from her laughing fit. “Ygritte will be so proud.”

Arya rolled her eyes and chuckled at the mention of Jon's intense girlfriend. She would indeed be very proud when Arya told her about this, probably take her out for a drink to celebrate, or something equally as Ygritte. “Yeah, but now what do I do? What do I talk to him about when I see him next? I don't want him to think I'm some sex fiend who has multiple hook ups on the daily.”

“He's not going to think that. Just find out more about him, ask him questions.” Her blue eyes lit up, a wide smile on her face. “Wait, give me your phone.”

Arya pulled the phone out of her pocket and handed it to her sister. “What? What's happening right now?” Sansa took the phone and started typing something into it. “Sansa, what are you doing?”

“I'm looking him up on Instagram. Everyone has an Instagram, Facebook is so over. And, I mean really, how many people are named, Gendry?” Arya scooted closer to Sansa to get a look at her phone over her sister's slim shoulder. “Aha! Look, one Gendry in all of the Instagrams.”

The username was GWB and the name beneath it was simply, Gendry. Sansa clicked on it, and groaned when it came up as private. She snuck a glance to an also disappointed Arya and quickly hit the follow button.

“Sansa!” Arya pushed her sister and made to grab the phone from her. “Why did you do that?”

Sansa just laughed and used her height as an advantage over Arya, “Who cares, he's going to accept as soon as he sees you followed him.”

“He will not! He's going to think I'm some creepy sex-fiend stalker girl and never speak to me again!”

Sansa rolled her eyes, “Oh my god, Arya, that it so not true. He's going to see that you made the effort to find him and be thoroughly excited that you did.”

“You know nothing, Sansa Marie!”

“Stop imitating, Ygritte. You know how she hates that.”

“Give me the phone.”

“No.”

“Sansa, give me the fucking phone!”

“No!”

Arya climbed on top of her sister, straddling her and attempting to extract the phone from her hands. They struggled and yelled, flipping positions more than once. They stopped when they heard the deep sigh from the doorway. Arya looked over her shoulder from where she was straddling her sister, who was on her stomach, facing the opposite wall. Sandor stood in the doorway, arms crossed over his bare chest, his eyes narrowed as he watched his girlfriend being mounted by her younger sister.

Sansa looked over shoulder sheepishly, “Hi, honey.”

“What is this shit?”

Arya smiled innocently at the Hound, knowing that he hated the way she imitated Sansa and looked up through her lashes at him. “Yeah, hi, honey.” Her tone held a sarcastic mocking but had no malice, he just glared at her from his spot by the door.

“You left me in the middle of sex to girl talk with your sister and fucking wrestle each other?”

Sansa rolled herself over onto her back, sitting up with Arya still planted on her thighs. She smiled over at Sandor, that perfect secret smile that Arya wanted so much to replicate. “Sorry, San, I'll be back in a minute.”

Sandor just sighed deeply again, glaring at the two of them for another whole minute. Taking in the sight of Sansa and Arya tangled together, Sansa's robe disheveled and falling slightly open. He shook his head and narrowed his eyes at the sisters who were smiling back at him apologetically and saucily at the same time.

Arya noticed his line of sight had went to the open part of Sansa's robe, revealing one of her breasts. Arya turned back and pinched Sansa's nipple, causing her to cry out in pain. Sansa pushed Arya off her and Arya then grabbed the phone out of her hand as Sansa massaged her throbbing appendage.

“Ow! Arya Louise, that hurt!”

Sandor just rolled his eyes and shook his head, walking away from the room and leaving the two of them. Sansa reached down into Arya's shirt and pinched her nipple for revenge, Arya yelled and pushed Sansa away from her, laughing.

“Sans, Sansa, stop!” She pushed her annoyed sister away again, still laughing. “Stop! Okay, okay, I'm sorry! Just, stop!”

Sansa sat back down on the bed, stopping the assault on her younger sister. “No more titty-twisters, you promised.”

Arya, still laughing, “I know, I'm sorry. Never again.”

Sansa fixed her robe and looked back at Arya eagerly. “Well, go on, check your phone.”

Arya scoffed, it had been like five minutes, she doubted he had even checked his phone in that time. “Sans, I really don't think – ” She cut herself off as she opened the Instagram app and checked the notification she had, seeing that two minutes after she followed him, he accepted and followed her back. “Holy shit, you were right.”

Sansa tackled Arya onto the bed in a loving sister wrestle-embrace. She straddled Arya and started to tickle her, “See! Never doubt me again!”

Arya was laughing and trying to push her older sister off her, “I'll never doubt you again, Sans. Promise. Now get the fuck off me.”

“Good.” Sansa stopped tickling her and grabbed the cell phone back from Arya. She looked through the pictures and smiled. “Oooo, he's super cute, Arya.”

“I know, thanks.” She said, trying to reach for the phone.

“Definitely a virgin.” She scoffed and flipped the phone over so Arya could see a picture. “I mean, look, he's posting pictures of books and art, and not in an ironic, hipster way. He's genuinely into this. So nerdy.”

“Yeah, I told you that.”

She grabbed the cell phone from Sansa's hands and went back to view all the pictures. There were some of random books and coffee, a couple of video games or comics, artwork that hung in hallways or on a canvas, cars he seemed to be working on, his greasy hands after working on said cars. And there were a few of just him – although she wasn't sure if he took them or someone else had. His hair varied in them, the older ones showed his hair a little shorter than it was now, the newer ones showed his dark hair falling over his forehead. His eyes looked so blue, so light and bright, she was sure they didn't have any effects on them, she had seem them in real life today, they were really that blue.

Why hadn't she thought of this before? Why hadn't she thought of looking him up?

Oh, yeah, because she hadn't known his name until right now.

Two years she had spent looking at him through bookshelves, thinking about him, making up scenarios about him, wondering what his name was or his favorite book, his favorite movie, how often he masturbated and if he thought about her as he did it. And now, in one day, she had learned his name and found his Instagram, finding out more and more about him as she scrolled through his pictures.

She put the phone down when she saw Sansa smirk down at her from where she was still placed on top of Arya. “You know, if we keep laying on top of each other like this, the Hound is probably going to get some pretty gnarly ideas.”

Sansa smirked again, “He already has.”

“Oh my god, no!” She pushed Sansa off of her and rolled over on the bed. Sansa laughing at her sister's horrified expression as she laid back, next to Arya. “That's horrific, tell me you're joking.”

“Nope.” She shook her head, trying to calm her laughing. “Come on, Arya, he's a guy, living with two incredibly attractive sisters. I'm not at all offended.”

“I feel violated.”

Sansa swatted Arya's arm, “Don't ever tell him I told you.”

Arya rolled her eyes and pulled a disgusted face. “Why in the seven hells would I ever bring up the fact that he has a super gross fantasy threesome with us? I like living here, I don't want the Hound to kick me out.”

“He would never. He loves you, Arya.”

She rolled her eyes playfully, knowing it to be true. “Yeah, yeah, I know.”

Sansa sat up, “I should probably go back in there before he gets annoyed.”

Arya scoffed, “I'm pretty sure he's already annoyed.”

“Maybe slightly.” Sansa stood from the bed and turned to face her sister. “Talk to him tomorrow. Feel him out, ask to hang out with him.”

“Isn't that a little forward?”

Sansa gave Arya a pointed look, “You're the most forward person I have ever met, in my life. You'll figure it out.”

With that, Sansa left the room and left Arya sitting on the bed, phone in hand, wondering what she was to do. Arya sat up with a sigh and looked down at her bag on the floor, now was a good a time as any. She reached down into the bag to grab the book out, she stood from her bed and pulled her bathrobe off the back of her door and made her way down the hall and into the bathroom, about to make true on her words to Gendry.

She filled the tub with warm water and began to shed her clothes, she grabbed a towel and placed it on the ground, her book and phone rested on it. Arya tested the water before climbing in, it soothed her muscles and instantly relaxed her. She slunk down into the water and sighed.

Her thoughts turned to nameless boy – to Gendry. His name was, Gendry. Her heart speed up at bit, and a low tingle formed in her belly. Gendry. Tall, handsome, Gendry. Who liked books, and comics, and was so quiet and shy. She thought of the blush that started from his neck up, she wondered if he blushed red everywhere. He seemed sweet, noble in a way. Unlike the boys that had surrounded her in high school, that used to gather around Sansa, he was different.

She looked over at the book on the floor beside her, she had a wicked idea. She picked up the book and her phone, messing around with her hair briefly to make sure she looked good. She snapped a picture of herself holding the book, making it clear that she was in a bathtub, a smirky-smile on the lip she was biting at. She put the book back down on the floor and looked at the picture she had just taken, her breasts were clearly visible in the wider framed shot. She quickly cropped it so that only the top part of her chest was seen, the swell of her cleavage visible and that was all. She was classy, afterall.

She smirked to herself as she uploaded it to Instagram, knowing that he would see it. She placed her cell phone back on the ground and instead picked back up the book, deciding to give it a go. And hoping that it would drone out the sound of Sansa's moaning.

The book was a lot dirtier than she expected, not really her jam, but whatever, it gave her something to do while she sat in the warm water. She'd probably end up giving it to Sansa later, reading the other book she'd checked out, it seemed way more her sister's speed. Eventually she stopped reading, not able to concentrate on the words in front of her. She laid back in the tub, closing her eyes and drifted off.

She wasn't sure how long she had napped it out for, but the water had grown cold around her, she sat up and stretched out before standing and draining the water out of the tub. She wrapped her robe around herself, gathering her things from the floor and headed back to her room. She could hear Sansa and Sandor down the hall, in the kitchen laughing about something as the microwave went off. It had to be around dinner time, she felt her stomach grumble loudly in conformation.

She went into her room and dressed in pajamas, even though it was still early, getting cosy. She was about to go back out into the kitchen to eat dinner with her sister and the Hound, dirty book in hand, when her phone lit up, she reached for it and clicked on the notification. He had liked her picture. She felt her heart beat faster in her chest, he had liked her picture.

Arya let the smile break out over her face, the small bubble of weird laughter spill out. She did a little excited jump, still smiling. She put her phone down, leaving it and her unabashed girly reaction with it, exiting her room and making her way down the hall into the kitchen.

She gave one last thought to the now named boy, Gendry. Thought about his otherworldly eyes, his tall frame, his awkward demeanor. Let her mind graze over how he looked today as he stared down at her, the nice rumble of his voice, his shifty, uncomfortable shyness. She would take Sansa's advice, she would talk to him, really talk to him, when she saw him next. He would be hers, it was only a matter of time until he also figured that out.

Chapter Text

He groggily pushed himself out of his warm bed, quickly turning off his alarm and standing. He stretched, thoroughly annoyed that he was awake earlier than he wanted to be. He had an early morning art class on fridays, then he put in a few hours at the shop, before going to the library a little later than normal. He basically hated fridays, and Hot Pie loved to rag on him about how un-normal he was. Gendry kind of agreed.

He made his way into the kitchen, pouring himself a cup of coffee and popping some bread in the toaster before staggering back into his room to get dressed. He threw on some clean clothes, not really caring or looking at what was now on his body, and unplugged his phone from the nightstand before returning back into the kitchen to eat his toast and drink his coffee before he had to run to campus.

He took a moment out of his hurried morning routine to sip at his hot coffee slowly, letting his mind wander for only a few seconds before swallowing the rest of the drink quickly and grabbing his toast. He threw on his book bag and headed out of his apartment to his car, ignoring his neighbor's loud morning sex as he hurried past. His apartment building technically didn't reside in student housing, but a lot of the upper classmen that hated dorms took to the apartments just off campus. Gendry was one of them, unfortunately. He hadn't taken to dorm life as well as he'd hoped. Last year Pod and him shared a dorm, but their hall was filled with stoners and douches that only ended up getting on Gendry's last nerve. He moved out literally as soon as he was able, and only felt slightly bad about leaving Pod in the wind. He had offered to still room with him off campus, but Podrick's high strung parents weren't about that at all.

He slid into his car and prayed for minimal traffic, he lived close enough to campus that the ride was short and provided him with some leeway on waking up and leaving, but on certain days, traffic in King's Landing could be a bitch. He parked in a spot that was not at all considered close to the art building and ran through the mingling students in the parking lot to get to his class on time. Lady Shae, as her students had jokingly taken to calling the beloved professor, was understanding and compassionate, but everyone knew not to press their luck and no one wanted to be out of her favor.

He adored her, she was truly one of the best teachers he'd ever had. Professor Shae was observant and critical, but in a way that never made you feel belittled. She had a certainly quality that most teachers didn't possess, she actually gave a shit and never pretended how she felt. If she thought your work was suffering, she'd tell you. If she thought you weren't living up to your full potential, she'd let you know. And, if she thought you'd be better off in a different class, she said it in a way that didn't hurt. She raved when art was good, when it exceeded her expectations. She was a great mentor, and Gendry was astounded that he had ended up here with a teacher like her.

There was a time he hadn't been so certain that he would even be able to attend college, let alone King's College. But, here he was. Banking off his late father's estate and the scholarship he'd somehow managed to convince them to give him.

He slid into the class just as everyone was setting up their stations. He snuck back to his corner farthest away from everyone and began to pull out his pencils, charcoal, and other supplies. Professor Shae came into the room from her back office, sipping at her coffee and eyeing her students.

“No lecture today, just start working on your thumbnails for your portraits.”

Her exotic accents soothed her students, even when she was being harsh she sounded soothing. He watched her sit down at her desk as he opened his portfolio and retrieved his reference pictures, starting his sketches.

He was sucked into in for a while, the drowsiness of sleep faded and his excitement and frustration kicked in as he drew. He loved to draw, always had. His mother had praised his talent, his father was gone before Gendry had picked up a pencil, his Godfather didn't get it, and that was the extent of his family. He was good at other things, he'd always been a whiz at mechanics, took to it faster than anything else. He was a quick study, read a lot, memorized even more. He was a decent writer, he supposed – but that was as complimentary as he'd be about himself when it came to those things. But, art? Well, art was his thing.

He understood art, craved it, breathed it. He sketched while he wasn't thinking, painted to calm down, used pastels because they were fun. He got excited about it, he reveled in it. He liked looking at art, discussing art, reading about art, and mostly, he lived to make art. He didn't care how indie and hipster that made him sound, because apparently it was now 'cool' to be into arty things.

He knew there weren't many professions that he would use this degree in, knew in the back of his mind that he'd most likely end up running the shop after Tobho retired, but he had still went for it anyway. Wasted his higher education on passion instead of practicality.

He was already on his twelfth thumbnail when Professor Shae made her way over to him, scoping out her student's progress. “That's quite good, Gendry.”

He looked up from his easel at her, she had a small smirky-smile on her face, different from the way Arya had done yesterday. He could feel his neck flush from her praise, “Thank you, Professor.”

“What you do here, with the shading of the eyes, excellent work.” He liked her accented voice praising him, even though it made him uncomfortable. She nodded at his paper before walking away, “Keep it up.”

He spent the next two hours fleshing out the second round of thumbnails, moving on to the basic outline sketch of his portrait. He liked working with charcoals, which wasn't surprising seeing as his hands were generally dirty anyway, but he also enjoyed paints and pencils. Professor Shae wasn't all that strict in her teaching style, she mostly gave them free time to work on their projects that would normally have to be continued outside of class, lecturing and giving assignments in between.

Right now he was working on an assignment she had given earlier this week, they were to draw realistic portraits in black and white. It excited Gendry, he loved portraits. But, he had a feeling that Professor Shae only picked it because the class had been bitching about their distaste for new-age realism.

After his class with Professor Shae, the next two hours were spent in Art History down the hall. He willed his caffeinated art-high to stick and not fall asleep in class, as he had once or twice before. He didn't particularly mind the class or the hilarious Professor Bronn – who refused to be called by his actually unknown last name – the course was easy enough and they weren't tested often. It was mostly just a boring two hour lecture class, filled with slides and notes. The only real entertainment came from watching Bronn shamelessly flirt with his female students and listen to his snarky side comments about what they were learning.

Bronn had made it clear at the beginning of the semester that he was filling in for the normal Professor while she was on maternity leave and didn't really want to be here, at all. Forced, was the word he used most often. Blackmailed, was the one he used when he came in hungover.

Once that class had ended, Gendry made his way out of the art building, to his car, and down to the shop. He'd pick up lunch for him and Tobho on the way, as he always did on fridays. His Godfather was good to him, basically more of a father-figure to him than his own father had ever been.

Robert had left them when he was five, his parents divorcing – which really had been for the better. Robert had been a good man once, or so Tobho said, and so his mother said, he hadn't really seen it. Gendry wasn't exactly sure what to believe, he had been so little when Robert left; and just nearly after he had remarried, starting a new family, he had died. A hunting accident, of all things.

He wasn't really in touch with Robert's other family, they were aware each other existed and when Robert had died, Cersei and his mother had planned the funeral together. But, that was as far as it had went. His step-mother was a private person, he wouldn't go so far as to call her a bitch, but he wasn't taking that term off the table either. She had gotten nearly everything in the will, Robert had left the majority of his estate and savings to the blonde family he had made, but, he and his mother weren't completely left in the dust. They had gotten more than they were expecting, he remembered walking into the lawyer's office that morning expecting his late father to leave his first born son a painting of him or something bullshit like that, he had not been expecting what they had gotten.

Robert had left Cersei his actual family estate, a sprawling manor on the countryside, the rights to his company, his titles, and most of his savings. Cersei had seemed pleased at that, although he'd be lying if he said that he'd ever seen her look truly happy. It had only been her and her twin brother Jaime that had attended the meeting with their lawyer; Joffrey, Myrcella, and Tommen were too young at the time and had been left at home. His mother had brought him, and her lawyer had thought the same about him, but no one had said anything.

Cersei had gazed at him throughout the meeting, a wistful look in her eye. She didn't hate him, even now when he ran into the stone-faced woman or saw them on Robert's anniversary, she had never glared at him with her cold green eyes. She almost looked at him with a reserved fondness, especially now that he was older. He knew it was because he looked like Robert, something that he usually hated.

Robert had left his mother his house on the shore, a place where they had stayed many times before they were married and before him. He had also left them a trust fund, and a portion of his savings. It was enough to keep them comfortable, for his mother to not have to kill herself to raise him, and it was so much more than they were hoping for.

Robert had never been one to show outward compassion. He was boisterous and loud, always telling it like it was and never afraid to voice his thoughts or opinions. But, he was never tender or loving. His mother had told him that he'd been, once. That he had been charming and gentle, so full of love and honor. Gendry wasn't sure what had changed in him, but something had. Cersei hadn't had the sweet, caring Robert that his own mother had, and he thought that maybe as the years passed since Robert's death, the blonde might've grown to resent the man, and maybe even his mother.

Tobho had done a good job of stepping in. He had been a family friend since his mother was a little girl, if Gendry recalled correctly he had been best friends with his mother's older brother who had died during a football accident that had broken his spine. Tobho never said it, but Gendry knew that the older man felt it was his duty to his old friend to look out for his sister and her son. He also had a sneaking suspicion that his mother and his Godfather might have had a thing for each other, which made him want to crawl under a rock and throw up, but he was perceptive like that and noticed things.

He quickly pulled up to the sandwich shop and grabbed them lunch before heading straight to Tobho's.

Gendry pulled into the shop, parking in the back and going through the door back there that lead into the office. Tobho was sitting at the desk, sifting through paperwork, a pinched look on his aged face. He hated paperwork, but seeing as he was the owner and manager of Mott's Auto Repairs and Services it was his job, and his job alone. Gendry eased into the room and set the bag down on the edge of the desk, plopping down in the chair opposite his Godfather.

“About damn time you showed up.” Tobho set down his pen and started digging through the bag of food, pulling out a wrapped sandwich and tossing it to Gendry. “You've got a Fiesta that needs new brake pads and a Mercedes SLS that needs a look through.”

Gendry's eyes went wide at that, “Shut the fuck up.”

Tobho smirked, knowing the car would get the boy's attention. “Saved it just for you, it's in lift B when you're ready.”

Tobho always saved the good stuff for him, and Gendry loved him for it. It's also what helped to pay off his student loans and tuition for college, thank God nice cars needed maintenance and rich people were willing to pay top dollar for it.

“I'll do the Fiesta first and get it out of the way.

“I thought you might say that, it's already on the lift.” Gendry smiled at him and bit into his sandwich. “How was school?”

Gendry gave a shrug, “Fine.” That was the answer he always gave Tobho when he asked about college, and the older man accepted it. He knew that Tobho was only asking to be nice, sometimes he truly was interested, but as soon as Gendry started talking about Art History or the painting he was working on, the older man kind of ended up tuning him out. Gendry wasn't offended.

They finished eating quickly, Tobho went back to his boring paperwork and Gendry changed his clothes before he went out into the garage to get started on the little red '87 Ford Fiesta. Those cars were tiny pieces of shit that lasted years if maintained properly, this one was in fairly good condition and he could tell the owner loved the little car. He did what he could to install new brake pads, cleaning up the underside a bit for the owner, before moving on to the SLS. His fingers were itching to get under that hood.

He was good with machines, the mechanics of it just made sense to him and he was excited by it. He had done his fair share of tinkering as a child and a teen, moved on to fixing things not long after. Now his mother fondly proclaim that he could fix just about anything that he got his hands on. He didn't think that was entirely true, but he wasn't about to go against his mother.

He spent a good hour and a half under the hood of the SLS, changing the oil, checking the brake fluid, generally making sure everything was running smooth. Once he was done, Tobho even let him take it out to the back lot to test it out. Technically illegal, but super fun nonetheless.

Gendry pulled the shirt over his head and stepped out of the jumpsuit he'd put on over his clothes, wiping his face and his hands on the grease stained material. He wandered into the bathroom, washing his hands best he could, scrubbing the black from beneath his nails. It didn't always work, and more often than not it stayed, but he scrubbed anyway. He washed his face next, knowing somehow he'd managed to get it smudged on his face and really deigned to let the girls at the Library see him that way. They were weird enough as it were.

He enjoyed his time at the Library more than he had originally thought he would, the people that worked there? Not so much.

They were just... giggly.

They were girly girls or bookworms, they either stared at him or rolled their eyes at him. They both pissed him off just the same.

When the school had told him that he was given a scholarship he had been thrilled, when they told him that he had been given a working scholarship he hadn't minded in the least. But, when he'd found out that he'd be working in the campus/public library, he had almost externally face-palmed. He was quiet and bookish as it was, when Hot Pie had found out about it he hadn't let up for weeks about just how poetically perfect it had been. Gendry had never punched him so hard before.

But, he liked it. He liked the library. He got free access to any books he wanted, he paid off his scholarship, and his advisor was pretty lax about most things. All in all, it was a pretty laid back experience, one that afforded him with the opportunity to talk to Arya Stark.

He felt his heart pound oddly at the thought of speaking to her, it made him only mildly nauseas.

He quickly finished up and looked at the clock, cursing at his momentary lapse in judgement which caused him to take out the SLS to the back lot for a spin and ate up his time. He redressed in his clothes from this morning hurriedly and clocked out, running out to his own car and driving downtown as quickly as he could.

He knew that he wouldn't be late, but he had a reputation for being early and punctual. Dependable was the word his advisor liked to use most. He really did hate to disappoint people, even though he knew that it was an inevitable part of life.

Gendry arrived on time-ish, not on time by his normal standards, but on time enough that no one would look down upon him when he walked through the door. He clocked in quickly and moved around the desk to put his things in the office when one of the girls stopped him.

“Aren't you usually early?”

He glanced at her, not really able to recall her name, she was new and kind of a bitch. He gave a small chuckle, that he was certain sounded more like a wheeze and averted his gaze. “There was some traffic, but, I'm here.” He moved past her after that, not bothering to wait for her response. He didn't notice the small girl in the corner watching his every move with her large, gray eyes.

Arya tried not to seem too anxious to see him, but she was pretty positive that she was failing miserably. She had showed up here a little earlier than normal and expected to have a bit more time to prepare herself on how to approach him and what they would talk about, but she ended up having a lot more time than she originally anticipated.

He hadn't been there.

He – Gendry, the now named boy – had been no where to be found.

Which, was completely odd. She was use to seeing him in the library, use to showing up and spotting him doing something completely mundane. But, when she had arrived, he was not present. And, it was kind of putting a bummer on her plans.

Did he not work on fridays? As far as she could remember he had, which made her feel creepy for even knowing that information, but she did. So, where was he?

She ended up sitting down in her usual spot, nestling into the large armchair near the fantasy section, internally willing Harry, Frodo, Dumbledore, Gandalf, Percy, Meg Murry, Buttercup, Westley and whoever else to send some magic her way. Bran would be impressed by her knowledge of pop-culture fantasy literature if he had been around to hear her, she made a mental note to recite it for him later. She would've been impressed too if she didn't feel her stomach plummet at the thought of him not showing up today.

She had been sifting through The Girl Who Played With Fire when she heard the soft rumble of his voice speaking to a girl behind the desk, who definitely was looking at him a little more than she had to. Not that Arya could really blame the girl, Named Boy Gendry was certainly something to look at. He didn't seem to notice though and clocked in, oblivious to the way Perky Tits was giving him a once over.

He walked into the small office behind the main desk and came out a minute later sans bag and sweater. He grabbed the cart full of books and began pushing it over to the far side of the library, ignoring the girl behind the desk and her perky tits. Well, alright. Score one for Arya and Gendry, bitchy desk girl – zero.

She didn't want to seem too forward, and walk right up to him when he just walked into the building, and she certainly didn't want to seem too desperate. But, at the same time, she was excited at the prospect of talking to him, she'd thought about it all night and all this morning. She was in quite the predicament, it seemed. This is when she wished that she was more of a girl like her sister and her friends, like Robb's fiancee, God, even Ygritte was more in touch with her feminine wiles than Arya was.

She made the executive decision to pull herself from her favored armchair and make her way over to the far side of the library where Gendry stood putting away books. If she seemed forward, well then whatever. She was forward, she was Arya, she was a Stark, a wolf – better yet, a direwolf. She was known for her rash decisions and deal-with-it-later approach towards life. She was a go-getter and took what she wanted. That's how people thought of her anyway, she might as well live up to the reputation.

He was rearranging books on a shelf, his brow furrowed a bit, his blue eyes scanning each title and author quickly before placing it in a new spot on the shelf. His dark hair looked a bit tousled, like he'd run his hand through it and hadn't bothered to matt it back down. It looked cute, like him. But, he was more than just cute if she was being honest with herself. There was no way she could just stop at cute when looking at Named Boy Gendry. Underratedly handsome worked, oddly attractive fit it better.

Arya wasn't entirely sure what is what that made him so attractive to her, but he was. Was it the otherworldly hue to his ocean eyes? The strong jaw or pillowy lips? Was it his quiet, book-y demeanor and shy, blush-worthy smiles? Maybe it was as simple as his kind nature and oblivious charm. Whatever it was, it had been slowly reeling her in for two years.

He hadn't noticed her approach, they hadn't called her Arya Underfoot as a child for nothing. So, she took a moment to observe him in his natural habitat. He seemed at ease here in the library, away from prying eyes and girls with perky tits. She hoped that didn't include her.

“Hi.”

His head jolted up immediately, his eyes coming to rest on hers. He managed a small smile in return for her own, his luminescent eyes lighting up as they met her gaze. She welcomed the odd thud of her heart at the sight. “Hello.” He cleared his throat when he realized she wasn't going to say anything further and was happy to just sit there and watch him squirm. “Um, did you... enjoy the book?”

He immediately felt like a moron for asking that and tried exceedingly hard to quell the blush he knew would make it's way to the surface at the thought of that picture from yesterday. His eyes pulled away from hers and were fixed on a spot over her shoulder instead. Get it together, man.

Arya shrugged a shoulder, coming to lean against the bookcase, making herself comfortable and subtly letting him know she intended to stay until she was satisfied. “Not really. BDSM erotic isn't really my scene, so I ended up giving it to my sister to read.” She thought on it for a second before adding, “Not that I'm implying that my sister is into that – I mean, hey, whatever – but, I figured she'd probably enjoy it more than I would.”

Gendry gave a slow nod, “Well, okay.”

She smiled, “And how did you enjoy the rest of your day, Gendry?”

“Just... fine.”

They were quiet for a few moments, Arya reevaluation her approach to the situation, seeing as Gendry was proving to be a tough case to crack, and Gendry pondering why he was becoming King of the Short Responses in front of Arya.

“So, how long have you worked here?” He quirked a brow and she internally died. “I see you a lot when I come, and I honestly didn't think young people could be librarians. Isn't there like some... old woman course you have to take to become one?”

“I have been known to knit a doily on occasion.”

He wasn't sure why that came out of his mouth, but he didn't have time to ponder at his bad joke because Arya was laughing. Laughing at his joke. He'd made Arya Stark laugh. Whatever.

She hadn't been aware that he would be funny, clearly it was an unintentional funny, he didn't seem like the kind of guy to throw in a joke for laughs. No, he seemed like the kind of guy who said things that other people just found funny. Like her. Clearly that quip had been sarcastically intentional, but it was evident by the way he was looking at her that he hadn't expected her to find it humorous.

“Wow, and you're funny. Why were we not friends before this?” She gestured between them, a smile on her face.

Apparently they were friends now. Well, alright. He certainly wasn't about to argue with her. He shrugged a shoulder, “I don't know.” He fiddled with the book in his hands, looking down at it and placing it on the shelf before turning back to her. “But to answer your previous question, I've worked here for a bit over two years. And, there's no old woman class that I'm aware of, but, then again, I'm not actually a librarian.”

“Well then, what are you?”

“Student, worker, book re-cataloger.” He answered jokingly.

She smiled at him, “How enthralling. What do you study?”

“Art.”

For whatever reason, she hadn't been expecting him to say that. She wasn't sure what she had expected him to study in, but it most certainly hadn't been Art. He didn't seem like an Artist, but then again, at the same time, he did. The shock was clearly evident on her face from the way he was looking at her when she responded. “Really?”

He nodded, “Yup.”

“What kind of art?”

He had expected her to look shocked, almost everyone did. He wasn't entirely sure why people were so shocked that he was an artist, it was like they all took one look at him and expected him to just be some undereducated mechanic – which, he kind of was, but that was besides the point. “Visual Arts.”

“Well, that's cool.” And she looked like she really meant it. There was this smile on her face that he couldn't quite decipher and a secret in her eyes that he couldn't quite read, but she looked like she was interested, interested in him. “And how was your day?”

She gave him that smile again, the one he couldn't read, but it wasn't bothering him as much as it normally would that he couldn't figure out what it meant. “Boring, mostly.” She moved around him to look through the cart of books on his right, ignoring the way he stiffened when she neared him.

“So, you're an art student, who works in a library and knits doilies on occasion?” She paused to watch him smile, “What else do you do?”

“What do you do?” He wasn't sure where the fit of confident curiosity came from, but she didn't seem to mind the tables being turned on her. In fact, she looked like she quite enjoyed him speaking up to her.

“Well, I'm Arya, I'll be eighteen in april, I graduated high school a year early, I enjoy books, fencing, horseback riding, and most B-list horror movies. I have five siblings, I hate the heat, and I'm not really that nice.” She let that sink in with him for a moment before she gave him a smirky-smile and continued on. “So, now that we're acquainted with me, tell me about you.”

He could feel the blush before she could see it, only slightly annoyed by it, and gave a small chuckle at her monologue of information. He hadn't expected her to answer so rapid fire-like, and now it was his turn to do the same. He decided to take a page out of her book and not really think about it all that much – which was incredibly hard and completely unlike him, seeing as how he over-thought everything – and reply to her question in the same bizarre monologue-y fashion.

“Well, ah, I'm Gendry – as you... know.” He seriously tried to brush off his awkwardness and get through his conversation with her with his dignity intact. She was only a girl after all, and she wanted to talk to him. Letting that embolden him, he went on. “I'm a second year at King's College for Visual Arts, I work here and I fix cars, and I'm pretty sure we went to the same high school. Stark, right?” He watched as her eyes went wide at that information, and the nod of her head in conformation of her last name. He only felt slightly bad about pretending like he didn't know who she was before this conversation began. Slightly. “I think I was in between your sister and one of your brothers.”

She was in shock.

They had went to school together?

...the fuck?

She looked him over once more, taking in his appearance and trying to see if she recalled him at all, and if she should be embarrassed for not recognizing him sooner. She didn't. And, there was no way that she would've forgotten him. Hell, she'd practically stalked him for two years, if they had went to high school together and she'd known who he was, she would've remembered. And then stalked him on social media like a normal person, not like this Middle Ages peek-a-boo thing they'd been doing. Clearly they must've floated in different circles, being almost three years apart, and spent time in different parts of the school while they had both attended. Because if she had seen him and that sexy as fuck shy-boy act when they had been at school, she would've already lost her virginity. To him.

She nodded dumbly, “Yeah, Sansa and Jon.”

He gave a nod, “Right, Jon, I remember him. He was on in ROTC, yeah?”

Arya just nodded again, completely unsure of how to wrap her head around the fact that Named Boy Gendry remembered her from high school. Her, a sophomore when he was a senior. And she didn't even know they had attended at the same time. “Yeah, he went on to do Border Patrol work up at the Wall. That's where he is now.”

“Damn.” Gendry stated, impressed. It was cold up there, he was a Southern boy, there was no way he'd be able to handle cold like that, it took balls. “Can't be easy.”

Arya gave a shrug, both more comfortable now that the topic reached past the two of them. “It's not, but, it's all he's ever wanted to do, so he's happy.” She leaned her back flush against the bookcase behind her, shoving her hands into her pockets, “Do you have any siblings?”

It was an innocent question, one that if asked to anyone else, would've been completely normal. But, he wasn't sure how to answer that. He was never sure. Technically the answer was, yes. He had three half siblings, that he barely saw or spoke to. “Not really.” She quirked a brow at his odd answer and he could see she was about to open her mouth and ask about it further, so he quickly cut her off. “So, you like, books?”

Cue face-palm.

But, she smiled at him regardless. “I do. I'm sure you figured that out with me coming in here so much.”

“And here I thought it was for my charming personality.”

The more he spoke, the more she realized just how self-deprecating he was. She wasn't sure if it was out of humor, or genuine low self-esteem.

“Oh, it is. But, also for the books.” She sent a smirky-smile his way and let her eyes linger on his intense blue ones. She eyed him again, through slightly narrowed eyes, trying to assess him more. “How old are you?” It didn't matter how old he was, he could be thirty and she'd still want to sleep with him, but she was itching to know his actual age. And, anything else about him that she could coax out.

“Twenty.” She nodded, but said nothing more. He looked her over, enjoying her casually disheveled look today, and still finding her the prettiest girl he'd ever seen. “Why?”

She shook her head, “Just wondering. You look older.”

He shrugged a shoulder, “I get that sometimes.” It was usually people who came into the shop, and usually when he had his shirt off and was covered in grease, but he didn't tell her that.

She was giving him that look again, that look he couldn't read. He could see some sort of wheels turning in her head, but being un-privy to that information, he had no idea what about. He just watched her grey eyes narrow slightly as they swept over him, leaving goosebumps in their wake. He felt like a girl. Like a stupid, poetic girl. He internally sighed.

“What's your last name?”

She couldn't help but ask him, because now that she was close enough to see the fullness of his dark eyelashes and the cut of his strong jaw, she felt like she knew him. Like he looked achingly familiar somehow. And not just in the I've-been-watching-you-for-years kind of way, either.

He looked uncomfortable with the question, like, out of any question she could've asked him – outside of blush-worthy sexual innuendos – this was the one that bothered him. How odd. But, he answered her.

“Uh, Waters.” He paused, thinking it over and deciding on something else. “Baratheon. Waters-Baratheon. But, I usually just go by Waters.”

Her mouth dropped open in shock a bit, her hands coming up to wave in front of her. “Wait, wait. You're a Baratheon?”

That was it! She knew that he looked familiar. She tried recalling the picture that her Dad use to have hanging in his study, which – now that she thought about it – was still hanging in his study. He had been best friends with the older two Baratheon's growing up – Robert and Stannis if she remembered correctly. Now she knew why it had been tugging at the back of her mind for the last hour, he must've been Stannis' kid, now that she knew he was a Baratheon, she'd recognize those too-blue eyes from the many pictures in her family home.

His brows furrowed at the question, “Yeah?”

“My Dad was was good ole pals with the older two.” She smiled up at him in disbelief, “What a weird coincidence.”

He opened his mouth to say more when a heavy arm dropped across his broad shoulders and tore his gaze away from Arya. He silently cursed to himself as his gaze fell upon his best friend. Former best friend, because he already knew this wasn't going to end well, and that he was most likely going to end up embarrassed. He sent Hot Pie a steely look, but the other boy was too busy giving Arya a once over and smiling at her a little too wide.

“Hey, Gen. Thought I'd stop by and see what my best friend was up to.” Gendry could already feel his blood begin to boil. “Who's this?”

Gendry cut to Arya quickly, shoving Hot Pie off of him, “You can ignore him, I usually do.”

“Fuck off, Waters. I was speaking to the lady.”

“I'm not a lady.” They both turned to look at Arya, who was standing in front of them with a smirky-smile on her lips and her grey eyes slightly narrowed. “You best do well to remember that.”

Gendry started to flush and was tempted to avert his gaze from her intense one, but found that he couldn't. He held her gaze, knowing that he was starting to blush as she subtly bit the inside of her lower lip.

Hot Pie ruined the moment, by elbowing Gendry. “I like her.” He stretched out his hand towards her, “Hot Pie.”

Her eyes crinkled at the nickname she didn't understand, but said nothing about it as she shook his hand. “Arya.”

Hot Pie's eyes went wide, a bemused smile frozen on his face as he turned to look at Gendry, who in turn was giving him a look that clearly said, Don't. And it was clear that Hot Pie had no intention of listening. “So, you're Arya.”

She just smiled and gave a little nod, “I am.”

“Wow.” He shook his head, chuckling a bit, looking between Gendry and Arya, that hilarious, frozen smile still in place. “So you're the Arya that Gendry has been moaning about for so long – ”

“Alright, alright, alright.” Gendry pushed the shorter boy away from him and gave Arya a forced smile from behind his blushing face. Throwing an arm around Hot Pie's shoulders, just a little too forcefully, he started to push him away. “Isn't it time you went back to work.”

“Ow, dude, how about you let up a bit.” He ducked under Gendry's arm to smile at Arya, who was trying really hard to hold in her laughter at the situation. “Guess I should get going, nice to meet you Arry.” She didn't bother correcting him, instead just letting out a bark of a laugh and walking over to where the pair stood – Gendry's arm still basically holding Hot Pie in a headlock. He let him go at her approach.

“It was nice to meet you too, Hot Pie.” She looked up into Gendry's unreal eyes and smiled, the laughter still dancing in her pair of grey. “I actually have to go pick up my younger brothers, I didn't realize how late it was.” She held out her hand in front of him, “Do you have a phone?”

“Uh, yeah.” He just nodded dumbly and pulled out his cellphone from his back pocket and laid it in her outstretched palm. She kept her gaze on his until she looked down at the phone in her hands, entering her name and number, before handing it back to him.

“Text me, we'll hang out when you're free.”

It almost sounded like a demand more than a question, he didn't care. Arya had just given him her number. She wanted to see him outside of this fucking library. Was this a damn joke? He was about to reply when Hot Pie beat him to it.

“You should come over to Gendry's place tomorrow, if you're not busy. We usually hangout there on the weekends, beats the fucking dorms any day.”

He could literally fucking kill Hot Pie. It wouldn't even be that hard, it'd actually come pretty easy to him. What the hell was he thinking? She probably thought they were creepy now and wanted to gang-bang her, or something equally as not great. Fuck. Hot Pie had just ruined his chance with the girl he'd been pining after since forever practically, all because he couldn't, for one moment, not try to embarrass him.

“We?”

Apparently the whole apartment with dudes she just basically met thing didn't bother her, she was just curious about the mention of a third party? Who was this girl? Should he be worried that she wasn't weirded out? No, Arya Stark probably went to house parties and ragers all the time – not that his place tomorrow night would be considered a house party or a rager, but, whatever.

“Oh, yeah, our other friend Podrick. He's pretty lame, but we like him anyway.” Hot Pie replied.

She laughed at Hot Pie's rude explanation of the other person and brought her eyes back up to Gendry's. “Well, if you don't mind some tits crashing your party, then I'd love to.”

Hot Pie smirked and opened his mouth to say something – more than likely inappropriate when Gendry cut him off with a swift elbow to the ribs. “Oh, Gendry won't mind at all – ow!”

“Great, I'll see you tomorrow then.” Arya smiled at the two of them, her eyes resting again on Gendry, she bit at her lower lip softly as their eyes connected. “Text me.”

She walked past them, retrieving her things from the armchairs and sidling out the library with a smile on her face and a little more swing to her hips, knowing he was watching her walk away. Gendry did watch her leave, and he did watch her ass she she sauntered out of the building, only coming to look back at Hot Pie after she'd walked out the door.

“Dude.”

“Shut up.” Gendry moved back to the cart full of books, ignoring the phone that was burning a hole through his back pocket, his fingers itching to text her like she'd asked. He cut Hot Pie off again, rounding on him. “Why did you invite her to my apartment tomorrow?”

Hot Pie just rolled his eyes, “Please, I knew you'd be too pussy to do it, and I saw the fuck me eyes she was giving you – you're welcome, by the way.”

Gendry scoffed, “She was not giving me fuck me eyes.”

“Uh, yeah dude, she was. Trust me, I watch enough porn to know.”

Gendry sent him a disgusted face, totally not wanting to even think about Hot Pie and porn, at all. “She probably thinks we're desperate losers.”

“Uh, we are desperate losers.”

He rolled his eyes, “Yeah, but I don't want her to think so!”

“Dude, who cares? She's hot as fuck, she's funny, and she's totally into you! I did you a favor, so when she's like, throwing you down and having her naughty way with you, just think about that. You're welcome.” He just pushed Hot Pie's shoulder, causing the shorter boy to stumble. “Hey, can I speak at your wedding and tell this story? The story of how I hooked you two up? Hey, look at me, I'm like a sex cupid.”

Gendry just closed his eyes and sighed deeply, and wishing – not for the first time – that he'd saved some other kid on the playground instead of the oaf next to him.

Chapter Text

Arya slid into her car and shot off a text to Bran, letting him know that she was on her way, before pulling out of the Library parking lot and calling her closest friend. She'd talk to Sansa when she got home, right now she wanted to scream at Brienne.

It was basically her favorite pastime and hobby.

She had met the older girl when she'd first taken up fencing when she was nine. Their High School had offered it as a club, but she had to be at least thirteen before she could actually join the team. Which, of course, made Arya furious. So, in spite of not being old enough to try out, she had made her father go and find her a place to train at after school. Forel's made her a title winning champion, but Brienne had made her competitive enough to win them.

She had been the best on the team before Arya, and she continued to be one of the best fencers Arya had ever met. Without her guidance and quiet tenacity, Arya wouldn't have become as great as she was, even Syrio agreed. They had become close friends after Syrio had made the two of them partners, forcing them to train together, despite their attitudes. Prior to that, they had basically strongly disliked one another, mostly for both being so good. But, that all changed when Arya was eleven and Brienne was fourteen, when they became the unstoppable duo. It was cheesy and lame, but it made Arya smile when she thought of awkward younger duo fist pumping at how awesome they were after they'd won match together.

In any case, they'd remained close friends, and Brienne was one of Arya's only female friends – that she could stand, anyway. She knew the older blonde wouldn't actually care that she'd scored a semi-date with the Unnamed Boy, now Named Boy Gendry, and most certainly wouldn't want to listen to Arya ramble on about wanting to lick him, but she called Brienne anyway. Because that's what friends do. Or, at least that's what Arya assumed girlfriends did.

She bounced in her seat, listening to ring after ring, knowing that Brienne wasn't in class right now and getting antsy at her not answering. But, right before the call went to voicemail, she picked up. “Hello?”

“Oh my god.”

“Arya?”

“You're literally going to die.”

“You never use the word literally right. You literally always misuse it.”

“I can't even talk about it properly. I'm going to die.”

“What is happening right now?”

Arya stopped at a red light and readjusted the phone in her lap, hardly containing her excitement. Brienne wasn't girly by any means, beating even Arya by a landslid in the category of Basically Butch, which is why Arya took immense pleasure at the older girl's discomfort when it came to boys, and sex, and nudeness. It was just too easy, and way too much fun. Now she knew how Ygritte use to feel about Sansa.

“Brienne.”

“Arya.” She mimicked.

“I think I kind of have a date with Gendry.”

“Who the fuck is, Gendry?”

Arya rolled her eyes, “Unnamed boy, from the library. His name is, Gendry. Moving on,” She honked the horn at some dick that cut her off, holding back a curse. “Come on!”

“Are you... are you driving right now?”

“Uh, yeah.” She responded casually.

She ignored Brienne's exasperated sigh and her moral... rightness or whatever. Her friend was a little bit of a stickler for the rules, and a moral compass, and a tad bit prudish. She loved Brienne all the same, but she wasn't about to sit through one of her twenty minute lectures when they had fucking yes Gendry to talk about.

“Arya, you know how I feel about you calling me while you're driving. What if you got into an accident and died while on the phone with me? How do you think I'd feel for the rest of my life knowing that I had caused your death?”

Arya rolled her eyes again at her friend's very liberal use of dramatics on the situation. “Oh, please, Brie. Save me the dramatics this time around, we have Gendry to talk about.”

“But seriously, who the fuck is Gendry?” Arya made an agitated noise, and she could see Brienne rolling her eyes, and sighing, and shaking her head. “Okay. Fine. Gendry?”

“Yes, Gendry.”

“Is the guy at the library you've been stalking – ”

“I don't know if it technically constitutes as stalking, because we're in a library, but, whatever.”

“The fact you’re defending yourself about it being stalking, makes me more sure it was actually stalking,” Brienne countered.

“Forget the stalking – ”

“So it was stalking!”

“ – and listen to me!

“Fine,” Brienne sighed, Arya just knew the bitch was rolling her eyes at her. “Alright, now you may, sort of, have a date with him?”

“Correct.”

“Okay.”

Okay? All Brienne had to say was “Okay.”? Arya may have been literally stalking this guy and all Brienne had to say was Oh, Kay?

“Okay? That's it? That's all I get?”

“Well, what do you want, Arya? I don't know anything about him.”

“Uh, yes you do! He's fuck hot, shy as shit, and his basically my dream on legs.”

Brienne sighed, “That's very informative.”

She ignored Brienne's sarcasm. “So, we've been flirting – I think – well, I've been flirting at him – ”

“How do you flirt at someone?”

“ – and today I found out he's an Art major and a Baratheon.”

“Wow.” She said dryly.

Arya ignored her and carried on, “I know. And then his weird friend interrupted us and invited me to Gendry's apartment tomorrow night.”

“To do what?” Brienne sounded skeptical, she hated when Brienne sounded skeptical. It meant she already had an idea in her head. “Be gang raped?”

“That's really intense. I was just kind of thinking hanging out, or something, but I guess your idea is good too.”

Brienne scoffed and sputtered, “You know that's not what I meant. What do you really even know about them? And you're just gonna go to their apartment, alone?”

“Well, technically I think it's just Gendry's apartment – ”

“That sounds a little suspect, Arya.”

Arya rolled her eyes, “Thanks, Mom.”

Brienne sighed, “It's my job to worry over you. Benjen pays me good money to do it.”

She sighed, “I hate you.”

“I know.” The older girl chuckled, “But in all seriousness, I'm happy for you. I just want you to be safe is all.”

Arya knew that Brienne was just looking out for her, that her friend was just being realistic about the situation. And, she was right. Arya didn't know Gendry as well as she might pretend that she did, she actually didn't know him at all. She didn't know his friends, she didn't know where he lived, she knew nothing.

But, she knew that he was a good person. She just knew.

“I know, Brie. And I thank you for it. But, you haven't seen his face. You could get pregnant just from looking at it. He should have to wear a ski mask or something so he doesn’t knock up all the women around him.”

“And, there it is.”

She laughed at Brienne's snarky response, continuing on with her tirade of inappropriate comments to rile her up. “He's so fit, like I literally just want to tackle him to the ground and ride him.”

“Arya Stark!”

“What? I'm just talking about sex, Brie, nothing to blanche about.” She pulled into the Middle School parking lot, weaving about soccer moms as she went. “I'm at the school, I'll call you later?”

“Hopefully while you're not driving.”

“Fuck off.”

“Suck me.” Brienne replied, causing a laugh to rip from Arya's chest. They hung up after that, a sort of usual way for them to say good bye.

She pulled up to the steps, knowing that it made Bran extra cranky when she did it – already annoyed that he had to go wait with his younger brother in front of the Middle School instead of the High School – and smiled wide at her little brothers. “Hi, guys!” Bran just scowled and flipped her off as he got in her front seat, Rickon jumping in the back. “Well, fuck you too, then.”

Rickon just smirked at her from the back, knowing that it pissed off Bran when they both were extra cheery when he was in a pissy mood. “Hi, Arya!”

“Hi, Rickon! How was your lovely day?”

“Just lovely!”

“Lovely!”

“Is there a way I can kill myself with a notebook?” Bran countered sourly from beside her.

“Hey,” She gave him a sideways glance as she pulled onto the main road and headed home. “What's got your goat, Birdie?”

He didn't scowl at the nickname, which meant it wasn't actually something serious and he was just being crotchety. He just sighed and sunk back further in his seat, his dark eyes focused on the road in front of them. “Nothing.”

“Yeah, right.” Rickon mumbled from the back, his gaze intently connected to the game he was playing on his cell phone.

“Shut up about things you don't know, Rickon.”

“Well, I know that you're being a dick.”

“Hey, language, buddy.” She gave Rickon the eye from the rearview mirror. He just rolled his own blue eyes in response to her scold.

She took a second, a real long second, to just look at them for a moment. When had they gotten so grown? How was it that her baby Rickon was already in the seventh grade, officially a teenager? And Bran, who was in dire need of a haircut, was all knowledgable and bright and top of his tenth grade class. When had this happened?

Bran had clearly taken her silence as waiting for him to spill it – which, she was. She knew that it wouldn't take long for him to crack if it wasn't something seriously important that he was trying to smuggle down. He sighed, but refused to look at her. Stubborn, like she was. She bit back a smile.

“I think Meera's going on a date.”

“Okay.”

“With guy.”

“Yeah, pretty much figured.”

Bran turned to look at her then, his dark eyes narrowed and his jaw clenched. He looked so much like Robb when he was annoyed, it sometimes freaked her out. “A guy that's not me.”

She took a deep breath, this was dangerous territory he had her treading in now. This was usually Sansa's expertise, considering her experience was pretty minimal on the subject, but sometimes Bran surprised her and came to her for advice concerning his feelings for the pretty girl. Apparently now was one of those times. The little shit always caught her when she was totally unprepared to have gracious and thought-provoking insight to females and relationships. She wasn't Sansa, and he knew that, but she'd still try.

“Well, you two aren't dating.” He looked away when she said that. “And, you haven't exactly told her how you feel. So, you can't be too upset when she goes with other guys.” She made a left and looked back at him. “Does Jojen know?”

He balked, “Does my best friend know that I'm in love with his sister? Uh, no, he does not.”

“Maybe you should tell him. Or her. Or both of them.”

“Or maybe I should just go join Jon on the Wall and jump off.”

“Or, that.” He cracked a smile as she agreed with him, which made her smile too. “She's just a girl, Bran. A girl you've been friends with for a lot longer than most people in your grade will care about the people their with. If you like her that much, just... show her.” She gave him a sweet smile and reached over and buried her hand in his long hair. “You are one special man, Brandon Stark. And if Meera can't see that, then there's some other pretty Track & Field star out there for you.”

“Whatever.” He replied, but there was a small, but sweet smile on his face, and his eyes were no longer narrowed. He looked like her calm and cool younger brother again, instead of the angry gremlin who'd replaced him there for a few moments. They were almost home when Rickon casually exclaimed, “I have a girlfriend.”

Arya lifted a brow in the rearview and Bran turned around to face him, a skeptical look on his face. “Oh, you do, do you?”

“Yeah.” Rickon shrugged, not looking up from the game he was playing on his phone. “But, we're taking it slow. She's inexperienced.”

Bran scoffed, “Oh, and you are?”

“More than you.”

“Fuck off, you are not.”

“I've kissed a girl.”

“So have I, you little shithead.”

“Who have you kissed?” Arya asked in disbelief.

Rickon looked up, all casual and cool. He was so going to be the mini-Jon of the family, the little heartbreaker. “Vanya Poole.”

“Jeyne's cousin? You've kissed Jeyne Poole's cousin?” She gave a side eye to Bran, “She's turned into such a slut at college, by the way.”

“So is her cousin.” Rickon said casually, looking back down at his phone.

“Ugh. No.” Arya turned to Bran to find that they were both wearing appalled, grossed out faces at the news. “Well, just... stop kissing sluts.” Arya clearly always had a wealth of thoughtful advice for her brothers.

“I can't make any promises that they won't want to kiss me.”

“Where do you come from?” Bran exclaimed, still turned around in his seat facing their younger brother.

Arya pulled up to the large house, the biggest on their small street, just outside of town. She turned off the car, jumping out with the boys to go say hello to Robb and Benjen if they were home. Their Uncle lived at the house, Benjen taking his retirement from the wall and living off his pension while he raised them after Ned and Cat had passed. He had been a good replacement in their absence, just what they'd needed, although no one could ever fill their places. Robb had done a spectacular job too, being the oldest and all. He still hung around, spent the night at least once a week and helped make dinner or breakfast some days. But, he had a fiance now, and an apartment, and a real person job, and a life. She was happy for her older brothers, but, she missed them as well. She couldn't really be mad though, she hadn't been around that much either.

“Hello?” Arya called as they entered the house.

“Hey!” Robb stuck his head down over the railing of the upper level and smiled down at his little sister. She hadn't seen Robb in a while, mostly because she'd been holed up at the SanSan compound, ignoring everyone that wasn't Gendry and her sister, basically. She felt a little bad, a little. Bran and Rickon pushed past her and into the house, throwing their bags on the kitchen counter and rummaging through the fridge. Robb made his way downstairs, all charming smiles and curly hair, that's what her brother was and always would be. “What's going on, Nym? We haven't seen you in a while.”

She hugged her brother back, letting him lift her and pull her close before setting her down like a little rag doll, just as he had done when she had been a little girl. She said nothing of his old nickname for her that he still refused to let die. Nymeria, the Rhoynar Warrior-queen. He had taken to calling her that since she was small, all feisty and biting, the name had just kind of stuck. And while she hadn't always liked being called Nymeria, she had liked the name and the origin so much that she had named her Direwolf after it – which, also might've been a small subconscious effort to get Robb to stop calling her it. Spoiler alert: It hadn't worked.

“I know, sorry. I've been busy doing nothing over at Sansa's.” She wasn't even going to pretend to lie about her not coming over, Robb appreciated her caviler nature anyway. “So, where's Jeynie?”

Robb rolled his eyes and walked with her into the kitchen. “You know she hates when you call her that.”

“Well, then how am I suppose to tell her apart from the other Jeyne you slept with?” She asked innocently.

Robb scoffed and attempted to jump off the subject. “That was one time! Are you guys ever going to let that go?”

Arya shook her head and sat down at the island counter in the middle of the kitchen, “Absolutely not. What will we talk about to embarrass you, then?”

He just pushed at her head and plucked a soda from the fridge, taking a sip before giving it to her. “Jeyne is fine, by the way. She's coming over for dinner later if you guys want to come.”

“I gotta see what the SanSan is up to before I make group decisions – they don't like when I do that.”

Robb snorted, “I don't either.”

“Wait,” Arya excitedly held up her hands, “Let's go back to the Slutty-Poole topic for a second. Did you know that Rickon is going around kissing Vanya Poole?”

Robb just chuckled, “Good one.”

“No, I'm serious!”

“The fuck?” He leaned over to get a good look at Rickon lounging on the couch, “He's making out with Slutty-Poole's cousin?”

“Who apparently is also a slut.”

“Does that just like, run in their family?”

“Like snarky-ness runs in ours, I guess.”

“Wow. Rickon, my man.”

Arya pushed at her brother's broad shoulder. “No, no, don't encourage him. We don't need anymore of that going on here, thank you.”

Robb just rolled his eyes, “Come on, Arya. He's thirteen, he's probably kissing who ever will let him.”

“Robb, just... no.” Not only were her baby brothers too young to be kissing, it was just plain wrong that they were getting more action than she was lately. She looked around, “Where's Benjen, anyway?”

“He's at the grocery store.” He smirked-smiled, “He goes in there a lot these days, I think he may be seeing that woman, Cherrie, from the pharmacy.”

“Ugh, nightmare.”

“Tell me about it.”

She sat there for a few moments, smiling in the presence of her brother and enjoying the small moment with him. She'd always found herself closer to Jon, just as Sansa had been closer with Robb, but he was still her brother, and she still loved him. And, they were close, especially now.

“Well, let me go see what SandySan wants to do for dinner. I'll call you.”

Robb smirked and nodded. “Alright.”

She had honestly been totally and completely shocked when Robb had basically calmly accepted Sansa and Sandor's relationship status. He hadn't really even blinked an eye when Sansa told him who she had been seeing for the past six months and who was now officially her boyfriend. Robb had told her, whatever made her happy and sane. The two men got along better than Arya had expected, and better than Sansa too. They weren't really alike, they didn't really have anything in common, but whenever there were family functions or barbeques, the two of them were always manning the food and beer, laughing and talking. She thought it was so strange how much Robb now liked the Hound, but, then again, it was literally any day now that the two would get engaged, maybe he was just helping out the inevitable.

Arya yelled goodbye to her two other brothers and left her childhood house,that felt just a little too empty now that the majority of them had flown away. She pushed the heavy thought from her chest as she got into the car and headed home, to Sansa's.

She didn't call Brie back, deciding to put her iPod on shuffle and just sing along to the random songs at top volume, trying to push the uncomfortable thoughts of her parents out of her chest. Not even the thought of cute-boy Gendry could make the pressure reside, so she chose to turn her car stereo up louder and sing along like she was in the shower all the way to the apartment. When she pulled up, she felt better, calmer, the pressure had left. She unplugged her phone and went inside.

Arya walked into the apartment and found, for once, not the sounds of Sansa's sexual escapades blaring through the house, but instead to the sounds of something far, far worse. Old nineties Top Forty hits, presently the Spice Girls, were blasting from the stereo system as she pushed the door closed behind her and entered the living room. Wine bottles were open on the coffee table, half-drunk glasses beside them, and How To Lose A Guy In 10 Days playing muted on the television.

And her sister? Well, she was jumping up and down on that damn grey Ikea couch – that Sansa, Sandor, and herself had all tried to figure out how to assemble together – with Ygritte, sloppily screaming along to the words of Spice Up Your Life.

“Are you two drunk?”

“Arya!” Ygritte jumped off the couch and sashayed over to where Arya stood by the door and grabbed at her arms, hips swaying, pulling her over to the couch where Sansa was still laughing and jumping. “Come dance with us!”

“Look who came for a visit!” Her sister excitedly exclaimed, pointing down to the redhead who had Arya's hands held above their heads, attempting to make her dance. “And, she brought wine!”

“Sweet wine!”

“From up North!”

“Is this a joke or something?” Arya couldn't help but laugh at her drunk older sister and her drunk brother's girlfriend/basically-her-sister. “90s music, bad RomComs, northern wine? At,” She looked over at the clock on the wall. “Three-thirty on a friday afternoon?”

“Looks like it.” Replied Ygritte as she jumped back up on the couch with her glass in hand, chugging it all in one go. Sansa just kept jumping and screaming the words she knew by heart.

“Classy.”

“Oh, come on, Arya. Lighten up for once.”

Arya's jaw dropped. “Me? Lighten up? I'm the cool one, you're the one whose always so uptight.”

“Here.” Ygritte thrust a glass into her hands. “Drink that and shut up.”

“You know, Robb wanted us over for dinner tonight. Jeynie is coming.”

Sansa rolled her light eyes, “Please.” Ygritte just snorted in return. “Besides, Ygritte is here. It would be rude of us to pick one sister-in-law over the other.”

Arya's brows furrowed at Sansa's lack of logic. “Isn't that exactly what you're doing.”

“Westerling can fuck off. She gets you two all the time, I'm visiting, I have rights!”

Arya just shook her head and took a sip of the sweet wine. She let it linger in her mouth before it flew down her throat, her mouth puckering a bit at it's strength. Yup, that was northern wine, alright. “Well, can we at least turn this shit down a little?”

Not that she didn't love bad-good 90's gems as much as the next girl, but at the ear splitting volume it was cranked up to, she'd have to pass. Sansa rolled her eyes and plopped down on the couch, grabbing the remote for the iHome docked in the corner and turned the volume down a bit, Ygritte coming to sit down on the arm of the couch, leaving room for Arya in between them. She nestled in, sipping at the wine in her hands, watching some cheesy part in the movie where Matthew McCoughna-no-shirt and Kate Hudson were laughing uproariously at something. She wondered vaguely what it would be like to be in a Romantic Comedy, all smiley and dashing, and melodramatic, with perfect hair and shiny eyes. It probably blew.

“So, Ygritte, what brings you down from upstate?”

“Mom's birthday.” She took a few Oreos from the tray on the coffee table and began to eat them quickly, like she was being timed. “It was yesterday, but I figured while I was down here I'd check up on you guys, for Jon.”

“How sweet of you.” She pulled a cookie from her hand and popped it into her mouth, savoring the delicious crack-like sensation that eating an Oreo brought on. She liked chocolate – like normal human did, mind you, while Sansa favored Lemon. The psycho. She looked down at the other half of the cookie before turning to her sister and gesturing to it. “Is this dinner?”

“I'll order pizza.”

Arya was about to respond that she wasn't going to eat any of that weird shit Ygritte preferred when her phone vibrated in her back pocket. “Hey-oh.” was Ygritte's only response to the noise, Sansa just lifted a perfectly sculpted brow. The fuck? Why was Sansa looking at her like she didn't have friends? Like her getting a text was strange? She had friends, plenty of them, and they texted all the time. Brienne was the only one that came to mind, but, that wasn't the point.

She pulled out her phone as Destiny's Child came on the shuffled playlist, causing the two older girls to yell and sing along – loudly. Whenever Ygritte came around Arya was usually sucked into some kind of bizarre world stuck in 1998, probably hosted by Carson Daily. Shaking her head, she looked down at her phone and noticed the text was from an unknown number, which caused her stomach to tighten and her breathing quicken slightly.

Hey, this is Gendry. From the Library. Hello.

She felt her mouth pull up into a wide grin as she saved his number and responded back. This is Arya. Live from my living room, it's Friday Night!

“What are you smiling about?”

“Yeah? Whose that text from? She wouldn't be smiling like that if it was from Brie or the boys.” Sansa gasped, her eyes going wide, her pale cheeks a bit red from all the wine she'd consumed. “Is that the boy? Is that, Gendry?”

“Who the fuck is, Gendry?”

“Why does everyone keep doing that?” Arya shook her head before turning back to Sansa. “Yes, it's Gendry.”

“I'll rephrase; Who the fuck is Gendry?”

Arya rolled her eyes, a little annoyed that Ygritte and Brienne were having the same reaction to this news. Like, what? “He's this guy – ”

“This super cute guy that works at the Library Arya frequents.”

Arya turned to look at her sister, “Oh, I'm sorry, did you want to continue to tell the story of my life?”

Sansa rolled her eyes and pushed at Arya's shoulder, settling back into the couch. “Well sorry for being excited for you.”

“Okay, continue please. Tell me who the fuck this Gendry guy is.”

“What Sansa said. He's this guy who works at the library.”

“And?” Ygritte dragged out.

“And, nothing. He's a fucking hot guy who works at the library.” Arya responded, picking up some more cookies.

“With your number.” Ygritte plucked one of the cookies from her hands in retaliation for her stolen cookie. “And how did he come by your number?”

“I gave it to him.”

“Arya!” Sansa squealed happily beside her. “When? Today?”

“Yup.” She nodded, casually acting caviler when she was actually excited was something she did well. She wasn't sure why she did it, but, she did. “I started a conversation with him, we talked about shit and... things just flowed. So I gave him my number.” She took another sip of her wine.

Sansa pushed at Arya sloppily in her slight drunk excitement. “Shut up!”

“And, guess what.” She turned to her sister and waited for her to try and guess. “He's a Baratheon.”

“No fucking way.” Sansa looked astonished. “Seriously, no fucking way!”

“No, he is. He must be Stannis' kid or something, but still. How crazy is that?”

“Arya, what are the odds.” She shook her head in awe.

“He also invited me to his apartment tomorrow.” Ygritte raised a brow and Sansa tilted her head. “Well, he didn't, technically. His friend did, but I guess they're hanging out tomorrow night and invited me to come.”

“Are you gonna go?” Ygritte asked as she took another sip of her wine.

She looked between the two older girls, feeling not for the first time like she was back in school taking a test she wasn't sure how to pass. “I guess?”

“You should totally go.”

“Absolutely.” Ygritte agreed.

“I should?”

Sansa looked at her like she had three heads. “Uh, yes you should. The guy you've liked for two years invited you to a party at his place. Of course you should go.”

Arya looked to Ygritte who nodded, “She's right.”

“And, there will be other people there, so you don't have to worry about feeling uncomfortable.” She wasn't entirely sure if the weird kid Hot Pie and the unknown Podrick could be considered other people that would make her feel comfortable, but, whatever. Gendry didn't seem like the kind of dude to have a pit in his basement where he left girls for days, Hot Pie on the other hand... “And, it would be the perfect way to get to know more about him.”

“Wait, you've liked this guy for two years?” Ygritte asked, as though it had just hit her.

“Yeah?”

“You're telling me that you've wasted two years staring at this guy instead of mounting him like a noble steed?” The face she got from Sansa made Ygritte roll her eyes and amend her statement, “Or at least say ‘Hi’ to him, or something?”

“Well,” Sansa started, her face scrunched up as she disagreed with Ygritte's prior statement. “I don't know if you should exactly sleep with him yet. I mean, you don't really know him yet.”

Ygritte rolled her matching blue eyes, “Please, don't listen to the girl that use to be Stuck-up Barbie with a matching Douchebag Ken.”

“Hey!” Arya piped up with a shitty grin. “Don’t say that about Sandor!”

“Thank you, Arya!” Sansa looked very pleased and Arya almost didn’t want to say her joke. Almost.

“If he's an action figure, he’s probably like one of Cobra Commander’s henchmen or something.”

“Arya!”

“Yeah,” Ygritte giggled, “Sansa is fucking like Storm Shadow or something.” Arya high fived her and she smirked, “But, I was talking about Joff-Joff.”

“Oh, yeah.” Arya scrunched up her face and shook her head in agreement. “Fuck that guy.”

Sansa's mouth dropped open in appall, pointing to the redhead. “Yeah, well, she made her way through the entire Archery team once! Let's talk about that!”

Ygritte just looked away and smiled fondly, “I did.”

“Guys, thanks, but I think I've got it handled.” She looked back down at her phone, wondering why Gendry wasn't texting her back. Had he not thought her Saturday Night Live! joke was funny? “Can we watch something other than this bullshitery?”

“Fine, but nothing scary or action-y. This is a girls night, and we will do it properly.”

She turned to her sister, “Where's the Hound?”

“Oh, I sent him away.” Ygritte said lazily from beside her.

“More like he went away completely willing.” Sansa scoffed, “He took one look at the wine and popcorn Ygritte brought over and hightailed it out of here for an impromptu band practice.”

“Lovely.” Arya flipped through Netflix to find something that would appease all of them. She settled on the late 90's gem, 10 Thing I Hate About You – it was still in the theme of what she had unwittingly walked into, still RomCom-y, but staring at Heath Ledger's beautiful face would make up for any cheese they'd encounter. “This is what's happening.”

“Perfection.” Ygritte slid down on the couch next to Arya, smushing her in between the two of them. “Let's order that pizza already.”

“It's like, four o'clock.” Ygritte just gave Sansa a sideways glare before her sister relented. “Fine.” She took Arya's cell phone from her hand and ordered pizza from the pizzeria in town, they ordered from there all the time – and they always got the same delivery boy, because one time Sansa answered the door in a robe.

They muted the music and watched the movie, talking over it while still paying mild attention to the movie they'd all seen many times. Ygritte was braiding Arya's hair when the doorbell rang for the pizza, the gawky teenage boy smiling bright when Sansa answered the door and retrieved the pizza from him. Arya was on her third slice when a thought struck her.

“Wait, shit, what should I wear tomorrow?” The thought struck her like lightening – which, made her feel even weirder considering she really didn't care about this shit usually.

“Something sexy.” Ygritte picked up another slice from the box and looked down at Arya from where she was placed on the floor in front of them.

“Well, sexy but modest – to keep him guessing.”

“I think you're overplaying it Sans, he knows that she wants him, she should make it a little more obvious.”

“I disagree, I think she should definitely dress to impress, but keep it low key enough that he's not suspicious. I mean, there are going to be other guys there, we don't want her to end up raped or something!”

“Geez, kill my buzz why, don't you. Nobody is saying she should dress like the opening of Pretty Woman, just, you know, show him that you're making the effort.” Arya had never been more confused in her life. “And, do you really think his “friends” will show?”

“What do you mean?” Arya asked, oblivious to what Ygritte was trying to say.

The two older girls looked at each other with those secret eyes, knowing infinitely more than she ever would. Sansa seemed to look like she disagreed, but couldn't deny the possibility of it happening. “She means, that his “friends” that will also be attending, will suddenly have to “cancel” or “can't make it” at the last minute and then you two will be left alone.”

“Well I don't know about that.” Gendry's “friend” had been the one to invite her in the first place. Why such an elaborate ploy to get her alone, when all he had to do was ask her over himself? No, she didn't think Gendry was sneaky like that, his friends would unfortunately be there with them. The whole time. It sort of looked like Sansa also agreed.

“We'll see.” The red head said, tipping her glass back. “You should definitely wear no underwear, just in case.”

“Ygritte!” Sansa and Arya both exclaimed, Arya with a shocked laugh, and Sansa with a concerned look on her face.

“Arya should definitely not go commando to a boy's house! What is wrong with you?”

“And why not? I'm going commando right now.”

“Because she'll be surrounded by dicks! Dicks just flying every which way and she won't be wearing underwear!”

How had she gotten herself into this situation? Moreover, why did Sansa think there would be dicks everywhere? And also, did she really think wearing panties would be enough to stop a rapist? So many questions and sadly Arya really didn’t want any of the answers.

“You act as though she's going to an orgy, San. It's just a party.” Ygritte paused as she took a mighty sip of her wine. “And besides, you talk about orgies like they’re a bad thing. Things don’t get fun until you lose count.”

“First of all, ew, not something I necessarily needed to know about you. Second of all, nuh-uh, I know you, Ygritte Michelle. You're not going to stop at panty-less outfits, next you're going to suggest that she sidle on in there like she's on a damn catwalk!”

A wide, cat-like smile spread over Ygritte's face, “She so should!”

“What?” Arya was so confused. “What's a sidle?”

Ygritte jumped up off the sofa to demonstrate, “Watch.” She walked over to the front door and turned around, making eye contact she started her walk, all hips swinging and slow struts.

“Runway walk? You think I should runway walk into this party?”

“No. No one expects you to do that.” Her sister said to her, shaking her head at her close friend.

“Oh you so should. Or,” She exclaimed excitedly, coming to lean against the hallway doorframe. “Hey, sugar.” Her voice low and sultry, her eyes slightly narrowed.

Sansa just burst out laughing at Ygritte's stance, leaning against the wall, a hand on her hip. But really, what was going on? “Just, no, Yee.”

“You seriously want me to call someone sugar?” Arya asked with a quirked brow.

Ygritte threw up her hands, “Fine, I give the fuck up.” She plopped back down on the couch to finish eating her pizza. “Do whatever you want.”

Arya leaned her back against the couch, finishing her pizza and drinking more of the wine. She was getting drunk with her sister and Ygritte on a friday afternoon, eating pizza and junk food, and watching bad movies and listening to bad music that made them smile. And, as she looked up at the two older girls from her place on the floor, she had never been more fucking confused in her life on what to do about tomorrow. She looked down at her phone, and then down at her empty wine glass and made a decision.

More wine. She could probably make better decision if she had more wine.

Chapter Text

Gendry nervously looked over the text message that he had just sent, ignoring Hot Pie's pestering and incessant jabbering. Was it weird that he texted her? She never actually specified when she wanted him to text her, only that she should. This was a lot more difficult than movies and television made it out to be.

He put his phone back in pocket without a second thought. This was ridiculous, and he was ridiculous.

Hot Pie leaned against the shelf, that horrific smile still in place. “So.”

“So.” Gendry mimicked.

“So, was that a text from good, Lady Stark?”

Gendry just rolled his eyes and refused to respond to his question, it'd only fuel the fire of Hot Pie's nightmare delusion that he was a matchmaker, and instead changed the topic. “What time do you work tonight?”

Hot Pie just gave him that look, the one where he totally knew that Gendry was trying to change the subject, but decided to go along with it. He looked down at his own phone, “In an hour.”

“Okay,” He started, beginning to put more books away. “And what about tomorrow? Are you working during this party we're apparently throwing?”

“Oh, fuck no.” Hot Pie laughed out, “I wouldn't fucking miss that magic for the world.”

Gendry just sighed heavily, “Great.”

Hot Pie picked up one of the books off the cart and inspected it, “I can't wait to tell Pod, he's gonna shit.”

“What are we even doing at this “party”? Are we doing what we always do? Because, that's pretty lame and unexciting, and not really a party.” He snatched the book out of his friend's hands and placed it back on the shelf where it belonged. Hot Pie just rolled his eyes.

“Why are you asking me, dude? It's your apartment.”

Gendry let out a very attractive, exasperated eye roll/sigh combo. “You're the genius that decided to invite Arya freaking Stark to hang out and claim it was a party. Now you need to take responsibility and make it cool.”

Hot Pie just scoffed, his eyes narrowed. “It's always cool. Fuck off and speak for yourself.” He pushed himself off the bookshelf and walked past Gendry. “You just worry about not shitting your pants, I'll take care of everything.”

That didn't make Gendry feel any better. At all. In fact, it almost made him feel worse.

He watched Hot Pie leave the library and Gendry let his head fall and bang against the heavy wood in front of him. This was going to be a disaster, wasn't it?

He felt his phone vibrate and his stomach dropped with excitement. He wondered if he'd always feel that way when it came to Arya Stark, sometimes he hoped it was yes. But, the thought of actually knowing Arya for any length of time made him feel nauseas. He had went from pining after her silently, not expecting to have any contact with a girl he'd fantasized about naked, to having her number in a matter of days. It was all very zero to hero, and all Hercules-like or whatever. God, he definitely should've bring up his vast, embarrassing knowledge of 90's disney movies, that wouldn't help anyone. That wasn't to say he was mad about now being in the know with Arya Stark, because he most certainly was not, he just couldn't say with any certainty that this wasn't a very long and vivid dream he was having while in a coma or something.

He opened the text, it was a reply from Arya.

Live from my living room, it's friday night!

He smirked at her tongue-in-cheek SNL reference, wondering how is was possible for one girl to be so cool. He was about to text her back when he got a call, from his mother. He sighed at the universe and answered the call, “Hello?”

“Hi, baby.”

He felt a wave of calmness wash over him at the sound of his mother's voice, “Hi, Mom.”

He wanted to ask her what she wanted so he could get back to texting Arya, but, he couldn't find the words. If his mother wanted to talk about the flowers she'd planted or what she tried to bake this week, he'd listen. He'd listen to every last word. Because he knew his mother was lonely these days with him gone.

It had been the two of them for so long, and now it was just her. She had never said she was lonely, never said she wished he'd come home more, all she said was that she missed hearing his laugh, she missed finding his books lying about or him in the nook reading. She told him that she missed him, but that was it.

He did miss his mom, and he didn't call her nearly enough as he'd promised her he would, as much as he should. Which, is why he would answer her calls and listen to her speak about nothing. He'd do it for her, he'd do anything for her.

“Is this a bad time? I know you're at the library, you can call me back if you want.”

He looked up at the large clock on the wall, then around the barren library. Arya's unanswered text flashed through his mind, but he pushed it away for now, sinking against the bookshelf behind him. “Nah, Mom, all good. What's up?”

“Well, I ran into our favorite blonde today.”

He could hear the slight disdain in her voice, it wasn't as present as it had once been, but Gendry knew it'd always be there underneath. He didn't blame her, he hated them too. “Cersei?” His brows furrowed at the weirdness of that statement, “What did she want?”

“It wasn't like she came to the house, Gen, I just ran into her.”

“Ran into her?” He asked skeptically. “Where were you that you just casually ran into Cersei Lannister?”

He could hear his mother's eye roll, “Please, Gendry. We were both at the art gallery opening of an artist friend of mine. She asked how you were, if you and Joffrey had any classes together, that sort of thing. I asked her about Myrcella and Tommen, from what I gather they're quite sweet.”

Gendry rolled his eyes so hard, his eye sockets hurt. “I'm sure they are.” No one related to Cersei or Joffrey could be sweet. He could hear the hesitation in her voice before she spoke, it peaked his interests but also caused his stomach to drop slightly.

“She wants you to come to Myrcella's birthday dinner next month. Apparently she has been asking about you quite a bit lately – saw a picture of you and has been obsessed with meeting you since. Cersei said it's all she goes on about, I got the apparent impression that she wasn't thrilled about it. But, it doesn't seem like she denies her children much.”

He leaned back against the bookshelf and ran a hand through his hair. His... sister wanted to know him? That made him feel all kinds of weird emotions that were usually kept burrowed deep inside his chest, unreachable most of the time. He had half siblings, three of them. They were unfortunately shadowed over by their bitch mother and horrific excuse of an older brother, but he had them. He thought about them, sometimes, but mostly he didn't.

The fact that Cersei was allowing him into her home made him a bit skeptical as well. And, he was pretty positive that Joffrey hadn't been told about this little gathering of siblings, or else he would've already heard about it by now.

Joffrey was a year his junior – yeah, the math was right, Robert had started his second family while still apart of his first one. They didn't speak. They were both fine with it. Joffrey didn't tell anyone they were related and Gendry was happy to do the same. His little brother was a prick and a half, a horrid excuse of a human, and not someone he could ever get use to being related to. He was a lot like his mother – cold, calculating, the living worst.

But, admittedly, he didn't know much about Myrcella and Tommen. They were very young when Robert had passed, babies, and he had never gotten the privilege to interact with them the same way he'd had with Joffrey. He knew what they looked like, he knew their ages, but he didn't really know much else. He honestly never expected to meet them, to be around them. He just expected that Cersei talked shit about him and his mother, and that the younger two knew he existed and that was all. This was a whole knew ballgame that he knew nothing about. And he hated not knowing.

He cleared his throat, “Um, okay.”

“You know you're not obligated to do anything, right? If you're not comfortable, then you don't have to go.”

“No, I have to.” He let out a sigh. “What kind of person would I be to deny a little girl the chance to meet her brother? Lord knows she already has a shitty one.”

He could hear the smile on his mother's face. “You're a good boy, Gendry Waters-Baratheon. I'm so happy to have you as my son.”

He pushed away the heaviness in his chest and the thickness in his throat. “Yeah, Mom. I'm sure you say that to all your sons.”

She ignored his jokes, just as she always did, and pushed on. “Well, I'll text Cersei and tell her you'll be attending then.”

“Alright.” He replied, toying with the books to his right.

“I'll let you go, baby. I'm sure you have thing to do and I don't want to keep you. I'll talk to you next week.”

He wanted to tell her that it was alright, that he would keep talking to her if she wanted, that he'd listen and reply to everything she said, but he did have things to do. “Alright, Mom. I love you.”

“I love you too, honey. Bye.” The warmth in her voice washed over him, and he could picture that beautiful smile and her light eyes and the sun beating down on her golden hair as she sat out by the shore. He missed her, more than a twenty year old man was proud to admit.

“Bye.”

He put his phone back into his pocket and sighed. Why did these random, poignant moment keep happening to him?

Gendry pushed himself off the shelf and tugged the cart to a different row, ignoring the thoughts in his head that swam around and tried to make sense. He pushed them all away, instead focusing on putting the books away and making a mental checklist of papers and projects he needed to finish this month. Nerd-ing it up always helped to sooth his heavy mind, now was no different he tried to remind himself.

 


 

He pushed through the door and into his apartment, the smell of pizza wafting through the air, and the violent sounds of Left4Dead coming from the living room. He shook off his bag, leaving it on the small kitchen table and grabbed a slice of pizza from the box on the stove before making his way towards the sounds of zombies being killed.

Pod was sitting on his couch, controller in hand, eyes glued to Gendry's tv. Hot Pie and Pod had free access to his apartment, and while he most definitely enjoyed his privacy and freedom, he found that he didn't really mind coming home to find them occupying his living room.

Gendry just came in and sat down beside him, putting his feet up on the coffee table in front of them and began to eat his pizza, watching as Pod was attempting to sneak up on the Witch. It was silent between them for only a few moments, Pod was a good guy who didn't like to rock the boat, but Gendry knew this would be too good for him to pass up.

“So, Hot Pie filled me in on the situation.”

Gendry wasn't sure why they were all referring to it like a battle, but he just went with it. “Oh, yeah? And what did that fuckface say?”

Pod just smirk-smiled in that Podrick Payne way of his – all charming and quiet. “He said that Arya Stark was coming over tomorrow night and that we better be on our best game – as to not embarrass you.”

Gendry shook his head angrily as took a harsh bite of his pizza. “That douchebag fucking invited her over here right in front of me.”

“Well, are you really that mad about it? I mean, Arya is coming here isn't she?” Pod replied, eyes still on the television.

Pod, always the realist.

“Well, yeah.” Gendry started, chewing his pepperoni pizza throughly. “But, this is all moving very quickly.”

Pod paused the game and turned to look at his friend. They'd known each other a long time, all three of them had. But, while Gendry was close friends with Hot Pie, him and Pod had always just been a bit closer. Maybe it was Podrick's soothing nature, his quiet demeanor and good listening skills, or maybe it was simply because Hot Pie was a fucking tool most of them time. Whatever it be, Pod was sitting there, giving him that look. A look that Gendry knew all too well. It was that silent interrogation look, the one that he always found hard to ignore. Fucking Payne.

“Why are you nervous?”

“Because I like her.” It came out quickly, and without thought. Pod had a way of doing that, maybe that's why he was studying to be a Psychologist. He was all B.D. Wong-like, solving SVU cases left and right. Well, not really – he was only solving Gendry and Hot Pie's moral dilemmas.

Podrick just nodded, looking him over thoughtfully. “Do you not think you're good enough, Gendry?”

“Do you always have to shrink me?” He asked, rolling his light eyes and tearing his gaze away from the shorter boy. “You know, you still have like, six more years of school before you get a plaque that says “Doctor”.”

Pod just gave him that look, that slightly narrowed eyed, slightly smirky look. He didn't even have to face him to see it. “Do you always have to deflect?” Podrick countered.

Gendry just heaved a sigh and turned back towards him, away from the tv. “See? No deflection here.”

“You didn't answer the question, Gen.”

It was quiet between them for a moment or so, they both knew the answer to the question because it was the same answer for both of them. It's kind of what bonded them, their mutual self-deprecating behavior. Only since Pod had started school had it become something of an issue for all of them.

“I don't know.”

It was noncommittal and not really an answer to the question Podrick had asked, but Gendry was looking him straight in the eye and he knew that was the best answer he was going to get tonight. Podrick worried about Gendry sometimes, but the stubborn boy to his left wouldn't have any of it.

Podrick let the tension hanging in the air go, and titled his head while giving Gendry that slightly narrowed look the taller boy was so fond of. “Wait till she finds out just how stubborn you truly are. She'll certainly love you then.” He said sarcastically.

Gendry smirked at Pod, pushing at the side of his head fondly as he got up to grab another slice of pizza. Forget his stubborn nature, he'd be lucky if Arya even decided to speak to him again after a whole night with Hot Pie.

 


 

 

Gendry sighed as he looked over the apartment another time, trying to find anything that could be constituted as incriminating – for what, he wasn't sure. Maybe how kinda normal and lame he truly was at his core? Maybe anything that could cause him embarrassment in front of Arya. Whatever it was, he was looking for it so he could stuff it in his closet and pretend it didn't exist.

He had been cleaning up and double checking since he'd gotten off of work last night, Pod stopping by after class and was nice enough to keep him from going insane as he cleaned. He had just tidied, seeing as his place wasn't a total dump like some people he knew – Hot Pie – and mostly just reorganized his movies and graphic novels, his comic collection remaining where it was, and he changed his sheets and stuffed all his dirty laundry and unwanted items into his closet.

He had gotten up this morning with a nervousness in his belly and a slight smile on his face as he showered and dressed, leaving a sleeping Pod on his couch and headed over to the Library where he'd put in a few hours before going to the shop.

It was early and dead, most people didn't spend their saturday mornings hanging about a library, so he got some work done that he had previously ignored yesterday, and tried not to fall asleep himself. In a fit of inspiration, he pulled out his sketchbook to finish one of his assignments, and then wrote out half of his paper for Lit that he'd been kind of ignoring.

After his time was up, he headed over to Mott's for a bit, practically running in and begging for something time consuming. He needed a distraction, something to take his mind off the fact that Arya was coming over tonight. His uncle had looked at him with the air of suspicion that usually clouded his view when he knew something was up, before giving him a truck that really wouldn't run. Gendry thanked him profusely and got to work.

He had spent a good three hours under the truck, tinkering and trying different things before he'd actually made any progress. It had been time consuming, but it had also cleared his mind, working always had. He stopped for lunch when Tobho literally pulled him out from under the car and dropped a bag on his stomach. He took that as a sign to get up and follow him to his office after washing what he could off his hands.

“You're really going to town, aren't you?”

Gendry sank down into the chair opposite his uncle, unwrapping his sandwich. “I don't know what you're referring to.”

Tobho just pinned him with that narrowed gaze, “Hmmhmm.”

“What?” Gendry asked, wide eyed.

“What's on your mind, boy?”

Gendry leaned back into his chair, taking his sandwich with him to appease his growling stomach. “What, I have to have a reason for wanting to work now?”

“Stop pussy-footing around. What's going on with you?”

He sighed, pulling his gaze away from Tobho's intense stare. “It's nothing. There's just some people coming over later. It's been on my mind.”

“And, would any of these people happen to be a girl?”

Gendry just pinned his gaze with one of his own. “Why does that matter?”

Tobho rolled his eyes, “Because that's the only way you'd get this caught up in something. No way one of your weird friends would whip you into this kind of frenzy. So, tell me, whose the girl?” Gendry took a bite of his sandwich. “Is she pretty?”

He made a face at the older man, “Are we really doing this right now? Gabbing like a couple of gals at brunch?”

Tobho sent him that narrow-eyed glance again, before kicking him out of his office. “Fuck off.”

Gendry picked up his food, smirking, and closed the office door behind him. He finished his lunch inside the truck and then got right back to work. He put in another hour and a half before clocking out and going into the locker room to wash up. He'd have to take another shower when he got home, but he always tried to get as much grease off of him as humanly possible before leaving the building. People already thought he was lowborn trash, he didn't need to give them another excuse.

He scrubbed his hands, his forearms, and his face, doing the best job he could. He took off the ruined jumpsuit and pulled on his regular clothes before stopping by Tobho's office to say goodbye. All he got was the finger in return, which of course made him smile.

He got into his car and pulled the phone out of his pocket, he hadn't checked it since he got to the shop, which was almost five hours ago. He had a lengthy text from Hot Pie about his fabulous ideas for the hangout tonight. A text from Pod letting him know that he'd woken up and was ready to help – which clearly meant that Hot Pie had gotten to him about his “plans” before Gendry could. And, one from Arya.

Hey, what's your address/when should I arrive for the shindig of my lifetime?

Oh, god. He mentally whined. This was going to be the worst.

He texted her back quickly: Sorry, I was at work. This is my address, and I should warn you that your expectations of this shindig may be a bit too high. But, 7:30 should be fine. He quickly sent her the address and started his car, praying that he could pull this off.

He pulled up to his apartment, practically running up the stairs so he could shower and start tidying. Podrick was sitting in his living room, watching tv, he looked over at Gendry sympathetically before standing. “Hey dude.”

“Hey.” Gendry closed the door behind him. “You get the text from Hot Pie, then?”

Podrick just broke out into a big smile and laughed. “Yeah, dude.”

Gendry just shook his head, “This is ridiculous.”

Pod, still smiling wide. “No, man. It's all good, I'll be here.”

It did comfort him that they weren't going to be stuck alone with only Hot Pie as their ice breaker – uh, nightmare scenario – but, this whole situation still felt bizarre and slightly uncomfortable. “Great. So, pizza?”

Podrick nodded, “Pizza.”

Chapter Text

Arya stood in front of her mirror, staring at herself and becoming increasingly more frustrated as she stared. She was standing in a pair of black jeans of the skinny persuasion, her top bare except for the plain black bra she obligatorily wore over her breasts, two tops held in each hand. This was ridiculous. It was all ridiculous. This was not her. She was not the type of girl that stood in her underwear in front of mirrors, her wardrobe a disaster behind her, attempting to decipher what outfit Gendry would find equal parts alluring and cool.

She was not this girl, damn it!

And yet, here she was. Standing in front of her mirror, naked from the waist up, uncertain about what fucking top she should wear and if her jeans were tight enough.

This was ridiculous.

She huffed and threw one of the shirts behind her, settling on the short-sleeved black and white striped button down. She buttoned it up all the way to the top, the collar securely fastened at her throat, and turned in her mirror. It made her look a bit tomboyish in an edgy way, but she was use to that. She'd always been more on the edgy, boyish side, finding comfort in men's shirts and combat boots. She'd always been different from Sansa, her mother, basically any female in her close vicinity, who all were soft and feminine in pastel colors and long hair.

It had just never been her, and while she was more girlish now than she'd been when she was young, she was no where near where she felt others expected her to be. Honestly, most people just thought she was a lesbian and moved on. Most of the time she didn't bother to correct them.

She started stuffing things into her oversized satchel: a change of clothes – because, who knows, right? – a book, her phone charger, some dvds, and her switchblade, which had been a gift from Jon after he'd graduated and left home. She didn't have any intention of using it, but, she'd rather be safe than sorry, no matter how much she weirdly, blindly trusted Named Boy Gendry.

She left her room, stuffing her wallet into her bag and headed into the kitchen, rethinking over anything she'd need when she heard the gruff voice to her right.

“Where're you off to?”

She placed her bag down on the island in the middle of the bright kitchen, heading over towards the pantry and cursing the fact that the Hound always had to arrive at the wrong time. “Out.” She answered cryptically, but knowing he would probably not take that answer and continue to question her like he was her guardian, she yelled back, “With some friends.”

He grunted in reply, clearly still disliking her secret answer. She could see his narrowed gaze without even turning around. She pulled a box off the shelf and exited the pantry and back into the kitchen. Arya had to admit, for this being an apartment, it was a pretty swank situation. It wasn't like the SanSan was hurting for money or anything, because they weren't, and their apartment was beautiful because of it. In a weird way, it actually reflected the two of them more than the rest of the house; white cabinets meeting black granite, expensive oddly colored appliances sharing space with practical convinces. It was bright and orderly with just a dash of darkness that permeated throughout the house – it was so the Hound and her sister she could vomit.

They were located in a nice, secure, neighborhood, with upscale, rich-y people who totally didn't understand their living situation – The Hound and two inappropriately aged younger girls, sometimes younger boys, always coming and going. It was weird and Arya really truly loved when the neighbors stared. She smiled just thinking about all the uptights and their crazy thoughts about the antics in Apt #107.

She stuffed the box into her satchel and watched the Hound watch her. He was leaning against the industrial grade stainless steel stove, his mighty arms crossed over his chest as he glared at her. There was once a time when Arya thought that look meant he was mad at her, or generally displeased. It hadn't taken her long to realize that was just his face.

“What.” She asked skeptically.

He just rose a brow at her, “I didn't say anything, girl.”

Arya just gave him another suspicious look before returning back to her bag. It wasn't long after that Sansa came storming into the house, sighing loudly and making her way into the kitchen. She dropped her purse on the table and walked over to Sandor, pressing a quick kiss to his lips before turning to Arya. “So, Robb is super not pleased that we ditched dinner last night. Apparently Jeynie is mad.”

Arya just rolled her eyes, leaning against the island in front of where her bag was placed. “Of course she is.”

Sansa continued on, “I dropped the boys off and ran to the store so we could make dinner tonight, and I get this call from him. I seriously almost didn't answer it, because I'm still a little hungover and I knew he'd want to yell about how inconsiderate we are. But, I did, I answered it – because I'm a good sister. And I was sitting in the car for like fifteen minutes listening to him moan and whine about how we don't treat Jeyne fairly and how we like Ygritte so much better. And that's not counting the whole ride over from the store!” She plopped down on one of the island stools, sighing. “It was exhausting.”

“I bet it was.” Arya agreed. If she hadn't corralled Sansa into taking her shift on brother pick up for today, than she had no doubt that would've been her who would've gotten the angry-rant phone call. “But, of course we like Ygritte more than Jeynie. She's a bitch.” Arya shrugged.

“Yeah, but we can't tell Robb that!” Sansa cried.

“Fine,” Arya sighed. “Let's have a stupid dinner with her so Robb will hop off our dicks.”

Sandor snorted from behind Sansa and Arya suppressed the urge to smirk at him. Sansa just sighed, “You're right, we'll just get it over with. She's going to be our sister soon anyway, better start acting like it sooner or later, huh?”

“Later, if we're lucky.” Arya scoffed.

Sansa perked up, noticing Arya rearranging her bag on the counter and smiled. “Are you heading over to Gendry's?”

Arya just raised a brow at her sister's one-eighty in emotion, but said nothing about it. “Uh, yeah, in a little while.”

“Are you excited?” Sansa smiled wider, her eyes bright.

The Hound piped up from where he was still leaning casually on the stove behind Sansa, “Wait, who the fuck is Gendry?”

“Alright, people really need to stop doing that.” She angrily barked at the Hound, who was giving her that look that he knew something was up that she hadn't told him. “And stop looking at me like that, Dad.”

Sandor just narrowed his heavy gaze at her, she knew he hated to be reminded of how old and fatherly he was becoming – especially as of late. It was like as soon as the two of them started living together, his hidden inner sitcom-dad started rearing it's ugly sweater wearing head. He hated it when she called him out about it, so she of course did it as often as she could.

“Let me look at you.” Sansa ordered, ignoring their staring fest and Arya just annoyingly rolled her eyes but complied with her sister's demand. “You look cute! And not at all slutty, I'm happy you're not taking Ygritte's advice.”

“The only advice I'd take from Ygritte is how to use a bow and track an animal. Everything else that comes out of her mouth is just frightening.”

Sandor snorted at their exchange, “And your brother wonders why you like her more than his girl.”

They ignored him and Sansa pressed on, “Have you spoken to him?”

“Gendry?” She pulled at face at Sansa. “Uh, yeah?”

Sansa just held up her hands in defense. “Well, alright, Miss Sassy. Excuse me for prying.”

Arya quirked a brow, “Didn't you have groceries or something that you should be attending to?”

“Oh, fuck.” Sansa stood quickly from the stool and started running towards the door. “Sandor!” She called out.

“Yeah, I'm coming.” He replied gruffly and pushed off the stove he'd been leaning on, throwing an eye roll towards Arya that made her smirk. They were so odd together.

Once the Hound was out of site, she quickly made her way over to the cabinet where Sandor stored his good liquor. She swiped a bottle, closing the cabinet door quickly and shoving the bottle in her bag, closing it up. She made her way out of the kitchen, thinking over everything she had and left the house. Sansa and Sandor were grabbing the plastic bags from Sansa's trunk, fighting over something.

She caught Sansa's attention and waved a hand as she walked to her car. Sansa smiled wide and waved back, “Bye, Arya! Have fun! Be safe and don't get yourself into any situations that could be porn-like!”

One of the uptight neighbors gardening to their left looked up quickly at her sister's exclamation and harshly glared at them. She loved the way she was now, but sometimes Arya missed the prim and modest Sansa from seventh grade – sometimes.

“Okay.” She replied quickly, wanting to get as far away from her sister talking about porn as she possibly could.

“Text me!” Sansa threw back.

Arya rolled her eyes, “I will.”

She got in her car and pulled out of the parking lot. She quickly texted Brienne that all systems were a go, and that she'd let her know if she needed any assistance. Although, Arya was pretty sure that wouldn't be the case seeing as how she was pretty sure that she could take them if she really wanted. They just liked to have a back up plan.

The sky was dusky and dark, showing the time. She knew that she'd be early, she was already early and she'd just left her house. But, she was nervous and excited and she had never really been good at the whole sitting-still thing, so she was early. And she'd probably end up driving around his neighborhood for a while anyway, because she was so early. Whatever, she sighed, it was what it was.

She blasted her iPod as loud as her eardrums could take it, singing along to every song that shuffle decided to play, pushing the uneasy-nervous feeling down and out of her stomach, focusing instead on the excitement. Because she was excited – and not just because she was hanging out with the guy she'd been crushing on for a long time. She was excited to be around people again, people that weren't the Hound and her sister, or her brothers, or Brienne.

She had never been really good at the whole friends thing. It just hadn't been her style. Which had totally suited her fine when she was younger and angsty after her parents died and she was going through her fuck-it phase. But now, now that she was out of school and actually alone while Brienne was at college? Well, it kind of fucking sucked.

She was happy to be around other people again, she was tired of playing Mommy Dearest to her little brothers or daughter to Sansa and Sandor's deluded family fantasy. She missed the hell out of Brienne, and only training with her once a week and hanging out when she wasn't busy with school wasn't exactly how she planned her super fun year off.

Clearly she hadn't been thinking all that rationally when she demanded to be let out early and deferred from college.

She just hoped that Gendry and his friends were cool enough to hang out with on the daily, because she was in need of a serious fix and she fully intended it on being Gendry – now whether that be his penis or his friends, well, the jury was still out on that one.

She did end up driving around for a while. She had gotten to his apartment complex – which was super close to the college – and decided to drive around campus for a little while to blow off some time. She had deferred from King's College, they had accepted her and she had taken postponement option. She wasn't entirely sure if it was because she was worried about getting stuck here in King's Landing, or if she was too scared to decline and take the scholarship she'd been given to University of Bravos where she could train with the Guild to become a Faceless Man – one of the best Fencing teams in all the world. It was a lot of pressure, a big decision, and for once in her life she wished she could hear her mother nag at her about the pros and cons of each.

She didn't like thinking of her parents death, she didn't even really like to think of them as gone. Most of the time she referred to them as on vacation, on that second honeymoon Ned had always tried to talk Catelyn into. She hated that Sansa would marry Sandor and her mother wouldn't be there to help her with the wedding, or her father to shake his head and sigh when their family got out of control. She hated that Robb felt weighed down by responsibility that wasn't his for some time yet. She hated that Jon had always felt alienated, and even in their parent's death, he couldn't feel like a true Stark. She hated that Bran was always so quiet and reserved, and that Rickon would never know them like they all had. But most of all, she hated that she had been so mean to them before they died. She hated how much of a bratty bitch she had been to everyone, how she had never apologized for saying things she didn't mean, that she didn't really want to move far away and never see them again. She hated that they may have thought she hated them – because it wasn't true. She loved them, even in death.

She wished she could hear what her father would say about her graduating a year early, about her scholarship offers to multiple schools, about the fact that she had taken the year off to waste away. She wondered what her mom thought about her new haircut, and the boobs that had finally grown in, or the fact that she sometimes wore makeup. She wanted to hear them complain or coo over Jeynie and Sandor. She wanted to hear them berate her brothers just one more time, or breakup a cat fight between her and Sansa. She just wanted one more, one more moment, one more smile, one more frown, one more speech, one more hug, one more.

But, she'd never get one more.

Which was why she never thought about it. Why she pretended they were on an extended second honeymoon in Pentos where there was shitty cell service which is why they never called. Which is why she leaned on Brienne probably more than she should and ignored most family functions like dinners and parties. It hurt too much to know they were gone, so she pretended they weren't.

She realized it probably wasn't the healthiest way of dealing with her parent's death, but, she didn't give a shit.

She parked in Gendry's apartment complex, a little more reasonably early than she had been before, and gathered her things. She texted him, letting him know she was here, and listened to the last song play out though her speakers while she waited for him to text her back. When she got the go-ahead that they were up the stairs and to the left, she unplugged her iPod and shut off her car, making her way up to his apartment.

She rapped her knuckles on the door, attempting to stop the fluttering quell of her heart. She heard some loud noises before the door was quickly jerked open by a breathless and wide-smiled Hot Pie. She couldn't help the large smile that tugged at the corners of her mouth at the sight. He was so weird.

There was just something about Hot Pie and Gendry's relationship that made zero sense and absolute total sense to her and it made her want to laugh really hard.

Gendry was behind him, obviously trying not to push the bigger boy out of his way but clearly annoyed that he had been beaten to the door by him. “Why hello, Arry, so nice of you to join us tonight.”

She smirked at the misuse of her name, but didn't say anything about it. Gendry sent his friend a disgusted look that very intently said that he sounded like a serial killer, which someone behind them both commented on. “Hot Pie, move out of the way before she runs away and informs the police that you tried to Hannibal Lector her.”

Hot Pie just rolled his eyes but moved out of the way, pushing Gendry back with him and letting her in. Arya couldn't help but smile, the chuckle she kept to herself though. She walked through the threshold and into Gendry's apartment.

It was small, well lived in with an open floor plan and a sort of definitely/definitely not how she'd pictured it. The boys stood in front of her, blocking her from truly entering the space and a true view of the apartment, staring at her like she had just stepped out of a time machine – very Doctor Who or something of the like.

Hot Pie looked about ready to explode, smiling and staring at her with these wide eyes. Gendry looked slightly miserable, standing with his hands tucked deep into his pockets – she didn't hold it against him though, if her siblings interfered in her love life like Hot Pie was, she would gut someone. And the third one must be the friend – Podrick if she was remembering correctly, he was funny so far. He looked nice, at least he was smiling at her like a normal person and not like he was planning on killing her.

She smirked at them, pulling her backpack in front of her. “I come baring gifts.” She smiled at their confused and intrigued faces, pulling the bottle out first and handing it to Hot Pie, “I stole this from my sister's boyfriend. It's expensive, that's the only thing I really know about it, so sorry if it tastes like shit.” Next was the the box from her panty, which she handed to Podrick, who smirked at her sweetly. She liked him already. “Snackage, of course. These are Dolphin and Friends – a knock off Goldfish brand that totally are worth it – and some dvds, because I wasn't sure what selection you had and I'm don't watch shitty tv, sorry.”

She smirk-smiled at them again and pushed her way past the three boys and made her way out of the kitchen and into the living room. It was cozy, a big cushy couch to her right, the large tv to her left, rows of dvds and books lining the walls. She walked up to one of the shelves, unable to stop herself from perusing.

He had a ton of movies and tv shows on dvd, a ton. It was like Netflix was in his living room, except without the weird underground movies that had one star that she totally didn't watch when she was alone or anything. She moved to another shelf, this one filled with books, he had a lot of books which didn't surprise her at all. What did surprise her though were stacks of vinyl and cds, she let her eyes linger over them – Jason Falkner, Sloan, Jellyfish, Dinosaur Jr, Bowie, Bob Mould, Ted Leo, Queen, Big Star, Telekinesis – he had really good taste in music that she hadn't expected from him. She wondered fleetingly if people would expect it from her.

She turned back around to face them, they were standing where she'd left them, just facing her now. She smirked, eyeing all three of them as they looked at her like they had no idea what to do now when there was a knock at the door. Were there more people coming to this gathering of souls? Because, this was already about as Breakfast Club as she could get, she wasn't sure if she could handle any more misfit toys joining the island.

Gendry turned and opened the door, the pizza guy waiting expectantly. Well, pizza she always had room for, she'd kick someone else off the island for pizza. Hot Pie seemed to take this as his opportunity for a moment of uninterrupted weird time with her. He was growing on her. “So, Arry.” He started, she was now pretty positive that Arry was in fact a nickname he had decided to start calling her and not a misinterpretation of her name – which was fine. She'd never had a nickname before, not one she'd ever want people to call her anyway so she decided to let it slide. “What are you perusing over yonder?”

Podrick snickered, “Yonder? Who are you?”

Hot Pie just sent his friend a withering look, “Fuck. Off.”

Podrick rolled his eyes and shook his head, coming forward with an out-stretched hand to Arya. “I'm Podrick, by the way. Sometimes these goons aren't too good at being humans.”

“I heard that, Pod.” Gendry yelled from the kitchen, causing them both to laugh.

She smiled and shook his hand, “Arya. And, I've figured. It's nice to meet you.”

Podrick stepped back and nodded at the cd she had picked up from the shelf to look at. “You like Ty Segall?”

Arya looked down at the case in her hands, “Yeah, actually. I don't really know a lot of people that are into this type of music, so I'm surprised that I'm even holding this right now.”

Hot Pie smirked as he threw himself down on the couch, Gendry observed as he placed the pizza on the bar separating the kitchen and the living room. “Yeah, Gendry's kind of weird.”

Gendry rolled his eyes, plating a piece of the pizza and walking it over to Arya, who smiled bright up at him and accepted it. “Like you should talk, Hot Pie.” Was all he said in return.

Arya and Podrick snickered at Hot Pie's mock appall. Arya took a bite of the pizza before commenting on something that had stuck in her mind since meeting him. “Why do they call you Hot Pie, anyway?”

Podrick started to chuckle, smiling down at Hot Pie where he lounged on the couch. Gendry went back over to the pizza to grab some for himself, Pod following him. “That's a good story actually,” Gendry started. “But, he'd kill me for telling you.”

She turned back to Hot Pie, “Oh, now you have to tell me.”

He just shook his head, “Nope. Not happening.”

She gave him a pleading look, to which he replied with a narrowed gaze that didn't at all make him look threatening. She huffed at his stonewalling and rolled her eyes playfully, “Alright, fine. At least tell me your real name though.”

“Hot Pie is my real name.”

She narrowed her gaze at him, “No, it's not.”

“Yup,” He nodded, “That's what everyone calls me.”

She gave him a look that clearly read that she believed nothing of what he was saying. “So, your mother calls you, Hot Pie?” She asked skeptically.

He smirked, but his eyes dead serious. “What would you do if I told you she did?”

She leaned back in disbelief but was saved by Podrick, “Don't believe a word he's saying. It's Jason and that's what his mother calls him.”

Arya turned back to face Hot Pie, who had threw a pillow at where Pod was standing in the kitchen, “Dude!” He yelled, “How can I be shrouded in cloaking mystery now?”

They all snorted, unable to take it. “Sorry, Hot Pie.” She relented, coming to sit beside him on the couch, patting his arm in fake sympathy. “I'll never actually call you Jason if that makes you feel any better.”

He smirk-smiled down at her and she smiled up at him, for all his ridiculousness, she actually kind of enjoyed Hot Pie so far. “Gee, thanks, Arry. That's real kind.” Even his sarcastic undertones were kind of charming if she didn't really think about how weird he was over all. He mostly just made her want to laugh.

Podrick and Gendry came to sit in the living room with them, pizza in hand. Podrick taking the recliner to their left and Gendry coming to sit on the floor against the wall to her right. She continued to eat her pizza, Hot Pie getting up to retrieve a slice and a very short silence descended upon them before there was a loud, incessant knocking on the door. She had been staring at the muted rerun of Law & Order: SVU when her head snapped up to stare at the door, then at Gendry – who looked just as confused as she was.

“Are you expecting someone else?” She asked.

His brows were furrowed and she took the brief moment to truly look him over, she hadn't been given a real chance to since she stepped foot in here and she found herself itching to seek him out. His broad shoulders were haunched a little from where he sat on the floor, his dark hair curling just slightly in it's length, clearly not use to being as long as it currently was. His clear, ocean eyes gazed back at her and it was the first time in a while that they'd made direct and unflinching eye contact. It caused shivers to run up her spine at the thought of those unreal eyes on her. He was dressed casually in a black henley that really brought out his features – his cream colored skin, the otherworldly hue of his eyes, the rich darkness of his hair. She wanted to kill herself, he was so fucking attractive.

“No.” He answered, pulling his gaze away from her and looking at his two friends. “I wasn't.” He stood from his spot on the floor, placing his plate on the table and going for the door.

Podrick turned to face Hot Pie, who was eyeing him suspiciously. He shrugged a shoulder, looking at the bigger boy cautiously, “I may have mentioned to him that we were getting together tonight.” Hot Pie narrowed his gaze and leaned back into the couch, shaking his head. Podrick held out his arms guiltily, “What? I didn't know he wasn't invited.”

Now she was so fucking curious that she couldn't stop herself from standing as Gendry opened the door, trying to peek over his tall frame and wide breadth to see who had been tapping furiously against the door. She saw Gendry sigh and heard the loud voice of another boy, “What, you weren't going to invite me to your hangout sesh? You'd invite him,” The unknown boy pointed accusingly at Hot Pie who had the decency to look appalled again as he flipped off the other boy. “But not me to meet your cute new dish? You realize just how wrong that is, right? I mean, come on, I'm the most fun out of any of you tarts.”

What the fuck?

She tried to hold in the small bubble of laughter that threatened to break free at the hidden boy's use of the word tarts and leaned a bit sideways to see him more clearly. She was slightly annoyed, but only for a moment, that Gendry's shoulders were so wide that she couldn't see past them. Then she remembered just how much she wanted to climb him and grab at those same shoulders that all was forgiven with him blocking her view of this new character.

Because, whoever this was, was a character. One she really wanted to meet.

Gendry just sighed and stepped aside, turning back to face them and directed his gaze at Pod, who ducked his blushing head. The boy stepped into the kitchen, closing the door behind him. He was an average boy height, taller than Hot Pie but shorter that Gendry, maybe a tad shorter than Pod. He was willowy, with a head full of messy thick blonde curls and hooded green eyes. The smirk-smiled on his lips wasn't threatening or out of place on his pretty face, and the look in his eyes made her feel like he was a hell of a good time. He walked with a swagger that none of the other boys possessed, a different swagger than that of Joffrey – who was the literal worst – no, the boy's was more self-assured than cocky and he seemed like he just knew he was nice to look at.

He stopped in front of her, ignoring his other two friends and smiled at her. “You,” The way he emphasized his words made her wonder how exactly he was friends with the other boys in the room. He was a charmer for sure, and while normally boys like him pissed her off more than anything, there was just something about him that she couldn't quite put her finger on. But, she liked it. “Must be, Arya. Am I right?” She nodded, returning his infectious smile. “Well, let me just say that I'm more than pleased to finally have some tits join the group.” Turning towards the guys for support and when finding only embarrassed faces he leaned forward like he was telling her a secret and stage whispered to her. “You wouldn't believe how boring a bunch of penises could be – and I never thought I'd say that.” She couldn't keep the wide smile off of her face or the small laugh that broke free, he stuck out his hand for her to shake. “I'm Lommy.”

She took it and chuckled out, “I'm Arya, as you already know.” He just smiled and stepped back from her, visibly looking her up and down – shockingly, though, she wasn't put off by it. “So, how do you all know each other?” She thought it was a reasonable question to ask, seeing as how the four boys occupying the space didn't look like they would ever interact.

Hot Pie fit the part of that weird kid in Middle School who annoyed you, but you let him sit at your lunch table anyway for comedic effect. Podrick seemed like the quiet bookworm type who spent a lot of time studying to appease his parents. Lommy looked like a party boy jock, and Gendry... well, he was Gendry. Sweet, shy, holy fucking attractive Gendry. None of them looked like they belonged here sitting with one another, but in a bizarre way, they kind of made sense.

Lommy smirked and opened his mouth to speak, but was cut off by Gendy. “We all went to school together.”

And before anyone else could comment, Lommy quickly moved away from the semi-circle they'd all made and into the kitchen, grabbing the bottle that she'd brought and one of his own. “You want to know about us?” He directed at Arya. “Well we want to know about you too. So, twenty questions.”

He settled himself down on the floor on the other side of the coffee table where there was more space. “Noooo.” Hot Pie moaned, leaning back in the couch, clearly voicing what the other two boys were feeling and that they thought this was a bad idea. She could read it on their faces. But, she was too intrigued, and she loved party games.

She came around the coffee table and sat on the floor beside Lommy, looking over at Gendry who was giving her a look that visibly read she'd lost her mind. But, she gave him a challenging look paired with a soft smile and she watched him sigh. She had him. He came around the armchair and sat beside her. She couldn't even contain her grin.

“Oh, fuck it. Alright.” Hot Pie picked himself up and moved to sit, as did Pod, and soon they were all seated in a circle on the floor in front of the tv.

Lommy smirked at the group, but smiled at Arya, seemingly pleased that she was roped into the situation. “Alright, the rules are simple – ”

“There's fucking rules now?”

“Jason, shut up.” Lommy countered, and Hot Pie looked like he was ready to dive bomb the blonde. But, Lommy paid no mind to Hot Pie and continued on as if he'd not been interrupted. “It's simple, twenty questions – amended. You get to ask someone a question, if they refuse to answer they have to drink.” He held up both bottles for effect. “Everyone got it?” He barely waited for a response before he started opening the bottles. “Good.” He took a deep sip out of the one Arya brought and coughed as it burned his throat. “I'll go first. Arya, how did you come to meet our fair Gendry?”

She smirked at Lommy and turned to smile at Gendry, who was glaring daggers at the blonde boy. It was a fair question, she asked how they all met, of course they'd all want to know how she had come to know him. He met her gaze and returned her smile with a small one of his own. “In the library.” She answered shortly.

“That's it?” Lommy deadpanned. “That's all we get?”

Arya lifted a brow, “You didn't say it had to be a lengthy explanation. We met in the library, if you want to know more about it, you'll have to wait till your next turn.” She smirked at his playfully narrowed eyes and turned to Gendry, “So, how did you all become friends.”

“Can she do that?” Hot Pie directed the question towards Lommy. “Can she ask a question about everyone at once?”

Lommy rolled his eyes and took another swig of the liquor, “She can do whatever she wants, this isn't a real game, Jason.”

“Stop fucking calling me that, dick.”

“Okay, how about we just let Gendry answer the question.” Podrick said diplomatically.

Gendry faced her a bit, looking into her eager silver eyes – because that's what they looked like, melted pools of steel. He looked back at his friends, Hot Pie stewing beside him, Pod perched awaiting the answer, and Lommy, smirking. Fucking Lommy, this was exactly why he wasn't invited. This literal exact reason.

But, he answered the question. “We grew up together. Hot Pie I've known since Kindergarten, Pod and I lived in the same neighborhood, and this asshole,” He gestured towards Lommy. “Accosted me in High School and demanded I be his friend.”

Lommy just dramatically rolled his eyes, “Please. I didn't demand shit, you were more than happy to buddy up with me, Waters.”

Arya smiled at their exchange, but brought her eyes to him at the mention of his last name. He was a Baratheon, but yet it seemed like no one acknowledged it. He avoided her gaze and continued to shake his head at Lommy.

“So, you all went to the same school?”

“Pretty sure it's not your turn anymore, Arry.” Hot Pie pointed out, but Gendry didn't look like he wanted to play.

She rolled her eyes at Hot Pie and gestured towards him, “Alright, fine. Go ahead then.”

Gendry looked around at them all expecting him to ask her a question. He knew why Lommy did this, for as much as they were all interested in Arya and his crush on her, it was for his own benefit. Under the guise of a game, he could really get to know anything he wanted about her. But for the life of him, he couldn't figure out anything to say. What did he want to ask her? What did he want to know? This was a lot harder than they made it out to be.

Gendry looked at the boy next to him, “Well since you're so damn keen on speaking, go right ahead.”

That wide smile was once again in place and Hot Pie rubbed his hands together like an old time-y villain. “Arry, Arry, Arry... what do we want to know...”

Lommy pulled a disgusted face, “Has he been like this the whole time you've been here?”

Arya couldn't help the laugh that bubbled up in her chest and broke free, Lommy started laughing with her, then Podrick and Gendry. Hot Pie was just rolling his eyes at them. “Yes, actually.” She finally managed after the laughter had subsided.

“I'm so sorry.” Lommy responded, ducking from the pillow Hot Pie had thrown at him. Arya noted the greenish hue on his fingers, stained. He caught her line of sight and held up his hands to her. “I'm a fashion major, sometimes making your own clothes isn't all it's cracked up to be.”

“So you were dying fabric?” She asked, genuinely intrigued that not only was the boy in front of her a fashion major, but that he actually made clothes. For some reason that fascinated her.

“Correct again, Ms. Stark.” Hot Pie was getting huffy and Lommy turned towards him, speaking as though he were an Elementary School teacher. “Would you like to continue now, Jason?”

Hot Pie flipped him off and turned back to Arya. “Tell us about yourself.”

“That's not a question.”

He sighed and rolled his eyes, “Okay, what can you tell us about yourself?”

“I'm seventeen, I like sword fighting and I'm a film enthusiast.”

“Enthralling.” Hot Pie replied sarcastically. “What about all the good stuff?”

“I'm pretty sure it's not your turn anymore, Hot Pie.” She countered back with his own line. Podrick snickered from beside him.

She turned to Lommy, taking the bottle from his hand and taking a sip. It was fucking strong, causing her face to pucker slightly at the taste. It burned on the way down and left her throat and mouth feeling cool like after she chewed mint gum. She handed the bottle back to him and shook her head. “Wow, that's fucking gross.”

“Yup.” He agreed, taking another sip.

“So, Lommy, why weren't you invited to the party?”

He smirked at her, his eyes narrowing just slightly like he was trying to figure her out, but couldn't. “Shouldn't that be a question for them?”

“Nope.”

He nodded, “Because they're afraid I'd embarrass them in front of you and defile your sensible sensibilities.”

She liked his honest answer and overdramatic nature, the flare suited him and caused a side of her that was normally dormant to come out. He made her want to dance and laugh and conspire. “Oh, really now? And how would you do that?”

“In case you haven't noticed,” He smirked. “I'm a bit more Andrew In Drag than Blurred Lines, if you catch my drift.” He tilted his head down to catch her gaze and winked. “They're afraid that my burning gay intensity will make them insignificant.”

“Yeah, okay, asshole.” Hot Pie spoke up. “Like you could ever bring me down.”

Podrick chuckled, “Well, he does have a point there, Lom. How could anyone ever turn down Hot Pie?”

“I don't appreciate your sarcasm, Payne.” Hot Pie barked.

“So, you're gay.” She asked Lommy.

He smiled and nodded, “I was straight, for a while. But, then in Senior year I just decided, you know what? I love cock. Like, love it.” She couldn't help but laugh at his outburst and the way Gendry and the others just shook their heads, use to it but finding it ridiculous all the same. “And, vaginas kind of scare me, if I'm being totally honest.” He added as an afterthought.

“I know what you mean.” She agreed.

“Alright, well this is getting weird.” Hot Pie piped up, leaning across the circle and grabbing one of the four bottles beside Lommy, and chugging one. “What?” He asked as they all looked at him.

“You're a mess.” Podrick replied, taking the bottle from him and sipping it slowly.

She looked over at Gendry beside her. He was quiet, observing. There were plenty of questions she wanted to ask him, conversations she wanted to have, things she really wanted to know. But, she realized that the game had past and maybe this wasn't the best time to get deep and real with him. So, she resigned to wait until they were alone and just enjoy spending time with fun people.

God, she had missed this.

“You know what?” Lommy started. “We need to dance.”

“What?” Gendry asked.

Lommy stood, pulling Arya up with him. “You need a drink and we need to dance.” He handed the bottle he had been holding to Gendry and turned to face Arya once again.

She turned to grab the cd off the coffee table, handing it to him. If she was going to dance, they were at least going to dance to good music and not the shit on the radio. He looked down at it and back up at her. “Oh, yes.” Was all he said as he put it in the stereo and turned to the song he wanted.

Would You Be My Love by Ty Segall started playing loudly, the harsh distorted guitars filled the air. It was perfect to twist to, and Lommy started twisting his hips and held out a hand towards her. She sidled over to him, a wide smile on her face as she came close and he grabbed her, spinning her around. He let her go and she stayed close to him, dancing about the room, shouting the lyrics with him, arms in the air and hips twisting in time with his.

She wasn't even paying attention to the other boys in the room, too caught up in the boy in front of her, spinning her and singing to her. She was laughing and jumping up and down with him like she was eleven at a sleep over. The song ended and she sashayed over to where they were still seated, watching the two of them, and grabbed one of the bottles. She noted that Gendry wasn't drinking the one Lommy had given him, instead it sat between Podrick and Hot Pie. She smiled down at him and offered him her hand as Lommy changed the cd and plugged in his phone, playing some playlist that was already great.

Gendry eyed her hand before looking up at her smirky-smile. She wanted to dance with him? Well, who was he to pass up the opportunity? He took her hand and hauled himself up, she walked backwards in time with the beat and held both his hands in front of them, tugging on his arms as they twisted to the music.

Pod and Hot Pie got up to get more pizza and were talking in the kitchen while the three of them danced together in the living room. It was more of Gendry and Arya twist and shouting while Lommy had a dance party with himself to their right. She smiled up at him and leaned a littler closer so he could hear her over the loud music.

“Thank you for inviting me.”

He shrugged, “Of course. You're more than welcome anytime you'd like to join these assholes.” Her smile was worth any embarrassment he may have had about tonight.

“Thanks. I really miss having friends. My best friend is at college and I hardly ever see her anymore, everyone else I use to hang with is still in school and busy with their senior year and all. Nobody has time for me anymore.”

She hadn't said it with with any ounce of sadness or self-pity, only like it was a fact, but that only made him want her here all the more. He nodded, “I know what you mean. Really, feel free to crash my party anytime.”

Her smirk made him want to lean down and kiss her, but he knew that wasn't what she was here for. She'd practically just said it to him, she wanted friends. So, he'd be her friend.

“You're special, you know that?”

He didn't respond, unsure of how to, and their little moment was broken by Hot Pie exclaiming there was not soda or beer left and that their snackage was running low. Gendry sighed as Arya let him go and moved to where the other boys were standing in the kitchen. “Do you want me to run and get some?” Podrick offered.

Gendry shook his head, “Nah, just order another pizza and I'll run down the street to the deli and grab some shit.”

“Do you want me to come with you?” Arya offered from where she was leaning against his bar counter.

He shook his head, taking the small moment that leaving gave him. “No, stay and dance with Lommy. He certainly would kill me for stealing you away.”

She tried to ignore the way her stomach quivered at the idea of him stealing her away when Lommy dropped an arm around her shoulders. “Yeah, she's my best friend now. You can fuck off.”

Gendry smirked at the blonde and she basically felt her ovaries explode at the sight. “I'll be back in a few.” He grabbed his keys and left, walking the block to the convenience store, letting the cool night air free his mind.

This was a lot more to take in than he expected – and not just with Lommy surprise showing up either. It almost felt normal to have her with them, which put him off a bit. She fit in well, taking Hot Pie's aggressive weirdness is stride, engaging in Lommy's extravagance, and talking softly with Pod when he did. It was odd how well she was fitting, which lead him to believe that the other shoe would drop and when it did, he'd be left woefully unhappy.

Or, was that just him be pessimistic again?

He almost wished that he had gotten to spend some time alone with her before introducing her to his friends, but then he remembered that if it wasn't for his friends, she wouldn't even be in his apartment right now. He wondered what she thought of them truly, did she think they were all crazy and weird? She seemed to be having a pretty good time so far.

He thought of the ways he held his hands as she made him dance with her, the way her silver eyes shined with this unknown that had him aching to try and find out, her smirky-smiles and lingering looks. Fuck, he wished things had went differently tonight.

But, he knew that things weren't going that way, and it was fine. He grabbed some sodas and chips, walking back in the brisk air to the apartment, knowing that there was always a next time. Another get together, another moment, another time to convey the way he felt about her – if that's what he wanted to do.

For now though, he would resign to have a good time and put the way he wanted her throw him down and have her way with him to bed. There was no use sporting those thoughts on the outside when there was nothing he could do about it. Instead he thought about what they could possibly be doing without him and hoping to the Seven that his friends hadn't scared her away. Or worse, she hadn't gutted one of them for being a nightmare.

He chuckled to himself at the thought of Arya, The Warrior Queen. Because, that's absolutely what she was – a warrior queen. And they were just there to create the noise that seemed to fascinate her.

He genuinely hoped she decided to take him up on his offer to crash his party anytime, he certainly would never turn her away.

Chapter Text

He unlocked the door and pushed his way into the apartment, music was still blasting – only this time the Magnetic Fields rang through the open space, Stephin Merritt's heavy voice ringing out through the space and somehow matching the mood perfectly. Lommy was still dancing – or moving to the beat by himself with a drink in hand – Pod was recording him on his phone with a fresh slice of pizza in his other hand, Arya and Hot Pie had retreated to the floor with their backs pressed against the couch, talking loud and enthusiastically. He set down the bags on the table, opening them and pulling out a bag of chips, surveying the situation around him.

Of all the things he'd expected to see once he'd returned from the store, of all the weird, wild, or crazy things they could've been doing, he certainly hadn't expected to find Arya in a heated debate with Hot Pie over Lost and which character the island totally should've killed off instead of some of their favorites. He couldn't help the smile that tugged at his mouth at the sight of them, the oddest pair in the room by far, talking animatedly over how shady Ben was and how Charlie was her favorite.

“No, he's the literal shadiest. Period.”

“I don't know,” Hot Pie shook his head, “I agree he was the worst, but, Jacob was pretty suspect.”

Arya rolled her eyes, “Well if you're going that route, than I'm just gonna say that the island is the most suspicious character of all. I mean, come on, none of it would've happened it it weren't for the damn island!”

“True.” He agreed, “But you've still got characters – like Jacob, or Richard, hell even Locke – who were pretty shady all the way through.”

She leaned back and sighed dreamily, “You know who I loved? Charlie.”

Hot Pie snorted. “Yeah, no surprise there.”

Arya leaned back up, brows furrowed, prepared to defend her character crush if it came down to it. “What do you mean?”

“Please,” He scoffed. “Bitches loved Charlie. The faded rockstar with a heart of gold? Works every time.”

“You're just jealous.” She shot back, childishly.

“You're right, I am fucking jealous. Charlie probably gets major pussy.”

She snorted and started barking out a laugh, “You're so right.” And then the two of them were laughing hysterically, Hot Pie slapping his knee and everything. It was almost embarrassing to watch and if it had been anyone else, Gendry would've cringed. Actually, he did cringe a bit.

Gendry just shook his head and looked over at Pod who gave him a smile, clearly zoning in on what or rather who he'd been staring at. Sometimes Pod was a bit more perceptive than he liked and sometimes he hated how the shorter boy could read him. “They've been like this since you left, talking about Lost and killing Lommy's buzz.”

“Officially dead.” The blonde chimed in.

“Well,” Gendry started, “Let's get it back.”

“That's what I'm talking about!” Lommy yelled, stirring the other two from their giggle-fit and alerting them to Gendry's presence.

Gendry walked over to his stereo and pulled out his phone, unplugging Lommy's mix and instead playing his own. Arya stood in curiosity and made her way into the group, she smirked when she heard the opening sounds of White Cloak by The Kingsguard. Of course he would be into Kingsguard, it only made everything so much funnier to her.

“What?” Gendry asked at the sight of her smirking lips. “You don't like The Kingsguard?”

“Oh, no I like them all right.” Arya smirked back.

His brows furrowed and eyes narrowed a little at her impish attitude towards his favorite band. “So, then why are you – ”

He was cut off by Lommy's screech, causing them all to look over at the blonde boy who was looking down at his phone aghast. “That little shit stain!”

“What?” Podrick asked as he peered over Lommy's shoulder to see what all the fuss was about.

“That fucking little cocksucking cunt. I hate him.” Lommy exclaimed angrily, ignoring Podrick's question or the other's lingering stares. “He stole my idea. The little rodent actually stole my fucking idea.”

“Who are you talking about?” Hot Pie yelled slowly, as if Lommy was daft.

The blonde finally looked up and narrowed his gaze at Hot Pie. “Joffrey fuckface Baratheon. He stole my proposal for our Business class. We were suppose to be working on it as partners, but the little twatbag used my ideas and handed it in on his own. The fucker shafted me – and not in the good way. Oh, I'm gonna kill him.”

“Hey, Lommy, calm down – ” Gendry started soothingly, only to be cut off.

“Don't tell me to calm down, Gen. I'm not seven years old, I can be right pissed if I fucking want to be. The slime stole my work and I'm gonna put him in the ground because of it.”

“That's pretty intense.” She hadn't meant to say anything, but the way Lommy was reacting had her enraptured, like she was watching a play. She hadn't been able to stop herself from letting it slip out. Now their eyes were on her, Lommy's in particular, and now she felt as though she needed to explain herself. “He's the worst anyway, so he deserves it. But, maybe you should do it legally so we can hang out next week.”

That caused a smile to crack through Lommy's fiery demeanor, though his eyes were still alight and intense. She smile back at him and some of the tension seemed to dissipate between them. The blonde shook his head and let out a huge heaving sigh before letting himself collapse into the cushy armchair beside him. “I need a drink – and something to cheer me up.”

Gendry smirked at Podrick, knowing exactly what was about to transpire, knowing what would cheer their friend up. Podrick went to fix Lommy a drink and Gendry moved towards the tv, cutting the stereo and selecting a movie off the shelf.

Arya just watched in fascination as they all moved around her like she wasn't there. She rather enjoyed watching them, and the way they seemed almost forget she was in the room, doing as they would if she hadn't been there. It made her feel oddly comfortable, like she was already integrated into their little Scooby Gang – or like she was in a tv show, watching in slow motion. It would of course have to be a heavily scripted, but still hilarious, sitcom tv show – like Friends or How I Met Your Mother – because there was no way these guys could pull off anything else.

Arya sat herself down on the couch closest to where Lommy was lounging dramatically in the armchair, watching the boys before her closely. Hot Pie threw a newly acquired bag of chips at the blond, “Here you go, Your Highness. Anything else I can get you, you muff-doubter?” His sarcasm light instead of biting.

Lommy opened the bag of chips and smiled up at the bigger boy, “You know, Hot Pie, one of these days I'm going to convert you and never again will you think about the muff – as you so eloquently call it.”

Hot Pie literally gagged and walked away. “You're just fucking hilarious, Greenhands. So fucking hilarious.”

“Don't knock it till you try it.” Was all Lommy threw back in return. Arya couldn't help but chuckle at the exchange.

Podrick came back from the kitchen, handing Lommy a glass full of what looked like milk before coming to sit on the other end of the couch. Arya's brows furrowed at the glass, “Is that – ?”

“It's a White Russian.” He finished for her, smirking. “I know, this can't possibly make me look any gayer than I already am. I swear though, most people do think I'm straight.”

“Yeah, until he opens his mouth.” Hot Pie snorted, coming to sit on the beanbag chair in the corner.

“Hey-Oh!” Lommy yelled, pointing at Hot Pie and winking at his unrealized innuendo.

Hot Pie's brow furrowed in confusion at what just happened, until it clicked in his brain. “Damn it.”

They all laughed – well, Hot Pie didn't laugh, he stewed in the corner at walking right into that one – as Gendry turned around from fiddling with the dvd player. He looked around, finding that the only place available to sit was in between Pod and Arya – which, Arya was grateful for – and took his seat.

“So, what are we watching?” She asked curiously. Seriously, the curiosity was killing her.

Gendry – who was settling himself down in between her and Pod – turned and looked at her, shaking his head with a straight face. “You can never tell anyone what went on here tonight.” Then lifted the dvd remote up and pressed play on the title screen.

Arya tried to keep her face from making those odd faces that tended to happen when she was attempting not to laugh, she couldn't say if it was actually working or not. But, her efforts were in vain as she turned away from Gendry's too-serious eyes and to the large tv where The Princess Bride was beginning.

“Oh my fucking god.”

“Don't judge.” Lommy shot back at her. “This is my feel-good movie. Nobody will ever be more swoon-worthy than pre-pirate Westley. Nobody.”

Arya just smiled wide and nodded, “Well, you've got me there. Pre-pirate Westley is the swoon-iest.” She agreed, looking over at the other three boys who only looked slightly miserable that they were watching this movie – for what may very well have been the hundredth time. “And, you guys think Westley is swoon-worthy too?”

“No.” Hot Pie looked disgusted. “Clearly we're into young Robin Wright, hello.”

“Clearly.” Arya said sarcastically causing Podrick to snort.

They sat quietly, watching the beginning of a movie she admittedly hadn't seen in a few years – Sansa getting over her princess phase years ago – and quite literally swooned along with Lommy over a young and thankfully clean shaven Cary Elwes. Did anyone actually like Westley with that odd little ponytail and mustache? She and Podrick ate the chips that Gendry was holding, all eyes front and center. It didn't take her long to realize that she hadn't peed in like hours and it hit her all at once that she was seriously going to piss herself.

“Hey.”

She leaned over, bringing herself closer to Gendry, not missing the way it caused his breathing to hitch slightly. She had to say, he was holding his own tonight, the shy, jumpy unnamed library boy was still very much present, but it was as though he had taken a nap and was replaced by his slightly cooler, more comfortable cousin. Maybe it was his home environment, or maybe it was his friend's atmosphere, whatever it was, she was into it. Now, shy, jumpy Gendry was equally as arousing – sometimes, even more so – but, she found his comfortable presence inviting.

He quirked a brow at her mock whisper, a shush from Lommy and Hot Pie caused her to roll her eyes and actually whisper. She was fine with it, it just meant she had to move in a bit closer to the fuck-hot boy to her right.

She was closer to him than she'd ever been – in her very limited Gendry-interactions – which afforded her the privilege to look him over. This close she could see ocean blue of his eyes, just how thick his dark lashes truly were, the small and very light smattering of freckles that spoke of unearthly cuteness in his childhood years, and of course, those downright sinful lips. The urge to lean in and capture that plump bottom lip with her teeth had her reeling.

What was it she needed to do again?

Bathroom, right.

“Where's your bathroom?”

She watched as he looked her face over for a moment before standing and waiting for her to do the same. He gestured for her to follow him, so she did. He walked into a room whose doorway was in the middle of where the kitchen met the living room, the doorway literally right next to the couch she had been seated on. Well, hell, she could've figured that out.

She followed him in and realized that he had lead her into his bedroom. She looked around, a large bed on the floor, just a mattress and boxsprings if she guessed, more bookshelves filled with movies and comics, books and knickknacks. Gendry was standing next to a doorway, his hands shoved deep in his pockets, the light from the bathroom casting a soft glow on his features.

“So, this is your room?” She asked, pointing upwards at nothing.

Gendry just nodded, “Yup.”

Arya mimicked him and nodded as well, “Tidier than I thought'd it be. My brother's rooms were fucking pigsties.”

He quirked his brow again – he really needed to stop doing that or she'd be not responsible for her actions – a small smirky-smile finding it's way to his mouth, those damn ocean eyes glimmering in the bathroom light. “You've thought about my room?”

For a moment, she faltered. Had she said she thought about his bedroom? A very small panic attack settled in her chest for a nanosecond before she casually responded with a shrug and a smile, her eyes narrowed in that way Sansa had taught her. “Maybe once or twice.”

Gendry's smirk-smile stayed in place, but his eyes fluttered down away from hers to look at the ground. God, if he started flushing, she really couldn't be held responsible for tackling him to the floor. But, his eyes came back up to glance at her, which caused her heart to patter a little faster in that frustratingly annoying way it was prone to do sometimes. She scooted by him and went into the open bathroom, closing the door behind her and leaning against the sink for a moment.

She looked into the mirror and at herself. What the fuck was she doing?

These were the oddest, friendliest, funniest group of boys she'd had the actual pleasure of surrounding herself with in a very long time. Gendry, being one of them. He hadn't been anything but friendly and lovely all night, had she been reading the signals wrong? No, there was clearly something there between them.

But, for some reason, she couldn't bring herself to wish they had been alone tonight. Yes, a part of her did, but the bigger part of her, the one whose face actually hurt from smiling so much tonight, didn't. She missed this. She missed having a group of friends, missed being a part of something, even when it was as trivial as hanging out in someone's living room and watching a movie. She felt comfortable around them, around Gendry. Did she really want to mess up her chance to actually be pulled out of her sad excuse of a lonely existence? Because, there was always that chance that Gendry didn't like her the way she liked him. If she made a movie and failed, she would be eternally embarrassed, her pride forever wounded, and then she'd be back to square one, lonely with no friends and no library because there was no way she could ever face him again.

Did she want to kiss the shit out of him? Absolutely.

Did she want to throw him down and have him fuck her the way she fucked herself? One hundred percent fuck yes.

Did she feel comfortable in his presence and think they could be life long best friends? Yes.

And that was the part that stuck out to her. Through the lusty haze she had for Gendry, she liked him. She liked him not only as someone she wanted to date, but she liked him as a friend. And in the end, after everything she'd lost, that very well may be more important to her.

She sighed, shaking her head at herself in the mirror before quickly peeing before her uterus exploded. She washed her hands, ignoring her reflection, and left the bathroom as quickly as she came. Gendry was waiting for her, leaning against his bedroom doorway, watching the movie that was still playing. She took that as her chance to really look around the room while his back was turned.

His dark blue comforter looked soft, his bed looked snuggly and was neatly made. She hadn't been lying, her brothers were animals and she didn't think she'd ever seen any of their rooms even remotely this clean before – maybe Bran's, he'd always been the neatest of the bunch. A book sat on his bedside table, a maker in it, clearly showing he'd been in the middle of reading it. Misery, huh, she hadn't been expecting that.

She looked at the shelves on the wall across from his bed, a tv placed in the middle just in case he didn't want to get up, she chuckled to herself. He had a pretty hefty comic collection, mostly X-Men she realized, but she noticed some Avengers and DC stuff like Batman hanging out underneath. There were more movies, more books, some binders and notebooks that looked like school storage. His walls were painted an easy grey-blue, it was light and airy, making the room feel bigger than it actually was. Some artwork hung on the walls, none of it framed, it looked like it was almost just thrown up like it had nowhere else to go. She vaguely wondered if any of it was his.

She walked up behind him, placing an arm on his shoulder, causing him to jump. He turned to look at her and she smiled, unable to hold back the laugh at his jump. She didn't remove her arm, though. “Shit, I didn't even hear you.”

“Yeah, I've been known to sleuth.”

He smirked, “You'd make a great assassin.”

She smirked back, “Watch out, you may very well be my first hit.”

His smile lost it's smirk and now he was looking down at her with those depthless eyes and that quiet little smile that she knew was only for her. It was a moment that seemed to suck the air out of the room, the loud movie in front of them became nothing but a dull little roar, the room faded out behind them and all she could see was him and those damn eyes and that lovely smile. She wondered if he ever had moments like this around her, where he felt like her presence was tragically beautifully and he just wanted to break apart to build back up again.

Was she going crazy? She certainly felt like she was. But, all she could focus on was him and the way his quiet smile made her feel.

It was a nothing little moment in the grand scheme of things and it held no relevance to anyone, but she was happy in it. And she hadn't felt this light or happy in a long time.

It was Hot Pie's yell of, “Inconceivable!” in time with the movie that broke them from their staring contest and caused them to move slightly away from each other and walk back into the living room where everyone was still seated, still watching.

Arya felt her pocket vibrate, pulling out her cellphone and finding more than one text message that she'd apparently ignored. One was from her sister asking how things were going, another was from Brienne asking if she was alive and/or if she needed a ride home, another was from Bran asking her to pick him up from his Jojen's tomorrow, and finally one from Ygritte that was a gif of people thumbs-up-ing. She shook her head and looked at the time. She'd managed to be here for almost five hours, it hadn't even felt a fraction of that. It wasn't exactly late, but it was late enough that if she didn't leave soon, she'd pass out on Gendry's couch.

She sighed, putting her phone back into her pocket and turning to face Gendry, “I should probably get going, I have to pick up my brother from a friends in the morning.” It was factually accurate, but she still felt like she was blowing him off as she said it. The slightly crestfallen look that came over his features certainly wasn't helping either.

“Yeah, well, I guess we should see you off then.”

“Who are we seeing off?” Lommy piped up from his spot on the armchair, head thrown back, looking at them upside down.

“Me.” Arya stepped forward a little, out of the slight alcove Gendry and her had found themselves in. “I've gotta hit the road, Jack. Little brothers that need picking up in the morning and all that.”

“Boo.” Was Lommy's only response as he got up from his chair, followed by the other two.

They all came and huddled around her, smiling at a bit less creepily than they had earlier in the night, but she could sense they weren't quite sure how to send her off exactly. So, she took it upon herself to initiate the goodbyes. She wasn't exactly a hugger, well, she wasn't exactly the overly touchy-feely type anyway, but she felt like she'd never get by Lommy without some type of contact. And if she hugged Lommy, than how could she not hug the rest of them. A big part of her just wanted to know what it would feel like to be wrapped up in Gendy's downright delectable biceps, she wasn't going to lie.

“Alright, alright, bring it in. Now, I want phone numbers from each of you and a promise that we'll get together soon. Sorry to break it to you, but you've just acquired a new friend.”

“Best friend.” Lommy chimed in, smirking at her form above. He sidled over and grabbed her about the waist, twirling her a bit and causing her to laugh. She'd been right, Lommy wasn't going down without a fight. He placed her back on the ground and held his hand out for her phone, which she fished out of her pocket and placed in his awaiting hand before moving on to Hot Pie was was standing beside him.

She smirked, holding her arms out wide and Hot Pie rolled his eyes before coming in and giving her a bear hug. Lommy handed the phone to him as he released her and she moved on to Podrick, who was smiling shyly at her. She came in and hugged him quickly, he doing the same and smiling down at her as they released on another. She didn't even know where her phone was at this point, they could be sending pictures of their dicks to the Hound for all she knew, but she couldn't even be bothered because she was now standing in front of Gendry, who was leaning back against the doorframe of his bedroom.

His hug would be different from his friend's, she knew that, but she also was unsure of how to hide the fact that she knew it. She hoped it didn't come off awkward or wonton – because in her mind, it was going to look like either of those two options and only those two options. She was either going to look like the biggest hot mess trying to hug Gendry Waters-sometimes-Baratheon, or she was going to look like a slag out on the prowl for her next John.

Clearly she had been spending too much of her free time with Sansa watching bad daytime tv in the form of Dornish soap operas.

His eyes caught hers and he was giving her that lovely little smile again. She wasn't even consciously aware of what her own face was doing, but she hoped it wasn't horrific or creepy. She smiled at him then, coming into hug him, his own arms widened a bit for her and he pushed himself off the doorframe to meet her halfway. Her face connected with the solid softness of his chest, right below his collarbone – that was the first thing her brain registered upon contact. He was warm and sturdy, but not in the way Robb or Jon were sturdy and certainly not in the way Sandor was, it was different. She wrapped her arms around his sides, coming to incircle the breadth of his back, his arms holding her about the shoulders, pulling her to him.

It was a hug. She'd had many hugs. But this, this was a good hug. The kind she didn't want to let go from.

But she did, she let go of him in a timely fashion, soaking in as much warmth and dependable human-ness she could from him. He seemed like the kind of person that was a constant, like he was dependable and sturdy in not just the literal sense. He seemed like the kind of person who'd always be there. Maybe that's what she liked most about him, now that she knew him more.

He smiled down at her and she smiled up at him, actually almost forgetting that there were others in the room with them until Podrick broke the silence. “You just got a text from...” He paused, squinting to look at it better. “Dog emoji?”

They all looked puzzled and she couldn't control the rolling of her eyes – her body's natural reaction to Sandor. She took the phone from Pod, opening the text. 'Your sister wants to know if you're safe, girl. You have to pick up B tomorrow btw.' She shook her head at the text but replied quickly before looking back at the group who was staring at her questioningly.

“My sister's boyfriend.” They took her answer without much question. She looked back over all of them and smiled, “Well, I best be off. See you guys soon, hopefully. And, I'll probably see you at the library, yeah?”

“Yeah.” Gendry nodded, walking with her to the door.

Arya shrugged on her coat and grabbed her bag from the table, smiling up at Gendry one last time before officially departing. The door closed behind her and she made her way to her car, the smile a permanent fixture on her face for the time being. She started her car and began her drive home, pulling out her phone and calling Brienne so she didn't have a heart attack about not hearing from her.

“Hi, what's wrong?” The blonde answered, sounding nervous and ready for battle.

“Nothing you weirdo, I'm calling you on my way home. I just left.”

Brienne seemed to relax a bit, her voice no longer edgy or manic. “Oh, well... good then. So, how was it?”

Arya just sighed, “It was awesome. I had a really great time.”

“Well good!” And that was the thing about Brienne that Arya loved the most, she was honest and truthful, but she really did mean what she said. So if she was happy for Arya, she was truly happy for her. “So who was actually attending this party?”

“Gendry, his weird friend Hot Pie, his friend Podrick and his other friend Lommy.”

“Okay, so no actual alone time with library-boy, then?”

Arya sighed dramatically, “No. But, you know, I'm kind of okay with how the night turned out. I ended up really liking his friends.”

“So are you meeting up with them soon?” Brienne held back a yawn, she was probably studying or something honor roll-y like that. “And when do I get to meet them?”

“I have no clue actually, I'll probably see Gendry at the library this week. And you can meet them whenever you want, Brie. Just try not to scare them away, they're our new friends.”

Because anything Arya did, Brienne was unbreakably sworn to also do. It was in their friend-contract.

“Great.” Was Brienne's sarcastic reply.

“I'm coming over to see you tomorrow, or did you want to come here?” Arya asked, pulling down her street.

“How about we get lunch first and then figure it out? I'm already craving one of those sandwiches from that little place by the movie theater. I need one.”

Arya just laughed at her best friend, “Alright, I'll pick you up. Just call me when you're up and I'll get up.”

“Wonderful.”

She pulled into the driveway in front of their apartment, turning off her car. “I'm home, bye.”

“Bye, see you tomorrow.”

Arya hung up the phone and took a second to look through her new contacts, wanting to send them her number back. Lommy had his name with an crown emoji next to it, Hot Pie put a piece of cake beside his name, seeing as there wasn't an actual pie emoji, and Podrick just wrote Pod.

She smiled and shook her head, adding all of them and Gendry into a group chat and sent them a picture of her face and a thumbs up instead of just writing 'Hey, this is Arya!', she'd never been normal like that.

She got responses rather quick, Hot Pie sending her one of Lommy laying on the floor, Pod sent her one of himself smiling, Lommy sent her a picture of Hot Pie cramming into the armchair beside Gendry who looked rather disgruntled about the whole thing. Yeah, she definitely was not going to regret giving these goons her number. This group chat was probably going to be the most exciting part of her life. There wasn't a part of her that was mad about it either.

She grabbed her bag and got out of her car, going inside to face her sister, who was going to want to know everything. She rubbed her slightly tired eyes with her fist and prepared for battle, all while thinking of ocean eyes and quiet smiles. Fuck, this being friends business may be harder than she anticipated.

Chapter Text

The sudden jumpstart to her system shocked her awake. Arya's eyes burst open and the air rushed out of her lungs, snapping her from the pleasant deep sleep that she normally would've just eventually awoken from. But, instead, she found herself scared awake by her sister jumping across her bed and her body like she was a small goddamn child or a WWE Wrestling star.

“The fuck?”

“Arya!” Sansa sang-song as she rolled over, up and down Arya's length. “Ar-ee-yah!”

“Get the fuck off of me.” Was her only gruff reply as she attempted to roll over and also roll Sansa off her.

“Oh, come on.” Sansa whined, falling with a small oomph beside Arya on the bed. “You never came in to tell me about your date night!”

“It wasn't a date night.” She stifled a yawn.

Sansa just rolled her eyes, “Whatever it was, you never came in to talk to me about it. I'm actually a bit hurt by it.”

Arya rolled her eyes at her sister's over the top dramatics this early in the morning. “It was late, I didn't want to wake you or Sandor.”

“Well, then, talk to me now!”

Her sister's blue eyes were bright and the smile on her face cheerful and excited. She liked seeing Sansa like this, she liked seeing the light in her sister's eyes, the actual smile on her beautiful face. There was a time there that Sansa wasn't Sansa, and it had really affected Arya. She'd probably most likely definitely never say that to anyone, but it was true. Seeing Sansa defeated and sad had punched Arya's heart and made her feel deeply – something she usually liked to avoid. She was happy that her sister was in a place of peace now, and Arya was happy to be a part of that reason.

“Alright, fine.” Arya adjusted herself against her pillows. “It was good.”

Sansa quirked a finely sculpted red brow, “That's it? That's all you're giving me?”

“It was super fun and I had a great time?” Arya tried.

“You're getting warmer.”

“Okay. I did have a fun time, his friends are weird but oddly charming and I think I may be in platonic love with the group.”

“Platonic love?” Sansa asked skeptically.

“Yes, platonic love.” Arya answered. “I'm in love with that friend group and I want to be married into it like a cult. That's how much bizarre fun I had last night.”

“So, you had a good time then, is what you're saying?”

Arya smirked down at her sister and her very mild air-headedness, bringing her hand up to stroke her long hair. “You're so pretty.”

Sansa swatted her hand away with a scowl. “Fuck off.”

“Oh, those are fighting words, Miss.” Arya's smirk still intact as she turned to face Sansa.

“Yeah, well, I know a lot more of those.”

“Courtesy of me.”

“And Sandor.” Sansa added, but didn't disagree. “No, but I'm glad you connected so well with them. So, are you like friends with them now? I'm not entirely sure how all of that works.”

“Poor Sansa,” Arya started, leaning in to mock-sympathetically stroke Sansa's hair again. “So pretty she never had to try and make friends, they all just flocked to her.”

Sansa scowled and slapped Arya's hand away. “Oh my god, you're so annoying.”

Arya laughed and moved to get out of bed, “But, to answer your question, I think so, yeah.”

Sansa stretched out in the spot that Arya had just vacated. Looking over the long lines of her sister's amazing body had Arya narrowing her eyes for a moment, but she quickly began to undress and pull on fresh clothes to take her mind away from that place.

There was a time when Arya had hated Sansa. Everyone knew, everyone remembered, it was what it was. She wasn't in that place anymore, thankfully, but sometimes old habits reared their ugly heads. Sansa was beautiful and charming, Arya was not. But, she was okay with it. They were different and that wasn't a bad thing – or, at least, that's what their mother use to say all the time. It took her several years and a lot of internal therapy with Brienne, but she actually managed to believe it now.

“What about mysterious hunky library boy, Gendry?”

Arya sighed as she pulled up her leggings. What about, Gendry? That was the fucking million dollar question that had haunted her sleep last night and continued to borrow deep into her skull this morning.

Gendry.

Gendry.

Gendry.

Gendry.

She liked him. He was charming and quiet, intelligent and sarcastic, well read, smart, considerate, handsome. She didn't even like to use the word handsome because it made her feel like the titular character in a romantic drama probably staring Katherine Heigl or Kate Winslet – well, Kate Winslet she could get behind, actually – but, that wasn't the point. She didn't like to use that adjective to describe boys, but damn, did he fit it.

He was handsome. And lovely. And cute. And hot. And, oh god... she really liked him.

She wasn't entirely sure why it was a bad thing, because it actually wasn't, but she felt like it was. Maybe because of the revelation she'd had last night about being his friend and being friends with his friends, maybe it was because she hadn't had a real crush on someone since before her parents had died. Whatever it was, it was annoying and she didn't like it, so she was going to do what she did best in situations like these: ignore it.

“He's fine.”

Sansa raised a brow at her noncommittal answer, “He's fine?”

“Yeah,” Arya shrugged a shoulder. “He's fine. He was awesome and super cool and I think we'll be best friends.”

Sansa was giving her that look again, the one with the slightly narrowed gaze that was silently trying to penetrate her soul. She gave Arya that look a lot.

“I thought you had a thing for library boy.”

“Gendry.” Arya corrected with a roll of her eyes.

“You don't have a thing for him anymore?”

“Oh, no, I definitely have a thing for him. I just said if it were possible, I'd totally weird cult marry him.”

“So, what's the problem, then?” Sansa asked.

Arya sighed and sat down on the edge of the bed to put on her boots. “There isn't a problem, Sansa. I just think we could be friends like Brienne and I are.”

Sansa looked at her sister again, deeply and soul searchingly. It made Arya a little uncomfortable, mostly because she knew that Sansa could see through what she was saying to what she actually meant in between the lines. It partially annoyed and warmed her that Sansa could do that.

“Okay.” Was all that Sansa replied with, which made Arya a little uneasy. “Just don't do something because you're afraid of the outcome of something else.”

“Thanks for the cryptic as fuck advice.”

Sansa rolled her eyes and got up from the bed, “Don't be so dramatic about everything, Arya. That's my job.”

Arya watched her leave the room and turned back to her shoes. She sighed, rubbing her tired eyes and got up from the bed, only more than slightly annoyed that Bran couldn't have just asked Meera to drive him home.

 


 

“Oh, Brie! Hello! Brienne! Brienne of Tarth! Brienne Christine Tarth!”

“If you don't stop shouting, I will pin you with my rapier and serve you as a human kabob.” Brienne opened her door and pulled Arya into her dorm room, a scowl on her freckled face.

“Well, answer my texts, calls, or knocks in a timely fashion then.” Arya stated matter of factly, sitting on Brienne's roommate's bed. Her roommate was kind of a bitch and not here right now, if she had been present she would've already glared at Arya and scoffed as she left. They didn't like her.

Brienne just rolled her eyes and moved to grab her bag from beside the bed, “Are you ready? Or are you going to continue to be annoying?”

“I'm always annoying, Brienne. This is what you signed up for when you agreed to be my friend, really you should be use to it by now.”

“Let's go, I'm actually starving and this is not helping my mood.”

Arya got off the bed and followed Brienne out of the room and down the hall, brows furrowed as she looked at her best friend. “What's wrong? Why are you being more of a grouch than normal?”

“It's nothing.” Brienne replied in a tone that left no room for argument.

Arya wasn't really good at following rules, so she pressed on. “No, come on, tell me what's wrong. All I do is dump on you and complain and sometimes make you laugh, it's my turn to return the favor. Tell me what's wrong.”

Brienne sighed as they passed through the building doors and walked over to where Arya's car was parked in the student lot. She looked around, before shaking her head and sighing again. Her broad shoulders were slumped, her eyes downcast, Arya could tell she was tired and that something was weighing on her.

“Alright, fine.” She let out a deep sigh and turned her gaze away from Arya. “I was studying at work last night and Renly stopped by to see what I was working on because he helps me with my schoolwork sometimes.” Arya's face involuntarily winced at what Brienne was about to confess. Because she could guess right where this story was headed and it was not pretty. “We were talking and everything was going really well, which is shocking because I'm pretty much the most awkward hopeless human in Westeros, and then... I sort of attacked him.”

“Attacked him?” Arya asked.

“With my mouth.”

“Oh no.”

“I attacked his mouth with my mouth. There's really no other way to describe what happened other than that.”

Arya just patted Brienne on the shoulder and shook her head. “Yikes.”

Brienne covered her face with her hands, “God. I can never set foot into that office again without feeling humiliated.”

“Well, how did he respond to the attack?”

Brienne threw up her hands and yelled at Arya. “He just let it happen! Because he's so goddamn nice and considerate, that asshole. And then, when I pulled away he just nodded and gave me this really pathetically pitying smile before walking away.”

“Ouch.” Arya realized she most likely wasn't helping any, so she steered Brienne in the direction of her car with the intention of getting her best friend that sandwich she really wanted. “Come on, we're in dire need of some sandwiches and frothy, sugary beverages that are super not good for us.”

“I told you it was terrible.” Brienne mused.

“Not so terrible, it could've been a lot worse.” Arya said soothingly, even though she actually couldn't think of anything worse at the moment, she knew that there had to be something more terrible and embarrassing out there than that. Well, she better not tell Brienne that Renly was definitely totally gay, because that would absolutely make this worse.

“I don't know how!” She yelled as they got into Arya's car. “How could this possibly be worse? I've liked Renly for years, Arya. Years! We're friends! Then I had to go and attack him and now everything is ruined.”

“You kissed him, Brienne. You didn't stick him with your sword, stop acting like you spliced him.”

“I might as well have!”

“Alright,” Arya started as they made their way downtown. “I'm going to let you rant about this because you're upset, but I'm reserving the right to tell you that you're being really dramatic about this and I don't think it's that bad.”

The blonde just huffed and crossed her arms as they pulled up to the amazing sandwich place and parked on the street. “Whatever.”

Arya rolled her eyes at her best friend, “Now, come on and I'll buy you two sandwiches and a terrible, but delicious, mocha frapa-whatever.”

“Fine.” Brienne whined as they exited the car.

“I'm allowing you one hour to mope, and then the cheer up squad begins.” Arya stated matter of factly as they walked up to the cafe with the best sandwiches in King's Landing – maybe all of Westeros. Brienne just rolled her eyes and grabbed the door from the nice guy that was holding it for them. “Thanks.” Arya muttered, looking up and into the gorgeous ocean eyes of the nice door-guy who looked oddly like... “Gendry?”

Their eyes connected and a smile began to pull on the corner of his lips, his brows furrowed slightly as he looked down at her. She wasn't even sure what her face was doing, probably something stupid because that was her life.

“Hey.” He responded, that soothing baritone that had her swooning for him to whisper in her ear. And, she did not swoon easily, she prided herself on that. “Look at us, just casually running into each other.”

She watched as he winced at his very clear awkwardness. He was awkward and she loved him for it. She smiled back up at him and nodded, “Yeah, look at us.”

They were looking at each other and smiling, both unable to move from their spot and afraid to brake the connection. Good thing Brienne was there to save the day – that was sarcasm, she hated Brienne right now.

“Hi, I'm Brienne, Arya's best friend – seeing as how Arya has lost all functioning human behaviors, I'll introduce myself.” She stuck her hand out towards Gendry, who took it. “Nice to meet you.”

“Gendry. Nice to meet you too.” He responded with a charming smile. He was charming. Fuck, this friends thing was going to be hard.

Arya rolled her eyes, “Gendry, this is Brienne, my best friend. Brienne, this is Gendry, my new best friend for when you die.”

Brienne just sent Arya a face, “Fuck off.” She turned back to Gendry, who looked a little alarmed. But that was Brienne, unable to leave without saying goodbye, because she was so damn honorable and polite. What a buzzkill. “It was nice to meet you, but I really need a sandwich.” She turned and started to enter the building, Gendry's attention shifting back to Arya, Brienne turned back and gave Gendry a glance-over before sending Arya an approving face before actually entering the cafe.

“So, that's Brienne. My best friend.” Arya shrugged her shoulders. “She's a bit of a drag, but I like her.”

She could tell in Gendry's expression that he knew she was kidding, and his smile was a little extra bright now that they were alone. “She seems nice.”

“She is.”

“But, in need of a sandwich.” He joked.

Arya just shook her head, “Oh, you have no idea how much.” He quirked his brow and she almost died right there. “She had a really bad night. She sort of kissed the guy she's liked for a long time, but she's basically unaware of the little fact that he's a raging homosexual, so, there's that.”

“Oh.” Was Gendry's only response, nodding and looking down at her.

“Yeah.” Arya chuckled out. “So, she just needs some sandwiches and girl time.”

“Well, I won't hold you up then. I should get these to my boss anyway.” He held up a bag with the cafe's logo on the front.

“Lunchtime?”

“You bet.”

“It was nice seeing you.” She smiled. “I had a really good time last night.”

Gendry smiled down at her, nodding. “I did too. I'm glad you came.”

“Let's hang out soon.” She pulled open the cafe door as he angled himself to depart. “I think I'm already going through withdrawal from you.”

She only realized the way that sounded as he started to flush a bit, but his eyes never broke from hers. “I think I know how you feel.”

She felt goosebumps erupt over her skin at the casual intensity of his gaze. With one last smile, they departed, and Arya had never felt so light. She found Brienne at one of the tables, waiting for her.

“I couldn't wait for you. You're just going to have to buy me multiple horrible drinks.”

Arya sat down at the table and saw the blonde with two sandwiches already in front of her. “That's fine, horrible, terrible sugary drinks you get.”

“So,” Brienne started, that annoying look in her clear blue eyes. “That was library boy?”

“Why does everyone keep calling him that?” Arya asked exasperated. Brienne gave her a look and she just rolled her eyes. “Okay, fine, why do you and Sansa keep calling him that?”

“Because up until this week he was nameless and now apparently you're best friends?”

“Shut up, Brienne.”

“He's pretty cute, I've got to say.”

“Shut up, Brienne.”

“With the way you two were looking at each other, should I be concerned about what transpired last night?” She asked cheekily.

“Shut up, Brienne.”

“I'd certainly read him a bedtime story.” She winked

“Oh my god.”

 


 

The soothing sounds of bad early 2000's television wafted through her room, Charmed provided wonderfully by Netflix was playing on low as she laid in her bed, the covers pulled up around her arms, cocooning her almost. She wasn't really paying all that much attention to the Power of Three, but she'd seen all these episodes enough time that she didn't feel that bad about it. Instead, she found herself scrolling through Instagram, the only light in her dark room radiating from her phone and the television.

Mostly there were selfies and pictures of cats and food, the usual. And she just scrolled past it all, liking somethings sparsely, until she got the influx of notifications.

Lommyyousuck is now following you.

Hot_Pie69 is now following you.

ShutupPod is now following you.

And then came in the many likes of her pictures – all from Lommy. She began following the three of them, going through their Instagrams one by one and checking out all their pictures. Lommy's was full of selfies – mostly shirtless and the majority of them at dance studios. So, apparently Lommy was a dancer? Interesting. The rest were pictures with him and his friends, friends she'd never met, and the ones she'd had, and artsy angles and filters.

Hot Pie's was full of exactly what she'd expected his to be – food. He was a chef after all, and annoyingly what he liked to call a “foodie” – whatever the hell that actually was. Some embarrassing pictures of himself and the rest of the guys, but mostly food and his presentations of food from the restaurant, which admittedly looked really good.

Podrick's was the most normal of the three, selfies, group shots, landscapes, books, it reminded her of Gendry's. His made her smile, just like the boy in question. There was just something so goddamn nice about Prodrick that made her just want to squeeze the crap out of him.

But, mostly, she stalked their respective pages for pictures of Gendry and some more insight on her library boy. He was sprinkled through out all of them, clearly a staple in their lives and it made her smile. He was captured doing a multitude of things; hiding behind a book, sipping coffee, flipping off the camera, laughing with the others, asleep, at an art gallery standing beside a painting, playing video games, drawing, doing weird things outside at night – she wasn't really sure what was going on in that picture.

It made her smile and her heart beat a little faster looking at it, looking at him. Man, having a crush was annoying, she'd forgotten just how much. She didn't really like a lot of people, actually she really didn't like anyone, and it had been a while since she'd liked someone as much as she liked Gendry. Had she ever liked someone as much? She wasn't entirely sure.

She fiddled with her phone for a moment before closing the app and opening her messages, pulling up Gendry's number. Her last text to him was sent last night, letting him know that she'd arrived. She couldn't believe that it had all occurred only yesterday, it simultaneously felt like five minutes ago and seven hundred years. She quickly typed out a text and sent it before she could change her mind.

Hello, Sir.

She placed the phone on her chest and turned her attention back to the three sister witches being badass as fuck, waiting his reply and ignoring the fact that she sent it because the wait was killing her. It wasn't that long before she felt the vibration on her chest of a text back. She swore to God if it was one of her brothers or their significant others, she was going to murder someone. But it wasn't, it was Gendry.

Hello, M'lady.

She wrinkled her nose and typed back, I am not a lady, don't call me that.

He countered quickly. As M'lady commands.

She couldn't contain the smile that took over her face as shook her head at his text.

You're so annoying. So, what's up?

Vaguely: Nothing really. Specifically: Sitting in my bed watching tv. You?

She looked around and realized they were practically doing the same thing. Maybe they could do the same thing together sometime, friends did that, right?

Actually the same. What are you watching? I'm watching Charmed, yes, you read that correctly.

Reruns of House. There's just something about an ornery doctor that gets me. Charmed? Wow, I haven't thought about that since the girls in middle school tried to use a spell to get me off the tennis court. (spoiler alert: I'm shit at tennis)

Arya couldn't help the actual laugh that escaped her throat at his response. Had that actually happened? She absolutely hoped that it had. And that he'd reenact in for her someday.

Wow, that's actually fantastic. I really need to see that for my life to be complete.

What? The bad tennis or me getting charmed by preteen girls?

Uh, obviously the second one. Come on, now.

She wondered if he was laying in bed or on his couch, she wondered what he was wearing, if he was wearing anything. She thought about what his body might look like underneath all those t-shirts and hoodies, would he be fit? Would he be a gangly mess of limbs? Would he be tanned or pale? His skin soft or rugged? That dark hair starting at his navel and traveling south to a place she only dared dream about. Because if she thought about it, she ended up with her hand down her pants and really, who had time for that? But, she did wonder.

I promise to show you how it all went down next time we hang out. Be prepared to laugh and never look at me the same again.

Well, she got an express invite to hang out again, which was fab. She hoped it was sooner rather than later, she really wanted to see his stupid face again. Damn, these emotions.

I actually can't wait. I'm going to orb myself over right now to see it.

Hm, I figured you more of an astral projection kind of girl. The things you learn.

The smile on her face literally hurt as she turned on her side and burrowed deeper into her bed. He was funny, and charming, and lovely. Fuck.

I have many powers that you can't even imagine. I'm basically Joss Whedon's wet dream.

The rapid fire text she received back had her laughing and grinning so hard her mouth hurt, apparently she'd just hit the nerd jackpot?

I didn't actually think it was possible for you to be any cooler, but you just proved me wrong. Joss Whedon is God and you would've totally been his muse in the early 90's. That's basically the highest compliment I can give.

Thank you? I always did love Buffy, although I think I may have identified more with Faith (minus the backstabbing)

You could've been either Slayer, you're tough enough and definitely have the witty banter down.

She bit her lip as she typed back, hoping this wasn't aiming too far ahead in the future.

I got it. Group halloween costumes this year, we're going as Buffy characters. Clearly Hot Pie will be Xander, obviously. And Pod will be Giles, because, come on. And Lommy can be Spike with his blond hair, and you can be Angel. This is perfect.

His response was quick, just as they all had been.

That's the best idea I've ever heard. I'm in.

Their conversation went on like that, talking about Buffy and halloween, old costumes they'd had, mildly embarrassing stories that were mostly funny and whether or not binge watching television should be considered an Olympic sport. She wasn't even sure how long they went back and forth for, but she did end up falling asleep at some point.

She dreamt of the ocean and vampires, witches and tv. But most of all, she dreamed that he was lying beside her and it was his chest she was resting her head on. When she awoke the next morning, she wouldn't let herself admit that she was disappointed that it had been a dream.

Chapter Text

It was sunday.

She leaned further into the worn couch, her legs curled up beneath her, Sansa seated beside her. She just stared down at her phone, willing it to light up and alert her of a message or something.

It was sunday, which meant they were casually lounging in the slightly drafty practice space in the warehouse downtown that they'd rented. The Warehouse was a popular place for bands, it use to be just that, an abandoned warehouse – clever – but with the space and the renovations, bands were dying for a spot. It was bought by the Quiet Isle brothers a while back, they started out as a small record company when the music scene in King's Landing started getting popular like a decade ago.

Apparently Sandor and the Elder Brother were pretty tight from his younger days – like a hundred years ago. The older man gave them a good discount on the space and always reserved it for them when The Kingsguard were home from touring. He was a pretty nice guy and Arya liked him.

Spending her sunday afternoons in a glorified refurbished garage? Not so much.

It had been cool for a while, when the SanSan relationship was still new and hilarious, being in the presence of actual rockstars was pretty enthralling. But, as time moved, the novelty faded at bit. It had been years and now the Hound – certified rock god, imposing figure, denied crush of school girls everywhere – was just Sandor, her sister's boyfriend.

She wasn't joking when she'd felt like he was a father figure. He wasn't that old, certainly younger than her father would be now, but he had slowly taken over as the patriarch of their family – much to Robb's chagrin. He was still impressive and cool, she'd admit only to herself and literally never to him, but now he was like a domesticated house animal in her eyes instead of the intense and wild thing he'd been before when they'd first started dating.

This all had become a practice of theirs for the past few years now, when he was home from tour she would let herself be dragged off by Sansa to watch the band rehearse. She hadn't the heart to refuse her sister back then, Sansa just barely holding it together for the rest of them, she had given her this. And Arya hadn't the heart to break their little tradition even now. Instead, just becoming a weekly thing for her and Sansa when the band was home.

So, here she sat, right beside Sansa on the couch that had really seen better days, listening to the sounds of songs she'd heard so many times before. But, the small smile on Sansa's face was worth it, just as was the soft and lingering eyes of Sandor. They were so into each other it made her sick.

She looked back down at her phone, waiting for it to do something, anything. No such luck.

She and Gendry had been texting for a week. That, of course, meant that she had also been texting the group, which was fascinating and hilarious all in itself. But, she hadn't seen him since the accidental run in at the cafe on sunday. She hadn't been entirely joking when she told him she was going through withdrawal, she certainly felt like she was. She had uncomfortably stalked his Instagram more than she was comfortable admitting.

She hadn't had time to go to the library this week, Rickon had obtained a stomach virus from some kid in school – Arya wasn't going to lie and pretend that the first thing she thought of wasn't the fact that it may have been an STD. It wasn't. But, there was always the thought that it might be now that Rickon was kissing slutty Pooles and because her brothers were getting more action than her. Actually, everyone was getting more action than her – literally everyone.

Brienne was taking this Renly thing really hard, apparently she'd called out of work for two days, too nervous to enter the building. That didn't last long though, her boss called her and demanded her presence, because Brienne was methodical and amazing at everything she put her mind too. But, that still didn't stop her from calling Arya at least three times a day with a status update on her life.

Bran was going through some sort of teenage crisis about his feelings for his best friend's sister, which of course meant he was being equal parts overly needy and a pain in the ass. Jon was attempting to organize a trip down with Ygritte – they all hoped that meant he was finally going to propose – and they finally had that dinner with Jeynie and Robb at the house. Benjen even brought his new “friend” Cherrie, from the pharmacy.

All in all, her week had been busy and her time shifted between all the people in her life. Except, Gendry.

She'd texted him about her busy schedule, though. Keeping him in the loop about the craziness that had temporarily, but also constantly, taken over her life. He was being a good sport about it, sending her encouraging and funny messages, he even managed to help her out with the Bran thing. His insight had been gold.

But, she missed his stupid face. She wanted to see the upturn of his lips, hear the chuckle in his voice, see the casual intensity in his deep blue eyes. She just wanted to hang out with him, which was annoying. She didn't like being attached to people like this, and she felt like she was slowly suction cupping herself to him. He didn't seem that opposed to it, but that wasn't the point.

“You ready?” Sansa broke her from her thoughts, bringing her back to the present where she was sitting on the couch staring at nothing. The band was packing up their gear and Sansa was standing in front of her.

“Yup.” Arya stood from the couch and uncurled her stiff limbs, looking around for Sandor who was missing. “Where's the Hound?”

“He went on ahead with Beric to that meeting with their manager, I guess the guys will meet them there.”

Arya just nodded her head, “Gotcha.” She moved towards the other guys and gave them all high fives before she and Sansa left the Warehouse and got into her sister's car and left.

“I'm so glad this week is finally over.” Sansa sighed.

“I know what you mean.” And she did, this had been a week from hell.

“Too much drama, not enough time.” Sansa turned to look at her. “I'm really glad I don't live at the house anymore. Could you imagine dealing with all of that and not being able to escape?”

“Why do you think I ran away to live with you and the Hound?”

“Because you loved me and thought his band was badass?” Sansa tried.

“Well, both of those are true, but mostly because that house is just too intense for me.”

Sansa laughed and opened her mouth to respond when all of a sudden the car just started rolling to a dead stop, the engine no longer roaring to life. “What the hell?” She turned off the car and attempted to restart it, but nothing happened. “What the fuck!”

“Want me to call, Sandor?”

“No.” Sansa hurriedly unbuckled her seatbelt and pulled out the drivers manual from the glove compartment. “He's in a meeting, an important meeting, I don't want to bother him. If I call, he'll come straight here because I'm his first priority, but I know his manager and even some of the guys don't think he's as committed anymore because of me. Let's just figure it out ourselves. We're women, we're empowered, how hard could it be?”

Apparently extremely hard.

Arya and Sansa stood in front of the open hood, looking down at the engine with blank faces. Sansa holding the manual, attempting to read it and identify parts at the same time. This was not working, at all.

“Sansa, let's just call a tow. We'll have them bring us to the shop Dad liked, the one he raved about every time he got his tires rotated.”

Sansa looked down at the engine with one last intense gaze before sighing and nodding. “Alright, fine. I have no idea what's wrong.”

Arya googled the number for the auto shop, calling them and requesting a tow. “They said they'd be here in twenty.” They got back in the car and listened to the mixed cd that was always in Sansa's deck, it served to cheer her up a bit, which was good. An annoyed, sad Sansa was never fun to be around. She reverted back into preteen bitchy behavior.

“Do we have any water in here?”

“I don't know, Arya, why don't you use your eyes and look.”

This is when Arya wished she was on The Office or Parks and Rec so she could pan to the camera with a face. And, that is exactly what she was talking about – preteen bitchy behavior.

The tow pulled up on time, thankfully, and hooked them up to his truck. Arya was made to slide in between older tow truck guy and Sansa because she was the smallest. Sometimes she hated being compact. It wasn't a particularly long drive to the shop, most of it was filled with Roger talking about his very cute four year old daughter and her hilarious antics. Arya chatted with him while Sansa scowled and looked out the window. When and how their life roles had been reversed, Arya didn't know, but she hoped they changed back soon – being charming was a full time job that she wanted to put in her two weeks notice for.

“Well, here we are, ladies.”

She and Sansa slid out of the truck and made their way over to the building while Roger pulled the tow into the shop. Arya looked around the large hanger, dozens of cars either on lifts or on the ground being worked on, men just milling around in dirty jumpsuits with the shop logo embroidered on the front and back. They all kept staring at Sansa because she looked out of place in her light-wash skinny jeans and cream colored shirt. Also, because she was gorgeous.

They walked further in, going in the direction that Roger told them to find the Office, passing men and cars as they walked. Arya took stock of everything as she passed, she didn't know a great deal about cars or maintenance, but she liked to store away information in case of an apocalypse or something. She liked to be prepared.

She noticed a strapping young lad bent over the hood of a car, his beautiful ass on full display in that jumpsuit, the arms of which were tied around his waist, leaving his upper body in a black tanktop. Arya's eyes grazed over the wide breadth of his broad shoulders, chiseled and defined, his back muscles actually making her heart beat a little faster. He stood and she got a glimpse of a head full of thick dark hair, casually tousled out of his face, he turned slightly and she got a good look at him.

“Oh my god, oh my god.” Arya loudly whispered to Sansa, tugging on her arm, her eyes wide and breathing shallow.

“What?” Sansa asked in a stage whisper, looking around in confusion.

“That's him.” Arya panted, nodding her head in the direction of the man.

Sansa looked around again, “Who?” She asked

Gendry.” Arya pointed in his direction, “That's Gendry.” They watched as he took a rag out of his pocket to wipe off his black covered hands, his biceps downright unreal. Did he work out? He had to work out. How did his body look like that.

“Oh my god.” Sansa started as she stared in his direction. “That's Gendry? Shut up!”

“I can't. I'm actually physically incapable of moving in this moment.” They were weirdly standing in the middle of the garage, staring with wide eyes and open mouths at an unknowing Gendry.

“I can't believe that's the library boy. Did you know he worked here? Did you know he was that hot?” Sansa asked in a hushed, exasperated whisper.

“I had no fucking idea that he was hiding all that underneath his hoodie.” Arya shook her head, never taking her eyes off him. “This is bad.”

“Why?” Sansa asked.

“Because... it just is.” Eloquent, as always.

Sansa rolled her eyes, “Arya, stop whatever it is you are attempting to do and get over yourself. We're talking to him.”

“No! Sansa, stop. Sansa, I mean it, stop. Stop!” But Sansa was already making her way over to Gendry and Arya had no choice but to follow and intercept. “Hey, Gendry!” She called as she stepped in front of Sansa and into his personal space.

He looked surprised to see her, actually he was surprised. “Oh, hey? What are you doing here?”

“Sansa's car stopped working when we were driving home.” She said quickly, as though it were unimportant. “I didn't know you worked here.”

He shrugged a deliciously broad shoulder, continuing wiping his hands on the dirty rag. “Yeah, this is my other job. I fix cars, remember?”

She did remember, he had told her that. She had just... conveniently forgotten that little tidbit of information until right now.

“Right. Well, hey, we're here and looking for the office.”

“Oh, yeah, right this way.” He lead them to the office, giving them a glorious view of his backside, which may be slowly becoming her favorite part of him only second to his eyes. He knocked on the door before opening it. “Hey, Mott, these ladies were looking for you.”

Mott stood and ushered them inside, “Tobho Mott, how can I help you?”

“Hi, Mr. Mott. My father use to bring his car in here all the time before he passed – Ned Stark?” Sansa tried, seeing if the name rang with the older man.

“Ned Stark's daughters?” The recognition on his face did not go unnoticed by them. “Wow, have you two grown. Look at you.” He gushed. “Your father spoke of you often.”

“Thank you, Mr. Mott.” Sansa stepped into the room to shake the older man's hand, slipping into conversation with him about her car and their Dad.

Arya gave a glance at Sansa smiling at the chatty Mott, she vaguely remembered the man her father trusted his car with, but her attention was mostly stuck on the boy beside her who was leaning against the door like he did it often. His hair was disheveled and messy, doing things to her that she would never admit out loud. His pale skin was marked with grease, tinged a greyish and black color, like soot, making his light eyes stand out. She couldn't stop looking at his shoulders, those unreal shoulders and arms that he hid from the world. How was that fair? It really wasn't fair. She couldn't stop herself from thinking about what it would be like to wrap her arms around those shoulders and kiss that lovely mouth of his.

She honestly had no idea what Sansa and Mott were talking about, especially when Gendry turned and smiled down at her. "Sansa, you can handle this." She didn't wait for a response before turning and grabbing Gendry's arm, ignoring the way Mott was looking the two of them over.

They walked out of the office and back to the car he had been working on when she arrived. "You know Mott, then?" He asked, not bothering to comment on her dragging him away. He was certainly learning quickly.

"My dad only brought his car here. Something about the best tire rotation of his life." Gendry nodded, a smile on his face as he moved to lean against the car, his arms crossed giving her an amazing view of his biceps. "So, tell me about your mystery job here."

He smirk-smiled down at her and she was quickly realizing that was the smile he used for her. Cue an embarrassing swoon. "I hardly qualify fixing cars as a mystery job."

She rolled her eyes at him, “You said you worked on cars, not that you worked on cars.”

“I think you're making this a lot more exciting that it actually is.” He chuckled. “The library's mostly for my scholarship, this job pays the bills.”

“I admittedly know nothing about cars.” She wasn't sure why she told him that, she never admitted to anything. God, his shoulders were messing with her mind.

“That's okay, most people don't.” He reassured her, that smile still in place. He seemed comfortable here, almost like a different Gendry. She now had three that she knew of, all equally attractive to her. “I've just always been good at fixing things, it wasn't too hard to figure out how to apply it to vehicles.”

“Good with your hands, then?” She smirked up at him playfully.

He blushed and looked away, it was nice to know he wasn't a completely different person depending on location, she could always fall back on the flush. Dirty, sweaty, mechanic Gendry was high up on her fantasy list. Dirty, sweaty, blushing mechanic Gendry was number one.

“I guess you could say that.” He brought his eyes up to meet hers, his head still ducked a bit, his blush still staining his cheeks and neck, touching the tips of his collarbones and she felt herself become a little wet at the sight. His eyes, those eyes would be the fucking death of her.

She smirked up at him, their eyes connected, she wasn't sure how long they stood their staring at each other with those stupid smiles in place, but it wasn't long before they were interrupted by her sister.

“Arya.” She turned to see Sansa walking over to them, a smile on her pretty face as she approached. “Hi, I'm Sansa. You must be Gendry.”

He stood from his casual lean and nodded towards her. Arya could see the reflex to stretch out his hand, but thought better of it seeing as his hands were filthy. “It's nice to meet you.”

“This is Sansa, my sister.”

A part of Arya sort of hated that Gendry was meeting Sansa. It was ridiculous and not something she should be worried about, but a small part of her always waited for the guys she liked to fall for her sister instead. It had been known to happen. Sansa was gorgeous and personable and most of all, womanly. Sansa was feminine and womanly and didn't even have to try, if Arya tried she'd just come off looking like a cow.

She couldn't help but look between the two of them, Gendry was tall, which she found super appealing, but so was Sansa. Didn't guys like tall girls? She knew that was one of the things that attracted Sandor to Sansa originally, he found her height physically appealing. Arya was short. Well, that was a lie, she wasn't really that particularly short or small, but she was shorter than Sansa and definitely not as waif-ish.

But, Gendry was smiling pleasantly at her sister and Sansa was smiling brightly back. She saw no sparks, no drool, no swooning. She was pretty sure that she was in the clear – even though the two of them were the prettiest people she'd ever seen. Excluding Angelina Jolie and Heath Ledger, of course.

“So, I'm finally meeting the mysterious Gendry.” Arya wanted to kill herself as Sansa smiled at him and continued opening her mouth.

He looked down and smiled, shaking his head. “I'm not sure exactly how I earned this “mysterious” title, but I hope I don't disappoint.”

“Oh, not at all!” Sansa gushed. “Arya talks about you all the time.”

“Okay, alright, enough of that, Sansa.” She could feel Gendry's eyes biting into her flesh, but she refused to look at him. She may have been an easy, roll with the punches kind of girl, but even she got embarrassed sometimes and reverted back into her youthful self, who was a lot less self assured. “What's going on with your car?”

Sansa gave her a look, her brows raised a bit, but answered her question. “Tobho said Gendry here could take a look at it, that's what I was coming over to tell you.”

“Yeah, I can look at it now.” Gendry replied quickly and earnestly, walking towards where their car was parked, forcing them to follow. Which, she didn't particularly mind. He slid into the car and attempted to start it, noting the problems before popped open the hood. The two of them just stood back and watched him fiddle with some things, running a scanner, his blue eyes looking around the whole engine, the bare muscles of his arms coming to life and Arya felt as though she needed to lie down. He turned to face them, scribbling something down on the clipboard beside the car. “It looks like your fuel pump is failing.”

“Okay,” Sansa nodded. “So, what do we do about that?”

“I'll check and see if we have one in stock here, if we do than I can change in for you and you should be good to go. If we don't, we'll have to order it and call you back in when it's ready.”

“Alright.” Her sister stated. Arya was kind of proud of Sansa handling this one her own, usually Sandor would've just done everything himself because he's a man, and their father had always taken car of the family cars prior to that. Sansa looked confident in her role as Empowered Woman.

Gendry ducked away to check on the part, but not before sending a small smile Arya's way. She smiled back at him and watched him go, her eyes following him. It was only her sister's voice that pulled her back to focus. “Oh, man, he's got it bad.”

“What?”

Sansa just crossed her arms and looked down at her with that annoyingly coy smile on her face. “He likes you. A lot, you idiot.”

“Shut up, you know nothing.”

“Oh, hey, Ygritte, nice of you to stop by.” Sansa replied cheekily, smiling down at her sister.

Arya pushed at her shoulder and turned away, annoyed that she had pointed out a fact Arya had been both simultaneously disputing and hoping about. She wanted Gendry to like her, because she liked him, even if she wasn't exactly keen to admit it. But, she also didn't really know if Gendry liked her, he was sort of hard to read at times. And then, she also didn't want him to like her, because if she decided to shelve her feelings towards him and just be his friend, she didn't want to deal with all that his liking her would entail. It was confusing and made her feel a little nauseas, so she did her best to just ignore it and push it from her mind.

“Just quit it, Sansa. It's my life so bud out.” Arya crossed her arms and glared at her, like the petulant child she had once been.

Sansa held up her hands in mock surrender, but the look in her blue eyes said that this wasn't really over and wouldn't be until Arya explained herself. But, it was enough for Arya, who turned away from her. Gendry returned a moment later with a box in his hands and a smile on his face.

“We ended up having one, so I should be done in about twenty minutes or so. Feel free to take a seat in the waiting room, if you want.”

Sansa nodded at him, “Wonderful! Thank you so much.” She began to walk away towards the indoor waiting room, expecting Arya to trail behind her.

“Mind if I watch?”

She was close to him, close enough to smell the sweat and grease on his skin – should this be turning her on as much as it did? His head was bowed, bringing his face closer to hers, his eyes downcast to meet hers as well. It was one of those odd little intimate moments they'd been sharing lately, she wondered if he noticed as well. Furthermore, she wondered if it affected him the way it was affecting her.

She watched him swallow, bringing her gaze to the long line of his neck – when had her breathing slowed? “Not at all.” She wasn't sure if his voice had actually come out in a bit of a lower register than normal or if she was just imagining things because she found this whole scene deeply erotic, but whatever. His response had her mind going to darker places and she actually had to lean back from him to stop visualizing him letting her watch as he stroked himself to completion. She had a wicked mind, she wouldn't apologize for it.

“Great.” She craned her neck towards where her sister had begun to walk off to. “Sansa.” Her sister turned around, her long red hair swishing over her shoulder like a goddamn L'Oreal commercial. “I'm gonna stay here and learn stuff.”

Sansa just sent her that same coy smile and gaze, throwing up a thumb. “Okay.”

Arya turned back to see Gendry removing the new fuel pump from the packaging before moving beneath the car to detach the old one. She leaned against the front end, staring down at his legs, and she wouldn't lie, the outline of where she assumed his cock would be.

“So, how's Brienne doing?” He asked, his voice a bit muffled from being beneath the car.

“She's alright. Not great, but then again, she kissed her gay friend that she doesn't know is gay, who also works in the same building.”

“Yeesh.”

“You said it, dude.” She was biting her lip, now unsure of what to say to him. Usually words just came out and she worked with whatever she had, but right now she couldn't think of anything cool or exciting to say. She couldn't think of anything. Everything rolling around in her mind was about him; his lips, his eyes, his cock, his hands. All she could think of were questions about him she wanted answered. She cleared her throat, “Thanks for helping me out with that Bran stuff, what you said really sat well with him. You gave me tons of big sister cred.”

She could almost hear that sweet smirk-smile in his voice when he responded. “Anytime, really. I was kind of like Bran when I was his age, I get it.”

She glared down at his legs, there was no way that Gendry was like her little brother when he was fifteen. Sure, he was kind of nerdy and awkward, but that was just part of what made him charming. Plus, he was unrealistically attractive, how was it that no one had jumped on that bandwagon yet? There had to have been girls that were interested, girls that he was interested in. It wasn't something they'd ever talked about – only being friends for like a week and a half – but she was pretty sure he'd never had a girlfriend or spoken to girl he intended on kissing. She internally gasped, her eyes going wide, had he ever even kissed anyone before?

The thought made her heart race and sweat begin to prickle between her breasts, what if he'd never kissed anyone before? What if he was completely hers for the taking? She wasn't entirely sure why that notion turned her on more than anything ever, but it did. She was actually so turned on by the thought that her clit hurt thinking about it.

But, he wasn't hers for the taking. She was still in the in between about how she felt concerning the boy beneath her sister's car, the boy she wanted beneath her. She wanted him, obviously, and she could sort of tell he was interested in her, but, what about friends? She liked him as a friend, she liked his friends who were slowly becoming her friends, and Brienne would like them all too. The idea of a big friend orgy had her smiling and her heart soaring, to be surrounded by real friends was something she yearned for.

She also yearned for him.

She'd wanted him for two years, watched him from afar, daydreamed about him, wondered what he was like and if they were compatible. She knew now, they were. They were oddly suited for each other and they had only really started talking a week ago, but she knew.

He was quiet and sort of shy, awkward, smart, interesting, a little stubborn, and really quite wonderful. All of those qualities put him in the category of friend and lover, she wanted him as both. But, right now, she was content with things as they were, if they developed, she'd deal with the development, she supposed.

“No way.” She replied. “Bran likes to do math for fun. There's no way you were like Bran. Plus, he's in love with his best friend's sister and refuses to do anything about it because he's being noble or whatever.” She rolled her eyes and glared at his body under the car. “Were you in love with your best friend's sister growing up?”

She was fishing and she knew it.

He was quiet for a moment, the sounds of the garage loud in their ears, she could hear him doing something to the car as he waited to answer her. “Well, no.” He resigned. “But I do know what it's like to want someone who doesn't know you exist, or doesn't feel the same way as you. It's not great.”

She wished she could see his face, she wanted to look into his eyes as she was telling her these things, she wanted to try and read the emotions in them, to guess who these girls were and erase them from his mind. She selfishly wanted to be the only girl he thought about, the only girl that mattered. She knew it was stupid and that she really needed to make up her mind about her feelings and what she wanted from him, but that was a task for another day.

“I get what you mean.” She replied, fiddling with the long chain around her neck. It was almost easy to confess things when you didn't have to look at the person you were confessing to. Maybe that was why she continued to open her mouth. “All the guys I like never seem to like me.”

It was true, in her youth she had been much more set in her tomboy ways and hated anything that had to do with being a girl. She had been tough, mean, rude, and spiteful. She wasn't shocked that boys didn't like her that way, she hadn't really liked herself either.

“I don't buy that for a second.” He scoffed, his voice just barely muffled by the car. She tried not to let his quick rebuttal affect her, but the smile was hard to suppress. “There were guys lining up to date you.”

Now it was her turn to scoff, “Please. I was way too intense for guys, apparently. No one ever asked me out, or even indicated they were interested.”

“Maybe they were just shy.” He mused.

She couldn't help the little swell of hopefulness that he was referring to himself. “Maybe.” She looked down at her shoes. “Am I like... not approachable or something?” She bent down to look at Gendry from where he laid under the vehicle, his hands working on parts she couldn't name, but his eyes focused between her and the belly of Sansa's car. “Tell me the truth, do you think I'm intimidating as a girl?”

He looked nervous for a moment, the first real bout of library-Gendry-ness that she'd gotten all day, his brows furrowed. “I wouldn't say unapproachable. But, as a guy, you are a bit intimidating, yeah.” She felt a little put off by his statement, it must've showed on her face because he continued. “You're just really confident and it's an attractive quality, but it's also a bit off putting if a guy isn't as confident.”

She nodded, “I get what you're saying. I'm a lot to handle I guess.” She caught his gaze and it burned into her. “I suppose I just need someone who can handle me, then.”

She leaned back up to stop distracting him from his work, because she was distracting him. He didn't say anything after that, just continuing to tinker with Sansa's car and occasionally roll out from under it to grab tools or something. She just leaned against the open hood in silence, looking around at the garage and the men at work. Some of them glanced her way, looking her over, most acted like she wasn't even there. Was it common for girls to just casually hang out in the garage while they worked? Maybe they all just assumed she was Gendry's girlfriend and girlfriends were permitted to watch their boyfriends work. Maybe that was it.

She liked the idea of people thinking she was Gendry's, which was odd, because she wasn't anyone's and she'd made that perfectly clear over the course of her short life. She was a lone wolf with a great pack that stood behind her when she wanted them. She was the silent warrior that did as she pleased. She was the girl that pushed people away and then somehow continued to draw them back in.

She had never been someone who needed another human, but as the years past, as she lost more people in her life, she realized that she wanted them. She wanted someone beside her, wanted someone to lay next to at night, someone to cry in front of where she wouldn't feel weak. She wanted to be wanted, and it scared her.

Gendry rolled back out from under Sansa's car, grabbing that grubby rag and wiping his hands, standing beside her. “Well, that's all done. I'm gonna start it and pull it around to make sure everything's in place.”

Arya just nodded, looking up at him. “When do you get off work?” She inquired.

“Six.” His brows furrowed a bit as he looked down at her.

Two hours. She could make that work.

“What are you doing after? Anything?”

He shook his head and shrugged his shoulders, “Nope.”

“Great, then we're hanging out.” She didn't wait for his response, she just began to walk in the direction of the indoor waiting room. “Hope that's not a problem.” She threw over her shoulder.

He smirked back at her, holding Sansa's keys in his hand. “Not at all.”

Chapter Text

Arya made her way into the waiting room, seeking out her sister, who was reading some terrible tabloid magazine with Thoros and his bat shit crazy ex-girlfriend on the cover. Melisandre – her stage name – was a singer songwriter who Rolling Stone liked to call the next Stevie Nicks. She was also an extreme occult rights activist, openly and actively campaigning to have her religion recognized by the masses.

She also happened to be bat shit fucking crazy.

She was glad that Thoros had broken up with her, the few times Arya had met her the older woman had looked at her more intensely than anyone ever had and tried to read her fortune. Well, she hadn't exactly tried to read her fortune, she had just started spouting her crazy Red God bullshit like there was press around and told Arya that she had a darkness in her that hadn't yet been explored.

Like she hadn't heard that one before.

That was the last time she'd seen The Red Priestess, which was kind of a killer band name if Arya was being honest, she'd managed to steer clear of the older woman since then. Something just hadn't sat well with her after that. It could've just been the fact that Melisandre definitely belonged in a Volantis Burlesque club doing magic five nights a week, but, whatever.

“Why are you reading that trash?” Arya asked as she sat down beside her sister, who seemed to be engrossed in the trashy magazine.

“Did you know,” Sansa started from behind the magazine, reading an article from it out loud. “That Melony use to be a maid for the director of the Asshai Theatre before she got her start? He was the one who started her career, heard her singing while she was cleaning his house and put her in a production.”

“Who the hell is Melony?”

Sansa lowered the tabloid then, facing her sister. “Melisandre.”

Arya's brows furrowed, “You know her real name? How? Like, no one knows it. It's not even on Wikipedia.”

Sansa rolled her eyes, “It is on Wikipedia and she told me last time we had lunch, before they broke up.”

“You had lunch with that whack-job?” Arya asked incredulously.

“She's not that bad, Arya. She's just a little... ”

“Crazy?” Arya supplied.

“Odd.” Sansa decided. “Like, once she did this thing called Shadowbinding, it's kind of like Reiki, but not. It was the most bizarre thing I've ever witnessed.”

Arya just looked at her sister like she was seeing her for the first time, “You're so weird.”

“So, how's my car.” She finally asked.

“Gendry's pulling it around now.”

The smirk returned to her sister's blue eyes, a different blue than Gendry's whose were deep dark pools of ocean, Sansa's were Tully blue as her mother had called it. Light and bright, like the sky on a spring afternoon. Whereas Arya had been stuck with thunderstorm Stark grey, akin to how the sky looked before lightning struck. Arya's definitely had the cooler analogy, but Sansa's were prettier.

“I bet I know something else Gendry could pull around.” That smirky, smarmy look returned to Sansa's face as she threw her a wink and Arya looked disgusted.

“You really didn't think that one through did you?”

Sansa dropped the raunchy face and sighed, “No, I didn't.”

Arya saw Gendry walking up to the waiting room and she stood up, Sansa soon followed. He went in through a door that lead to the front desk, coming to stand behind it and scribble something down on the clipboard he was holding. He ripped off a pink sheet from his clipboard and handed it to the woman at the front desk, who was looking up at Gendry like she'd enjoy having him for dessert. The slick annoyance she felt at the sight alerted Arya to the fact that she was in trouble.

She was jealous.

Well, that certainly wasn't great.

They walked up to the counter, Gendry smiling at her from behind the troll of a front desk clerk. Well, she wasn't actually a troll, she was young and blonde and pretty. It made Arya hate her more.

“Looks like you're all set and ready to go. All you need to do is sign here and you're good.” The blonde troll smiled perkily up at Sansa. Arya had to hold back a growl.

“Great. How much do I owe?” Sansa asked as she signed the pink slip and pulled her wallet out of the giant purse she lugged around.

“Oh,” The troll looked down at the paper before splitting it apart and sliding the yellow copy across to Sansa, Gendry sliding across her keys. “Says here it's taken care of, you don't owe anything.”

Both their eyes shot up to Gendry, who held his hands up in defense. “Hey, don't look at me like that. It was all Tobho, I just agreed.” He smirk-smiled down at them, “We like friends here.”

“That's really sweet.” Sansa started, looking at him with that you're a kitten and I want to squeeze you face. “But, you're going to take this money.”

Gendry began to back up, sheepishly. “Sorry, I've got to get back to work.” He turned his head towards Arya. “Bye, Arya. I'll see you later.”

Arya smirked at him as her sister huffed. “Bye, Gendry.”

Sansa snatched the yellow paper and her keys off the front desk, “Are you hanging out with him later?”

“Yeah.” Arya replied casually, hoping that Sansa wouldn't pick up on how super un-casual she felt about it.

“Perfect.” Her sister replied, shoving money into her hands. “You sneak that into his wallet.”

Arya barked out a laugh and shook her head, pocketing the money. “One slight of hand at a birthday party three years ago and now you think I'm a regular pickpocket.”

“It was a really good trick.” Sansa smiled. “But, seriously, make sure he gets that.”

Arya rolled her eyes as they walked out of the building, but the blow was lessened by the smile that seemed to be stuck on her face. Sansa's car was pulled up front and they slid in quickly as Sansa's phone began to ring. Arya grabbed it as Sansa started the car and drove from the lot and onto the main road.

“Hello?”

“Where are you two.”

He didn't sound mad, but he didn't sound pleasant either, Arya smirked to herself as she remembered that was just his normal voice. “We're on our way home now. Why, are you home?”

“Why are you answering your sister's phone.”

Arya scoffed in mock appall, “Because she is driving, Sandor. How irresponsible do you think we are?”

“Bring home milk.”

And then he hung up and Arya couldn't hold in her laugh.

“What did he say?” Sansa chuckled out.

“He wanted to know where we were, why I was answering your phone, and demanded we bring home milk.”

“Well, alright then.”

They stopped and grabbed milk and made their way home, Sansa going to seek out the Hound and Arya went straight for the couch. She turned on the giant tv and channel surfed for a while, trying heavily to ignore the fact that she had two plus hours to kill. She whipped out her phone and shot a text to Gendry, asking to let her know when he was ready for her to head over and if she should bring food of some kind. She was aware that he wouldn't exactly get it or respond in a timely fashion while he was at work, the shop was different from the library, she had figured that out this past week.

After it sent, she looked back at the tv, smirking at the channel. The Princess Bride was on. That movie now officially made her think of Lommy and the boys and that night, it made her think about smiling and laughing and Gendry's eyes. And, now she was thinking about Gendry again.

She was going to hang out with him tonight, one on one, solo, as in just Gendry. She was both excited and nervous about that prospect.

She was excited because this is what she'd wanted since she'd set eyes on that dark head of hair in between bookshelves, but she was nervous. She was nervous because of how she felt towards him and how that affected the way she liked him. She'd always known she wanted him as her friend, but more importantly he was someone she wanted to get to know, to kiss, to make hers. And, now? Now, she wasn't so sure what she wanted anymore.

All she was sure of was that she wanted him.

Arya sat up quickly and changed the channel to something that wouldn't remind her of Gendry – which just happened to be one of those terrible movies on the SyFy channel. She leaned back into the couch, arms folded over her chest, a small furrow between her brows, this was going to be a long two hours.

 


 

Gendry moved into the bathroom in a bit more of a hurried pace than he normally would. He had just finished up his last routine maintenance check on a long line of cars and looked at his phone to find a text from Arya, which then of course had him checking the clock every odd minute or so, wanting nothing more than to get home.

It had been nice to see her today, she had been extremely busy with some kind of insane things this week, which of course meant no clandestine library meetings unfortunately. His time without her had been spent working, schooling, and hanging out with the three stooges. He wondered if she truly had enjoyed their presence, they were certainly taken with her.

He hadn't expected her to walk in today. He hadn't expected her to ever walk into the shop, actually. But, there she was, looking all casually cool in her black tights and shorts, and medium washed denim button up. Her hair down around her shoulders, her face free of makeup and her eyes stuck on him. It made his heart speed up just thinking about her intense gaze.

Her sister looked nothing like her. Aside from the familial features that all siblings basically possessed, they honestly couldn't be more different. Sansa was just as he remembered her from school, only older. She had always been beautiful, everyone had thought so. He wouldn't deny it either, she was beautiful, but she also wasn't her sister.

Arya was just...

He almost couldn't even put it into words. She was sultry and quirky, funny in this sarcastic spitfire wit kind of way. She was beautiful. She was rough and sort of crass, she was so interesting it hurt, and smart. He was never quite sure what it was exactly that had drew him in originally, but he was positive it was one of those things, if not all of them.

But, the differences between sisters was astounding. Sansa was taller than most girls – unlike Arya's friend Brienne who was a bit taller than him and stood above everyone – lithe seemed to be the only word to truly describe her. Whereas Arya was smaller, not short, but shorter than them, with a leanness to her body that showed of her own type of grace. From the color of their hair and eyes, to the way they stood and spoke, they were polar opposites that happened to mimic each other subconsciously at times, as siblings do.

He quickly texted Arya back that he was leaving the shop soon and that he'd text her when to head over. Gendry looked back up at the mirror, he looked grimy and gross, why had she even stuck around him when he was covered in grease and looked like a swamp thing? He would have to shower when he got home, he was even afraid to put his real close back on, choosing instead to forgo his outer-shirt and simply pull on his jeans as carefully as he could.

He stopped by Tobho's office quickly as he clocked out, the older man waving him in. “So,” The old man started. “That the girl?”

Gendry turned and looked behind him, wondering who Tobho was even referring to. “Are you talking to me?”

Mott rolled his eyes, “Who the fuck else would I be talking to, boy?”

He was obviously referring to Arya and Gendry just sighed, bringing a hand up to rub the back of his neck. “We're just friends.”

“Certainly not what it looked like to me.”

“Well, I don't know what to tell you. We're just friends.” Gendry stated a bit firmly.

Tobho just looked down his nose at Gendry the same way his mother use to when he was young and had lied to her. Sometimes it was really annoying to be working for family.

“Okay.”

With that, Tobho went back to his paperwork and Gendry got the cue he was free to go. He did, practically jogging to his car and heading home. As soon as he got to his apartment, his stomach started growling, Arya had mentioned something about food but he wasn't sure what to do. She said she wanted to hang out, this wasn't a date, this was a gathering of friends that only included two people. So, what did friends eat when they were hanging out?

Most of the time when the guys came over they just ordered a pizza or Hot Pie brought food home from work. Gendry wasn't sure if he could eat another pizza and he certainly wasn't having Hot Pie bring food over for the two of them and then leave – which was a joke because Hot Pie would never leave. He figured he'd just ask her when she got here.

Gendry shot her a text and jumped in the shower as quickly as he could, scrubbing the grim off his body. He didn't hear the knock on the door, or the light call of his name. He didn't hear a thing and proceeded as he normally would've, turning off the water when he was proficiently clean, wrapping a towel around his waist and trudged back into his room. He stopped cold when he saw her laying flat on her back across his bed, staring up at the mural he'd painted on the ceiling.

Well... this was something.

Arya had tried to be polite. She had arrived on time with his texts, knocked on his door, waited a respectable number of minutes before knocking again and then entering, finding the door open. She'd called his name, heard the sound of the shower – which seemed to have remarkable pressure considering he didn't hear her – and wandered into his room.

It had been clear that she was a little early, that he was in the shower, but not knowing what else to do, she sat on his bed and waited. It wasn't like he didn't know she was coming. She looked around his room again, it wasn't as clean as the last time, which she found endearing, but it was still neater than even her own room. His bed was comfortable, she found. She sighed, settling in and listening to the sounds of a shower, her eyes coming to rest on the ceiling above her.

At first she hadn't been sure what she was actually seeing, but after adjusting her head back and forth it all came into view. He had painted his ceiling, the easy light grey-blue creeping up into the edges of the ceiling before melding into a swirling night sky. The stars seemed to dance among the darker hues, creating constellations and pictures. It was simple and amazing and so unlike the tacky glow and the dark stars her father had helped her put up in her youth when she had been fascinated by constellations because he had been fascinated by constellations. No, this was a comprehensive understanding of space and sky that only an artist and science fiction lover could have.

Who was this guy?

She heard the water shut off, the click of the bathroom door opening and his pause as he saw her sprawled out on his bed.

“Your landlord let you paint your ceiling?”

He paused and she could sense his hesitation. “He, uh, doesn't exactly know... about it.”

“It's pretty amazing. I'm actually kind of jealous that you can paint like this and I'm making you give me an art lesson someday.”

She could tell that he was still hesitating, standing by the door of the bathroom. “Any time you want.” She tried not to let the sound of his deep voice affect her, because she certainly wanted it any time. She bit back a sigh at herself, she was the worst.

Arya sat up on his bed, finally facing him and basically died on the spot. Did she need to be resuscitated? Would he resuscitate her right now, with his mouth, until they both were out of breath and sweating?

He stood in the doorway of the bathroom, a towel hanging around his waist almost haphazardly, a hand holding it up as though he was afraid it'd fall down – she actually prayed it fell down. His skin was slick with water and it held almost a peachy glow; his dark hair tossed to the side, away from his face, thick and wet.

Gendry was a piece of insanely attractive art that should by worshiped like a deity by millions everywhere. Or by no one and only her for the rest of eternity. She wasn't being dramatic, he was beautiful. Those shoulders – God those shoulders – that she had been shamelessly ogling earlier in the day were in full effect right now, wet and glistening in the light, trails of water still making their way down his chest and stomach. The hard lines of his body mixed wonderfully with the softness of his face and eyes, the combination made her stomach hurt.

He was obviously toned from... doing whatever it was he did to look like that. Working on cars, lifting books, painting, clearly these were things everyone should be doing if they wanted to look like Gendry Waters-Baratheon. He had these broad shoulders that tapered down to a narrow waist, hipbones that jutted out and softly fell into that treacherous v-shape that had all ovaries swooning. He had slight definition of his stomach muscles and his biceps were actually insane. Why did he hide himself from the world, she wondered.

She couldn't stop her eyes from roaming over his naked torso or the words from tumbling out of her mouth. “Wow. You're freaking hot.” Someone get her a gag.

He could feel the flush of heat take over his body at her words as her silver eyes raked over him. He was embarrassed at her seeing him undressed, vulnerable, but there was also something a little exhilarating about it, risky, that had him wanting to throw her down on that bed and kiss her. Something that wanted her to look, to praise, to want. He wanted her to want him more than anything in the world.

“Thanks?” He wasn't sure why he phrased it as a question.

She could see that he was embarrassed by her emboldened gaze, by her words. Arya had to admit, she usually wasn't so forward when it came to matters of the heart or sexuality, it had taken her time to be comfortable in her own skin, but she also knew it had something to do with him. He made her comfortable to voice her thoughts, just like Brienne did.

Not that she had sexual thoughts about Brienne, because she didn't, he just made her feel comfortable in his presence, like her best friend did. God, why was she thinking about Brienne at a time like this? Fucking, Brienne, cock-blocking everything.

She pushed the thoughts from her mind and smirk-smiled up at him, deciding to lighten the mood. “Do you want to see me shirtless to even the playing field?”

Oh god, yes.

His eyes widened a bit and he looked like he might collapse, “Excuse me?”

Arya couldn't help the wide smile that came over her face at the sight of him, “You heard me.” She pushed herself off his bed and began to saunter out of his room. “I'll let you get dressed while you mull it over. Oh, what are we eating? Never mind, I'll pick the movie first.”

He watched as she sidled out of his room, deciding the mundane things in his life like dinner and movies for him, closing the door gently behind her as she went. He found that in the midst of actually dying from her suggestion to take her top off, he didn't really mind her directing his life in the way she so casually just had, as though she'd always been a force in his life. A part of him felt a little warmed by it.

He got dressed quickly, not even really toweling off and instead leaving his soaking body to be dried off by his clothes. He found Arya on his couch, scrolling through Netflix, attempting to decide on a movie, the sound of his microwave on in the background. He sat down beside her and she sent him that smirky-smile he loved, her silver eyes alight.

“So, what are we watching?”

She shrugged a shoulder and relinquished the remote to him, “I can't decide, I'm mostly thinking about how hungry I am.” She stood when the microwave beeped and went to grab whatever she had decided to cook, coming back to the couch with a bag of popcorn he wasn't even aware he'd had. She answered the question his furrowed brows had been asking. “I already did a preliminary walk through of the establishment.”

“Do you find yourself speaking in law enforcement jargon often?” He said teasingly as he stuck his hand in the bag and pulled out a hand full of hot popcorn.

She sent him a glare, whether for the snarky comment or for stealing her food he could never be sure. “I have a lot of free time, which means a lot of Law & Order: SVU marathons.”

“What about CSI?” He questioned.

“Only Vegas.”

“What?” He asked in mock-surprise, “No Miami?”

“Oh my god,” She started, looking both horrified and disgusted and a little genuinely angry. “If you say you actually enjoy CSI: Miami, I'm going to have to leave.”

He barked out a laugh, “What, you mean you don't love Horatio Cane's terrible one liners?” He turned sideways and let a serious look fall over his face and began pantomiming the character's famous removal of sunglasses. “She's either dead... or half dead. YEAH!”

Arya couldn't help the fit of laughter that overtook her at the sight of his terrible, yet oddly accurate, David Caruso impression, complete with the Who's YEAH-scream that begun the title sequence. “Oh my god. I can never unsee that.”

“You're welcome.”

“Thank you, truly.” She sat up from where she had doubled over in laughter and wiped at her eyes.

He followed her lead and chuckled at their banter, it was so easy with her, easy to forget about everything except the two of them in this moment. “Do you want real food, or are you content just finding junk in my apartment to eat?”

She thought it over for a moment making him smile at the fact that she had to. “What kind of real people food are we talking about here?”

“Whatever M'lady wants.”

He couldn't help but let it slip out, the playful annoyed look on her face was worth it.

She rolled her eyes, the smile on her lips lessening the blow. “Stop calling me that.”

He smirked, “As M'lady commands.”

She socked him in the arm, he laughed, she ignored the way her chest warmed at the sound. “Let's just eat stuff that's totally bad for us and not care.”

“I could be into that.” He moved off the couch and into the kitchen where he left the pile of take out menus in a drawer by the fridge. “Let's see what's stuffed away in here.”

Arya leaned back into the couch, resuming her popcorn feast and watching him. He was different here, in his home, she had noted that last time she was here, but it was just so different. He seemed at peace, light, casual, relaxed. She liked seeing him that way, she enjoyed his company and the easy friendship they were building. He was just so comfortable to be around, which in turn made him more attractive than ever to her.

She couldn't help but note the breadth of his shoulders, his heavy dark hair still wet and hanging in his eyes, his pillowy lips, the jut of his collarbone or the hipbones that had her panting. She could still see him naked from the waist up, wet and fresh, just waiting for her. God, how was it even legal for him to look like that?

But, his smile stuck in her mind. His laugh in her hears, the way his eyes went from confident to shy in a matter of minutes, his casual easiness, his wonderful disposition. It wasn't just his body that attracted her, it was his mind, his voice, his presence. She wondered if this was what falling in love was like. She didn't love Gendry, not yet, but she was realizing that she could, one day.

“Alright, we've got... Thai, Mexican, Pizza, multiple Asians, Greek, Indian, or American.” He looked up from the multiple takeout menus in his hands. “What'll it be?”

“Hmm. Too bad the sandwich place doesn't deliver.” She offered jokingly while thinking through the options.

“Stop, don't even talk about it. That's an actual dream of mine.”

Arya snorted at his witty humor and looked at the menus in his hands, “Bring those here.”

Gendry came to sit beside her once again, looking through each of the menus before they finally decided on a bunch of breakfast food from the American place down the street. Once that was settled, they turned back to the television and attempted to decide on something to watch. Whilst browsing, Arya discovered Gendry's odd interest in the eerily specific Netflix category: Canadian Made-for-TV Movies. In turn, Gendry found out about Arya's odd interest in the Con-Game Movies from the 1940's category.

In the end they wound up choosing a film from the hilarious genre: Imaginative Time Travel Movies from the 1980's. Arya wasn't sure she'd laughed this hard in a long time. Their attention on the movie didn't last long, and soon they found themselves in a real version of twenty questions, the odd film still playing behind them in the background.

“What's your favorite color?”

“Really?” Arya deadpanned, “That's your question? That's like the most boring, standard question in the history of twenty questions.”

“You may think that,” Gendry started, the small smirky-smile refusing to leave his lips. “But in reality, it's one of the most important questions. See, every color has a complimentary color in return – green has red, blue has orange, yellow has purple. So, say your best friend or prom date or significant other likes purple but you like orange, you'd never be able to wear your favorite color around the other person, because they'd clash and look terrible together.”

Arya just shook her head at him, “I think you're making friendship bracelets a lot more complicated than it has to be.” She joked, he just rolled his eyes but still smirked at her. “In any case, my favorite color is ocean.”

His brows furrowed at her, “I'm not entirely sure 'ocean' is a color.”

“You know what I mean.” She swatted him, “When the blues and greens mix into that distinctly ocean color? Or sometimes it's like grays and blues depending on the weather? In any case, that's always been my favorite color scheme, so, that's my favorite color. Ocean.”

He nodded, “I think ocean may be my favorite color, too.”

She pushed at his shoulder, “You're just saying that because it appealed to your artsy side.”

“That may be.” Gendry smirk-smiled. “But, I still like it.”

“Why don't you go by Baratheon?” She asked, almost cutting him off.

Gendry leaned back into the couch a bit, unconsciously moving away from her at the question, his eyes looking down at the well worn cushions beneath them. She was jumping right to it, then. He shrugged a shoulder, “My name's always been hyphenated – Waters-Baratheon – but, outside of work and school, I've always just gone by my mother's maiden name.”

“Why?” Arya questioned, wondering why it was such a big deal.

Gendry lifted his eyes back up to meet hers, “I don't think it's your turn anymore.”

She rolled her eyes, “Go on, then. Ask your question.”

He looked back into that mercury gaze of hers, thinking on what he wanted to ask her – anything, now that they were alone. He wanted to know everything, from her favorite book to how old she was when she first rode a horse, anything at all, no matter how trivial. He wanted to know her, but in that moment, he couldn't think of anything he wanted to ask. What did he ask? What didn't he already know? The answer was a lot, there was a lot about Arya Stark that he didn't know. But, he was more than willing to find out.

The knock on the door broke the silent staring contest they had found themselves in and he jumped up to answer it. He came back into the living room with the bag of food, handing Arya her waffles and setting aside the chocolate crepes they both were splitting. He began to eat his pancakes when a thought burst into his head.

“Do you still fence?”

She looked up from the pile of whipped cream and syrup that she claimed was a waffle at his question. “Yeah, I do. How do you know that I fence?” She asked almost accusingly, but the unrestrained curiosity in her eyes lightened the question.

“Well, aside from the many pictures of you and Brienne on Instagram doing just that, I remember that you were on the team in high school.”

Her brows were furrowed at his answer, “You remember that from three years ago?”

“Is that weird?” He questioned, looking jokingly skeptical of himself. “It feels weird now that you've said that.”

She laughed and shook her head, “No, it's not. I just didn't know you knew who I was.”

He didn't want to tell her that of course he'd know who she was, that she had been his Manic Pixie Dream Girl for just as long. H didn't want her to know just how much he enjoyed her company and wanted to take her up on that offer to also see her shirtless. He didn't want her to know any of that, not until he knew what she wanted. He would move the stars for her, but only if she asked. Podrick was right, as soon as she found out how stubborn he was, she'd bolt.

“It's okay that you don't remember me, Arya.” He started, “It's not like we'd met in school or anything. I'm almost three years older than you.”

“It's the fact that you remember me that's tripping me out.” She took a hefty bite of her waffle covered whip cream. “But, to answer your question properly – yes, I still fence. That's actually how Brienne and I met. I was too young to join the school's team at the time, so my father enrolled me in Forel's after school. Brienne and I trained together and joined the team when we were old enough. I still train at Forel's, not as often as he'd like, but I do.”

“Brienne seems like she'd be scary with a sword.”

“Oh, she is.” Arya offered, laughing. She looked down at her plate before looking back up at his smiling face, why did he have to look like that? “So, what made you choose Art?”

“I was always into it and my mother was the sort that encouraged fanciful behavior, seeing as my father wasn't the sort to.”

It was the first time he had brought up his father and it hadn't gone unnoticed by Arya. She wondered why he didn't speak of his father, why only almost reverent words about his mother left his lips. But, then again, she did kind of remember Stannis being an asshole, a boring one at that, she guessed she could see why he wouldn't want to talk about him.

“Sounds like my parents.” She offered. It also didn't go unnoticed to her that she was willingly bringing them up. “Except reverse. My mother was the strict one, my father wasn't.”

“I'm sorry.” The look in his eyes conveyed that he meant it.

“It's okay.” She brushed the emotion away, “It's been a long time.”

“But it never really goes away.” He spoke with a certainty, as though he knew exactly what she meant. The look in his ocean eyes had her thinking he did. “Even if you were young, even if you didn't know them, it never really fades, does it?”

His words were forcing her to look at him in a different light. Had he known the pain of losing a parent? The look in the depths of his ocean eyes said he had, his words were spoken carefully. Had she mis-deduced the situation? It felt almost urgent when she spoke next, she wasn't sure why it was a big deal, but it felt as though it was. As though she had been doing him a disservice this whole time, like she didn't really know what she thought she had.

“Who is your father?”

The way his gaze connected with hers made it obvious that something had shifted between them, the air felt different as it hung around them silently, waiting. This shouldn't be important, it wasn't, but for some reason Arya felt as thought it was. Her heart was beating oddly as she waited for him to speak, why was she sweating?

His eyes didn't move from hers as he spoke with a clarity he hadn't possessed earlier. He looked older to her now, a bit less of the boy she knew so far and instead a man whose energy spoke of intensity, loss, and power.

Arya wasn't sure why this would change anything, but she couldn't shake the feeling that it might. Gendry seemed to be thinking the same thing.

His voice pierced the quiet living room, the movie having ended some time ago, and Arya felt as though something in her shifted.

“Robert Baratheon.”

Chapter Text

“Robert Baratheon.”

She couldn't believe her ears. She had to have heard wrong, right? He couldn't have said Robert Baratheon.

But, he had.

Gendry looked almost pained at the words and she instantly regretted making him speak them. He did know what the loss of a parent felt like, he knew the heartache and the never ending what ifs. He understood.

That meant, though, that he was the half brother to the gremlin known as Joffrey. Her sister's ex-boyfriend. The actual armpit of society.

Was that why he refused to go by his father's name? Because he didn't want to be associated with scum like that blonde douche-nozzle? She certainly couldn't blame him if that was the case, she wouldn't want people to know if she shared the same blood with that little asshole either.

“Wait, you're Robert's son? That means you're Joffrey's older brother?” She brought her hands up in front of her in shock, “How does no one know about this? How does Sansa not know about this?”

He chewed on the inside of his lip, a bad habit from childhood, and shrugged a shoulder. “We hate each other, and he's practically made it his life's mission to pretend I don't exist, so...”

“Oh my god.” She uttered in mild disbelief. “What a little shit.”

“Yeah.”

She looked at him, really looked at him, and it was as though it had been obvious from the start. He looked so much like Robert had in his youth, like the man pictured with her father in the frame still hanging on the wall of his study. How had she ever thought he could've been Stannis' son when it was so obvious he was Robert's.

“You know our dad's were like, best friends, right?”

She wasn't sure why that was the first thing tumbling out of her mouth, Gendry didn't seem to mind though as he smiled a little and nodded his head. “Yeah, I know.” He was looking down at his lap, playing with the frayed edges of his ripped jeans. “I really am sorry about your dad, he was a good guy.”

Her brows furrowed, “You knew my dad?”

He nodded a bit, mostly just a slight jerk of his head. “I met him, a few times growing up. He was nice. Definitely deserved more time on this earth.”

She tried not to let the burning behind her eyes come forth at his unexpected words. He had known her father, he thought Ned had been a good man. She wondered what her father had thought of him, if he would've approved of their friendship in a way he never had with Sansa and Joffrey. Maybe they would've been the Stark/Baratheon union he had always wanted, not her sister, not his brother, but them.

The swell of new emotions at the information was consuming and intense. What did she say to him? How did they move on from this? Was it even something they actually needed to move on from, or was she just being overdramatic again?

“For some reason I never put two and two together. What a whirlwind.” She picked at her food and leaned back against the couch.

His brows furrowed at that, “What do you mean?”

“I had just assumed you were Stannis' son. I knew Robert was married to Cersei when he died, I didn't know he was married before, I didn't know Joffrey had you for a brother.”

“Yeah,” Gendry started. “No one ever really talked about the fact that Robert was married before, or that he cheated on my Mom with Cersei and started this whole other family without us. But, somehow I'm the bastard.”

His jaw was set, his eyes a little stormy, but the way he was adamantly fending off getting too emotional showed a stubbornness that she hadn't seen in him yet. He reminded her of herself. Maybe they were more alike than she had cared to notice.

“That sucks.”

She was the fucking worst.

She was internally face-palming at her inherent disability to be comforting in serious situations. She wanted it too much, wanted to be casual and sincere so badly that it came off awkward – at least, that's what her therapist had told her when she was thirteen. Arya outwardly winced at her own horribleness, but Gendry cracked a smile.

“Yeah, it sort of does.”

“You know what else sucks?” She questioned, “The fact that they didn't put enough whipped cream on here. That's the real national travesty.”

Transitioning to humor from pain was something she was good at, something she had developed over the years. She had been so angry for so long, it hadn't taken much to turn her sarcasm into a deflecting tactic. Most of the time it was annoying, seeing as how when things got too real, she started in with that slicing tongue of her's – but, right now, it seemed to be appropriate.

Gendry chuckled and shook his head, the heavy air that had permeated the room around them began to dissipate. “I think there was enough whipped cream on there until you ate it all.”

Arya dropped her mouth open in mock appall, “I'll have you know that there could never be enough whipped cream. It's like a food group all in it's own.”

“I'll have to take your word for it.” He smirked back.

“You shut up.”

They resumed their food and eventually settled on another movie to watch, their conversation not forgotten, but no longer a hot topic of discussion. It was silent for a while, a comfortable silence that made you forget it was silent in the first place. Arya was perched on his couch with her feet tucked beneath her, turned a bit towards him with her elbow resting on the back of the cushion, her hand cradling her head as they watched the movie.

She broke the silence after some time, facing him with those wolfish eyes of hers. “Tell me a secret.” She said decisively.

“A secret?” He asked, tearing his gaze away from the terrible CGI Troll-monster attacking a camera crew, his brows furrowed a bit at her question.

“Yeah,” She said, gesturing between them. “If this whole best friends thing is going to work, we need to be unbearably honest with each other. I basically want to not even be able to look at you, that's how honest I want it up in here.”

He couldn't help the smirk pulling at the sides of his lovely lips, his eyes alight with a brightness she could never hope to possess. God, he was beautiful. And just so light. Her chest began to ache in that odd way it sometimes did when he was near and looking down at her like he was right now. She wouldn't pretend to not know what it meant, she just wasn't going to acknowledge it. Not right now.

“A secret, yeah?” That smile set perfectly on his mouth, making her want to simultaneously smack and kiss it off. “Let's see...”

“It has to be something no one knows.” She interjected quickly. “Not anyone.”

His brows furrowed in thought, his hands idly playing with the bottom of his shirt. “Not anyone.”

“Nope.” She said decisively, perching herself up higher on the couch, eager almost. “Not Pod, Hot Pie, your Mom. No one.”

“Not even my Mom?” He asked jokingly with wide, innocent eyes.

She rolled her own, “Don't tell me you're a Mama's boy.”

Gendry smirked, “Of course I am. I was raised by the most beautiful, kind woman in all the world. That's why I'm so charming, obviously.”

Arya couldn't help the broad smile that took over her features as he spoke, leaning over to push against his shoulder and roll her eyes again. “Obviously.” The laughter between them was bright and comfortable, Arya wasn't sure when she last felt this easy outside of her family and Brienne. She honestly couldn't recall. “Tell me your damn secret already.”

“Do I get one in return?”

The way he asked so casually, but with such hope had that thing in her chest churning. “Duh.”

That small smile was back, gracing her with it's perfectness. Damn him and his insanely attractive smiles. She leaned her head in her palm, propped up by the back of the couch, facing him and waiting. He took that as his queue and she watched him bite the inside of his lip as he thought on a secret to tell her.

She wasn't exactly sure what prompted her to ask for a secret – she most definitely wasn't one to bare her soul if she absolutely didn't have to. But, the mood of the night felt right, the lingering confessions from earlier still wafting around the air between them. They were already friends, she already considered him close, now it was just a matter of trusting him. And she so badly wanted to trust him. Maybe a part of her already did.

She wasn't sure what she was going to tell him. What could she tell him? So many things.

Six years ago she watched her direwolf attack his gremlin of a half-brother and almost let him bleed-out out of pure spite? At one time she dressed as her brothers for years because she thought femininity was akin to weakness? Her sister was practically married to one of the biggest rockstars of the past ten years? That after her parents died she had ran away from home?

There were a lot of secrets she could tell him, she had more than a few. She was a great secret keeper, she'd never once broken an oath, never once spilled on something someone told her, it might've been Brienne's honorable influence, or maybe it was just a trait passed down from Ned himself, Arya didn't know. She didn't tell many of her own secrets, but she was about to tell the boy beside her one.

Gendry seemed to decide what he wanted to tell her, she hoped it wasn't anything stupid like, he enjoyed model trains or something. She wanted a real one, a big, juicy, terrible secret. One that would sit in the recesses of her mind for years to come. Something that would make her look at him differently. Something that would make him seem just as damaged as she was.

Arya could easily classify the earlier confession of their parents as equal damage, but she wanted something else. Something to solidify their sameness, whatever it was.

Because she was damaged, and she needed to know he could handle that.

Gendry shifted in his seat, looking down at her with his heavy gaze. He would tell her, because she wanted to know. He would tell her whatever she wanted, because she was here, because he wanted to. His story hadn't always been so romantic, even if that's how it sounded aloud. There were many dark parts glossed over in favor of the more beautiful things, the things worth painting. He'd never told anyone what he was about to tell her, not even his mother, just like she requested.

“Okay.” He let out a deep breath, as though he was preparing himself for battle. “We're never telling these things to anyone else, yeah?”

She held up her hand in a three finger salute. “Scouts honor.”

Gendry let out another heavy breath, “Alright, so, before Robert passed away my mother worked down at this bar in the Keep that her friend had owned, she had been doing my Mom a solid after her divorce by giving her a job that was lenient enough to raise a kid, but kept us alive. It was kind of a dive, not seedy, but, definitely the kind of place where no one remembered your face.” He shrugged, “Wanda's a nice lady, it's not her fault property is cheeper down in the Keep.”

“Okay.” Arya chewed the inside of her mouth, wondering where this was headed. She knew of the Keep, it was a shithole – this was definitely about to get very interesting.

“Cersei never liked my Mom much – she still doesn't, actually, not that it's a shocking piece of information, but I always found it odd that I saw her at the same place my mother worked.”

Arya's brows furrowed, “That is super odd.”

“So, one afternoon when my mother was in the back working inventory, I saw Cersei tucked in one of the booths in the back. I overheard her talking to her brother Jaime.”

“The lawyer.” Arya stated.

“Yeah.” Gendry nodded. “The lawyer. She was, ah, she was asking him questions... about me. Weird questions. Like, what would happen if my mother died, would she then have to resume responsibility of me? If both her and Robert died, would she be the first person they sent me to. Things like that. He answered her questions, I honestly can't remember what they were though. I just remember that cold look in her eyes as she spoke of the death of my family so casually, like I was already a burden on her in the fictitious scenario.”

He found himself looking down at his jeans, a frown tugging at the corners of his lips. He hadn't thought about that memory in the bar for a long time. It sat in the back of his mind, heavy like a weight, trailing up like smoke whenever he saw her. He didn't want to say that whenever he did see her, he felt like that little boy in the bar, that he felt like every bit of the bastard burden she thought he was, that he was still afraid, even now, that she would try and insert herself into his life more than she already was.

He didn't want to say any of that.

He cleared his throat. “I remember Jaime asking her if it would be so bad, having Robert's son. And I remember her cutting him with that iceberg of a gaze and simply stating, “Yes.”” He shrugged a shoulder, mostly because he didn't want to look up, but partially because he wasn't sure what else to do. “I ran into the back, crying. I never told my mother why.”

Arya hadn't realized she was leaning closer to him until he looked up at her, she had been so invested in what he was saying, the honesty dripping from his words. This certainly wasn't model trains. The overwhelming sadness she felt for him was almost tantamount to the hatred bubbling up inside of her for Cersei Lannister-Baratheon. To say those things, about a child. Arya wasn't particularly empathetic or mothering, but even she could never behave that way towards an innocent kid.

She found herself shaking her head. “Wow.” She leaned back in her seat, looking at him in slight shock. “You've got to be kidding me, right? What a bitch.”

“Yeah.” He said a bit quietly.

Arya looked him over, not liking this version of Gendry. The sadness in that ocean gaze of his didn't belong.

“When I was like, ten – eleven tops – there was this kid that trained with Brie and I and his sister would come in and wait after her dance class.” She began, Gendry listening with furrowed brows and a passive face. “She was about our age, a typical girly girl. She reminded me a lot of Sansa, actually. All prim and proper, an actual girl, not like Brienne and I. Sidebar, this is back when I was more than a tomboy and thought femininity equalled weakness.”

Gendry nodded, smirking just slightly. “I could definitely picture a little you and Brienne scoffing at all the other girls.”

Arya let a small smile grace her own features, “You're not that far off. We did scoff at all the other girls. But, this girl... there was just something about her that pissed me off. When I was ten, I thought it was because she reminded me of my perfect sister, but, even then I knew that wasn't it. God, I hated her.” Arya shook her head. “So, there was this pizza party after a match, Brienne and I were being harassing per usual, and I remember saying something really rude that caused her to cry. She cried in front of everyone, not even ashamed of it.” She said with a slight awe in her tone.

“Why am I not surprised that you make littler girls cry?” Gendry gently joked.

She rolled her eyes, “I followed after her and apologized. I'm not a total monster.”

“Never said you were.” He watched Arya pick at the pills in her tights. “What happened when you apologized.” He had a feeling the story didn't end with Arya making small children wail.

“She was in the bathroom, I said I was sorry, she told me it was fine.”

“That's it?” He deadpanned.

“No.” Her eyes narrowed at his sarcasm. “I got mad at her again. I was mad because she forgave me so easily. It was like there was no fight in her at all.”

“And you hated weakness.”

“Yeah. I started yelling at her for being so nice, for being polite, for being a girl. I yelled at her until I started crying. And then I kissed her.”

“Excuse me?” Gendry sat forward with slightly widened eyes.

Arya rolled her own, “How did I know you would react like that.”

“Oh, I'm sorry that I was shocked by a ten year old Arya kissing another girl.”

She once again narrowed her eyes at his sarcasm. “It wasn't like that. I didn't kiss her because I like kissing girls. I kissed her because I was jealous of her, because I wanted to be her.” She sighed, “I realized then that being a girl didn't make her weak, I was weak for pretending I wasn't one.”

Gendry's empathetic gaze bore into her own, swirling with emotions she could only hope to read. “That was very mature of you.” She bit at her lower lip and looked down at her lap. “But, tell me, just why did you need to kiss her to figure that out?”

She leaned forward to slap his arm for his joking nature, ripping an exaggerated, chuckling ow from him and leaving a small smile on her lips. “Because it proved that I wasn't a boy. I didn't enjoy kissing her, which reiterated the fact that I was a girl only masquerading as someone else. I kissed her to show myself being a girl wouldn't kill me. I kissed her because I wanted to.”

“Clearly you didn't understand the notion of being a lesbian – ow!”

She whacked him again for good measure.

“I'm sorry, continue.”

Arya rolled her eyes, “That was it. I kissed her, I said I was sorry, I left, I never spoke of it again.”

“Did the girl threaten to tell?”

Arya looked away, “No. She didn't.”

“Well, that was awfully nice of her. But, for the record, if you had tried to make out with me as a kid, I wouldn't have told on you either – ow! Dammit that hurt!”

 


 

The ringing of her cellphone pulled her attention away from the Supernatual reruns Brienne's television was currently sporting, the video call flashing a name that had her face instantly brightening.

“Mute that shit.”

“But, Dean.” Brienne gestured to the shirtless older brother flexing on the tv screen, her face the picture of appalled innocence.

Arya rolled her eyes, “It's Jon, pause it.” Brienne huffed but did as requested and Arya answered the call, waiting for her brother's face to appear. “Jon!”

His face came into view, his dark hair a bit longer than the last time she saw him, his scowl-smile set in place, those Stark eyes mirroring her own. “Hey, Arya.”

“And, what do I owe this pleasure?” She smirked.

“What?” He asked, that sort of smirky look that Bran got when he was attempting to hide something crossed his features. “I can't call my favorite sister for a chat?”

“Oooh, you better not let Sansa hear you talk like that.” Arya smirked. “You know how much she loves it when you denounce her as your favorite.”

Jon rolled his eyes affectionately. “We fight too much to be each other's favorites.”

“Well, maybe if you didn't flirt with all of her friend's, she wouldn't have yelled at you so much.” She joked.

Jon just scoffed, “I didn't flirt with anyone! I can't help it if the two of you have friends who are wooed by me. I know nothing of the sort.”

The smirk-smile returned to Arya's lips, Brienne's bark of a laugh could be heard from her right. “Brienne says hi.”

The older blonde's head leaned into Arya's space, blocking her completely from view. “Hey, Jon. How's it up there? Your balls fall off yet?”

“Lovely seeing you as always, Brienne.”

The blonde smirked and gave Jon the middle finger before returning to her spot on the bed, staring at the frozen image of a shirtless Dean Winchester dreamily. Arya just chuckled and shook her head. “So, really, what's up?”

“Okay, so maybe I do need something.” He started, hitting her with that pleasant, innocent smile that he gave her when he knew she wasn't going to like what he wanted her to do.

“Great. What?”

“Ygritte and I are planning a trip down, I already have time off, I just need to know when a good time for me to come would be.”

Arya's eyes narrowed a bit at her brother, “Okay, yeah.”

“Robb's not always the smoothest when it comes to recon – we all remember the prom fiasco of '98.”

Arya rolled her eyes at him, their junior prom had been '90s themed and Jon had asked Robb to scout out the details of Madge Pierson's date-status. It went without saying that Robb was a terrible spy and ruined the whole thing, causing a massive miscommunication and the death of Jon's social life. Now, whenever Jon explained why Robb wasn't capable of doing something, he always brought up the “prom fiasco”. It was kind of hilarious, but after hearing the same story for sixty-five years, it got a little old.

“Yeah, okay, I got it. What do you want me to scope out?”

That sweet – aka not actually sweet – smile was once again on his lips. “Jeynie and Ygritte don't really get along – ”

“You don't say.” Arya cut him off and Jon narrowed his eyes in a squinty-er gaze.

“Can you please just check everyone's schedules and get back to me on when would be a good time to come down?”

“You're really asking me to see when Jeynie is the most busy so the two almost-Stark's don't have to see each other, right?”

Jon just glared at her, “Please and thank you.”

“You're lucky you're my favorite brother.”

“I'll take you to the movies when I come down.”

Arya smiled at his attempt to woo her into his favor again. It worked, every time. “I'm holding you to that.”

“Bye, Arya.”

“Bye, Jon.”

She ended the video call and turned back to Brienne who had once again pressed play and resumed the episode. “Well, that should be fun.”

Arya heaved a sigh and laid back down on Brienne's large bed. “There's basically nothing I dislike more than spending time with Robb and Jeyne in the same room. He's like a completely different human around her, it's annoying.”

“Not to mention, she's a bitch.”

“Yeah, well, that too.” She rolled over to where Brienne was sitting, the tall blonde raising a brow as she scooted closer and closer until Arya was leaning against her in the annoying way that she knew Brienne hated. She let out a groan, “Ugh, why does my family have to be intense?”

“Because you're Starks. It's in your blood to be annoying.”

She swatted at her best friend, scowling. “Fuck off.”

“You fuck off.” Brienne pushed Arya off her and scooted away. “Why are you even here? Shouldn't you be at the library stalking your “new best friend” or whatever?”

Arya rolled her eyes, “I'm not stalking him, we're friends. It's not stalking if you're friends with the person.” It was Brienne's turn to roll her eyes. “Besides, I just hung out with him last night. I'm giving him a little break from all this.” She gestured over dramatically to herself, causing Brienne to snort.

“What'd you do, watch 80's movies and pretend not notice how much you both like each other?”

Arya narrowed her eyes and shook her head, scoffing. “No. We watched bad SyFy movies and hung out.”

“And pretended not to notice how much you like each other.” Brienne added, cheekily.

“You're so annoying.”

“And you're just lucky I don't have class right now and can entertain you.”

Arya turned onto her stomach and faced Brienne, “So, what's going on with Renly? Any new updates?” She asked, changing the subject.

Arya had met Renly a few times since Brienne had started interning at Lannister & Lannister a few years ago – the prestigious and totally ridiculous law firm run by, you guessed it, the Lannister's. Brienne was studying Law, she wanted to do something with her life, be important, take an oath, protect people. If Arya was being honest, she thought it was stupid. Brienne was an amazing fencer – amazing – she didn't understand why she wouldn't go on and pursue that, go to the Olympics and become a world winning athlete. It was what she was good at, it was something she could totally do. But, instead, she was wasting her talent working for people she hated, trying to make a name for herself before she even finished Law school.

Renly fit into the equation because he worked in the same building, apparently his law firm was merging with Lannister & Lannister – it literally killed her every time she had to think of that douche-y name. Lannister & Lannister was now becoming Lannister & Tyrell – which was the law firm Renly worked for.

He was a nice guy, always charming and polite, a total flirt, but most of all – totally, definitively, obviously gay. Gay, gay, all day. Gay all the way. Just, gay.

But, for whatever reason, Brienne didn't notice? Arya had no idea, but, whatever. Brienne liked Renly.

She knew that Brienne had called out the past few days since the kiss, but, last Arya checked she had returned to work. She hadn't heard anything about it, so she assumed all was well. Hopefully it was, Renly really did seem like a nice guy, she had a hard time believing he would be cruel to Brienne for making the mistake of thinking he was straight.

Brienne just sighed, “Not really. I haven't really seen him, there's this big case they've been working on, so they've all been super busy and barely noticed my absence.”

“Have you thought about maybe, I don't know, talking to him about it?”

Brienne looked horrified at Arya's suggestion. “Are you kidding me? I'd rather die.”

Arya rolled her eyes, “Brienne, it was not that bad! You kissed the guy, he didn't kiss you back, it's whatever. No harm, no foul.”

“Arya.” Brienne turned to her, deathly serious, which had Arya dying to point out how drama she was being. “I embarrassed myself in front of the only guy I've ever really liked. Do you know how soul crushing it is that I kissed him and he walked away? That he was so... nice about the whole thing? It was devastating. So devastating that Jaime kept checking up on me the last few days asking when I'd be back at work, if everything was alright. And then when I went back, he lingered around like I was some sad puppy, trying to cheer me up. Can you believe that?”

“Wow, what an asshole.” Arya rolled her eyes.

Brienne just glared at her, “I'm not saying he's an asshole, I'm just saying that that's how pathetic I am. So pathetic that Jaime freaking Lannister is hanging around my desk trying to cheer me up. Just kill me.”

“Well, for the record, I think you should just talk to Renly. Maybe there's more to the story.”

Brienne flopped down on the bed, “What could there be more of? He obviously only likes me as a friend, which is fine, but now I've embarrassed myself beyond redemption.”

“I don't know what to tell you, boo.” Arya smoothed back her short blonde hair, looking at the dusting of freckles over her slightly tanned skin still lingering from summer. No, Brienne wasn't classically beautiful, she wasn't even a oddly beautiful, but that didn't mean she wasn't beautiful at all. She thought Brienne was rather pretty, but, what did she know. “Just, pick better next time.”

She snorted and closed her eyes, bringing her hands up to run over her face. “Yeah, right. Like that'll be easy.”

“You just need someone manly, like you.” She received a swat from the blonde to her right. “No, I mean it. Renly was too... you know, foppish. You need someone worthy of your strength and honesty. Don't just waste it on anyone, Brie. I mean it.”

Brienne looked up at Arya from where she was lying beside her, the look in her eyes meaningful and a little sad. “I know.” Arya truly loved the girl beside her, she was her best friend, her rock, her sister. And all she wanted was for her to be happy, because Brienne deserved it, she truly did.

“So, enough about Renly. You're still friends with the guy, I'm sure he'll pretend like nothing ever happened and you can continue to work amongst each other and return to normal. Meanwhile, I'll be scouting out some man-candy to dangle off your arm when you become a hot-shot lawyer.”

Brienne barked out a laugh, “Could you imagine.”

“Yes, I can.” Arya declared, moving to kneel beside her on the bed, bouncing up and down, causing Brienne to bounce as well. “So cheer up, buttercup!” She yelled down at her best friend.

“What about your man-candy?” Brienne smiled. “When are we gonna talk about all that?”

“Never, because there is nothing to talk about.”

“Yeah, okay, sure.” Brienne snorted.

“We're just friends right now.”

“Right now.” She pointed out. “What happened to you wanting to jump him all the time?”

“Oh, I still want to jump him alright. It's just... different now. I like him, a lot.” She admitted to the girl beside her. “But, I like him a lot as a person too, not just as a love interest. I think I need to see how this plays out first. If it's meant to happen, then it will happen, if not, then I have a really great friend.”

Brienne just looked at her deadpanned, “Wow, that was really insightful.” Arya whacked her smart mouth with a pillow. “No, I mean it. That's really mature of you, Arya. Good for you.”

Arya moved to lay back down as another episode started playing on the tv. “Yeah, we'll see what happens.”

“Just for the record, I think Gendry's pretty cute and very nice. I'd approve of this union.”

Arya felt the smile stretch across her lips before it even happened. She was happy Brienne liked Gendry, that she approved. It was hard to get the ever skeptical Brienne to approve anything. Arya smirked. “Just wait till you meet his friends, you'll straight up die.”

“Goody.” She rolled her eyes. “I can't wait.”

“Great, I'll set up a meeting, then.”

“Shh,” Brienne shushed loudly in her ear. “Dean is speaking. Ugh, why can't Dean Winchester walk around campus and beg me to date him?”

Arya narrowed her eyes at the side of Brienne's head, she was considering saying that she sort of worked with someone who very strongly reminded her of the funny-sarcastic tough guy from her favorite tv show, but, she wasn't sure how well that'd go over. Besides, Jaime Lannister was a good bit older than her friend, devoted to his work, and, oh yeah, a freaking Lannister. But, it didn't stop the twinkle from forming in Arya's mind.

“Because he's a fictional character, Brie. If you really want Dean Winchester to ravish you, go read a fanfiction or scroll through tumblr.”

Arya was met with a swift, but powerful, pillow to the face.

Apparently ravishing Dean Winchester wasn't something to joke about. Arya would remember that for future reference.

Chapter Text

Her breathing hitched as she pressed her fingers harder against that spot inside of her, quickly moving them in and out of her, her other hand located at the top of her slit, pressing more intensely against her clit as that wonderful something began to build inside her. Her legs were spread out wide across her bed, her blankets kicked off long ago, her back arched as she ground her hips against her hand, bucking and grinding.

She was so wet, aching for more than she could give herself. She thought of him, long and hot inside of her, pressing those spots she couldn't reach, the ones she could, filling her up. She thought of the weight of his body hovering over hers, the fluttering of his long lashes, the breadth of his wide shoulders as she grabbed them, the freckled skin she would nip.

Her fingers moved more quickly, working herself in a way that was practiced, yet sporadic. She needed more, wanted more, she wanted him. She wanted him inside of her.

But, she was stupid and wanted to be friends with him, so here she was, fucking herself while thinking of him. She wondered if he did the same, if he thought of her in that way, if he forcefully stroked his cock to the thought of her doing exactly what she was doing right now.

Gods, she wanted to know. She wanted to know everything, every sound he made, every face, if it would be a powerful thrust of his hips as he took her or a torturous slow build that had her thrashing. She pressed her fingers harder, arching her hips off the bed, her breathing harsh and shallow.

The sight of his wet, bare body came into mind. The strong arms that would hold her up as he fucked her hard against the shower wall, the wide shoulders she would hold on to, the defined chest and stomach she would lick every inch of. He was tall and long, she wondered if he had the length to match. She could so easily feel him filling her up, stretching her, making her whole.

This was getter harder and harder each time, harder to get herself off, harder to reach that spot inside of her without the assistance that she didn't have.

She turned her head and looked over at the phone laying so innocently beside her on the bed, her hips still grinding against her hand, her breathing still labored. It would be so easy to call him, to convey the depth of her want, of need for her. He would say yes, she knew he'd say yes, she wasn't immune to the way he looked at her – even if it was usually something she couldn't admit due to her partially-faded insecurity.

It would be so easy, she would call him, all breathless and whiney, telling him of her desire, of her need for him to fill her up so completely. He would rush over, find her spread out on the bed, overly sensitive, impossibly wet, waiting for him. He would quickly meet her, kissing up her heated skin, leaving gooseflesh in his wake, his long fingers pushing into her the way she was right now, curling and pumping, making her arch and moan.

She could feel him in her hand, heavy and hot, her fingers wrapping around him as she guided his length to her. She could feel him press into her, pushing and filling. She could hear herself let out that embarrassing high note of a gasp. She could feel his head lying against her neck, burying his face in her heated skin as he buried his cock inside of her. She could hear his quiet murmurs and groans of pleasure.

She wanted that, she wanted this, she wanted him.

Gods, why did she have to be so stupid? So stubborn?

Gendry could be in this bed with her right now, fucking her into oblivion, making her come so easily, and inside she was lying by herself, frustrated, thinking about him. All because she was dumb and let her stupid insecurities take over her life.

She was afraid of loosing people, she was afraid of loosing him. Especially now.

Arya quickly maneuvered around herself, pressing furiously into her clit, making her come. It wasn't entirely satisfying, she didn't feel weightless or thoroughly fucked as she'd like, but whatever. The slight sting of arousal still lingered in her, her clit still throbbing, as were her insides, but there was nothing she could do about that.

She dropped her legs and stared at her ceiling with a huff. Her hand was burning beside her phone, itching to pick it up and call him, just to hear his voice. It was stupid, she was stupid.

She looked over at the clock on her cable box and realized how late in the day it was. He was probably waiting for her to show up and bother him like she usually did these days.

They had somehow found themselves in this sort of routine. Sundays were spent with Sansa at the Warehouse, where they would sometimes have dinner with the fam, if not, she would go to Gendry's if he didn't take a longer shift. Mondays he had a mid-morning class, then went straight to the Library before going to the shop. Tuesdays were busy for him, he had several classes throughout the day and went to the shop after. Wednesdays and Thursdays were light, he had one or two classes, worked a couple hours at the Library and went into the shop for a few. She saw him the most on those two days. Fridays he had an early morning class that he simultaneously dreaded and loved, after that he found himself at the shop, and then the library. He got off early Friday afternoons, and Saturdays he did nothing if he wanted to.

Arya found herself working around Gendry's schedule, inserting herself into his life and free time. He didn't seem to mind, seeing as they had easily become close friends in the short amount of time they'd known each other. Arya couldn't exactly pinpoint the shift between them, but time seemed to pass quickly, making the new kinship feel oddly normal.

Most of the time, Arya found herself following him around the Library or perched on the stool next to him as he worked on cars at the shop. Mott didn't seem to mind, he never kicked her out, never spouted about safety procedures or whatever. Gendry seemed to like the company. He was slowly becoming more and more comfortable with her around. Gone were the awkward, shifty glances and odd silences. His shy smiles and intense stares remained though, for which Arya was grateful.

She spent a lot of time with the boys too, learning their schedules and stalking them when Gendry and Brienne were busy. None of them minded, Lommy especially who had been actively seeking her out, claiming her as his new best friend. Brienne meeting them for the first time was actually hilarious, mostly because her and Hot Pie butted heads and Lommy's bright energy tired her out. Her and Pod got along well though, apparently they had a few classes together and decided to partner up in their science class, continuing to be introverted together.

But, Gendry was her new constant. Brienne would always be her rock, her closest friend, her savior and champion, but, Gendry was slowly encompassing her life and she didn't mind it at all. They texted each other all the time, talked on the phone quite a bit, she was more normally at his side more than she was not these days – which was something Sansa loved to tease her about relentlessly. It was fine, it was just payback for all the flack Arya had given her when she first started dating the Hound.

He had yet to meet her whole family, he didn't know about the Hound, she had yet to meet his mother, mostly they just holed themselves up in his apartment and acted like no one else existed but them. She was fine with that, the more alone time she got with Gendry the better.

But, then times like this sprouted their ugly, horny little heads and she wished that things were different. Just slightly. Maybe everything the same except the him not fucking her raw part.

She bet he was great in bed – or, would be. He was so attentive in regular life, paid such close attention to detail, he would probably make her scream without even doing much. Fuck, why the fuck was he not fucking fucking her right now?

She felt her swollen center begin to throb again, she pushed her thighs tight together in an attempt to ease the feeling. She stared at her phone and bit her lip, she just wanted to hear his voice, that was all. She grabbed her phone quickly and pressed his contact before she could stop herself. It was Wednesday, she wasn't even sure what time, but knew it was past lunch, he was probably at the library, waiting for her.

It rang a few times, maybe he was busier than she thought, had she gotten the schedule wrong again? That happened sometimes. But, on the fifth ring, he answered. “Hello?”

“Hi, hello.”

She voice sounded a bit breathy and she felt stupid and a little embarrassed by the tone. She wondered if he noticed, if he could hear the desperation to be fucked by him in her voice. She hoped not, because what a conversation that would be.

“What's going on, m'lady?”

He mostly called her that because he knew it pissed her off, but, slowly it had turned into a term of endearment and now she only jokingly huffed in annoyance at the name. His voice was lowered because he was at work, creating this almost husky quality, she felt another throb run through her.

“Nothing.” She sighed, her fingers lazily trailing the curve of her breast. If he could see her right now, legs spread, naked from the waist down, only a sports bra covering her tits, he would literally die. “I'm just bored.”

“Uh, then why are you not here keeping me company?” He asked, she could imagine him so clearly balancing the phone on his shoulder as he stacked books back in their correct place. Why was that turning her on so much? “Shouldn't you have shown up like... a half hour ago?”

“I've been busy.”

She internally sighed.

“With what?” He gently scoffed in that playfully way of his.

She moved her fingers down to ease the throb that had taken over her once again at the sound of his deep voice. “Oh, you know.”

His chuckle pierced through her like a throb that travelled straight to her clit. “Enlighten me.”

All she could imagine was being pressed against the bookshelf as he pounded into her, hard and unyielding, the bite of the shelf against her skin turning her on even more. She hadn't realized that she'd started to finger herself again, her voice coming out in a little pant at the thought that had just crossed her mind. She cleared her throat.

“Just... working out. You know, practicing so Forel doesn't kick my ass for becoming lazy.”

That sounded plausible, right?

He took a moment to answer, which made her nervous, had he figured her out? Did he know? She felt a small tingle rush through her at the thought.

“Well, come by when you're done.” His voice was a bit throatier than before, he cleared his throat to no avail. The new register wafting over her and giving her goosebumps, she wanted nothing more than to hear him say her name right now. “I'm not use to the Library actually being quiet anymore.”

He was using sarcasm to cover up whatever he was actually thinking. She hoped he thought she was doing something dirty, like touching herself while talking to him – which, she totally was. Gods, she wished she could see his face right now, if he was worked up or not, if she could get him worked up by doing nothing.

The thought hit her then, the terrible, stupid, delicious thought. How fun would it be to see that look in person, to see him swallow thickly like he had that first time speaking to him in the Library, watch his stormy eyes darken, hear his voice drop in arousal. Her fingers felt slicker at the very thought of it.

“I'll be over in a little while.” She made up her mind.

“Great. I'll see you soon.”

“Bye, Gendry.”

She said his name in hopes to hear hers come out of that deep, slightly husky tone he'd taken on. She needed to hear it.

“Bye, Arya.”

It didn't disappoint.

She hung up the phone and jumped out of her bed and threw on her robe, heading straight for the shower. She got in quickly, washing her body, her hair, at the speed of light. She hopped out, heading back to her room to get dressed.

She put on a sports bra, not entirely feeling a real one today, which was fine, it would only add to what she was attempting to do. She tossed on a thin long sleeved shirt, running to Sansa's room to rummage through her shit to find a skirt. Arya owned skirts, she was a functioning female, but she didn't own skirts.

Nobody was home, Sansa at work, Sandor on a mini-tour with the band, her siblings at school, so she felt free to masturbate in the middle of the day and walk around in her underwear.

She flipped through Sansa's closet, knowing her tall, girly sister had options upon options for Arya to choose from. She found a mini circle skirt with a high waist that she plucked from the closet before slipping it on. Arya may have been shorter than Sansa, but they were both relatively tall with long legs and torsos, that meant that clothes didn't always fit either of them like they were suppose to. The skirt might've been a tad more appropriate on someone shorter waisted and had less length to their limbs, but it was practically lethal on Arya. She couldn't even imagine what it looked like on her sister, it probably wasn't even a skirt.

Arya looked at herself in the full length mirror on the back of the door, the gentle pleats of the skirt flounced about the tops of her fleshy thighs, her ass – which was a bit bouncier than Sansa's perfect heart shaped ass – was just barely covered by the maroon materiel. She could've gotten away with this outfit if she wore tights, but bare, she looked like she was asking to be whispered about.

She let the black shirt remain untucked around her sides, the shirt wasn't particularly long or loose, so it didn't matter if it hung. She turned around and looked over her shoulder, man, one reach too far and oops, there were the cheeks of her ass out on display. She smirked. Helping Gendry re-categorize books was going to be fun.

-0-0-

He placed the phone back in his pocket, chewing at the inside of his lower lip. He felt the hardening against his leg, the heavy bite of arousal as it coursed through him. Her voice, it had sounded so breathy, almost with a moan. It was easy to imagine her doing other activities besides sword training. It was easy to picture her touching herself with hooded eyes, biting that pump bottom lip of hers to stifle a moan.

He closed his eyes and leaned his head against the bookshelf. What was wrong with him?

He knew it was sort of weird to think about her like that now that they were such close friends, but he couldn't help it. He had been thinking about her like that for two years, it had only gotten worse now that they were so close. All the time.

She was up in her personal space a lot, touching him, reaching over him, laying parts her her appendages across him. He didn't mind – really, he didn't mind – it was just... hard for him sometimes.

He felt so obvious about his want, he wondered how she hadn't called him out on it yet. But, she hadn't. She hadn't said a word. Maybe it wasn't as obvious as he thought, maybe he just thought it was.

It didn't matter. They were friends. That was all.

He returned to his duties, moving along bookshelves, re-stacking and cataloging. He liked the busy work that everyone else hated, it gave him something to do other than sit behind the front desk or resort the cards – that he hated. At least with this he was on his feet, moving around, weaving in and out of bookshelves with Arya. That he certainly didn't mind.

Arya sidled in not too long after she'd called him, and he meant sidled. That had to be the most leg he'd ever seen from her, ever. She walked in, all casual, like she wasn't wearing the shortest skirt known to man, like she wasn't torturing him. He couldn't take his eyes off her legs, the smooth expanse of pale skin all on display. What the actual fuck.

“Hey.” She said, a little breathlessly.

Kill him. Right now.

“Hey.” He managed back, clearing his throat a little and moving his eyes back to the bookshelf where it was safe.

She leaned against it beside him, her head turned to look up at him. The way she was leaning had her hips jutted out a bit, the skirt falling over the tops of her thighs easily. God have mercy on his soul.

“It's pretty lively today.”

That was a joke, she was kidding. There was barely anyone even in the Library right now, only a couple of the staff was even there. He just turned and quirked a brow at her, she smirked.

Arya knew what she was doing, she could see the way his gaze ran over her legs, the length of the skirt. She could see that thick swallow, following his adam's apple. She wanted to lick him. She had an inkling that the feeling was mutual.

“What time do you get off today?” She smirked at her own play on words.

He shrugged a shoulder, a delicious, broad shoulder, and looked at the large clock on the wall. “Early enough. It's pretty slow today.”

Arya nodded, eyeing him. “Sansa's busy tonight since her boyfriend's out of town,” Not a total lie, Sandor really was out of town, but Sansa would probably get off work and be home by seven. “Wanna have a slumber party?” His spine went rigid as he looked over at her, eyes just narrowed slightly. Oh, yes. This is exactly where she wanted him. “I know you have class tomorrow, but, we don't have to stay up late or anything.”

He cleared his throat, moving his gaze away from her and back to the bookshelf in front of him, not really looking at anything, just staring. “Isn't that like, one of the main components of a sleepover?”

She smirked, “Yeah, well, we can amend it because you're a goody-goody who always arrives to class on time.”

Gendry rolled his eyes and continued on down the line, Arya following along. “You know I always say yes to whatever you want anyway, I'm not sure why you even bother asking.”

Arya narrowed her gaze at him, she knew he was being sarcastic, but there was an undertone of truth in his words that annoyed her. “Puh-lease. You are as stubborn as they come, Waters.” She sent him a look that clearly read he was a bullshitter. “We scrap all the time. You're practically an honorary Stark with the way we bicker.”

What she had really wanted to say was that they fought like an old married couple and all of their friends already had their china patterns picked out for their fiftieth wedding anniversary. But, she didn't say that. It was too much too soon. Baby steps.

The comment hit him in a place that he didn't want to admit. He didn't want to be an honorary Stark, it was an honor, sure, but that wasn't at all what he wanted. He didn't like what it implied. She had just basically called him her brother. He sighed. Great.

He rolled his eyes to keep up pretenses and turned to face her. She was leaning once again, his eyes going straight to that little hellish skirt. He didn't miss the way her nipples puckered beneath the thin material of her shirt when his eyes roamed her bare skin. He felt himself harden a bit in response.

“Of course you can come over tonight, Arya. What am I going to say, no, you can't come over? It's not like I actually have plans.”

“Fab.” She smirked up at him, looking every bit as fuckable as he'd thought prior to their being friends. “'Cause I already packed a bag in the event you'd say yes.”

He rolled his eyes, “Why do I even bother?”

She just smirk-smiled at him and moved around the cart to help him put away the books. It was something they usually did, more efficient Arya claimed – not that she was wrong. She started to put away books on the row, they were quiet for a few moments before she spoke.

“Whoops, looks like we got a rogue.” She held up a book in her hand whose title certainly did not belong in with this lot. She searched the rows above them, finding it's appropriate place, he was about to hold out his hand for it when she stood on her tip toes and slid it into place.

Of course, when she did this, that hellfire skirt that was bound to haunt his dreams lifted with her, giving him a completely unobstructed view of her ass. The pale cheeks of her rounded bottom peeked out from beneath the edges of the skirt, the smooth crease of her boy-shorts hiding the rest of her from his gaze. His jaw clenched tightly, he felt himself harden even more.

It lasted only a moment, but he felt as though it had stretched on for actual years. His heart thundered in his chest, his breathing was a bit harsher than before. This was a nightmare, he was positive he'd had this dream once, where she smirked cooly over her shoulder before he fucked her hard against a bookshelf. Was he dreaming right now? Is that why things of this nature were actually happening to him?

And then, the unthinkable happened.

As if of it's own accord, one of the books he had placed down on the cart in his fascination with her ass, fell. Arya, who's face was passive and completely normal, thought nothing of it, bending right down to pick it up.

Oh, fuck me.

She bent at her knees, not in the stereotypical Whoops, I've seemed to have dropped something way girls often did to get guys attention. She wasn't bent over at the waist, she wasn't looking over her shoulder at him with a coy smile staining her lips. But, the way she had bent to retrieve the fallen book had given him an equally showing peek of her knickers, her cheeks, her center. It made him want nothing more than to bend her all the way over and take her right here, right now.

Just, kill him.

She stood back up, placing the book back on the cart and smoothing out her kill me skirt. She gave him a small smile, nothing cheeky or smarmy about it. God, what the actual fuck.

She followed him around for a while more, helping him, before retreating over to the armchairs when he went behind the desk to input data and help the random people that were checking out books.

Arya couldn't actually believe how well that had all worked out. His eyes had remained firmly planted on her ass for the rest of the time she helped him, unable to look away. The smirk in the corners of her lips were well deserved. She knew it was kind of shitty to treat him like that, to show what wasn't his. She wasn't sure what had come over her today, why she had been abducted by a pod-person and become this insatiable, horny little boy, but she couldn't help it. Whether or not they would remain only friends was up to the Gods, her lusty arousal towards him was just something she couldn't help.

His broad shoulders and casually passive face as he typed away on the computer behind the front desk made that tingle return to her loins. She sounded like a fucking romance novel with Fabio on the cover. She didn't actually care.

They left a couple hours after that, stopping at the famed sandwich place that Brienne loved so much to grab some dinner. It was a fairly popular establishment – obviously, if it got such high praise from someone like Brienne – and even on a Wednesday night it was pretty hopping with college students and youths.

She had never seen Gendry looked more like a cranky old man than he was in his moment, sighing as they waited on the longest line this side of the Narrow Sea, listening to hilarious gossip from the other people around them. He just kept rolling his eyes and slightly shaking his head when one of the girls in front of them would say something particularly stupid, glaring at the douche-y frat guys that eyed up her legs. The skirt had really been for Gendry, but now that they were out of the comfort of the Library, she was making quite the scene.

She didn't find Gendry particularly intimidating in his worn henley and jeans, he looked more like the blended-in sort than someone who stuck out, but apparently some of the other guys did actually find him intimidating and the group immediately stepped back and stopped ogling her legs. Was discreetly fanning herself a little too obvious? Yeah, she thought so.

Arya couldn't help but eye him after that as they moved up the line, the slight scowl on his lips, the narrow of his gaze, his broad shoulders and tall frame. Maybe outside of his shy persona that she had initially met him in, he was an actual bad ass? He looked like he could easily play that part, especially at the shop, covered in grease. He looked older without his shy smiles and downcast eyes, rugged even.

She could see some of the slags in the line around them eyeing him up. She knew that look, she gave Gendry that look. Her own narrowed eyes and scowl easily sent them looking away, but now they had moved on to her, eying her up and down.

Yeah, she was pretty sure that she looked like a total sleaze in the shortest skirt in Westeros, but, whatever. Gendry was beside her, eying her legs and scaring off other guys, what more could she ask for?

They grabbed a table near the door once their food was done, eating quickly in the overly crowded establishment, ignoring all the stares both of them were creating. Arya for her lack of pants, Gendry for his general attractiveness and odd, but definitely hot, protectiveness of her lack of pants. As soon as they were finished, Arya followed behind him back to his apartment in their separate cars.

It wasn't a long drive, but she still couldn't help herself from pressing her thighs together tightly, her hips fidgeting, looking for even the slightest release. What was wrong with her? Why was she about to torture herself like this?

A whole night with Gendry while she was this aroused just spelled out trouble. But, she was Arya Stark, and Jon wasn't wrong in saying that were trouble went, Arya wasn't far behind. He'd been saying that her whole life, she wondered if he were still home and not up North if he'd be saying that now. Probably.

They pulled into his complex, parking beside one another. She let out a breath, releasing those stupid nervous flutterings from her chest at the thought of sleeping over a boy's house for the first time. This was Gendry. He was her new Brienne. Literally nothing was going to happen – which, sort of annoyed the wanton hussy inside of her, if she was being honest.

They walked up to his apartment together, Gendry's cell pressed to his ear and a slightly annoyed look on his face as he listened to whoever was on the other end. His face, combined with the very liberal use of the word tit-wank loudly coming from the receiver told her it was Hot Pie on the phone. She wondered what had prompted the bigger boy to call Gendry specifically, judging by he mildly disgusted look on his face it must've been girl related.

“Yeah, I'm sure that's exactly what she meant by 'Thanks for the great service'.”

Arya send him a face before bursting out laughing, leave it to Hot Pie to accidentally sexually harass people based off of bad wording. She pushed open the door after Gendry unlocked it, striding in and heading straight towards his bedroom to put her stuff down. Because, hello, of course she was going to make the most of this brilliant idea and sleep in that comfy ass bed next to her hunky best guy friend.

Arya Stark was many things, but stupid certainly wasn't one of them.

Gendry watched her bee-line to his room as he shut the door behind them, now only barely listening to Hot Pie ranting on the other end about embarrassingly coming onto some hot Junior at the restaurant. Sweat began to prick at the back of his neck, his heart beating a bit faster than before. Arya planned on sleeping in his bed, most likely with him, because this was a slumber party and she was a girl and girls did these things all the time and barely thought anything of it, right?

Arya was still bouncing around in that fucking skirt. She was in his apartment, strapped in for the night, wearing that fucking skirt and planning on torturing him by sleeping in his bed.

He let out a deep sigh and told Hot Pie he had to go. He didn't wait for the response, but he caught the beginning of one of Hot Pie's whiney rants about Arry always coming first. Gendry couldn't help but think that if only Hot Pie could see her in that skirt, he'd let her come first all the time too. Gendry was powerless to stop it, especially when her ass bounced so nicely beneath the soft pleats of that damn skirt.

He placed his phone down on the counter, plugging it into the wall, before moving further into the room. She was already on the couch, scrolling through her own phone, waiting for him. She didn't look up as he approached, just continued to stare at whatever captivated her so. He didn't care, he was just as captivated by her bare thighs.

“So, what time's your class?”

“Eleven.” He settled down beside her on the couch, picking up the remote to turn on the tv.

“Oh my god.” Her head shot up, that look on her face that clearly read he had made something a bigger deal than it actually was. “That's not early at all.”

He snorted, “Yeah, but who knows if you'll actually be awake.” He joked. “Sometimes I get texts from you at six in the morning and other times I don't hear from you til after lunch.”

She shrugged a shoulder nonchalantly. “What can I say, I have odd sleeping patterns. You've been warned.”

He let the smirk easily slide over his lips, as he so often did these days. He couldn't stop his heart from beating a bit wildly in his chest, she was here, she was staying, she was with him all alone. They were alone all the time, sure, but this was different. This was nighttime, this was intimate. This was his own personal dream and nightmare.

There were so many things that could go wrong. For instance, any of their friends barging in and ruining this odd and completely unfathomable act that was about to take place, she could find out he snored or sleep-talked or, something ridiculous that no one had ever told him he did. Or worse, she would lie beside him and he couldn't help but kiss her. Now, that would definitely be a nightmare.

He cleared his throat a little and turned back to flipping through channels. “So, how does this whole slumber-situation work?”

She sent him a face that clearly read he was a loser weirdo, he wasn't offended, she was constantly making weird faces. “Um, it's called a slumber-party, did you live under a rock your whole life?”

He narrowed his eyes at her, “No. But, in case you were unaware, I am in fact a guy, and guys generally don't have slumber-gatherings.”

“Oh, so Hot Pie or Pod have never slept over your house?” She questioned.

“Well, yeah – ”

“That was a slumber-party.” Arya cut him off quickly. “Boys just don't call them that. As for what you do as a sleepover, well, most of the time girls braid each other's hair and gossip about boys and shit.” She waved her hand as though she was immune to all that.

“I take it you had many sleepovers as a kid?”

“Your sarcasm is unwelcome, Waters.” She'd taken to calling him by his first last name, just as all his friends did. She barely ever referred to him as Baratheon, he wasn't quite sure why, but he was thankful she'd picked up on it regardless. “I'll have you know that I attended many a sleepover growing up.”

“Brienne doesn't count.”

She punched him hard in the arm. Arya might've been small boned with delicate features like her sister, but under that cream colored skin she was pure muscle and fire. That girl hit harder than most guys he knew, and was certainly fiercer.

“All the sleepovers I've been to consisted of staying up late, eating junk food, watching bad movies and telling secrets – with the occasional hair braid and pillow fight, of course.”

“Of course.” Gendry smirked.

“Why,” Arya cooed sarcastically. “Want me to braid your hair tonight?”

“I was waiting for you to ask.” He smirked, she hit him a little less hard this time, a smile present on her face. “I'm pretty sure we do most of those things each time you come over anyway. The only difference is that you'll be asleep here instead of at home.”

She just flipped him off as they both got sucked in to The Walking Dead marathon that was currently happening on the television. Arya wasn't sure how long exactly they sat there watching zombies and angry Americans yell at each other, but she had went through two bowls of popcorn and a bottle of soda between them. She looked over at Gendry, who was slumped down against the couch beside her, legs thrown up on the coffee table in front of him. His ocean eyes were trained on the tv, watching as Rick had it out with another member of the group – again, unmoving. Her eyes flashed to the cable box, eyeing the time.

It wasn't necessarily late, but it wasn't early either. She decided it was time to move the party into pajamas. She sighed, if only it were meant in a sexier way. But, alas, friendship bracelets were locked and loaded for tonight.

She stood from her spot on the couch, stretching out her stiff joints, kicking his legs. “Come on, pajama time.”

The cute, appalled face made an appearance as he gestured towards the tv. “But, the marathon's not over yet.”

She rolled her eyes. “The marathon is a million years long, Gen. We can watch it in your room, I need to stretch out, your shit couch is killing me.”

He just narrowed his eye at the tv, but she knew it was meant for her. “My couch isn't shit, you love this couch – curl up in it every time you come over.” He huffed, but stood from his lounging position and turned off the tv as it went to a commercial.

She smirked to herself as she made her way into his room, her bag placed on his bed. He hadn't said anything about it yet, not even a wise-ass comment about her sharing the big bed with him. She wondered if he was as into the idea as she was, or if he was just indifferent because they were friends and she was abrasive enough to invade his personal space.

She turned on the tv in his room, changing the channel to the one they were just on, knowing that the commercials would be over soon. Gendry slunked in after her, jumping on his side of the bed and laying back with his hands behind his head, watching the program. Arya just shook her head and opened her bag, pulling out her pajamas and heading to his bathroom. She hadn't been joking about pj-time, there was nothing she loved more than a cozy situation.

He watched her retreat to his bathroom, the door clicking shut behind her. He sighed, rubbing his hands over his face. What had he gotten himself into by saying yes to this? Nothing out of the ordinary had happened yet and nothing probably would, but there was always that damn chance that he would end up humiliating himself and making Arya flee.

He quickly changed out of his jeans pulling on soft pajama pants, sitting on the bed this time instead of lying down. He was nervous for her to come out of the bathroom, after changing that was that, there was no going back. She was sleeping over his house. She was getting into bed with him. He focused on Rick Grimes' steadily worsening facial hair and attempted to even the beating of his heart.

Arya sidled back into the room, her day clothes bundled up under one arm. She was casually dressed in loose fitted shorts and a baggy mens v-neck t-shirt, sexy in the nonchalant way she wore the clothes. Honestly, a part of him was a bit glad for it. The small, all male voice in the back of his mind spoke about the barely there nightclothes she could've chosen, yet instead here she was, climbing into his bed in cozy pajamas. He expected nothing less from her, the punky tomboy girl to his right. A smile made it's way up onto his lips as he watched her piled her hair on the top of her head and wrap it messily with a band around her wrist, not caring that he was beside her.

He couldn't stop the thought from entering his head of just how right she looked there beside him in his bed, hair up, pajamas on, watching bullshit tv. Like she belonged there, like she always had.

Gendry let out a small sigh and turned his gaze away from her and back to the zombie marathon they had started, willing himself not to let unrealistic thoughts like that enter his mind. Her chirping began almost immediately, the attention to detail, her scoffs, her chuckles, he let them wash over him gently, bringing him back to reality. The reality where she had chosen him as her close friend and nothing more. He once again tried to will himself to be okay with it all. He wasn't sure if it was working or not, but he would just keep trying until it stuck.

She tried to stomp down a smile at something he said that was funny, yet contradictory to her own statement. Watching the mirth dance in her eyes, the wiggle of her lips as she tried to remain steadfast, the unconscious fluttering of her long lashes.

This was going to be a long night.

Chapter Text

She stirred her coffee as she sat at the island in the kitchen of her childhood home, willing the noise level from the other room to drop with every pound of her head. Ygritte lay on the floor beside her stool, claiming the cool tiles of the kitchen floor were helping her migraine, Sansa had yet to even make her way down. Jon stood across from her, leaning into the island counter, that stupid Stark smirk heavy on his lips.

Stupid Jon, stupid Ygritte, stupid Sansa and her damn birthday.

Arya groaned as a throbbing passed through her skull, causing a chain reaction moan from the redhead on the ground. Jon only snickered, which caused a string of curses from Ygritte meant for him, but mostly came out in half-groans.

Robb came back into the kitchen from the dining room where everyone else so noisily resided, empty plate in hand. His brow rose at the sight before him; Arya's head in her hands, Ygritte on the floor, Jon smirking at them across the island.

“Do I even want to know?” He questioned.

Jon stood, pouring himself another cup of coffee and grabbing a spare piece of bacon from the stove where Sandor stood cooking. “Probably not.”
“Your brother is the worst.” She pointed a finger at Jon, accusingly.

Robb only snorted, “He's your favorite brother, not mine.” That earned a punch in the shoulder from Jon. “Why are you the worst?”

Jon only smirked again, holding his hands up in defense. “I haven't a clue what she's on about. I think our sister's been dipping into the sauce, if you know what I mean.” The pantomime swigging motion caused Robb to laugh and Arya to throw a piece of her bagel at him.

“Shut up, you goon. This is all your fault.”

“I second that.” Ygritte held up her hand from the floor, pointing it in her boyfriend's general direction. “All the goon’s fault.”

Arya nodded at him at Ygritte’s support of him being the worst. “If you hadn't suggested taking up Thoros' offer last night, I wouldn't feel this way.” She groaned at the thought. Even thinking about the shenanigans that took place last night made her feel nauseas.

Robb's brow quirked, thoroughly intrigued, but before Jon had time to defend himself against their sister’s accusations, Sandor cut him off with a gruff rebuttal. “No one's damn fault but your own, girl.”

Arya ripped off another piece of her bagel and threw it at him. Sandor just caught it with his teeth – much to her annoyance. “I hate all of you.”

Sansa decided then was an appropriate time to grace everyone with her presence, walking into the kitchen slowly, her shoulders slightly hunched, head down as she slinked over to Sandor, who quietly wrapped his arm around her and let her nuzzle into his chest as he flipped bacon. “I feel terrible.” Her sister whined into the Hound's shirt.

“Yeah, well, maybe you shouldn't've let Thoros and Dondarrion talk you into slam-shoting all those firebombs.”

Clearly Sandor's meant-to-be soothing words were not as soothing as the hands rubbing her back, because Sansa lifted her head and sent him one of her famous Cat Stark looks. “Hilarious.”

“Whoa, you guys did firebombs last night?” Robb asked, both mildly impressed and disturbed. “No wonder you're so fucked up.”

“Not just firebombs either. There were these green drinks that I can't remember the name of and a lot of Romanian vodka. A lot.” Robb just leaned over the counter and high-fived Arya, who instinctually raised her hand to accept it.

“Wait, why are you suddenly so immune?” Robb turned to Jon. “I certainly don't remember you being this perky the mornings after me, you, and Theon went out. Usually you were all sloppy and whining about this one over here.” He jerked his thumb in the general direction of where Ygritte lay.

“Well, someone had to be the driver. Seeing as this guy over here decided whiskey was the way to go last night.” Jon received a spatula smack on the hand from Sandor in return. “I just stuck with beer, and let me tell you what – best decision I’ve ever made. This group drunk is fucking hilarious.”

Jon was then, of course, bombarded by more flying pieces of bagel, bacon, and half-hearted curses. Robb just shook his head and chuckled as he piled more food onto his plate, dodging the flying food and fierce words, before leaving the kitchen.

“I certainly don't envy you lot right now, that's for sure.” Robb received a half-hearted middle finger from Ygritte and puny glares from the rest of them.
Sansa removed herself from the arms of Sandor and slunk over to a chair beside Arya, accepting the coffee Jon had poured for her. “So,” she began, sipping her coffee slowly. “Are you going to invite Gendry to the party?”

The thought had definitely crossed her mind, seeing as Brienne was of course going and she'd most likely enjoy Pod's company, which would mean Gendry would just have to come. Obviously. Plus, he was a huge Kingsguard fan, she found that out at their first hangout sesh, and then every time she got in his car. She smirked at the thought of the face he'd make when he found out just exactly who Sansa's boyfriend actually was, when he saw them all downing shots at the bar after the show.
The small part of her that totally refused to be silenced couldn't help but whisper that she wouldn't invite him for any of those reasons. She would invite him because she enjoyed his company and wanted him to meet her family. She shoved a chunk of bagel into her mouth.

“Oh, yeah. He's a huge Kingsguard fan, you think I'm going to miss the face he's gonna make when he finds out?”

Sansa's chirping laughter caused a smile to worm its way onto Arya’s face and Ygritte to finally rise from the dead and get off the floor, pulling herself up onto to a stool next to Sansa. “If you ever want to know anything ever again, you better get me some damn coffee.” The pointed look from the wildling girl and her odd but clearly effective threat had Jon scurrying to make her a fresh cup and place some toast down in front of her for good measure.

Soon, Sansa, Jon, and Ygritte were in a discussion about birthday-central and all the festivities that they would all be participating in this week while everyone was home. Because birthdays and holidays in the Stark family were not treated lightly, everyone celebrated and everyone came home, it was almost like a mini-reunion each time. It had always been this way, their parents big on the whole celebration thing, and after their death it had just morphed into some type of weird tradition on crack that everyone was very serious about.

Jon and Ygritte had come down over the weekend, finding that it was simply just easier to wait and come down so it coincided with Sansa's birthday, awkward Jeynie run-ins and all. They were all staying at Winterfell, up in their old rooms – it was actually kind of trippy being back in their family home, everyone running around and yelling like they had growing up. It was oddly comforting to be back at the start, but it didn't leave her much time to see anyone outside of the family.

Brienne was tagging along for some of the festivities, as was totally tradition by now – seeing as she was an honorary Stark, coronation by Catelyn herself – but she and Theon were basically the only outside family-friends that Arya had seen. She hadn't really had time to hang out with Gendry since that night she'd slept over his house, almost two weeks ago.

She thought about how easily their conversations flowed, how fucking charming his stupid face was, how comforting it was to sleep beside him. She felt stupid thinking about it, thinking about waking up beside him in the middle of the night, thinking about how she so easily scooted so that he was spooning her, grabbing his forearm gently as not to wake him and pulling it over her waist. She hated thinking about how damn right it felt being in his arms, and internally punched herself for being so sappy. But she couldn't help it, it had felt right, it had been the most comfortable she'd felt around someone new since her parents died. She did like it. She was stupid.

He had woken up before his alarm, his arm wrapped loosely about her body, her hand lightly gripping his to keep him in place. She had woken up to the feeling of his breath a bit heavy on her neck, the tightly chorded muscles in his arms flexing around her, the soft, barely there movement of his hips against her ass.

It wasn't a terrible way to wake up, she'd definitely woken up worse.

They had laid like that for a while, Arya resting lightly, yet keenly aware of his presence as he watched her fake sleep. He eventually removed himself from her, untangling her limbs from his. She had woken up then, well, actually opened her eyes, and watched the delicious muscles of his back beneath the soft t-shirt he wore as he sat at the edge of the bed and stretched. She could watch him for hours, watch the play of muscles jump beneath cream colored skin, watch the way he moved both gently and with purpose.

She sat up then, stretching herself and finding herself jokingly singing along with the ringtone he'd chosen as his alarm. He smirked and laughed as he watched her jump on his bed, singing carelessly and without Sansa's usual grace, without Jon’s sense of purpose, sloppy with laughter and breathlessness. The soft smile on his lips and the quiet adoration in his eyes seemed so much more intimate than the fact that she'd slept half the night in his arms, or maybe it was the two combined that made it all seem so... familiar.

It was then that her phone began to ring, The Lobster Quadrille from Alice in Wonderland chipped merrily from her phone, letting her know that her sister was calling. It had been one of Sansa’s favorite songs as a child – even though that weird tv-movie version had been shit – and though it was an odd choice for a ringtone, she felt that it was fitting.

Gendry had stalked off after her bow and sat down to answer the phone, slinking into the bathroom for a shower with clothes in hand. It seemed as though she would unfortunately not be getting any sneak-peaks again. Damn. She had listened to Sansa inform her that Jon had called, letting her know that he took his time off for her birthday and that they would down on Friday. The words her sister specifically used were: family explosion. It was definitely an apt way of describing it.
Gendry had made them both breakfast before he headed out for school and she left to go home, she hadn’t seen him since.

The last few days of that week were spent helping Robb clean up the house in preparation of everyone, the next week was spent helping the two almost-Stark women keep away from each other, and so far this week had been spent in a state of drunken debauchery. There was no other word for it; wonderful, stupid, terrible debauchery.

Sandor had returned home three days ago from the mini-tour they had been on, their last show of the run was of course in their hometown and on Sansa’s birthday. Meeting up with the band last night had been a lot of fun, Arya didn’t often get to hang with them as much as she would like, Sundays excluded, and it was always a good time. But, fuck, she felt like a trash heap.

The party/show was tomorrow. They would do a big dinner tonight as a family, tomorrow morning would be “sister time” – which, was a bit of a nightmare if Arya was being honest – where the girls would go to brunch, shop, and get their nails done. She would comply without much complaint, because she was that good of a little sister, but come time for her own birthday… Sansa better watch out. Then, they would meet up with the boys, do family presents and make their way to the venue to set up and watch sound check.

It was still early, she looked at the clock hanging on the far wall. She would have time to run over to Gendry’s, invite him to the party tomorrow and be back before the mandatory board-game tournament being held before dinner. So far, Bran was the reigning champion, but Sandor and Robb were hot on his tail. Arya couldn’t wait to slay their asses in Clue, she always won Clue.

The pounding behind her eyeballs was beginning to lessen, but she really needed to lie down before she did anything. She stood, grabbing a few pieces of bacon from the plate by the stove, Sandor watching with those narrowed eyes but saying nothing. She was totally his favorite, not like they’d ever admit it, but it was true nonetheless. She snuck out of the kitchen and went upstairs to her old bedroom, it was dark and cool – exactly how she liked it and absolutely perfect for nap-attacks.
She laid down, closing her eyes as she munched on her stolen bacon. Sleep came quickly, her bacon forgotten.

-0-0-

She relentlessly pounded her fist against the door, not caring that it may disturb the other tenants, not caring how utterly annoying it was. Someone came to the door quickly, pulling it open. She smiled up at the sight before her.

Gendry stood in the doorway, hair wet, tank top thrown on, pants unbuttoned and belt unbuckled, a toothbrush hanging out of his mouth. A small streak of grease ran across his lightly freckled nose, clearly unseen by him in his rush to answer the door. It was the goddamn cutest thing she’d ever freaking seen.

Like, come on.

She hadn’t texted or called him to let him know she was coming, she knew he’d probably just gotten back from work and that now would be a good time to come see him about tomorrow. He moved aside and let her in, closing the door behind her. “Hey.” He said, a mouth full of toothpaste.

“Hey.” She chuckled. “I only stopped over quick to give you something.”

She handed over the envelope, waiting as he spit in the sink and bent down to let the running water wash out his mouth. She wasn’t sure why she found the gesture so attractive. He took the envelope from her with a raised brow, “Oh?”

“It’s an invite to Sansa’s birthday.”

He pulled out four tickets and stickers, his brows furrowed before his face went slack and his eyes wide, looking fervently between her and the envelope in his hand. “But, these are Kingsguard tickets.”

“And passes to let you go anywhere in the venue.” She couldn’t keep the small smile off her face or out of her voice at the sight of his reaction.

Gendry leaned back against the counter, the shock so clearly written across his face. “Your sister is having her birthday party at a Kingsguard show?”

Clearly he was seriously underestimating the coolness factor of this family. Every time he thought he had them figured out, they went ahead and did something insanely cool – like casually have a birthday party at the concert of one of the biggest bands to ever come out of Westeros.

“Well, our cousin works at the venue.” It was vague, but true.

“And you’re just handing me four tickets to the show?” It came out a bit skeptical, almost as though he couldn’t believe she was actually inviting him to see his favorite band live for the first time, like this was all one big joke and instead of Kingsguard the fucking Jonas Brothers were playing or some shit. Were they even still relevant? What the fuck did he know. “These certainly aren’t cheap, Arya. Especially since it’s a home show. They sell out so fast, how did you even get these?”

“I already told you, we have a man on the inside. Besides,” She smiled, “Only one of them is for you.” She added cheekily. “The other three are for Podrick, Lommy and Hot Pie.”

He looked down at the tickets in his hand, “Sansa won’t mind the four of us tagging along at her birthday?”

Arya waved her hand dismissively. “Brienne is coming and I’m sure she’ll be thankful for Pod’s company – the whole thing isn’t really her scene. Hot Pie would probably die if he was the only one uninvited, and Lommy would never speak to me again.”

“And me?” Gendry smirked.

She couldn’t help the smile, “Well, I just like having you around.”

He smiled at her before looking back down at the tickets in his hand, like they might disappear if he glanced away for too long. “Fucking Kingsguard tickets. I can’t fucking believe it.” The smile that crossed his lips was so big that it made her want to smile too. “You know I’ve never seen them live? In all the times they’ve placed home shows, I’ve never been able to get tickets. I can’t even believe this is real.”

“Glad I could be of service.” He rolled his eyes at her cheek, but continued reverently staring down at the slips of paper in his hands. “Well, I should get going, big family gathering and all.”

He glanced up, moving to walk her out. “Yeah, all right.”

“Sorry I haven’t been around a lot lately, but if it’s any consolation, this is all really rather exhausting.”

“I’m sure it is.” He smirked.

She walked out the door, turning back to him before she left his presence completely. She really did miss being around him – as loath as she was to admit it, even to herself.

He hadn’t shaved, the dark prickles standing out against his cream colored skin. She wasn’t sure why that was something she noticed. She let her gaze move up to his eyes, the ocean irises almost too blue to be real, his dark hair longer than she had ever seen it, growing out from his last cut and curling about the tops of his ears. Those shoulders were on full display in his wife-beater, the tightly corded muscle straining as always.

She punched him in the stomach, playfully. Her flaw – the total inability to just be emotional. Always the put-together good girl; always the stone-faced fighter.

He chuckled from the blow, pushing her back by the forehead, much how her brothers use to do when she had been younger and annoying them. “Alright, well, I’ll see you on Saturday.”

“Yes you will.” He replied eagerly.

“Bye.” The smile on her face mirrored his own, she wasn’t embarrassed.

“Bye, Arya.”

Her phone began to ring as she turned away from his door, “Hello?”

“Where are you? We’re about to start the first round of Charades.” Ygritte’s loud voice filled her ears, causing Arya to roll her eyes. “Jon says they’re starting without you since you’re going to win anyway.”

“Nuh-uh! No head-starts!” She raced to her car quickly. “Just because I kill at Charades doesn’t mean they get a head-start! Tell that dillhole I said wait.”

“Brienne says to stop and get salsa and chips.”

“You tell her that’s not going to work this time. I’ll be there in ten, and she better not have another teammate.”

Ygritte just laughed and hung up. God, her family was exhausting.

-0-0-

She plopped down into the chair beside Sansa, surveying the room they had just helped set up. The sounds of checking guitars and drums could be heard; the shouts of “Check, check.” were consuming her brain. Brienne smoothed down the tablecloth before placing the bag of party favors on top of it.

They had been here for a few hours, it wouldn’t be long before the doors opened and people began spilling in. She was already exhausted and the show hadn’t even started yet. Their morning had been filled with shopping and chatting and keeping Ygritte and Jeynie from biting each other’s fingers off. Now, all Arya wanted to do was relax.

She grabbed at the drink on the table, letting it slide down her throat easily. Sansa tut-tut-ed beside her and removed the glass from her hand. “Um, excuse me, Lolita, but I’m pretty sure your babyface means you can’t just down my drink.”

Arya just sent her sister a narrowed eyed look. “Seriously, Sansa? I think the other night with Beric and Thoros clearly means you can’t give me that excuse anymore.”

Sansa rolled her eyes, “That was at home, not in public.”

“Please.” She lifted her hand towards her sister. “That’s hilarious. Excuse me as I go get a real drink from Theon.”

She slid off the chair and went to the bar right behind where their table was set up. It was a bit back from the stage, the bar along the stage-right wall, giving them a good view. Theon was taking stock again, double and triple checking as was customary seeing as his boss was a total prick.

She easily ducked under the bar and went about pouring herself a soda/liquor combo drink, Theon barely paying her any mind. “You know that Robb will not approve if he finds you sloshed behind my bar.” He didn’t even look up from his clipboard.

“Do I look like someone who cares?”

The smirk rose on Theon’s lips and she knew he didn’t really care either. Bran and Rickon walked in then, accompanied by Benjen. They technically weren’t allowed in the venue – seeing as it served alcohol and all – but Theon didn’t care and the band made sure it was a non-issue. She quickly poured the two of them a soda as they made their way over to where she stood behind the bar.

“Hey.” Bran grabbed his glass first, looking up at the stage as the band went through the chorus of a song, making it almost impossible to hear or speak.

She snuck out from behind the bar to grab Rickon and drag him over to the vast open space before the stage. He was a bit more easy-going than Bran, more likely to partake in silly games and gestures. She held onto his wrists and began to spin with him, laughing as he almost tripped and fell and toppled them over.

“Wow, someone needs some dancing lessons.” Beric whistled into the mic at their terrible display of coordination. She just gave him the finger, causing the rest of them to laugh.

They walked back to the bar to grab their drinks, Bran sitting in her spot besides Sansa at the tall table, Benjen in a discussion with Theon, Brienne scrolling through Tumblr on her phone. Arya walked over to the blonde, plopping down on the dirty floor beside her.

“This floor is mega disgusting.”

“No one asked you to sit here, princess.” She didn’t even look up from her phone.

Arya sent her a glare that went mainly unnoticed and sighed, leaning back against the wall. “I’m already tired.”

Brienne snorted, “Well, strap in. You know how these nights usually go.”

And she did. Most of the time Kingsguard fans were crazy, but she knew tonight would be something to remember. The family had come to see Sandor play before, usually in pairs or small groups when they had the time, Jon and Ygritte had even went when the band played up North one time. But, this was definitely the first time the family was all together, the first time a tour fell on a birthday – Sansa’s birthday – and at a home venue. She knew this was going to be exhausting, especially with all they had planned for tonight, she just hoped the two Starks-to-be didn’t start a drunken cat-fight because Arya had no doubt that Ygritte would win and then Robb would be mad that his bride-to-be had no eyes.

Her phone buzzed in her pocket, a message from Gendry letting her know that they were on their way to the venue. It made her a bit more excited than she had just been, but also made her groan at the thought of all those people filling the space they were quietly occupying currently.

She texted him back quickly and leaned her head against Brienne’s broad shoulder, glancing down at the phone in her hand. She was on Instagram now, scrolling through and a photo of Jaime Lannister caught her eye. She had met him a few times when Sansa had been dating Joffrey, but it was still hard for her to pinpoint anything about him. He was hard to read, hard to nail down, but she would eventually figure him out and his purpose to her – that she had no doubt.

The guys quit sound checking a few minutes later, Sandor coming to stand beside Sansa, dropping a kiss down on her awaiting lips. They were an odd couple at best, but they seemed to work. The rest of the band clamored over to the bar, Thoros already starting to down his pre-show whiskey and chatting with Theon. She knew it would only be a little while more before they retired backstage to wait for the show to start, for people to start filing in.

She groaned again into Brienne’s shoulder and watched as she texted Pod. Arya sighed, knowing that she needed to pep herself up before the big event, or else she’d be dragging all night. She hauled herself up off the grimy floor and the comfort of Brienne’s sturdy shoulder, made her way over to the bar to pour herself a large class of soda. She did five jumping jacks and demanded Lem play Slaps with her to wake her up.

The two other sibling pairs were to arrive any minute and then the onslaught of rabid fans would descend upon them shortly. She looked over to where Sansa was smiling brightly up at Sandor, both of them oblivious to anything else. She wondered if all love was like that, or if they were just annoyingly among the lucky few.

Jon and Robb texted Sansa to let them know they were on their way and the band’s manager came out to tell everyone that doors opened in forty-five. Arya just took a large sip of her soda – let’s do this.

-0-0-

Gendry stood on the long line, his hands sweating, his heart pounding rapidly within his chest. This was basically the single-most coolest thing he’d done in his short life. Seeing Kingsguard at their home shows was something people talked about for years, apparently when they played in their hometown something crazy or interesting always happened; special guests, onstage antics, total debauchery.

Hot Pie was busy excitedly talking poor Pod’s ear off to his right, Lommy casually texting against the brick wall to their left. They had all absolutely freaked when he’d called them and told them of the news.

He had drummed his fingers nervously against the counter, waiting for any of them to answer their phones. Pod picked up first, because he was Pod and ever responsible. “You’re not even going to believe what just happened.”

“Oh, I won’t, will I?”

Gendry could hear the small smirk in his voice, oh he really did have no idea.

“Arya just stopped by with an invite to Sansa’s birthday. Guess where the fuck she’s having her birthday party?” Gendry leaned back into the counter, hopping on the balls of his feet.

“I dunno, Gen, where?” The genuine curiosity in his voice was not lost on him, but he could also tell that Podrick thought that he might be over reacting just a bit. Well, he wouldn’t think he was over reacting when he found out where they were going that weekend.

He took a breath and smiled as the words flew out of his mouth, “The fucking Kingsguard show at the Dragonpit. Pod, they’re playing a fucking home show at the Dragonpit and we have fucking tickets to see them! I’m dying. I think I may actually be dying.”

It was then that Gendry heard struggling and instead of Podrick’s voice, Lommy’s answered. “Are you fucking kidding me right now, Waters? I swear to the old Gods and the new that if you’re fucking with me I will tickle your balls in your sleep.”

His brow furrowed and his nose scrunched at Lommy’s odd threat, “As appealing as I’m sure that is, Lom, I’m not lying. We have tickets and all access passes to their show on Friday.”

“All of us?” He could hear Podrick again, which could mean that he escaped from Lommy’s hold, or the phone was now on speaker. “We’re all invited?”

“Even Pie.”

“Oh my god.” Lommy yelled out. “We’re going to the fucking show! Someone get me a penis and some vodka because we need to celebrate!”

They ended up here a few days later, in line, waiting not so patiently, and a bit more than excited. Lommy was great at the whole it’s whatever, man thing, just casually leaning and texting like this wasn’t a huge deal while looking like a descendant of James Dean. Hot Pie wasn’t as great at reigning himself in, Podrick was the king of shy smiles and paying close attention to detail. And Gendry? Well, he was attempting to regulate the beating of his heart and keep the smile from piercing his cheeks.

The line moved and so did they. He checked his phone again, seeing if Arya had sent him another text. She had let him know earlier to find her once he got in the venue, that she’d come to him.

He still couldn’t believe that Sansa was just casually having her birthday at a rock show. Was that, like normal? He wouldn’t pretend to know what people did or what was usual, but this seemed a little out there. The absolute coolest for sure, but out there.

They moved up again, the door very near and in reach. They each had their stickers pressed onto their person, tickets in hand. The line moved again, the loud sounds of chatting people was all he could hear, they reached the door. The guy checked their tickets and I.D.s before letting them through the door, following in with a mass of people herded like sheep.

The venue itself was pretty big. The Dragonpit was one of Westeros’ oldest and coolest venues, only outshined by the Eyrie and the Twins. The club was much smaller than the usual arena-type venues that Kingsguard played, more intimate. That’s why tickets were so expensive, why they sold out so easily – there were barely any to begin with.

It was dark inside, all standing room, a long bar along the far wall, the upstairs lined with bannisters to keep people from falling, but all open space to look down and see. The stage was pretty wide, definitely good from every angle – one of the reasons the Dragonpit had such a good reputation for shows; the sound was incredible and the visual was great.

Gendry could just barely make out a table set up near the front of the bar, facing the stage, long red hair caught his eye as well as cropped blonde. He quickly texted Arya as they got swept up in the crowd, Lommy dragging Pod straight to the bar, he and Hot Pie following behind them.

Gendry: Heading to the bar, I think I see Sansa and Brienne.

He kept an eye out for Arya as they pushed their way up to the front, Lommy slapping down his hands in giddy excitement, Podrick rolling his eyes and Hot Pie already attempting to sidle up to some girl beside them.

Arya: On my way.

He read the message before looking around for her, noting that in this crowd he’d have to be extra vigilant. The barkeep made his way over to them, drawing him out of his search. “What’ll be?”

“Give me a gin and tonic.”

The three of them looked at Lommy with disdain before asking for beer and soda. The barkeep smirked before moving to grab the two beers, one soda, and the gin and tonic for Lommy. Gendry was sipping his soda when a hand slapped down at the bar, grabbing not only their attention, but the barkeep’s as well.

“These are ours, they drink for free.”

He smiled down at Arya, only mildly embarrassed by how wide it was. He hadn’t really seen her at all since their little slumber-jam or whatever, busy with her huge family and Sansa’s birthday, her time had been stolen from him. He didn’t want to admit that he was going through slight withdrawal from her presence, but he wouldn’t deny it either.

She smiled back up at him and winked, the barkeep smirking as he set down the rest of the drinks before moving on to another group, “You got it.”

“Arry!” Hot Pie squished between then, clearly no longer occupied by the girl he had been attempting to flirt with previously. He captured her in a bear hug, “It’s been so long, where have you been?”

“Killing myself.” She managed as she squeezed him back.

Hot Pie was of course pushed out of the way, knocking back into a few other people waiting at the bar, Lommy taking his place and spinning Arya around in his arms while holding her tightly to his chest. It was something Gendry longed to do himself, and wouldn’t deny the small bit of jealousy that rose up at the sight. Arya just threw her head back and laughed as Lommy put her down, but didn’t release her from his arms.

“Don’t you dare go AWOL on us like that again. I miss your face.”

She smirked up at him, “I miss your face too.” She moved out of his grasp and over to Podrick, throwing an arm around his shoulders and squeezing him in a side hug that they had become fond of. “Brienne is over there at Sansa’s table. She’s ready to slaughter, if you want to go save her.”

Pod just smiled and nodded, leaving to find Brienne. Lommy was already chatting up some attractive dude leaning against the bar, Hot Pie once again attempting to be smooth around the opposite gender and failing. Both of them once again distracted and ignoring him and Arya now that they got their hugs out of the way.

She moved back over toward him, cautiously it seemed, almost as though she were afraid of her own movements. At the last minute she became herself again, slight determination set on her face, a sneakiness in her silver eyes, she threw her arms around his middle. He instinctively wrapped his arms around her shoulders, keeping her to him. She rested her head against his chest for a moment, and in that moment he could pretend that they were more than friends, that this was easy and comfortable and not at all out of the ordinary. He could pretend that she was his and he was hers. He could pretend a lot of things.

She pulled back from his chest to look up at him, not out of his arms. The easy smile on her lips, the softness his her eyes, it made his heart beat embarrassingly faster. “I missed your face too, I guess.” The sarcasm laced with those soft eyes and small smile was an odd juxtaposition that seemed fitting in her, that he expected and also didn’t. It made him smile nonetheless.

“I missed you too, Arya.”

She seemed to like the blunt nature of his words, the directness of his gaze. She smiled up at him, seemingly unaware of the smile gracing her lips. It was different, she looked happy. Calm, relaxed, happy. He hoped he had something to do with it.

“Come on,” She pulled out of his arms and he felt the loss immediately. “The fam-bam is all gathered by Sansa, it’s time you met the Starks.”

He followed behind her, weaving through people as they made their way over to the high circular table that Sansa sat at. The table cloth was Harry Potter printed with lighting bolts and brooms scattered around it, the Boy Who Lived popping up a few times. A bag of party favors sat in the middle, cards and a few gifts placed around it. A singular red balloon was tied to the back of her chair, effectively pronouncing her as the birthday girl.

He could see Brienne and Pod lingering against a wall opposite of where they stood across the table, talking about something – most likely Science notes or something equally as geeky.

Arya nudged her sister, who was talking to a younger boy that was very obviously the baby Stark, beside him sat who he knew to be Bran, the one he’d helped Arya give advice to. He looked a bit bored as he sipped at his soda and watched the crowd around them. Leaning against the edge of the bar behind them was a man that could only be Ned’s brother, they looked too alike for Gendry not to notice it.

Standing with him were the two older brothers. Jon he remembered from school, the other one had been older than them and he couldn’t recall his name. A dark haired woman stood tucked under one of his arms as she looked down at her phone, the older brother didn’t seem to mind as he engaged in conversation with the other two men.

Sansa turned from where she had been talking to the youngest brother and smiled as she saw him, “Hi, Gendry! Thanks for coming.” Her smile was bright and her eyes showed a natural sincerity that was missing from most people. He found it hard not to smile back when in her presence.

“Thank you for inviting me. Happy birthday.” He fished out an envelope from his back pocket to hand to her.

She looked thoroughly touched at the notion and placed it down on the table before pulling him into a hug. In the tall chair they were easily the same height, her even a bit higher than him. He accepted the hug and nodded when she thanked him.

“You really didn’t have to do that, Gendry. But thank you, you’re so sweet.”

He shrugged a shoulder, trying to resist the hand that wanted nothing more than to rise and bury itself in the back of his hair, a nervous gesture he had picked up in childhood. “It’s nothing.”

“We’re getting some food after this, cake too. I’d love it if you joined us.”

He instinctually looked over at Arya who was leaning against the table, watching the interaction carefully. “Sure, of course.”

“Great.” Sansa beamed, clapping her hands together joyfully.

Arya smirked, but said nothing. Instead, she moved closer to him, “Alright, ready for the Stark family breakdown?”

He nodded, playfully serious. “I think my mental capacity can handle it.”

“So, that’s Sansa, obviously.” She pointed to her sister and then to the younger boy next to her. “That’s Rickon, the baby. He’s twelve but a total Jon already; he’s basically cooler than all of us. That’s Bran, but you know that.” She moved over to where her uncle was standing with her brothers. “That’s Uncle Benjen in the middle, he’s a pretty cool guy. You remember Jon, that’s Robb, the oldest. And tucked in beside him like a leech is his fiancé Jeynie – but don’t call her that, she hates it. The bartender you met was our sort-of cousin Theon, and Ygritte is somewhere around here. If she makes you feel extremely uncomfortable, that means she likes you.”

All Gendry could do was nod as she pointed out family members and small notable facts about them. He knew some of them already, like Sansa and Jon, but it was interesting hearing it from her.

It was getting loud around them, the crowds of people pushing to get towards the front of the stage, the open floor plan and a few scattered tables by the bar made it easy for people to mingle and form a pit. He could feel his excitement rushing back, his heart pounding, he felt nervous for some reason. He found Arya smirking up at him, a sort of twinkle in her eye.

They moved over to where Podrick and Beienne were leaning against the wall beside the table, an excellent view of the stage and out of the way of the crowd. Gendry could still see Lommy at the bar, chatting up some guy, but Hot Pie seemed to have given up his search and instead was standing with his beer in his hand, chanting along with some people near him.

He noted that Sansa didn’t exactly look excited, the small smile in the corners of her lips were more at ease and happy than excited, which he found interesting. Why spend your birthday at a concert if you weren’t even excited about the band?

The house lights began to dip, darkness falling across them as the stage lights slowly began to rise. His heart was in his throat, he unconsciously leaned forward a bit, he felt Arya chuckle from beside him. The band walked on stage and the whole venue started screaming. Even Sansa. Maybe she did like them after all.

He could barely hear himself think over the noise, his excitement overruling everything else. He could see Arya beside him, cool as a cucumber as she watched the band pick up their instruments and the crowd erupt into a pile frantic energy, a smile settled onto her otherwise calm features. He didn’t have time to think on how odd he found it, instead he found himself engulfed by the wailing, rapid notes of the guitar as Beric Dondarrion’s voice began to ring out over them.

The first song started up – a classic, to which the crowd died for. They were great, better than great, live and Gendry easily found himself falling into the chords and beats he knew by heart, casually screaming out with the rest of the people packed into the Dragonpit.

They ran right into the second song, not even giving them a break to catch up, playing a song off their newer record that was a fan favorite. He was so taken by the fact that he was living out an actual fantasy he’d had once before, that he hardly felt Arya move over towards him, throwing her arm around his shoulders and pulling him down to her level. She snapped the picture quickly, the ridiculous smile on his face was enough to make him cringe on any normal day – but this was not a normal day.

She smiled up at him as she sent off the picture to someone, he nodded his head down towards her, bringing his mouth down to her ear. He would freely admit that the small shiver that took over her at the gesture made him sweat, but with too many conflicting things catching his attention tonight, he attempted to stay on task.

“Who are you sending that to?”

She looked up at him, in their close proximity he could almost count the lashes that sat heavily above those electric metal eyes. “Instagram, and your Mom.”

He chuckled at her joke, looking down at her with a side eye, a smirk on his mouth. Her brows furrowed as she looked at him with slightly narrowed eyes, that small smile in the corner of her mouth told him she wasn’t kidding.

“You’re sending pictures to my Mom?”

Arya rolled her eyes, “Relax, Cujo. She friended me on Facebook like two weeks ago. I promised her that I’d get some pictures from tonight and send them to her.”

His brows furrowed as he looked down at her, Arya and his mother were on speaking terms? When the hell did that happen? His phone buzzed in his hand from where he had been taking pictures of Kingsguard with an Instagram tag and a text from his mom. Embarrassing.

Beric Dondarrion’s voice broke his train of thought and quickly brought his attention back up to the stage.

“Alright, alright. How we doing tonight?” The crowd screamed in response and he smirked, as did Thoros of Myr. Lem Lemoncloak just hit the drums a bit harder in his fill behind Beric and the Hound said nothing as he strummed gently on the guitar in anticipation. “Fantastic, that’s what we like to hear. We of course have a few surprises for you all tonight; we’d never leave you hanging. For now though, let’s throw it back with something off the first album.”

Gendry quickly seemed to forget about his Mom and Arya as they began playing another favorite song amongst the crowd. He was lost to her then, recording video on his phone, taking pictures, generally enraptured.

His Mom really had Facebooked her a few weeks ago, friending her and messaging her. The message had been really quite sweet, asking if she was the Arya her Gendry had been talking about recently, telling her how pretty she was, how nice of a man her father had been. They had only chatted a few times, but Lia Waters seemed so much like Gendry from the little Arya had spoken to her and she was instantly in love with the woman. Apparently Lia heard they were going to the concert and requested some pictures, knowing Gendry wouldn’t do it – who was Arya to deny her?

She watched the people around her during the next few songs, Bran had moved to stand between her and Brienne, leaning against the wall and watching the show. Rickon was still seated beside Sansa, who was smiling wide as she watched Sandor play, their brother sipping his soda casually next to her.

Ygritte had apparently introduced herself to Lommy and they were jumping up and down like fools to the song at the edge of the crowd, Jon watching with a smirk on his face from where he stood at the end of the bar with Robb, Jeynie and Benjen. Hot Pie wasn’t far from Lommy and Ygritte, drink in one hand as he sang along with the music – air drums and all.

And Gendry?

Well, he was watching the stage with rapt attention, the cutest smile stuck in the corner of his lips. The dark sweater he wore complimented his cream colored skin, bringing out the richness of his dark hair, the blue of his eyes. In the dim, smoky atmosphere of the Dragonpit he almost looked like he should be up on that stage, hordes of girls swooning over him. Why did his stupid face have to be so damn handsome?

She snuck past him easily, he barely noticed her leave, it was getting past her family that was the tricky part. She sidestepped Sansa’s table, nodding at her older brothers and Uncle, Jeynie too since she was in the vicinity. She took the long way around, swooping around the entirety of the crowd and making her way towards the opposite side of the stage from the wall where they had been leaning.

She nodded at the security guard – Tim – who nodded back at her, letting her behind the gate and at the side of the stage. She could just make out where her sister sat from where she was, good that meant Sansa couldn’t see her either.

She quickly snapped a picture of the band from where she stood and waited as the song ended. They had planned this out a while ago, it was the first time a show had fallen on Sansa’s birthday and Sandor wanted to make it memorable. That’s where she came in.

People knew who they were – sort of. Kingsguard was a pretty famous band, won Grammy’s and everything, which of course meant that the media followed them around to an extent. Beric as the front man was the hottest ticket item up for bid, they followed him the most, as he did the most interviews and talk shows, had the most rabid fanbase of them all. Thoros’ life was a hilarious mess that the paparazzi loved to be a part of; he was on more trashy tabloid covers than anyone. Honestly, he should win an award for that crowning achievement.

Lem and Sandor were pretty low-key – they lived in nice, gated neighborhoods, attended the mandatory functions, and were written about every so often. But, Sansa was an interest for them.

She was young, beautiful, and in love with the industry’s most famous bad boy – who was ten years her senior and definitely not as hot to trot as she was. They were intrigued by her, by their relationship, but knew very little about her and about said relationship. Sandor liked to keep it that way. But, that didn’t stop their picture from ending up online sometimes.

The song ended, the lasting notes of Sandor’s guitar and the screams of fans were the only things left. Beric looked over to where she stood, checking to see if she was there, he chuckled into the mic.

“Thank you.” Sandor looked over at her, giving just a slight nod as Beric kept speaking. “As promised, we have just one tiny little surprise.” He turned to her fully, gesturing for her to come up.

She trotted up the few steps and onto the stage, coming to stand in between Sandor and Beric, smiling over at Sansa and her family. She could see Gendry’s eyes widen from here, the small furrow between his brows, Hot Pie and Lommy were holding each other, screaming, she couldn’t help but laugh at it all.

“You may be wondering why this enchanting wolf-girl is beside me. Well, as you may know, our dear old Hound has a lady love himself and we hear it’s her birthday.” The crowd screamed, but Arya knew it was mostly hollers from her family, Sansa’s smile wide enough to hurt her cheeks. Beric threw his arm about her shoulders, pulling her close to the mic. “This sassy sprite is the sister, and she has a few things she’d like to say.”

Arya took the mic from Beric, his arm still heavy around her shoulders, her own arm settled about his waist. “Our dearest Sansa, the mother hen, the ethereal goddess, the eternal pain in my ass.” The crowd chuckled. “None of us would be functioning without you. So, without further ado, Happy Birthday!”

Beric released her quickly and the band began to play a rock version of Happy Birthday with Arya and Beric leading. The crowd joined in almost immediately, cheering and singing together off key. Sansa clapped along, the biggest smile on her face, their family all laughing around her.

Once Happy Birthday ended, Arya moved over to where Sandor stood, grabbing his shoulder and leaning into him. “Alright, now Ms. Wolf-girl would like to sing her sister their most favorite song. I think we can make that happen, don’t you?”

Sansa looked like she was holding her breath as the band began to play. It wasn’t as slow or dreamy as when their mother use to sing it, the upped pace and overall aesthetic of the band gave it a rockish vibe, but there was no mistaking the song.

“Stars shining bright above you / night breezes seem to whisper I love you / birds singing in the sycamore tree / Dream a little dream of me.”

Arya was using Sandor’s generally unused mic, staring down her sister over the crowd. She didn’t public sing often, because that was Sansa’s natural talent and not hers. But, Cat had passed down that ability to both of them and she truly did love her sister, so here she was.

The boys had gathered around the table, Ygritte sitting beside Sansa, Brienne leaning on the table next to Rickon, Jeynie still tucked into Robb’s arm. She noted that Lommy and Hot Pie were still howling and whoot-ing up at her and that Pod had moved to where Gendry still stood against the wall.

“Say nighty-night and kiss me / Just hold me tight and tell me you'll miss me / While I'm alone, blue as can be / Dream a little dream of me.”

 

He looked up at her in awe, as though he’d never seen anything like her before. She had to pull her gaze away from him before she forgot the words to the only song she absolutely knew by heart. She instead focused on Theon in the back, smirking at her from where he rested against the edge of the bar, saluting her with his shot glass. She moved back to her sister, who was holding a hand to her lips and looked suspiciously close to crying.

“Stars fading but I linger on, dear / Still craving your kiss / I'm longing to linger till dawn, dear / Just saying this...”

It was risky singing Dream A Little Dream, mostly because it brought back uncomfortable memories of their mother not being dead. But, one look in Sansa’s eyes across the venue told her that it paid off, she was touched, and that was all anyone could ask for.

“Sweet dreams till sunbeams find you / Sweet dreams that leave all worries behind you / But in your dreams, whatever they be / Dream a little dream of me.”

The last notes of the song rang out, Sandor throwing an arm around her shoulders and bringing her to his side as they smiled over at Sansa, who in turn, sent them a kiss and wiped at her eyes.

“Happy birthday, Little Bird.” He grumbled into the mic that was still clutched in Arya’s hands.

Beric smirk-smiled over at them, “Why don’t you give us a bow, Little Wolf.”

Arya rolled her eyes at the very obvious play on Sandor’s nickname for her sister, but complied and gave a small bow. She placed the mic back in it’s stand and turned, giving Sandor a quick piggyback-hug before running off stage as they started up the next song.

She was on the other side of the room from her family, but it didn’t take long for her to run right into Gendry.

She almost fell backwards from the force of which she’d just practically slammed into his body, but he didn’t even seem phased as he caught her by the elbows to steady her. His eyes were frantic as he looked down at her, “Your sister is dating the Hound?” He yelled at her over the music. “The Hound is Sansa’s boyfriend?” He cried almost hysterically. Honestly, if he didn’t seem so broken up about the whole thing she may have laughed out loud at his very intense reaction to the subject. “Why didn’t you tell me?”

“Gen.” She brought her hands up to rest on the front of his shoulders, palms lying flat over those lickable collarbones. His hands fell from her elbows, hanging in the air beside her body. “It’s really not that big of a deal.”

“Not that big of a deal!” He cried. “Of course it’s a big deal! It’s the biggest deal! The Hound, Arya, The Hound.”

“Oh my god, would you stop fangirling for five seconds and get a grip?” She shook his shoulders a bit, a smile on her lips and a laugh in her voice. “You do realize you’ll be hanging out with him after the show, right?”

The color drained from his face, his eyes widening a bit. “Excuse me?”

She couldn’t help but laugh at how drama he was being. “Did you, or did you not tell Sansa that you’d come for cake after this?”

He nodded, “I did, yeah.”

“Well, obviously he’ll be there.” She reached up and patted him on the cheek. “Hopefully you won’t faint in your birthday cake.”

He attempted to grab her wrist, but she twisted away from him, too fast for his nonsense. “Oh, I’ll show you fainting in your birthday cake – get over here.”

She laughed as he chased her, trying to catch her and tickle her into either admitting defeat, or apologizing for her crack at him. She was fast, weaving in and out of people in the crowd, the loud music from his favorite band playing over them as he chased her. Her hair was down, flying around her as she threw her head back and laughed, dodging him yet again. She was the most memorizing thing he’d ever seen.

This was by far one of the best nights of his life. The only thing that’d make it that much sweeter would be Arya back in his arms. She bolted from his right, a smirk in her eyes and a giddy, playful smile on her lips as he ran after her. Maybe this could be just as good.

Maybe.

Chapter Text

Gendry couldn’t keep his eyes off her.

It wasn’t an unusual occurrence, more often than not he found himself unable to stop looking at her. But tonight, it was just different.

Her dark hair was down, hanging around her face, highlighting those light eyes of hers. The loose striped shirt she wore paired with her tight black pants made him feel oddly comforted, like not everything in his world had been rocked. She looked normal and beautiful, just as she always did. The smile etched onto those naturally downturned lips made his heart beat faster in his chest.

Arya Stark lived with Sandor “The Hound” Clegane.

Arya was practically married into the Kingsguard family.

He would be casually hanging out with his favorite band of all time.

Excuse him as he basically died.

She finally let him catch up with her, smiling as they stood on the opposite side of the bar from where her family resided. Theon placed down a vodka infused soda down on the bar for Arya and a regular one for him, winking as headed back down the bar to tend to other customers.

They leaned against the bar for a while, watching the show. Gendry was enraptured, as he should be, and his gaze was constantly torn between her and the stage. Kingsguard was just as amazing, if not more, than he always thought they’d be, Beric Dondarrion’s voice was just as it was on the record, the Hound’ solos were even more shred-worthy in person, all in all he could easily mark this off his bucket list.

They played for about an hour more, going straight through their repertoire, apparently even specifically playing Sansa’s favorite song. Arya stood with him for the rest of the night, they had eventually moved away from the bar, Pod and Brienne moseying over to them at some point and watching from a bit farther back.

Hot Pie and Lommy were totally sloshed, hanging all over each other with Ygritte laughing and jumping about with them. Ygritte wasn’t totally drunk, that’s just the way she got when she was having a grand time. Arya had seen her do weirder things sober, which is how they created the sliding scale for her.

Arya watched as the show was winding down, she had seen them live enough times to know when things were getting towards the end. Lem was pouring water all over himself from where he sat behind the drum set, Thoros was drinking Jack straight out of the bottle, and Sandor was looking angrier than usual. Beric was the only one that looked any semblance of totally fine, but that wasn't shocking.

She began to see people in the audience pointing and a loud scream over took the venue, the crowd jumping, hands in the air. Arya looked around, attempting to find the source of the commotion. She could see Sandor looking around and then rolling his eyes and shaking his head.

There, standing on the stairs of stage right was fucking Melisandre. The Red fucking Woman herself. Great.

“You’ve got to be fucking kidding me.” She muttered.

Brienne caught her gaze and sent her a knowing look. Anyone that was close with the band knew just how crazy Thoros and Melisandre’s break up actually was, and knew just how bat shit fucking crazy Melisandre tended to be. Like, somehow cracked his windshield by staring at it next level crazy shit.

Ygritte immediately turned around and sent Arya and Brienne a hilarious wide-eyed, open mouthed look that clearly showed she was attempting not to laugh at the fact that Thoros' ex-girlfriend was standing on his side of the stage and he didn't even know. God, this wasn’t going to be great.

“Is that…” Gendry leaned forward, brows furrowed in confusion. “Is that the Red Woman?”

Arya just rolled her eyes, “Yeah.”

“Do you like… know her?”

“Um, yeah. Sort of.”

He could feel his face dropping into a shocked expression at the confirmation. He really shouldn't be shocked by now, he should just assume that Arya knew these people. Brienne leaned in towards them at the sight of face, “Thoros and Melisandre use to date. They don’t anymore, it was kind of a nightmare.”

The way they all spoke so casually about actual rockstars had Gendry’s mind reeling.

“I hate her.” Arya chimed in from beside him, rolling her eyes up at the stage. “She's a crazy bitch. They are not going to be happy that she's here.”

They started up their closing song, the drums loud and clear from where they stood further back from the stage, Sandor's quick fingers moving up and down the neck of the guitar, and as soon as Beric began to sing – fucking Melisandre walks out on stage. The crowd started going nuts, screaming and jumping like this was another surprise. Well, surprise – it wasn't.

Melisandre practically slinked over to Thoros, letting her hands slither up his shoulders in an odd half-embrace. He looked livid, not at all happy to have his ex-girlfriend canoodling with him on stage at his own show. As if sensing that it didn't matter if he was playing bass or not, he would physically remove her from the stage, she moved away from him, grabbing his mic and sidling over towards Beric.

She began singing with him, harmonizing as they had done before. When she and Thoros had still been dating, it wasn't uncommon for her to appear at Kingsguard shows and sing with them. She did have an amazing voice – Arya'd give her that – but the fact that she just randomly showed up and crashed the party only solidified the fact that she was definitely mentally unstable or looking to end up on E!News.

Beric looked at her lazily, not engaging her while they were on stage. Normally when they'd sing together, they'd really sing together, playing off one another, using each other's talent to push them further. Not tonight, Arya noticed. No, right now Beric was looking at her like a mom who'd done something ultra embarrassing to her children. Arya just couldn't believe she had the balls.

The crowd clearly didn't get the memo that this was super awkward and as the song ended they erupted into loud applause once again. Beric simply said into the microphone rather unenthusiastically as Melisandre bowed, “Melisandre, everyone.” The crowd screamed and she smirked as she once again slinked off the stage, touching Thoros' shoulders again as she passed.

Beric thanked everyone for coming out, went on for a little bit about the next record and then bid everyone a goodnight. The lights dimmed and the guys walked offstage, their roadies coming out to grab their equipment.

“Come on.” Arya grabbed Gendry's hand in her own, ignoring the way that it could potentially be weird. He didn't say anything about it either as they walked over to where Ygritte, Lommy and Hot Pie were standing.

“Where are we going?” He questioned.

“Backstage.”

“Excuse me?”

Gendry's wheezy tone made her laugh, but she said nothing on the subject and continued to drag him further into the crowd, Pod and Brienne trailing behind them. They reached the small group, Lommy yelling about Melisandre, Hot Pie yelling about how hot she was, and Ygritte just yelling, beer in hand. Alright, maybe she was a little drunk.

“Let's go, guys.”

Ygritte threw an arm about her shoulders and laughed as they all made their way to where security stood in front of a hallway. The guy nodded at the girls, checking the boys' passes before letting them all through. Arya knew her siblings wouldn't be far behind them as they lazily made their way back to the green room. She pushed the door open with her foot, considering that Ygritte wrapped herself around her and her other hand was still in Gendry's.

Everyone inside was lounging on the sofas and chairs, drinking and talking about the show. They looked up at the door opening and smirked at the way Arya was ignoring Ygritte wrapped around her.

“Hey guys.”

Thoros chuckled and scooted over on his couch, smirk-smiling at Arya and Ygritte. “Well, come on over here, girl. It's been a while.” Ygritte skipped out and Arya's arms and went straight to Thoros, already playing some childish hand-game that Ygritte had taught him the last time they'd hung out.

Arya just shook her head as they began to play and moved further into the room to let the others come in. Sandor looked at her intently, focusing on the fact that her hand was still in Gendry's. She wanted to pull away from him, not liking the attention it was causing, but at the same time she didn't. They were just friends, that was a fact, but she felt like Sandor could sense that she wanted it to be more.

Thankfully, Hot Pie, who was a little more loose-limbed than normal, knocked into them and caused their hands to part. The four of them looked completely star-struck and unsure of how to act or even breath. Arya couldn't help but smirk at the way they were acting – totally trying to be normal, but failing miserably.

Brienne smirked as she sat down on the couch beside Sandor, knowing that she'd scoot over when Arya decided to sit. She cleared her throat a little, her arm out gesturing to the clump of guys at her side. “Uh, these are my friends. Friends, this is Kingsguard.”

The band smirked up at the boys that were very clearly trying to act normal and not swoon at the sight of their favorite band up close. They just attempted to casually sit down on the couch behind them when the Starks burst into the room with large smiles and proclamations of how good the set was. Arya used that as her chance to take her seat without drawing attention to herself and moved to sit in between Brienne and Sandor.

Sansa immediately sought Sandor out, dropping down onto his lap and kissing him soundly. Arya wrinkled her nose at the action more for show than anything, it wasn't great to have your sister making out beside you, but it wasn't as gross as it has once been in the past. At least they were tamer in public these days.

Rickon came and threw himself across her and Brienne's laps, lying casually across them, the top of his head resting on Sandor's thigh. “Oomph. Watch where you jump, gremlin.” Brienne sighed.

Her youngest brother just poked Brienne in the boob, straight-faced as he usually was. “Anything for you, Brie-bear.”

Brienne scrunched her face at the horrid nickname he'd been calling her since he was old enough to talk. She just leaned over and began poking at his ticklish sides and asking him as he laughed, “You like that, huh? Yeah, didn't think so. Stop poking my boobs, cretin.”

Arya looked over at the rest of her family, noting that Jon had sat next to Ygritte and Thoros, who were still playing that damn hand-game, Bran beside them. Robb and Jeynie were standing with Lem as he chatted with Benjen about God knows. And the boys? They were sitting on their couch looking forced casual, taking everything in.

“So, are we gonna talk about Melisandre being crazy?” She wasn't sure why her mouth opened and words came out, maybe it was because of how basically terrified Gendry looked.

Brienne snorted and Sandor just shook his head, Sansa nodding in agreement. “Yeah, what was that all about anyway? Did you plan that?”

Sandor sent her a side eye that clearly stated he had no part in the Red Woman's crazy shenanigans. “Absolutely not.”

Beric shook his head from where he sat at the long mirror that lined one of the walls. “She's fucking off her rocker.”

“Hi, how crazy was that? She just straight up photo-bombed your concert.” Arya snorted.

Beric and Lem laughed, but Thoros looked a bit angry as he played with Ygritte. “She clearly doesn't understand the term 'broken up'.” He responded, his slight distraction letting Ygritte win, causing a curse to fall from his lips.

“No,” Beric snorted. “She understands it all right, she's just trying to slither back into your bed is all.”

“Yeah, she really didn't take the break up too well, did she?” Sansa added, fiddling with the back of Sandor's hair.

“That's to be expected.” Thoros replied. “She's insane.”

Lem, clearly over the conversation and being in the crowded room, turned towards everyone and shouted excitedly. “Alright, so whose ready to move this party to the real party locale?”

Sansa looked down at Sandor from where she was perched on his lap, “We don't have to do anything if you're tired. We could just go back to the house and have cake.”

“Nonsense!” Thoros stood, leaving Ygritte and coming towards their couch. “It's your birthday ComicSans and we're doing it right. Now get that sweet tuckus up, cause we're going over to Maverick's.”

“Ugh.” Arya and Brienne both groaned at the name of the club, leaning back into the couch with scrunched up faces.

“Maverick's? Really?” Brienne questioned.

“Yup. Now get the fuck up.” Thoros began stripping off his show shirt and putting on a fresh one hanging by the door.

“But what about Rickon and me?” Bran questioned the older group. “What're we suppose to do?”

“Why don't we go do cake at the house and then head out to the club?” Jeynie suggested. Well, at least she was good for something.

Benjen nodded, “Well, seeing as I'm an old-timer, I'll stay with you lot. You can pick the movie and everything.”

Bran rolled his eyes, “Gee, thanks.”

They all began to stand, the boys obviously unsure of what to do. Arya pushed Rickon off her, watching him fall to the floor and swat at her ankles for dropping him. She just walked over him and made her way over to Gendry.

“What's Maverick's?” He questioned once she made it over to where they all stood in a clump, afraid of the popular kids in lunch.

Lommy smacked him in the chest with the back of his hand, “Could you be any more uncool?” He scoffed. “Maverick's is one of the coolest clubs in King's Landing, you tart. It's super hard to get into.”

Arya rolled her eyes, “It's not that great. It's just where they like to go when they want to “party” and not be hassled by us common folk.” She added sarcastically.

Gendry opened his mouth to say something when Sansa sidled over to them, smile on her face. “You guys ready?”

“Yup.” Arya turned towards her sister, intending to follow her, but she was still looking at the boys.

“You all are coming, right?”

“Of course.” Lommy jumped in and smiled at her sister.

Ygritte chose that moment to leave Jon's arms and jump over to them. Throwing an arm around Lommy's shoulders she smiled at him, “Oh, you lot better be coming. I love Jon, but he's a shit dancer, I need someone to dance with.”

Lommy pulled back and began to twirl her, “Well, then I may be of assistance, Madame.”

Sansa smiled wide, “Great! Let's go.”

The band was already gathering their things and making their way out of the room, Robb, Jeynie, Benjen, Bran, Rickon and Jon were already headed towards the cars. Arya grabbed Gendry by the wrist and began tugging him out, following behind Sansa and Brienne who were talking about cutting Thoros off from drinking soon.

The boys trailed behind them as they made their way out of the hallway and out the back door to where their cars were parked, Gendry pulled his arm back, causing Arya to pause. “We parked in the lot over on Steele Street.”

“Okay, we're going back to Winterfell, want me to come with you to show you how to get there?”

Gendry nodded without thinking, hoping to spend more time in her presence. “Sure.”

She let go of his wrist and jogged over to Brienne, throwing her the car keys. “I'm going with Gendry, have to show him how to get to Winterfell.”

Brienne nodded, that glint in her blue eyes. “Alright.”

She ignored Brienne and ran to catch up with the boys, walking in the opposite direction of her family. Hot Pie and Lommy were laughing and stumbling lightly, indicating how much they'd drank inside, Podrick was just smiling and talking with them about the show, totally fine like Gendry. When she caught up with him, he smiled down at her.

“So,” He began, hands in his pockets, shoulders slightly haunched. “That's your family.”

She smirked, “That's my family.”

He nodded, that smile still in place. “I'm going to hang out with Kingsguard.”

“Yeah, you are.” She smiled back at him, excited because he was excited.

“Thank you for inviting me, really. This is amazing.”

She punched him in the shoulder because kissing him was out of the question. “Don't mention it.”

The walk to the car was short, Lommy and Hot Pie piling into the backseat, Pod offering her the front so she wouldn't be subjected to their drunken shenanigans in the back. She wanted to tell him about Ygritte and Sansa's drunken shenanigans, or the guys from Kingsguard for that matter, but she just smiled and thanked him, slipping into the passenger seat.

She gave Gendry directions, laughing at the way Hot Pie and Lommy attempted to a capella sing one of their favorite songs, complete with air guitar noises and drums. She ended up taking a picture of the poor smiling Pod stuck next to the two drunk loons.

Once they reached her long driveway, she couldn't help but feel a bit self-conscious. The Winterfell Manor was super old and had been within their family since it was built a million years ago, growing up in it was a privilege, one she was sure not everyone was afforded. Sometimes she hated the affluent life she came from, actually most of the time she hated it, but she mostly hated how people judged her because of it.

She wasn't a stuck up snot-bucket or a spoiled brat-attack because their family had money, because she'd grown up at Downton Abbey – not really, but sort of. She just hoped that they didn't look at her differently when they truly saw where she came from.

Robb's nice car was parked to the side, Jon and Ygritte's shit car was parked beside it, her own car was parked with Sandor and Sansa's over by the door, and behind it was the van filled with gear. She instructed Gendry to park by Jon and Robb, watching his face as he took in her home for the first time.

The manor was large, the front built with stone, ivy crawling up the surface in a way that made it look like something out of a story book. She loved the house, it was where she grew up, it would always be her home, but it wasn't somewhere she she just casually liked to spend her time anymore. No, now she considered the apartment more her home than anything.

Gendry's face was carefully blank, like he was afraid of showing her what he truly felt while looking at where she'd grown up. His eyes roamed the vast manor at the end of the street of other large and stately houses, taking in the elegance of it, taking in the wealth.

She knew that he hadn't grown up that way, they hadn't really talked about her affluent background and his less than sturdy home life, but she knew. She wondered if it made him see her any differently, if this changed anything between them. She hoped not.

He parked the car and she got out quickly, waiting for everyone else to get out as well before she began making her way towards the door. They usually never went through the front door, no one really did, instead using the side door that lead to the kitchen. The boys followed her as she went around the side of the house instead of the front, Hot Pie of course not staying quiet for long in his slightly alcohol induced state.

“Arry, this is your fucking house?”

That seemed to be the question on everyone's minds.

“Yup.” She casually responded as she pushed open the sliding glass door to the kitchen, her family piled around the large island counter in the middle of the room, Sandor taking the cake out of the fridge and laying it down in front of Sansa. “Hey.” She called out once they entered the house.

Everyone responded with exclamations of their own as Arya and the group of boys came into the kitchen. Sansa smiling from her place in the middle of the chaos as Sandor began lighting the candles on the cake. Lem, Thoros and Beric began clearing their throats and doing fake warm ups to prepare for their birthday serenade, Sandor just rolling his eyes.

Gendry and the guys lingered in their slightly uncomfortable clump beside her as the final candle was lit and they all began to break out in a very... spirited rendition of Happy Birthday. Arya watched her sister smile wide and close her eyes while making her wish, then blowing out the candles on the brightly frosted cake. They all cheered and she cut the first piece, placing it down in front of her as the tradition went, before cutting more.

Once they all grabbed a slice of cake, the chatter in the room intensified and it was easy to be private amongst it. Arya found herself once again next to Gendry, who leaned against the counter behind him. He was most likely either in awe or shock, maybe a little of both. She couldn't help the small smile in the corner of her lips as she looked up at him.

“Hey.”

He smiled down at her, “Hey.”

“So, this what you had in mind when I invited you to Sansa's birthday?” She smirked.

“Um, not quite.” He chuckled. “But, this is pretty cool too, I guess.”

She playfully rolled her eyes at his sarcasm and punched his arm for good measure. “Wanna see my room?”

Arya wasn't exactly sure why she was inviting Gendry up to see her childhood space, especially since most of her day-to-day belongings were over at Sansa's. Maybe because she one day hoped to visit his childhood room when his mother showed them around her house. Maybe it was because she just needed to step away from everyone for a minute. Maybe she just wanted him to know her better. She didn't know.

His brow quirked slightly, but he said nothing, nodding and gesturing for her to lead the way. They snuck out of the birthday festivity without problem, no one taking note of their absence for the moment, except Sandor who gave them the stink eye the whole way out of the kitchen. Arya just rolled her eyes, she'd deal with him later.

She dragged Gendry up the large staircase that lead to the second floor, the grey and white marble offset by the dark wood of the bannisters was always something that she loved about the foyer, but now she wondered if it just looked pretentious and greedy. He said nothing though, following up behind her as she lead him up the stairs and to the left, circling the bannister towards the large bay window that stood over the front door.

Her room was the last on this side of the second floor, her windows overlooking the front property of their home. A part of her had always hated the light that somehow always annoyingly made it's way into her room, ceasing her sleep and waking her up. She had switched with Sansa at some point, but even the perky princess Sansa couldn't handle the brightness the room provided and demanded that Arya switch back. She pushed the door open and flipped on the light.

She hadn't been in here in a while prior to birthday festivities, most of her life over at the apartment, but looking at it now with Gendry beside her it still looked so much like her. She let her eyes roam over the place she essentially grew up, wondering what it looked like through someone else's eyes.

There was a large arched window on the far wall that belonged to the front of the house, in it sat a few small windows that could be opened, a heavy black curtain hung over it most of the time to block out the light. Currently, the curtains were drawn back and they could easily see the dark sky and the bright moon shining in on them. Her messy, never made, bed was pushed against the far wall, facing that large nightmare window, bookshelves lining the wall over her bed. A shelf and a rack full of clothes lined the wall beside her bed, all facing the wide window, a few mildly embarrassing photos and posters still hung up. She couldn't help but wonder what he saw as he looked around.

“So.” She started, gesturing towards all of the room before dropping her arm back against her side. “What'd you think?”

Gendry took in the beauty of the room structurally, just like the rest of the house, and had such an urge to paint that window during sunlight hours. He also took in the odds and ends that made it specifically Arya, and that made him smile. The polka dot Doc Martens kicked off by the door, the jumpers and leggings thrown about, the messy bedside table and the rumpled bed covers.

He moved towards the wall, looking at the framed pictures that hung there. Most were of Arya and her family – one with her mother and Sansa, the three of them dressed up at some fancy dinner party or something of the like, another with her and Ned after a fencing tournament, there were more than a few of her and Brienne looking gawky and young and embarrassing. The smile tugged on his lips.

There were more than a few poorly made birthday collages, courtesy of Brienne, a signed Kingsguard poster, a poorly drawn Arya and Nymeria hanging next to a photograph of her and Jon, and – his breathing caught as he laid his eyes on a drawing hanging above her bed beside a bookshelf. He moved closer to it, leaning in as his breathing hitched once again.

“Where did you get that?” He pointed towards the drawing.

Arya kneeled on the bed, looking at what he was referring to. She smiled at it, thinking back to when Brienne had handed it to her and the small fluttering of feelings that invaded her body at the thought. She had received it in a time when she had been angry, when she thought no one could ever fill the void that loosing her parents had caused. It took her years to realize she'd never be able to fill it, that she wasn't suppose to. That one stupid picture had made her smile in a time when she rarely did, which is why she kept it.

“Brienne found it in a study hall in like... tenth grade?” Arya's face squinted, attempting to think back that far. “Well, technically our friend Mycah found it, but Brienne ripped it out of his hands before he could so much as smirk. She's always been good like that – protecting honor and virtue since birth.”

Arya snorted at her own joke, but Gendry was still intently looking at the picture, chewing on the inside of his lip. She looked back and forth between him and the portrait, her brows furrowed at his reaction to it. “Why?”

“Because I drew it.”

He didn't look away from it as he answered her.

“Excuse me?”

He looked away from the messy pencil sketch of her face, he'd gotten better at shading and definition since then, maybe he should update the picture for her.

“I said, I drew it.”

Her eyes were wide as she look up at him in mild disbelief. “You fucking drew that picture of me?”

“Yeah.” He nodded, a small smile breaking out onto his face, a laugh bubbling up in his throat. “What the fuck, right?”

Arya just shook her head and laughed along with him, her mind officially blown. “What are the fucking odds?” She looked at him looking at the drawing. It was on notebook paper and a bit faded over time, but it was still so obviously her. “So, you were just casually drawing pictures of me in high school?”

He felt his heart speed up at her slight accusation. “No.” He quickly spit out, hoping to make himself not sound like a major creep. “We were doing portraits in Portfolio Prep and Professor Lynn said that we should practice on those around us to get a feel for live still life before moving on to our final project. You just happened to be in my lunch that year.”

“So, you remember drawing it?” She questioned, moving a bit closer to him on her bed.

“Yes and no.” He shrugged. “I've drawn a lot over the past twenty years.”

Arya rolled her eyes at his answer, “Well, I'll have you know that this picture made me very happy in a time when I needed cheering up, so, thank you.”

“I could draw you another, if you'd like.” He smiled down at her in that almost shy way of his that had her heart beating and her palms sweating. “I promise it'll be much better than that one.”

He gestured towards the one on her wall and she felt the need to defend it. “Stop that, this one is lovely. If you want to draw me another one, I wouldn't be opposed, but this one will always remain right there.”

Gendry couldn't curb that smile that spread over his lips at her words and nodded down at her. “As you wish.”

Arya smiled but rolled her eyes at his terrible Westley impression, smacking his arm as she stood from her bed to stand beside him. “Alright, come on, they're probably ready by now.”

They left her room and returned downstairs to the kitchen, the group still loudly talking and eating cake, but they seemed more ready than they had previously. Jeynie was putting away the leftover cake, Bran and Rickon were sighing over whatever Benjen was talking about, and the band looked antsy. Lem, with his arm about Sansa's shoulders called out to everyone.

“Alright, alright, let's move this party before we all fall sleep.”

Beric rolled his eyes, “We're not twenty years old anymore, Lem. There's nothing wrong with a good night's sleep.”

Lem and Ygritte looked at each other before bursting out laughing at Beric'c reply. “Good one, Dondarrion.” He pointed at his friend. “Now let's get his party fucking started before Grandpa over here starts knitting a sweater. Let's go. Come on.”

He began herding everyone out of the kitchen and towards the cars, Sansa fussing over Bran and Rickon so much that Sandor finally just lifted her over his shoulder and walked her out of the kitchen. That of course didn't stop her sister from calling out as she was forcibly removed from their home.

“Make sure you watch something you all like! Don't burn the microwave like last time! Save some of that cake for tomorrow! Have a good night!”

Arya just chuckled as she made her way towards Brienne and the boys. “Are you driving?”

“I am.” She nodded, “I'll probably be driving Jon and Ygritte home if the way their already laughing is any indication.”

“Hey, I heard that!” Jon scowled from across the lawn. “I'll have you know that Ygritte is exceptional at holding down her liquor and I'm only slightly drunk.”

“Oh!” Ygritte cried from beside Jon, “Let's all ride together! Lommy, come sit with me.”

They changed direction and headed towards Jon's car, piling in. Brienne was behind the wheel, Pod in the passenger seat, Ygritte, Jon and Lommy in the middle row, and her, Gendry and Hot Pie in the back. The ride was loud and full of yelling incoherently and terrible jokes – and no one was even drunk yet.

They arrived at Maverick's, pulling in beside the van where the rest of their group stood. Brienne opened the truck and the three of them spilled out, much to the rest of her family's amusement. “Wow, Nym, never thought I'd see you willingly packaged like a sardine.” Robb smirked from his spot next to the car.

“Oh, haha, good one, Bobby.”

Robb made a sour face at insult and the nickname he never went by – he hated it when people called him that, especially his older colleagues at the company. She ran straight into him and tucked herself into his shoulder as an apology, one that he accepted and patted her on the head the way they would their direwolves, Jeynie rolling her eyes at the display.

“It's alright, Nym, I forgive you.”

“Thank the gods.” Arya sprouted dramatically. “What would I have done if you hadn't?”

Robb pushed her away by the head and followed the band as they made their way towards the back entrance, away from the crowded long line in the front of the building. Beric nodded at the bouncer, who let them in without question. Arya couldn't help but peek at the boys, who were in awe but were trying so hard to act cool and normal. It was honestly one of the funniest things she'd ever seen.

The club was loud and dark, as most night clubs tended to be, but the special thing about Maverick's was the sheer size and volume of the place. Five tiers of mind-numbing discotheque where only the fancy and famous get in. Arya wasn't particularly fascinated by the whole thing, but she knew that normal people sort of enjoyed this type of gathering, so she would try and get into it tonight for her sister's sake.

The group immediately went for the bar – no surprise there – Ygritte by passing it completely and dragging Jon towards the messy pile of moving bodies on what she assumed was the dance floor. Robb and Jeynie seemed to be the first to get their drinks, prompting them to follow suit and join the others in the pit of people.

Arya looked away from her brothers and moved towards the bar where the rest resided. Lommy was already dancing beside Jon and Ygritte, Hot Pie was standing with Brienne and Pod – who looked the most out of place tonight, unsurprisingly. The band was already being lead to the secluded little area by the bar where they put people who didn't want to be disturbed, but Sansa was pulling at Sandor's arm, tugging him towards the crowd of sweaty people, that doe-eye look on her face. It didn't take him long to succumb.

Gendry began moving towards their friend group and she followed. She tugged on the hem of his jumper, catching his attention. Leaning up so he could hear her, she yelled, “Do you want anything?” gesturing towards the bar.

“No.” He shook his head with a small smile. “I'm good.”

She veered towards the bar, waiting the customary few minutes to grab the bartender's attention. She wasn't graced with that alluring look like Sansa or Ygritte or hell, even Jeynie. She wasn't that good at the whole “beckoning” thing; the secret smiles and come over here glances. But, the pretty female bartender didn't seem to mind that she was sort of inept at being a real girl sometimes and came over in a timely fashion to make her drink.

When she returned back to the group, Brienne looked disgusted at Hot Pie as the boys laughed over something obviously gross. “Hey.” She called over the noise, Brienne grabbing her drink and taking a swig. “Um, hello, that's mine.”

Brienne handed it back to her, a little less full than before. “I needed it more than you. Hot Pie is exhausting.”

“Yeah, well, welcome to the party.”

They stood in the circle for a while, listening to Hot Pie's terrible jokes and watching Podrick do impressions of Lommy – which, he was startlingly good at, actually. Arya eventually went to get another drink, downing it before Brienne had the chance to get her mitts on it, and asked Gendry to dance.

Well, asked wasn't exactly the right term. Pulled him away mid-conversation onto the dance floor was more of what actually happened. But, whatever.

Gendry just smirk-smiled at her as they made their way into the crowd to dance, she leaned up to shout in his ear. “I want you to know that it’s usually not this exciting.” She yelled over the blaring music, but also an excuse to get closer to him. “After shows they normally just sit on someone’s couch and drink until they pass out, but because it’s Sansa’s birthday, they’ve decided not to be totally lame and actually go out.”

“I'm not going to lie,” He shouted back, lips almost brushing the shell of her ear in attempt to speak over the music. “This is a tad overwhelming.”

The smile on his face spoke opposite of his words, but she knew he wasn't only talking about the night club. She knew that she'd basically just sprung, not only her entire family on him tonight, but the surprise fact that she was close and personal with his favorite rockstars. He seemed to be handling it all pretty well, actually. Arya wondered if he realized that she was ready for anything he could throw at her, just as he had done tonight. She hoped he did.

“You get use to it.” Her lips coming to his ear, wondering if it had the same affect on him that it had on her. “Sorry it was just a surprise. I wasn't sure how to come out and tell you that the Hound was my kind-of brother in law.”

That smirky-smile still in place, he spun her and shrugged a shoulder. “I don't think it could've happened any other way.”

They danced for a while, moving with the heavy bass and oppressive music, moving closer and closer to each other as the tight space became even smaller with more people coming onto the floor. After a while, they pulled away from the mass of sweaty bodies and moved back towards the bar where their group still resided. Arya grabbed a few more drinks, Hot Pie and Lommy totally sloshed – as were Ygritte, Jon, and most of the band. Podrick and Brienne seemed to be in some intense discussion that Arya could only make out a few words of, one of which being Renly, and then she knew that Pod was using his not-yet-earned degree to help her out.

Robb and Jeynie danced by at some point, Robb pulling her out to dance. Jon snuck in and began to dance terribly with Jeynie, who to her credit laughed along and let Jon move her awkwardly about. Ygritte and Lommy stole her not long after that, creating a triangle of weird jumping and spinning. They were absolutely hammered, laughing and hanging all over each other, Arya didn't know whether to laugh or begin the process of detoxing their stomachs.

They eventually all made their way back to the table their group was occupying, Arya kind of feeling those drinks, she wouldn't lie. It was when Lem had decided that taking over the DJ booth was a good idea and playing Pour Some Sugar On Me that everyone sort of realized that maybe they should call it a night. Sandor and Beric ripped Lem from the booth, Robb and Jon picking up Thoros off the floor and dragging him out of the club, the rest of them following suit.

Arya waited patiently for everyone to pile into their cars, realizing the mistake they made in packing this many people into one car when Hot Pie decided to take up the whole truck space with his passed out body, leaving only the middle row open. Brienne slide in the driver's seat, Pod beside her, Ygritte cuddled onto Jon's lap, Lommy dozing in the middle and Gendry beside him. Without thinking anything of it, Arya moved onto Gendry's lap and shut the car door.

He just looked at her with that forced casualness that sometimes overtook him, but she knew better. She might've been slightly inebriated, but she knew what was up, she knew that slightly wide look in his ocean eyes. She just scooted back and leaned her back against the car door, closing her eyes with a smirk on her lips.

The ride was silent, as mostly everyone was asleep, and Arya felt his hand rest gently, hesitantly, on the top of her thigh, almost as though he was keeping her in place. It stayed in it's place until they pulled up her driveway and then he removed it. They all sluggishly piled out of the car, Jon and Ygritte moved inside the house, Lommy, Hot Pie, and Podrick slunk into Gendry's car. None of them really said goodbye, they all just sort of nodded towards one another and went their separate ways.

Arya leaned up and hugged Gendry, the warmth from where his hand had laid on her thigh was now encompassing her whole body when he wrapped his arms around her. It was a quick hug, because any longer and she would've definitely fell asleep in his arms. She pulled away, smiling up at him and turning to go inside with Brienne.

They snuck through the kitchen door, Sandor, Beric and Robb all making sandwiches and chatting, Lem actually passed out on the floor, not even making it to one of the spare bedrooms. Brienne went up to her room, aka the guest room she always slept in, and Arya made her way towards Sansa's. Her sister was cuddled up tight in the large bed, scrolling on her phone with a small smile on her lips, Arya just moseyed in and crawled onto the bed next to her.

She didn't say anything, and neither did Sansa, Arya just wrapped her arms around her sister's slim shoulders and pulled her close. Birthday's were hard without their parents – who use to make such a big deal about them growing up. Every every birthday was just another year that signified that they were gone and never coming back. And with a big family like their's, they were a lot of birthday's.

Sansa laid her hands on Arya's forearms, squeezing her arms into her chest. “Thank you.” She whispered in the dark.

Arya didn't say anything, mostly because she didn't know what to say. But Sansa's steady breathing and the darkness of the room caused her to drift off with her arms still wrapped around her sister, wondering if Sandor would kick her out once he returned up here. Clearly the answer to her question wasn't high up on her priority list, seeing as how she fell asleep almost instantly.

Chapter Text

He was sitting at the counter that separated the living room from the kitchen, cereal in hand as he watched trash tv. He'd just gotten home from the Library, Arya had a dress fitting or something and wasn't able to come see him. They'd been spending even more time together than before, seeing each other almost every day. After Sansa's birthday things had died down a little – well, as much as they could when dealing with a family like the Stark's.

Jon and Ygritte left a few days after the party and headed back up north, Kingsguard was back in their natural state of seclusion since their run was now over, Brienne seemed a tad less stressed out than she was on any other given day, his friends were more or less the exact same. He went back to work, they went back to school, it seemed as though the Cinderella story that had temporarily taken over his life came to a full stop.

Arya lingered as she often did. Lurking in the library with him, loitering at the shop, lounging in his apartment. He didn't mind any of it, at all. Honestly, the more he saw of her, the better. Which, really didn't seem like a problem, seeing as she had to start attaching herself to his hip – not in the way he really wanted, though.

His mom was itching to meet her. Which, was embarrassing to say the least. More or less embarrassing than the two of them texting without his knowledge or consent? He wasn't quite sure.

He knew he'd have to introduce them sometime, he wouldn't lie to himself and pretend that he didn't want to show her his childhood bedroom just as she had shown him hers. He wanted her to see where he had grown up, he wanted his mother to coo over her, and what he really wanted was to present her as his. He tried not to get ahead of himself on that one.

Sometimes, though, it was hard not to – especially with the way they had been carrying on lately.

He didn't want to read into things, because that always ended up awkward and messy and mortifying. But, Gendry couldn't help but think about the way she looked at him sometimes, with a softness in her eyes that wasn't normally present. The way she lingered about for his company, but would rather cut her own tongue out than admit it. Maybe it was simply that smirky-smile of hers, or the way her body often found it's way to his.

Thoughts of that night of Sansa's party flooded his mind. The way her body molded against his own on the dance floor, the feel of her skin against his whenever she took his hand or his wrist, the feel of her as she sat astride him on the car ride home. He felt himself flush slightly at the memory, the weight of her lithe body, the heat that spread down through him, the very clear reaction he felt because of it.

There was a part of him that wondered if she did this on purpose, if she knew the way she was slowly killing him.

A part of him wanted to give it all up and simply tell her the way he felt about her. The bigger part of him told of how stupid that would be.

For better or worse she was a part of his life now, an important part. He didn't want to just waste that because he couldn't stop the way he felt when she smiled up at him.

The door opened and closed behind him quickly, a rustling and a sigh indicated who was just casually entering the apartment. He didn't even have to look away from the tv. "Rough day?"

Another sigh permeated the air, "Absolutely, yes." She came to plop down on the barstool next to him, tired eyed, her hair casually disheveled, her sweater on backwards.

"Your, ah," He pointed at her sweater, nodding at the fact that it was obviously on the wrong way, tag sticking out and glaring at him.

"What?" She looked down at her front towards where he was pointing and rolled her eyes, sighing again. "Great."

She stood from the barstool, pulling the thin sweater over her head not only to turn it around, but to turn it right side in as well. He let his gaze sweep up her figure, from the bare strip of skin showing between the low rise of her jeans and the tank-top she wore beneath the sweater, up towards the swell of her breasts that bounced with every movement she made. His gaze traced over the fine dip of her collarbones, up the quietly elegant column of her neck, to the frustrated scrunch of her nose, the slight narrow of her eyes.

He pulled his gaze away before she could notice.

She grumbled as she righted the material, sitting back down with a huff. "Picking out dresses for a fancy event isn't fab on a regular day, but throw in Jeynie's overbearing personality and you have a lovely five hours."

He felt himself smirk at her sarcasm, "You were at a dress fitting for five hours?"

"Correct." She sighed again, leaning against the counter, looking at him. "It was torture. At least Sansa was there to even it out, seeing as Jeynie's sister is an actual nightmare."

Gendry just smirked and let her rant on for a while, watching her face become animated before slipping back into that cool, semi-resting bitch face she usually donned. He wanted to draw her. It wasn't the first time he'd been overcome with the want to have her sit for him as he painted her likeness, clearly, the evidence of that was still hung up on her wall at home. He swept over the fine arch of her brows, her large eyes of liquid metal and the long lashes that accompanied them, her straight nose, and bow lips.

She was beautiful.

He felt his heart race at little at the thought.

As a child, kids often made fun of him for the softness he exuded; the poetic, artist side of him that dominated his personality. He was soft, he did find the beauty in things, but, there was also a very vocal dominate part of him that was gifted from his father. He could be mean. He was stubborn and bullheaded – as all his friends called it. He did like to drink and became not so nice when he did. He was intimidating and tough, which is why fights often broke out when those kids had attempted to bully him.

He wasn't exactly all that she thought he was. Yes, he was shy around her, true he was soft, but he was still Robert's son and all that came with it.

"Hey." She sat up from her leaning position, drawing him out of his thoughts and looking at him with intensity in her eyes and a lazy smile on her lips. Fuck, she was beautiful. "Would you wanna come with me?"

She asked half hopeful, half like this was all a joke. He understood the self-preservation, how often did he phrase things to her in a similar manner incase she didn't feel the same?

"To your brother's wedding?" He asked, feeling his heart speed up.

"Yeah." She shrugged, smile increasing. "Brienne is taking Pod, so you'll have him."

He wanted to ask her if they were going as friends, or if he was attending as her date. She hadn't said either and he wasn't sure what that would get him into later down the road, but he would never turn her down. "Sure, why not."

She smiled wide and punched him in the arm. She did that a lot – the punching. He didn't necessarily mind, it just made him want to scoop her up and tackle her to the floor. He quickly brought his thoughts back to safer territory and returned to his cereal.

"So, what are we doing tomorrow? I was thinking that new terrible horror/thriller that just came out and two large popcorn buckets."

The way she said it sounded so tempting, like she already knew he had somewhere to be and was trying to sway him into joining her. It wouldn't take much, honestly on a normal day, but tomorrow was not another normal day. He stood, gathering his bowl and spoon, placing them in the sink. "I can't." He began rinsing out his dishes, not actively evading her gaze, but not seeking it out either. "I have somewhere I have to be."

She looked at him from the other side of the counter, her eyes narrowed slightly as she attempted to figure him out. "Cryptic much?"

Gendry sighed as he placed the dish on the drying rack beside the sink, crossing his arms as he met her inquisitive gaze. He'd obviously told her some things about his childhood, about Cersei and the Lannister-Baratheon brood, but not everything. Some part of him was itching to talk about it, to tell her his fears and thoughts, another part of himself was dying to remain closed off and private.

But, the practically blank canvas sitting in on the easel in his room won out over the fact that he liked to keep at least some things to himself. Besides, Arya would have good advice. "Cersei invited me to Myrcella's birthday dinner. Apparently she found out about me – which means they're actively pretending I don't exist over there – and made Cersei invite me. My mom told me about it."

"And you're going?" Arya asked with a bit of skepticism in her voice.

"Yes." He breathed out, leaning against the counter. "She wants me to come and I am technically her brother, how was I suppose to say no?"

"That's really kind of you, Gendry." The sincerity in her tone was only matched by her gaze, it made him feel a little better about the whole thing, if he was being honest. "I know how much you hate Cersei and Joffrey, and to put yourself in that situation for her is really very sweet." He watched as she chewed on her lip and refused to say something that was on her mind, instead asking him the question he'd been hoping for. "So, what are you getting her?"

He brought his hand up to tangle in the back of his hair, "Well, I thought I'd paint her something, but I'm just not sure what. I... I don't know anything about her, I don't know anything."

His voice sounded defeated to his own ears and he could tell it sounded the same to her too. "Alright." She sighed. "Hand me your computer, it's time to do some sleuthing."

He smirked at her actively strange terminology, but moved to grab his laptop from his bedroom. He returned to find her on the couch, ready to dig up something on his half-sister that he could use. "Here." He handed her the laptop and sat down beside her, ready to be wowed by her detective work.

"Okay, let's see what we've got going on." Arya opened the laptop and started it up, opening up a browser and clicking the favorites to find Facebook. Gendry quickly made a grab for the computer, but she was faster, rolling so that her back was to him. "Really, Gendry? Porn in your favorites? You need to be much sneakier than this."

There, amongst Facebook, News, Amazon, and Buzzfeed, were multiple links to favorited porn. She couldn't help herself, the burning need to know what he got off to was too much for her to bare, she began clicking on them to see.

"No one uses my computer but me, Arya. Come on, give it back." He struggled behind her for the laptop, but she was quicker than him, rolling and evading him at every turn.

"Hmm, traditional solo girl action? Not what I would've pegged you as, but now that I'm seeing it, it makes sense." She felt him stiffen behind her, and the pretty girl in the video began fucking herself which caused loud moans to rip through the air of the apartment.

He could hear the sounds of a girl moaning and flushed deeply at the fact that she was now watching his porn. "Arya, enough. Stop."

The sound of his rough voice, demanding and commanding sent shivers down her spine. Would he be like that in bed? Would he be rough and quick or demanding and slow?

The girl in the video caught her attention once again, she was like every other girl she'd expect to see in a porn; long, bendy, beautiful. Her dark hair was piled up in a messy bun atop her head, her pale body writhing as she pleasured herself with a meaty dildo and vibrator. Arya was stuck on her bouncing tits, all perky and large. She looked down at her own tits, narrowing her eyes at the girl on the screen and her perfect breasts.

She did feel the tingle begin in her clit, the ache deep inside of her. With the video in front of her and Gendry struggling behind her, she had effectively aroused herself. Great.

"I was just curious, Gen. Geez." She exited the video and pushed back against him in a sign to move over. He did and they were back to their regular positions on the couch. A deep flush stained his creamy skin, he looked sunburned almost, his jaw was clenched and his eyes slightly narrowed. He wouldn't look at her, but that was fine – she wasn't sure if she could have those intense eyes on her right now anyway.

"Yeah, well, go watch it on your own time." His voice still stuck in that low register, rough and rude almost. She felt her now swollen clit throb a little bit at the sound.

"Alright, fine." She clicked onto Facebook and signed into his account. She typed in Myrcella's name, but nothing came up. She tried Cersei's next, but the same thing happened. She quickly pulled out her phone and went to Instagram, typing in her name and pressing search. "Bingo."

She turned the phone so Gendry could also see. Myrcella's pictures mostly consisted of her horses and the ocean, a few selfies and celebrity crushes sprinkled throughout. She was fourteen, she was an avid horseback rider and seemed abnormally sweet for her age, considering her lifestyle and who her parents were. She said none of that to Gendry though, instead just giving him what would help.

"She's fourteen, likes horses, beaches, and when the sky turns pink at sunset."

Gendry's brow was furrowed as she took the phone from her and began scrolling through his little half-sister's feed. "How do you know all this stuff?"

Arya rolled her eyes playfully. "Because I have eyes." He shouldered her a bit, which caused her to smile and reply once again. "Because it's obvious when you know what you're looking for. See, here in this one she says how much she loves then sunset. There's like twelve of those. And the rest of her pictures are of her and her horses, and her friends at the beach. Standard girl detective work."

Gendry couldn't help but smirk at her. "Does that mean you've used your master sleuthing skills on me?"

Arya just shrugged at him, that infuriating – yet increased heart speed inducing – secretive smile appeared on her face, her metal eyes swirling with things he'd never know. "Maybe."

"Great."

She returned the shoulder-check at his sarcasm and smiled. It was still pretty early, normally they'd be doing something well into the night, but if he had this party to attend tomorrow she knew that he'd need time to paint Myrcella a gift. She stood, stretching out her spine and turning to see him still scrolling through Instagram on her phone.

"I'm gonna head out. Give you time to work on your present."

He looked up at her and nodded, a part of him already missing her presence and she hadn't even gone yet. He stood too, handing her back her phone. "Yeah, alright."

"You'll call me tomorrow with all the deets?" The words she said were meant to be in the casual, abbreviated slang that usually permeated her regular speech pattern, but the almost heavy emotion that sat behind them in her voice and in her eyes were enough for him to know that she was truly worried about him. She had a right to be, after the story he'd told her about Cersei. He didn't like her pity, but he loved that she cared.

"Of course."

She had left after that, causing the silence to once again make itself known to him. He rubbed his hands over his face and moved into his bedroom where the easel was still set up, that blank canvas mocking him. He had an idea now, at least.

He painted for the rest of the night, only stopping when he accidentally used green instead of the lavender he had made. The few hours he'd managed to sleep were enough and once he was up and ready, he finished the painting. It left him just enough time to get to the shop at a reasonable time and fill Tobho in on the situation, he let Gendry clock out early to get ready for dinner.

He was nervous as he drove out to Storm's End. It was necessarily that far from King's Landing, but the only time he ever went there was on Robert's anniversary – seeing as he was buried in the family plot and all. The place only served him with bad memories and a clench in his jaw, but here he was.

He pulled up the long, meticulously crafted driveway that lead to the manor his father had left them. He had been there a few times, he'd even lived in it before his parents had gotten divorced. But now, it just looked ominous and cold. The house was the same size and grandeur as the Lannister's house at Casterly Rock, he wondered why Cersei continued to live in Robert's house when she had one of her own, but who was he to question what rich people did.

He parked by the line of cars near the front door, noting how well maintained and expensive they were compared to his own car. He knocked on the door, refusing to acknowledge how fast his heart was beating in his chest by being here. The door swung open, revealing a dark haired woman with a tired face and even more exhausted eyes. Of course they'd have a fucking maid.

"Hi, I'm here for Myrcella's dinner?"

The woman opened the door wider and moved aside to let him in, he followed her into a decadently furnished dining room where the family sat. It was much more intimate than he had previously thought, Cersei sat at the head of the table, facing him with her stoney eyes and blank expression, Myrcella and Tommen were to her left, Jaime and Tyrion to her right. Not even their father Tywin was in attendance, which made him both relieved and nervous.

Myrcella jumped up at the sight of him, coming over to lead him to a spot between herself and Tommen, he gently placed the wrapped present under the table beside him and out of the way. Myrcella, he noted, was beautiful, like her mother, with long golden hair and bright green eyes, but it seemed that is where the similarities ended. The smile on her lips and the brightness in her eyes was so different from Cersei, enough so that he felt almost comfortable around the two little ones. It was then that he noted Joffrey's absence from the table. Gendry wouldn't say he was upset about it.

"Hi."

He smiled at the way she seemed to be controlling herself, the excitement radiating off her in waves. "Hi."

"So, you're Gendry."

He nodded, "I am."

"Myrcella and mom said that you like to draw, is that true?" He turned to face Tommen on his right, the clear green eyes and changing face of a preteen looked back at him. He looked a lot like Joffrey, but already Gendry could tell, had none of his older brother's nastiness.

"It is." He nodded at the young boy. "I'm going to University for it, actually.

"I draw too." Tommen said almost shyly, but Gendry could see that spark of excitement at someone else who might understand.

Gendry's eyes lit up for the younger boy, "You do?"

A small smile broke out on his face and he nodded quickly. "Mom." He turned to face Cersei, who Gendry just realized was staring at them and not saying a word. "Can I go grab my sketchbook to show Gendry?"

She held his gaze for a moment before moving back to her son and nodding. "Yes, you may."

Tommen jumped up out of his chair to run upstairs and Gendry took a moment to look around the room. Cersei continued to only stare at him, Jaime and Tyrion seemed to be in a debate over something to do with their company, and he had the attention of both the other Baratheon children. He wondered if Stannis or Renly were ever invited to any of the affairs pertaining to Robert's other children, or if Cersei wanted to keep them as Lannister as possible.

"So, I started following you on Instagram. I hope that's okay." Myrcella's sweet, clear voice caught his ears and she looked slightly worried that he would yell at her. It took him a moment to realize why; Joffrey.

He put forth his most gentle smile and nodded down at her. "Of course. You are my sister, after all."

The radiant smile that she gave him was enough. Tommen returned with his sketchpad, coming back to sit beside him. The younger boy looked a bit nervous, shy as he opened the pad to reveal his work. It wasn't bad, actually and considering that Tommen was only twelve years old, he'd only get better. They were mostly of his cat – Ser Pounce, he had learned – in semi-realism, but they weren't bad at all.

He turned to look at Tommen, who looked nervous and bit the inside of his lip out of habit, a smile forming on his lips. "Not bad, Tommen." He flipped over to a page with startlingly good shading and pointed at it. "See here, the way you've shaded with smudging? That's a technique that I didn't even learn until I was older and you've already got it down. Just... keep practicing, that's how you get better."

Tommen took the book back and placed it on a chair next to him, the large smile on his lips threatening to break free. "Thanks, Gendry."

Dinner was served not long after that – some fancy dish that he couldn't recall that was made with veal. Jaime and Tyrion spoke into dinner, letting Myrcella and Tommen vie for his attention, each telling stories and asking questions. Cersei just sat quietly, watching the entire time.

It was obvious that Tommen was mostly enamored by him. It went without being said that Joffrey bullied the younger boy, mostly in the offhanded comments that the two of them make about their true older brother. Tommen tries hard to claim the attention of Gendry from his sister, his soft and sweet presence really making an impression on the two.

Jaime and Tyrion had come up for air, breaking from their discussion and rejoining the rest of them. Jaime's bright green eyes sought him out and he smiled at him from across the table. He had a different air about him than his twin, not as harsh, not as intense, but there was just something about him that Gendry couldn't read, and that made him nervous.

"So, Gendry," Jaime began, pulling his attention away from the kids. "I hear that you're doing well in school. Renly boasts on about you often."

Gendry nodded at the statement, he was closest to Renly out of anyone in his family, not too much older than himself, Renly had always been more of a friend/advisor than an uncle and Gendry had always appreciated that. "I talk with Renly every couple weeks or so, yeah."

The direct eye contact that Jaime made and the small smile on his face made Gendry uncomfortable. "Well, it's always good to hear that you're doing well."

Dinner went on a bit forced after that, Myrcella talking his ear off about her horses and how many competitions she'd won, Tommen boasting about the spelling bee trophy seated on the mantle above the fireplace in the living room. Gendry just gave them as much attention as he could, listening to their stories, adding in some of his own, answering any questions they might have. He just couldn't understand how Joffrey could treat his siblings so terribly, from what he could tell they were normal, well adjusted, bright and funny kids. He liked them, even though it was dangerous to get too close, he did like them.

He was in the middle of a story with Tommen about how the younger boy had caught Ser Pounce in the attic and found the coolest old board-game while he was up there, when Myrcella asked her mother for a story about Robert. He had frozen when those words had tumbled out of her mouth. The looks that both Lannister brothers had given Myrcella and Cersei showed that this wasn't an uncommon occurrence, just an uncomfortable one.

Cersei, who hadn't spoken at all until now, turned her sharp gaze to him. "Well, why don't we have Gendry give us a story." The look was calculating, as was the forced softness in her tone. "He knew Robert the longest, surely he must have a few stories that you haven't heard before."

He bit the inside of his lip, the nervous tick more pronounced now that he was on the spot. "Oh, yes, Gendry! Please!" The bright excitement in Myrcella's green eyes was enough to sway him, but his nervousness didn't go away that easily.

"Um," He tried to think of a memory – any memory. But all that came up were ones that were tainted by Cersei's presence. "Uh... okay." He stumbled over his words, coming upon a memory that could work. "When I was little, Robert use to read me the same story every night. I'm not entirely sure if it was because that was the only one I wanted to hear, or if it was the only one Robert actually knew well enough to recite drunk."

Tyrion let out a loud laugh, silenced by one of Cersei's sharp glares, and Jaime let out a snicker.

"I, ah, would wait up for him and he would come in, tuck me in and tell me the story. Sometimes I made it to the ending, most of the time I didn't. Robert had a certain cadence to his voice that could be soothing given the right circumstances."

Myrcella was just looking up at him in awe. It struck him then that the two of them never knew Robert, that he had died before they were even old enough to say his name. That's why Myrcella seemed to often ask for stories about him – she knew next to nothing about the man.

"You look like him." She said softly, embarrassed almost for saying it aloud. "You look so much like Daddy."

The air held an odd tension, thick and awkward, maybe even a bit sad. Cersei then ordered for the cake to be brought in, effectively killing the strange sadness that had permeated the air. The large pink and green cake was brought in, candles lit and a smile on her face as Tommen, Jaime and Tyrion began to sing happy birthday. He watched Cersei watch him in the dim lighting of the dining room, the candles creating a certain glow around them. Myrcella blew out the candles and the lights were returned to normal.

Cersei looked pensively at him through out the cake being cut and distributed and then she didn't look at him at all. Tommen asked if he would come over some time to teach him how to use paints and Myrcella took his phone and texted herself from it, so they would have each other's numbers. He had to remind himself that these are his siblings, that their real older brother was the living worst and that they actually want his company. It makes a small smile sprout at the thought that they actually prefer him over Joffrey and it had only been a few hours.

Myrcella doesn't open her presents, Cersei insisting that it's proper to wait until all the guests have left. Gendry knows that she's only talking about him. Realizing that the party was essentially over and it was turning more awkward than anything, he decided to excuse himself. Tommen and Myrcella give him a hug, making him promise to visit them again soon, he shakes hands with Jaime and Tyrion who are actually much more normal and nice than he had previously thought, and in a surprising and unwanted twist of fate, Cersei offers to see him out.

They walk out of the dining room and to the front door in total silence, the awkward tension radiating between them, she then stops him before he can truly leave. The way she looked at him, like he was something she'd lost and just re-found made his heart beat faster and his head hurt. She griped at his wrist tightly, that cold look once again returning to her eyes. "This is it, Gendry." She says it simply, contrasting intensely with her gaze. "I expect you to respect the fact that you are not welcome here and that the only time you will ever see us is at Robert's anniversary."

Her words make him feel like he'd been kicked in the chest. Her words are sharp, compared to the forced-gentle tone she often adopted. She had just let him become attached and then she ripped him away. He couldn't even think of anything to say to her, wanting nothing more than to pull his arm from her grasp and walk away. But, that look in her eyes pinned him to his spot. Her mouth opened again to speak and he felt his hear beat faster.

"You do look like him." Her eyes traced his face, her voice dropping down into a whisper, genuine for the first time tonight. "You remind me so much of him." The gentleness was gone as soon as it came and she was hard once more. "But, Robert was a man, a true man, something you'll never be. Look at you, with your downcast eyes and sweetness dripping from your core. You have none of your father's strength, yet all of his faults. Tell me," She leaned closer, voice dropping low. "Do you too have a little Northern girl that you'd do anything for?"

He says nothing, mostly because he's shocked at how true the statement was. Maybe he was more like Robert than he'd ever thought. She continued, digging him further into the ground. "Joffrey is Robert's true heir, he's like him in ways you could only wish of." She brought her hand up to gently trace the outline of his face, that lost look once again returning to her features.

In an instant, her eyes hardened once again and she turns to leave him. "Don't contact us. If I need something, I'll find you." And with that, she left him on the front steps of the manor, confused and alone.

He stumbles to his car, his chest tight with emotion, his breathing heavy. With unexplainable tears in his eyes, he drives to the nearest bar he can find. It's a rundown Inn that no longer rented out rooms, instead it was just a bar that the people of Storm's End often visited on their way home from work.

He sat himself down at the bar, a headache coming on from crying and his eyes still burning. The pretty dark haired bartender flounced over to him asking him what he'd like and he gets the first thing that tumbles out of his mouth; Jack, straight.

And then, he started to drink – something he never does, if only to not be his father. He remembered Robert, probably better than most, he remembered the way he drank and how he spoke when he did, the actions he later regretted. He wanted to yell at Cersei to stop hating him and his mother for the fact that Robert never loved her, because Robert never truly loved them either. He hadn't truly ever loved anyone, but her.

Gendry knew that his father had been irrevocably in love with Ned Stark's sister, Lyanna – he knew that because he had read it in one of the journals he'd found in a box in the attic of the cottage that his father kept. He knew that when she died as a teenager, he never got over it and his own mother and Cersei were mere paper dolls compared to the dead woman.

He kept ordering drinks from the dark haired bartender, he wasn't even sure how many he ended up knocking back. He wasn't even sure how long he'd been sitting at the bar, brooding and drinking, but he was drunk, for only the third time in his whole life.

The first time had been at a party hosted by someone from their high school, it hadn't taken him long to realize just how dangerously addictive the alcohol was in his bloodstream and he swore not to even casually drink from then on. The second time was at a christmas party at the shop two years ago after a particularly painful entry in one of his father's journals that he'd read after the annual visit on Robert's anniversary. And now this time.

The bartender continued to flirt with him the whole time he'd been sitting there, he wasn't even exactly sure if he was talking to her when she leans against the bar, he can barely type out the few texts he answers from the guys.

"Can I get you anything else right now?" Her voice is clear and bright, like a bell. He didn't even realize that he'd said anything aloud until she laughs, which also sounds like tiny tinkering sleigh-bells in his drunkenness. She leans against the counter, close to him. "You can come ring my bell any time you'd like." And with a wink she was off, taking care of a table on the other end of the bar.

Eventually they all start calling him; Pod, Lommy, Hot Pie, Arya. He doesn't answer any of them, he just continues to drink his liquor and replay Cersei's words over and over in his head. He ends up answering only one of Lommy's calls. He's not sure what they talked about, but he was pretty sure that Lommy managed to get his location out of him. He ignores everyone else's calls after that.

Arya shows up a while later, coming to stand beside him. He doesn't acknowledge her at first, continuing to brood into his drink.

"Hey." She called out breathlessly as she leaned against the bar beside him. "Where the fuck did you even find this place? It's in the middle of fucking nowhere."

"How did you know where I was?" He asked, not looking at her, tone bristly.

"Lommy called, if you can believe it." She said with an air of mock-shock. "He's worried about you, which actually says a lot considering Lommy is party boy nation and all." Gendry said nothing and continued to stare at his drink in silence. "Why didn't you call me after you left?"

"You're not my fucking keeper, Arya. I don't have to let you track my every move." He narrowed his eyes when he looked up at her, the anger he felt from earlier maintained by the drinks he kept downing.

Her own eyes narrowed at his tone, "Okay, I'm going to let this go because you're clearly not okay right now, but let's drop the attitude, yeah?"

He sighed, looking away from her. "What do you want?"

She was quiet for a few moments, just staring at him with an unreadable expression. Whether it was actually unreadable or because he was drunk, he wasn't sure. "What's going on, Gendry. I thought the guys said you don't drink."

"I don't. Usually."

"Then, why are you drunk right now?"

"Everyone thinks I'm just like Robert, apparently. Might as well live up to the expectation." He lifted the glass bitterly and gulped the rest down, ignoring the sting in the back of his throat.

Before Arya could respond, the bartender was back, that flirty smile on her pretty face, dark curly hair tumbling over her shoulder as she pressed against the bar, pushing her perky tits up in Gendry's face. "Need another?"

"No." Arya responded quickly, before Gendry had the chance. "I think he's good."

The bartender eyed Arya momentarily, that flirty smile still in place as she turned back to Gendry and raised a brow, "Love?"

Gendry ignored Arya and nodded, "Yeah, I'll have another... "

"Bella." She provided for him, those come fuck me eyes still in place. Arya never wanted to hit someone so badly in her life.

"I'll have another, Bella."

Bella smiled and floated away to get him another drink. Arya narrowed her gaze at him, "Gendry, come on, let's go."

"I just ordered another drink."

"You don't need it."

"You don't know what I need." He barked at her, ignoring the way she pulled on his arm.

"You're being a bull right now."

"Great, just another name to live up to."

"Gendry, stand up."

Arya began lifting him out of the stool, his arm thrown about her shoulders as he stood on unsteady legs. She wrapped herself around him in a hug to keep him upright, sticking her hand in his back pocket for his wallet. He let his hand tangle itself in the back of her hair, dropping his head to lean in the crook of her shoulder. She tried not to let his actions turn her on, but her body seemingly wasn't getting the memo.

She stepped away from him slightly to pull a bill out of his wallet and throw it down on the bar top. She looked up at him, they were close, so close that if either of them so wanted, they could easily touch lips together. His blue eyes were glassy and his jaw still wired shut with anger, but he looked down at her with tenderness.

"Come on," She said, leading him away from the bar. "Let's go out for a smoke."

He moved her hand off his wrist and entangled his fingers with her own, emboldened by the alcohol running through his system. Bartender Bella came back with his drink, a little put out, but that smile still painted on her lips at the sight of him. "Leaving so soon, love?"

Gendry just shrugged as he let Arya lead him out side, their hands entwined. His hand was large and warm, his long fingers wrapped gently, but firmly through her own. The air was cooler outside than in the bar, the dark sky lit up by stars. He leaned against the side of the building, watching as Arya pulled out her cigarettes and lit one, holding his hand out for one as well. She looked at him skeptically at first, knowing that he didn't smoke, but lit one up for him anyway.

She watched as he took a drag, fuck if it wasn't one of the sexiest things she'd ever seen, but then smirked as he coughed on the smoke filling his lungs. He took one more drag before tossing it to the ground, coughing as he did so. She moved to stand in front of him while he was distracted with putting out the cigarette, diving her hand into the front pocket of his pants quickly to grab his keys.

"Hey!" He yelped at the feeling of her hand against his thigh, his breathing becoming rapid. "What're you doing?"

"Taking your keys. You're too drunk to drive home."

He removed her hand from his pocket, pulling the keys out himself and holding them.

"You could've just asked." He sniped at her, his eyes narrowed a bit in anger. "I'm not a child."

"So, stop acting like one."

She took the keys out of his hand and shoved them into her jacket pocket, not putting up with his attitude just because he was drunk and angry. If he didn't want to talk about what happened at Myrcella's dinner, then fine, but she wouldn't put up with him being an asshole just because he was sad.

He narrowed his gaze at her, "Why did you even come?"

"Because you're a mess and your friends are worried about you."

He gestured towards the door of the bar, an annoyed look on his face. "I didn't even get to finish my drink, you just pulled me away."

Arya scoffed, "Finish your drink, or finish flirting with the bartender?" She wasn't sure why that distinction mattered.

"So what if I was?" He challenged.

She knew that she could easily take the bait and say it, say what she'd wanted to say for months and weeks and years. But, he was drunk and now wasn't the time. She let out a breath, her eyes still heated and her tone still sharp as she answered him. "Do what you want, Gendry."

"Fine." He pushed off the wall and made towards the bar door. "All I fucking want is to drink in peace, too much to ask for?"

"It is when you're being a brat."

"Yeah, well that black-haired bartender doesn't think I'm a brat. Maybe I'll go find her and ring her bell for her." He knew that he was yelling for no reason, and that Arya had no idea how the bartender had phrased her offer earlier, making the threat now sound odd. She seemed to get the message though.

"Great, then you can have Bella drive your stupid bullheaded ass home and then you can ring all the damn bells you want to. I don't care." With that, she turned and stalked to her car, not even watching to see if he went back inside the bar or if he was still standing by the door.

She was halfway home when he called her, she almost didn't answer it. His voice was more slurred than it had been when she left, indicating that he had in fact went back inside and had a few more drinks. "Arya." His deep voice had a whine to it as he spoke. "Arya, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to yell at you like that, I'm just upset and very drunk. Please come back and get me? I don't want to go home with the bartender."

She sighed, "I'm turing around now." Of course she'd go back and get him. That was the whole point of her mission to begin with.

"Okay. I'm in my car, but my keys are gone and I don't know where they went, so I'm just sitting in it with my eyes closed."

She shook her head, but let the small smile at how ridiculous he sounded slide over her lips. "Just stay there, I'm turning around."

By the time she got back there, the bar was mostly cleared out for the night, the last call bell sounding from inside. She got out of her car, parked beside Gendry's, and knocked on his window. He opened his eyes and smiled at her, getting out and practically falling into her arms.

He was fucking sloshed.

She walked him to her car, getting him in and buckling him. The ride back was interesting, seeing as he kept reaching over to finger pieces of her hair, murmuring things she was sure he'd be mortified about if he were sober.

"You're so beautiful."

She felt herself flush at the sound of his deep voice calling her beautiful, looking over at his glassy, half closed eyes. "I'm sure you say that to all the girls that pick your drunk ass up."

"No." He leaned closer to her, "I've never said that to anyone." The sincerity in his voice made her heart beat faster, she kept her eyes on the road. "But I mean it, when I look at you."

She knew it was wrong, and that if they were opposite positions she would literally string him up by his balls if he'd done it to her, but she couldn't help the overwhelming sensation to ask him things she normally wouldn't be able. It was mean, he was basically at her mercy, but the opportunity was too great.

"I think you're the most attractive boy I've ever seen." She gave him, knowing he wouldn't remember it anyway.

His eyes lit up, "Really?"

"Yup." She nodded as they reached a stoplight.

"I think about kissing you, a lot." He confessed, his gaze intent on her.

"Is that so?" She smiled, her heart pounding rapidly and her stomach doing flip-flops.

"Yeah." He sighed, almost dreamily. "I think about a lot of things."

She didn't press him further, the butterflies in her belly more than enough to swoon about for a while. The rest of the ride was in silence, his eyes falling closed more than a few times. Once they arrived at apartment, she helped him out of the car and tugged the keys out of her pocket to unlock the door. Gendry was back to nestling his face in the crook of her neck, his hands splayed wide around her body as she lead him inside. She couldn't really say that she minded it all that much.

It was dark in his apartment, and with the way Gendry was half hanging off her/half fondling her, she didn't really have it in her to manage finding the light switch. She maneuvered him into his bedroom, flipping on the lamp beside his bed, casting the room in a soft glow. He moved his head out of her neck and looked down at her with those hooded eyes, gently stroking his fingers across the planes of her face. He sighed, burying his face back into her neck, arms wrapping around her and pressing her body to his. Arya just brought her arms about his waist, resting her head in his chest, comforted by his embrace.

He mumbled her name into her ear, just loud enough for her to pick up. "Arya." It sounded desperate and needy, not unlike how hers sounded when she called out his name into the empty air when she pleasured herself. It sent goosebumps down her spine.

"Yeah?"

He sighed into her neck, causing more goosebumps and placed a soft, barely there kiss against her skin. Her heart almost stopped, waiting to see what he'd do next. She was sober, he wasn't, she knew that she should just step away from him right now and tuck him in, but she couldn't. She couldn't move away.

He pressed his lips softly into her skin again, a spot right below her ear that had her eyes closing and her inhaling sharply. Her hands gripped his back through the thin sweater he wore, her hips moving closer to his unconsciously. Gendry stilled at that, sucking in a breath from where he was still burrowed in her neck, causing a shiver to go through her.

"Arya." He quietly mumbled, a hint of that whiney desperation still hidden in his tone.

She leaned her head up from it's position on his chest so that she was face to face with his own neck, leaning forward she placed a kiss against his throat. He instantly let out a quiet moan as her lips connected with his heated skin. The sound went right through her and straight to her core, a low throb beginning at the sound.

She quickly placed another kiss on his throat, a little harder this time, another low moan and she received another against her own neck. She felt frantic all of a sudden, drunk like he was. She kissed up his to that strong jaw of his, listening to his heavy breathing, feeling his chest rapidly rise and fall with every gentle pressure she left from her lips.

He moved his head out of her neck, looking down at her with stormy ocean eyes, his breathing quick, a small flush over his creamy skin. He leaned down slowly, giving her time to move out of the way, but she didn't. She didn't move at all.

His lips slowly descended on hers, a little sloppy in his drunkenness, but still pleasing. Her arms still around his waist pulled him closer to her, his own hands coming to rest in her hair. When they pulled away, his eyes were still closed and he leaned his forehead against hers. They were chest to chest, both breathing heavily against each other, she quickly leaned up and captured his mouth with hers again, a little less gentle this time. They gripped each other a bit harder, Arya clawing at his back and shoulders, Gendry walking her back towards his bed.

Before the backs of her legs could hit the mattress, Arya broke apart from him and turned him around, sitting him down on the bed. He refused to let go of her completely, grabbing at her, attempting to pull her back to him. Arya caught her breath as she leaned down to kiss him again.

"Arya." He whispered as they broke apart, those dark, stormy eyes of his glassy and filled with emotions she couldn't understand. "You have no idea about the things I want to do to you."

She felt her heart pick up, but said nothing and helped him take off his shoes. She knew that if she responded, he would tell her those things and then she couldn't possibly be held responsible for her actions and the loss of their virginity.

She stood from her crouch, moving to help him take the sweater off. She knew from experience just how god awful it was to awake up not only hungover, but dying of heat. It wasn't great. She also wouldn't lie and pretend that she didn't do it because she hadn't wanted to see his bare body again.

She lifted the hem of his sweater, bringing it up, but he was being generally unhelpful and just kept moving and talking while she attempted to undress him in a strictly platonic way, obviously.

"Kiss me again. Please." He pleaded up at her as she finally removed the sweater from his body, leaving him bare from the waist up. She wouldn't remove his pants – that was dangerous territory that she was definitely not strong enough to face.

His hands found her waist, bringing her to stand in between his parted legs. She placed her own hands on his shoulders, the warmth of his skin running up through her palms and into her bloodstream. "Have you ever kissed anyone before?" She wasn't sure why the question came out, since she had been trying to stick to the strict no questions policy, but clearly her mouth was playing by it's own rules tonight.

He looked up at her with those wild eyes of his and she already knew the answer, she idly fingered the back of his hair as he responded. "No."

She leaned down and placed a soft, gentle kiss against his lips, leaving him breathless for more. She could see it in his eyes, he would give her anything, if only he could have her. The stupid boy didn't even realize that she was already his.

"Good." She whispered, still leaning down close to his face. It was so quiet in the room, it wouldn't've mattered if she hadn't been standing so close or not. "Now you're all mine and I'll ruin any other girl for you."

She was bold because she knew he was too drunk to really remember what happened tonight, she was bold because of the look in his eyes.

He let out a small groan at her words and pulled her even closer to him, leaning his forehead against the spot between her breasts, she felt her nipples harden in response. His grip on her waist was a bit tight, but it didn't hurt, it instead spoke of a possessiveness he usually tried to tame. "Gods, Arya, why would you say something like that?"

She ran her hands through his hair and pulled just slightly at the ends, causing another groan to come from his chest. His hands tightened, his breathing increased, his jaw clenched. It was like a routine, say or do anything to rile him up; he responds as follows. He attempted to pull her closer again, but her legs were already against the mattress, but he pulled regardless as though he were attempting to pull her into his lap. Maybe he was.

"Don't you know what something like that does to me?" He pleaded, head still burrowed between her breasts, her nipples painfully hard, her center throbbing steadily. God, why had she thought this would be a good idea? His husky tone and the groan in his voice were enough to have her make some extremely bad decisions, but add in the words he was actually saying in that voice and look at that, her panties just dropped. "Don't you know what you do to me all the time?"

"No." She breathed out. She didn't know what she did to him all the time, but she sure as hell hoped he was about to tell her.

He was obviously a very talkative drunk, his normally shy tongue loose and uninhibited with words he'd never say otherwise. Maybe the real reason he didn't drink wasn't because of Robert's very known escapades, but because he ended up spilling his secrets without even an asking.

"Gods, the things you do to me, Arya. The things I'd do to you..." He leaned up from his spot against her breasts to kiss along the exposed collarbone her v-neck shirt provided for him. "The things I'd let you do to me. You could do anything and I'd let you. God, I'd let you."

The moan in his voice was driving her over the edge, she gripped harshly at his bare shoulders as his teeth lightly scrapped against her clavicle, bringing out a sharp gasp from her throat. She needed to step away from him, now, or else she'd really let him do whatever he wanted – fall down drunk or not.

"Gendry." She whispered his name, leaning down to place soft kisses on his face. He seemed placated by that, his grip on her hips slacking just a bit. "You need to go to sleep."

She stepped away from him, but he grabbed at her wrist, eyes pleading up at her. "Will you stay?"

"Of course." The words rushed out of her mouth before she even had time to think otherwise. He nodded and released her arm, watching as she moved around the other side of the bed. "Lie down." She ordered and he did.

She sat down on the bed, pulling off her shoes and her jeans, grabbing a pair of his shorts from the shelf and putting them on. She had shrugged off her jacket at some point, totally lost on her as to when, but she pulled back the comforter and got in. Gendry was waiting for her and pulled her to him as soon as she laid down, his arm slung over her waist, her back to his front.

She felt him settle in behind her, his hips pressing insistently against her own and she could feel the evidence of his arousal there. She didn't do anything, she didn't trust herself, and instead listened to his breathing even out, eventually evening out hers as well.

She had woken up at some point to pee, leaving the warm cocoon of his arms in a blind search for the bathroom. Once she had returned to his bedroom she was a bit more awake, and while the thought of getting back into bed with him was tempting, she knew that if he woke up before her and actually remembered what happened last night, she'd be in for a real awkward morning. Instead, she found herself passed out on his couch, waking up for a second time, but this time to the sound of a phone that was loudly ringing somewhere in the kitchen.

Arya pulled herself off the couch and ran in search of her ringing cellphone, the chorus of Bootylicious ringing out loudly in the kitchen. She cursed as she stubbed her toe picking up her jacket, grabbing the phone from the pocket. "Hello."

"Good morning, darling. How is he? You never called me back last night, I was a little worried that we left you out of your league."

She rolled her eyes at Lommy and sat back down on the couch she had just soundly been sleeping on. "I handled the situation perfectly fine, thank you." She didn't mention just how she'd managed to handle it, but specifics were non-important.

"I bet." Lommy's smirking voice replied. "So, seriously, what happened last night? He sounded fucking terrible when he answered."

Arya leaned back into the cushions, propping her legs up on the table in front of her. "He wasn't great when I got there, all brooding and drunk. He's actually really mean when he drinks." She proceeded to leave out the part where he was also a horny emotional secret teller, mostly because she figured that Lommy already knew that, but also because then Lommy would want to know exactly what he'd said to her last night and she was never telling that to anyone ever.

"Uh, yeah, he is. Sorry, should've mentioned that."

"Thanks for the heads up twelve hours after the fact." She rolled her eyes. "I tried to get him to leave with me but he just kept being really sarcastic and stubborn. Eventually I just took his keys and left him there, but he called me when I was like halfway home and asked me to come back get him."

"Well, at least you got him home alright. We're really gonna need to keep a better eye on him."

"Does he go on benders often?" She asked curiously, her fingers playing idly with the fraying edge of the quilt on the couch.

She could sense Lommy's pause, as though it were a stranger asking him and not the girl that had picked Gendry's ass up and slept in his bed. But, he answered. "No, not really." He sighed. "He's only been really fucked up a few times, he's never liked to drink, but when he does he just really fucking goes for it."

"Well, he's fine. He'll feel like hot garbage when he wakes up, but he's fine."

"Good." Lommy sounded a tad relieved. Under all his bluster and sass, Lommy truly did care about his friends. "Thank you for going to get him. If I could've, I would've, but I had that group study thing and those bitches get really serious when you miss more than three times."

She smirked at the way he explained his group partners. "It's not a problem, Lommy. I'm his friend too, of course I'd go pick his drunk ass up."

"I'll see you this week?" He asked.

"Sure."

About and hour later he stumbled out of the bedroom, his eyes squinted, a hand on his head. He was still shirtless, apparently too hungover to even think about his state of undress, his pants rumpled from having slept in them all night. She looked up from her place on the couch, a bowl of cereal in her hands, the Kardashians playing on the tv. He groaned as he sat down on the armchair, eyes closed.

"Did you pick me up last night?"

He didn't seem embarrassed to be around her, which was making her lean towards he didn't really remember last night, like she'd expected. "Yeah." She said as she stood from the couch and went into the kitchen.

"Sorry if I was an asshole. I've been told I turn into an asshole when I drink." He held his head in his hand, wincing as the tv changed volumes with commericals.

She grabbed a water bottle from the fridge and some aspirin from the cabinet, handing them both over to him. "It's fine. You were mostly just a grump and doing a striking Angel impression – you know, with all the brooding and narrowed eyes."

He knocked back the aspirin and sipped the water slowly, "Well, thank you for dealing with me."

She sat back down on the couch, facing him. She debated telling him about everything that happened last night, he did have the right to know, but she also didn't want to embarrass him if she didn't have to. But, she couldn't help the craving to lean over and kiss him as freely as she had last night. She wanted to tell him, if only to allow her more access to his lips.

"So what happened?" He looked up at her, "At dinner? What made you run to the nearest bar and dive in?"

He looked down at the water bottle in his hands, avoiding her stare. "I think it's a bit too early for that relay of information." He bit at the inside of his lower lip. "But, once again, Cersei just knows how to fuck me up."

If Arya didn't dislike this woman already for the way she'd treated Sansa and her family, then this would've sent her over the edge. Gendry was a sweet guy, possibly the sweetest – only bested by Pod in that category – and if Cersei fucking Lannister could move him to binge drink, than she had some serious issues.

As though he could sense her thoughts and read the look in her eyes, he sighed. "It's not worth being upset over, Arya. What's done is done."

She said nothing and continued to watch the trash tv playing in front of her. He sat with her for a while, getting up to throw up a few times, and eventually he crawled back into bed. She promised to come back and check on him later, but she needed to get out of his apartment, she needed to be away from him. Even hungover and puking, he was still more attractive to her than any other human – even a young Heath Ledger. And after last night... she just needed to catch her breath and think about what to do.

She left his keys on the counter and scribbled a note about him needing more cereal, locking his door behind her. A part of her wanted to call Brienne, another part of her wanted to talk to Sansa, the bigger part of her enjoyed having a secret. Instead of going home, she found herself driving to Winterfell, her bed calling her name, and the added bonus of no girls being around sealed the deal.

Whether she ended up telling Gendry what happened or not, things had definitely changed between them. She couldn't pretend anymore. And now that she knew what his mouth felt like against her own, there was no going back. She'd have Gendry Waters-Baratheon panting before her if it was the last thing she did.

Chapter Text

Gendry groaned when he opened his eyes for the second time that day. He'd woken up earlier, sat with Arya in the living room for a while before throwing up had become a full-time job and he couldn't keep his drooping eyes open any longer and crawled back into bed.

He remembered Arya's soft, yet firm voice telling him she was leaving and that she'd come back to check on him. Maybe it was the sound of her voice piercing through his hangover-induced coma, maybe it was the light lingering smell of her perfume on his pillows, but she danced in and out of his sleep for hours.

When he opened his eyes this time, the urge to vomit had lessened and the room was dark. He must've slept through the rest of the day, which was fine, considering it was the weekend and he was blowing off work as it was. Tobho would understand, the older man wouldn't hold it against him for not calling in.

He hauled himself up off the bed, the overwhelming smell of sweat and booze wafting up around him, making him nauseas. Without thinking, he quickly stumbled out of his pants and underwear in the dark, heading straight for the shower without even turning on the light.

The water was hot, scalding almost, but Gendry just pushed himself under it, letting water wash away the grime and sadness that last night had left on him. He didn't want to think about the party, he didn't want to think about the effect it had left him with, so he didn't. Gendry was exceptionally good at not thinking about things that bothered him, he'd been practicing the art of pushing it down for a long time – much to Pod's annoyance.

The small nightlight plugged in next to the mirror afforded him a little light, it wasn't completely dark, but dark enough that his head was beginning to stop pounding. He leaned back against the cool tiles, the hot water still rolling over him, and he closed his eyes.

Flashes of Arya played out behind his eyes. He remembered her coming to get him, the bartender flirting, he remembered yelling at her, but after that it got hazy. Things became blurred, or indecipherable.

He did recall the feeling of her skin beneath him, the pressure of her lips, the painful sting of his ignored arousal. None of those things could've been real though, right? He and Arya hadn't kissed or touched or... confessed things. There was no way. She had been curled up on his couch this morning, face passive and smirky as it always was, that underlying layer of concern present as well. There was no embarrassment, no shifty gazes, everything had been as it always was between them.

It must've been a wish on his mind during the alcoholic haze that had over taken him. Whatever it was he was recalling in staticky bits and pieces was obviously a dream, something he'd conjured up in his lonely, aroused, drunkenness.

But, the thought that it could be real – putting aside the acute terror he felt – there was the tingles of arousal, and want and need. His eyes closed, in the darkness of his unoccupied apartment, it was easy to pretend it had been real. It was easy to picture Arya before him, metal eyes large and full of emotion, easy to feel the places on his neck and jaw burn where her lips had pressed, easy to feel her hands ghosting over his sensitive body and hear the words in his ear.

I think you're the most attractive boy I've ever seen.

He let out a small groan as he leaned his head back against the cool tile, his hand easily finding it's way to his hard length.

Now you're all mine and I'll ruin any other girl for you.

His breath hitched as his grip became tighter, the movements of his hand on his shaft faster.

Gendry.

The breathy, moaning voice that he could practically hear in his ear, as though she were right beside him, as though it were her hand pumping over his hard and eager cock and not his own was enough to start pushing him over the edge. The moan he let out was breathy and loud and mildly embarrassing if anyone had actually been around to hear it. He could feel himself becoming close, his orgasm right there, his eyes screwed tight, his mouth hanging open as hot spurts fell over his hand and the shower door.

Dropping his hand back against the wall, the water running over it and cleaning away the evidence of his need for Arya fucking Stark, he let his head remain back and his eyes closed. His breathing was beginning to return to normal, his heart regulated and began to slow. It was still dark. He was still in the shower. He was still alone.

He knew that his phone was somewhere, possibly on the floor of his room, stuffed into pockets of jackets maybe. He probably had messages and voicemails and missed calls, but he couldn't bring himself to care, not right now.

He was doing that thing again where he blocked out the things that were bothering him. Podrick whined about how unhealthy it was, Gendry honestly didn't care.

He had began to wash his hair, then his body, slowly feeling more and more like himself instead of the drunk brooding monster that had overtaken him last night. A light suddenly came on outside of his room, obviously someone was here, he'd bet ten to one it was Arya.

He sighed.

It wasn't that he wasn't in the mood to see her, because she was slowly becoming his closest friend and encompassing his entire existence, but he really, really didn't want to talk about yesterday. There was also the fact that he was hungover and his body was more than a little sensitive at the moment – one intense look from beneath those lashes or a gentle swing of her hips and he'd be painfully hard in record time. It was a quirk he'd learned about himself, he hadn't exactly deemed it relevant prior to knowing her.

He stood beneath the hot water for a few more moments before turning it off and reaching for a towel, securing it tightly across his waist before opening the shower door and walking out the open bathroom door. The cool air of the apartment hit his wet skin like a bee-sting, causing him to erupt in goosebumps instantly. Walking towards the bright kitchen to check and make sure he wasn't being casually robbed or something, he found Arya, as he'd predicted, roaming through cabinets and putting away fresh boxes of cereal.

“Hey.” His voice was hoarse from being unused all day and the alcohol from last night, it sounded low and gravelly, strange to his ears.

Arya looked over to him, her eyes just slightly wide, a small flush crawling up her milk-colored skin, taking him in.

“Hey.” At least her voice was even and normal. She gestured towards the boxes she was just putting away, her short leather jacket still on, the one she'd been wearing yesterday. “I replenished your cereal cabinet, seeing as I'm the one who runs it low. How're you feeling?”

She was leaning forward against the counter now, the damn breakfast bar the only thing separating them, her in the kitchen, him in the living room close to his bedroom door. He sighed and proceeded to shrug a shoulder, watching with sick delight as her eyes strayed to his bare breadth of his shoulders. He liked her gaze on his skin and he realized that the goosebumps that broke out over him were no longer because of the cold.

I think you're the most attractive boy I've ever seen.

“Better than last night.” Was his response and he watched something slide over her features quickly, before it was gone.

Now you're all mine and I'll ruin any other girl for you.

Arya nodded, trying painfully hard to keep her gaze on his face. He could tell she was struggling, while he may not know everything about Arya Stark and some things seemed as though they'd stay a mystery forever, he was getting better at reading her. And while that look that had crossed over her quickly may have been unreadable, he could easily tell that she was having difficulty not straying her gaze down towards where one hand held the towel in place.

He wanted her gaze on his body – something he'd never thought he would ever say, considering the massive amount of self-esteem issues he harbored – but, he wanted her to look. To gaze. To fucking yearn. He wanted her to want him just as fucking much he wanted her. Because he wanted her, so badly.

He was still in a shit mood, but that didn't stop the way he felt about her.

“How's your hangover?” She asked in that perfectly even tone. It was infuriating, but impressive. And if Gendry could say one thing about her, it was that she handled herself so skillfully that it was borderline sociopathic and annoying.

“Fine.” He let his free hand wipe over his tired eyes and move his still dripping hair from where it was plastered against his forehead. “I feel way better than I did when I woke up the first time.”

She nodded, her dark hair up in a ponytail, bouncing with every movement of her head. It left the long column of her neck exposed, the way she was leaning forward on the counter top, resting upon her elbows, her forearms flat against the counter, gave him a wonderful view down the v-neck of her shirt. The easy dip of her collarbones, the slight swell of her breasts. Why was she doing this to him?

“Alright, well, I'll let you sleep it off.” Her tone was once again casual and even, but he could tell there was something else in there too. Most likely heavy concern about what had actually happened to send him into a binge drinking episode. Grateful that she wasn't pressing him about it now, he nodded at her. “I can come with you to get your car tomorrow, if you want.”

He wasn't sure why his jaw had started to tighten or why his breathing began to quicken or what exactly about her had set out the quiet sting of arousal, but it had nonetheless. He nodded his okay and watched her gather her own keys and smile at him from the doorway before slipping out of his apartment.

He sighed, knowing that even now he was still being more of a dick than was necessary, unlike his usual self. Maybe the alcohol wasn't fully out of his system, maybe he was just angry. Either way, he retreated back to his room, dressed in pajamas, poured himself a bowl of dry cereal, and climbed back into bed where he slept again, hoping that by the time he woke up in the morning he'd return back to normal.

 


 

Standing in front of the bathroom's full length mirror, naked, with a determination that could rival even that of all the Starks alive, is how the first tendrils of an idea began to form.

It had started with a thought, the same particular thought she'd had after leaving Gendry's apartment the other morning – she wanted to see him trembling beneath her, begging, wanting. She wanted to watch him quiver at her touch and moan her name.

It had progressed further when she went back to his apartment later that day, bringing him new cereal to replace the ones she had ate, and to check up on him and make sure he hadn't died in his sleep.

The apartment had been dark when she entered, no lights on, no tv, no movement. Her first thought had been that he was still asleep, but as she'd set down the bags on the counter and moved her way towards the door to his room she'd heard it, the shower. Were the Gods trying to punish her or something? Had she really done something so terrible that would warrant her to keep finding Gendry sopping wet and naked?

Apparently the answer had been yes, because not only was he naked and showering and wet, but the door to the bathroom was unabashedly open, the only light was the small glow from the nightlight plugged into the wall by the mirror so no one killed themselves peeing in the middle of the night. It provided enough light for her to see him through the clear, riveted glass of the shower door, the cupped light against the light blue of the wall setting everything in an ethereal glow.

So, now not only was Gendry naked and showering and wet, but she could see him and he was – God fucking help her – touching himself.

What the actual fuck did she ever do to deserve this?

He was leaning back against the shower wall, facing the glass doors, giving her an amazing view from where she was creepily lurking in the dark doorway of his room. He hadn't heard her come in, she hadn't turned on the lights, he was fisting his length with his eyes closed and that bottom lip snagged between his teeth. She had never become wet faster.

It was weird and wrong and God help her she couldn't move away. Her feet had been planted to the floor, her core throbbing, her nipples tight.

She had stood there, watching as she manhandled his flesh with an expertise that could only come from living inside your own skin. He was bigger than she thought – because as much as she'd thought about Gendry fucking her, she hadn't actually really thought about what his cock would look like – his hand moving quick and rough over his shaft, his hips lifting slightly, thrusting to meet his own hand.

It had been the single most erotic thing she'd ever witnessed.

Then he moaned.

Fucking moaned.

It had been breathy and loud and so unlike the times growing up she'd accidentally heard her brothers in the middle of the night. The noise was pure sex on her ears and caused her thighs to rub together at the sound.

The movement of his hand quickened to a dizzying pace and not too long after ropes of white painted the shower door in front of him.

She had moved back after that, away from the door, away from his room, away from him. Her thighs were trembling with want, her clit and core simultaneously throbbed in tandem, her heart rate sped up and her breathing quickened. She had leaned against the counter, calming herself like they did before a meet, deep breaths and the clearing of the mind. Once she was sure that she wasn't about to rip off her clothes and jump into the shower with him, she flicked on the kitchen light.

He had wondered out a few minutes later as she had been putting away the cereal she'd bought him, she hadn't been expecting him naked once again, but ever the calm-cool-collected human Syrio taught her to be, she hadn't even flinched. His broad shoulders were dripping and she could clearly see the freckles that she was sure mapped out constellations across them. She wouldn't look any further, couldn't. Especially with his deep voice all gravelly and rough, sounding like sex and sin and – what the fuck was she talking about again? She knew that her self control was iron-tight, but this fucking guy kept trying to test her will.

He had seemed out of it and cranky, it might've been because of his hangover, but Arya wasn't fooled into thinking that his attitude the night prior had only been because of the alcohol he'd consumed. Gendry was sweetly disposed and quiet more often than not, but she could tell the underlying sadness and anger was there. He might've been more prone to it because of the situation and inebriation, but that was just the mood he'd been in regardless of how much he'd drank.

She left him soon after, he hadn't called her about his car the next day. Lommy had texted her that Pod went with him to pick it up. She wasn't that surprised, he'd been sort of ignoring her for a while.

She had let him be – mostly because she knew that whatever had happened at Myrcella's had been hard on him, and also because he was being a little bratty the couple of times he did answer her texts. She'd decided to let him be, cool down, get his shit together. If he needed her in the mean time, she'd be right here.

That's how she found herself in the current situation and Operation Quiver had formed. The name was hokey, and not her idea, but the intention behind it definitely was.

A few days later, fresh from a shower the idea had struck her as she'd been toweling her hair, staring mindlessly into the wide mirror above the sinks.

She wanted to have Gendry quaking and coming from her touch, she wanted him to gaze upon her with that direct and intense stare, she wanted his strong arms trembling and that terrible, dirty, breathy moan to come from his lips. She wanted him, regardless of their friendship. It was quite the pill to swallow.

Which is how Operation Q truly came into play. Lommy had named it, because apparently all top secret plans need cool names. Storming into Brienne's dorm room after practically forcing Gendry to hangout with her is how it all started.

It has been days since Gendry's brat-attack at the bar, he didn't seem to be getting any less broody. But, then again, she wouldn't know – the snot-bucket hadn't been answering her texts.

If Gendry wasn't okay, she got that. If he needed space, she got that too. But, to start flat out ignoring her and not the rest of their friends? Absolutely fucking not.

Casually dropping by the library and forcing him into spending time with her seemed like the only logical way to go about it. He had been at his usual perch, behind the desk, cataloging – something. The bags under his eyes spoke of restless nights and the weariness in his gaze told her that whatever it was that he was apparently not working through was eating him alive.

“Hey.”

He looked up at the sound of her voice, flickers of emotions crossing his eyes, his face stoic. “Hey.” He croaked out in return. His voice was rough, gravelly almost, he sounded like he had the other day after binge drinking. She was caught between worrying that he was downing copious amounts of alcohol again and ignoring how the sound of it soaked her underwear.

He didn't particularly look pleased to see her, but he didn't look annoyed that she was there either. The swell of indignation settle in her stomach at the way he'd been acting. She knew it wasn't about her, she knew that it had everything to do with that stupid party, but she couldn't stop the radiating heat of annoyance spread through her.

Why was he ignoring her and not their other friends?

Her mind lingered on the fact that she had let him kiss her and had literally done nothing to stop the progression of their drunken affair. That sounded way cooler than it actually was, and Arya wasn't entirely sure she was allowed to use the term drunken affair when she had been extremely sober throughout the whole thing.

Was it a thing to be drunk on him?

No, that was sappy and stupid. She was stupid.

Looking down into the crashing ocean waves of his eyes, her own set with determination. “Come on, let's go.”

His brows furrowed, “What?”

“It's your lunch.” She said matter-of-factly. “So, come on.”

She stood in front of the desk, arms crossed, waiting. She knew that her face spoke of how much she wasn't going to put up with his bullshit and that seemed to spark him into action. Rolling his eyes and heaving a sigh, he stood from behind the desk, clocked out, and walked out the door with her.

He was silent as they walked to the cafe down the street from the library. She didn't push him to talk, didn't push him to say anything really. Even though the silence was actually killing her. Normally, she basked in a good, comfortable silence. She'd had many of them with Gendry, this was not one of them.

She was actually itching to speak to him, to get him to talk to her, to tell her why he obviously wasn't sleeping, why he hadn't asked her to go with him to get his car, why he'd been actively avoiding her. A part of her – an admittedly a large part – was nervous that he remembered the events of that night and was mad that she hadn't said anything to him about it. Maybe he was mad that it happened at all.

Because, as much as she just knew that Gendry liked her, she really didn't know anything at all.

Being attracted to someone was one thing, she was attracted to a lot of people. Having feelings for someone was completely different. She had feelings for Gendry, the real kind, not the middle school crushy-crush kind. He was bright, and smart, and funny, and comforting, and amazing. He was her best friend, she wanted to spend time with him, she wanted to sit with him all day and ignore the world.

She had thought he felt the same, considering the things he'd drunkenly murmured to her that night, the confession he'd made to both of them in the private bubble of his room. She hadn't been able to stop thinking about it. Hadn't been able to get the words from her mind. Or the soft way he'd touched her skin, the gentle way he'd kissed her. She was driving herself mad.

She knew Gendry liked her. Just knew. Which is why it killed her that he'd been ignoring her.

But, she couldn't do anything about that. She couldn't just force him to want her, to want to tell her the things that were bothering him. If he wanted to tell her, he would. What she could do was force him into hanging out with her. She was good at that, ask Brienne.

Actually dragging him from the building on his lunch hour and force-feeding him seemed to put him in a better mood, for which she was grateful. She got a smile out of him, a real Gendry smile. She hadn't pushed him about his mood, his pretend non-problems, or why he hadn't been texting her back. They just sat and talked about their friends, and work, and school, and the big fencing meet that was coming up. He seemed better by the end of their jaunt and after she left the library he'd texted her about hanging out the next day.

Gendry wasn't talking about what was really bothering him, but he at least seemed to be shedding that annoying brat-suit he'd been wearing since that night at the bar. But, hanging out with him wasn't any easier than leaving him alone, Arya found. She couldn't stop thinking about kissing him, his hands on her body, the way he moaned her name. She found herself drowning in thoughts of him, and apparently everyone was beginning to notice the weird change in her.

Every time she was close to him, she fought the urge to lean over and take his lips with her own. The want, the need, it was getting a little ridiculous. She felt guilty about not telling him what had happened that night. He didn't seem to remember and Arya hadn't wanted to rock the boat, but now it was eating her alive.

They had kissed.

It had been real, no longer a figment of her horny imagination. They had kissed and panted and moaned and it had been downright fucking magical. And he wasn't even aware it had happened.

Part of her just wanted to tell him, just come clean and say they kissed and that she knew he wanted her and be done with it. The smaller part of her argued that it wasn't a good idea. She'd lied by omission, kept things from him, and to top it all off, they were friends. Like, real friends. She finds that life has sneakily become tricky and annoying, if only she could go back to being eleven and carefree.

But, she's not eleven.

And Gendry is worth the headache.

So, storming into Brienne's dorm room, she had one goal on her mind. Feelings were tricky, messy, and rude; feelings Arya may not have been good at, but seduction shouldn't be that hard. Right?

“I need to watch porn and I'm not doing it alone.”

She wasn't entirely sure why she had yelled it upon throwing open Brienne's door, but she couldn't argue that she'd been completely sane these past couple of days. Gendry was driving her mad and it was time to get some payback.

The three of them just looked at her from where they had been playing a round of SuperSmashBrothers, controllers in hand, brows furrowed. For some reason, Arya thought that Lommy may have already knew what this was all about – freaky, considering that not even Arya herself knew until she'd gotten in her car.

Brienne looked disgusted and disgruntled, Lommy looked excited yet confused, and poor baby Podrick looked lost and alone and so very uncomfortable.

“Pod, out.” She pointed at the quiet boy as she shoved herself into Brienne's room. “Lommy,” She pointed towards the wide-eyed, smirking blonde. “You stay.”

“Fuck yeah, I am.” Was his excited reply.

Pod just sighed, heaving himself up and grabbing his back back. “See you guys later, I guess?” He couldn't manage looking Arya in the eyes as he past her to go out the door, blush staining his cheeks. That was why he wasn't allowed to stay.

Apparently she'd said as much out loud, causing Lommy to bark out a laugh and smirk up at her from his position on the floor. “You know, I have it on good authority that our sweet baby Pod is actually a lady fucking killer.”

“No way.” Came Arya's disbelieving reply, face scrunched up and arms crossed.

“Hand to fucking God. Apparently he's packing some major horsemeat and knows how to use it.”

“Lommy, shut up. I can't listen to this anymore.” Brienne punched him in the shoulder, a small blush smothering her pale freckles.

Lommy rubbed the spot Brienne had just tagged, looking back up at Arya, cool-eyed and smirking. “So, Honeypot, why do we need to review sexually explicit materials again?”

Arya heaved a sigh as she dropped herself down onto the floor in the spot that Podrick had just vacated, not even bothered by Lommy's strange endearments any more. She hadn't intended on telling Lommy, she hadn't intended on telling anyone. But, on the drive over to hang out with them all, she just couldn't stop thinking about Gendry and her thoughts from earlier, and his shifting moods and his wet, naked body and his fucking breathy moans or the way he said her name, and before she knew it, she was screaming about watching porn.

The part of her that didn't want to tell Lommy was the part that was afraid he'd tell Gendry. The part of her that was about to tell him was the part that knew he wouldn't. Both of those parts seemed to make a compromise.

“I like someone.”

The smile on Lommy's face grew, not a smirk but an actual smile. Arya wasn't sure if she'd actually seem it before. He looked excited and happy and like a golden fluffy puppy all ready to be taken for a walk. “I fucking knew it.” She was nervous for a moment that she had actually said Gendry's name out loud, but he replied quickly before she could speak. “Is it Gendry?”

“No.” She shot out quickly, almost too quickly. She switched tactics, trying to make everything plausible and not like she was totally making this up as she went. “He's... friends with Jeynie's sister.” That sounded real enough, right? “He's super shy and sweet, quiet and sort of nerdy.”

Lommy eyed her suspiciously for a moment, “So, you have a crush on a Gendry-doppelganger?”

“Shut up. You can't tell anyone.” She threatened, sucker-punching his arm as punishment for something he hadn't even done yet.

He pushed her back and rubbed his sore arm, smile back in place, seemingly not pushing the fact that her plan wasn't well thought out. “Fuck you, I won't. I wouldn't betray a confidence like that. Especially not with my bitches.”

Brienne rolled her eyes in disgust. “We are not your bitches.”

Lommy ignored her and focused on Arya, “So, what's you liking a Bashful Geisha have to do with watching porn?”

The annoying flush on her cheeks spurned her on, “Well, I don't know anything about sex other than what's on tv or in a book, and if I want to try and seduce him, I need to know how.”

Lommy cut her off with a loud laugh as Brienne's brows furrowed. “You want to seduce him?” She asked in mild disbelief and confusion.

“Oh my God.” Lommy laughed, holding his stomach. Arya was about to punch him again when he stopped and looked at her like she was crazy. “You want to try and seduce the Gendry-doppelganger into liking you?”

“Yeah.” Her voice came out aggressive and annoyed by his laughter, his accusation against her, like she wouldn't be able to do it. He seemed to be able to read her mind and shook his head.

“Arya, I have absolutely not doubt that if you wanted, you could more than make Gendry – or his doppelganger – fall to his knees in a babbling, quivering mess of arousal. But, I'm just confused as to why you think you have to.”

Arya's brow furrowed in confusion at whatever Lommy was trying to say. “What do you mean?”

He looked to be struggling over something with himself before sighing and shaking his head. “The poor twat's been harboring a bone for you since like, dinosaurs roamed the earth.” He ran a hand through his blonde curls. “I'm actually positive that there wouldn't be much seduction involved.”

“Wait,” Arya started carefully. “You're saying Gendry likes me?”

She knew this. Gendry had told her himself. But to hear it drop out of Lommy's mouth so casually, like they talked about it all the time was breath-stealing.

He seemed to realize his mistake too late, talking about Gendry and not the fake-version of him that Arya had sort of clearly made up. “I can neither confirm or deny that statement.” Lommy shrugged his shoulders, smirking poker-face back on. “But, I am more than happy to help turn you into a sultry sex pot and watch as either of their control slowly breaks.”

Arya scoffed and rolled her eyes, ignoring the pounding of her heart of Lommy's accidental profession. “You make it sound like we're on a teen vampire show.”

“Move over, Nina Dobrev.” Was Lommy's only smirking reply.

Arya rolled her eyes and Brienne spoke up now that Lommy's intensity had died down. “Are you sure about this, Arya?” She seemed to be reading through the easily-breakable story that she had presented them with, she had been friends with Brienne long enough to know that the older girl didn't for one second buy that there was another blushing virgin boy she was after. Damn fucking Brienne and her emotional x-ray vision. “Not too long ago you were all on the 'we're just friends' bandwagon.”

The concern in her best friend's voice was enough for that sliver of self-doubt to grow. But, Brienne didn't know that Gendry had drunkenly kissed her, or that she had let him. She didn't know that every time Arya was close to him, she felt horny and wanton and ready to tackle him to the floor. She didn't get that she wanted Gendry to make the first move, to give him back some power in their relationship, to be as aggressive and intense as he wanted, just as she had waited for him to be in the library.

She just shrugged a shoulder, “Things've changed.” Understatement of the year.

Lommy looked between them for a moment, his quick green eyes catching more than she gave him credit for. Maybe Lommy knew there was no other guy, maybe that was why he'd been speaking of Gendry and not some made up person that Arya had falsely supplied them with. He said nothing on the subject, apparently the less he knew the better in his eyes, less secrets to divulge.“Alright,” he jumped up, grabbing the laptop plugged in by Brienne's bed. “Let's get ready for some sex education.”

Arya followed him to sit on the bed, Brienne lunging to grab the computer from Lommy. “No way. You're so not using my computer for this.”

Lommy held the laptop to his chest, moving to let Arya shield him. “Come on, Brie.” Arya rolled her eyes at her best friend. “This is the only computer in here.”

Brienne stared them down for a moment before sighed and collapsing back onto her bed, cheeks flushed and already annoyed and embarrassed. There was a tiny part of her that felt slightly bad about forcing Brienne into watching porn with them, seeing as how she already tested and pushed the boundaries of her best friend's comfort level on the daily. The bigger part of her that knew Brienne was just as curious but would never ask and say nothing.

“So, what is it that you're looking to understand?” Lommy asked, his professional business class voice on. “It goes in, it goes out, you clench, he squirts.”

Brienne just groaned as she forced a pillow over her face – most likely to hide her embarrassment. Arya had to say, listening to Lommy talk about sex so calm and... not smirky was strange. He saw the smile on Arya's face and the pillow over Brienne and rolled his eyes.

“I did use to be straight, you know.”

Ignoring his slightly disgruntled tone, she shrugged, “Growing up with four brothers was very informative, but not always the most helpful. I guess... I don't know, I'm not entirely sure how to be... alluring?” She wasn't sure why it was phrased as a question. “I'm also not entirely sure about how to preform...” She waved her hand over the computer where Lommy had pulled up a porn site and videos of people engaging in various sexual acts were shown. “All of this. I know the mechanics, like you obviously out the dick in your mouth for a blow job, but I don't know how to do it right.”

Lommy just nodded, only breaking the calm exterior for a moment to smirk softly at her. “I'm not going to lie, the thoughts of you giving fake-Gendry/real-Gendry a blow job is equal parts disgusting and arousing.” She swatted him in the arm and he chuckled, returning to the screen before him. “So, you want to know the basics, you want to be alluring, and you want what? For fake-Gendry to tackle you first?”

Arya shrugged, the flush rising a little higher at the thought. “Yeah, I guess. I mean, I don't want to have to initiate everything, you know?” She had meant to leave it at that, but she was speaking again without her brain catching up and soon more words were falling from her lips. “I just... I want him gasping and quivering beneath me.”

The bark of a laugh that pulled from his chest didn't make Arya feel like she had earlier, like he was laughing at her. No, this time the smile on his face and the look in his eyes was playful and one of admiration.

He nodded at her, bright smile still in place. “Operation Quiver. I like it.”

Brienne peeked out from behind her pillow, face scrunched up in partial disgust and confusion. “Operation Quiver? What the fuck is that?”

Lommy rolled his eyes, “It's the code name for Arya's seduction of any and all Gendrys.” He said it as though it were obvious. “And all good plans need to have code names. Duh.”

Brienne just shook her head and returned to her spot on her back, pillow now resting on her stomach as she watched the tv that was still paused on the video game Arya had interrupted. Nobody seemed to mine all that much.

Lommy placed the laptop down on the bed beside him where Brienne was lying and faced her. He and Arya were sitting across from one another on the bed and he turned to give her his full attention. He wasn't smirking, which again caught her off guard. In all the time she'd known him, Lommy wasn't one to look particularly serious, and even now he didn't look serious, but there was just this air of realness about him that somehow proved he wouldn't turn this into a joke.

“Smile at me.” Was his first command.

She felt a little odd at the request, not use to force smiling when her resting bitch face was active. But, seeing the one raised brow from Lommy, she sighed and smiled at him.

“Not so forced.” He smiled a bit at the sight of her. “Gentle, like... you can't help but smile back.”

It was weird thinking over what Lommy was saying, trying to get the reaction he was looking for. She had never really done this with anyone before, just sitting knee-to-knee looking at their face, into their eyes. Well, she had with Gendry, but that had been different.

Thoughts of him invaded her mind then, and Lommy's words suddenly started becoming clearer. She could see Gendry in the library, sorting and stacking and then he'd look up, see her and that small little smile would come over his lips, eyes gentle, soft. She knew what Lommy was talking about.

He smiled back at her, not the way Gendry had in her mind, but a smile that indicated that she had done as he'd asked and he was pleased. “Now, lean over and brush the hair from my forehead.”

Arya rolled her eyes a bit, but the moment between them – the after affects that moment in her mind between her and Gendry – hadn't yet died. “Lommy – ”

He cut her off, moving forward slowly, reaching his hand to where a piece of hair had fallen from the sloppy bun atop her head, gently brushing it back behind her ear, fingers lingering lightly against her neck as he did. She couldn't help the very small tightness in her chest at the action, paired with that achingly soft smile on his lips. There was love in his eyes as he stared directly into hers, not the same kind of emotion she felt for Gendry, but there was love there.

He pulled back and that small smirk returned to his lips, it wasn't smarmy or cocky, but it had her rolling her eyes all the same. “See. That's how you be alluring.”

She pushed some air back into her lungs, not wanting to admit how much what he'd done had actually affected her. “I thought it was all sexpots and sultry gazes?”

He shrugged, “It is, but I've found in my vast experience in seduction – of both genders, thank you – that there's something inherently sexy about quiet intimacy.”

Looking at Lommy as she never had before, Brienne propped herself up on on elbow looking at him the same way Arya way. Huh. “You're kind of a genius.”

“Now, I'm not saying that come fuck me eyes and a slightly-more-than-subtle hip-swing are ineffective, they are the foundation of any good seduction, after all.” He sounded like a professor giving a lector, she and Brienne gazed on in shock, awe, and interest, Arya even kinda wished she had something to take notes with. “Judging by what I've seen so far in real life, you've already got those basics down. Not shocked, seeing as who you've got in your family.”

Brienne snorted and Arya's brows furrowed in a cross between indignation and confusion. “What exactly do you mean by that?”

Lommy looked over at Brienne with a tilted head and a look in his eyes, Brienne just faced Arya and began to count off on her fingers. “Robb – charming and smooth. Jon – has that brooding teen-angst vibe down. Ygritte – explains itself. Sansa – master of that whole, innocent-eyed Lolita tactic. Sandor – sex god.”

The two of them just looked at her like they dared her to argue the fact that everyone in her family above her age was totally good at being swoon-y and alluring. She wouldn't argue it, but it just made her more aware of the fact that she was awkward and boyish and not good at all this.

“Okay, but what has that got to do with me?”

Lommy seemed to be able to sense the stress in her voice – he was good at things like that – and smiled at her before rolling his eyes. “It means you've already got that down. Look, the real secret to flirting and seduction is to not do anything you're uncomfortable with. If you can sense it, they can sense it. If it's not in you to walk around in four-inch pumps and twirl your hair around and laugh at all his jokes, than don't.”

When Lommy put it into terms like that, it really didn't feel that difficult.

“Just, do it your way. If you're a super girl, wear those heels and amp up that makeup, wear slutty clothes and laugh at everything he says. If you're not, touch his hair or his arm, make eye contact and smile, wear your hair town and borrow his jacket. Being sexy doesn't just mean that you're prancing around in skin-tight clothing and biting your lip all the time. I mean, look at me, I'm sexy as fuck and you don't see me strutting about and eye-fucking every hot piece that meanders my way.”

Brienne snorted again, that easy smile on her face that made Arya aware of how enraptured they'd been by Lommy speaking. He made sense, and a lot of good points. She honestly felt better about everything than she knew she could feel. He was right, and underneath all that sass and bravado, he was really insightful and sweet.

She just leaned over and hugged him. It was soft and didn't last very long, but when she pulled back that look of love and soft sweetness was back in his green gaze. She reached over and gently brushed the curls from his forehead, her fingers lightly running against his smooth skin. He smiled back at her, “Good girl.” When Arya pulled back fully, once again sitting in her spot across from him, that smirk returned to his lips. “Alright, whose ready to see some penises?”

The laugh that ripped from their chests was light and bright and wonderful. She didn't even feel the least bit weird sitting with Lommy and Brienne on her bed, watching as pretty girls manhandled pretty guy's cocks, Lommy giving commentary the whole time. It was helpful and hilarious, and she realized then that she had yet another thing to be grateful about because of Gendry.

She wanted to pretend that the Snapchat she'd sent him of the three of them shoved onto Brienne's bed was because they were friends and she texted and chatted with all her friends. But, she knew that wasn't true. She knew that the reason she'd sent him the picture of herself lying back on Brienne's bed with those two poking their heads in at the top of the frame was because she missed him, because she wanted him to have her in mind the same way she had him stuck in hers.

The thoughts that maybe she was taking all of this too far shifted about in her mind. The picture she received back of him sitting on his couch, hair all messy and eyes too blue to be real made those thoughts disappear instantly. However this all ended up, Arya knew one thing: she'd been a goner the moment she stepped into that Library.

Chapter Text

He tugged his hoodie a little tighter around his body, the breeze stronger where he sat on the sand by the water, chilling him and tossing about his hair. He didn't mind it though, growing up this had always been his favorite spot outdoors, where the small cliff where the cottage resided dropped down to the shore, the earth high enough to climb but not tall enough that he couldn't jump down.

He leaned back against the earthy cliff behind him, watching the misty waves crack against each other, roll and break onto the sand. It was still cold out, the air chilly, the water freezing, the sun peeking from behind clouds. It gave the ocean a grayer hue, lighter blues mixing with the misty air of the clouds. It looked a bit like Arya's eyes, if he was being honest. Maybe that was why he so loved her eyes; they reminded him of home.

The cottage on the shore was a bit of a drive from King's Landing, not as far as the drive to Robert's grave or the Baratheon estate – seeing as it was still located in the Stormlands – and certainly wasn't as far as a drive to Winterfell, where Arya's family grew up. But, it was far, nonetheless.

He had needed to be home. His mother had been calling him nonstop, trying to see how Myrcella's birthday had went. He didn't have it in him to call her back and only texted her briefly a few times, claiming he'd been swamped and too busy to really talk. She'd known it was a lie, she hadn't called him on it.

But, in the end, not talking about it was sort of killing him. Parts of him wanted to tell Arya. He knew that she was curious and non-judgmental and would listen to him fully. But he didn't want to cry in front of her, he didn't want to be weaker than he already was.

The first few days afterwards, he'd just been tired. Exhausted, really. He hadn't had it in him to speak about what happened, to talk about it. Lommy and Hot Pie knew better than to push, Podrick had given him that look with the meaning: any time you're ready . Arya was the wildcard. He didn't know how she'd react, if she'd push his boundaries about talking or if she'd accept he wasn't ready. He'd been avoiding her, just as he'd been avoiding everyone.

He'd been running out to the store to pick up more groceries when he found himself pulling into the driveway of his childhood home. He hadn't even remembered the drive over, he hadn't even thought about it when he missed the turn for the store and kept driving.

His mom wasn't home, she was most likely still at work – the small coffee shop in the coastal town that didn't require workers to wear uniforms and was hardly ever busy. She liked her job there, claimed after years of pouring drinks at the bar, she enjoyed pouring drinks of a different kind. She had started working there when Gendry was in high school, he remembered the smell of coffee on her clothes and the scent of sweet sugar wafting through the house.

He wasn't entirely sure how long he'd sat out here in the chilly breeze, watching the open water that dipped and crashed with each new wave, thinking about his mother at the coffee shop and reading books as a child and what happened last weekend and the elusively distinct color of Arya's eyes. It must have been a while, because the sun was just beginning to dip from it's high perch in the sky and the sound of his mother's voice was calling out from over the cliff.

“Gendry?”

He stood from where he'd been sitting in the sand, moving back to look up at his mother. She looked confused at his presence, and a little sad, but he was sure that she was just mimicking own his facial features and the emotion she'd found there. She didn't ask what he was doing here, she already seemed to know.

He moved towards the hand-built staircase, the wood was well-worn and the railing was rusty, but he knew those steps as well as he knew himself. She was waiting for him at the top, worry lines around her mouth, her light blue eyes looking him over with concern. He didn't say anything, just stepped into her waiting embrace and tucked his face into her neck.

She didn't say anything either, just wrapped her arms around the son that didn't quite fit into the embrace anymore. He was built so much like Robert when he'd been young, tall and broad, she wondered how this giant had even fit inside her at all. That was all it took for Gendry to release a shuddering breathing against her shoulder and the tears to well up in his eyes.

He stood hugging his mother for a while, the ocean wind biting their exposed skin and causing them to shiver. He pulled away eventually and began walking back to the house, head hung low, wiping the ridiculous tears from his cheeks. He shouldn't be crying, he didn't need to be crying; Cersei was a bitch, they all knew that already, he needed to get over it.

Lia walked in behind him, closing the kitchen door and making her way over to the table in the corner. Gendry followed her silently, taking a seat across from her, his frame seeming bigger in the cozy space somehow. His eyes were still downcast, staring at the slight chips and grooves in the wood of the kitchen table, not able to look up into his mother's worried eyes. They were silent for a while, his mother's gaze heavy on his face, his own gaze heavy on the table.

Her voice was soft when she finally spoke, “Are you going to tell me what's wrong?”

He let out a breath he hadn't known he'd been holding, or maybe it'd been a sigh, he couldn't be sure. His fingers traced a particularly deep gouge that he'd made as a child, he knew that he had to talk about it, that he'd kept to himself for too long and now it was eating him alive. He was good at keeping secrets, he was good at not talking about feelings and emotions and pushing people away; what he wasn't good at was keeping things that affected him deeply to himself, they began to manifest and caused people to notice that there was something wrong.

“Myrcella's dinner didn't go as planned.”

The no-reaction he got from his mother wasn't a surprise, she had to have known what this was about. “Why not?”

He looked up at her then, feeling his chest tighten a little and that annoying sting begin in his nose. She looked worried and a little angry, sad even. “Because Cersei is a bitch.”

Lia sighed, but otherwise made no movement to argue or agree. “What happened, Gendry?”

His mother was usually in the habit of calling him Gen, she had since he was little. The fact that she was using his full name in that tone meant that she wasn't taking no for an answer. He pulled his gaze from her again and began to tell her about the other night.

“They were great.” He hated himself for the way his voice broke a bit at the admission. His half-siblings were interesting and respectful and nice, and worst of all, he genuinely liked them. “Myrcella and Tommen are lovely.”

The small smile on his mother's face made his chest ache. She didn't get it, because he hadn't told her yet, but at them moment she looked so proud and happy at the small confession. It made him want to sink into the earth and cry. He was pathetic.

“Dinner was fine, a little awkward, but fine. It was just the kids, Cersei, Jaime and Tyrion. We talked, we ate, cake was served, and then I left.” He could sense that his mother was unsure of why that was all a bad thing. It wasn't. The dinner had been fine, he'd enjoyed himself, he'd enjoyed his siblings. It was after when everything went to shit. “Cersei walked me out. She told me that I wouldn't be seeing them outside of Robert's anniversary. She fucking made me like them and then she snatched them away.”

He was shaking. He hadn't realized before, but he was definitely shaking. He wasn't sure if it was out of anger or sadness. His mother looked torn, angry and crushed. He let out a breath and continued on, the rest was uncomfortable and he almost didn't want to tell her, but he knew that he had to. He knew Cersei was a bitch, he knew that she'd probably pull a stunt like that, and while her demanding that he stay away was shitty and hurt like a bitch, it was her uncomfortably odd attitude towards him that set him off.

“She told me that I look like him.”

He could see his mother's head snap up from where she'd been gazing out the window, listening to him speak and trying not to voice her opinion until he was done. “What?” He knew that tone, she didn't get it often, but when she did he usually went to his room and put on music.

“She said that I look Robert, that I remind her of him. It was weird, she was telling me how I wasn't welcome and then the next minute she was looking at me as if Robert had just walked out of his grave. But, of course, she can't possibly not be a bitch for more than thirty-seconds at a time, so she says that Robert was a “true man” or whatever and that's something I'll never be. That Joffrey is his true heir and more like him than I could ever dream, or something equally as ridiculous. She's ridiculous and I hate her.”

Lia Waters shook her head as she looked at her son from across the table. Gendry could see then anger radiating off of her, he could see it in the clear blue of her eyes, he could see it in the taut line of her lips. “That fucking bitch.” It was always a little shocking to hear his normally sweetly disposed mother curse, he supposed that's where he got all his gentleness from. “First she steals my husband, then she practically attacks my son? I don't fucking think so.”

She was up faster than Gendry could blink, blindly tossing her purse around until she found her cellphone. “Mom.” He stood and went over to her, laying his hand down over her phone and frantic hands. “Mom, what are you doing?”

“I'm going to give that bitch a piece of my mind!” She yelled, attempting to tug the phone out of their shared grasp. “Who does she think she is? She's not the fucking queen of Westeros – not matter how much she thinks she is! She can't just talk to you like that, Gendry. And I won't stand for it. She has been nothing but a problem since she waltzed into Robert's life, and she's caused nothing but pain and annoyance.”

“Mom, just... stop.” He gently pulled the phone out of her hand and set it down on the counter behind them, pulling her into his arms and laying his head on her shoulder like he use to do as a child. “It's not worth it. She's not worth it.”

Her arms wrapped around his broad back immediately, soothing circles rubbed onto his shoulders. He felt her sigh and pull him tighter to her small frame. “I will not stand for her treating you this way. If she so much as looks at you, you need to call me immediately. Do you understand?”

He nodded and they continued to hug until his stomach growled loudly, causing his mother to shake her head and pull away. “Go, sit. I'll start dinner.”

Gendry only nodded, going into the living room to sit on the worn couch, laying down on it and staring out at the window that looked over the small cliffs. He did feel better after talking about it, about someone else just... knowing. But, he couldn't help but feel like that hadn't solved his problems. He was still upset, he was still hurt by it, angry.

He sighed, he was ridiculous and he needed to get over himself.

 


Gendry was sitting on his couch watching shit tv when his door opened and closed quickly, Podrick sighing and coming to sit in the armchair beside the couch. He didn't really raise an eye to it, his friends mostly wandered in and out of his apartment when they felt like it. He'd just gotten home from the library a little while ago, and while it was nice to his his best friend, Gendry couldn't say he wasn't a little surprised.

“Hey. I thought you were hanging out with Brienne today.”

Pod had been spending a lot of time with the tall girl, almost as much time as he spent with Arya. He knew that Pod wasn't into Brienne in the same way, but they had become super close nonetheless. So, it was only slightly odd that Pod was here when Gendry knew he was suppose to be with Brienne at the dorms.

Podrick just sighed and shrugged a shoulder, curling up into a comfortable position on the chair, his attention caught by the bad program that was playing on his tv. “I was. Lommy and I were at her dorm playing video games, but then Arya busted in yelling about watching porn and then I got thrown out.”

Gendry's head whipped around to face the ever casual Pod, “Excuse me?”

“Why does everyone think that I don't know what sex is?” He seemed genuinely curious and a tad put-out by it. “I mean, I get it, I'm really quiet and sort of shy, but I'm not an idiot. It's not like I've never watched porn before, you know?”

Pod looked over at him, pleading his case, but Gendry was still stuck on the fact that Arya had thrown him out of Brienne's dorm room to watch porn.

He'd had lunch with her earlier today, she had shown up in a typical Arya fashion and demanded that he remove himself from the library with her. He didn't want to say that he'd been avoiding her, but he had. He'd been avoiding everybody. He felt better after seeing his mother the other day, emotionally exhausted, but better. He still had those pesky feelings that he couldn't seem to burrow deep enough so that they didn't bother him, but after hanging out with Arya today, he realized isolating himself wasn't helping.

He'd missed her. He had went from seeing her practically everyday, to pushing her away and not answering her texts or calls. It had been his own selfish problems that created a bubble around him, but just because he didn't want to talk to her certainly didn't mean he wasn't thinking about her. Lunch today had proved that he hadn't made the right call in ignoring everyone, they'd known something was up and he played pretend. He was stupid, he knew this.

But, now he couldn't stop staring at Podrick. Couldn't stop the words from floating around in his mind and taking shape. What business did Arya have watching porn?

“What?” He pretended that his voice wasn't strained; Podrick wasn't so accommodating.

The shorter boy smirked over at Gendry, it wasn't the same as Lommy's or Hot Pie's, it was softer somehow, a gentle joking. “Right, I forgot for a moment that you're in love with her.”

He rolled his eyes at Podrick and glared at him, but suspiciously didn't deny the statement. Pod just smiled more and faced the tv once again. “But, yes, she burst into the room screaming about watching porn and then I got kicked out. Which brings me back to my initial question; why does everyone just assume that I don't know about sex? Do I come off as that much of a pansy?”

“A bit.”

Now it was Pod's turn to glare over at his best friend, although his glare was considerably weaker than said best friend's. “Shut it.”

They sat in compatible silence for a while, Gendry's mind running with thoughts of Arya and porn, and her watching porn, and her being in porn, which then lead to a very embarrassing outcome. Dammit.

She was killing him, slowly but surely she was killing him. The worst part; he would take whatever she was willing to give. It was intense and agonizing, but he couldn't stop if he tried. He felt distinctly like the lyrics from one of his favorite songs, Cannibal by Tally Hall. He was a willing victim, that much was certain.

He wasn't entirely sure when the spark of infatuation had died and was replaced by the simmering warmth in it's stead. He cared for Arya, truly cared, this wasn't just some little crush anymore. The thought did little to reassure him from thoughts of being hurt and broken and alone.

But, thoughts of her twirled in his mind; the easy smile that so often found it's way to her lips when she looked at him, the unreachable emotions in her storm-colored eyes, the terrible unattractive laugh that was too loud, the silly off-key crooning she did when she had that beautiful voice hidden up her sleeve, the way she jumped on his bed in an attempt to reach the stars painted on his ceiling. It was everything. And so was she.

He and Pod sat in silence for a while, watching the bad program on tv, letting their thoughts take over the room. He couldn't stop picturing Arya bursting into the dorm-room dramatically declaring that she wanted to watch porn. He couldn't stop picturing Arya watching it if he tried; all cuddled up in that big bed of hers – that looked suspiciously like his own in his mind – laptop open and hands busy between her thighs. He rested his folded hands over his waist.

Podrick was quiet for the moment, they sat in silence watching the shit tv and thinking. Gendry noticed him staring, noticed his best friend's quiet gaze and the wheels turing in that stupidly large brain of his. He just sighed, not tuning his eyes way from the tv that he wasn't really paying attention to. “What.”

Podrick shrugged a bit, “I didn't say anything.”

“Not out loud.” Gendry whined in that gruff way of his. “I can hear you thinking all the way over here. So, out with it.”

Pod was silent for a beat before answering him. “What the deal with you and Arya anyway?”

“What do you mean?” He knew exactly what Pod meant. Things were sort of weird between them – the sexual tension was thick enough to choke on and they spent more time staring into each other'e eyes than was necessary, he got what Podrick was saying. “We're friends.”

The shorter boy just looked at him with furrowed brows that read he didn't believe a word of what Gendry was half-heartedly spewing. “I'm pretty sure you've been pining after her for like, two years? Three? And you expect that bullshit answer to fly? Really?”

Gendry didn't look at him – mostly because he didn't have a good deflection tactic at the ready. And, also because skeptical, spot-on Pod was a bit scary.

“I don't know what to tell you, Pod. We're friends. Do I like her? Yes. Does she like me? I don't know. What I do know is that we're really close friends and I'm okay with that.”

The look in Podrick's hazel brown eyes was skeptical and intense. He knew that Pod didn't believe him, which was sort of fine, because he didn't really believe himself either. Yes, he was okay with the fact that Arya was his friend and that they were close and that sometimes she slept in his bed and he liked it. He was okay with those things, he was okay with the facts that were laid out for him, facts that clearly showed how much he would lose if he put himself on the line and was shot down.

“Okay.”

That was all Podrick said before turning back around to face the tv, and just like that the conversation was finished. Pod knew him well enough to know that he was getting to the point where he'd usually shut down, they hadn't been best friends for this long without the shorter boy being able to read him like a fucking book. Pod would make a great therapist one day, it was just annoying to Gendry right now.

But, damn Pod for making him think about things that he tried really hard not to think about. That was a Podrick Payne specialty.

They sat like that for the rest of the evening, until Pod eventually got a text from Lommy that said they were done and that he wanted to meet at Podrick's dorm to study for some test they had. Gendry watched his best friend leave, not even moving from his spot on the couch, and thinking about the fact that Lommy had just spent the better part of the afternoon watching explicit sexual acts with Arya, talking about god knows what, talking about whoever and whatever had prompted her to do it in the first place.

Next thing he knew, his jeans were undone and his hand gripped his cock as his thoughts from earlier came flooding back. Arya sitting in her bed, knees drawn up as she touched herself to the sounds wafting out of her computer speakers, moaning and bucking in time with the mystery man's thrusts, pretending it was someone else's touch, someone else's hands. His own hand moved in tandem, his hips lifting to fuck into his fist. His head lolled back onto the couch, his back arched as he pumped quickly into his hand.

He came on the couch, muted tv playing in the background, his hand covered in come and his shirt no longer clean. What the fuck was he doing?

He moved to clean himself off and change, his mind drifting back to thoughts of Arya and his conversation with Pod. What was he doing? This was getting ridiculous. He liked Arya as a friend, he enjoyed their relationship, enjoyed her company, and if he didn't have these feelings for her – caring and lustful alike – he knew she'd be closer to him than even Pod.

But, he did have those feelings for her. And while he respected the fact that she was his friend, he couldn't help the fact that every time they were alone he wanted to press her against a wall and devour her. He couldn't help the fact that he wanted to fall asleep beside her and hear all about the things that made her annoyed or happy. He was sort of falling down the rabbit hole for her, and it was exhausting.

The rest of the week had went on as it normally would.

Arya would come see him at the library, text him in between classes, brought him coffee when he was working at the garage. Things seemed to be back to normal between them, which was good, seeing as he'd been an ass during his self-imposed exile.

He'd also been really busy this week, which helped with the whole not thinking about Arya naked thing that he'd been trying to stick to after jerking off to her on his couch like he was twelve. For whatever reason, it felt like a low point for him. She was his friend and he wanted her, but that didn't mean she needed to fill his spank-bank completely. He felt a little guilty thinking about her like that, even if she had no idea that he did.

It certainly wasn't helping that every time he saw her this week, she was looking directly into his eyes with those storm-clouds of hers, never breaking her stare. Her fingers often brushed against his bare skin, sending shivers down his spine and jolts straight to his cock. She had come down to the garage yesterday with her dark hair down around her shoulders, one of his casual button ups on underneath her leather jacket. Was she trying to kill him? And then she smiled at him as she handed him his coffee, those liquid metal eyes never leaving his.

It was all a little too much for him to take at this point.

All in all, though, it had been a good distraction from the soul-crushing sadness he'd be feeling over the whole Cersei debacle. So, ten points to Gyffindor for that.

It was Thursday, not usually his busy day, but he'd taken one of the other mechanics shifts at the garage when they called out. It was late, later than he usually got done with work or school, his phone had been going off for the better part of two hours. He waited to check it, knowing it was most likely the horrid group text he was a part of, and jumped in the small shower that nobody really used. He was covered in sweat and grease, and there was no way he was getting back into his clothes covered like this.

He wondered vaguely what they were texting about. Usually it was a bunch of nothing, random gifs and stupid conversation. There was a small part of him that hoped they weren't planning a get together, seeing as this was his one night alone before he would be in close quarters with Arya for days. Her brother's wedding was coming up, which meant he was required to go places with her and drive her around like he was her damn chauffeur. Not that he actually minded, spending time with Arya was natural now, second nature, and most of all, enjoyable.

There was some Kingsguard thing that she asked him to come to this weekend, and of course he wasn't going to say no. They might be Arya's extended family, but they were still rockstars and Gendry's favorite band; he wasn't about to give up the chance to hang out with them again for anything.

He scrolled through his texts after he was dressed, clocking out and walking to his car. His brow furrowed with each one he read, becoming more confused by the second. It wasn't the group text, it was just Arya, which wasn't all that concerning. Until he read the messages, that was.

From Arya: Gendry.

From Arya: Gendryyyy

From Arya: Gen. Dry.

From Arya: Where are you? Why you no answer?

From Arya: Surprise, I'm now doing shots and you're not answering me. I'll send a video.

He played the video attached, he wasn't sure who was holding her phone, but he watched as Arya downed the five shots that were lined up in a row on the table in front of her. He couldn't make out where she was, but the loud music and noise from too many people made it obvious that she was attending a party. He wasn't sure why the spike of jealousy flared or the annoyance creeping into him, but he wasn't about to try and analyze it. That was definitely something to examine approximately not right now. He kept reading her texts, moving past the video.

From Arya: I can't find Mycah or Rae.

From Arya: I'm pretty sure they left me

From Arya: Gendryyyy. Gendry. Gen.

From Arya: HELLO. Dude, answer me back.

From Arya: God, this is so boring. I'm so bored and you're not answering me. Boo on you.

From Arya: I am so drunk.

The last text was sent a half hour ago and he wasted no time in dialing her number. It rang a few times, making him more annoyed than he had been previously. Just pick up the goddamn phone, Arya.

“Gendry!”

Arya yelled into the phone, her voice bright and happy, but totally slurred and wrecked. She definitely was drunk.

“Arya, where are you?” He slipped into his car and started the ignition.

“I've been texting you all night! Where have you been?” He could just barely hear her over the noise in the room, the music too loud.

“I was at work. Where are you?” He repeated again, the annoyance slipping into his voice.

“Ooo, growly, angry Gendry is super hot.” She laughed into the phone and he felt himself flush a bit at her words. She was drunk, she didn't know what she was saying. “I'm at the dorms, Rutledge Hall.”

What the fuck was she doing in the dorms? Who did she know that would've invited her to a dorm party at Rutledge fucking Hall where they spiked the drinks and got noise violations every week? He couldn't help the little angry noise he made as he began pulling out of the garage parking lot.

“I'm on my way. Stay put and don't drink anything else.”

He heard her scoff into the phone, “I'm not twelve, I know how to handle myself.”

He didn't even acknowledge her reply, “I want you standing outside when I get there. You got that?”

Gendry wasn't entirely sure where this intense and dominate side was coming from. He got that way sometimes, and usually his mother rolled her eyes and told him how much he was being like Robert in those moments, they weren't often but they happened. And, apparently Arya Stark drunk off her ass at a college party in a dorm that was known for it's crying girls the morning after was his trigger.

“Yeah, I got that, Mr. Bossy-pants.” He could hear the indigence in her tone, but the slightly breathy quality beneath it had him stumped. That was, until she opened her mouth again. “Tell me, Gen, you this dominate in bed?”

He felt his face flush and his dick twitch painfully in his jeans. “I expect you to be outside, Arya. I'll be there in fifteen minutes.”

“Oh, yeah, you definitely are.”

He didn't get to reply, she just hung up the phone on him. He wouldn't call her back, not when he was quickly becoming half-hard and she was drunk at some party. No, he would pick her up like the best friend he was and he would take her home and that would be that.

Of course, it wasn't that easy.

He pulled up to Rutledge Hall and Arya was nowhere to be seen. He sighed, parking his car illegally in front of the building, getting out and calling Arya again. It went to voicemail. He cursed and sighed, because of course she wouldn't make this easy for him. This was definitely punishment for her having to deal with his drunk ass.

He quickly raced up the stairs, listening for the loud bass and chatter that indicated a party, it wasn't hard to find. People were in the hallway milling about, cups in their hands, bottles and cans. The music was slightly deafening and the game of pong in the corner of the living room only fueled the noise level when someone made a shot. He looked around, not seeing her anywhere, he was just about to start going room to room, thinking the worst when he heard his name being shouted and a body clinging to his.

Her eyes were glassy, the smile wide on her face, and her cheeks flushed from the alcohol. Other than that, she looked unharmed and okay. He wasn't quite sure why he'd thought she wouldn't be, but he filed that under things he'd think about in a week and definitely not right now.

“I thought I told you to wait outside.” His voice was low because he was annoyed, which prompted him to swing his head down to speak by her ear. “I wasn't joking, Arya.”

She just looked up at him with those glassy metal eyes, teeth sunk into that plump lower lip, distracting him. “God, Gendry, it's so hot when you're all... demanding and possessive.”

He felt the goosebumps erupt over his skin at her words, felt his breathing accelerate at them. He couldn't let it affect him though, not right now. He could decipher their meaning later, in bed, alone, but not right now. No, right now he needed to get out of this oppressive party atmosphere and grab Arya before she did something stupid that she'd regret tomorrow. Rutledge Hall had a way of doing that.

“Let's go, now.”

He grabbed at her hand, ignoring the warmth he felt in his chest at the simple act. She tugged back as the loud music changed and some song he'd never heard began blasting through the speakers. “I love this song. Dance with me.”

She pulled him closer, drawing an arm up around his shoulder, hand tucked into the hair at the nape of his neck. He tried to pull back without throwing her off him, because it felt nice having her so close, it also felt dangerous. So, he did the only thing he could think of. He quickly picked her up and tossed her over his shoulder, ignoring her loud gasp and the bark of a laugh that followed.

She started kicking once they made it to the first floor of the dorm and he was shouldering the door open. “Put me down, I need a cigarette.”

He rolled his eyes, but complied, dropping her down gently on to the concrete sidewalk. She fished a carton of cigarettes out from her pocket, lighting one up, and turing to look at him. He walked over to where his car was still illegally parked and leaned against the door, hands in his pockets, staring at her.

Her legs were incased in their usual black denim, her leather jacket donned and opened revealing the black tank-top underneath, the swell of her breasts pushed up and begging for his attention. He pulled his eyes away quickly and settled back onto her face. “What are you doing here, Arya?”

She shrugged, smoking her cigarette. “Mycah and Rae invited me, but I think they went off to have sex.”

Gendry didn't know Mycah personally, but he knew that the guy did fencing with Arya and that she'd known him most of her life. Rae was another girl from Forel's that was friends with both Brienne and Arya, but more so the blonde. He had no idea they went to King's College.

He just sighed, pushing up from the car and turning to open it as Arya finished her cigarette. “Come on, I'll take you home.”

She wasn't sloppy, fall down drunk, but she was most certainly past tipsy. He needed to take her home and go to bed before he did something stupid. Like, tell her all his secrets because she wouldn't remember them anyway. Or, kiss her. Yeah, that would definitely be terrible.

Arya skipped over to where he was waiting by the open car door, the smile on her face told him all he needed to know about her intoxication status. Arya wasn't free with her smiles, they had to be earned, apparently drunk Arya didn't get the memo.

She was in the car and they were pulling out of the school parking lot when she unbuckled her seatbelt and slid across the bench seat of the hand-me-down car that Tobho had gifted to him when he turned sixteen. “I don't want to go home.” She whined – which, he was so using against her when she was sober, because Arya never whined like a little girl. He couldn't say her pout wasn't turning him on, though. “SanSan will be annoying about the not-sober part. Take me to yours.”

The blaring buzzers going off in his head at her words screamed Danger Will Robinson, especially with her body pressed against his and her face nuzzling his shoulder. And if that weren't bad enough, the little sighs she made as she cuddled against him were going straight to his cock. This was bad.

But, he couldn't refuse her. The last thing he wanted was for her to get in trouble with her sister, and she had taken care of him when he'd been just as out of it. It was only fair, right?

The short ride to his apartment from campus was spent with Arya attempting to practically crawl inside of him, cozying up as much as their limited space would allow, making small little sighs and whines. He eventually let her remove one of his hands from the steering wheel and wrap the arm around her shoulders, giving her more access to his chest. Apparently drunk Arya was also a cuddly Arya.

She wasn't a particularly touchy-feely person normally. She sort of just kept her limbs to herself and casually brushed her fingers or gave a hug when saying goodbye. Drunk Arya was seriously attempting to climb inside of him and his body was one-hundred percent on board.

He was hard, aching really, as her fingers traced along his collarbone over his shirt, her face pressed into his shoulder, one knee pushing against his thigh. He'd never been so tortured to see his apartment in all his life. As soon as they parked, she was out the door before he could even think, waiting for him to follow her. Which, was kind of the story of his life.

Gendry locked his car and met her at his door, unlocking it and pushing it open for Arya to run through. She went straight for his bedroom – which, did absolutely nothing for the state of his cock – throwing off her jacket as she went. He sighed, grabbing a water from the fridge and was about to demand that she drink the entire thing when he heard music coming from his room.

He couldn't be sure, but there was a part of him that wondered if he'd hit his head today at work and this was just some sort of coma-fantasy playing out in his head. Arya was jumping on his bed, Hooked On A Feeling blaring through his speakers at a level that would most definitely have his neighbors banging on the wall in no time. But, he couldn't bring himself to care as she began to sing along with the lyrics, basically giving him his own personal show.

The tank-top was tight against her body and with every move she made the swells of her breasts moved and caught his attention. She sang to him, arms pointing, motioning towards her, she jumped on the bed, she swung her hips, being generally ridiculous and sexy all at the same time. The display was honestly the most alluring thing he'd ever seen. Arya all over the place and laughing, singing and dancing.

God, he loved her.

The word pierced him hard enough to stop his breathing and mind from moving. No, that was ridiculous and definitely something not to think about with drunk Arya in the room, or at all, ever. She was currently unobtainable to him and thinking about that would just make him miserable. Fucking hell.

Everything slowly returned as he became aware of his surroundings again and pulled out of his mind/mini-freak out, the music blaring and Arya's loud voice filling his ears. The song ended and she collapsed back on his bed, her breathing slightly labored, another song came on and he moved to turn the stereo down to a low murmur. The bedside light was on, casting the room in a warm glow, he couldn't help but notice how it made Arya's pale skin look in the soft light.

“Sit up and drink this.” He held out the cold water bottle towards her and watched as she closed her eyes and groaned.

“Do I have to?”

Gendry let the smirk fall onto his lips, “Yup. Now, sit up.”

She perked up at the rough demand in his voice, apparently drunk Arya Stark had a thing for being told what to do. He wondered if that applied to normal Arya Stark as well. She grabbed the bottle from his hands and scooted towards the edge of the bed, sitting so she was right in front of him and drank the water. Her eyes stayed connected to his the entire time, even after she was done and handed him the bottle, licking her lower lips slowly and letting it drag across her teeth.

Fucking hell.

She reached out to place her hands on his hips, dragging his body closer to hers. Once he was close enough, she wrapped her arms around his waist and burrowed her face into his stomach, sighing as she did so. He couldn't do anything but stand there, eyes closed, breathing in harshly through his nose. Thank the Gods Arya wasn't this affectionate in everyday life, he seriously didn't think he'd be able to handle it.

“I'm tired.”

And with that, she pulled away from him, standing and moving towards his dressers. He just watched her move around his space, like she owned it, like it was already hers. Maybe it was and he just hadn't noticed. His breathing stopped when she began pulling off her jeans, wiggling and shaking to get the tight denim off, little angry sighs escaping her as the task proved difficult in her inebriated state.

The bouncy cheeks of her fleshy ass moved with every wiggle and he felt his heart stammer in his chest and his cock twitch painfully in his jeans. Her black cotton underwear covered most of her, just the bottom cheek of her round ass poked out to tease him. She quickly shed her tank-top, standing before him in her almost utilitarian underwear, not even fazed by the fact that she had just stripped before him. Her skin was pale like the fresh fallen snow of her hometown, stretching over muscles and sharp hipbones. Her breasts bobbled in the plain black bra she wore, teasing him, and he had such a strong desire to run his tongue from clavicle to nipple. She was fleshy and fit, not scrawny or thin in anyway, she was fucking downright sinful looking.

The small lust-induced daze he had been in broke when she began rummaging through his draws, pulling out a t-shirt and a pair of his basketball shorts. She pulled them on easily, doing that magic trick with her bra that only girls seemed to know how to do, taking it off without removing her shirt. She threw it down in the pile of black clothes on the floor and ran over to the bed, jumping onto it and lying face down, moaning.

Gendry quickly stripped his sweater, pulling on a t-shirt. He'd have to sleep in jeans, not the most comfortable, but there was no way in hell he was wearing shorts with the grabby version of Arya in his bed. He was tempted to just go sleep on the couch, that was the gentlemanly thing to do, right?

But, Arya flipped over then, crawling up the bed to get under the covers, calling to him in that whine that turned him on, but that she would never do sober. He was stuck; be the gentleman friend and go sleep on the couch, or submit to her whims and sleep beside her. In the end, those metal eyes and that whine won out, he couldn't say no to her. God, he was so royally fucked.

Sighing, he went and turned off the stereo, which had still been playing music softly, coming around to flip out the light and slide into the bed beside her. It wasn't terribly late, and while this whole escapade had sort of exhausted him, he wasn't necessarily tired. The fact that he was half-hard in his jeans and Arya was suctioned to his side like an octopus certainly didn't help.

She was cozied up to his side, snuggling into his chest, his arm around her and resting gently on her back. He wouldn't lie and say this wasn't the most comfortable he'd been in a long time, he just wished it were under different circumstances. It was quiet in the room, and he was convinced she'd fallen asleep when she spoke suddenly.

“Thanks for coming and getting me, Gen.”

She moved closer to him so that the entire length of her body was pressed into his side. He tried not to groan at the feeling of her pressed up against him like that, her bare breasts only covered by the soft cotton of his t-shirt pushed against his ribs. Her fingers moved gently over his chest, running over the soft material of his shirt, teasing the hint of skin at the collar as her fingers ghosted over it.

“It's fine, Arya.”

She shivered a bit at the gruff quality his voice at taken on. “You're like... the best, you know?”

He let out a small chuckle, finding it easy to move his hand gently across her spine in a soothing manner, causing her to stretch like a cat and make a small mewling sound in the back of her throat. He hadn't intended on seeing any of his friends on his night off after the late shift he'd taken, but he couldn't say that he was disappointed in the way his night turned out.

Sure, Arya was drunk and he had to go and retrieve her from a suspect dorm party, but here she was, in his bed, curling into him and making those little sighs as he touched her that had his cock fully hard in no time. It only sucked slightly that they were friends and she was only acting this way because she was under the influence of alcohol, but he could pretend, for a little while.

He looked down at her in the dark, her mess of dark hair was shielding his view of her face fully, but he could see the slope of her nose, the flutter of her lashes, her hand as his moved across his chest with light touches that would have him gasping if he wasn't careful. The thought floated into his head before he could stop it; what if someone else had come to pick her up, what if she had been curled around another body, comfortable and cat-like.

The stinging burn of jealousy grabbed him so quickly that he hadn't even realized he'd tensed until Arya laid her palm flat on his chest, over his rapidly beating heart. He didn't want anyone touching Arya this way, he didn't want her wrapped around anyone else, he didn't want her his comfortable with another human that could love her like he could. The realization hit him hard.

They couldn't stay friends. Or, more accurately, he couldn't stay friends with her. He needed her in his life, but the actual thought of her being intimate with someone else left him angry and breathless. He wouldn't be able to sit by if she waltzed around with someone else, it would crush him and he would fall into the ocean and never swim back to shore. He had to tell her. He had to.

“Hey,” She murmured, almost sleepily, but he could tell she wasn't fully there yet, it sounded a bit more like contentment. Her hand still laid over his heart, her fingers curling slightly into his chest, pushing against the skin and muscle, calming him. She brought her head up to look at him from where she laid on the other side of his chest. “None of that.” She soothed, like she could read his mind.

He instinctively brought his other arm around her, turning slightly onto his side so they were now facing each other. She burrowed against his chest, snuggling in deeper to him, a leg lifting to rest around his hip, slotting them closer together.

He wasn't sure why he was holding her to him like she would float away if he did otherwise, maybe it was because of his startling revelation that he actually needed to tell her how he felt, maybe it was the odd possessive jealousy that had washed over him. Either way, she was tucked tightly against him and he wasn't letting go anytime soon. He'd figure out something to say in the morning when they woke up, but for right now, in the dark of his bedroom, she was his.

 

 

Chapter Text


She woke up warm, and soft, and slow. The fuzzy edges of her subconscious just starting to fade and the heaviness in her eyelids was from keeping them closed, not from sleep. Her head was pounding in that off-kilter sort of way that only ever happened after a night of drinking. It certainly wasn't the worst hangover she'd ever had, it wasn't even that bad if she was being terribly honest, it was more of an annoying inconvenience.

She could feel his arms around her, feel her face burrowed into his chest, their legs intertwined, one of her arms draped lazily over his back, one of his heavy arms pinning her there. She sighed a little into the embrace, relaxing once again.

She remembered how they got here, recalled him coming to retrieve her from that stupid party, the way he demanded things of her with such a gentle forcefulness that left her a bit breathless and extracted her from the situation once he was fed up. She remembered drinking water and sliding into his clothes, she remembered the way he curled around her protectively.

He felt so good wrapped around her – which, she'd never admit out loud. She wasn't the person who needed someone else and she'd always prided herself on that. Catelyn had raised strong women, like herself, she had taught them from a young age that if you couldn't love yourself, than how could you expect someone else to love you. Her mother had been right, and Arya had focused on not needing another human. It scared her that she felt like she needed Gendry, because she was strong and capable and sturdy. She didn't need someone else, but she wanted him.

Maybe that was what threw her off more than anything.

She wanted Gendry in that painfully pathetic way that Jon wanted Ygritte and Sansa wanted Sandor and Robb wanted Jeynie and Brienne wanted Dean Winchester. That didn't escape her notice.

All the events of last night were unfurling slowly in her head. Mycah and Rae had actually invited her to the party last night, they always invited her to do things because they were friendly and she'd practically grown up with them inside of Forel's. They weren't as close as they'd been growing up, she didn't see Mycah all that much outside of training anymore and Rae had always been more of Brienne's sort-of-friend than Arya's, but they'd never failed to invite her places and eat lunch with her when they'd been in school.

So, Mycah had asked and Arya just hadn't said no. It wasn't necessarily meant to be part of Operation Quiver – as they were calling it now – but it most certainly ended up working out that way. Arya couldn't say she was disappointed.

She hadn't been to a party in a long while, mostly because Brienne didn't do parties and Gendry wasn't the sort to casually hang out with people that annoyed him. So, while her social life had been filled to the brim lately, it did seem to get a tad stable from time to time. And, apparently, stable was sometimes synonymous for snoozy.

The dorm they had went to definitely seemed like a bad choice waiting to happen, but she wouldn't lie and say that it hadn't served it's purpose. It had contained loud music and free alcohol and a place for her to hang out with people she didn't normally spend time with. She had forgotten how much she enjoyed Mycah's company, he was sweet and funny, sort of a mix between Hot Pie and Pod with a boy-next-door quality that never faded with age. She had also forgotten how much she hated the social norms that came along with school.

She had been out for what would've been her senior year, just sitting with herself and the select group of people that she surrounded herself with. She forgot how much she hated parties and the people throwing them. She wanted the quiet room filled with laughter and bad movies and junk food. She didn't want too-loud music and her fingers sticky from spilt alcohol. But, there she found herself, at a party surrounded by people she didn't know and didn't get along with. She had never been happier to have graduated early, to have staved off the inevitable decision of college for now.

She wasn't entirely sure when the texting of Gendry had started.

She had known that he was taking a night off from friendship – as she had called his night off, just to piss him off – she also knew that he needed the early night's rest with all of the emotional shit he'd been dealing with since the dinner no one spoke about. He still hadn't brought it up, everyone was too afraid to ask, too afraid that he'd go on another emotional bender and end up back where he started.

What she hadn't known was that he'd taken some extra shifts at the garage last night. Not that it mattered, she had bothered him all the same. Drunk texting him and getting pissy when she didn't get a reply. Some part of her alcohol-soaked brain must've been functioning enough to realize that having him come get her was in fact a good idea, because she hadn't protested at all when he demanded she wait for him.

Drunk Arya had taken it as a win for Operation Quiver. Sober Arya just shook her head.

She had to pee and her throat almost hurt from the dryness, but she didn't want to move. She felt Gendry sigh a bit in his sleep, his long lashes resting on the tops of his cheeks, his dark hair rumpled and sticking every which-way, his lips just barely parted and puffy from sleep. He was fucking beautiful and it was annoying. Like, couldn't he just be uglier, or something?

Of course, he just had to have a winning personality and be the prettiest boy she'd ever seen.

No, that wasn't right. Lommy was pretty, Loras Tyrell was pretty, hell even Jaime Lannister was a bit pretty; Gendry was not. Gendry was handsome, and attractive, and striking. He wasn't pretty, he was fucking beautiful. And it was annoying. Sort of.

She resisted the urge to stroke the line of his nose and gently pressed her face into his chest one last time before quietly extracting herself from the human octopus that had taken Gendry's place at some point last night. She slipped from the bed and trotted towards the bathroom, only hearing him rustle once she was done. She opened the door quietly and was met with Gendry sitting up in bed and rubbing at his eyes, clearly still tuckered out. She hadn't meant to wake him, God he looked tired.

Arya moved from the bathroom door, eyes squinted a bit at the light the streaking in bright from the open door to the living room, she patted the top of his hair, grabbing his attention before stalking off towards the kitchen for some water and an ibuprofen. She could hear him move from the bed and join her in the kitchen. He was still in his clothes from last night, she didn't comment on it.

She remembered the small strip show she'd given him at some point, not that she was embarrassed by her actions. She may have been drunk, but it wasn't something that she wouldn't have done sober, especially now with her Woo Gendry plan in place, she was just happy that she'd been wearing matching underwear – because that never happened.

“You look like shit.”

He raised a brow at her from where he stood by the coffee maker and she continued to drink her water, eyeing him. She hadn't meant to say that. What she had meant to say was; You look tired, go back to sleep. Her mouth didn't always listen to her brain.

“You're one to talk.” He gave her a pointed look that she knew meant the bags under her eyes and the peaky sheen to her skin from the hangover she was currently settling in to. She said nothing, sitting on one of the barstools as he passed her a cup of coffee. “So, last night was interesting.”

She was sort of surprised he was bringing it up, he usually liked to keep things on-track and away from the embarrassing. She quirked a brow and brought the cup up to her lips. “Was it?”

He didn't look at her as he put the bread in the toaster. “You don't remember?” She wasn't sure if his voice sounded hopeful or forcefully even. “I mean, you were kind of out of it, I wouldn't be shocked.”

“Oh, no, I remember.”

She said nothing else, just sipped at her coffee and looked at him from over the rim. His brows raised, but that was all. The ante was up.

Neither of them said anything for a while, until the toast popped and Gendry plated it and put in more bread. “You're a dance-y drunk.”

He didn't phrase it as a question, but for some reason it didn't sound much like a statement either. More of an observation. Arya let the small upturn in the corners of her lips make a small smile as she sipped her coffee.

“It's been known to happen, yeah.”

“You're also quite handsy.” The smirk on his face and the very slight blush over the bridge of his nose indicated that she'd been more forward than she thought last night. The car ride home popped into her mind and she couldn't help the small smirk that fell over her lips at the thought of her cozied on up to him, hands tracing patterns across those delectable collarbones. Yeah, she was pretty handsy, but only for him.

Arya shrugged, “You're not one to talk.” The pointed look she sent him mixed with the slight quirk of her brow had that small blush growing. He pretended like he wasn't standing there, collarbones exposed from the large, worn out collar of his t-shirt, blush making his freckles pop. How dare he do that to her this early in the morning.

He didn't say anything about his tentacle monster impression this morning, not that she'd minded in the least – because, yes – and she didn't push it any further than that. Gendry was touchy sometimes about things that embarrassed him, she didn't want to push him away. No, that was literally the last thing she wanted to do. She wanted him closer, much closer, the closest he could be without devouring her. Well, maybe she did want him to devour her, too. Okay, she needed to stop.

They sat in relative silence after that as he buttered the toast and passed her a plate, eating quietly and sipping coffee. It was early in the morning – earlier than Arya liked to get up even on days she was forced to rise early – and she was a little shocked that she was awake at all, but considering that they hadn't actually fallen asleep all that late last night, she was functioning. Gendry definitely had time to go back to sleep for a little while before his class. He looked like he needed it, she felt bad instantly for ruining his night in, for keeping him busy and waking him up.

She slipped out of her seat, walking around the counter to where he was leaning and pulled him towards her. “Come on.” He didn't resist, but he looked a bit skeptical of her actions. She tugged him to his room, stopping once he was beside the bed, leaning in to give him a hug. She liked hugging Gendry, he was just so... solid, and warm. She pulled away before she could get sucked into him and pushed him by the shoulders so he sat down on the edge of his bed. “Go back to sleep.”

“Arya – ”

She pushed him so that he was laying back. “You don't have to leave for your class for like an hour and a half, go back to sleep.” She moved to pick up her clothes from last night and stepped into her shoes, not bothering taking off Gendry's clothes that she wore as pajamas. Sandor might give her the stink eye over it, but she was tired and she didn't care. “I'll call you later.”

She walked over to him while she spoke, almost leaning down to kiss him goodbye – as if that was something she did on the regular, which, newsflash Arya, it was not – and instead held her palm on his forehead, fingers tangled in his fringe and pushed him back down against the mattress by his head. He laughed and pushed her off of him.

“Alright, Arya. Thank you, good bye.”

The sound of his laugh brought a smile to her face and a small chuckle of her own bubbled up in her throat. Things were just so... easy with Gendry, like she didn't have to try. She wondered if it would always be like that, or if they got together things would change. She didn't want things to change, she liked things just the way they were – except, she'd like to kiss the smile right off his stupid mouth, but besides that, she wanted life the way it was.

She left him in the apartment, the early morning air biting her exposed flesh and the sun stinging her sensitive eyes. All of her thoughts were a bit too much at the moment, right now she just wanted to go back to sleep and talk Brienne into bringing her waffles.

 


 

He pulled the strap of his book-bag higher on his shoulder, looking down at the paper in his hands, the red corrections hidden in margins. He did the reading and walking thing pretty well, being a student and all, considering that he hadn't fallen down the steps or knocked into anyone should be proof enough. But, with his head buried in his paper, he didn't see the person sitting on the hood of his car, waiting for him.

“Hands in the air, punk.”

His head shot up at the sound, eyes zeroing in on Arya spread out over the hood of his car, cigarette dangling from her mouth, fingers pointed at him in a gun formation, lazy smirk on her lips and silver eyes alight.

He wouldn't lie and say it wasn't one of the hottest things he'd seen in a long time.

Hands shot up in the air, a exaggerated look on his face as he pleaded, “Please, please don't shoot. I have a family. I have finals. I have a best friend who needs me to drive her to this party tonight.”

The smile on Arya's face was enough for him to crack one of his own and drop his heads, walking over to where she sat on the hood of his car. She looked good on the black classic muscle car that Tobho had gifted him and helped him fix up when he was sixteen, he couldn't help but think she'd look even better straddling his motorcycle. Or him.

Nope. Not going there.

“You're just fortunate I'm letting you off with a warning this time, kid. Next time, you might not be so lucky.”

He bowed a bit in front of her for dramatic effect, “I thank you for your kindness and generosity.”

She chuckled and pulled the cigarette from her lips, holding it between her fingers, her elbows resting on her drawn up knees, boots resting on the front bumper, legs open and wide. With her haunched shoulders and hair pulled up in a ponytail, she could almost pull off the whole androgynous-vibe that was super in these days. It wasn't a bad look on her. Neither were those tight black pants that molded to her skin and reflected the sun.

She finished her cigarette, giving him plenty of time to look his fill of her splayed out in shiny black on the hook of his own shiny black car, before jumping off the hood to stand in front of him. The ponytail left pieces hanging around her face and neck, her long bangs tucked behind her ears. He loved the messy look on her, it made her feel more grounded, more real. It was definitely going to be odd seeing her all dolled up for her brother's wedding, looking perfectly in place with the rest of the bridal party.

“What've ya got there?” She tapped the paper still clutched in one of his hands. “Anything good?”

He shrugged, hauling his backpack up higher on his shoulder. “An eighty-three, or a B-, so not bad.” He leaned in as though he were about to tell her a secret. “I really don't give a shit about Street Fighting Mathematics, but, here we are.”

“Excuse me, what?” Arya couldn't contain the bark of a laugh that came out.

Gendry leaned back and smiled. “I had to take a math for my core classes. They weren't entirely picky about what I could choose, so I chose the most interesting one on the electives sheet. It's basically a burner semester class or for those interested in measuring the velocity of a punch to the jaw and teaches students to analyze fighting with math.”

She shook her head, eyes a bit wide. “I'm not even entirely sure how to respond to this.”

Gendry just pushed at her shoulder and moved towards the car, rolling his eyes. “Like you've never taken a shit elective before.”

“I don't waste time. I am a champion.” She stood facing him, hands on her hips in a Superman pose.

He snorted, “Dramatic much?”

“Goonies never say die!” Arya yelled back.

He just chuckled, use to her strange and uncommon behavior these days, and unlocked the car doors. “Alright, Mouth, get in before I leave you here.”

Arya scoffed as she made her way to the passenger side. “If I'm Mouth, you're Chunk.”

“No way.” Gendry shook his head. “Hot Pie is absolutely Chunk.”

Arya nodded in agreement, sliding into the car. “Okay, you got me there. But, you're totally Mikey.”

“Come on,” Gendry whined as he backed out of the parking spot. “I'm definitely Brand.”

Arya snorted, “Uh, no, you wish you were Brand. You're definitely dorky younger brother Mikey and I'm your best friend Mouth.”

Gendry just heaved and overdramatic resigned sigh, but continued to play along. “Podrick is Data.”

“For sure.” Arya agreed, bright smile on her face. “And Brienne is one-hundred percent Stef.”

Gendry's brow furrowed as he thought on the character name, “Which one was she?”

“The bitchy best friend of Andy with the short blonde hair.” She said with a smile.

Gendry barked a laugh as he left the school parking lot, “Absolutely.”

 


 

They had headed back to his apartment, having a little while to kill before heading over to the “company party” as Arya put it. He wouldn't be fooled though, he knew that was jaded lingo for “super cool label party” and ignored her.

Currently, Arya was haphazardly laying across his bed from where she had flung her body when they walking in the door, staring at his ceiling as he attempted to pick out something to wear without looking like a complete tool in doing so. It would probably just be easier to actually ask her for her help, but what was the fun in being a functioning human?

So, he stood in front of his closet, staring, listening to Arya drone on about something involving Brienne and the gay guy she had been infatuated with and the new development of the other guy she worked with, which apparently Brienne refused to even acknowledge. He was trying to keep up, but he wasn't entirely following as he was attempting to decide in his head what type of label party he would be attending tonight.

Would it be swanky, like in the movies? Or, would it be low-key and sort of casual?

He had a hard time believing anything involving famous people could be at all low-key and casual, but what the fuck did he actually know?

Arya seemed to sense his inner turmoil and rambling monologue, because she was a seer, he was sure, and finally sat up from her precarious position on the edge of his bed. “What are you doing?”

“Picking out clothes.” He said, without turning to face her.

She snorted and he could very clearly see the roll of her eyes without even turning around. “Yeah, got that, genius. I meant why are you frying your brain over it?”

Now it was Gendry's turn to roll his eyes, which Arya saw as he turned around. “I am not.”

“Shut up, stupid. Show me options.”

Letting his gaze take a quick perusal of Arya's outfit once more for deciding factors, he pulled out a dark sweater he was fond of that she often told him brought out the color of his eyes. Arya looked at it and him for a moment before nodding casually and gesturing towards his dresser. “Yeah, that's fine. Pair it with some dark jeans and you're good.”

Apparently that was all he was going to get from her. He trusted her judgement, especially since she'd been attending these things for who knows how long, but for whatever reason he'd expected this all to be a more painful process. He grabbed a pair of dark pants from his dresser and slipped into the bathroom to change. It was useless to attempt to do anything to his hair without looking like he was trying to do something to it. It was thick and a little messy, but that was just the way it went.

He changed quickly, coming back into his room, Arya still in the exact same position that he had left her in. The snort couldn't be contained as he looked at her. She just lifted up a finger in response.

“Why can't Brienne go again?”

Not that he didn't want to go, because, uh he totally did. But, this just seemed like a thing that Brienne would usually attend with Arya. He was pretty sure that she would've invited him along regardless of Brienne's plans, but it was a little strange without the other girl's presence.

“She had to stay late at work.” Arya sighed. “Some case thing, her boss requested her to stay and help, even though that's not even in her job description like, at all. I just think that Jaime is getting heart-eyes for her and she refuses to listen to my theories on the subject.”

He tried to think back and remember if she had spoken about a Jaime before – had she? Maybe he just wasn't paying attention. He wondered vaguely if she was talking about his pseudo-uncle-in-law, but he couldn't actually recall where Brienne worked, so maybe it was just another person named Jaime that they were bitching about. His brain was a little too scrambled at the moment to think about it all.

“Well, you've got me.” He smiled down at her from where he was putting on his watch, his eyes soft and open.

“Yeah.” She looked at him, his expression mirroring her own. “I do.”

He tried not to let commotion in his chest consume him as he finished getting ready.

 


 

He felt out of place amongst the bands that he had posters of when he was sixteen, out of place amongst the attractive famous people casually meandering around. Arya stood beside him, grounding him, making him feel a little less like the dirty mechanic he was.

When he had told Arya that he would go with her to the party, all he had been thinking about at the time was how could he deny another chance to hang out in the presence of his favorite band? She had also pleaded a bit, boasting about how boring these company parties were and that if he didn't go with her, she'd probably end up impaled on one of those small plastic shrimp forks. Not wanting to see his best friend/partner in crime/possible love of his life? go out like that, and the very real temptation of celebrity sightings, found him here.

At least Arya had had the foresight to have him change before coming here. Instead of the very casual clothes he'd worn to school that morning, he was now at least a bit more able to blend in. Not by a lot, there were famous people every where, most dressed up like this was an actual event – which, hey, maybe it was and Arya just hadn't said anything. But, she was dressed pretty casually, as were some of the others, and all of Kingsguard, but they weren't really the dress up type anyway.

He leaned back against the wall of the corner they'd tucked themselves into and watched Sansa flitter around, smiling and saying hello to everyone she knew – which, was a lot of the people here, apparently – The Hound by the bar, ignoring everyone. They were so different and he got the whole opposites attract thing, but Gendry would die to hear the story of how the little Northern princess cozied up to music industries biggest bad.

He spotted Robb and Jeyne in deep conversation with prized-fighter Oberyn fucking Martell – he was not swooning, he was not – and his Spanish-pop princess girlfriend Ellaria Sand. Jon and Ygritte were leaning casually against the bar, not far from where he and Arya were stationed, laughing over drinks with world renowned Burlesque sensations Alayaya and Ros. Bran, his best friends Jojen and Meera, were entertaining Rickon at one of the tables with magic tricks that they were all shockingly good at. The rest of Kingsguard flirted with other famous people that he'd seen on the cover of magazines and in movies, heard on the radio or watched on tv. It was extremely surreal.

And here he stood with Arya, watching everything.

They stood quietly and observing, chatting about the people in the room, Arya telling stories from past parties or award shows and the anecdotes that went along with them. They laughed, they stared, they said nothing at all. He didn't feel nervous with her around. He didn't feel dirty or low. He felt at ease and comfortable tucked by her side, no matter how it looked. Maybe especially how it looked.

He was so at ease beside Arya that didn't notice her at first – which, in itself was hilarious, seeing as she was wearing the most low cut dress Gendry had seen in real life and a gaudy choker necklace with a ruby the size of his fist in the middle – he had been too focused on watching the people he knew interact with the rich and famous like it was no big deal. Maybe for a Stark it wasn't. Arya had turned and asked him if he wanted a drink, nodding she left to grab some sodas from the bar. Once he was alone, leaning against the wall, she struck.

“Hello.”

Her voice was a little deep, sultry and commanding, her stare was piercing and never left his. It was slightly unnerving, but he was a big boy and could handle himself. Even if the modern Stevie Nicks was smirking up at him as though she was planning on devouring him whole and he was a stuttering idiot who didn't belong here.

He somehow managed to choke out a, “Hey.” kicking himself for being so ridiculous in the face of the attractive musician.

“My, my, aren't you just...” She let her stare rake over him and he felt her hot gaze travel down his body. “Delicious.”

He paled a bit under her intense scrutiny, feeling his breathing hitch. She might've been crazy, but he couldn't deny that she was beautiful. Damn his stupid male hormones.

“Thank you?”

Her devilish smirk and penetrating stare was throwing him off guard, he recalled how Arya spoke of Melisandre, just how intense and unhinged she was or tended to be, but he couldn't break her gaze. “Hmm.” She murmured, “You're strong. I can sense it.” Her too-blue eyes clear and intense, making it almost impossible for him to look away. “What do you say, sweet boy?”

His brows furrowed in confusion as he looked at her. “What?”

She was about to answer him when Arya popped up next to him, drink in hand. “Here.” Her eyes were narrowed at the older woman and the close proximity she was to him.

He took the glass from her quickly, grateful for the excuse to break the stare with the older woman. “Thanks.”

“Arya, my dark little warrior, how are you?” Melisandre's sonorous voice was gentle and crooning as she turned towards the younger woman.

Arya tried hard to suppress her scowl, which didn't exactly work. “Just fine, Melisandre.” She took a sip of her drink, eyes still narrowed at the older redheaded woman. “Ruin anymore concerts lately? Or a good man's potential?”

The lilting laugh poured out of the older woman's mouth, her exotic accent making it all the more charming. He knew it was a rouse, to draw people in, not unlike a snake-charmer. It didn't stop it from being effective. “My, I've forgotten how fiery you are.” She leaned over to tuck a piece of dark hair behind Arya's ear, gently running her slender fingers over the outline of Ayra's jaw all the way to her chin. “Tell me, who's your friend?”

And then those piercing eyes were on him once again, pinning him in place. Arya shifted towards him a bit, whether unconscious or not he didn't know. “This is Gendry.” She answered in that strong voice of hers. He could already hear the frustration bleeding into her tone, not that she was even actively trying to hide it. “My best friend.”

He felt conflicted at the statement. One part of him soared hearing her call him her best friend, another part of him died a little. But, Melisandre's eyes were still holding his, that smirk still in place on her lips, almost an afterthought, not conscious to it.

“Interesting.”

Arya snorted, eyes narrowing on the older woman, taking another sip of her drink. “I don't see how.”

He could tell she felt put out by the fact that Melisandre was continuing to stare at him, the annoyance in her features was radiating off of her. He looked between the two women in front of him, Melisandre's witch-eyes zeroing in on his damn soul or something. That infuriating smirk still in place. Arya's brows furrowed and her jaw set in that particular way that meant she was holding back.

“Would you like to dance, Gendry?”

The question took him by surprise, seeing as he'd been staring down at Arya and eyeing the clench of her jaw. He opened his mouth, already tasting the stutter on his tongue when Arya rolled her eyes and stepped a bit more in his space. “He doesn't dance.”

Melisandre looked toward Arya for a moment, holding the younger woman's gaze before turning back to Gendry. “Pity.” She let her too-blue eyes rake down his body once again in that mildly obscene way of her's before that cat-like smirk crawled back up towards his eye-line. She brought her finger up to trace his jaw just as she had done to Arya moments before, the hot touch of her skin pricked his own, the heat lingering in it's wake. “Come find me if you change your mind, sweet boy.”

They watched her flit away into the crowd of people, getting lost between bodies and the soft music permeating the air. Gendry felt the tight coil in his chest loosen at her departure, his heartbeat return to normal. It was quiet between them as they watched her slink away, he almost didn't notice until Arya's snort seemed loud in his ears and he turned to look at her.

“God, she is such a nut job.”

She was still standing close to him from where her body had unconsciously moved closer when Melisandre had attempted to woo him away. He couldn't say that he was put-off by it, on the contrary, it made that warmth return to his belly and the coils of arousal burn hot at the thought.

Protective Arya was not a foreign sight, she staked her claim to pretty much everything when she felt that it was being threatened. He didn't want to admit just how much it warmed him to know that she had been blatantly doing just that when the older woman had shown an interest in him.

He moved so that he was leaning a shoulder against the wall behind him and turned so that he was facing Arya, crowding her almost from the others in the room. To anyone else it might've looked like they were a couple over the party and seeking entertainment in the form of each other. It wasn't that far off from the truth, with the exception of the fact that they were doing the strictly Just Friends act pretty well, but he wouldn't be hurt if people thought they were otherwise.

Gendry wasn't blind, and he most certainly wasn't stupid – contrary to popular opinion – he knew what Arya looked like and he knew that other people liked what they saw. Hell, even people just at this party had already eyed Arya up and down like they'd like her on her knees in a striking little Lolita act that he'd definitely never thought of before, ever. Her tight, shiny pants and crop top weren't exactly helping either.

The semi-androgynous jokester from this afternoon was nowhere to be seen, and instead, a coquettish, simmering vixen stood in it's place.

It was an odd juxtaposition.

She seemed harder here, like the attributes that he'd seen her display before – actual facets of her personality – were a mere mask in the form of armor that she wore for these people. He'd known that Arya was a private person, that she didn't give easily. It was one of the things he liked most about her, even though he was sure she'd say it was something she didn't like about herself. What he hadn't taken into consideration before now was just how open she'd been with him from the get-go.

Her eyes, those liquid metal eyes, had always been bright and forthcoming. Her smile easy and soft – the one she gave him when they were alone. Her smirks were tucked up in the corners of her lips and gentle, playful. When she spoke, her words were earnest and lively. She had started out this way, it truly hadn't occurred to him that other people didn't get to see the Arya that he did every day.

Seeing her now, amongst people, acquaintances and friends, that she had known most likely longer than she'd known him with these... walls up was rather eye opening. He hadn't noticed they were walls until right now, until the rather odd confrontation with Melisandre. He had taken the brash nature and permanent smirk that she'd been wearing all night for what they were – part of Arya's personality. It hadn't hit him that he wasn't so much use to this side of her until the small bout of simmering annoyance taking over her features presently had wiped away the bawdy display she had been putting on earlier when they arrived.

Her eyes behind the smirk hadn't been sparking with light, the smirk itself had seemed hollow compared to what he was use to – and boy was he use to, one didn't spend all their time with Arya and not get smirked at continuously. Even the simpering, try me attitude she had adopted wasn't the one he was acquainted with. It all seemed like a mirage version of the very real emotions and practices that he was familiar with.

Most of these people didn't know the true Arya Stark. They hadn't been afforded the privilege.

The thought sobered him a little and made him rethink a few things that he'd previously been certain of.

“Hey.”

She looked up at him from where she was still facing the rest of the room, her body still tilted just slightly towards his from her display of territorial-ism before. She looked up at him expectantly, waiting for him to speak. The cut of her jaw was still tight, the bright silver of her eyes gave away the annoyance she still held onto. He brought a hand up to her arm, resting it right above her elbow and squeezed. It seemed to calm her down a little, regardless of how it would look to everyone watching. Maybe he wanted them to see it, maybe he wanted the Melisandres of the party to back off.

He leaned down a little so that they could speak in soft voices and still be heard. “I think she may have hexed us.” He said with a straight face and a rueful expression. “We may need to go about finding a witch who can cleanse us of it. Or, at least help us find the hex bag.”

Arya rolled her eyes but smirk-smiled up at him, a real one, shaking her head a little. “You're ridiculous.” She breathed out, a small chuckle in the back of her tone. “And you need to stop letting Brienne trick you into marathoning Supernatural with her.”

He shrugged, hand still in place on her arm, both of them fully leaning against the wall and facing each other, the quiet smile tucked into the corners of his lips as he looked down at her. “I'm not entirely sure there was much “tricking” involved.” At her rolled eyes his smile widened. “What? It's kind of a good show. Like the way Buffy was good.”

She looked at him skeptically, her expression one of the overdramatic. “Don't compare the masterpiece that is Buffy the Vampire Slayer to a trashy soap opera about the supernatural.”

“Okay.” He smirked, knowing she wasn't about to like what he was about to say next. “Like in the way you think Vampire Diaries is good.”

Arya gasped, her overdramatic horrified look was over shadowed by the punch to his shoulder and her looking around frantically to see if anyone heard him. “How dare you say that out loud! I told you that in a moment of weakness.”

He just laughed and the smile that appeared in the corners of her lips was worth all the shoulder punches and embarrassing teen soap opera confessions she could throw at him.

Their relationship may not be exactly what he wished it was, and the burning need to actually tell her this feelings ate at him everyday. But, this? This right here – the small smile, the soft look in her open eyes, the laughter that radiated off of her – that was worth everything. He was stand beside her as only her friend for a thousand lifetimes if it meant he got to know the real her, the one next him right now.

He knew that he was well and truly fucked, but, that wasn't exactly brand new information.

 

Chapter Text

“So, what's going on with you and the kid?”

Arya looked up from where she was slathering her bread in mayo, because she was gross and liked extra mayo on her sandwich, and over to where Sandor was grilling her from the other side of the island countertop. Arms crossed over his chest, eyes all narrowed and jaw set in that downright fatherly way that he hated to admit that he did more often than not these days.

The kitchen had been silent until his intrusion. He'd just waltzed in and stood there, watching her as she made lunch, looking her over through narrowed eyes. He'd been giving her that suspicious look lately, especially when Gendry was around. Arya wasn't stupid, she knew that Sandor was catching on to the fact that she literally wanted nothing more than to curl up inside her best friend and kiss his stupid face off. Apparently she needed to tone down the moon-eyes.

“Um, what?”

“You heard me.”

Arya began slapping some cheese on her bread, stink-eye trained his way as she responded. “Look, not that I don't love this whole overprotective-papa-bear bit that we do sometimes, but Gendry and I are just friends.”

Sandor let out a skeptical, “Mmhmm.” and sent her a bitchface that could rival Bran's. Which, was really saying something considering his was patented and all as the bitchiest bitchface of all time.

“We are.” She defended, moving towards the meat portion of her sandwich building and ignoring the way her stomach fluttered dangerously at the thought.

“Tell me, why don't I believe that.”

Arya let out an exasperated sigh and leaned against the counter, “I don't know, Sandor, why don't you believe that?”

His own grey eyes narrowed further at her sass, “Friends don't come home in the morning wearing friend's clothes.” He pointed at her, accusation zapping like lightning bolts from the tip of his finger.

She rolled her eyes and scoffed. “Oh, come on. Sandor, you've met Gendry, more than once. You think he even has the balls to do anything? He barely makes eye contact!”

That was a lie, they stared at each other all the time. All the time . But, Sandor didn't need to know that. In fact, it was actually best if Sandor didn't know that.

“So you admit it then! You like the boy.” He looked at her a tad triumphant, his gruff voice eager to catch her in what he assumed was an unsavory situation.

Oh my god, no. I'm not admitting anything, Sandor.” She moved her now completed sandwich to the table, snagging the bag of chips to bring with her, and sat down as she deflected. “You know, this is very Lifetime original movie of you; you better watch out, before you know it you're gonna turn into Disgruntled Overeager Father – portrayed by Sandor Clegane.”

She took a bite of her sandwich as she looked over it at Sandor turning a little red. He hated it when she pointed out just how nauseatingly domestic he'd become since shacking up with Sansa and becoming a permanent fixture in their lives. His eyes narrowed again, his mouth set into a grim line as he stalked to the fridge, pulled out a beer, and stomped off towards the living room. Arya just smirked around her food, it was almost too easy. She was about to take another bite when he popped his head back in the kitchen, pointing at her once again.

Not that I don't like the kid, but if I find out there's anything... unsavory going on under my nose, we will be having a chat while I casually clean my gun.” And then he was gone.

Arya just stared at the spot he had been, nose scrunched and brows furrowed, before laughing into her sandwich at the absolute insanity of her family. This was going to be one hell of a week.

 


 

This whole thing was ridiculous and boring.

She realized why people had a wedding rehearsal and a dinner, but that didn't make the whole thing any less snoozy than it was. Currently, she couldn't wait to leave the Hall that her brother and soon-to-be-sister had rented for the wedding and get to this dinner part – at least then she'd have food and wouldn't be standing in a line for two hours while a wedding planner cooed over Jeynie.

On a scale from chicken pox to that time she almost blinded herself; this was still probably her least favorite thing.

Sansa stood perfectly postured beside her; flowers in hand, smile on her face, watching intently as their brother pretended to marry his longtime girlfriend. Arya envied her acting skills.

Jeynie's younger sister Eleyna stood at the head of their line, seeing as she was the maid of honor and all, and a trail of girls stood behind Arya as the other bridesmaids. Well, trail was her being dramatic. There were three other girls behind her, but that was three too many in Arya's book. She wished that it could've just been the three of them, maybe even Ygritte – but, ha, that was never gonna happen.

She eyed the boys standing across from her, all lined up in exactly the same way. Jon stood behind Robb, taking the place of best man and looking equally as bored and stoic, but that was just his face sometimes. Jeynie's older brother Raynald was behind Sandor, who was behind Jon, with eyes all narrowed and shoulders slumped with a intensity that radiated boredom, then her younger brother Rollam, then Bran, then Rickon, then Theon.

The wedding planner's irritating voice wafted over them as she walked with Jeynie up the aisle and finally to Robb. He was taking it all in stride, smiling down at his fiancé as she walked up to him in jeans and a t-shirt, flanked by an overeager planner. She was happy for her brother, she really was, but if she didn't get to eat soon, she was eating the annoying girl behind her who Arya was pretty sure was Jeynie's sorority sister from college or some shit. Whatever, she needed food, now, and sorority sister would be the first to go.

“And, there we have it!” The wedding planner exclaimed from beside Jeynie and Robb. “The orchestra will fade and the officiant will begin the ceremony. Any questions?”

Arya tossed her fake practice bouquet across the aisle to Bran, who caught it without question, though he looked a tad surprised to have plastic flowers flying at his face. “Nope. Are we out? Food now?”

The planner looked at Arya aghast that she would speak out of turn, and for her brother and his new bride. But, Sandor only smirked as Sansa and Jon rolled their eyes, Rickon was at her side in an instant, and Bran just started fanning himself with the fake flowers as he leaned against Theon dramatically. Her family said nothing, because she was usually the voice who spoke up for what was on everyone's minds. Robb busted out a laugh and a small smile tugged on Jeynie's lips as she rolled her eyes at Arya's dramatic outburst.

Without thinking – because, for whatever reason, that small smile tugged at something inside of her chest that she was absolutely not analyzing – Arya waltzed up to Robb and Jeynie, throwing her arms around their shoulders and began walking with them down the aisle. “Come on, guys. We've got a rehearsal dinner to get to so we can get you two married tomorrow.”

Robb just had that big dopey grin on his face that made him look like a labrador going out for a walk, but Jenyie's small smile turned into a full-out smirk at Arya's words. They both knew this was the closest they were going to get to bonding, and they were both okay with it. Arya felt an arm wrap about her shoulder and she just leaned her head against the older woman's in acknowledgement. For better or worse, she was becoming family tomorrow and that was not something the Stark's took lightly. Not after everything they'd lost. Was Jeynie their favorite? No. But, that was okay.

She could hear everyone moving behind her, chatting and laughing as they all began to gather their things and exit the Hall that they'd be in again tomorrow and moving towards the parking lot. The rehearsal dinner was being held at one of the art galleries that the Westerlings owned; they were a pretty prominent family within the art world, Sybell Spicer-Westerling was one of the largest collectors in Westeros and they owned galleries all across the narrow sea.

Very casual.

Normally, as tradition states, the rehearsal dinner was to be organized, hosted, and paid for by the groom's family, and usually it was all done by the parents. Arya wasn't sure if they were paying for it – they probably were, but, what did she know – but seeing as their parents were dead and Robb was the head of their family, Sansa and Benjen took over. The dinner was really just an opportunity for the merging families to get to know each other better, even though Robb and Jeynie had been dating for years, the Westerlings weren't strangers, but they were high society, so this is what they had to do.

They'd offered to use the gallery and Sansa snatched that shit up so quick, no one could even blink to tell her no. Not that they'd want to, the gallery was gorgeous, a little upscale for Arya's tastes, but whatever, it wasn't her wedding. Sansa, posing as the matriarch of the family – which, she kind of was at this point – took over the feat of decorating and planning the dinner with the wedding planner and Sybell. She wanted everyone to be involved, Arya thought the Westerlings appreciated that.

It was going to be small – well, not small, but small enough – both families, the wedding party, close friends. The end. Just as it should be. Tomorrow would be crazy enough with how huge the wedding was, but it wasn't every day the head of Stark Distributions got married to a high society darling.

She parted ways with the happy couple, knowing they'd all have to change before going to the dinner – which, was extra the worst. Arya slinked over to the rest of her family clumped together as they walked out of the building. She groaned leaning against Jon and eyeing the backseat of Sansa's car where she knew her dress was laying. It wasn't anything like the bridesmaid dresses that were back at the house, but it was still fancier than she usually cared for.

She watched as Eleyna, Raynald, and Rollam walked out together, Sybell and Gawen in toe. They were a pretty looking bunch, Westerners that lived on the coast which meant pretty suntanned skin and light streaks in their chestnut hair. Eleyna was pretty like Jeyne, but in a different way, her hair curlier than her sister's and a more sour expression usually painted on her face. Raynald was the oldest, older even than Robb, and still unmarried. Arya liked to call it playing the field, Robb smacked her upside the head. Rollam was a year younger than her and sweet. He had a kind disposition and always shyly looked down from her gaze in submission, he reminded her a little bit of Gendry.

Actually, he was totally Gendry and Pod's alternate reality love child.

What was wrong with her?

Right, she needed food.

She watched the pretty rich family slink away to their waiting cars and she realized they should probably do the same. With a groan, she pushed off of Jon who was in conversation with Rickon and Theon, and began to stumble over towards Sansa's car. She opened the backseat, pulling out her dress, and began to strip in the parking lot.

Sansa yelped at her from where they stood not far away, laughing. Arya just rolled her eyes as she shrugged off her jean jacket and pulled the dress over her head, doing that cool thing she learned from always changing around boys and pulling off the shirt beneath the dress once it was on, then went her jeans. She was left standing beside Sansa's open car in her fancy dress, jeans around her ankles and old boots on her feet, shirt in hand.

At least Bran let her pose for the picture before he took it.

Whatever, her life was a joke.

 


 

The picture that showed up on his Instagram feed was ridiculous and dorky and totally didn't make him chuckle out loud to himself with a big stupid grin on his face. Arya was standing in front of an open car door, brows furrowed, face both passive and disgruntled, pants around her ankles, shirt in hand, and fancy dress atop her body. The caption only read: do I look wedding ready? She was fucking ridiculous.

He leaned over to show the blonde next to him the picture, stupid dorky smile still in place even as she rolled her eyes. He was sitting with Brienne in her car outside of the art gallery that the rehearsal dinner was being held in while they waited for the Starks to arrive. They had decided to drive together, seeing as they were the only non-Stark friends that were invited, Brienne said it was because they were like family. He tried not to let the word sit too heavily in his breastbone.

He liked Brienne, and he liked spending time with her. She was sort of stoic and stony, but her razor sharp wit was entertaining as hell, and it was easy to see how loyal she was to those she cared about. He respected the hell out of her and was glad he could call her a friend. Because she would be fucking scary otherwise. He had no issues saying it.

“She's a fucking mess.” Brienne snorted as she looked at Gendry's phone.

“Yeah, but we like it.”

Brienne eyed him, and his goofy smile, and his soft eyes. She knew, she just wasn't saying anything about it. For which he was grateful.

“Yeah, we do.” Brienne sighed with a smile.

His phone lit up with a text from Arya, informing them that they were in fact on their way over and that she expected him to be splayed out on the hood of his car as an offer for the Gods. Arya was insane. But it made him laugh, and he was more than contemplating actually doing it when Brienne's cell began ringing loudly from where it was placed in the cup holder between them.

“Yeah?”

Bitch, is that any way to speak to someone who could very well help you prevent forrest fires?”

The roll of her eyes, but the softness in her shoulders told Gendry all he needed to know about who it was. Brienne and Arya didn't let a lot of people get away with being as snarky as them, but Ygritte was one of the few.

“What do you want?”

Do you happen to have any medication for period cramps in your car? Arya said she left some in there a million years ago and I'm in dire need. Seriously, if I keep talking about how my uterus feels like it's falling out of my asshole, the boys are going to throw me out of the car.”

Gendry couldn't help the bark of laughter at Ygritte's statement. He knew that as a dude, he should've been grossed out by all the uterus talks, but he was raised by a woman who did not let the mysteries of her kind become shrouded in darkness to his male mind. He found Ygritte's blunt behavior hilarious and her “woman talk” didn't really phase him at all.

“Let me look.”

Thanks, bitch.”

“Fuck off, twat.”

Brienne ended the call and hauled herself out of the car to look in the trunk for whatever medicine Arya had allegedly left in there. Gendry couldn't help the smirk, “Well, that was a delightful conversation.”

Brienne just rolled her eyes, he could see it through the rearview window. “That's the only way that wildling slag knows how to communicate. I think that's why the three of us get along so well.” He chuckled loudly as a cars began to pull up next to them, a flurry of red hair bounding out of the large SUV and over to where Brienne stood by the trunk. “Here, Grumpelstiltskin, found your pills.”

He was cut off from the rest of the exchange when he felt a presence lean into the rolled down window and hover over him. “I thought I told you to be spread out as a virgin sacrifice.”

Gendry turned away from the rearview mirror and leaned back a little, because any closer and he would've been accidentally accosting Arya with his mouth – which, was literally the last thing he wanted to do with a parking lot full of large brothers and cousins and in-laws. She was smirking at him with her eyes, the corners of her mouth lifted just slightly in that secret away of hers. It was playful and exciting, it was also familiar. He felt a blush begin at her words and proximity; he rolled his eyes.

“I think the words you used were, “offer for the gods.” You said no such thing about virgin sacrifices.”

She snorted, “Oh, and that's where you draw the line?”

“Strictly speaking.”

She laughed and moved away from the door to open it. He knew that it was her non-verbal command for him to extract himself from the vehicle, he was learning these things. He hauled himself out and leaned against the back door, looking over briefly at her family and soon-to-be family, before planting his eyes back to her.

She looked good. But, he knew that already from the Instagram picture. Her dress was black and white striped – which shocked him none – with a high neck and no sleeves that fell to her knees. Plain black Keds-type sneakers sat on her feet and her hair was pulled up into one of those sloppy ponytails that she often did when her neck got hot. He could already see it drooping to one side as it tended to do, which meant not long from now she'd be sporting a very trendy do from nineteen-eighty-five.

He knew that he looked okay, because Arya had picked out his outfit for the most part. But, as more and more people began filing out of their cars and into the gallery, he couldn't help but notice that he looked more Arya-appropriate than fancy-gallery-appropriate. Brienne was a bit more similarly dressed, as were most of the Stark-brood; it seemed that while they were wealthy, it wasn't so much a concern. Even Robb seemed a bit more casual than the bride-to-be's family, but maybe that was just because the Westerlings had more money.

Sandor, Jon, and Bran were the most like-dressed to him. Sandor was in a nice pair of dark jeans and a button down, but he was a legitimate fucking rockstar so who gave a shit what he wore. Jon was in tight trousers ,that no doubt Ygritte picked out, and a nice sweater. Bran looked pretty much the same as his brother, but a little less put together seeing as how he was fifteen and didn't give a shit.

He was pulled out of his thoughts of inadequacy by a small body slamming into his side. Ygritte leaned against the car beside him, her front pushing against his arm and shoulder, that dangerous smirk on her face and in her eyes. “Hello again, Gendry.”

He couldn't help the smile that pulled on his lips at her weirdness. “Hey, Ygritte.”

“God, you're pretty.” She was looking up at him with sharp, critical eyes and an almost predatory smirk on her lips, he could hear Arya snort at the words. “Almost as pretty as my Jon. He makes all the Northern girls swoon.”

“Is that so?” He chuckled.

“Yeah, it is. Prettiest boy I'd ever seen, but you're a close second.” She patted his cheek in an almost condescending manner, but the smirk on her face made him roll his eyes.

“Gee, thanks.”

“You're welcome, pretty boy. Now, let's go in and get some overpriced grub before your little mistress over here dies from starvation.”

“Hey!” Arya cried as they began walking towards the open doors of the gallery. “Why would I be the mistress in this fictitious situation? Why can't I be the head of the household and he's my secret fling?”

“Because blushing virgin bride Gendry over here isn't pulling the wool over anyone's eyes – if you know what I mean. So, it'd be up to you to play temptress in this little soap opera.” Ygritte said so casually as she patted both of them on the shoulder. Brienne just snickered behind them.

Arya grumbled her displeasure as they made their way into the building and found their respective seats at the many round tables set up in the large space. Sansa was at the the head of the room on a raised platform with Mrs. Westerling and some woman Gendry had never seen before, but he had a pretty good idea about who it was – Arya mentioned more then once something about an annoying wedding planner. Arya pulled him by his arm and sat him down in the chair next to her. Bran was on his left, then Rickon, Jon, Ygritte, Brienne made up the rest of their table.

“Hey, Gendry.”

He smiled at Bran, who was texting furiously on his phone. “Hey, Bran.”

Rickon smirked from beside his brother and leaned an elbow on the table, facing Gendry. “Hey, Gen.”

Gendry snorted at him and shook his head, “Hi, Rickon.”

Rickon, in return, sent him a saucy wink and some finger guns before leaning against Jon's shoulder and groaning. Jon just rolled his eyes and looked down at his little brother, that was definitely not so little anymore to get away with the dramatics that he was currently displaying. “Yes, your highness?”

“Your highness?” Rickon asked with furrowed brows.

“Yeah.” Jon smiled. “I figured since you're being such a drama queen that the title was appropriate.”

Rickon just sent him the finger as they all laughed. Sansa walked by the table and, without missing a beat, swatting the youngest Stark upside the head for the profanity before continuing on to sit at the head table with Jeynie's family.Gendry couldn't help the warm smile that had over taken his face in the Stark's presence. They were lively and ridiculous and so much of a real family that Gendry was overtaken by a swirl of different emotions.

He'd never had a family. Not like theirs. Robert had left them and died before it was old enough to sting. Cersei had never embraced them, obviously. Stannis and his wife were cold and kept to themselves for the most part. Renly was the only one that Gendry would consider family, outside of his mother and Tobho.

His uncle had always been close – maybe it stemmed from the fact that they were only seven years apart and he read more like and older brother figure than an uncle. But, Gendry had always been fine with it. He'd always been fine with the fact that he had a great mother and a kind godfather, a cool uncle/brother, and close friends.

Yet, in the presence of the Starks, in the face of what a real family looked like – or, at least, what he'd been brought up culturally to recognize as a real family – he realized that it was something he'd been yearning for, for a long time.

Sitting at this table with them, with Brienne, and Ygritte, made him aware of the fact that they were accepting him into the fold just as they had with all the other outsiders that were now considered family. And if there was one thing he new with completely certainty about the Starks, they did not take family lightly.

Rickon's stomach rumbled loudly, causing everyone to laugh again and the youngest Stark to pout. “I told you I was hungry!”

“Aw, I know, little wolf.” Ygritte cooed as she petted Rickon's wavy hair. It wasn't as curly as Robb's or Jon's and her fingers glided through it easily. “I'm sure the grub will be out soon.”

It was then that the tinkering of glasses could be heard and he realized that they were in fact not the only people in the room. It was hard sometimes to remember that there were other people worth his attention when he was being distracted by the Starks and Co. Arya turned in her seat to look up at her sister on the raised platform, the rest of their table doing the same.

She was standing in front of the microphone, smile on her beautiful face, a champagne class in her hand. He glanced back at their table to see a glass of champagne and water already seated in front of everyone, it had escaped his notice earlier apparently.

“Thank you all for coming.”

Sansa's voice was clear like a bell and rang out through the open space beautifully. He remembered that she had sang in the chorus in school, he wasn't surprised. She looked good up there, she looked the part of the matriarch, of the rockstar's girlfriend, of the debutante, that she was in the deep blue cocktail dress she sported and red hair all flowing around her. He could see why people fell in love with her. He could see why Arya had a hard time believing that she was just as beautiful.

Sansa turned and smiled over at the head table, which was set up just to the right of the platform. It wasn't a round table like the rest of them, it was long and straight instead, like the kind they'd have at their wedding reception tomorrow. Robb and Jeynie sat in the middle, her parents on her right, Sansa, Sandor, and Benjen on Robb's left.

“As, I'm sure you're all aware, the rehearsal dinner is about the joining of two families. It would also normally be done by our mother.” The whole room was silent, afraid to breath almost, afraid to offend any of the Starks sitting in the audience. He could feel it in the stiffness in his own shoulders, in the tense way Arya was seated beside him. But, Sansa just smiled again. “Unfortunately, that's not possible.”

He could see the way Jeynie's hand tightened around Robb's and the way he refused to look at anyone that wasn't his sister. He wondered if this was especially hard for him, seeing how he was the oldest, the head of the family. Gendry would bet that it was.

“Thankfully, we've known the Westerlings for a long time. So, this isn't so much a “joining” of the two families, but more of a “Hey, how you doing? You ready for tomorrow?” For which, we're all glad.”

The crowd chuckled at Sansa's smooth voice and was soothed from unease by her smile and soft eyes. He could feel Arya and Bran begin to uncoil from their respective spots beside him, the tension began to dissipate slowly.

“Robb.” She brought her attention solely towards her brother, her smooth voice just beginning to shake. “We all love you so much, and we never would've survived without you. Thank you for being the head of our pack, our brother, and our friend. And Jeynie, thank you for taking such good care of him over the years when we were incapable of doing so. I'm so happy for you both.” She reached up and delicately wiped under her eyes, as to not ruin her makeup. With a big, bright smile she turned towards everyone once again. “Alright, now if I don't get off this stage and let them come out with the food, I'll be eaten.”

“Damn right.”

Gendry couldn't help the snort and turned away from the emotional scene in front of him to look at Arya. Everyone erupted into small laughter at her outburst and Sansa sidled gracefully off the platform and to the long table.

Arya's face was passive, stony and indifferent. But, Gendry could see the small wetness in the corners of her eyes. He wanted to do something, he wanted to gather her into his arms and run his hands down her back. He wanted to sooth her the only way he knew how, in the way he liked to be soothed. But, that wasn't Arya. He knew she wouldn't respond well to hesitance and open concern. So, he did the only thing that made sense.

He bumped his shoulder against hers once they had turned back in their seats, tugging lightly on the end of her ponytail. “This tail is sagging, mistress. You look a little wilted.”

She shot him a look and bumped his shoulder back with her own. He knew that she could hear the very light affection buried in his statement in addition to the teasing banter. She responded well to it, to sarcasm, to gentleness masked by playful prodding. Her shoulders relaxed a little though, so it called it a win.

He heard Bran sigh from beside him as the food began to be placed. Brienne had Arya in some weird conversation that absolutely made no sense to Gendry, but it was clear that Brienne was use to these heavy moments with Arya more than Gendry was and really knew how to fix them. He instead turned towards the younger Stark and raised a brow when he sighed again.

“Trying to break a personal best?”

Bran looked up from his phone to the curious eyes of Gendry, “Huh?”

“All the sighing. You trying to break a record or something?” He teased playfully.

“No.” Bran sighed and slumped back in his chair, which caused him to be a little closer to Gendry. “Just stupid stuff.”

“Well, it doesn't seem that stupid if you're sighing all over the place about it.”

It was clearly an invitation to talk about it if Bran wanted, or something sassy to roll his eyes at and pass off as a joke. He could see the younger boy trying to figure out which route to go, before dropping his head and once again – shock – sighing.

“I have... feelings for my best friend's sister.”

“Right.” Gendry nodded. “I remember Arya telling me.”

“Well, I've sort of been avoiding Jojen and going over his house because I don't want to have to deal with seeing Meera. I haven't told him, and I'm afraid to. He's my best friend and that's his sister. I mean, it'd be pretty weird if he liked Arya, you know?”

Well, no, he didn't know how weird that would be because he did like Arya, but he wasn't about to say that out loud. But, he supposed that if he was the best friend of one of her brothers, it may be weird.

Instead of saying anything on his mind, he went with the really lame, “Yeah.”

It seemed now that he'd gotten the first part out, the flood gates were open and Bran couldn't stop himself from talking to Gendry. Not that he minded, he always sort of wanted a little brother. A part of him wondered if life had turned out differently, if this would've been him and Tommen. He stopped the thought from forming, the odd ache in his heart at the thought was too much.

“And she's older than us, and pretty, and smart, and commanding. I am not, obviously. So, not only am I afraid to tell Jojen about the fact that I have a crush on Meera, I'm also afraid that she'll actually find out. Because, there's like no way that she would ever see me as anything other than Jojen's friend. I just...” He let out a deep breath. “I don't know.”

He let the thoughts hang in the air between them for a moment, before nodding. “I think you should talk to him.”

Bran looked up at him with wide eyes, like that was the stupidest thing he'd ever said. “No way.”

“Listen, I know it sounds crazy. I know it's the last thing you want to do. But, you need to talk to him. You said you're avoiding him, right? Has he ever avoided you before?”

Bran thought about it before nodding, an uncomfortable look passing over his features. “Yeah, once. A couple years ago.”

“And how much did that suck?”

“A shit ton.” Bran sighed.

“Exactly. You need to talk to him. Even if it's not about his sister, you still need to let him know that you're not really avoiding him, but a situation that you're uncomfortable with.”

Bran nodded, “Yeah. You're right. It's annoying, but you're right.”

He bumped Bran with his shoulder in the same way he'd done with Arya before. “It'll work out. You guys have been friends for a long time, right? Relationships like that just don't change over night.”

The food was placed down in front of them just as the photographer walked by their table and began taking pictures.

“Oh, come on!” Ygritte yelled. “All our pictures from this shit affair are going to be of us stuffing our faces like slobs.”

Jon rolled his eyes but stood and went after the photographer, asking her to come back to their table. No one should have expected any differently, apparently. They all gathered properly for the pictures this time, leaning into each other and smiling like nice, normal people. He was sure by the end of the night there would be more candid shots of them being insane and ugly, just like the first pictures taken probably were.

Gendry ended up laughing through the whole meal – which, wasn't exactly a surprise. Between Arya stealing food off of everyone's plate like it was a spy game and Ygritte and Bran doing their world “famous” impressions, he was pretty sure he had tears pouring from his eyes. At one point, Rickon had crawled under the table and sat on Arya's lap like he was five, demanding to be spoon fed and tickling Brienne in between bites.

Arya, for the most part, didn't move an inch away from him. Her shoulder was in constant contact with his, sometimes her thigh pressed up against him as well. She seemed to be seeking out physical contact, but didn't want to be too obvious about it. He had no doubt that if they were alone, back in his apartment, she would've been leaning against him with her head on his shoulder, all curled up and warm.

But, they weren't alone. And they weren't at his apartment. So, she settled on subtly pressing against him, never switching chairs or moving from beside him. He would lean down to whisper things to her that would make her snort, or send her a sneaky snapchat of something stupid. From the small smile on her face, it seemed to be working.

As dinner wore on, he really wanted nothing more than to have Arya come home with him. She couldn't, because of Jeynie's bachelorette thing, but he wanted her to. He wanted her nestled in beside him in bed as they watched shit tv before falling asleep. He wanted her asleep beside him. He wanted a lot of things.

But mostly, he wanted Arya to be okay.

She was looking better than she had during Sansa's speech, brighter. But there was still a sadness looming over her that made him worry.

He didn't worry for her. Not like he was worried she'd do something stupid. But, it worried him that she was sad. Because she was so strong, it was odd to see her less than. It threw his protective instincts into overdrive and made him want to take care of her. He knew she'd say no, but it didn't stop him from wanting to.

He was glad that she was looking better, though. And he knew if she was really unhappy, she wouldn't be afraid to bother him about it.

By the time the night was over and he slid into Brienne's car with a promise to be with Brienne and Pod at the church in the morning, he was tired and ready to sleep. Tomorrow would no doubt be just as interesting as tonight, and for the millionth time today he asked himself how he'd gotten in with the family he'd always wanted. Brienne just looked at him like she knew what he was thinking and smiled.

 


 

It was after midnight when he got the call.

Scratch that, it was after two a.m. When he got the call and he had only been asleep like three hours. But, he answered. Slapping his hand on the nightstand, he looked for his phone with eyes closed, barely cracking them open to see who was calling him. He already knew who it was, but he checked anyway.

“Hello.”

His voice was rough and deep from sleep, rumbling almost because of his refusal to speak louder. His eyes were closed and his breathing still deep as she spoke.

“Gendry.” Her voice was soft, quiet. It made him want to curl up next to her and feel her fingers running through his hair. “Did I wake you?”

“Yeah.”

“Sorry.”

He shrugged, even though she couldn't see it, eyes still closed. “It's fine. What's up, Arya?”

She was silent for a few moments, almost long enough for him to fall back asleep when she answered quietly in his ear. “I was sad.” He could hear her rustling around in whatever bed she was in. “I got drunk at this stupid bachelorette party, which was totally lame by the way, and I was sad. So, now I'm drunk and sad and I can't fall asleep even though I'm so tired.”

He could hear it now; the low whine in her voice. He'd only heard it a few times, mostly when she was just awaking up or drunk, but he could recognize it. “Are you okay?”

“I don't know.” She whispered.

“Do you want me to come get you?” He asked, just as quietly.

She was silent for a moment as she thought about it, before sighing. “No, Sansa would kill me if I left. Just... talk to me.”

He turned onto his side, pulling the blanket up higher on his shoulder. “What do you want me to talk about?”

“Anything.”

He began telling her about the very first thing that crossed his mind, which just happened to be the new vegetable garden that his mother was growing. He had seen it the last time he had went home, which had been during his minor breakdown palace after the dinner debacle. He wasn't sure why he was telling Arya about his mother's vegetable garden and how she had decided to try and plant some flowers along the railing on the cliff to make it look less ominous, but he was.

He told her about the shore in his backyard, how the ocean water looked hazy and grey this time of year, but no less beautiful. He told her about the repair work he'd have to do on the house the next time he visited, the old band posters on the walls of his childhood bedroom, the embarrassing amount of portraits tucked into binders in his closet. He told her lots of things.

When he finished a story about the time he'd knocked into this vintage vase and proceeded to glue it back together so well that his mother still to this day couldn't tell the difference, it was quiet. He knew she wasn't asleep, but she seemed content to just listen to this breathing for the moment. Finally, she whispered to him.

“You're amazing, you know that?”

He couldn't help the stirring of something in his chest at her words. “Thanks, I guess.”

“I mean it, Gendry.” She cut off what definitely would've been his stupid rambling. “You're amazing and I'm so happy that you're in my life.”

He knew she was only saying these things because of the alcohol in her system or the sadness still lingering in her chest, but he'd take it. “You know I feel the same way, right?” He whispered back.

“Yeah, I know.”

He fell asleep in the middle of telling her another story, but he was pretty sure that she was already asleep by then. He wondered if she'd remember their conversation in the morning. He decided he wouldn't bring it up even if she did. He wanted to keep her words a secret, something meant only for him. That shouldn't be too hard, especially since Lommy was nowhere near him tomorrow.

Thoughts of swirling eyes like swirling silver mist over the ocean and his mother's vegetable garden lulled him into a deep sleep. He'd worry about everything else tomorrow.

 

Chapter Text

Arya was lying on the couch in the bridal suite of the hall, her eyes were closed but she wasn't sleeping – Sansa would actually full on murder her if she fell asleep right before the wedding. She could hear the girls all cooing over Jeynie and their quiet gasps as she finished the last touches of her hair or make up or getting dressed. It had been a long morning.

Sansa was being the good sister, helping Sybell with whatever she needed, smiling with Jeynie and the other girls. Arya was tired, while her bachelorette party last night wasn't exactly the craziest, it had went late into the night and now she was sleep deprived. It was hard to keep up appearances when she felt a nap coming on.

“Arya, dear, you don't want to ruin your dress.”

She opened her eyes to look up at Sybell. The older woman looked good for her age, her dark hair swept up into a fancy top-knot, her skin smooth with the barest hint of lines around her eyes and mouth. She raised a brow at Arya, and she would've taken it for annoying or condescending if it weren't for the slight smirk in the older woman's dark eyes.

“I suppose you're right.” She sighed dramatically as she hauled herself up from the couch, smoothing out her dress as she did so.

It wasn't the greatest dress, and definitely not something that she'd ever pick for herself. It was pale pink chiffon that floated around her knees, the wrap-cut of the bust showed a “tasteful” amount of cleavage and the straps widened over her shoulders. It was... pretty. But in the way that a five year old dressed as a princess would be pretty. She certainly felt like a five year old princess in it. It didn't help that the hairstyle Jeynie had chosen made her look extra young; her hair was down with the sides of the damn middle part pinned back to showcase her face.

She looked a lot like she had when she was seven.

Eleyna of course looked great in the color, cut, and style of the dress and hair – Arya had no doubt that she'd had a hand in picking it all out. The other two girls looked fine, a little young for their age as well, but fine. Sansa looked good in everything, but being a redhead pink wasn't usually her color of choice.

She waltzed over to where Sansa was seated by the window, coming to sit and lean against her as they waited for the music to start, so the wedding could start, so it could all be over.

“Tired?” Her sister asked.

“What gave it away.”

Sansa smiled, and even thought Arya couldn't see it with her head on her sister's bony shoulder, she knew it was there. “Maybe the fact that you almost passed out on the couch?”

“I can nap anywhere.”

Sansa snorted, “Oh, I know you can.”

They were quiet for a few moments, listening but also ignoring the small sounds of the other girls in the room, of the photographer snapping pictures, of the music outside the doors playing as people entered the Hall. Arya toyed with the hem of the sheer material on her body, still leaning against her sister, nipping at her lower lip in thought.

“Are you sad... about today?”

She could feel Sansa take a deep breath, how she let the silence settle a bit between them before answering. “Yeah. I think we all are.”

Arya nodded a bit against her shoulder, “I figured as much.”

Sansa reached down and tangled their hands together in a way they hadn't done since they were little, since the funeral, since they slept in the same bed for weeks afterward because neither of them could stop crying.

“I feel like they're here.” She whispered, Arya only hearing it because she was tucked so close to her sister. “Is that weird?”

“No.” Arya muttered just as quietly. “I feel like they're here too. It's so strange, I haven't felt this way in a long time. Like, I keep just wanting to turn around to roll my eyes at Mom or smirk over at Dad. But they're not here. They haven't been here in a long time.”

She watched as Sansa's free hand moved up to her face, Arya couldn't see the action, but she knew that Sansa was wiping away her tears. She laid her head against Arya's for a few moments, before she pulled away and stood. She was looking in the window behind them, gently fixing any smudging that may have happened as a result of crying, before leaning down and hugging Arya tightly. She hugged her back, because they both needed it.

When Sansa pulled away she fixed one of the bobby-pins that had become askew, fluffing her dark hair and smiling down at her. In that moment, she looked so much like their mother that Arya nearly cried. But, she didn't.

“Alright.” Sansa began. “Let's get this shindig started so I can do make out with Sandor and cry into my lemon cakes.”

Arya laughed and stood from the window seat, shaking her head. “You're gross.”

“Whatever. I'm going to go check and see where we're at.”

Arya watched her leave the room, all tall and graceful. She didn't like seeing Sansa sad, she didn't like watching the aftereffects of their parents' death still hover over everyone. It made her do stupid things; like call Gendry in the middle of the night and whisper things to him that she wouldn't be caught dead saying to anyone else. She just wanted this whole thing to be over so she could go back to her regularly scheduled programming and not be a weird, sad, mess anymore.

Sansa proved to be quick in her task of finding out if they were ready, returning not long after and speaking with Sybell before smiling at Jeynie and telling her it was time. They began to line up at the entrance, sorority girls first, then Arya, Sansa, Eleyna and Jeynie behind her. Sybell kissed her daughters and smiled meaningfully at Sansa and Arya before slipping in and taking her seat.

The music began and the wedding planner opened the door for the first bridesmaids to go, then the second ones. She motioned for Arya to go and she sort of felt like she was in a daze. Everyone was looking at her as she walked down the aisle, but she didn't look at them, she could only look at her brothers.

Robb was smiling so bright at her that it almost hurt to look at him, Bran and Rickon looked so grown up and handsome in their suits that she almost did a double take. Even Jon was smiling – which, was shocking seeing as he was in public and all. She took her spot in front of the other girls and turned her head to watch as Sansa descended down the aisle looking like a runway model. She almost rolled her eyes playfully, but somehow managed not to.

She didn't turn to watch as Eleyna sauntered down towards them, instead looking over into the crowd where their family and friends were seated. She found Ygritte and Brienne first – mostly because Brienne was the tallest human alive with pale blonde hair and Ygritte was a ginger mess that was smiling too wide. Pod was sitting next to Brienne, looking all cute and attentive perched beside her and watching everything with large eyes and a smile on his face. Then, of course, there was Gendry.

He sat next to Pod in a dark blue button down and a dark grey blazer that brought out the insane color of his eyes and the pale complexion of his skin. His dark hair was untamable as usual, making him look thoroughly fucked. Combined with his outfit, it made him look thoroughly fucked, but like thoroughly fucked on a swanky jet or some shit.

She couldn't get his voice from last night out of her head. The soft rumble that soothed her as it gently spoke about non-important things, lulling her. The almost gravel quality from sleep that it had contained; goosebumps erupting over her skin at the thought.

She gave him the smallest of smiles, a barely lifted corner of her lip. But, he saw it, and fucking goddamn winked at her in acknowledgement.

Winked.

At her.

Gods be fucking good.

She managed to rip herself away from him long enough to catch Jeynie's entrance and her brother's reaction. He looked sappy and stupid and so in love that she wanted to go hug him and punch him in the arm. Jeynie of course looked beautiful and bright in her flowing strapless gown.

Robb took her hand, lead her up towards the officiant, and the ceremony began. It wasn't really as long as she'd thought it'd be. They listened as the woman spoke about unity and family, then her brother was exchanging vows with Jeynie, and then they kissed. She hadn't realized it was over until the two began walking down the steps of the platform to make their way out of the Hall. The bridal party followed, posing for pictures outside once they were all situated as everyone else made their way to the reception room.

She wasn't sure if she was in a daze because of the conversation she had with Sansa in the dressing room, or if she was just tired. Maybe it was neither of those things. Either way, the ceremony was over, the pictures were over, and the new couple were about to walk into the reception room together for the first time. People were cheering and clapping, Arya just barely managed to keep up the smile on her face as she went and found her seat.

The long table was set up again, this time in front of everyone on a small riser. She scoured the seating placements to find her's and was relived that she was sitting next to Sansa and Jon, she wasn't sure if she would've been able to sit next to someone she'd be forced to pretend in front of right now. She took her place, Jon sliding in next to her, Bran and Rickon at his side, Theon sitting beside Robb and in deep conversation with the new bride and groom.

Jon wrapped his arm around her shoulders, not saying a word. She was grateful for it. She leaned into her brother's touch and turned a little so that she could look at him more fully. “I miss you, y'know.”

The small smile in the corner of his lips were a Stark specialty trait, they all did it, probably without realizing. His smile was sad though, right around the edges. He squeezed her shoulder with his hand, “I know.”

She looked past him and over at her little brothers; Rickon already in an in depth conversation with Rollam, but Bran was staring distractedly down at his place setting until his phone buzzed and he looked even more distressed. She'd have to figure out what that was about later. Maybe she'd send Gendry to do it, they seemed to like each other.

She definitely had to keep the embarrassing thoughts from flitting across her mind; thoughts of Bran going to Gendry for advice and telling him how much of a good brother-in-law he was. Nope, not going there.

But, the thought of Gendry made her perk up a bit, looking around at the sea of tables in front of her, searching for the one that held the rest of their family. They were closer to the front, one of the first few tables, she once again spotted Brienne first, the Ygritte who was in some kind of hilarious debate with Benjen and his date Cherrie from the pharmacy, Pod and Gendry sat smirking across from them.

She was torn between wanting to be at that table and right where she sat. The decision ended up being made for her as music started playing and the food was brought out. She looked over longingly at the table holding the other important people in her life, then to the empty dance floor and the DJ who was still setting up. She tucked in, because she was hungry and liked food and wanted this portion of the party to be over so she could go cuddle between Brienne and Gendry. She wasn't even ashamed by that. She wanted to feel better, she wanted the lingering hint of sadness that clouded her chest to dissipate, and while her brothers were doing a good job, she wanted her friends.

She could sense that Jon wanted to be next to Ygritte just as bad, and she could see the way Sansa was curled up into Sandor, the way Robb held tightly to Jeynie's hand, how close Rickon sat next to Bran. She ate her food, listened to the roar of people talking over the soft music, until it was time for dessert and she could escape.

By that point, the DJ had finished setting up, the soft music throughout dinner had turned into easy dance music and people began milling around as they waited for the bride and groom to have their first dance. She escaped from the large table and made her way quickly over to the smaller round one. Benjen and Cherrie were off mingling with the other guests around the space, there were open chairs, one of which was now occupied by Jon, but instead of sitting in the open chair like a normal human, Arya plopped herself down on Brienne's lap.

The older girl didn't even looked phased by the fact that she was being used as a human stool, she just kept on her conversation with Pod about some science exam they were preparing for – the nerds. She leaned back and rested her shoulders against Gendry, who was seated next to Brienne. He was warm and solid and alive. She wanted to crawl into his lap and bury her face in his neck, have him hold her until she fell asleep.

But, they were at her brother's wedding. Her other brother was currently seated at this table. Her Sandor-in-law was probably already glaring at them from his spot at the head table. No matter how much she wanted to seek comfort from him – secret feelings and hidden desires be damned – now was not the time. She was in a weird mood, but she was aware enough to know that.

So, instead, she sucked in some of his warmth and smiled at the fact that everyone ignored the way she was casually draped across Brienne. Whatever, the other people attending the wedding probably though she was a lesbian anyway, might as well give them something to ogle.

Eventually – or, more accurately, when Brienne swatted at her for attempting to eat the dessert they just put out – Arya moved from Brienne's lap to the open seat next to Gendry. He smiled at her, his soft eyes lingering in that way they often did that made him look warm and approachable. He pushed the plate of cake towards her, not saying a word.

She wondered if he could sense her mood, if he knew she was in a weird place and had figured her out enough to know not to push. Maybe it was because he'd lost a parent as well, she didn't know. She ate the cake.

Robb and Jeynie had their first dance – some overly cheesy love song playing loudly as they stared into each other's eyes. Robb's choice was a little better in Arya's opinion, AC/DC rang out loudly as he lip-synced the lyrics to his new wife and danced around her ridiculously. It made Arya laugh and they all couldn't help belting out the words to the song, the mood lifted after that, she felt better.

They had been laughing at Gendry and Pod's reenactment of some ancient incident involving Hot Pie, too much whipped cream, and the makings of a fake porno when Ygritte growled from her position on Jon's lap and leaned back sighing dramatically.

“God, could this wedding be any more boring?”

Jon rolled his eyes and poked her in the ribs. “It's their wedding, if they wanted it to be traditional, that's what they wanted.”

“I didn't say traditional, I said boring.”

She tossed back the drink in her hand and made a move to get off Jon so he could go fetch them more drinks. She had designated him earlier as the drink-fetcher because the girl bartender kept pouring him more then was strictly recommended by the catering company. Clearly Ygritte was so comfortable and confident in their relationship that she cared not one bit that girls were swooning all over her boyfriend. Arya hoped to be in a relationship like that one day.

It also might've been because Ygritte was a scary bitch, but it was also fairly likely that her brother was just that loyal.

Once Jon had slinked away towards the long line at the open bar, Ygritte took her seat once again, a dangerous gleam in her eyes that made Arya excited. “Alright, now that the Boy Scout is gone, let's say we liven up this party, yeah?”

Brienne was already rolling her eyes and sighing. “This should be good.” She said, crossing her arms.

Gendry perked up a bit, Pod looked a little scared, Arya smirked. This was exactly what she needed.

“What did you have in mind?”

Ygritte smirked back at her. “Truth or Dare. Obviously.”

“Truth or Dare?” Brienne scoffed. “What're we, in seventh grade?”

“Fuck off, this game is for every age!” She snagged Pod's drink from across the table and sipped it before giving it back, that Cat got the Canary gleam back on her face. “Besides, only chickens refuse."

“Oh my god.” Brienne exclaimed, “You are in seventh grade.”

“Are we playing or not?” The redhead challenged.

“Oh, I'm so in.” Arya couldn't wait to see what was going to happen.

Gendry looked at her, then Brienne and Pod, before finally turning towards Ygritte who looked at him expectantly, he sighed. “Yeah, alright, I'm in.”

Arya whooped and patted him aggressively on the shoulder in her enthusiasm. Ygritte looked towards Pod and Brienne, holding the taller girl's stare before she broke down and heaved a long suffering sigh.

“Fine, okay. I'll play your stupid kid's game.”

Pod nodded, “Alright.”

Ygritte grinned and started rubbing her hands together like an old time-y villain. Arya looked at the five of them, brows furrowing. “Are only the five of us going to play?”

“I can't promise Jon will play – he's sort of a stick in the mud sometimes. The only games he really enjoys are boardgames and the ones we play in bed.” Her brows wiggled and that smirk became vile.

Arya began pretend vomiting and gaging, the rest of them chuckling. “Why would you even say that? Fucking gross. Now I need to bleach my brain.”

Ygritte barked out a laugh, but said nothing further on the matter, continuing on with the conversation. “Robb is married and ignoring everyone, Bran looks like he's about to drown himself, and Rickon would totally play but I'm not about to get arrested for endangering a minor – because you sure as shit know that he'll do something insane and then blame it on me.”

“Alright, so the five of us.” Brienne bit into Arya's second piece of cake, which caused a semi-embarrassing whine to tumble out of her throat which the blond ignored. “What're the rules?”

Ygritte seemed pleased and smiled as she got more comfortable in her chair. “You have to Truth, or Dare. If you don't answer the Truth, you'll be given a Dare to accomplished, you can either choose to answer the initial question or go through with the Dare. If you pick Dare and refuse, you'll be given a Double Dare that's definitely worse than the original.”

“What if you just decide to do neither?” Pod's soft voice asked curiously.

Ygritte shrugged her thin shoulders, “Then you're out of the game and we make fun of you for the rest of the night.”

Brienne eyed the redhead critically, “You were probably so vicious as a preteen.”

The redhead just smirked evilly and forwent an actual response. Podrick choked out a laugh while sipping his drink.

“Okay, who's first?” Arya asked, toying with the fork in her hands. This was it, it was all so fucking perfect that she couldn't even looked over at Brienne to fill her in. Operation Quiver was just handed to her on a silver fucking platter. Knowing Ygritte, she'd have Gendry's mouth on her's by the end of the night. Or, at least some body part of her's. “I call not it.”

The rest of the table moved quickly, touching their finger to their nose. Jon walked up then, placing down a few drinks at the table and sitting right on Ygritte's lap. They all looked at him with smirking lips and glinting eyes. He sighed, looking down at his girlfriend.

“What's happening this time?”

She smiled up sweetly at him, wrapping her arms about his waist in what would be a loving embrace, but Arya knew it was really to keep him from bolting when she told him. His eyes narrowed down at her sweet smile, dark and skeptical.

“Truth or Dare.” She answered serenely.

“Oh, fuck no.”

“Oh, fuck yes.” Ygritte leaned up and nipped at the bolt in his jaw, nuzzling his neck. “Get over it, Lord Commander. We're playing, and you're first.”

Her brother's gaze narrowed further, but with a huff of indignation he rolled his eyes and barked out a, “Fine.”

Ygritte yipped from behind him, “Alright, who'd like to do the honors?”

“Uh, I think we should establish a few more ground rules.” Brienne eyed the redhead meaningfully. “No nudity.”

Ygritte actually had the gall to look shocked by the accusation, which prompted Brienne, Arya and Jon to give her a look. Gendry and Pod looked at each other with raised brows, most likely wondering what in the hell they'd gotten themselves in to.

“We are at a wedding, Brienne. We're celebrating life and love and unity.” The fake sincerity in her voice had Brienne just nodding with narrowed eyes.

“Uh huh.”

“Fine.” She scoffed. “No nudity. Anything else? I don't want to ruin anyone's delicate sensibilities.”

“I'm not kissing Robb again. Or Theon for that matter.” They all turned to look at Jon, mouthes open, confused or grosses-out expressions on their faces. He just narrowed his gaze at all of them, “Oh, like you've never played this game drunk before.”

“Okay, fine. No nudity, no incest. That it?”

Everyone looked at each other in confirmation before nodding. Ygritte looked devilishly excited and Brienne surprised everyone by quickly jumping in, not even giving Ygritte a chance. “Alright, Jon. Truth or Dare?”

They stared each other down for a few moments before Jon muttered, “Truth.”

Brienne had a pokerface a mile long, which not a lot of people thought about. She was stoic and sort of reserved usually, but when it came down to it, she could be downright stony. Which, she was right now. There was no way to tell yet how this game was going to go, how easy she was going to take it on Jon. Arya knew Brienne would be infinitely nicer than Ygritte would, but there was always a chance that her honor would fade for a fraction of a second and this could get crazy real fast.

“Who was your first time?”

Arya and Ygritte woah-ed at the surprise sneak attack question. The pace was set, the mood charged, this game was going to be ninety-sex percent about sex now. It was then that the actual question registered in Arya's mind, causing a mildly-disgusted face to form.

Jon looked at Brienne with a really? in his eyes before shaking his head. “My sister's at this table!”

“Answer the question, Jon.”

“I already know the answer to this question.” The disgust on her face hadn't moved, but she went about reassuring her brother that this sort of talk wouldn't freak her out.

His eyes bugged and narrowed at the same time, looking down at her accusatory. “You do?”

“Look at who your girlfriend is.” She shot a hand out towards Ygritte. “You don't think I'd know.”

He heaved a long suffering sigh before throwing his hands up. “It was Ygritte. I'm sure your all surprised.”

The redhead just shrugged and wrapped her arms tighter around his waist. “I get what I want. And I wanted this pretty lad's v-card.”

“Ew, gross.” Arya kept eating everyone's cake to make up for how gross this was.

“Alright, alright. My turn.” Jon looked between all of them before settling on poor, sweet Podrick. “Pod. Truth or Dare.”

“Oh, god.” Pod muttered, “I can't decide which'll be worse.”

That caused them all to laugh and Arya to lean over to tousle Pod's hair affectionately. “I feel you, dude.” Was Jon's only reply as he wanted for the younger boy to choose his fate.

He seemed to methodically think it through before sighing and surprising everyone. “Dare.” He looks at Brienne, Gendry, and Arya, shrugging and looking only mildly nervous. “I mean, how bad can it be, right? We're at a wedding.”

Arya didn't have the heart to tell him just how ruthless some of their companions were.

“I dare you...” Jon trailed off, looking around as he thought of a Dare for Pod. His eyes finally lit up and a small smirk adorned his face that had Ygritte panting behind him in anticipation. They were gross. “You like girls, right?”

“...yeah?” Podrick answered slowly and with furrowed brows.

“Good, didn't want to make things too awkward.” He said cooly, causing everyone to snort. “I dare you to go over to the hot bartender and use the absolute cheesiest pick-up line you can imagine.”

“Oh, god.” Pod groaned, knocking back the rest of his drink before taking a deep breath and heading over towards the bar.

“Shit, he's actually going to do it.” It was Gendry's surprised voice that pulled her from her laughter.

“You didn't think he would do it?” She asked curiously.

Gendry looked down at her, excitement in his eyes and a small crooked smile on his face. “No way in hell. I'm actually shocked.”

They turned to watch Pod wait on line, hands fidgeting nervously at his sides. He turned to look back at them, and they all sent him thumbs up and large laugh-smiles as forms of encouragement. He let out another deep breath and walked up to the bar, casually – and literally not at all casually – leaned against it as he caught the painfully attractive bartender's attention. She smiled sweetly at him from over the bar and they watched Podrick's lips move, blush staining his pale cheeks. They held their breath, waiting for the uncertain reaction, when they were all stunned into silence and Ygritte groaned out a - “Are you fucking kidding me?

The bartender had placed a hand over her heart, that lost-puppy-heart-eyes look on her face as she looked at Pod. She pulled out a cocktail napkin and wrote on it, sliding it over across the bar with a drink, sultry smile on her face and a wink. Podrick stumbled away from the bar, drink and napkin in hand, as he made his way back to their table.

Gendry and Jon jumped up as soon as he was near enough, shouting excitedly. “Dude! What did she say?”

“Was that her number?”

“What did you say to her?”

“Is that her actual number?”

Podrick sat back down, stupid smile on his face as he sipped his drink, Gendry and Jon still fighting over the napkin like a couple of preteens. Arya leaned over and snatched the napkin out of their hands, Ygritte and Brienne leaning in to inspect it.

“Who the hell names their child, Spruce?” Was the only thing the girls commented on as they handed him back the napkin with eye rolls and disgusted scoffs.

“So, what the hell happened?” Gendry asked excitedly.

“Yeah, what line did you use?” Jon agreed.

“Why?” Ygritte snarked. “Planning on using it tonight?”

Jon smirked back with his gross bedroom eyes, “Maybe.”

“Fucking disgusting.” Arya groaned under her breath and ate more cake, ignoring Gendry's amused snort.

“Gen.” His head perked up from where he'd been smiling down at Arya's displeasure. “Truth or Dare?”

Gendry groaned and narrowed his eyes at Podrick's smirky-smile. They seemed to have a conversation with their eyes, and only when Gendry seemed satisfied with whatever he'd been eye-ranting to Pod about, did he answer.

“Dare.” He said with a sigh.

Podrick smiled at him and sipped his hard earned drink. “I dare you to tell them about the end of the summer dance at Summer Camp, year four.”

Gendry's eyes narrowed at his best friend before groaning and wiping a hand over his face. “I hate you.”

Pod only smirk-smiled.

His sigh was long and heavy, but he began talking regardless. “We went to some stupid summer camp when we were younger and during our fourth year I had this terribly unfortunate crush on Misty Cobarra.”

“She was like, the most popular, pretty, preteen at camp.” Podrick interjected, a bit too giddily for Gendry's taste.

Arya tried not to let the stupid little pangs of jealousy at a twelve year old Gendry making moon-eyes over some fucking slag named Misty. Tried, was not necessarily accomplishing.

“Yeah, thanks.” Gendry rolled his eyes and continued. “Anyway, I mooned over her all summer, because I was dumb and thirteen, and Hot Pie thought it would be a fucking brilliant idea to “hook us up” at the end of summer dance. Obviously, things did not go according to plan, and he hijacked the DJ booth, causing a whole embarrassing scene. There was a spot light, our names being called over the speaker, and As Long As You Love Me by The Backstreet Boys playing in the background. I got so nervous when she started looking around for me that I grabbed Pod and made him slow dance with me while Hot Pie continuously body-rolled in the DJ booth.”

By the end of the story, not a single one of them wasn't laughing hysterically – Arya was actually crying – and Gendry's ears were scorching red as he nodded and rolled his eyes.

“Yeah, yeah. Laugh it up, you animals.” He turns to look directly at her, “Arya, Truth or Dare?”

The sinful smirk and particular gleam in her eyes had him recoiling slightly, the flush still present. “Dare.”

“We should've warned you,” Brienne stated as she continued to eat the plate of food still in front of her. “Arya is a wily one. She's basically embarrassed by nothing and will always pick Dare.”

She smiled up at Gendry, who was seated at her side and turned more to face her than the table. “I never pick Truth.”

Gendry shook his head and sighed, looking at the wedding happening around them. “I Dare you to... procure the oddest items you can find in the building – six of them. You have until the end of the night.”

Her eyes light up at the challenge, the smile on her face before she could even think of shutting it down. Ygritte snorted from Gendry's other side, capturing his attention away from her face.

“This bitch loves scavenger hunts.” She gestured towards Arya with the arm that wasn't around Jon's waist. “Get prepared to be shocked and amazed by what she brings back.”

“Challenge accepted.” She smiled up at Gendry and then turned towards Ygritte, causing Brienne to groan. “Alright, Truth or Dare.”

“Dare.” She said around an devilish smirk.

Ygritte was sort of vicious and didn't fuck around, so Arya wasn't going to give her the chance to. “I dare you to go offer Eleyna your services for the night.”

“Services?” Gendry asked with furrowed brows as Ygritte tipped her head back and barked out a laugh.

“Yeah, services.” She accentuated her explanation with a wink and a shoulder nudge. He seemed to get them memo after that.

They watched Ygritte leave them and flit over to where Eleyna sat beside Raynald, all slinky and power in her gait. Arya's attention was caught by Bran, who still sat at the head table, all distressed looking over his phone. She wondered what it was about, seeing as it didn't seem to be because of their parents or the wedding, she wondered if it had something to do with Meera and Jojen.

Bran stood from the table, stalking out of the side balcony doors, looking distraught and distressed and distracted and all the other terrible D-words. She nudged Gendry, who had also watched Bran walk away. Once those impossibly blue eyes were back on her, she leaned in and whispered.

“I know it's kind of a weird thing to ask, but, do you think that maybe you could go talk to him?” She had no idea what her face was doing, she hoped it reflected the earnestness and worry that had taken root inside of her. “I'd go, or send Jon, but I'm pretty sure it's something he doesn't want to talk about with his siblings, or else he would've done it by now. And, I saw you guys talking yesterday and I know that he likes you, I don't know, is this weird? I – ”

He cut off her rambling with a nod and easy eyes. “Yeah, I'll go see what's up with him. He was sulking about his friend Jojen and his crush on the sister yesterday, it's most likely because of that.”

“Thanks, Gen.” She grabbed his hand under the table and squeezed.

He had big hands. Nice and warm, with callouses and long fingers and strength behind them. The small terrifying though floated through her – she didn't want to let go. But, she forced herself to, so that he could go scope out the sitch about her little brother. Because he was a good friend.

She needed to keep stressing that to herself.

He stood from the table, moving towards where they saw Bran exit, while everyone else watched Ygritte move her hands exaggeratedly in front of a mildly horrified Eleyna.

He ducked out of the balcony door to find Bran sitting on one of the stone benches, looking out dazed over the small garden and fountain just beyond the balcony. He was quiet and didn't really acknowledge Gendry's presence as he sat down on the bench beside him.

They sat in silence for a while, Bran playing with the phone in his hands, not looking at Gendry. Apparently the silence becoming too much was a Stark trait, and after a few moments, Bran began speaking like they hadn't been sitting next to each other quietly for minutes on minutes.

“I talked to Jojen last night.”

His voice was tentative, slow, like he was testing the waters of this conversation. Gendry nodded slowly at the words.

“That's good. Right?”

“I...” He sighed, running his hands over his face. “I told him I had feelings for Meera.”

“Okay.” He said tentatively, because he was certain there was more to this story than just that. “How did he take it?”

It was quiet for a beat, the sounds of the running fountain and Bran toying with his phone were the only things that broke it up.

“He, um... he sort of, kissed me.”

It was silent. Not because of the slight shock for the twist in this story that he was one hundred percent not expecting, but because of the way Bran looked up at him from where he'd been fiddling with the phone in his hands.

“I told him that I had feelings for his sister and he kissed me. Said that I was an idiot. Said that he's liked me for a long time.” He shook his head, clearly distressed over the new development. “He's my best friend. How... how could I have not seen it? Why didn't he tell me? Why did he think kissing me was a good idea?”

Gendry knew all those questions were rhetorical, so instead he asked one himself. “Does it bother you because he's a boy?”

“No.” Bran answered honestly, without hesitation. Which, was interesting. And began making more sense than he even thought Bran was aware of. “But, he's my best friend. It's just going to be weird now, because things like that never work out. And, I don't want him to not be my best friend anymore, you know? I need him.” He bent forward, thrusting his head into his hands again. “God, everything is so fucked.”

He knew that nothing he said would make Bran feel better, none of the – Yeahs or the That sucks or Sorry, dudes would make it alright. So, he chose a different route.

“My best friend kissed me once.”

That got Bran's attention.

His head shot up out of his hands, his eyes wide, surprised by the statement. “Really?”

Gendry nodded, “Yeah. We were in high school, and we'd been close for a while, a couple years. He was straight, or at least he was pretending he was back then. Something happened one weekend – something changed. He's still never really told me the whole story, but I got a text in the middle of the night asking if I would pick him up from some party and bring him home. I did, and while we were talking in my car, he started crying. Those are the parts of the story that I know, the rest never came out because while I was trying to comfort him, he kissed me.”

Bran was listening to him with rapt attention. Like he had been in a similar situation not too long ago and was reliving with through Gendry's words, maybe he was. His brows furrowed, “What happened?”

“He apologized.” Gendry shrugged like it wasn't a big deal – because it wasn't. “I told him not to. He came out to me that night and literally nothing changed between us. We were still best friends, even though he'd kissed me and he was gay.” He shrugged again, eying Bran as he did so, cautiously almost.

“Wow.” Bran muttered softly.

“But,” Gendry started again, catching Bran's eyes. “I don't think Lommy and I had quite the same feelings for each other than you and Jojen do.” He said gently.

He could see Bran's breathing begin to quicken and his eyes went slightly glazed over as he thought about what Gendry had just said. They sat there quietly for some time, Gendry watching Bran to make sure he was okay, and Bran working through something in his head. When he finally looked up and found Gendry's gaze again, there was a different look in his eyes that hadn't been their previously. He looked tired, but, Gendry didn't blame him.

“Lommy, huh?”

His voice sounded a little rough, like he had been holding back from crying and hadn't cleared his throat. It was obvious that he wanted to change the topic without leaving it completely. He still wanted to talk to Gendry about it, just not about the observation between him and Jojen. Gendry could do that.

Gendry chuckled a little, “Yeah, Lommy.”

It was quiet again for a minute before Bran seemingly couldn't hold back anymore. “He was straight?”

This time, Gendry let out an actual laugh. “Once upon a time.”

The small bouts of silence weren't awkward between them, they weren't charged with energy, they weren't anything. He wouldn't say they were exactly comfortable, but he didn't feel anything negative in them. “Thank you.” Bran said with a bit of a sigh, sounding tired once again. “For talking with me.”

Gendry shrugged and smiled gently in the way that Arya said made him look soft and open. “Any time, Bran. I mean it.” He leaned forward a bit to grab Bran's attention. “I know that I'm just your sister's friend, and I don't promise to have any actual advice on things, but I'm here if you need someone to talk to that isn't a relative.”

Bran nodded, but kept the eye contact. “Thanks, Gen. Really.”

He made a move to stand and leave Bran alone for a little while, but stopped once he stood. “Just... talk to him?” He suggested lightly, not wanting to push the kid and ruin what they'd just formed. “If you don't want to loose him as a friend, he needs to know how you feel.”

It was a hidden meaning that was a bit more than obvious, but Bran seemed to get the message without feeling embarrassed. He nodded and Gendry left the patio they had been sitting in and made to rejoin the party – aka find Arya.

She was going to literally shit the bed when he told her what had just happened.

He slipped back in, returning to the rowdy table in the front corner that had him instantly smiling. Arya was scowling at something that Ygritte and Brienne were laughing about, Jon was sipping at his drink and talking with Theon who had shown up in his absence, and Pod was scrolling on his phone while eating the rest of his dessert.

Ygritte moved as she saw him approach, dumping herself onto Jon's lap so he could have a seat. He sat in her vacated chair quickly, “What'd I miss?”

“Unfortunately, Lady Eleyna refused my services for the night.” Ygritte smirked and shrugged her shoulders. “I gave her a good price too, wedding discount I called it. But, she's a stick in the mud and didn't think our game was funny.”

“Yeah, maybe because you offered to drop the price if her brother got involved.” Brienne gave her a pointed look.

Ygritte scoffed, “Whatever. She said no.”

“Anyway,” Brienne continued. “Ygritte dared Jon to get Theon to play. Then Jon dared Theon to lick all the spoons he could find – ”

“I have until the end of the night.” Theon interjected with too much snark for one person.

Brienne rolled her eyes, but continued. “Then Theon went back to get Ygritte to confess her first sexual fantasy. And, that's about everything you missed.”

“Now, I'm trying to get Arya to pick Truth, but the little bull won't budge.” Ygritte and Arya continued their stare-off, Arya's arms folded over her chest, brow raised. Ygritte let out an obnoxious sigh, “Fine. Pick Dare.”

“Dare.” Arya smirked.

Ygritte's blue eyes narrowed as she looked Arya over, thinking. “I dare you to ask Rollam to dance.”

Arya's face scrunched up in mild disgust as she whined. “No! You know how he makes moon-eyes at me!”

The evil smirk reappeared on Ygritte's face as she shrugged, “Should've picked Truth.”

“You're the worst.” Arya ground out as she looked over her shoulder for the younger Westerling.

“Make it believable.” Ygritte snarked back happily.

Gendry tried not to feel anything as she looked around for the other boy. She clearly had no feelings for him, with the way she groaned about having to accomplish this dare. But, she had also mention the happening of moon-eyes and that did not make Gendry feel comforted at all. He watched her sigh, lean forward a bit and scoop out her breasts a bit to make her cleavage more pronounced, before standing from the table and sidling over to where Rollam sat.

The spike of heat in his gut at the sight of her manhandling her own flesh was doused out by the fact that she was going to dance with another guy. He realized it was a dare and that she wasn't overly fond of the idea, but that didn't stop the influx of emotions he got from watching it happen.

Arya smirked as she leaned against the back of a chair, talking to the boy seated in front of her. He looked scared and also aroused by the fact that Arya was even speaking to him – which, was basically what happened to everyone when they first met Arya. He nodded quickly, way to eager at the chance to dance with her and almost knocked over his chair when he stood.

There was some pop-song playing that sounded familiar but he didn't know the name of – he was weird and listened to old power-pop music from the nineties which meant most of these songs went right over his head. He watched as she pulled him out to dance with everyone else on the packed dance floor, that smirk still resting heavily on her face.

She looked younger dressed like she was; hair down and parted in the middle, pale pink dress making her skin seem softer, makeup done up in a way that made it look both natural and painted. She looked like a doll; a small porcelain doll like the kind his grandmother use to collect.

She looked both odd and right beside the younger Rollam, odd because she was the epitome of cool and he looked like a baby gazelle. Well, not really, but sort of.

Rollam was taller than Arya, but shorter than him. Not as wide or broad either, slimmer, like a runner or a swimmer. His skin was sun-tanned and his chestnut hair had streaks of sunlight from their coastal home. He was a handsome kid – or would be, one day – and the two of them sort of looked like they could fit together as they danced. It made an ugly emotion flush through him.

He really needed to get over himself and tell Arya how he felt. He was stupid, and he wasn't blind, he knew that she was at the very least attracted to him. He was afraid of the change in their relationship and what that would bring, but it was also something he actually yearned for and he needed to stop being stupid and get his head out of his ass.

Especially since brooding over the fact that she was dancing with another dude that she frequently stated she had no feelings for was exhausting and stupid.

He'd always struggle with the poisonous thoughts of his self worth; he knew he wasn't good enough for Arya or her family, he knew that she could do better. But there was that small part of him that began not to care. He wanted her and that was all that he seemed to be able to focus on these days.

He was pulled out of his thoughts and stare down by Ygritte's voice. “Gendry.” He turned to look at her and didn't like the sneaky smile that had taken residence on her freckled face. “Truth or Dare.”

He could see it in her eyes, the same way he saw it in Pod's. She knew. And she was testing him.

Fucking hell.

There was no easy way out of this. If he said Truth, he had no doubt it would be a question about Arya and his feelings for her or some shit, regardless if her brother and cousin were sitting at the table. If he picked Dare, he wasn't entirely sure of what the outcome would be.

“I'm pretty sure it's not your turn anymore, Ygritte.”

She rolled her eyes, “Oh, come on. Who cares, pick one.”

He narrowed his blue gaze on her's, knowing that he'd never win this battle. “Dare.”

Ygritte smiled at him, an honest to god smile, with a slight smirk around the edges. “I dare you to go cut in.”

The glint in her eye made him a bit weary, but seeing as there was no other stipulation tacked on to the dare, he was about to hightail it out of there before she could add something more embarrassing on to it. He heaved a sigh for dramatic effect and hauled himself out of the chair and over to where they were on the dance floor.

He wouldn't look back at the table, he would not. He would walk over there confident and normal and his hands would not shake, and everything was cool.

It sort of worked, he guessed.

Arya saw him approach and raised a brow in question, but that was it. He strode over to them and stopped once he stood between the two of them. Rollam looked up at him with curious eyes, a little intimidated as well. He got that sometimes, seeing as he was tall and broad and looked older than he was. Rollam looked like a tween standing next to him.

He hadn't realized during his walk over that the music had changed and so had their dance. It was a slow song and the kid's arms were placed gently and respectfully on the curve of her waist, Arya's hands were resting softly on his shoulders.

Of fucking course it was a slow song. He looked over to see Ygritte chatting animatedly to the DJ in the corner. It was like summer camp all over again, he was going to kill her.

He put on his most charming smile – which, he had no idea if it was actually charming or not – and looked down at the boy. “Mind if I cut in?”

Arya quickly and smoothly removed herself from Rollam, smiling daintily at him in a coy-ish apology as she took Gendry's hand and walked a little farther away on the dance floor. The boy was left a little speechless about what just happened, Gendry knew what if probably looked like to the outside people. In this scenario, he was the handsome douche that swept the pretty girl away from the normal good guy.

How fucking hysterical was that?

“Oh, thank fuck.” Arya muttered once they were far enough away from the poor confused Rollam. Her coquettish behavior dropped and now he was staring once again at his Arya. No, not his. Just, normal Arya. “That was exhausting.”

They were tucked away at the corner of the dance floor, a dark corner of the room not far from where they stood now, her arms wound around his neck, his hands hesitantly placed at the swell of her hips. They stood closer than she had with Rollam, her arms actually around his neck rather than gently pressing against his shoulders, his hands on her hips instead of the dip in her waist. They naturally gravitated towards a more intimate position, which absolutely did not escape his notice.

“You're quite convincing.”

She gave him that small half-smile that was actually more smirk than smile, but that one was his. “I can be, when I want to.” They swayed a bit to the music, another slow song playing – he really was going to kill Ygritte. “I assume your Dare was to come save me?”

“Something like that.”

Arya laughed and shook her head, “She couldn't even wait her turn.”

“I'm quickly discovering that about her.” He snarked.

They quietly danced for a few moments, looking around at the mass of couples on the dance floor, her voice was soft when she spoke next. Not a whisper, but close.

“So, what's up with Bran?”

He looked down at her, all wide grey eyes and long lashes and smooth pale skin and the freckles he wanted to trace with his fingers. It really was unfair for her to be this beautiful.

“It was about Jojen and Meera.”

He wanted to tell her, and he was going to, but there was a small part of him that was hesitant only because he didn't want to betray Bran's trust if he didn't want them to know. He never explicitly said he wasn't suppose to say anything, but that small tingling in his gut made him feel a little bad about it.

“Okay.” Arya started, waiting.

“Just...” Gendry sighed. “Just don't talk to him about it til he comes to you. I don't want him to be mad that I told you.”

The small genuine smile that graced over her lips was enough to make him almost lean down to taste it. He barely caught himself. He needed to get a better grip on this.

“Scouts honor.”

Gendry looked up from her catching gaze to make sure no one else was around to hear it. “He told Jojen that he has feeling for Meera.”

The slight wide-eye that Arya gave him meant that she didn't think he had the balls. “Wow, how'd that go?”

“He kissed him.”

“Excuse me?” The real wide-eyes came at that moment and her voice rose.

“Jojen kissed Bran.” He clarified quickly as a way to placate her rising voice. “Jojen said that Bran was an idiot and that he's liked him for a long time. Then Bran got all messed up because Jojen is his best friend and he doesn't want that to change.”

Arya just gazed at him as they swayed, listening with her wide eyes and her mouth slightly hanging open. “This became way more soap-opera than I was expecting.”

Gendry gave a little snort and nodded down at her as yet another slow song began to play. They kept swaying, barely giving attention to anything else in the room. “It gets better. I asked him if he freaked out because it was a boy, and he said no.” He gave Arya a moment to let that process before he continued on. “I'm pretty sure that Bran likes Jojen, but he's just never wanted to actually realize it.”

“Holy shit.”

“Yeah.”

They looked at each other before Arya started laughing, head thrown back and everything. “Oh my god, Brienne and Robb owe Sansa and I a hundred dollars.”

Gendry's brow furrowed, “What?”

Arya sobered up, but her wide smile still in place. “I always kinda thought there was something between them and that Bran was just being stupid. Sansa's thought he was Bi since he hit puberty.”

“You bet on your brother's sexuality?”

“Well, don't make it sound more intense than it is.” She rolled her eyes. “Robb was a firm believer that they were just “close” and Brienne thought that Bran's feelings for Meera had nothing to do with Jojen. They owe us a hundred bucks.”

He couldn't help the half-smile that broke out over his face as he shook his head. “You guys are ridiculous.”

“Yeah,” She smiled. “I know.” He could feel her hands get more comfortable at the base of his neck, her hands lightly brushing the ends of his hair. He suppressed the shiver than threatened to run down his spine. “So, how did it end?”

He shrugged, “We talked about it and I told him that he needed to talk to Jojen. I also may have hinted at the fact that his feelings on the matter may not have been as cut and dry as he thought.”

“Wow.” Arya shook her head. “When did this become our lives?”

Gendry snorted, “I'm pretty sure this was always your life.”

“Yeah, well, now it's your life too.” She tugged on the back of his hair as a form of punishment, but with her fingers threaded through all he felt was heat gather low in his stomach.

“How wonderful.”

The sarcasm earned him another tug and the heat continued to grow. The song finally changed from a slow one to a fast poppy song that had even more people filling the dance floor. Arya finally broke away from him as people began merging over to where they stood. She grabbed his wrist and pulled him into the darkened corner where they could lean against the wall and watch. They were on the other side of the room from their table and Gendry could barely see any of their friends.

They were quiet for a little while, just leaning and watching, the loud music a bit overbearing. He could feel the body heat coming off of her from where she was pressed lightly against his side, shoulder to shoulder.

“There was another Dare that happened while you were gone talking to Bran.”

Her voice took him by surprise, seeing as they hadn't spoken in over a handful of minutes. He turned to look at her, leaning in slightly because of all the noise. The position was very similar to the one during the Label party the other night, after Melisandre slinked away.

He was intrigued by what she was saying, what other dare had happened?

“Oh?”

She fiddled with the edge of her dress as she looked up at him, leaned in as well because of the music. “Brienne just didn't say anything because she didn't want to embarrass us all in front of Jon and Theon.” She shrugged, seeming to have trouble saying whatever was next – which was... odd to say the least. But, she continued on with a glint in her eye. “She dared me to kiss you. And to make sure it was real and actually happened, she said I have to give you a hickey.”

His brain had actually shut down at her words.

Ygritte was truly evil.

She had known, he saw it in her eyes when she dared him to dance with Arya. And she had set her plan hours earlier. That wily little snake. He was going to kiss her if this ended up working.

So, that was why Arya was scowling when he came back to the table. Things were making sense now.

At his silence and wide eyes, Arya kept talking. She was a rambler, he knew that. It also meant she was nervous, which made him equal parts comforted and anxiety ridden. “To be fair, she had originally dared Brienne to do it to Pod while Jon was gone getting Theon to play. But, Brie only said she'd do it if Ygritte dared me to do it too. And since I never pick Truth, the bitch got me. Sorry, dude.”

He shrugged, getting his motor functions back. “Don't be sorry. It's a Dare.” He smiled down at her and tried not to look too eager.

Her brows furrowed a bit as she looked up at him. “You're not like... weirded out or whatever?”

Now it was his turn to look down at her with furrowed brows. “Why would I be weirded out?”

It was an honest and genuine response. Did she really think that he would feel weird kissing her and letting her mark him?

Well, maybe she did, considering they were friends and she didn't know that he would literally jump at this chance would try not to cream his jeans like a thirteen year old.

“I don't know, because we're friends? Is it weird?” She looked a little concerned and he felt bad for her. Without thinking it through – or thinking like, at all – he leaned down and quickly placed a peck on her lips.

It could barely be constituted as a kiss. It had just been a gentle, fleeting press of their mouths together to ease her worry. It had felt so natural to do that he hadn't even thought twice.

He had just kissed her. He had just given her his first kiss.

He was pathetic and lame, he knew that. But, no one had ever really wanted to kiss him before, so here he was, an absolute virgin at the age of twenty and his secret crush turned best friend was looking up at him as though he'd just given her the stars.

A shrug and a small smile bloomed over him, he was sure his ears were red, but he played off that casual vibe pretty well. “I don't think it's weird.”

“Alright.” She nodded.

“Great.”

Their eyes were locked and neither of them said anything for a few beats. Then, she tilted her head up a fraction and whispered, “Come here.”

He moved closer to her, hunching slightly to make himself accessible. His heart was beating too fast in his chest, his neck and ears felt steamy, but he didn't move.

“You know,” She mumbled looking away from his eyes to where her hands had moved to the buttons of his dark blue dress shirt, unbuttoning a few of them. “I could just give you the hickey, if we didn't want to make this any weirder than it has to be.”

The thought of Arya's mouth on his skin was sending him into overdrive. So, he compensated with sarcasm, like usual. “Like that would be the less weird option.” He smiled a bit and leaned down to catch her gaze and only spoke once he had it. “I already told you it's not weird.”

She chewed at the inside of her lip as she looked at him, searching for something that he wasn't sure if she found. But, she nodded and brought her hands up from where they had been toying with the buttons of his shirt, to the back of his neck. It was similar to when they were dancing, her fingers threaded through his hair, forearms wound around his neck.

She was against the far corner, he was turned sideways with his back to the dance floor and the rest of the hall. He realized then that he hadn't heard any of the music or commotion since Arya started talking about the dare. It all started coming back, a rushing in his ears, the loud music, the chatter, the clangs and clatter of silverware. But, Arya was looking up at him with those metal eyes and her lips looked soft and inviting, and suddenly he couldn't hear anything past the beat of his heart.

She leaned up on her toes, pulling him down to meet her, her lips pressed soft but insistently against his. His eyes fell shut and his hands grasped tightly at her waist. She tilted her head briefly and slanted her mouth across his, taking his bottom lip between hers and sucking lightly. He had to literally hold back a groan, but the small gasp that escaped him made her pull back.

Her breathing was a bit heavy, her pale cheeks a little rosy. He was sure he looked like a mess, a trembling, breathy mess, but he couldn't find it in himself to give a shit. He didn't care if it sounded lame or girlish or whatever; that kiss was perfect and sweet and left him physically aching for more.

Before either of them could speak – or even breath properly – Arya ducked her head down to the skin exposed by his open shirt. His breath caught in his throat as she licked at a place on his collarbone and began sucking and nipping at the flesh. His hands tightened on hips, his head slightly thrown back, eyes closed, mouth open. He couldn't stop the small groan that escaped him like he couldn't stop the blood from rushing to his cock.

This was a bad idea.

The absolute worst idea.

Danger, Will Robinson. Danger! Was shouting on repeat in his head.

She licked at her mark one last time, placing a kiss in the center and then on the flesh around it. When she looked back up at him, her eyes were dark and her lips were redder than before the kiss, and he was sure that he looked crazy. Half-closed eyes, chest heaving, trembling limbs, and hands still holding tightly to her hips.

He could see the change in her immediately, the way her open eyes began to close up and the wonder in her expression turned to smirky joking. “Mission accomplished."

Gendry just nodded, still dazed and painfully aroused. She buttoned up his shirt, saying that he could pull it down to give Ygritte her proof and that they should go back to tease Brienne and Pod into doing their dare.

He promised to follow her back to the table after he used the bathroom. She just smiled and told him that she'd show him what she'd found so far for her scavenger hunt dare. Gendry waved her off and made his way towards the restrooms, actually dying.

He looked into the mirror above the sink of the empty bathroom. He looked exactly the same as he had before, his lips didn't look any darker, neither did his hair. He looked normal.

Gendry pulled down the collar of his dress shirt, looking at the impressive bruise that was blooming over the middle of his collarbone. He could still feel her lips and teeth on his skin, the press of her against his lips, her fingers tangled in the back of his hair. His cock hung heavy between his legs and he splashed some cold water on his face.

He was at her brother's wedding , this was ridiculous. He shouldn't have said yes to play with them, he shouldn't have played right into Ygritte's hand, and he certainly shouldn't have kissed Arya first.

What the fuck was he doing?

This just made everything harder than it had to be.

He looked at himself once again in the mirror. Blue eyes staring back at him, a decision made.

He was going to tell Arya how he felt as soon as they had some real time alone together.

Right now he needed to go back out there, show off his impressive Arya Stark hickey to her crazy wildling sister-in-law, enjoy this wedding, and pretend he was totally cool with everything.

He could do that.

Totally.

 

Chapter Text

The text from his uncle hadn't been exactly surprising, but just... unexpected.

That wasn't to say that he wasn't close to Renly, because he was, but it was just sorta out of the blue that Gendry began to wonder what was up. Because something had to be up.

Renly was cool. He was young enough to not be too far off from Gendry, but old enough that he had his life together. He had always tried to keep a part of Gendry's life, which he appreciated, seeing as Stannis didn't speak to anyone and ignored everything. Renly was fun and clever and smart, he liked Renly. He just hadn't spoken with him in a little while – being busy and all with school and Arya and Cersei – which was why the random text made his brows furrow.

Hey, Gen. Work has been absolutely insane lately, but let's get lunch. There's things I'd like to speak with you about and you need to finish that story about your professor! Let me know when you're free and I'll clear my schedule.

He looked over the message again, just to make sure he hadn't dreamt it when he checked his phone early this morning from beneath cracked eyelids. But, there it was.

He texted his uncle back to let him know the class schedule he had for the rest of the week, hoping that Renly could find time in between his all-over-the-place hours to squeeze him in. They hadn't seen each other in a while and there was a part of Gendry that did truly miss spending time with the slightly older man.

When he had been young, after Robert died, Renly had taken it upon himself to become “the coolest goddamn uncle you'll ever have” – even at the tender age of thirteen. He had grown up with Renly more like a distant older brother than an uncle. Stannis was the uncle, Renly was the friend. It suited everyone well enough.

So, while the text from Renly hadn't been surprising; the one from Myrcella definitely was.

He had sat staring at his phone for a long time, thinking about how to proceed. Thinking about the little girl on the other end of the message and how doing what Cersei asked would crush her. Thinking about what would happen if he didn't.

The message had been simple; she'd practically sleuthed his number out of Facebook or something and wondered why he never came back to see them after her birthday. She wanted to see him. She knew her mother had something to do with it. She wanted to see him anyway.

He sighed, rubbing his hands over his face, thinking about what to do.

Did he follow Cersei's rules and stay away from his sister?

Or, did he do as Myrcella requested and meet her for coffee?

He told her he'd think it over and get back to her.

He didn't hear back from Renly until a few days later, the vibration in his pocket during a lecture class almost a godsend. The text was a simple what time does your class end? that made Gendry only a little confused as he replied about the time of his last class and went back to his messy note-taking. He didn't get a reply from Renly, so he finished out his day, punching Brienne and Pod in the hallway when he saw them earlier, and started to make his way outside.

An arm slung over his shoulders suddenly, heavy and firm, not an arm he was use to. He turned to look and saw the smirking blue eyes and neatly parted dark hair of his uncle. “Hey there, Squirt.”

He smirk-smiled at Renly's refusal to let the stupid childish name die, even though he was actually taller than the older Baratheon, and rolled his eyes for good measure. “Hey, Renly.” His uncle smirked, but didn't drop his arm. “Not that I'm unhappy to see you or anything, but what're you doing here?”

“I had some business with the Dean, he's an old friend of the family, and thought I'd wait for your class to end.” Renly eyed him up and down, looking at his clothes and the book bag slung over the shoulder not occupied by his uncle's warm body. He did that sometimes – the whole, critical analysis of your clothing choice, thing – Gendry was use to it. “So, Squirt, have any plans tonight?”

Thoughts of sitting in his living room, curled up on his couch with Arya, watching shit tv and eating too much popcorn flashed through his mind, thoughts of sitting in a quiet coffee shop across from Myrcella popped up too, but he knew better than to say anything about those out loud. Renly meant well, he truly did, but he could be a bit overbearing at times. Gendry chalked it up to him feeling a bit overprotective, seeing as how he'd practically been Gendry's older brother growing up. Also, because it was sort of just in his nature to be overly curious and like a dog with a bone.

“Not really.”

There was a part of him that did want to tell Renly about Arya, about Myrcella and Cersei – mostly because he told Renly lots of personal things and it felt like the right thing to do – but there was another part of him, the selfish part, that didn't want to share. He also knew that if he told Renly about his insanely massive crush on his best friend or the way his step mother was a heinous bitch, he'd want Gendry to do something about it. Which, Gendry was planning on doing, soon, hopefully, for sure.

“Great.” Renly smirked as they headed out of the school and down towards the quad. “I was thinking about grabbing some dinner and maybe taking you out to this great little place that Loras and I love. Think you're up for it?”

He was about to reply when a shout came from behind them and Gendry turned to find Arya trotting over to them, Brienne trailing behind her. “Hey!” She called out a tad breathlessly from just having run across the quad.

Renly's arm released his shoulders and turned to face the smirking Arya and Brienne who'd just joined them. “Hey, guys.” He was about to gesture towards his uncle when the looks on their faces caught his attention.

Arya eyed the two of them standing next to each other, convinced she was seeing double. The man to Gendry's right looked so freakishly similar that it was almost frightening, but they looked different enough that Arya knew they weren't brothers. The older man was a bit shorter than Gendry, while still being tall, he was slimmer, dressed impeccably well in trendy-business wear that she was certain not a lot of people could pull off. He smirked-smiled down at her before turning to Brienne and smiling wide and genuine.

“Renly?”

“Brienne, hi.”

Arya looked between the two of them before looking at Gendry – who had an equally confused face on at the sight. “Um, what?” Arya asked, brows furrowed. “Renly?”

She had met him a long while ago – even though he was always a big topic of conversation amongst Brienne. She had known in the back of her mind that he was a Baratheon and most likely related to Gendry, but her brain hadn't been making the connection recently. But, Brienne sure as hell should have.

“Yes?” He smirked down at her.

“Wait, hold on. You two know each other?” Gendry asked, looking accusingly between Brienne and Renly.

“Yeah, Brienne works at the firm.” He smiled at her, all genuine and charming. “We've been running her pretty ragged, lately. You should really try and be less helpful.” He joked softly.

It dawned on him then as he looked between Renly smiling kindly and gently at the blonde and Brienne attempted to advert her gaze and hide her blush without coming off rude, while Arya looked on with comically wide eyes. His uncle was the guy from work that Brienne had a crush on but was totally gay. Oh my god.

“You made out with my uncle?”

Did he yell that? It felt like he yelled that. He wasn't sure why that was the first thing his brain had decided to let fall out of his mouth.

Brienne's head snapped up, eyes wide; Arya's mouth curved up into that surprised grin she got when something was about to go down, glee in her gaze; and Renly looked between all of them with furrowed brows and confusion on his face.

“He's your uncle?” Brienne cried out at the same time as Arya unhelpfully blurted out, “She didn't make out with him, she punched him in the face with her mouth.”

“Wait, wait, wait.” Brienne moved both closer and farther away at the same time, arms moving in front of her. “You're his uncle?” She asked Renly, eyes big and wide and waiting for confirmation.

“Yeah?” Renly replied, a bit confused by the whole thing. “How do you know him?”

Arya rolled her eyes at Brienne's idiocy, “I'm the best friend to both of these assholes and the only reason they ever met.” Arya stepped up in between them, hand out and ready to shake the older Baratheon's. “Not sure if you remember me, but – Arya Stark, how you doing?”

Renly smirked down at Arya and shook her hand, “Pleasure.” He chuckled. “And, how could I forget? You're Ned and Cat's daughter, yeah? I remember when you were little, running around attempting to save everyone from the torture of the boring holiday parties at the firm.”

“Oh my god.” Arya let fall out of her mouth, her nose scrunched up at his words. “I totally forgot about that. How do you even remember that?”

Renly just smirk-smiled down at her in that way that felt both familiar and warm. “How could I forget?”

Oh, maybe it was because that was the exact same one Gendry had and used on her frequently.

She realized then that Gendry and Renly were, in fact, related. Really, it should've been more obvious from the start – same unruly black hair, same light eyes, jaw structure, and pouty lips – but she hadn't connected the dots when they first spotted them leaving the school. She had clearly met him before and seen pictures of Renly in the past – when Brienne was still obsessively mooning over him – but that had been before Gendry, before the most dominant family genes she'd ever seen were present amongst her in all their beautiful genetic glory.

She couldn't exactly be faulted for not realizing it sooner, she had been in a Gendry-induced coma for the past couple months, she couldn't be held responsible for any mistakes she'd made in that time.

She took a moment to look Renly over, he might've been older, and was taller than people expected, but standing beside Gendry he looked... well, petite was a good word. Renly certainly did look the part of a Baratheon, tall and wide-shouldered and firm, but he was leaner than Gendry, slimmer, with less muscle. He had a runner's body, all lithe and tight, but looking between him and Gendry, Arya couldn't help but point out how not so heterosexual Renly looked compared to his nephew.

Really, Brienne? Really?

Gendry just looked... strong. And powerful. And rugged – she needed to stop. Standing next to Renly, with his slimmer features and perfectly coifed hair, Gendry looked commanding. It was clear that Renly was obviously the less dominate of the two but somehow still wielded a quiet control over the younger Baratheon, but that didn't take away from how capable Gendry looked beside him.

Renly looked between her and Gendry, then to Brienne, before smirk-smiling once more. “Well, I was just saying to Gendry that I'm dying to take him out tonight, either of you interested in joining us?”

While his smile was light, Arya could tell that he'd noticed some of the odd tension radiating between her and Gendry – not shocking – and clearly he was intrigued by it. She didn't care about his intentions, there was literally no way she was going to miss this.

“I'm down.” She looked at Gendry for confirmation, not wanting to jump on his bandwagon if she wasn't actually invited. But, he just smiled down at her, the small tug of the corner of his lips, his eyes soft. Yeah, he was fine with it.

“Brienne?”

Renly was turned towards her, his face open and bright. Alright, she couldn't exactly fault Brienne for getting tangled up in the beauty that was the Baratheon men. They were powerless to resist it, really. Brienne just looked into Renly's blue eyes and nodded her okay.

“Great!”

They continued their walk to the parking lot where they split and Gendry said he'd text them the address. He apparently had no idea where they were going either, which was fine. She was always down for an adventure, and this would certainly be one.

When they slid into Arya's car, Brienne just rested her head against the dash, eyes closed, deep sigh permeating the air. She groaned and began to softly bash her head against the dashboard. “Why the fuck do these things happen to me?”

“Oh, come on.” Arya started the car and plugged the address into the gps on her phone. “It's not that bad.”

“He's Gendry's uncle. I kissed Gendry's uncle and I didn't even realize that he was Gendry's uncle.”

“It's not like he's forty years old, Brienne. He's like twenty-seven. And hot.” She rolled her eyes at her best friend's bemoaning. “Besides, I totally forgot that they were related and I know that to be fact.”

“What part of he's Gendry's uncle do you not find weird?”

Arya sighed as they pulled out of the crowded lot and began making their way into downtown King's Landing. The address was definitely in the up-and-coming trendy part of downtown, also known as The Red Keep; a quick glance at her and Brienne's clothes made her think about swinging by her dorm first, but she decided against it and went back to rolling her eyes at Brienne.

“It's not like you're dating him or something. You kissed him. You work together. It is what it is.”

Brienne groaned and threw her head back against the headrest, arms over her face. “I didn't just kiss him, Arya. I made a total fool out of myself after having the world's largest bone for the guy. I didn't go into work for a week.”

“I remember, I was there.” Arya reached over and patted Brienne on the shoulder sympathetically. “Look, he's a cool guy, and Gendry's a cool guy. I bet no one will even bring it up. And, hey, maybe this will be a good chance to help you get over your massive crush on the guy.”

Brienne sighed heavily, “Maybe.”

“Good.” Arya brought the hand up to pinch at her cheek. “Now, cheer up, Buttercup. I fully intend on making most of this night. We're going to some club in the Keep, so you know this shit is gonna get interesting.”

“The Keep?” Brienne looked down at her clothes, shaking her head. “I'm not dressed for the fucking Keep!”

“Relax! You look fine.”

“No, you look fine, because you always look fine. You're one of those girls that just throws something on and she automatically looks like you just got back from a photo shoot. I, on the other hand, look like I'd get along fine down in Flea Bottom with the other human trashcans.”

“Oh my god, you do not.” Arya laughed and rolled her eyes. “And don't go making me the Serena van der Woodsen to your Blair Waldorf.”

“I'm in jeans.”

“I'm in jeans!”

“Yeah, but your jeans are cute.”

Arya just snorted as they pulled into the parking lot of some restaurant, Gendry and Renly leaning against his car and laughing when they pulled up and parked in a spot close to theirs. Apparently they were eating first, which was so fine because Arya was always starving.

“I can't believe we're doing this.” She heard Brienne mumble as they got out of the car.

“Food first?” Arya asked as they approached. She liked seeing Gendry all loose and casual, it also helped that the two of them made an annoyingly stunning picture. Damn their stupidly beautiful Baratheon genes.

“That was the plan.”

Renly stepped between them, eyeing the two of them together. Damn, Renly hadn't even been in their presence more than twice and even he could apparently sense the something between them. Great.

“I've been dying to get Gendry to come with me, the food here is insane and the club we're going to after is a personal favorite of mine.” The arm draped casually over Gendry's shoulder and the slight narrow to his gaze told her all she needed to know. Renly was assessing her, the same way any of her siblings would do. It was definitely odd being on the receiving end.

“Oh, god. Don't tempt Arya with exclamations like that, this girl is all about the food.”

Thank god for Brienne and the way she looses tact when she's nervous.

Renly smirked at the blonde and looked back to Arya, a quirk to his brow. “Is that so.”

“Hell yeah it is.”

Renly threw his head back and laughed as they made their way out of the parking lot and onto the sidewalk towards the front of the building. The place was busy, but not as busy as it could definitely be – considering it was a weekday, Arya was a little shocked by the amount of people. But, the Keep was always busy, so she wasn't that surprised.

It definitely looked and felt like a place that Sansa would swoon over. It was like a Pinterest board exploded in the most perfectly artsy way that would make new mothers and wives in their late twenties swoon. Twinkle lights hung on the walls and were woven overheard, holding pictures and handwritten messages between the tiny bulbs. The table tops were refurnished with colorful paints and the atmosphere was calm and warm.

They were lead into the back by the hostess that Renly seemed to know by name, it was obvious that he frequented the place often. It seemed like the sort of place that he would like, as did most of the Keep actually. With the obvious exception of Flea Bottom – that place was an actual shithole and the only part of the Keep that hadn't been renovated in the past ten years. The property was cheap in the Keep and since it had begun renovation, it was new up and coming place with it's great restaurants and expensive boutiques.

She didn't spend a lot of time down here – mostly because it required effort that she didn't have on a regular basis, but also because it was just on this side of a little too hip for her. But, there was a killer record store that opened up not too long ago, so that was pretty cool.

“So, what's great here.” Arya asked as she flipped open a menu.

She was seated tucked between Brienne and Gendry, Renly on his other side. The open space between Brienne and Renly at their rounded table didn't seem like anything worth noting and Arya considered asking Brienne to throw her purse in the chair.

“They make a mean burger.” Renly replied. “And great soup. Pretty much anything here is good.”

She had honestly expected some fancy, overpriced, hoity-toity restaurant with wine served and Renly perusing fifty dollar steaks. This place definitely fit him more and made her happy that there was at least one other person in Gendry's weird-extended family that wasn't a total douchebag.

After making everyone at the table repeat in detail what they would be getting, Arya finally made a decision as the waiter turned to her. She sipped her soda and listened as Renly and Brienne bantered comfortably about some dude they worked with and the stupid story that had come from it this week. It was nice seeing Brienne comfortable and not freaking out. Arya got that you can't help who you fall for, and it was seriously unfortunate that her best friend fell for the beautiful, rich, gay guy, but shit happens. She was happy that they were at least getting along without Brienne dying of embarrassment every five minutes.

She peeked over at Gendry. It had been a couple days since their wedding dare kiss, her chest tightened at the mere thought. Brienne had refused to complete the dare unless Ygritte made Arya do it too, but she was like ninety-eight percent sure that they had ganged up on her in an attempt to confess her feelings. Well, hah, she showed them.

She honestly hadn't expected Gendry to be on board with it. Yes, she was aware that part of the something between them was absolutely sexual attraction, but they were friends first, regardless of how they got there. She hadn't wanted it to be weird between them or put a strain on their friendship. It hadn't, of course, and she was stupid for even thinking so.

But, he'd been on board with it. So on board with it that he had kissed her first. Leaned right down and placed his lips on hers. It had been quick, chaste, painfully sweet; as was the blush he'd worn after. It had made her hungry and wild with want and need and affection – she had simultaneously wanted to fuck him against a wall and cuddle him to death.

The actual kiss had been slow and nice and perfect. It was everything a first kiss should be and almost an exact replica of the first one they'd shared. She couldn't tell him that though, not yet.

And then she had marked him.

She had picked a spot on those delectable collarbones and finally got to satisfy her longing to lick them. The hickey had been impressive, if she did say so herself. Even Ygritte seemed impressed by it – or maybe she had just been shocked that her dare had actually been accomplished and they hadn't gone to make out in the coat closet. She had said as much when they were leaving, utterly confused as to how they ended up back at the table instead of sneaking off.

It was because they were friends. And while Arya was building up the courage to confront him about all the stupid feelings she had for him, that's what they still were. She wasn't going to casually make out with her best friend because she had the urge, Gendry was worth more than that. He wasn't just some friends-with-benefits, he was the whole package; he was the boyfriend that you took home and the one you had filthy, wild, animal sex with. Obviously.

She'd been staring at his collar for a while now and she knew it was only a matter of time before one of the three other occupants at the table realized where her gaze was and now much she hadn't been paying attention. But she couldn't help it. She wanted to pull the collar of his shirt back and see the mark she had made on his cream colored skin. It had to be still there, it had only been a few days. She wondered if he looked at it, pulled the shirt down and ran his fingers over it; if he jerked off to the sight of it, pressing fingers down to feel the edge of pain from the linger bruise as he pumped furiously into his own fist –

“Sorry I'm late.”

Well, that certainly caught her attention.

The voice was warm and tinged lightly with arrogance and mirth. She knew that voice. That voice had floated out of her sister's room when her best friends had been over in their youth.

Fucking hell.

Gendry was smiling, standing to embrace the other man – shorter than both him and Renly, but still tall and lean. He was handsome and charming and fucking hell.

Loras goddamn Tyrell turned to smile at her, all big and wide and excited.

She stood to hug him, because she hadn't seen him in a while and they were sort of friends because of Sansa. But, her heart was beating faster than normal, she knew instantly why Loras was here. Renly pulled him in for a gentle and appropriate kiss once Loras had released Arya and it was like watching a car crash in slow motion.

She couldn't take her eyes off Brienne's face as she realized once and for all that Renly was super gay. To her credit, her eyes didn't widen, her mouth didn't hang open, she didn't cry or rant. She just tilted her head and watched as Renly and Loras pulled apart and sat once again, the sweet smiles on their faces so telling.

“Arya, Brienne, this is Loras – although, I'm sure you already knew that.” He chuckled a little, taking the blonde man's hand in his own. “My fiance.”

“Fiance?” Gendry exclaimed excitedly, the smile wide and beautiful on his face as he looked at the two men with love and adoration and excitement. “When did this happen? Congratulations!”

He reached over to hug both Renly and Loras, slapping them on the back and smiling. Renly clapped his shoulder and looked at him meaningfully. “That's why I asked you out tonight, to celebrate.”

“It just happened, Gen. You're not out of the loop, don't worry.” Loras smiled back happily and sending Gendry a knowing look that had her Baratheon rolling his eyes with a smile.

“Shut it, Tyrell.”

Arya could tell that Brienne was valiantly trying to hold it together and smiled at the two of them, practically shouting her congratulations. Arya sort of felt like they were intruding.

“You didn't have to invite us if this was a family thing.” Arya said demurely – which, was most likely the first time she'd ever used that adjective on herself.

Renly shook his head and waved his hand. “Nonsense. From what I hear, you're Gendry's best friend and he just attended your brother's wedding – congratulations to him, by the way – at this rate, you two will be each other's family in no time.”

The light blush that stained both their pale skin made Renly raise a brow and Brienne roll her eyes, but no one said a word. Gendry just chuckled awkwardly and took a sip of his water and Arya smiled.

The conversation shifted and the waitress came back to take Loras' order and refill their drinks. They talked about the company and Margaery and Sansa and Robb's wedding and how Gendry had never been bowling – bowling.

“Who's never been bowling.”

Gendry rolled his eyes, “I was friends with Podrick, Hot Pie and Lommy growing up. You think we did things like go bowling or played Truth or Dare or hung out with other people?”

“Yeah, but bowling.”

The server brought out their food and they laughed and talked as they ate. Loras telling stories about Margaery's sorority and the things they use to get up to with Sansa when they were young and how his brother Willas never got over his massive crush on her. Renly spoke about Gendry as a child and told a multitude of embarrassing stories, like how he was the cutest little boy Renly had ever seen and how he lost his two front teeth at the same time and no one could understand him speak.

Dinner was fun and pleasant, but Arya couldn't wait to talk to Brienne. She needed to check and make sure that she wasn't internally dying or something.

Renly and Loras picked up the check – ignoring the actual booing from Arya and Brienne – because they were nice and perfect and seriously two people that looked like they did should not be able to have sex and get married because it was extremely unfair. God, why did everyone have to be so fucking attractive all the time?

Apparently the club was within walking distance and since dinner had flowed so easily that Arya hadn't thought to check the time, it was now well into the witching hour where everyone came out. There was a long line waiting to get a table for the restaurant as well as people pouring in and out of shops. They decided to keep their prime parking spots by the restaurant and walk.

The line outside the club was long and chatty, but they walked past it, much like they had after the Kingsguard show. Renly and Loras were at the front of their party, laughing to themselves about something that the three of them hadn't heard, and were all smiles when they made it to the front of the line. The doorman looked down at his clipboard, marking something off and nodding to the bouncer to open the door. Just like that. No names given, no words exchanged.

And Gendry liked to feel uncomfortable when her family did stuff like this. Please.

It was loud, almost deafening inside, but Loras and Renly didn't seem phased as they made their way up to the bar. Arya leaned against it, scooting in between some girls flirting with one of the bartenders and Loras. The other bartender floated over to them, fulfilling Renly's request and handing him a bottle of champagne and five glasses, Arya put in an order of two vodka shots and handed one to Brienne.

She downed it quickly, eyeing the three men the whole time, and sighed deeply. Arya knew as soon as they were alone, she'd start freaking out.

They moved from the bar to one of the private couches – all VIP and whatnot – Renly pouring the drinks and smiling all happy and in love the whole time. Gendry couldn't stop staring at them with this cheesy bright grin that made her want to punch him, and even he seemed cool with the overbearing presence of the club.

“A toast.” Loras held up his glass, gazing into Renly's eyes and smiling sweetly. “To the love of my fucking life.”

They all held up their glasses, but Renly and Loras were kissing and Brienne was gulping down her champagne quickly and Gendry was sipping at his own. She felt like she'd stepped into an alternate reality. What was happening?

They refilled everyone's drinks before scooting off to the packed dance floor, dragging Gendry awkwardly with them. He sent her a look that both begged her to help and caused her to laugh at how petrified he looked. Brienne was filling up her third glass.

“He's fucking gay?!” She exclaimed as soon as they were alone, downing more champagne, head shaking. She turned to Arya accusingly. “Why didn't you ever tell me?”

Arya held up her hands in defense when faced with her angry best friend. “I didn't know how! I didn't want you to be upset and there was just no good way to do it without being blunt and hurting your feelings. I just figured that it was sort of obvious and he'd do something that would catch your attention. Apparently not.”

“Yeah, apparently fucking not.”

“How was I suppose to tell you, Brienne? Tell me how you would let me know Gendry was gay. That I'm head over heels for someone that I can't ever have. How would you tell me that, Brienne? How?”

Brienne slumped in her seat on the couch, an arm thrown over her eyes and Arya watched as she released a deep breath. “I get it.” She sounded drained. “I understand why you couldn't tell me.”

“I really am sorry, if that counts at all.”

She sat up, running a hand through her cropped blonde hair. “Yeah, I know.”

Gendry came back then, sitting down next to Brienne with an apologetic expression. “Hey. I'm sorry, I didn't know that it was Renly until today or else I would've told you.”

He wrapped an arm around her shoulders and she sighed once again, patting his thigh. “It's alright. Not your fault.”

“We don't have to stay, Brie.” Arya looked at her with sharp eyes that were sincere. She'd leave right now if that's what Brienne wanted.

“What, and miss all this?” Brienne swept an arm out as she took a sip of the champagne in her other hand. “I think not. I'm pretty sure Gendry was just about to embarrass everyone in here with his dance moves.”

Arya laughed and Gendry groaned, “No, I'm not.”

“I'm in love with your gay uncle, you sure as hell are going out there and dancing with them until I feel better.”

“You heard the lady.” Arya pushed at Gendry's shoulder until he stood and sneered at their laughing faces.

“I hate both of you.”

“Yeah, we know. Now, go shake what your mama gave you.”

He flipped them off before stiffly returning to where Loras and Renly were grinding on each other. They moved apart when he showed back up and began to hand with him, arms high above their heads and hips swinging, laughing and smiling at Gendry's apparent lack of rhythm.

“Wow. It's seriously painful to watch him.”

Brienne sipped her drink, shaking her head as she watched Gendry uncomfortably move around. Arya snorted.

“Yeah, he seems like the type to only know how to slow dance.”

Brienne raised a brow at her comment, “Oh, yeah?”

“Fuck off. You were there, I'm sure you watched us.” Arya poured herself a drink and sort of avoided Brienne's gaze.

“I sure did. And, might I say, you two looked awfully cozy tucked together like that.”

“I have no recollection of that. I was in a cake-coma, so I plead the fifth.”

“Uh-huh.” Brienne looked at her over the rim of her glass, which she promptly spit out in a snort as she caught sight of the guys attempting to teach Gendry how to sway his hips. “Oh my god. This is fantastic.”

Gendry caught sight of them manically, uncontrollably laughing and made his escape. He stormed over to their VIP couch and sat down harshly as they laughed. “Oh, ha ha, it's just so funny.”

“Gen,” Brienne leaned against his shoulder as she caught her breath. “Gen, it so is.”

“You really have no idea.” Arya choked out, wiping tears from around her eyes. “That was amazing.”

“I've never seen anything quite like it.” Brienne giggled out.

Gendry just pouted as he snatched Arya's glass from her hand and took a deep pull. Her heart jumped into her throat for a minute and she was sure that her face gave something away as she looked at him in worry, because as soon as he pulled the glass away from his lips he quirked a brow at her. “What?”

“You good?” She couldn't help but ask.

His brows furrowed and he looked at Arya in confusion for a moment before turning to look at the glass in his hand. He relaxed as he realized what she was asking and sank back into the couch cushions, nudging her shoulder with his own.

“Yeah, I'm good.”

His voice was soft, like his eyes, and he was looking directly into her gaze. She could see that he was telling the truth, he really was fine. He wasn't upset or angry or anything. He seemed happy even. She knew that he often said that he didn't drink, because he was a bad drinker, but maybe he'd just had bad experiences. Maybe he could handle a lot more than she gave him credit for.

“Hey, lovebirds.” They tore their gazes away from each other and turned to Brienne, who was giving them the bitchiest blank stare. “I'm still here, y'know. Wallowing in my misery.”

Arya rolled her eyes, “Well, how would you like us to help you with that, Madame Tarth?”

Brienne looked at her half empty glass and the dwindling bottle of champagne on the table. “I need alcohol. Lots of alcohol. And my best friends to cheer me up.

Gendry looked down at Arya and then back at Brienne, smiling wide. “I think that can be arranged.”

 

Chapter Text

Texting Myrcella last night had not been a smart idea.

He knew this. Just like he knew there was most likely no good that could come from it. But, his name was Gendry and sometimes he did stupid things, so here he was.

At least the coffee was helping with his hangover.

Getting drunk last night had been stupid – just add that to the list of dumb things he did on a daily basis – but at least he hadn't been out of control like the last time, or any of the times before that. It helped that he hadn't been depressed, and that his friends and family had been there and happy. Honestly, it was probably the first time he'd drank that he'd been happy. He hadn't gotten hammered, he remembered everything the next day, and the anger and self-loathing that usually accompanied him after weren't present. So, there's that.

Replying to the flurry of texts that Myrcella had sent him last night even after he told her he'd think it over? Probably the stupidest.

But, he'd been happy drunk – something he was pretty sure he'd never been before – and the thought of denying the little sister that he really wanted to bond with was almost painful. So, when he'd read the text that she would be at the coffee shop during her lunch period and waiting for him, he had replied that he'd be there.

He thought about the fact that Renly and Loras were engaged – like actual engaged. He couldn't believe it. He was happy for the both of them, he was, and their excitement had wore off on him last night for sure. He had danced with them for Christ's sake. He also danced with Arya and Brienne, but that was besides the point. Moving on from champagne had been the turning point, and he had done stupid silly things last night that he normally would not do.

At least he didn't kiss Arya in a drunken fit of passion – because, hello, embarrassing. But, he was pretty sure that he did serenade her at some point, which was pretty equally embarrassing in his book.

He rubbed the sleep from his eyes, the caffeine helped take the edge off his headache and the plain croissant settled his stomach. He was overtired and a little worse for wear, but he was here.

“Hi.” She gently crooned as she sat down in the chair across from him.

He snaps his head up from where he had been making a pitiful sight, he was sure, and smiled. Myrcella was dressed for school, her uniform perfectly in place, her golden hair plaited over a shoulder and held back by a head-band. She was smiling wide and closed mouthed, like she was attempting to stifle her excitement at being here, like he'd tease her for it.

He felt sad for Myrcella and Tommen. It couldn't be easy living has a Lannister, couldn't be easy with Cersei as a mother or Joffrey as a brother. It wasn't the first time he felt glad to be Gendry Waters.

“Hey.” He smiled back at her, only a little held back because of his hangover. He gestured to his coffee, “I would've gotten you something, but I wasn't sure what you'd like.”

She couldn't stop smiling as she shrugged her shoulder, “I like caramel and mocha frou-frou drinks. Joffrey makes fun of me for it, but he secretly drinks them too.”

Gendry snorted and chuckled before getting up to place a drink order for Myrcella, returning with her whipped, frap-y, chocolate nonsense with too much whipped cream. She smiled wide again and thanked him as he placed it down in front of her.

They sat in silence for a few moments, comfortably, listening to the quiet chatter in the cafe around them. She was on lunch from the school that wasn't not too far from here, about two blocks, and the campus was about the same in the other direction. She sipped at her drink, people watching, as he looked at her.

“I'm sorry about my mom.”

She turned back towards the table to face him, her eyes a little downcast and her wide smile diminished to a small quirk in the corner of her lips. He wanted to wrap her up in his arms and pat her back like his mother had done to him as a child.

“I know that she told you to stay away from us.” She raised her eyes to meet his then. “I'm glad you came. And, I'm sorry that she treated you poorly at my party.”

He shook her head, “It's alright, Myrcella. It's not something you should be worrying about.”

“But it is.” She looked at him almost desperately. “You're my brother. A real one; everything I always wished Joffrey would be. He's the actual worst and you're... you're just, so nice.”

He sighed, leaning back in his chair, running his hands over his face. “Myrcella...”

“No, Gendry, I mean it. I've always asked about you. Ever since I found out about you, I've always asked. When I was old enough to have a computer, I looked you up. I know what kind of person you are, Gendry. You're sweet and kind and gentle. I just... I wish that we could've been in each other's lives from the beginning, y'know?”

Gendry nodded, looking up to meet her sad green eyes. It slapped him in the face at how much she looked like Cersei in that moment. But, not the Cersei that stared at him through dinner and kicked him out of her house; no, she looked like the Cersei who planned a funeral with his mother, the Cersei who raised her eyes from the grave to look at him. He let out a low breath.

“Yeah, I know.”

“She's always been ultra protective – my mom.” Myrcella rambled on. “She never let us see you or even talk about you. I realize now it's because she had an affair with Daddy while he was still with your mom. But, it's not even just you. We never get to see Uncle Stannis or Shireen, we hardly ever see Uncle Renly. She was so obsessed after Daddy died with keeping us close that she blocked out anyone that could change that.”

He's not sure what to say to that. He's always known that Cersei blocked everyone out after Robert's death, but he'd always assumed that she at least kept in touch with Stannis, seeing as he owned a great share of the company and all. Apparently not.

“I'm sorry.” He knew it was lame, but that was all he could come up with. She didn't seem to mind, she just seemed keen to keep prattling on about her life to him. If that's what she wanted, he'd sit here and listen. Anything to be the brother she thought him to be.

“I don't think Joffrey likes me at all.”

For some reason, hearing the words fall from her lips with a casual tone hinted with sadness really cut him deep. It truly bothered him that Joffrey didn't appreciate what he had, that he treated their siblings like dirt. But, this wasn't about his hangups with the asshole; it was about her's.

“Why do you think that?” He asked with furrowed brows and his mouth set in a taut line.

He knew why she thought that, he'd seen it. Back when they were young and everyone still visited Robert's grave together. He'd seen the way Joffrey spoke to them, the way he'd push them around. He didn't even really want to hear her say it, but he knew it was something she was dying to talk about. So, he'd give her the opportunity.

She sighed, leaning back in her chair, “He's just so... demeaning.” She traced her hands along her melting drink, eyes watching her fingers. “Everything he says is an insult. He's rude and mean and is always putting us down. Mom never says anything about it, which really pisses me off. But, sometimes I think she's afraid of Joffrey too.”

“You're afraid of him?” He knew his voice went a little hard at the question, but the words cut deep into his chest.

She shrugged a thin shoulder in response – a completely teenage thing to do that he almost smiled, but the content of the discussion made him pause. “Yes and no. I'm not like, scared of him or anything. But, sometimes he just looks at you like he knows you're replaceable.”

“He's an asshole.”

He hadn't meant to let his anger escape, but the smile it brought to Myrcella's face made him let it go. “Yeah, he definitely is.”

“Tell me something else.” He asked suddenly. “Something good.”

She smiles wide again as she lifts her eyes to think. He likes seeing her like this – smiley and bright. He thinks she should always look like this, like the kid she still is.

“Well, since you are my older brother, I guess I'm obligated to tell you about my insanely massive crush on the new kid.”

He lifted a brow, coffee frozen from where he'd brought it up to his lips, but not quite making it. She giggled at his reaction. “Um, what?”

“His name is Trystane and he transferred in last year.” She sighed dreamily and it made his face scrunch. “He's so pretty. And sweet. He reads me poetry sometimes and smiles at me a lot. I think I'm going to marry him.”

“Ho, ho, ho, okay, alright, let's simmer down there.” Gendry's face still all scrunched up, he held his hands out and shook his head, causing her to laugh. “You've got some time before you should be thinking about that, so, let's just calm it down.”

She threw her head back and barked out a laugh, her eyes shinning and bright. “Oh, god. Gendry. That was hilarious.”

He rolled his eyes, “Yeah, ha ha, make fun of your protective older brother.”

They both stopped at those words. He hadn't meant to say them, he hadn't even meant to really think them, but there they were. They talked about how he was their brother, how she wanted him to be their brother, but this was the first time either of them acknowledged that he actually was their brother.

The soft smile on her face was the most beautiful one yet. It was gentle, and a little shy, but filled with acceptance and love. She gave a small shrug of her shoulder, “Well, yeah, Gen, that is my job.”

And just like that, they were family.

They smile at each other for a few moments, soaking in the fact that in one sitting, they had bonded more than they ever had with Joffrey. He honestly couldn't wait to tell his mom about this. She might be a little mad, but as soon as he spoke about the look in Myrcella's eyes when he called himself her brother and the way she pleaded to have him in her life, his mother would cave.

His phone vibrated on the table with a text, alerting him to the time. “You should be getting back.”

She sighed a little, but the smile was still in place, and nodded. “Yeah, you're right. Lunch is almost over.” She said as she checked the time on her own phone. They stood, throwing out their trash and lingering at the table. Myrcella toyed with the zipper of her jacket. “Is it okay to call?”

Gendry smiled, “Of course.” He absently pulled out his cell phone as though to show her that it was okay. “Any time, Myrcella. I mean it. If you need help with school work or to be picked up from some party that you definitely should not have been at, or even if you just want to talk.”

She bit at the inside of her lip to keep her smile tapered down, but the corners still lifted generously that spoke of her excitement over his words. “Thank you, Gendry. Really.”

She then launched herself at him, arms wrapped tight around his waist. He circled his arms over her, relishing the feel of her in his arms. He was a big brother. He was a protector and friend. He was needed.

“It's no problem, Myrcella.”

She pulled back, one arm still around his waist and one of his still around her shoulder. She leaned into the side embrace and couldn't contain her smile. He couldn't contain his either. They were just about to walk towards the door when a voice stopped them short.

Of fucking course.

“Myrcella.” The sharp voice called out, anger and disbelief lacing his tone. “What the fuck are you doing with him.”

They broke away and turned slightly to see Joffrey standing by the pick-up counter, surrounded by his friends. Gendry used the term loosely. Because Joffrey didn't have friends, he had paid lackeys.

“Joffrey? I, ah – ”

He looked between the two of them with cold green eyes and a set jaw. He looked beyond pissed off and quickly encroaching into furious territory, the ice in his eyes certainly didn't help. He stepped forward and grabbed Myrcella by the arm, pulling her away from Gendry.

“Are you fucking kidding me, Myrcella? Mom explicitly told you to stay away from him. And what are you doing? The exact opposite. I knew you were stupid, but really, it's like you're asking to be punished.”

Myrcella's small shriek of surprise at Joffrey roughly pulling her away from him was enough to rouse the attention of the other patrons and move Gendry into motion. He pushed Joffrey away from her and gently guided Myrcella away from the asshole. “Don't touch her.”

Joffrey actually laughed, his gaze hard and cold. “Oh, don't tell me that you've decided to play brother, now? This is a joke, right? You really think you have any say in this?”

Gendry rolled his eyes and moved a bit to block him from Myrcella. “Go fuck yourself, Joffrey. I'm not sticking around so you can listen to yourself talk. That's what those dipshits are for.”

Joffrey chuckled darkly and shook his head as he eyed Gendry up and down. “My mother told you to stay away, and yet, here you are. Do you like pain and misery? Because you certainly keep coming back for it. Newsflash, Gendry, you're not a real Baratheon and you never will be.”

The coffee shop had already gone quiet at the sight of Joffrey and Gendry trading blows, but at Joffrey's last comment the place was downright silent. The few whispered murmurs made him want to bow his head to hide the inevitable blush, but he knew he couldn't do that. Joffrey would take it as a sign of weakness, a sign that he'd won. Gendry would never let the little prick so much as think that, let alone have it actually be true. His shoulders instantly drew back, making him stand at his full height, his eyes narrowed.

He scoffed, eyeing Joffrey from where he stood several inches taller. “What makes you think I want to be?”

He could see the way Joffrey rolled his eyes as if to say, Really? – because everyone wanted to be a Baratheon, apparently. But, he could also see the slight shock in his cold eyes at the words, the mild disbelief that everything Gendry was saying could be real. It's what made him press on, go in for the kill.

“I chose to be a Waters, you little shit. And newsflash, Joffrey, I was born first – and not as the product of an affair.” He could hear the quiet gasps and murmurs at those words. He knew he was making a choice by saying them and the absolute hatred and rage in Joffrey's eyes confirmed it. He pressed on, seeing as it was the only thing to do now, he couldn't go back. “Which means that technically, and biblically, I'll always be Robert's heir, regardless of your family owning half the company or not. I'm also pretty sure that I've got Renly on my side, maybe even Stannis too. Got any of the Baratheons on yours?”

Joffrey was practically vibrating in wrath and fury and outrage. Gendry could see it in his tense lacrosse-playing shoulders, the way his fists were clenched and his jaw wired shut. He could see it in the burning ice green eyes that were honed on his stormy blue ones.

“You want my little bitch of a sister – fine. Take her. Take the little faggot too while you're at it. But understand that just because you want to play pretend, doesn't make you anything more than the fucking bastard you are.”

Joffrey had stepped close into his space, an act made to be intimidating as he spewed his hateful words. But, Gendry was bigger than him. Taller, broader, larger that Joffrey would ever be. He had their father's build, Joffrey was slight like his mother. So, Joffrey's display was less menacing considering that Gendry looked ten times more threatening. They were still standing ridiculously close when he spoke again, the tension coming off both of them in waves.

“It's time that you realize the only reason you hold any power, Joffrey, is because I let you.” Gendry spoke slowly and purposefully.

The room went still, mostly college students who either knew Joffrey or knew of him. His reputation just took even more of dive and Gendry knew the rumor mill around campus would be flaring by the time this was over, but all he could focus on was the rage in Joffrey's eyes and how it made him feel powerful.

He'd never spoken to Joffrey like this before, never laid it all out there for him and the world to hear. Mostly because they didn't speak. He could probably count the number of times he'd actually spoken with his little shit of a half-brother, and this was the first time he'd ever actually fought with him.

He knew Joffrey wasn't worth it, but god help him, he couldn't stop.

“If I wanted any of it, it'd be mine. Legally. So why don't you go run off with your asshole friends and leave me the fuck alone or I'll spill all the family secrets.” He whispered, ducked down a bit so he could get into Joffrey's face, reveling in the way his green eyes narrowed.

The evil smirk that curled and twisted on his brother's thin lips made dread pile into his stomach. The look promised pain and misfortune to anyone that crossed it's path. It was stupid to provoke Joffrey, Gendry knew that, but clearly that didn't stop him from trying.

Joffrey chuckled and moved back a bit, leaving some air between them as he smirked up at Gendry, shaking his head. “You actually think because you've charmed the brats that you're suddenly entitled?” He tutted and gave Gendry a look that was both scolding teacher and sadistic freak, which seemed to be Joffrey's specialty. “Come on, Gendry. We both know that's not true. You can talk your shit and think that it means something, but we all know the truth.”

Joffrey stepped back, arms wide as he glanced around the quiet cafe, his goons backing him up, Myrcella still standing somewhere behind Gendry. Joffrey's eyes narrowed, his twisted smirk glinting dangerously in the odd lighting of the coffee shop.

“We all know that you're the rejected son. The one he left, for my family. You go to art school,” He spit out with disgust and disdain. “on a scholarship because your whore mother couldn't afford it otherwise. You surround yourself with loser faggots from high school, and word on the street is that you're now trying to seduce a little northern princess. So, it looks to me like you're just trying to steal my life, bastard.”

He knew it was exactly what Joffrey was trying to goad him into. He knew that was the reason for his words, for his spot on, but crude, depiction of his life. He wasn't trying to be Joffrey – that was the actual last thing he'd ever want – but he couldn't help the similarities, and now everyone would think so too. So, he didn't think. He just moved. And played exactly into the hand Joffrey had intended, probably from the start.

The fist colliding with Joffrey's face was hard and heavy.

The snap of a bone was the greatest sound he'd ever heard.

Apart from Joffrey's shriek of pain. That was pretty great too.

When his arm wheeled back, he could see the bruise already forming beneath the delicate pale skin that bloomed red under his knuckles. Joffrey would have a black eye and most likely a broken nose. He hadn't been gentle, all the pent up aggression and rage had been stacked behind that one punch. He was bigger than Joffrey, stronger; Joffrey might've wanted to be Robert's true heir, but it was Gendry that had gotten the short end of that stick. For as much as he wanted nothing to do with it all, he was the most like Robert out of all of them.

It was barely a second that his arm was at his side that Meryn fucking Trant – aka Joffrey's top guard dog – laid in for the kill. Trant was a nasty dude, and fiercely loyal to Joffrey, for who knows why. The punch to his cheek was direct and so swift, Gendry didn't even have time to duck.

He felt his eye begin to swell, the beginnings of a nasty bruise high on his cheekbone. He wasn't sure, but it may be fractured. Trant didn't fuck around.

He pulled back and socked him hard, which of course began a brawl, and there was one of him and like five of them. So, Gendry was being pulled in five different directions as he scuffled with Trant and listened to Joffrey curse and whine and snarl. Myrcella's high voice was in there too, but he couldn't look away to find out.

The cops came not long after. Gendry was both relieved and pissed.

They were pulling everyone apart, Gendry going easily wherever the cops moved him. He wiped the blood from his nose from where it started to bleed after an elbow to the face, it didn't really hurt, and he hoped that meant it wasn't broken or bruised.

He could hear the cops asking what was going on, he could see them talking to people, asking questions. But, everything was a bit muffled, his head began to pound. Fucking hell, if he had a concussion, he was going to their fraternity and pissing in their beds. The cop that had pulled him away was asking him a question, but Gendry had to hold the side of his head and squint his eyes to keep the cop in focus. His mouth was moving and Gendry was responding, hopefully sounding like a human. The cop looked at him again and sighed, speaking into the walkie-talkie on his shoulder and gripping Gendry, seating him in a chair.

Myrcella was crying, standing beside Joffrey as he spoke to one of the officers with his head tilted back and a load of napkins under his running nose. Good. That fucking prick deserved it. Myrcella didn't though and he felt bad for her, but he couldn't move from where he was holding his head to go to her. His muffled hearing was getting worse and he was annoyed with himself for even letting this happen.

He shouldn't have let Joffrey bait him like that. He didn't owe the asshole any explanation as to why he was having coffee with their sister. He should've just told him off and walked away. Maybe even walking Myrcella back to school. He shouldn't have played right into one of Joffrey's twisted little games.

Because for everything Joffrey was, he wasn't stupid. He was manipulative and cruel, but he wasn't stupid. He knew how to identify weakness and how to exploit it. He'd been reading Gendry like an open book from the minute they began the conversation. He was so stupid.

There was an EMT in front of him. Shinning a light in his eyes and checking the cheekbone where he'd been clocked, pressing gently on the side of his head. He asked a question and Gendry winced, the muffling in his ears turning into ringing and becoming almost painful. The officer and the EMT were speaking and then they were nodding, hauling him up and walking him to the ambulance.

He's aware of Joffrey putting up a fight with one of the officers and EMTs before also being hauled into the ambulance. Apparently none of his cronies had gotten hurt bad enough to warrant a trip to the ER, which kind of made Gendry a little pissed off in himself. Although, he did see a few EMTs applying ice to some serious nasty looking welts on the jaws and eyes of most of the guys, including Trant. That made him perk up a little.

He passed out at some point, he wasn't sure for how long. But, when he came to, he was in a hospital bed in the ER, the curtains closed and his arm hooked up to an I.V. and a heart monitor on his finger. His head pounded a little in that off-beat way that only a migraine could produce, and he felt nauseas. He took a deep breath and closed his eyes, willing the pain behind his eyes to lessen so he could call for a nurse.

He could hear the angry voices rising a few curtains down. It wasn't loud enough to be beside him, but he knew they must be close. It was Joffrey's voice, angry and whining, but there was also Jaime's, steady and placating.

“We're pressing charges against that bastard.”

He hear Jaime sigh heavily. “No. We're not.”

“Yes we fucking are! Do you see my face? He did this. He broke my fucking nose, Jaime!”

“I understand that, Joffrey. But don't act like you weren't the one who provoked him.”

It was odd to hear Jaime defend him – any one from that family defend him, actually. There was authority in his voice, it spoke of all the things he knew about and the things he knew that Joffrey did as well.

“You weren't even there!” Joffrey screeched and Gendry could just picture him sitting there, pouting and full of rage. He really was a boy king.

“That doesn't mean I don't know you.” Jaime bit back. “And, I know him. As your lawyer, and one of your legal guardians, I'm telling you that we are not pressing charges against him. Now, get up and let's go home. You've been discharged.”

Gendry laid there and listened as Joffrey grumbled and as they left the busy ER. It wasn't long after that a nurse opened his curtains and stepped into the small space of his room. “You're awake.”

“Looks like it.” He grunted.

She didn't seem phased as she checked his vitals and handed him some water to sip slowly.

“Your uncle was kind enough to fill out the intake forms so we could treat you while you were unconscious.” At first he looked around to see if Renly or Tobho were here, but then he realized she was referring to Jaime. How... odd. Well, it wasn't completely odd, but he just hadn't expected Jaime to really care all that much. “You have a minor concussion, so you might be woozy for a while. Any nausea, pain?”

“Some.” He replied, sipping his water. At her waiting look he gave her more details. “Of both. My head is killing me and I was nauseas when I first woke up.”

“I'll get you something for both.” She prodded his cheek under his eye gently. “You'll have one hell of a shiner, but I don't think it's fractured. We'll have to x-ray it to be sure. I schedule one and see if they can put you in soon. We'd like you to stay the rest of the night for observation after we get you in an x-ray and a CT-scan. Is there someone we can call?”

He was over eighteen, which means they wouldn't have called his parents. Hopefully Cersei wasn't in the mood to call his mother and bitch her out, because then he could avoid telling her altogether for now. But, he nodded, giving her Tobho's number, knowing his godfather would come down and not say anything to his mom about it.

The nurse left and came back with his painkillers and anti-throw up pills sometime later, and not long after that Tobho was making his way over to his open curtain room. The look on his face wasn't pleasant, but he knew that Tobho wasn't mad necessarily, more heavily concerned.

“Are you okay?”

Gendry attempted to nod, but at the throb in his head it looked like he'd have to use his vocal chords for the answer. “Yeah.” He sighed tiredly and a bit embarrassed.

“Good.” Tobho sighed heavily, plopping down in the chair beside his bed and shaking his head. Uh oh. He had the stern-brow going on. Not good. “What in the hell were you thinking?”

“I wasn't thinking anything.” He defended, crossing his arms over his chest. He was still in his clothes from earlier and he noticed now they were strained with blood – his own and not. “He's a fucking asshole who just fucking knows where to poke.”

“Let's simmer down on the F-bombs, boy.” The stern-brows were out in full force and Gendry couldn't help the small part of him that was still eleven and caving under that look.

“Sorry.” He sighed.

Tobho ran his hands over his face, heaving a heavy sigh. “What happened, exactly?”

Gendry toyed with the hem of his shirt, not actively avoiding Tobho's gaze, but definitely not seeking it out either. “Myrcella contacted me. She wanted to meet for coffee and talk. It was stupid, but I went. And you know what? I had a really good time. I like her, Tobho. I really like her. She's smart and sweet and so... not them, you know?”

Tobho's arms were crossed over his chest, his face clear of anything, not hinting at whatever was brewing in his mind. It was disconcerting.

“So, you met with her.”

“Yeah. And then Joffrey shows up with his goddamn lackeys and causes a scene. I should've just walked away. I know that. But the shit he was saying. Tobho, if you could've just heard what he was spouting.”

“But, you hit him first.” He was keeping neutral on purpose and it was something that had always driven Gendry to anxiety. He felt scolded.

He let out a heavy breath and lowered his eyes. “Yeah, I did.”

“And he hit you?”

The small bark laugh caused a throb to go through his head, but the thought was hilarious. “Uh, no. I'm pretty sure Joffrey wouldn't even know how to make a fist. No, his “friends” jumped me as soon as I'd landed the hit.”

They were quiet after that. The only sounds coming from the other patients and their tvs and the nurses that were walking around the ER. He usually didn't mind long stretches of silence, but right now he felt fidgety and weird, he couldn't stand that neither of them were talking. Maybe it was from the concussion, or his guilty conscience, or maybe because the Starks were rubbing off on him. Who knew. But, he couldn't stop himself from rambling on.

“They're not pressing charges.”

He looked up to see Tobho looking at him with interest, but still with stern eyebrows.

“I heard Jaime and Joffrey talking when I woke up. Jaime said they're not pressing charges.”

“Well, that's something.”

“And I also apparently broke Joffrey's nose.”

The snort that Tobho gave officially broke the tension. “Yeah, that is something, alright.”

“Don't tell mom.” He knew his voice was pleading, but he couldn't help it. The thought of his mother knowing was giving him anxiety. “Please don't tell her. Not yet.”

Tobho sighed, running a hand down his face. “You want me to lie?”

“No. I just don't want you to say anything.” He played with the frayed edge of his shirt. “There's something I have to do, and I'd rather mom not be involved.”

The stern eyebrows were making a reappearance as Tobho narrowed his eyes at Gendry. “And just what exactly is it that you have to do, boy?”

Shit.

He shouldn't have said anything. Tobho was relentless and wouldn't give up until he knew.

Gendry sighed, “I want to go talk to Cersei. Need to talk to her.”

“About what.”

Tobho's voice was hard and his eyes were narrowed and his brow was stern. Great. He already knew that Tobho would think this was a bad idea, that everyone would think it was a bad idea. But it was something he needed to do and he wasn't going to sit by and waste the opportunity when it stared him in the face.

“About how fucked this whole situation is!”

He didn't mean to yell, but he felt weird and strange and it was most likely the concussion but Gendry didn't care.

“She can't just get away with being a controlling bitch while her son is a fucking menace and her daughter wants to see me! It's not fair that she treats me like garbage when she's the one who messed up my family. They all treat me like I'm the bastard, like I'm the one who isn't good enough, well you know what? Fuck that. I am good enough and they're pieces of shit. And if I want to see Myrcella, I'm going to see Myrcella. I don't give a shit what they say.”

He hadn't realized that Tobho was now seated on his bed until he stopped to take a breath and felt the older man's hand running through his hair gently. Like he had when Gendry was a child. He also realized that he was crying. Concussions made him weird.

“It's alright, boy. It's alright.”

He closed his eyes and leaned back into the bed, letting Tobho run his fingers through his hair. He sort of wished it was his mom, that she was here right now doing it. But, that would be stupid. Because if she were here, she would've cried at the sight of him bruised and would've marched over to Cersei's much like he was going to do once he was discharged. He couldn't let her do that. This was something he needed to handle by himself.

“Sorry.” He muttered, eyes still closed.

Tobho said nothing and continued to sit beside him and calm him down. The nurse came by some time after that, demanding he change out of his clothes and into a gown so they could take him down for an x-ray. The wait for the CT-scan was still long, so he'd most likely be here until morning.

He changed quietly, Tobho looking all pensive and thoughtful, and then was wheeled down. They didn't trust him to walk with his concussion, which was annoying but he was also grateful because as soon as they got on the elevator, he was dizzy most likely would've fallen over.

The nurse was nice; quiet, peaceful, and calm. She didn't really engage him, most likely because of the redness around his eyes and the way his head hung a bit, but that was fine. She seemed like a mothering type, even though she was young, Gendry could tell that she would be fine taking care of a large brood.

He carefully hopped up on the table, laying down slowly. She put small markers on the board under his head and spoke to him softly as the x-ray tech changed out the filters and started the machine. They took a few in different angles of his head before releasing him back to his small curtain room where Tobho waited.

He crawled back into the bed and listened as the soft nurse explained that he could sleep, but would be woken every two hours to test his symptoms. He didn't hear anything after that.

He was woken up three separate times and was asked the same series of questions before they let him go back to sleep. After he'd completed the tests for the third time, they took him down for the CT-scan. Tobho was passed out in a chair by the bed, head hanging back, mouth open, arms crossed over his chest. Gendry couldn't help the snort at the sight of him like that. The nurse just smiled.

The journey down this time around was less dizzy, but the ride on the elevator still made him a little nauseas, the soft nurse said that was to be expected for a while.

“Why do I even need this scan?”

He was tired and a little grumpy, but he hoped the question didn't come out as rude as it sounded in his head.

The soft nurse smiled a little at him, like she dealt with broken, attitude-y kids all the time. She probably did, actually.

“To make sure you don't have a bleed in your brain.”

Well, alright then.

She gently loaded him onto the CT machine, asking him politely not to move or talk unless absolutely necessary. The loud clicks and buzzing of the machine was surprisingly soothing and he felt his eyes drift closed. He knew he wasn't suppose to sleep in the machine, and that he'd just slept for roughly six hours, but he was just so tired still.

Gentle hands were lightly shaking his shoulder and his eyes snapped open to the soft face of the nurse telling him the scan was over and that she would take him back to his room. He must've asked her why he was so tired, because she was talking again, telling him that it was common to be exhausted like this. He went back to bed without another thought, only annoyed that they would be waking him up every two hours until he was discharged.

 

Chapter Text

She had been washing dishes when Pod called.

Washing dishes at the family house in Winterfell, ignoring the sleepiness that still sort of hung over her, and planning the sneak attack she'd make on Brienne later in their weekly training sessions when her phone rang.

Pod never called.

Lommy called, Hot Pie sometimes called – Pod never called.

She had looked down at her ringing phone on the counter, hands soapy and her younger brothers arguing behind her. She answered anyway, because Pod never called and she could only imagine why he was calling now.

She had quickly wiped off her hands and ducked out of the kitchen to answer him. “Hello?” The living room was quiet and she sat down on the large armchair her father had often occupied when he was alive.

“Arya.” His voice sounded rushed and tired.

“Pod, what's up?” She asked with concern flooding her tone.

Because Pod never called and he certainly never sounded worried.

He sighed and her brows furrowed at the sound, odd coming from him. “Listen, Gendry's about to do something really stupid.”

She felt her stomach sink at his words, already worried over something she didn't even know the details of. Because Gendry did stupid stuff all the time, but never stupid enough that they needed an intervention about it. Whatever stupid thing he was about to do now couldn't be good if they were implementing her help.

“What do you mean? How stupid?”

“He...” Pod seemed to pause, as if trying to figure out if it was a good idea to tell her or not, or at the very least how to put it in words. She almost yelled at him to spit it out when he went on. “He had got into a fist fight with Joffrey yesterday at the campus cafe.”

What?” She practically shrieked, sitting up straight in her father's large armchair, ready to bolt.

“Yeah.” He let out a deep breath. “It's not good.”

She could hear Pod begin to speak again when the phone was loudly wrestled out of his hand and Lommy's voice flooded the phone, breathlessly spewing all the information as though he'd tried to keep it in for too long and it was now bursting out. That's probably exactly what was happening, knowing Lommy.

“Apparently Myrcella was there and Gendry dropped some fucking truths and then Joffrey said some fucking terrible shit, which made Gendry actually punch him in the face. I'm not even lying Arya, Gendry legit broke the fuck out of Joffrey's nose and then Meryn Trant pounced on him and Gen ended up in the ER last night with a concussion.”

“Are you fucking kidding me?” She practically yelled, bolting from the armchair. The shock was settling over her, but Arya could feel the worry underneath the anger. “Is he alright?”

The phone was being wrestled again before being put on speaker phone and Pod's calm voice settled her nerves. “He's fine, Arya. They kept him overnight for observation, but he was released a couple hours ago. Mott brought him here to Lommy's apartment because apparently there was a fifteen car pile up on the interstate and with Gendry out, Mott was needed to help tow the wreckage. We're keeping an eye on him, Hot Pie's with him now, but... he's planning to do something really stupid, Arya. And he's not going to listen to us.”

“What is he planning?” She demanded.

Lommy sighed, “He wants to go confront Cersei. There's definitely some shit that we don't know about and I'm more than one hundred percent certain it has something to do with that fucking dinner.”

“Whatever it's about, it's not a good idea. We all know how the Lannister's are, you probably more than anyone, Arya. They're ruthless. And, no matter what he wants to believe, Gendry is broken. He's always been a little bit, because of his Dad and Cersei, but, all of this with them isn't helping.” Pod sounded tired. Upset and angry, and tired. Arya couldn't blame him.

“It's a really terrible idea. The stupidest he's ever had.” Lommy sighed. “I get that he needs the closure, that he needs to say his peace and tell them to fuck off, but it's still a fucking terrible idea.”

Arya sighed, rubbing a hand down her face. “Okay. Alright, what do we do?”

“He's gonna want to go home in a little while.” Pod said calmly. “He wants to go home and change, and then go confront Cersei.”

“And we don't want that to happen?” She asked.

“There's nothing we can do to stop him from leaving my apartment, I'll probably drive him home. But, nothing we say is going to keep him there.” She could hear the almost desperation in Lommy's usually smirky voice.

“And that's where I come in.” She sighed.

“And that's where you come in.” Lommy confirmed.

“Listen, I'll try my best to get him not to be rash about this, but there's no promises. He doesn't listen to me half the time either.”

“He likes you, Arya. He's going to at least listen to what you say.”

Lommy. ” She heard Podrick hiss.

“Come on, let's be real here, people.”

Lommy's tone was over it and done. He was dropping some truths himself now and not caring. Clearly being worried about Gendry's safety won out over his need to keep secrets.

“Gendry likes you Arya – Pod, stop hitting me, this isn't a national secret, they know they like each other – he's going to listen to you because he likes you. Now, I get this whole does he like me, do I like him routine, and I respect it; but enough is enough. Gendry is about to do something really fucking stupid concerning people that could very well have him charged with assault and make sure he's given a maximum sentence. We all do realize this, correct? The Lannisters are the worst and we need to remember that. So, while I respect that you two have been dancing around each other for months, you need to understand that he will listen to you because he likes you. And if this breaks some best-friend-guy-code thing, well, whatever. I love my friend more than his pretend-secrets.”

It was silent for a few moments and all Arya could hear was the frantic beating of her heart.

Before she even realized it, her feet were moving and she was walking towards the front door. “Okay.” She muttered, grabbing her keys and her purse, forgoing a coat. “I'm on my way over to his apartment now. I'll wait for him until you drop him off and try and talk some sense into him.”

“Thank you, Arya.” Pod sighed in relief.

“I'll text you when we leave.” She could hear the thankfulness in Lommy's tone.

That's how she found herself in Gendry's empty apartment at eleven in the morning on a weekday.

She sat on one of the stools, leaning forward against the counter, facing the door. She hadn't called anyone to let them know where she was or what she was doing, she didn't want anyone to try and talk her out of getting involved. She was absolutely going to get involved. He was her best friend, of course she would try to stop him. She was going to get him to finally talk to her about what happened at that damn birthday dinner. She knew he was stubborn, she had known that since the beginning, she also knew he was prideful, something he didn't like to admit. And this, for him, was the last straw.

The text from Lommy had come a while ago, he didn't live far from Gendry, but their apartments were on opposite sides of the campus. She felt antsy while she waited, worried, her heart beating too fast.

The door opened quickly, his angry form filling the space. Apparently Lommy had tried to talk to him on the ride over and Gendry wasn't taking it well. Or, he was just angry in general, getting ready for this stupid confrontation. She couldn't believe he'd just gotten out of the hospital, when Podrick called to fill her in on everything she expected it to be worse. The bruising on his face and a concussion were no joke, but he looked better than she had been preparing herself for. She had to stop him from making this mistake, she would stop him. She wouldn't let him get hurt again.

His hands and face were scrubbed, but the lingering blood was imprinted on his skin and wouldn't fully wash away without a shower, his blood stained t-shirt clung to his frame, his wide shoulders and lovely arms were on display, the clench in his jaw and the fire in his eyes made her clit throb.

She steeled herself from the onslaught of heavy arousal. She was here to do a job, to keep her friend from making a dumb mistake, she wasn't here to fantasize about him pounding into her against the door, no matter how fuckable he looked right now.

The harsh bruise forming around his left eye and cheekbone helped stave off the part of her that wanted to throw him to the floor. Now was really not the time, even with Lommy's words ringing in her ears.

“What are you doing here.” His voice came out rough and angry, gooseflesh rose over her skin at the sound.

Stop it. Stop it. Stop it.

“Podrick called me.” She stood from the stool to stand in front of him. “He said that you were about to do something so fucking stupid that not even Lommy agreed it was a good idea.”

His jaw was tight, his eyes narrowed as he looked down at her, “Go home, Arya. This doesn't concern you.”

Now it was her turn to narrow her gaze and cut him with a glance. “Doesn't concern me? Last time I checked, you're still one of my best friends.”

“Yeah, and last time I checked, you don't fucking dictate what I do or not.”

He moved past her into his bedroom, she trailed behind him, ignoring the way he ripped off his shirt and threw it to the floor, standing with his bare back to her as he searched around for something. She watched the way his muscled moved beneath cream colored skin, the smattering of freckles, the definition of his arms.

He was angry, like the night at the bar after the dinner. Gendry wasn't a yeller, he was quiet and sweet and dorky. He wasn't this person. The Lannisters made him this person.

She hated them for the way they treated Sansa, for all the things Joffrey had done to her sister while they were dating. It was years ago, but it would always be fresh in her mind. She would always remember her sister's split lip and the tears in her eyes; Sansa still to this day broke down when someone called her worthless or selfish, and that was all because of the little fucking troll named Joffrey.

And now he was hurting Gendry. Just like he'd hurt her sister.

Arya didn't fault Gendry for wanting to put them in their place. Hell, she'd actually join him. But, Lommy and Podrick were right, now was not the time. He had actually assaulted Joffrey, there were witnesses and everything. Jaime may have said they weren't pressing charges, but that didn't mean that they couldn't change their minds.

The thought of Gendry locked up made her ill.

“If you think I'm just going to stand around and watch you do something stupid, you're wrong.”

She ignored the way her center throbbed and her heart sped up as he turned around to face her, anger cloaking his features, annoyance in his eyes.

“I don't care, Arya.” He moved away from her, not liking how she was invading his space and making his breath quicken. She followed him out of his room, watching as he grabbed a shirt from the basket of laundry that sat atop his kitchen table and made a beeline for the door. She got in his way, blocking him from his path, he let out a frustrated sigh. “Get out of my way.”

She sent him her deadliest look. “Make me.”

He dropped his shirt and picked her up, she gasped at the feeling of his hot skin burning her, the way his large hands grabbed at her waist and hoisted her up and over his shoulder. She had two older brothers and Sandor, this wasn't something new. She quickly wrapped her legs around his chest, so when he placed her down on the counter and moved to walk away, he was trapped to her. Her legs were now slid tightly around his waist, her hands grabbing his bare shoulders. He attempted to peel her off of him, one limb at a time, but she had a stronger grip.

“Let go of me, Arya.” He practically growled out, blue eyes stormy and dark.

“Absolutely not.” She shouted back, struggling against him to remain attached. “If I have to do this all night to get you to stay and stop being stupid, than I will.”

He growled back in return, stepping back from the counter with her on his body. He'd had many dreams like this, her legs around his hips, her hands tucked in his hair as he thrusted inside of her intently against a wall. Her breathing was heavy, causing her breasts to push tightly against his chest, her arms wrapped around his shoulders, her legs like a vice around his hips. Her core was hot against his budding erection, he couldn't stop it, not when they were like this.

He struggled against her for a moment, causing both of them to fall backwards with their combined weight and his restless squirming, he shifted so she landed atop him and not the other way around. He might've been madder than hell and itching for the fight he was about to get himself into, but he still didn't want her to get hurt. Her knees were in the carpet, thighs wrapped deliciously around his waist, their hips pushed together.

She leaned over him with her hands on either side of his shoulders, his hands spread out on the carpet beside his hips. She quickly brought her hands to the sides of his head, holding gently, like she was worried he'd hit his already concussed head. She smoothed her hands over his hair, making sure he was okay before glaring down at him.

“I can't believe you didn't call me.” She swatted his shoulder hard enough to hurt. “Why was I the last to know that you were in the fucking hospital?”

He glared back at her, “Because not everything in my life revolves around you, Arya.”

She narrowed her eyes and clenched her jaw, “Yeah, I got that. You're mad, you've got a mission to accomplish, but that doesn't mean I'm gonna stop giving a shit.” She yelled.

“Well I didn't ask you to!”

“Are you seriously arguing with me about the fact that I care?” She hit his shoulder again, sighing. She looked upset in that instant, gazing down at him with heavy eyes. “Please don't do this.”

Her voice had dropped from righteous fury to soft, so unlike her usually brash nature and he felt a part of his angry veneer crack at the sound. Arya Stark didn't plead. But, she was pleading him.

“Look, I get it. I do. They're assholes, I know that first hand. But you have to know it's not a good idea. Don't go picking a fight with them after you're barely recovered from the one you just had.” She moved a hand to his cheek, the good side, and ran her thumb over his freckles. “Please.”

He sighed, looking away from her silver eyes and soft words, steeling his jaw.

“You don't understand, Arya. And I'm not asking you to.”

“But I'm asking you.” She leaned down to him, whispering. “Please stay, Gendry. Stay with me.”

They're eyes locked, a clash of blue and grey, meeting and melding. She was still whispering please as her lips found his and she kissed him gently, hand still cradling his face and rubbing over his freckles.

The kiss was soft, tender and so gentle. He kissed her back briefly, falling into the feeling of her mouth and her warm body atop him, and the comfort her presence offered. But, that was before his brain caught up with his body and he realized what she was doing. He abruptly began pulling away from her with hard eyes and his jaw set.

He pushed her away, looking hurt and angry. “What the fuck is wrong with you?” He stood from his place on the ground, grabbing his shirt from the floor and quickly thrusting it over his frame aggressively. “Don't fucking use the way I feel about you against me. Or kiss me to keep me here. I want you to – ” He cut himself off and looked even more angry than he had before.

And there it was.

Everything that had been building up between them since she first sidled up to him in the library asked him to help her find that dumb book. How she went from pining from afar, to pining within their friendship. All the things she knew and thought she knew. It was out there now.

She felt like she could finally breath.

“You want me to what?” She pressed, getting into his space in that relentless way he hated. But she had to. “What do you want me to do?”

Now wasn't the time, they were both vaguely aware of that fact, but the air around them crackled with energy and the tension between them was too thick. Their eyes were drawn together by some invisible magnetic force and they were both unable to look away. Arya hadn't even realized her breathing was labored until her hands began to tremble.

He looked ready to attack her, his eyes were dark, narrowed slightly as they were honed in on her and only her, his breathing was heavy as well, his jaw clenched and his fists tight. He looked as though he was mulling something over, trying figure out if he should say it or not. She hadn't even realized her lips moved until she heard her voice ringing loudly in her ears.

“Say it.”

He seemed to be afraid that by her demanding him to make a confession was just another way to get him to stay. Maybe it was, but she'd had enough of this shit, enough of waiting.

“Say it.” She whispered.

He glared down at her, breathing harshly, his jaw set. The bruising to the left side of his face was inescapable and she knew that he may very well be still a bit concussed, but he was looking at her intently, working up the courage to say the words they both were thinking out loud.

“I want you to kiss me because you want to.”

His voice was still angry, his eyes still narrowed, his fists still clenched, the bruise around his eye getting worse. None of that stopped her from launching herself at him, fisting his shirt and slamming her mouth against his own. His hands tangled in her hair, gripping the back of her neck and her jaw tightly as she pulled him tighter against her.

This was not like any of the kisses they'd shared. No, this was hard and fast, sloppy, and passionate, and fueled by fire, and blood, and all the anger and built up tension between them. There was the underlying layer of adoration and care within their bruising grips and harsh pushes; it was the way his thumbs gently stroked the edge of her jaw, the way her body un-tensed as soon as her chest met his.

She pulled back slightly to speak, her gaze eyeing his lips and the red, splotchiness that bled onto his skin because of her kisses. “I want to.” Her voice was out of breath and a little shaky, he only responded by pulling her back to his lips by the hands that were still cupping her jaw.

It was slower this time, more tender, as though he was savoring the feeling of her beneath him, against him. She felt like her heart was falling out of her chest.

So, this was kissing Gendry.

Really kissing Gendry – she amended.

Her hands had unclenched around the front of his t-shirt and travelled up to his jaw, that downright delectable jaw. She wanted to lick that jaw. Her thumbs stroking up over his skin, he nipped gently at her lower lip and a small gasp escaped past both of them, her hands slipping higher and accidentally brushing over his bruises. It caused them to part, him with a wince and breathing heavy, her with wide eyes and a frantically beating heart.

They looked at each other, hands still wound in her hair, hands still cupping his face, their breathing no better now that their mouths were separated. Her gaze travelled over his swollen lips to the slight bruising on his nose, to the sweet freckles on his cheeks, to the nasty bruise by his eye, to those other worldly blues themselves.

“I like you.” The confession came out fast, her breathing still hitched, making her words sound rushed and breathless like she was in some stupid romance movie. She couldn't stop herself from talking and couldn't pull her eyes away from his if she tried. “I wasn't sure if that were clear or not, but I do – like you. A lot. Sort of an embarrassing amount, really.”

Why was she talking?

His heart sped up at her words. “I like you too, if it wasn't obvious.”

Her mouth just kept moving without her permission, her fingers rubbing gently, soothingly, and unconsciously, over his jaw. “I've liked you since before we became friends. The first time we talked in the library, I was hitting on you.” She furrowed her brow a bit, “Actually, every time we talked in the library I was hitting on you.”

To go back and think about every encounter they shared, prior to their friendship and even after with her confirmation was making him dizzy. That also might've been the concussion and the lack of oxygen to his brain because of their frantic kisses, but whatever.

She liked him.

She had liked him since before they were friends and even after.

She liked him.

It wasn't like a part of him didn't already know that, but it felt different somehow. Now that she'd confirmed it, his heart swelled and expanded and he leaned down to kiss her again. She had been hitting on him and he was too stupid to notice, stuck in his own self-worth issues to realize that this annoying, beautiful, insane creature actually wanted him the same way he wanted her.

Life was crazy right now.

They pulled apart from the kiss and he looked down into those grey eyes of hers – all warm and melted metal, like leaking mercury. She certainly made him feel like he'd been poisoned.

“I've liked you since high school.”

Oh, god. Why did he say that?

Maybe she had poisoned him.

Her eyes went wide and she pulled back slightly to look at him better. “What?”

Fucking hell.

“I've liked you since high school.” He repeated with a sigh, deciding to just barrel on. “I knew who you were before you came up to me in the library. I saw you when we were in school and I drew those portraits of you because I liked you.”

She looked at him with wide eyes and furrowed brows – she looked a bit crazed and confused. He internally sighed, because it was just like him to fuck this up before it even really started.

He was more then prepared to let her out of his arms and mumble apologies with downcast eyes when she was on him again quick and fast. Her lips pressed insistently against his, hungrily as she nipped at his lower lip and licked into his mouth. He felt his grip on her tighten just slightly, their intense kisses filled with longing and brimming with things were replaced by the fire and fight from their earlier kiss. He wouldn't complain.

When Arya pulled away from him, dropping one last peck on his lips before looking into his eye, he knew. That stupid smirky smile said it all.

He was glad that they had spent time as friends before declaring their mutual feelings of really like to each other, it had given him time to know her, to attempt to figure her out in a way that would've been scary and anxiety-ridden had they started out as lovers first.

Arya wasn't easy to read. She was confusing and tricky and always tried to play her emotions off as something else. If he had entered a relationship with her blind to all the things that made Arya... Arya, they most likely wouldn't've lasted.

But, now?

Well, he wouldn't presume to say they would last – because they weren't even actually dating, hello – but they definitely stood a better chance.

That smirky smile on her face began to gently fall into that small soft one that was usually reserved for him. He was lost in it, in her. Gendry let her lead him over to the couch where they sat down and continued to look at each other, hands still clasped.

He knew that this small, fragile moment wouldn't last, he had things to do, things to say, and she looked like she had something on her mind as well. But, the way their eyes roamed over one another's face, the almost wonder in their eyes, the matching small smiles in the corner of their lips. Well, he could put it off for the moment.

Arya ran her free hand up to his jaw, cupping it, soothing him, lulling him. She could touch him now, however she wanted she could touch him. It was an exhilarating feeling.

“I like you.” She smiled.

He smiled too. “I know. I like you too.”

Her smile widened as she brushed some of the hair out of his eyes. “I know.” She traced his lips with her fingers. “Let's go on a date. Like, the kind in all those terrible movies that we watch. Like a real, stereotypical, good old fashioned date.”

Gendry chuckled and his smile was so bright that it almost hurt to look at. “Okay.”

“Okay.” She mimicked back. She ran her hand gently down the side of his face, her smile slowly falling into a softer one, her eyes searching his. The moment was changing again, and both of them could feel it. Her voice had dropped a bit to a calming octave when she spoke next. “Tell me what happened.”

He let out a small sigh, “Arya...”

“Tell me.” She softly insisted. “Tell me what happened yesterday, and at that dinner, and why you feel the need to go prove yourself to people who don't matter.”

His shoulders slumped with his deep breath. Or maybe it was a sigh, he couldn't be certain. “They do matter.” He all but whispered. “Unfortunately, they do matter.”

“But, why?”

Gendry leaned back against the couch a bit, pulling away from her whether consciously or not. “Because... they're the other family. We shared Robert, we share chromosomes and blood. They've always been a part of my life even though I never wanted them there – even know they never wanted us there. It's just... complicated.”

There was silence for a beat, both stuck in their heads thinking. Arya looked him over, the bruise still blooming on his face was beginning to look heavy and dark, but the scowl he had worn earlier had dispersed and was now replaced by calm and concentration.

“Tell me what happened.” She prompted.

“Cersei forbid me from seeing Myrcella and Tommen.” It tumbled out of his mouth without his control and the angry, shadowed look on Arya's face made him feel vindicated. Like he wasn't alone.

“What?” Arya snapped quickly.

“At the dinner. She forbid me from seeing them again.” He said it with such detachment. Arya knew the feeling, she was a master at it, but it hurt to hear it coming from his lips. “She dangled them in front of me. She let me get attached. And then she took them away.”

Gendry looked up at her, the anger and pain in his eyes was unmistakable.

“That's why I was drinking at that bar. That's why I got shitfaced and acted like an asshole. She forbid me from seeing two really great kids and then proceeded to tell me that I would never be the son Robert wanted before she kicked me off her porch.”

Arya wad fuming. She felt enraged and livid in a way that she only felt when Sansa had shown up after her date with Joffrey sporting a bloody nose and a busted lip and tears in her eyes. No good ever came from the fucking Lannisters, they ruined everything she loved.

“You want me to kick their ass?” She offered with serious eyes and a fight in his stance. “Cause I'll do it. I'll go kick their asses. It's been a long time coming for me, it'd be no trouble.”

Gendry cracked a smile and snorted a bit at her serious offer. “I think kicking any of their asses is what sort of got me into this mess in the first place.”

“No.” Arya's eyes narrowed. “Cersei being a bitch got you into this. Joffrey taunting you since his birth got you into this. Punching that little rat was the tipping point, not the start.”

He sighed, rubbing at his eyes. He was still tired, even after all he slept, he felt drained and exhausted. A part of him wanted nothing more than to climb into his bed and sleep for a long time. But the other part of him, the one still brimming with anger and resentment, well, that part wanted to go tell Cersei exactly what he thought of her and her first born son. Needed to, even.

“Myrcella found my number.” He stopped wiping at his tired face and looked up into Arya's gaze. “She was texting me the other night when we were out with Renly – which, is something I'd really like to chat about when I'm stable and not concussed or planning a whole speech to give to my stepmom. She said that she wanted to meet up and knew the reason I hadn't called was because of Cersei. So, against my better fucking judgement, I said yes. Because I'm a pushover.”

“You're not a pushover. You're just someone who loves his family.”

“Yeah, well, look how well that turned out.” He gestured towards his face. “Anyway, I met up with her at the coffee shop, and we talked. It was nice. And I really like her. But, then Joffrey showed up and started talking out of his ass. I should've walked away, I know that. But, I didn't. And I punched him. And then Meryn Trant and the other assholes in his crew laid me out pretty good. Someone called the cops and before I knew it, I was loaded into an ambulance and woke up in the ER.”

Arya nodded, listening, her eyes staying within sight of his. “Tell me why you need to go yell at Cersei.”

He sort of felt like he was in therapy, and a part of him was revolting strongly against the idea. But, he couldn't stop himself from speaking, from letting it all out. This was important, his feelings were important. He remembered when he was young and his mother use to tell him that, he just needed to keep reminding himself that it was true.

“Because she needs to know what kind of human her son is. She needs to know about how her other children are afraid of him, and the kind of shit he says and the lives he ruins. She needs to know that I'm still here, and that I'll always be here, even though she tries to pretend I don't exist. I do. I exist. And if I want to have a relationship with Myrcella and Tommen, I'm going to.”

She watched him lean back against the couch cushions and take a deep breath. It was clear that this all affected him, that he wasn't okay. Podrick's words from earlier played back in her ears; he wasn't okay, and he was broken. It was all right, because she was broken too, but it didn't change the fact that he was.

“I get it.” With his focus once again on her, she continued. “I get why you need to say something to them. I do. I get it.”

“Arya...”

“Joffrey use to hit Sansa.”

Gendry's eyes narrowed quickly and his tone turned threatening and sharp. “What?”

“They use to date – I don't know if you knew that. But, they use to date. It was after our parents died, before she met Sandor, when she was still trying to hold it together and be the perfect daughter. He hit her, just once, and she broke up with him after that. But, later I found out that it wasn't just because of the fact that he'd hit her, it was because he's a manipulating asshole who preys on people's insecurities. Sansa still has trouble hearing people call her worthless or selfish, because that's what he use to say to her all the time. I get it. The need to say something. I just want you to be smart about it is all.”

He looked up at her, momentarily speechless. “I... I didn't know.”

Arya kept his gaze and reached for his hand once more, fingers tracing lightly over his bruised knuckles, voice low and soft; lulling, almost. “Are you sure this is the right thing to do, for right now? Or is it something that will keep until things cool down?”

It was a good question, one that Tobho had brought up, Lommy and Podrick as well, but one he hadn't asked himself yet. Was it a good idea? Or was the momentum of his fight with Joffrey propelling him into something he wasn't ready for?

It was a good question. One he didn't have an answer to.

He met her grey eyes, and answered honestly. “I don't know.” He gave a small shrug. “But I have to try. It's important that I try.”

She gazed at him for a few beats, looking for something in the depths of his eyes. He wasn't sure if she found whatever she was looking for or not, but she sighed and gave a slight nod of her head. “Okay.”

His brows furrowed, “Okay?”

She nodded once more. “Okay. Let's go talk to Cersei.”

“What?”

“If you think it's a good idea, if you think that it's important, then let's go. I don't think it's smart, but I get the need to try. If you want to do this, I'm not going to stop you.” He stared at her and exhaled a breath he hadn't known he'd been holding. “But, I'm going with you.”

“You don't have to do that, Arya. You don't have to trot around with me and keep me in check. I'm a big boy.” The slight edge to his tone didn't go unnoticed by Arya, who raised a brow and waited until he slumped back into the couch before continuing.

“I'm not going to keep you in check, Gendry. I'm going because I love you and I care about you, you stupid bull.” She rolled her eyes. “I want to go to make sure that you're okay, that whatever happens, you walk out of there in the same shape you walked in. That's all.”

Gendry sighed and wiped a hand over his face, taking in her words. He was doing this, he was really doing this. “All right. Let's go do this.”

Arya stood from the couch and held out her hand for him. He realized it wasn't to help him up, it was for solidarity and strength.

He took her hand.

 

Chapter Text

The ride to the Stormlands felt long and short simultaneously.

It was a drive he did often, it was one he knew by heart. Right now, it was one he was both dreading and anticipating.

Maybe it was the aftereffects of the concussion that he was sure was still floating around in his head, but he felt almost calm. The jittery anxiety that he'd been expecting was nowhere to be found, the thoughts in his head were purely focused on how to start his conversation.

He hoped that the massive car accident from earlier was keeping Tobho busy and that the old man hadn't gotten a chance to call his mother and tell her what was going on. Lia Waters was many things, and protective of him was most certainly one of them. If she found out that he was planning on storming Robert's estate and finally giving Cersei a rightful talking to, she'd scold him within an inch of his life – but she'd also be on board faster than anyone.

But he didn't want his mother involved. He didn't want Cersei to think that this was anything but his own thoughts. He wasn't being influenced by his mother's distaste of her, or what they'd done to his family. No. This was all him, everything that had been bubbling up within him for years. He needed to say this and she needed to listen.

He looked over at Arya, her eyes on the road, focused, determined. It made a small hint of a smile quirk in the corners of his lips at the sight. This was something he needed to do alone, but he was glad that she was here.

He hadn't known about Sansa.

He knew that Joffrey had dated her a bit in high school, but he hadn't known about what he'd done. It made his blood boil just thinking about it. Sansa was pure, all sweetness and light. How anyone could hurt someone as kind and helpful as the woman he'd come to know like that... it was sickening.

He let out a deep breath and counted to fifteen. His childhood therapist had said it was a little trick to combat his anger issues. It sort of worked, he supposed.

It was silent in the car, which was not something he was use to where Arya was concerned. It was usually filled with mindless chatter and questions. He leaned against the window of the passenger seat and looked at Arya as she drove.

He'd kissed her.

Well, she'd kissed him technically, but whatever. They had kissed, they had said feelings, and he was pretty sure that this now qualified as the worst/most bizarre first date ever.

The quiet in the car was cut by Arya's voice ringing out, it sounded almost too loud in his ears. “Do you know what you're going to say to her?”

It was the first thing she'd said to him since they got in her car. She'd had her determined face on as they strode from his apartment and it hadn't melted off since, she was going to get him to Cersei's estate and she was going to do it quickly.

He looked over at her again, chewing on the inside of his lip as he thought about her question. “Sort of. I mean, I don't have anything planned out, but, I know what I need to say.”

Arya nodded, more for herself than him. “What if she doesn't want to see you?” She seemed to rethink her question with furrowed brows before starting again. “I mean, what if she doesn't let you in?”

“There's nothing Cersei hates more than a scene. She's all about her pretenses. If she refuses me, than standing outside of my dead father's house shouting should probably do it.” He shrugged.

She eyed him a bit after that, he couldn't read the emotion he found in her eyes.

It was quiet again after that. She didn't ask him any more questions about Cersei, they didn't talk about the kiss or their shared confessions. It wasn't the time, he knew, but they still didn't bring it up. They sat in easy silence as the drive continued. Gendry began to feel spikes of anxiety as they drew closer, but nothing compared to what he should've felt. Maybe he really was too brain damaged for this right now.

They pulled up the long driveway that lead to the Baratheon Estate. He'd only lived their briefly as a child before his parents divorced, before Robert died and left them the house by the sea that he'd grown up in. It was large and stately, not unlike the Stark's family home in Winterfell, though the estate was much more grand. Gendry had no doubt that Cersei had played a hand in making it so opulent.

Arya put the car in park and let out a heavy breath, turning to look at him as he stared at the house. She gently laid a hand on his shoulder, drawing his attention back to her. The sincere look in her eyes made him pause, and he knew what she was going to say before she said it.

“You don't have to do this, if you're not ready.” Her gentle movements against his shoulder were soothing. “It's not like they're going anywhere. You could always come back.”

She was right. He technically didn't have to do this right now. He could leave and go home and come back another time. But, this was something that just needed to be done and over with. He had the momentum, he had the strength to finally stand up to the family that had done nothing but push him down. It was now or never really, and he wasn't going to waste it.

“I know.” He nodded, making sure to catch her gaze so she knew that he meant it.

He leaned forward slowly and captured her mouth in a sweet kiss. She pushed towards him, returning his affections. He wanted to stroke a hand through her hair and cup her jaw and kiss her until they fell asleep, but there would be time for that later. He broke the kiss, running a hand through her loose hair and giving her a small smile.

A part of him couldn't believe he'd just so casually kissed her like that, but the other part of him, the one that was gearing up to talk to his step-mother about her out of control monster of a son didn't blink twice at his small bravery. There were dueling part of himself; the quiet artist and the brooding Baratheon. It just depended on the situation which one came out, but they were always there, both of them, waiting.

He'd spent a lot of time denying the parts of him that were inherently Robert, pushed down his anger and pain, pretended he wasn't brash and bold. He didn't really want to be those things, so he wouldn't.

Gendry pulled away from Arya, as hard as it was, and exited the car. He could hear Arya getting out behind him and knew that while she'd keep her distance, she was absolutely not leaving him alone with these people. He felt a warmth in his chest at the thought of her protective streak over him.

He shook out his arms and released a deep breath before making his way with determination up to the front door. The same door where Cersei had crushed him not too long ago. He knocked loudly, banging on the door repeatedly before someone answered. It was one of the maids, he recognized her from that night, she looked alarmed and also confused, totally unsure of what to do.

“I need to speak with Cersei.”

The maid floundered for a moment, “I'm sorry, sir, but Cersei is – ”

“Cersei!” He yelled into the doorway, past the startled maid. “I know you're home!”

“Sir, please – ” The maid looked panicked and he genuinely felt bad for the girl, but there was no way that he was being turned away, not now.

He pushed through, causing the maid to stumble just slightly, he stopped and helped right her, quietly apologizing before moving through the house, calling out Cersei's name. He realized it was ridiculous and extremely dramatic, but he didn't care. He moved through the lower level of the house with the very repressed and hazy memory in the forefront of his mind, finding her in the back study next to the sitting room.

It had been Robert's study, the one for business, but seeing as how no Baratheon's lived here anymore it was all Cersei's. She was seated behind the desk, papers scattered as she looked over them, a red pen in her hand. He wasn't sure at all what she was doing and what those papers actually were, but she certainly looked as though she could head any company she chose with how severe she looked while going over those papers.

She looked up at him with heated eyes, he could see the shock and surprise written clearly on her face before she shut all her emotions down and just looked at him blankly. The look drove him crazy and reminded him how cold she'd looked sitting in that bar in the old Keep, stirred things up inside of him. He was breathing heavy, his chest rising and falling rapidly as he looked at her, tears began pricking at the corners of his eyes.

She looked him over quietly, critical eyes looking from top to bottom. When she finally met his gaze once again, it was clear that she could read the slight mania in his eyes.

“You need to sit down before your panic attack sets in.” She stated calmly. When he didn't comply and continued to stand there staring at her and trying to breath, she sighed gently and set down her pen. “Sit down, Gendry.”

He stood for a moment longer in that stupid teenage rebellion that had yet to fully leave him, staring right back at her, before slowly sinking down into the chair in front of her desk, attempting to breath slower and deeper before an actual panic attack happened. He hadn't expected that. He truly hoped she didn't perceive him as any weaker than she already thought he was.

He could feel the presence of people behind him and looked over his shoulder to see Myrcella and Tommen standing in the doorway with wide eyes and confusion written all over them. Arya stood behind them, unsure of what to do.

“I need to talk with you.”

Cersei kept her gaze trained on him, her voice was devoid of the usual bite, almost like she was doing her best to be gentle with him. It made him want to punch out the window, but also made the tightness in his chest ease just a bit. “I figured, seeing as you just stormed my home.”

“Yeah, well, it wasn't always yours.”

The bite in his own tone seemed to spur Arya into action and she skillfully managed to corral his younger siblings away from the study door. “Oh-kay, why don't we go see if there's any milk in the fridge. Tommen, Gendry says you like to draw, think you could draw me something?”

The door closed softly behind them with a quiet snick and they were once again left alone. Gendry couldn't take his eyes off of the woman in front of him. The woman who had all but ruined his childhood. The woman who birthed an actual sociopath. The woman who hated him so much that she didn't even look at him half the time.

But, she was looking at him now. Critical and hard with an underlying layer of contemplation and intrigue.

She sat with her elbows on the desk in front of her, hands steepled in front of her lips as she looked at him and waited. “What is it you want, Gendry?”

“I want to talk to you.” He was still angry and that seemed to leak out in his voice.

“Well, then.” She gestured between them. “Talk.”

He felt the ire and blame and rage return. Her actions were coming off blasé to irritate him, but her carefully measured tone and the eye contact she kept spoke of two different conversations. He attempted to calm himself down before he spoke, she was managing to be civil and so would he. He could have this conversation with her, he could make her understand.

“We have a problem, with Joffrey.”

He could see her hackles rise, the way her shoulders set and her eyes hardened just so. But he could also see the way she took in the hefty bruise on his face as though for the first time, eyeing it with care as not to miss a stroke of it.

“I'm not saying this to get you defensive.” He spoke gently and calmly, trying to get through to her. “I understand that he's your son, and I'm not speaking ill against him because I just don't like him. I mean, I don't like him, but I'm coming to you because there's something actually wrong and it has to be addressed, Cersei, it just has to.”

The pleading in his tone seemed to keep her placated for the moment, but her tone was still sharp considering how she'd been holding herself back thus far. He hadn't expected any differently, he was practically talking shit about her son to her face.

“So... address it.”

Her voice was cool and her face controlled, but Gendry could see the fine cracks in her cold veneer. She already knew everything he was about to say, they both understood that, but for once in his life she was giving him the chance to say it out loud. So far, it was the only kind thing she'd ever done for him.

He tried to calm himself down and think about how to approach this, he didn't want to upset her any more than he already had and have her cut the conversation short. There were things that he needed aired, like Myrcella, like Robert, like the time he'd caught her and Jaime talking in the bar. But, of course, they had to get through Joffrey first; like always.

“He's... manipulative and mean. It's not just schoolyard bullying either, it's terrifying.”

He felt stupid saying the words out loud, he felt weak admitting that Joffrey was rather frightening when he wanted to be, but by the look on Cersei's face, it wasn't the first time she'd heard the words.

“There's something not right within him and I'm sure that's through no fault of your own. I know how much you love him, I do, I feel it. But, he's not worthy, Cersei. He takes advantage of everyone around him, he finds any weakness presented to him and ruthlessly cuts you down with it until there's nothing left. Even Myrcella is afraid of him, she told me herself yesterday.”

Although he could see the slight shock in her eyes at that admission, that didn't stop them from narrowing at him. “I'm sure she did.”

He paused, an apology is his gaze. Bashfulness was not something he had ever strived to achieve, but he could feel it radiating off of himself as he pressed on from her accusing gaze.

“I'm sorry for going against your wishes and seeing Myrcella behind your back.” He sighed, running a hand over his tired face, avoiding the prominent bruise under his eye and covering his cheekbone. “I don't want you to hate me, Cersei. I don't try to actively find ways to ruin your day. But, I really want to know your children. Myrcella is bright and lovely and Tommen is talented and kind. They're great kids and I really just want the chance to get to know them. When Myrcella asked, I should've said no, I know that, but I just couldn't. I don't want to stay away from them.”

“That's not your decision to make, Gendry.” Her voice was even and controlled, her gaze still slightly narrowed and focused solely on him. It was unnerving. “It's mine. I'm their mother, I decide what's best for my children. They already have an older brother, they don't need another one falling in and out of their lives.”

It was so obvious how devoted Cersei was to her children, she really truly did love them. Even Joffrey; or maybe especially Joffrey. Gendry wasn't looking to hurt her for that, but her words still stung. He'd always take what she said to heart, no matter how much her opinion shouldn't matter. The fact that she thought he'd be anything like Joffrey made him sick, and stung his very core.

“I wouldn't!” He protested, voice raising just slightly with emotion. “I would never come into their lives just to leave again. And I certainly wouldn't treat them the way that I'm sure Joffrey does.”

“Joffrey may be cruel and unyielding, but he would never hurt his family.” Cersei countered almost flippantly.

Gendry scoffed. “Would never hurt his family? I'm sorry, Cersei, but I don't believe that for a second.”

Her sharp tone cut him off, “I'm not asking you to believe it.”

“Do you even know why that fight started at all?” He asked her genuinely.

She sat across from him, unmoving, un-answering, and took that as the no it was and continued.

“The way... the way he grabbed at Myrcella when he saw her with me, the way he spoke to her, it just... it just set me off. Honestly,” He looked up from where he'd been wringing his hands in front of him. “It reminded me of the way Robert use to go off after he'd had a few too many. I don't remember a lot about Robert, I wasn't lying when I said that at dinner. But, what I do remember is sort of tarnished in shit.” He gave a mirthless chuckle. “That's pretty much the Baratheon legacy, isn't it?”

“Joffrey would never hurt Myrcella.” She persisted, but it didn't seem to have the same conviction it'd had before. “You said it yourself, you hardly remember Robert. Perhaps you don't recall as much as you thought you had.”

“Oh, no, I remember things pretty clearly.”

“Gendry, what you think you know and what you actually know are quite different. It wouldn't surprise me if the things you remember are fabricated from your mother's rants.”

He leaned forward in his chair, eyes finding her's sharply. “You don't think I remember?”

When she didn't say anything further, only lifted her perfectly arched brow in condescension, he pretty much lost it.

“I remember Robert and my mother arguing all the time. I remember the way he'd grip her arm or forcibly sit her down. I remember the way he gripped the back of my neck when I spoke out of turn or was particularly rowdy when he was hungover. I certainly remember the smell of alcohol and all the terrible things I'd heard him say.” He never waved, eyes pinned to hers as he continued, voice steadily rising and face flushing. “I remember when he left us, for you. And I remember being almost... happy about it. But then you and Joffrey were just so fucking mean. I remember my mother struggling with work and money, and I remember you and Jaime coming into the bar she worked at down in the old Keep, whispering about what would happen if both my parents died, where would I go? Who would have to take me?”

He hadn't realized that he was standing or yelling until he felt himself reach up to angrily wipe away some annoying tears that had begun to spring to his eyes. Cersei looked up at him with shock written plain across her face, obviously she had never known he'd been there for that particular conversation and it was truly spooking her now.

“Gendry – ”

“You spoke of the death of my family so casually, like I was already a burden to you!” He cut her off and that statement shut her up for the moment. “Jaime asked you if having Robert's son would be so bad and you said yes. You didn't even have to think about it! You'd already written me off and cast me aside. I was five years old, Cersei. What had I ever done to you?”

“Exist.” She stood, her voice rising to match his. She looked almost shellshocked and a bit angry, but there was an underlying layer of actual emotion that had this conversation taking a completely different turn. “You exist.”

“What?” He asked sharply, a hollow forming in his chest at the words, wiping angrily at his eyes, frustrated that he always managed to look weak in front of her.

Cersei leaned against the desk, knuckles gripping the edge tightly, head bowed, like this was tremendously painful for her to endure. Perhaps it was.

“You asked what you've ever done to me; the answer is simple. You exist. Your very existence pains me.”

He couldn't stop the wave of angry tears if he tried. He felt broken, like he might fall to the ground and sob until he ran out of breath. He wouldn't, not here, but he felt like he might. Her words cut him deep and he was realizing that maybe he never would've been ready for this particular conversation.

Cersei lifted her head and crossed her arms tightly over her chest as she looked at him. Her face was pinched and angry, but there were tears in her eyes.

“I had a boy. Before Joffrey.” Gendry could recognize that this was not something she'd ever really spoken about and let her go, only lifting his bruised knuckles to brush away the hot tears from his eyes. His heart pounded oddly in his ears at her words, confusion and anticipation moving in unison within him. “He died, right after he was born. He didn't have a name. He wasn't on this earth long enough to even consider it. But, I loved him.”

Her cold green eyes cut him then, snapping up to meet his watery blue ones. A few tears fell from her eyes and she gracefully pushed them aside. How she managed to get through this with her dignity still intact was beyond him.

“He was my only son with Baratheon features – dark hair, blue eyes. He looked a lot like you as a baby. That's why I can't look at you, Gendry. Why I don't want to. You remind me of the son that was cruelly taken from me. And I can't help but imagine that he'd have looked like you, and acted like you. It's painful. Do you understand now why I choose to keep you out of my life?”

Her voice had reached a level that could only be categorized as hysterical yelling, but Gendry just looked down at her with new fat tears in his eyes and pain in his chest. He sat gently back in his chair and looked down at his hands.

“I'm sorry.” He whispered, but he wasn't quite sure what he was sorry for. Her fallen child? The resemblance he bore to the dead son? For being alive? He didn't know. But he meant it all the same.

Cersei's voice was soft when she spoke next. Not necessarily the tone, but the level was low once again.

“I was asking Jaime about where you'd go in the event that both Robert and Lia passed because I wanted to make sure you'd come to me.”

Gendry's head snapped up at that, their eyes meeting. “But, you said that you didn't want me. I heard it.”

“I said that, Gendry, because I wanted to force myself to believe it. Because I didn't want my own brother to consider me pathetic for wishing that there could be an event in which you would become mine.”

Gendry was at a loss at her words.

Cersei wanted him and that's why she hated him.

She sat in her chair across from him, her hands smoothing some of the papers that had scattered about during their argument. She wasn't looking at him, but her face hadn't hardened back into marble yet, it was still open enough that he could see her. She looked... sad. Forlorn, even. Gendry had never seen her so vulnerable or real looking before, it made him want to embrace her the way he embraced his own mother.

“You look so much like him.” She was still shuffling her fallen papers and didn't look up at him, but clarified her statement quickly. “Robert.”

“So I've been told.” Was all he could manage to croak out.

“You have more than just his features. The few good qualities he possessed seemed to have been passed down as well.” Her voice was slowly regaining the composed nature it normally held, it wasn't quite all the way there yet, but she was steadily coming back from her brief episode of actual human emotion. “I can tell that you're kind, that you care. You'll always be weaker than he was, Gendry.” Her eyes met his briefly at that. “It's not necessarily a bad thing.”

“And yet, it is.”

He was being self-deprecating, but whatever, he'd earned it.

Her green eyes narrowed slightly at his self-derogatory remark, she folded her arms across her desk and leaned forward. She spoke with an instructional tone, as though she were teaching him something he should've already known. Perhaps it could've sounded condescending, but she somehow managed to make it not so.

“Gendry, the reason Joffrey is cold-hearted and cutthroat, is because I am cold-hearted and cutthroat. Your mother was not. She was warm and helpful, which is why you grew up to be warm and helpful. Do you understand.”

It was the only time he'd ever heard her actually acknowledge the fact that Joffrey was the absolute worst. She may not have agreed that he was an sociopath who did what he pleased without regard for anyone else, but it was the closest she'd ever come to admitting that he wasn't as bright and shiny as she supposedly let on. He was a little shellshocked by it, to be honest.

“Yes.”

“Good.” He could sense the finality in her tone, as she finished stacking her papers and folders and her red pens. The conversation was coming to a close and he wasn't quite sure that he'd accomplished anything, really. She seemed to be able to sense that and spoke again. “I understand that this must have been very difficult for you and I appreciate that. I want you to understand that I do. While we may disagree on many things, I will take into consideration everything you've told me today and speak with Joffrey about his behavior – especially towards his family.”

Gendry recognized it for what it was; it was a compromise. She wasn't about to flat-out agree with him that her prized child was a sociopath, but it was progress. He'd gotten her to listen, she'd taken in what he said without immediately pushing him away.

“Okay. That's... good.” He was unsure of himself now that he'd been drained of all his righteous anger, now that he was tired and splintered.

“I think it would be all right if you had some contact with Myrcella and Tommen.” His eyes were wide and confused as he met her's. “Myrcella spoke to me after the incident, she told me that she was the one who contacted you and that you had been nothing but kind to her. That you defended her. I appreciate that. So, in return I'd like to give you both what you're after.”

He nodded along with her, in a little bit of awe but mostly confused that this was happening at all. “Thank you. I know that this must be hard for you.”

Cersei waved her hand as if it were trifles and not something practically monumental. “I wish you all to be happy, regardless of what you might believe. If this makes my daughter happy than I will deal with what may come because of it.”

“I won't... overstep. I'll keep my distance, and if she wants to get coffee or needs a lift to her horseback lesson, I'm more than happy to be around. I'm sorry if my presence at dinner was uncomfortable for you and I'm sorry if it continues to be uncomfortable.”

“You don't make me uncomfortable, Gendry.”

He could read between the lines, he knew what he made her. Heart broken; torn; angry; the list could go on.

He stood, he conversation was over. He did what he'd came to do, he spoke with her about Joffrey, informed her about the probable blatant lies he'd been telling, hopefully correcting her assumptions about what happened. They'd aired out dirty laundry he hadn't even hoped to touch. He'd gotten Myrcella and Tommen. He'd gotten answers.

“Thank you.”

He looked her in the eyes deeply before allowing his gaze to drop back. He turned and opened the study door, closing it almost the entire way before it heard it. The small, “You're welcome, sweet boy.” muttered softly to herself. It was something his mother had use to say to him when he'd been small. He quietly brushed away the few tears that welled up in his eyes as he shut the door firmly behind him.

He made his way from the back study to the kitchen where he heard voices wafting from. He could identify all four of the voices clearly and when he turned around the corner to enter the kitchen, he stopped at the display.

Arya was leaning against the marble counter-island, speaking almost jokingly with Jaime, where Tommen sat doing homework with Myrcella. It looked like Arya was right at home in the house he'd once lived in, with the family that wasn't his but might've been.

Jaime was smiling down at her, his posture open and relaxed. Myrcella and Tommen were laughing, pulling Arya into their conversations with ease.

He longed for that. For the familiarity that Arya managed to create in one sitting. For the laughter and smiles and open posture from the family he should hate – and did hate, a bit.

But mostly, he wanted to be back in his small apartment, curled up in his bed, with Arya wrapped around him. He wanted her comfort and it was almost shocking how quickly she'd become his person for him. They hadn't known each other all that long, they hadn't been friends for any large quantity of time either. And yet, all he wanted was her. To seek comfort in her warmth, in her laugh, in her secondhand righteous indignation. She was slowly becoming the most important person in his universe and they'd barely shared a kiss.

He walked a bit further into the room, making his presence more known without actually identifying himself. He just didn't have it in him at the moment. Myrcella was the first to notice him and her eyes scanned him over with a worried a expression. He knew that he must look like utter shit, bruising, and puffy red eyes, and tear tracks. He looked pathetic.

Myrcella stood from her spot at the counter and came over to him quickly, wrapping her arms about his middle, jarring bruises he hadn't really been aware of previously. Or maybe they weren't bruises and his body was just exhausted by it all. He draped his arms over her thin shoulders, gently clutching her to him. She was small, fragile, breakable; he wanted nothing bad to ever happen to her.

“I'm sorry.” She muttered against the fabric of his t-shirt. “This was all my fault and I'm sorry.”

Gendry pulled her even tighter against him, aware that they now had an audience, but he couldn't find it in him to care. “It wasn't your fault. Not at all. I'm sorry that it happened at all.”

She pulled back from him, her long golden hair pulled back in a plait exposing her face. He could see the genuine remorse in her green eyes, lashes clinging with tears. Tommen gently approached them, coming to stand beside in his sister in front of Gendry.

“Will you be back to see us?”

It was an innocent question, but it was also one that managed to break his heart.

“Yeah.” He nodded. “I will be.”

Myrcella raised a brow at his admission, confused and elated all at once. “What?”

Gendry cleared his throat, a bit hoarse from crying and yelling. “Your mother said it would be all right if we saw each other a little more often.”

Myrcella jumped back into his arms, crushing him tight with a hug, and Tommen smiled up at him, clearly excited by the prospect of seeing Gendry sometime in the near future. He gently pulled out of the embrace with Myrcella and looked over to where Arya and Jaime stood watching. Arya had that expression on her face that made him want to curl up beside her and Jaime looked on with interest and approval.

He moved over to where they stood and held out a hand for Jaime to take. “Thank you, for not pressing charges.”

Jaime took his hand firmly and shook it with purpose, obviously trying to convey his sympathy and apology within that one movement. “I know who started the fight – regardless of who threw the first punch.” He looked at Gendry meaningfully, but pulled back with a look of sympathy as he looked him over. “Are you all right? They told me you had a concussion.”

Gendry nodded, itching to get out of the house, but knowing that this was important. Jaime could've really fucked him up, but he hadn't and Gendry appreciated that.

“Yeah, I'm okay.” He gestured to cheekbone that was mottled in heavy bruises. “It's not fractured.”

“Well, that's good.” Jaime clapped him on the shoulder and nodded before moving away to check on dinner.

“Hey.” Arya muttered quietly, grabbing his attention. “You okay?”

He took a deep breath through his nose and nodded sharply. Something about the way she looked up at him had him wanting to cry. “I need to leave.”

Arya grabbed his hand and entwined their fingers, pulling him out of the kitchen. “Bye guys! We'll see you later.”

Myrcella and Tommen smiled at him, both sadly and elated, and waved from their seats at the island counter. Jaime nodded from his place at the stove. Arya quickly pulled him out of the house and into the car, clearly sensing that he was done.

They didn't really speak on the drive back, the quite sound of the car on the highway both soothed him and made him itching to say everything. But, he closed his eyes and took a few deep breaths in through his nose. He didn't want to cry – even though he knew that was inevitable – at least he could wait until they were back in his bed.

His phone started to ring loudly in the quiet space of her car and he shuffled to get it out of his pocket. It was Tobho, he shouldn't be surprised. “Hello?”

Don't you, 'Hello?' me, boy. Where are you.”

Gendry sighed and ran his free hand over his face. “I'm in the car with Arya, driving back to my apartment.”

And where the hell are you driving back from?”

“You know where, Tobho.” Gendry could hear him sigh deeply at that. “Did you tell Mom?”

Haven't had the chance to. But you bet your ass I will if you don't. Don't do to worry her like this, you know.”

“How can she be worried if she doesn't even know what happen?” He asked incredulously.

Don't get smart with me, boy. You're lucky I don't drive up there and present you to your mother myself.”

Gendry sighed, “Okay, I get it. Just... I just need a minute. I need some time to myself.”

Call me later.” Was all he said before Tobho hung up and the dial tone reached his ears.

Arya didn't ask and for that he was grateful. He'd tell her everything later, right now he just wanted to sleep. It sounded depressive and maybe it was, but that was fine.

They pulled into his apartment complex and made it into his apartment. He stalked straight into his room, pulling off his shoes and hoodie before crawling into bed. He was tired, even after sleeping in the hospital, he was bone tired.

Arya lingered in the doorway, seeming to wait for a sign from him. He made to give her one but she was gone quickly, the sounds of his kitchen being rummaged through eased him a bit. She came back with some water bottles and the little white bag of prescription meds that he'd forgotten about. She made him take the recommended dosage before sliding in next to him without having to be asked, he wasn't even sure if he'd have it in him to ask her. He was just so exhausted.

She curled around him in the way that he craved, it didn't matter that he was bigger than her, he was more than sure Arya could become an octopus if she so chose. It was cool in his room, and dark. The sheets felt nice on his aching skin, the way she was running her fingers over his back made his headache throb a little less.

“Are you okay?” She whispered.

He took a moment to answer, content with feeling her nimble fingers move gently over his skin. “Yeah.” He breathed out. “I think so.”

They were quiet for a long while, long enough that given normal circumstances Gendry most definitely would've fallen asleep in her arms. But, he couldn't help the need to speak again.

“I'm sorry, Arya.”

“For what?” Her voice was a little gruff, on the edge of a doze.

“I didn't mean to drag you down into my bullshit. We're friends, we just officially started whatever this is between us, and here you are taking care of me while I'm stuck being a pitiful fuck.”

He knew he sounded self-deprecating as all hell, but he truly did feel bad for making her suffer through all of his emotional bullshit. She didn't deserve to be stuck in his melodrama – gods be good, she'd had enough of her own.

She gave a small shrug, eyes still closed, voice still groggy. “You win some you loose some, Waters. I saw you angry drunk, then cuddly drunk, I've been around the block when you're normal, and now you're hitting a rough patch and it's fine.” She ran her fingers through his hair. “This is literally the least drama of dramatic things I've bore witness to or endured. That's not to say what you're going through isn't valid, all I'm saying is that you don't need to be sorry for dragging me into your mess. Your mess is my mess. And strap in, because my mess will sure as hell be your mess, and that shit ain't pretty.”

He smiled against her collarbone and draped his arm a little tighter around her waist. “Thank you, Arya.”

“You're welcome, Gendry. Now shut up and go to sleep.”

 

Chapter Text

The text chime of his cell phone is what woke him up, pulled him from the sated and much needed sleep he had just been joyfully apart of. His face was turned into the pillow, he was laying on his side facing his bedside table, Arya wrapped around him from behind. Her face was pushed into the back of his neck, her soft little breathes puffing against his neck as she slept.

He liked the feeling of her arms wound around him, just as he liked his arms wrapped around her. There was something soothing about being held, he was man enough to admit it. He laid in her embrace, feeling both drowsy and cozy, eyes slipping shut, until his text chime sounded again.

Arya made a noise of annoyance in her sleep at the interrupting sound. This wasn't the first time they'd slept beside each other, they'd had many a sleepover in their short friendship, but this was definitely the first time that they'd slept so close and weren't ashamed of it. He reveled in that, in the feel of her warmth on his back, her heart beating steadily like her breathing.

He reached over for his phone, careful not to jostle her too much as not to wake her, and swiped to unlock his cell. The screen was too bright in his dark room, his eyes squinting to take in the message on his screen.

I'm in love with your girlfriend.

Gendry's brows furrowed in confusion, squinting past the bright light of his screen to see who the message was from when another one came in and caught his attention.

Platonically, of course. Bring her around more! Tommen and I want to see more of her and you!

He couldn't help but smile at the message from Myrcella. Apparently Arya had hit it off with them better than he'd originally expected. It warmed him that the people in his life were fond of her, though he didn't want to think of the expectations that it brought up.

Arya stirred behind him, her arms tightening around him for a moment before she released him to lay on her back and stretch. He quickly shot a text back to Myrcella – Glad you enjoyed her company, I'll be sure to bring her by sometime – and then turned over to face the sleepy-eyed Stark in his bed.

“Hey.” He mumbled, voice all rough from sleep.

She smiled and rolled over so that they were both facing each other. “Hey, yourself.”

They both just gazed at each other with tired eyes for a few moments, before Arya chuckled and reached up to pat down his wild hair. “That is the most serious bedhead I've ever seen.”

“You should talk.”

Her sloppy bun was falling all over the place, sitting lopsided on her head, pieces sticking out and falling from the back. Arya just raised a brow and give him the finger, which made him chuckle. “Fuck off.”

He laid there smiling at her for a minute. It was still pretty dark in his room, light peaking out from beneath the shades covering the windows and it gave off an easy sort of vibe. He couldn't help but look over her features, think about how emotionally drained he'd been last night, and the things that had transpired just before.

“We're dating.” Escaped his mouth before his brain could catch up.

Arya smiled bright and chuckled as she nodded. “Yes we are.”

“You're my girlfriend.”

“Yes, I am.”

“I'm not going to lie,” He reached out to tuck some hair out of her face and behind her ear. “A part of me seriously believed I made that bit up. You know, concussion and all.”

Arya's eyes were soft, searching his gently before leaning in the short distance between them and kissing him. Her lips were lightly pressed against his, it was chaste, sweet, and warmed his chest.

She pulled back and smiled at him, placing her hand on his neck and running her thumb over his jaw. “Shut up.” She whispered with a smile.

He smiled back and closed his eyes. It was nice here – cocooned in his bed with her hands on him and her eyes all soft and warm. He could stay in this moment for eternity and never want to leave.

Eventually, Arya removed her hand and sat up, causing his eyes to open. She stood from the bed and walked towards his bathroom, “Hold up, I've gotta pee so bad I think I might die.”

He snorted and laid flat on his back, rubbing hands over his tired eyes, careful of the gnarly bruise still wrapped over his skin. He needed to email his professors and get all the homework he'd managed to miss the past few days, and as soon as he didn't feel like death he had to go back and make up for all the lost time on his portraits project in Shae's class – thankfully his trip to the hospital would get him out of the trouble he'd most likely be in. He sighed, mind moving a mile a minute trying to remember all he had to do and who he needed to contact at the school, that he didn't even realize Arya was back until she jumped on the bed.

She laid back in her spot, cozying into the blankets and smiling at him. “So... you're my boyfriend.”

“Yes, I am.” He laughed lightly. “We've established this.”

She had that wolfish glint her her eye, the kind that spoke of embarrassing questions and answers, the one that would make him both laugh and blush. He was a little unprepared for that this early in the whatever time it actually was.

“So, that means that we're best friends but I get to kiss you whenever I want.”

There was a small smirk in his smile as he nodded at her, “Yes, that is true.”

Arya leaned forward to kiss him, a soft slide of lips that had him aching for more. He brought his hand up to entwine in her hair and she nipped so softly at his lip that a small pitch of air escaped him. She pulled back, that glint still in her eye, in her smile.

“And that means I can ask you anything and you'll tell me, right? No matter how embarrassing or ridiculous?” She asked a little innocently and it clashed terribly with that mischievous spark in her metal eyes.

He chuckled, maybe a bit nervously. “Yup.”

That flicker in her gaze grew brighter and he swallowed a bit heavily at the sight, unsure of what was to come next. He was a little aroused by the thought, a little nervous, but overall he wanted to laugh. This was his life now; lying in a bed with Arya Stark and her impish looks and her wicked ways. He would like nothing more than for it to last forever.

“So, I can touch you whenever I want?” She bit her lip coyly, that dangerous glint still in her eye. “Or, wherever I want?”

He felt her fingers begin to gently crawl up his chest, over his t-shirt. He wondered if she could feel how intensely his heart was beating beneath it.

“Because I have to say, Gendry, I've been awfully curious about some things.” She continued with a wicked smirk.

“Is that so?” He asked, a smirk of his own emerging.

“Hmm.” She smiled and nodded, “Tell me... was I your first kiss?”

His face dropped in a mock-glare and he pinched her side, causing her to let out a laugh and it was hard for him to keep the straight face he was attempting to put on. “That's just low.”

Arya laughed and kissed him quickly and repeatedly as she apologized. “I'm sorry, I'm sorry.” She smiled into the kisses, causing him to smile too. “But, was I?"

He grappled her onto her back, both of them laughing the whole time. He kissed up her neck gently, causing those laughs to become breathy little mewls. He reached her ear and breathed, “Yes.” So quietly that she almost missed it. Arya quickly wrapped her legs around him tight and flipped them in an impressive move that left him stunned and her straddling his waist.

And then she was leaning back down to kiss him once again.

It was soft and warm; just like her. But, it quickly manifested into something a more intense without many real push. His large hands came up to cup her back and waist, the hand that had been lazily trailing up and down his chest was now firmly planted on his jaw. The intensity of the kiss lasted for a while more, fading in and out as they learned each other's mouths and lips, the things that made breaths hitch and quiet little exhales.

Arya on top of him was one of those things he'd often fantasized about but totally never thought would be a reality. The truth was nothing compared to the feel of her fleshy thighs all sleep warm and smooth bracketing his hips, her breasts pushed into his chest, and her hands framing his face. He kissed her open and hard, licking into her mouth, biting her lip, his hands possessively covering her back and hips. Arya bit back a moan as she moved above him.

Gendry flipped her quickly once again, just needing to feel her spread out below him. Her legs wrapping instinctually around his hips, the kiss never broken. Her hands slide up his shirt, gripping at his back, and he couldn't help but grind into her.

The kiss broke with a loud moan from Arya, and Gendry took that as an opportunity to kiss down her jaw and neck, their hips moving gently against each other in a desperate sort of way that spoke of just how much they were enjoying this. He was painfully hard and aching, straining in the confines of his sleep pants and pressing into the heat of her body from where he was nestled against her. He bit at her collarbone and she cried out again, her hands gripped tight in his messy hair.

“You're...” Arya spoke around a gasp. “You're mine now.”

Gendry groaned into her mouth, reclaiming those tempting lips once again, nodding vigorously. “Yes.”

“I've wanted to get you like this for a long time.” She moaned. “I've wanted to fuck you since I saw you looking stupidly hot stacking books in the library. No one should be allowed to look that hot in a library. It's offensive.”

“Arya.” Gendry rumbled, catching her attention. “Stop talking.”

Sure, there were things they probably needed to talk about, things she wanted to ask and things he just wanted to say, but they both knew with the energy surrounding them that now was not the time. He kissed her again, bit at her lips and licked into her mouth. She responded to every nudge and push, giving back exactly what she got.

Her legs were wound tightly around his waist, her hips bucking up into his. The bed was warm, the light was barely there and soft from where it was peeking in around the curtains on his window. The mood felt right and charged and his chest felt like it was going to explode with the weight of it.

Gendry thrust down into her hips, her back arching and head thrown back as her breathing hitched rapidly. He was hard and heavy in his pants, pressing insistently into her heat; it was maddening and addicting. No wonder everyone went around chasing this high.

Her hips began bucking up to meet his, swirling little circles that left sparks going off behind his eyes. Her rapid breathing interrupted by moans. Her hands gripping tightly at his wide shoulders. He breathed heavily into the space between her breasts as he thrust his hips down sharply, pulling a gasp from her open mouth. They weren't even kissing anymore, just rutting against each other and gripping tight onto warm skin.

He couldn't take it anymore, it was simultaneously too much and not nearly enough. He felt the tightening in his stomach, his balls heavy and throbbing drawing up; he was about to fucking come in his pants like a preteen. And yet, he honestly couldn't even bring himself to care when Arya was muttering his name in her breathless tone, a moan immediately following it.

He thrusted his way through his orgasm, which had hit him so hard and suddenly that he couldn't breath for a moment, his body taught and shoulders shaking with the effort of keeping himself from collapsing on top of her as ropes of hot come stained his shorts.

Arya's breathing was heavy enough to cause her chest to heave, her nipples tight and pronounced beneath the fabric of his t-shirt. He couldn't stop himself from taking one into his hot mouth, licking over light cotton of the borrowed shirt. She gave a yelp and her legs tightened around his waist, her hips pushing up to meet his, pushing harshly against his sensitive dick and dragging out a groan from him. Arya collapsed back onto the bed completely and pulled him down atop her.

His head ended up buried in her neck, his hips still slotted between her legs. “Holy shit.” She breathed out, hand threaded into his wrecked hair.

He made a noise in agreement, totally not yet functional from his seriously rocking orgasm. Like, how did one even go back to touching themselves after they got off with another person? Where was the fun in that? The intensity?

Arya's fingers wrapped and pulled through his slightly overgrown locks, lulling him into a sedate state of pleasure and comfort. He could stay wrapped up in her soft body forever, honestly.

“I've never gotten off with anyone before.” Her breath still returning to her and it made her sound a little winded when she spoke. “Usually it's just me and my vibrator, thinking about what your perfect hands would feel like all over my body.”

Gendry groaned into her neck as his dick gave a valiant effort to get it up again so quickly. He had no doubt that he could be ready again not far from now, but it was near impossible at the moment. It didn't stop his dick from trying, though.

Arya.” Gendry all but whined, gently nipping at the skin of her neck. “You can't just say things like that.”

She looked like she was stuck in a deja vu moment, but the grip on his hair and her sinful little smirk pulled him out of wondering what she'd been thinking about. “I'm pretty sure I can now say all the sexy things I want. You just came in your pants grinding on me. I have rights now.”

Gendry snorted and held her tighter to him. “Shut up.”

They laid like that for a while, all quite and warm. He needed to get up and shower, change at the very least, seeing as how the come was drying in his boxers. But, Arya was so very soft and warm and comfortable.

Eventually, the sticky feeling of drying come in his underwear made him move off her. He rolled onto his back and sighed, rubbing his eyes. “I need to shower.”

“Oh?” Arya smirked playfully. “You don't love the feeling of coming in your pants?”

He snorted, “Certainly not the after effect.”

She moved in closer to him, lying on her stomach and leaning on his chest. She smiled at him with a bit of that predatory glint still in her eye. “Mind if I join you?”

He could feel the heat of a blush on his skin. Of fucking course he didn't mind. He'd only been fantasizing about getting Arya naked and wet since junior year.

“You want to shower with me?”

He wasn't even sure why he was asking that. Or why he was even opening his mouth at this point. Just nod, Gendry. Just gesture and get up and make this happen for yourself, you insolent slouch.

Arya leaned down kissed him all filthy and deep, biting his lower lip and releasing him with a smirk. “Gen, I've literally been thinking about you naked for the better part of two years. Yes, I want to shower with you and I want to touch you everywhere, right now.”

He basically sprang into action. He was a virgin in his early twenties with the girl of his dreams practically demanding to get him off. His brain went into overdrive. He could not compute.

Arya just smirked in all of her confidence and comfort, removed herself from him and the bed, and stood. She made sure he was watching her – as if he'd be doing anything else, and pulled the shirt from her body. He was getting hard again, he and his dick were one and on the very same page. She stood with her torso bare for just a second, letting him drink in the sight of her amazing breasts and soft skin, before shucking her shorts and stepping out of them and her underwear.

She was miles of smooth pale skin and smirky-smiles; he was would never make it.

She turned and walked into his bathroom, leaving him lying on the bed as if he'd just been petrified and staring after her bouncy ass. He was up like a shot as he heard the water turn on, pulling his shirt overhead and stepping out of his horrific stained bottoms. She was under the spray, skin all wet and glistening; his cock was full and heavy where it was curving up towards his stomach, back in record time.

He slid into the shower behind her, moulding his body to her's, lips finding her neck under the hot spray and nipping there. She let herself lean back into him, head resting on his chest as his arms slipped around her waist, holding her to him. They stood like that for a few moments, quiet except for the sound of running water, eyes closed, wrapped up in one another.

“I thought it'd be weirder.” Her voice sounded loud in the quiet space, even though she'd spoken at basically a whisper. Her fingers moving soothingly over the forearms wrapped around her waist. “Going from, 'Hey you're my best friend' to 'Naked shower time'.”

His head was resting on her's and when he nodded, she could feel it. “I know what you mean.”

“But it's not weird. Like, at all.” She moved her head to look over her shoulder at him. “Is that weird?”

“Well, we're weird, so maybe it's normal?”

She smiled at his stupid, but genuine answer, shaking her head and turning in the embrace. Her arms wrapped around his neck, warm from the water and dripping down his back. He hissed at the sudden contact of her stomach pressing into his swollen cock.

“I think I remember putting in a request to touch you.”

“I may remember something like that, but I should go check the requests box, just to be safe.”

Arya laughed softly and shook her head, “You're so stupid.” She leaned in to kiss him, pressing herself even closer to him, like she'd climb inside of him if she could.

He backed her gently into the shower wall, the warm water beating against his back, her mouth hot and hungry against his. His hands wandered from where they had been at her sides up to her breasts, wonderful and heavy in his hands, indescribably soft and smooth. He cupped them, thumbs coming up to press into her nipples. She let out a moan around their kiss and he unconsciously thrust into her stomach.

She quickly maneuvered them so that his back was against the wall. He knew that if he was paying attention and really truly wanted to, he'd be able to stop her from manhandling him by sheer strength. But, he didn't want to stop her, and since his brain was currently offline, he was in no position to try and fend off her quick moves and scary show of strength.

Arya leaned over and grabbed a washcloth from the little cradle beneath the shower-head, wetting it and smoothing it over his lower stomach and scrubbing lightly at his happy trail. He should feel at least a little embarrassed that Arya was cleaning the dried come off his body, but then her hand wrapped around his cock and he saw stars. His head hit the tiles, his neck and body arched, a low moan escaped between his parted lips.

Fu-ck.”

She'd ditched the washcloth and it was just her hot hand on his overheated skin, gently and slowly moving it up and down his hard length. He could barely breath, the pleasure so consuming. In an abstract way, he'd always known it'd feel incredible to have another's hand on him, but this was near indescribable. Maybe he was just too turned on to really form the words, but he didn't care.

“I like watching you like this.” Arya murmured, only slightly drowned out by the water loudly hitting tiles and his own labored breathing.

“Don't you think it's a little early to be discussing kinks?” He tried for a joke and quickly failed as her hand began stroking faster and curled tightly around the head. “Fuck, Arya.

“Hi, I have my hand wrapped around your cock, I don't think it's too early for anything now.” He felt a spark of arousal shoot through him at her words and the movement of her hand. “But, for the record, I've been thinking about you like this for a long time.”

He brought up a hand to his eyes, head titled as far as it could go, his back slightly arching from the wall as she quickened her pace and began using her other hand as well. He bit his lip to hold back a moan, breathing harshly through his nose.

“Fuck.” He groaned, pounding his free fist into the wall beside him before going back to biting his lip.

“No, don't do that.” Arya brought one hand up from his cock to place on his lips and he almost whined at the loss of sensation. “I want to hear you.”

He groaned again, hand still covering his eyes. “It's too much... I-I can't.”

“What's too much?” She whispered, placing kisses on his chest and collarbones, nipping and sucking marks onto his skin.

“This.” He hissed out around a tight moan. “I'm gonna come.”

“So, come.”

He breathed in quickly through his nose and held his breath as her hands increased their rhythm and pressure, squeezing tighter as she quickly moved her hands. He let out a heavy breath as he came across her hands and stomach. He slumped against the shower all as his heart rate slowed and his breathing regulated.

He removed the hand from his eyes and looked down at her standing in front of him, come spattered across her pale skin, her lips red from biting and her eyes dark. She looked ready to pounce.

She practically jumped as she leaned in to kiss him, her arms going around those wide shoulders and her hips thrusting against his sensitive cock. He gasped and flipped them under the spray, kissing down her neck and to her breasts, bending to lick at her nipples and nip at the delicate skin there. She sucked in air and moaned as she grabbed his wrist and pushed his hand to her center.

He kept teasing her breasts as his shaky fingers curiously traced the soft flesh of her mound, the lips opening easily for him as his fingers dipped inside of her heat. She was soaked, wetter than he'd imagined, and his fingers slipped in easily. She moaned as he traced the inside with a finger, going up to find her clit. He knew immediately once he'd found it, her body jerked and stiffened, like she'd been electrocuted and her breathing became quicker.

He thumbed at her clit, panting into her neck, as his fingers of his other hand pushed into her. She was slick and hotter than anything he'd ever felt without being burned, but he felt like he was burning, like he was being consumed by fire. He pushed one in, slowly at first, but her hips were moving and he could tell she was use to more, so he put in two more. His thumb was still toying with her clit and his fingers were moving in and out now, quickly, frantically, as her breathing hitched and she sounded high-pitched.

Her hips were pushing down to meet his fingers, twisting and bucking, she was close. He doubled his efforts, feeling the curl of arousal in his own stomach from the sight of her bare and open before him. He curled his fingers and pushed his thumb harder against the sensitive bud and she shook, going silent before letting out a high moan. She slumped against him as he gently continued to move his hands, wringing out as much of her orgasm as he could before removing them from her.

She was still breathing heavy, shaking her head as she pushed him to stand under the water, running her trembling fingers through her hair. “Wow.”

“Yeah?” He asked.

“Yeah.” She nodded. “Wow.”

He smiled stupidly to himself as they washed their hair.

They managed to pull themselves from beneath the spray and exit the shower, billows of steam and muggy air met them. Arya had a towel wrapped around her luscious frame and for went clothes for the moment, dropping down on the bed and curling up to evade the slight chill from the air. He was about to join her when he phone rang, Arya groaned, eyes already closed once again, and he snorted as he picked it up from where it lay on the bedside table.

Flashing on the screen was a picture of Shireen play-scowling and the name she'd inputted herself. “Princess Shireen of Dragonstone, what can I do for you.”

His cousin's voice was bright and excited, “Gendry! Why am I always the last to know everything, I thought we were tight? I just got a call from Myrcella saying you've finally gotten yourself a real life girlfriend?

He could hear the multiple question marks in her voice, Shireen was easily excitable. “Uh, yeah. I do.” Gendry brought his free hand up to lace in the back of his hair. “Why is Myrcella going around blabbing?”

It's not blabbing, Gendry.” He could see the eye roll in her voice. “She's keeping us lesser folks informed. You have to fill me in on all of this crazy, you're allowed to talk to the actual Baratheon children now? Shocked.

He snorted and shook his head. He loved Shireen, she was more his sister than cousin, but more of a friend above all else. He hadn't caught up with her in a while and he felt a tad guilty for that. He'd make it up to her.

“I'll fill you in, don't worry. But, yes. We're dating, it's not that exciting, no need to alert the media.”

Arya gave the finger from where she was still curled with her eyes closed. “Fuck you. I'm very exciting news.”

I expect a hang out soon with the both of you. I can't wait to meet her!

“Bye, Shireen.”

Bye, Gen.” She chuckled as she hung up.

Gendry placed his phone down and laid beside her. Arya immediately moved so that she was curled into him and also half on top of him. Her towel began to slip from the movement, exposing miles of soft naked skin. He couldn't stop himself from running his hands over her hip and thigh, up her ribs and to her breast. She gave a small intake of breath once he reached the soft mound, thumb finding her nipple easily. He leaned down an found her lips, unable to stop touching and kissing her. She was bare and willing beside him, how was he not suppose to take advantage?

He'd just rolled her over on to her back, licking into her mouth and nipping at her lower lip, ripping soft little whimpers from her chest, when his phone rang loudly in the quiet room. He sighed, head falling into her neck and Arya made a displeased little sound that made him smile. He moved to grab it and saw it was Renly calling.

“Hello.”

You little shit.

“Nice to hear from you too, uncle.” He tried to ignore the erection that throbbed gently between his legs.

Shireen just texted me. You and little Stark have finally decided sexual tension was so passe? Thank god.

Gendry rolled his eyes. “Does everyone in this family feel the need to inform everyone else about everything?”

Welcome, darling.

Gendry snorted and shook his head at Renly's sass. “Yes, Arya and I are now dating. Sorry I didn't call you the literal moment it happened.”

I accept your apology.” Renly smirked.

“I'm hanging up now.”

Be sure to invite us to dinner once in a while. Don't hermit yourself away just because you're in the honeymoon phase and want to have sex all the time. Trust me, I vividly recall what that was like.

“Lalalalala.” Gendry sang loudly. “I didn't need to hear that ever, thanks.”

Bye, Gen.” Renly laughed.

“Bye.” He threw the phone and collapsed on the bed beside Arya, an arm thrown over his face. “Our families are never going to leave us alone, are they?”

“Probably not.” Arya answered.

The front door slamming open and the loud voices yelling spoke of exactly how very not alone they now were and would most likely always be. Gendry heaved a great sigh before pushing himself from the bed and pulling on pajama pants and going out to greet the guys.

Arya rubbed her eyes and made herself get up from the bed as well, rummaging through Gendry's shit to find a soft shirt she liked and some basketball shorts to pull on. She could already hear Lommy asking questions and she could hear Gendry answer them. She quickly made her way out of the bedroom and into the main room where they all stood.

Lommy looked both worried and skeptical about the things Gendry was saying, things like – I'm fine, don't worry, it was okay. If she were in Lommy's position, she probably wouldn't believe a word coming from Gendry's liar mouth either, so she didn't really blame the skepticism that was radiating from the blonde.

Pod was seated at the bar counter and Hot Pie stood beside him, leaning against it. They both looked on with loose worry and furrowed brows, but neither looked as contrite as Lommy who had his arms crossed over his chest. When Arya came into the room, his green eyes shot to her and narrowed.

“I thought you said you were going to stop him.”

So, Gendry told them he'd went through with it, then. Arya crossed her arms as well, but kept her face open and definitively not defensive. Now wasn't the time to get into a fight, she'd had enough of that for the day. She locked eyes with Gendry, who looked both nervous and guilt-ridden.

“Well, that was the plan before he convinced me otherwise. But, it really was fine, Lommy. Everything worked out alright.”

“Oh, well I'm so glad that everything worked out alright.” Lommy bit out angrily. “But what if it hadn't, Arya? I asked you to help us, not enable him!”

Gendry looked down all guilty, shying away from Lommy's harsh tone and glassy eyes. Pod and Hot Pie stared at Lommy's back, worried and relieved all at the same time. Arya knew why Lommy was upset, knew that he cared, she suddenly felt like total shit for not calling him last night and letting him know that all went okay, not letting him in on the plan. Because, it might not have worked and maybe Arya wouldn't have been enough to pick up the pieces. She'd let her feeling for him cloud her judgement as a friend, Brienne would've skinned her alive if this was a situation between them.

“I'm sorry, Lommy. I really am. I should've called you last night and that was my bad. But, you have to understand that it ended up being for the best. I just had to trust Gendry's gut on this one. But, I promise to always defer to your wealth of knowledge in the future.” She came up and wrapped herself around the blond boy who cared too much and squeezed him tight. “I have some exciting news though.”

“Oh, and what's that.” The sarcastic tone was still biting, but his arms had come around her shoulders to hold her to him.

“Gendry and I are together.” She staged whispered in his ear.

There was a moment of silence before he literally screeched. “You shut your whore mouth!” He pushed Arya back to look at her, eyes all wide and mouth morphing into an excited smile. “Gendry, tell me this is true or I'll punch you.”

Gendry rolled his eyes and crossed his arms. “It's true.”

Lommy began to jump up and down, gushing. “Oh, fuck yes, finally!” He moved over to Gendry and smacked his arm hard.

“Ow, fuck!” Gendry cried, rubbing his reddened skin. “That hurt!”

“If you ever do something stupid like that again without telling us, I'll do a lot worse.”

Arya's phone started ringing from the other room and she left Lommy and Gendry staring at each other, Pod jumping in between them with a placating smile. She grabbed it from the bedside table, Sansa flashing on the screen.

“Hello?”

“Um, why did my best friend just call me complaining that she “didn't even know that Little Arya was dating yet”? What is Margaery talking about?”

Arya sighed, “Fucking Loras.”

“Arya.” Sansa said sharply. “Why do Loras and Margaery think that you're dating?”

“Because...” She groaned, rubbing a hand over her eyes. “I'm sort of dating Gendry now.”

“Excuse me, what?

“I'm sort of dating – ”

“Oh, no, I heard what you said. Since when? And how are you sort of dating him.”

Her sister had that intense sound to her voice, the pitchy bitchy one that use to be how she always sounded in her youth. Arya knew what that voice meant. Sansa was hurt that she wasn't told first, and she was mad because she was hurt.

Arya sighed, “It literally just happened, Sansa. Like, literally just happened.”

“So... you two are officially official?”

“Yeah, I guess so. It happened last night, a lot of things happened last night that I need to fill you in on, but right now the guys are here and Lommy's sort of pissed at Gendry and I'll be home later and tell you every last horrifying detail, okay?”

“Don't think I'm letting you live this down.”

Arya rolled her eyes as her sister hung up, already exhausted by the conversation she'd be having with Sansa when she got home later. Her family was dramatic by nature, this situation was no different. Everyone probably knew she was Gendry's girlfriend by now, she was waiting for the text from Jon and Ygritte actually.

She moved back out into the living room where Lommy was seated in his armchair, white russian in hand, and the guys were splayed over the rest of the furniture. Gendry patted the spot beside him on the couch as Pod scrolled through Netflix. She burrowed into his side without hesitation, now was so not the time to feel weird or uncomfortable in front of their friends. Everything needed to remain normal and fine, she wasn't in the business of screwing up the dynamic of friendships because she was now screwing one of the friends.

“Princess Bride?”

Gendry nodded, “Princess Bride.”

It was fitting, and not just for calming Lommy down. It had become sort of their thing, not just Lommy's. Arya smiled and sprawled out over the couch and the people on it like she always did – head on Gendry's thigh and legs thrown over Hot Pie's lap.

“Arya.” Lommy shouted over the opening of the movie. “How swoony is Pre-Pirate Westley?”

“The swooniest.” She replied without hesitation, Gendry playing with her hair.

 


 

The barbecue was stupid.

It was a stupid idea and Arya was annoyed at her family for being so pushy and aggressive in their loveliness.

Arya had left Gendry's after the movie and a long makeout that had the guys gagging and wooing, immediately going over to Brienne's to scream before heading home to Sansa where she would have to give detailed descriptions of every minute. Brienne had been chill about it, because she was Brienne, which Arya really appreciated.

Sansa, on the other hand, had not been chill. Like, at all.

Hence, the barbecue.

She'd cornered Arya as soon as she'd gotten back from Brienne's dorm and dragged her into the bedroom, forcing her to spill the whole story. They stayed up in her bed, Sandor groaning from the other room about being forced to sleep on the couch while they chatted all night. She told Sansa about Gendry's fight in the coffee shop, the concussion, and the talk with Cersei that followed. She told her sister everything else that followed, too. What happened that morning and what it was like. Sansa screamed a lot, Sandor grunted and turned up the tv volume.

It had been almost a week since she'd spent any real time with Gendry, who had returned to school and the library a couple days ago after he drove back out to the Stormlands to talk to his mom. Arya was almost positive the only reason he went at all was because Tobho was refusing to let him back to work until he did. She got a Facebook message that night from Lia thanking her for being around for her son and a congratulations on their new relationship status. She also was apparently delighted to attend the family barbecue this coming weekend.

That's how Arya found out about the barbecue – from Gendry's mom. Apparently Sansa thought it was the best way to get to know everyone and the least weird way to do it. Sansa was the worst.

So, currently, Arya was helping Benjen and Sandor prep the food for the grill while Sansa ran around making sure everything was clean and not messy and that Bran and Rickon at least smelled nice. Jeynie was setting up bowls of chips and Theon was sorting through the liquor with Brienne. Jojen and Meera were placing napkins and plates at the table Margaery was seated at while glaring at her phone as she texted furiously.

The front door opened and the loud woos that followed meant it was Ygritte and Jon. They appeared in the kitchen carrying more alcohol. “Hey, kids!” Ygritte smiled, kissing everyone's cheek with her hands full of beer.

“Hey, guys.” Jon followed her outside to the backyard with his load.

“Do we really need this much booze for a family gathering?”

Both Sandor and Benjen turned to look at her with blank faces and brows raised. Arya rolled her eyes.

“I'll need as much as I can if I have to suffer through this shit.” Sandor grumbled as he continued to cut up ribs.

Arya punched his shoulder, “Fuck off.”

This wasn't going to be that bad...was it?

Brienne sauntered back into the kitchen, leaning against the counter and snagging bits of cheese as the they prepared the meats. “When's Gen getting here?”

Arya looked up at the clock on the stove, “He said he was picking up his mom at like four, so.” She slapped Brienne's hand away from their prep food. “What time did Pod say he was coming?”

Brienne shrugged, being very casual and non-Brienne like in her leisure. “Soon.”

Arya narrowed her gaze. “Soon is not an answer, Brienne.”

“Chill out, cub scout.” Brienne smirked and slinked back outside.

“Stop trying to sound cool!” Arya yelled after her.

The doorbell rang out and Rickon bounded after it, mostly as an excuse to escape Sansa and the gel in her hands. “Rickon! You look ridiculous, take care of yourself!”

“Yeah, Rickon, you look like a disgusting pig-person!” Ygritte over-dramatically yelled as she walked back into the kitchen, handing both Benjen and Sandor a beer, pulling chuckles and sniggers out of everyone.

Rickon came back in with narrowed eyes and the boys, minus Gendry, trailing behind him. “That's really very funny and mature, guys.”

Ygritte leaned against the counter, sipping at the beer in her hands. “Where's your girlfriend, Rick? Does she know how gross you are?”

“She sure does.” He smirked back, waggling his eyebrows.

“Rickon!” Sansa screeched as Ygritte leaned forward to high-five him. “Aw yeah.”

Lommy dropped his arm on Rickon's shoulders, laughing. “You're terrible. I like you.”

“At least one person does.” Arya muttered, causing the finger from Rickon as he went out back. “Hey guys.”

Hot Pie had already moved over towards the food prep, setting down the dishes he'd pre-made and struck up a convo about the various meats with Sandor and Benjen. Arya moved away from the counter, knowing she'd only be a nuisance at this point, and brought the other two outside. Pod, instantly found Brienne and Lommy dropped down beside Bran, Jojen and Meera.

She moved instead over to where her older brothers were setting up the drinks, Jeynie and Ygritte in an actual conversation about how underrated 98 Degrees had been as a band. Arya poured herself a soda and leaned against Robb's arm as she sipped from the solo cup.

“What's up, Nym?”

She just groaned and drank more soda before sitting up and narrowing her eyes at both her brother's in a fierce glare. “Don't be weird tonight.”

Jon looked shocked, but like fake-shocked – hand over his heart and everything. “Arya, we'd never do anything to embarrass you.”

“Yeah,” Robb continued on in their super fake offended-ness. “We're not even the embarrassing brothers. That human pig-person Rickon doesn't even have gel in his hair.” He gestured over to where their youngest brother was seated next to Margaery, taking selfie's with her.

Rickon just threw up both middle fingers without looking.

Sansa floated past frantically and boxed Robb on the ear in an eerie, but fantastic, display of their mother. “He has your terrible curly hair, Robb. You know how bad it looks without gel.”

Robb rubbed his ear, “Fuck, Sans. We're just fucking with you. God, you don't have to get all Mom on me.”

Sansa just threw up the middle finger as she went back inside, never turning around. She was gifted like that.

“I mean it.” Arya continued. “He's my best friend and we literally started dating last weekend and this is excessive and totally weird, so don't make it any weirder.”

“Aw, come on, Nymie.” Robb and Jon huddled up close to her in that annoying way they use to do to her all the time when they were little with big smiles on their faces and zero personal space between them. It still made her want to punch them. “The whole point is to make it weird. He's your first real boyfriend, we've got to do the whole 'over-protective older brother act'. It'd be a disservice to your relationship not to.”

“Oh, is that right.” She rolled her eyes and pushed out of their huddle, turning on them with narrowed eyes and a pointed finger. “I will actual murder you.”

Robb chuckled, nudging Jon who was smiling beside him. “You hear that? She's going to actual murder us, instead of the fake kind.”

“I've got so much dirt on you, do not make me use it.”

Robb's eyes narrowed, “You wouldn't dare.”

“It was in the year of our lord, 2003 when I, Arya Louise Stark, stumbled in upon Robb, Jon, Theon and a pool float-y – ” Arya began yelling before being cut off by both her brothers, shushing her.

“We had an oath!”

“Don't be weird!”

“Arya?”

Arya whipped around to find Gendry in the doorway to the kitchen with his mom, laughing at her. “Hey, hi. Hey.”

Ygritte looked at her with a weird face, “Are you having a stroke or something?”

Arya shushed her before making her way over to Gendry and his mom, Sansa already introducing herself to Lia Waters and hugging her. God, Sansa was hugging Gendry's mom.

She stopped in front of Gendry – god, had he always been so tall? Fuck. No, wait, not right now. Right now she was officially meeting his mom and basically everyone she cared about was around them. Not the time to picture climbing him naked.

“Hey.” Gendry said softly as she approached.

“Hi.”

She looked up at him and smiled, their stupid and annoyingly dumb eye contact was interrupted by Sansa pulling Arya by the wrist and planting her in front of Gendry's mom. She was pretty, and young, she must've had Gendry young to look that good. She had soft blonde hair that fell around her in gentle waves and ice blue eyes, much lighter than Gendry's. She must've been fucking stunning in her youth because she was fucking stunning now.

“Uh, mom, this is Arya. Arya, this is my mom.” Gendry was so awkward, bless his heart. He gestured beside him with on hand while the other was stuck up in the back of his hair.

“It's really nice to finally meet you, Ms. Waters.” Arya smiled at the older woman.

Gendry's mom rolled her eyes, “Lia, please. You know better than that, Arya.” She smiled then, all warm and soft, and Arya felt her throat tighten a bit. That was a nice smile. That was a mom smile. Was it weird that she just wanted to fall into Lia's arms and be held by her? Probably.

“Sorry.” Arya smiled. “Lia.”

“Your home is beautiful.” She addressed both Sansa and Arya then, smiling that perfect smile at them both. Arya wondered if Sansa felt it too.

“It's our family home.” Sansa smiled softly and explained. “The younger boys still live her with our uncle, Benjen, and we're always around to help out. I don't think we'll ever be able to part from it, even when we're all gone.”

“It never gets any easier.” Lia smiled gently at them. “People say it does, but it doesn't. I lost my parents quite young, so I know it's not something you ever truly get over.”

Sansa had those doe eyes going as she listened to Lia, the open puppy face that meant only one thing: she was a total goner for Gendry's mom.

“Why don't we introduce you to everyone?”

Lia smiled again at Arya and she wasn't sure if she'd be able to take much more of it. They went around and introduced Gendry and his mom to everyone they wouldn't know, her brother's behaving themselves for now. Sansa whisked Lia away to one of the tables, Rickon coming over to sit with them and Gendry's mom absolutely cooing over him and his curls.

It was then that Sandor and Benjen came out with the food to grill while Hot Pie carried out the food that was already done. Robb and Jon joined them at the grill, whispering conspiratorially about something and Arya glared at them from where she stood with Gendry so they didn't get the any ideas.

Gendry gently placed a hand on her elbow, drawing her attention from whatever the men of her family were plotting and to him. He smiled down at her and chuckled, “So, this is a little...”

“Weird?” Arya supplied. “Yeah, I'm totally aware. But, that's Sansa for you, so get use to it.”

“Oh, I plan on it.”

Arya rolled her eyes. “How have your classes been? Anyone giving you any shit over this?” She reached up and gently fingered the fading bruise around his eye.

“Nah.” He shrugged. “They sort of stay away from me now, think I'm all tough-guy swag now.”

“Oh, do they?”

“Yeah.” He laughed. “What's so hard to believe about that?”

“Uh, literally everything you just said.”

They did that thing where they were annoying and smiled at each other while holding eye contact, ignoring everyone else. She'd missed him this week, which sounded irrational and stupid, but she had. She had grown terribly dependent on him and his friendship, the same way she was with Brienne.

Maybe this was the stupidest thing she'd ever done, because the thought of him not ever being in her life again was rapidly becoming too hard to even fathom. And she was no stranger to people being taken from her too soon. But, looking up at him now, she couldn't find it in her to not want this.

Robb stalked over and broke their intimate and gross eye contact, throwing an arm around Gendry's shoulders and smiling as he guided him over towards the grill. “Hey, Gendry, why don't you come over and help us with the food.”

Arya glared at her brother and crossed her arms. “What is this, boys only club? No girls allowed?”

“It's all about the bonding, Arya.” Robb smirked as they walked away, Gendry looking a bit pale and stricken. “Isn't that what this barbecue is for?”

“Yeah,” Jon called, “Don't hog the guy!”

“2003!” Arya shouted back and both Robb and Jon glared at her and stopped smirking.

Arya slunk to the table with Lommy, Pod, and Brienne, Hot Pie dishing the food over at the buffet table. She groaned and dropped her head onto the table, knowing her friends were laughing at her.

“Aw, it's not that horrid, darling.” Lommy squeezed her shoulder and pulled her to him.

“Yes, it absolutely is.”

Brienne scoffed, “They're not even doing anything to him. They're literally just grilling with him and talking. Although,” She amended. “He does look a bit terrified, but I can't tell if that's because Sandor is there or because every adult man in your life is threatening him right now.”

“What?” Arya's head shot up and she immediately looked over to Gendry and her family. Gendry was in the middle, staring at the grill with intent while Robb still had his arm around Gendry's shoulder and Sandor stood glaring at him with his arms crossed. “Oh, for fucks sakes.”

“Stop scaring my nephew.” Robb looked up and away from Gendry to where Renly and Loras stood in the kitchen doorway, smirking. “He doesn't have the same constitution as we do, I'm afraid.”

Lia stood from where she was seated with Sansa to hug Renly, who pulled her in nice and tight, Loras did the same. When they broke apart, Loras went to sit with his twin sister and Renly sauntered over to the grill with that smirky-smile still present.

Arya couldn't really hear what they were saying, but Gendry was looking at his uncle like he was salvation and her older brothers were laughing. Sandor looked stoic as usual, but he liked Renly, so his posture was less 'I'm threatening' and more 'mildly annoyed'. Renly pulled Gendry away from the grill as a pretty dark haired girl came around the side of the house and into the backyard.

Gendry and Renly went up to her, pulling her into hugs and guiding her over to where his mother sat. Arya met them there.

“Arya, this is my cousin, Shireen.”

Stannis' daughter, right. Arya vaguely remembered meeting her before. Shireen smiled at her with the same Baratheon features as the men standing next to her and Arya found that even with the scarring on the side of her face, she was beautiful. How annoying that all the Baratheon spawn were beautiful.

“Arya, hi! I've heard so much about you!” Shireen smiled and pulled Arya in a gentle embrace. Her energy was soothing and nice, much like Gendry's mom.

“It's wonderful to meet you again.” Arya found herself saying. Was that weird?

Shireen smiled and laughed, “Yeah, we were really young the last time we saw each other, some Christmas party in the late nineties, I believe.”

“Probably.” Arya chuckled.

Sansa guilted the guys into moving the tables after that, arranging them so that it made one big table that they could all sit at. Margaery, Loras, Renly, and Shireen sat beside each other gossiping about one thing or another, Jeynie sat between Robb and Sansa, Theon squished Jon between him and Ygritte – who was once again far away from Jeynie. Arya noticed as she sat herself between Gendry and Brienne that Bran wasn't in between Jojen and Meera like he would normal sit, but instead sat next to Jojen and Rickon, whispering quietly and and making eyes at his best friend.

She nudged Gendry and subtly nodded towards her younger brother. “You think they figured it out?”

Gendry looked over as they leaned in close together to whisper, their eyes locked and then gently lingering on each others lips when they looked away. “Uh, I'm gonna go with for sure.”

She knocked her shoulder into his for his sass, but leaned up again, gentler this time. “They weren't too terrible, where they?”

“Who? You're brothers? Nah. They were just being overprotective and like, threatening me if I ever hurt you and whatnot. You know, the usual.”

“Gendry, this is not a teen movie, shit like that doesn't happen in real life. I'm going to punch them.”

He chuckled and shook his head. “It's fine, Arya. Honestly. I'm sitting here in one piece and Sandor “The Hound” Clegane, actual hero of mine, did not kill me for dating you, so I'd call it a good day.”

“You're so annoying.”

“Shut up and eat your food, Stark. I almost died in the making of it.”

God, she was so in love with him.

 

Chapter Text

Gendry sat up in the stands, leaning against the metal bar in front of him, watching as Arya instructed a group of ten year olds below.

He couldn’t help the smile from forming on his face, not when Arya was dealing with very serious children holding swords. It just looked so cute.

“Hey.” Gendry turned to see Brienne lumbering over to where he was seated. “What’re you doing up here, lurking about?”

“I’m not lurking, I’m just watching.”

Brienne sat next to him, her sword across her lap. She was dressed similarly to Arya, workout clothes and sneakers, her hair pushed back away from her face. 

“She’s good with them – the kids.” She leaned back against the row behind them, looking down where Arya stood surrounded by youths. “She’d never admit it, and she probably doesn’t like it, but she’s good with them.”

Gendry bit back a smile. “I can see that.”

They sat quietly for a few minutes, watching the classes below them. Gendry didn’t as why Brienne wasn’t down there and in return she didn’t as why he was up here. It was one of the main reasons he liked Brienne so much; she didn’t push. 

“So that barbeque was something, huh?”

 Gendry nodded, “Yeah, it certainly was.”

 “Did the brothers Stark scare you proficiently?”

“Oh, yeah. They threatened me not only with bodily harm but also with vague cannibalism.”

Brienne snorted, “Yeah, sounds like them.” She paused for a moment, touching her sword and hesitating. “You know they like you, right? You know we all like you?”

Gendry turned towards her, the gentle smile on his face placating her fears. “I know. I like you all too.”

“Good.” Brienne said gruffly. “Just, ah, thought you should know.” 

“Thanks, Brienne.”

“No problem.” She stood with her sword and gestured towards the gym below them. “I’ve gotta class, but Arya should be done soon.”

He nodded as Brienne left and Gendry was once again alone, staring down at Arya Stark teaching little kids to water dance. Her growing hair was pulled up into a high ponytail, swishing around as she demonstrated moves. Her leggings were tight around her ass and thighs, her loose tank top did nothing to hide her cleavage from him.

He watched her move gracefully and fluidly around their sectioned part of the gym, showing and teaching her children how to move like her. He smiled and watched until her hour was done and she dismissed each and every kid to their parents.

Gendry moved from the bleachers over to where she stood. “Hey.”

She looked up at him in surprise. “Hey.” She kissed him lightly. “What’re you doing here?”

He shrugged, sticking his hands in his pockets, causing his shoulders to haunch. “My last class got cancelled so I thought I’d finally come down to see you.”

Arya rolled her eyes. “You should come to a match if you want to see me. This is the boring shit.”

“Didn’t seem very boring to me.”

“That’s because you’re a novice.” She smiled and leaned up to peck him on the lips. “Come on, I need to change before I can go anywhere.”

“What, you don’t want to go prancing about in sweaty workout clothes?” Gendry joked as he let her pull him towards the locker room.

“Not particularly.”

She pushed him in and locked the door behind them, not wanting any little ones bursting in while she was getting changed.

Gendry looked around as Arya began to shuck her clothes and replace them with real ones. He watched as she revealed more and more pale skin to his eyes until she was in nothing more than her underwear. She pulled the sports bra over her head, leaving her perfect breasts bouncing as she searched her bag for her bra. He wanted to cup those breasts, feel them heavy and smooth in his large hands. He wanted to squeeze them and roll them until she sighed prettily.

Arya stepped into her jeans and finally found her bra, hiding her beautiful breasts from him once again. She pulled a black t-shirt over her head as he glanced around the changing room they were in.

“So, is this the same changing room where one Miss Arya Stark had her first lesbian experience.”

Arya rolled her eyes at first, that annoyed little set to her jaw present, before her expression changed in the blink of an eye and she was staring at him with a sultry smirk and a little lift to her brows. “One of many.”

His face went slack of its own accord. “Seriously?”

Arya just sidled up to him, running a hand up his chest. “Wouldn’t you like to know.”

“You little – ”

Gendry was cut off by Arya’s lips. He brought his hands up to cup her face as her body pinned him to the wall.

“Is it weird that I want to blow you right now?” She whispered into his ear.

He let out breath and shook his head quickly, “Absolutely not. Not weird at all, nope. You do what you feel is best.” 

Arya laughed and smiled into his mouth as she kissed him. Standing on her tip-toes, she ran her hands through his hair, pulling him to her and keeping him in place. Her hips grinding lightly into his, causing him to let out these aborted little groans.

“You don’t think it’s… inappropriate?” She whispered gently against his lips.

“Very inappropriate, not to mention unprofessional, but sometimes you just gotta do what you gotta do.”

“I’m so glad I have your approval to be naughty.” She smiled, slithering down his body and onto her knees.

“Be as naughty as you like, I’m all for naughty. The naughtier the better.” 

Arya couldn’t help the laugh that escaped her. He was just so funny when he was turned on in places he shouldn’t be. She’d been doing that to him lately, mostly because she was horny all the time too, but it was kind of fun to rile him up like this.

They hadn’t seen all that much of each other since the barbeque, but she’d take what she could get. And if that meant blowing him in Syrio’s locker room, well, whatever.

She unbuttoned his jeans and pulled them down with his underwear where they stopped about mid-thigh. He was hard and flushed, his breathing a little erratic and his pupils dialed enough for his eyes to look dark. She grabbed his thick length and fitted her mouth over the head, sucking gently. Gendry cried out and Arya pulled off to press a finger to her lips.

She pumped him a few times with her hand before returning her mouth. Her lips stretched a little obscenely around him and her center throbbed. He was long, though she was sure not as long or large as porn might suggest everyone was, but Gendry was certainly well endowed, that was for sure. Long and thick, hot and velvet smooth. She absently wondered if it would hurt at first when he pushed inside of her, but she had vibrators roughly the same size, so, maybe not.

She licked up the underside and then kitten-licked at the head, Gendry softly moaning and breath-hitching above her. She only had a very vague idea of what he liked – seeing as they hadn’t really done this more than a few times. But, she was nothing if not committed. 

She took him in as far as she could, her hand working the bottom quickly, and swallowed around the head. She’d read that once, apparently it was accurate if the way Gendry yelped was any consideration. It didn’t take him long to start chanting her name breathlessly, moaning around the vowels, whispering that he was going to come. 

She wasn’t exactly sure what his preference was, seeing as how they hadn’t really had the chance to discuss any of this sexy stuff, but she figured swallowing it down was the way to go. Also, there was practically no chance of it getting on her clothes and then being humiliated. So, in her mouth it went.

Arya redoubled her efforts, tonguing the underside of the head, stroking her hand firmer and quicker up and down the shaft, hallowing her cheeks and sucking harshly.

Gendry slammed his head back against the wall and came with a gasp, hot and heavy down her throat. She swallowed as it came, licking him clean. She stood, walking over to the sink and drank from the faucet, clearing the taste and slight soreness from her throat. Gendry was still recovering, his breathing still a bit winded, his cheeks and neck ultra-flushed, his eyes glassy.

Arya smirked as she grabbed a piece of gum from her bag in the corner and popped it into her mouth.

“God, Arya.” Gendry sighed, tucking himself back into his pants and buttoning his jeans. “Have you…”

He trailed off, a little embarrassed, but Arya caught the meaning. Still smirking, she sauntered over to him.

“Have I… done that before?” She waited for his flush of guilt and downcast eyes of confirmation before answering with a smile. “No. But I’m a very quick study.”

Gendry looked a little relieved and also intrigued as Arya moved away from him, back to where her bag was located.

“I also watch a lot of porn.”

Gendry sputtered, “Wha-what?”

Arya laughed, “I knew that’d get your attention.”

“You…?”

“Watch porn? Yes, sometimes.” She smirked seductively at him before letting that drop and smiling at him instead. “But, mostly the “a lot of porn” part comes from Lommy when I asked him to help me try and seduce you.”

Gendry’s face did this really, really, cute confusion thing that made Arya giggle. “Wait, what?” She couldn’t contain the laughter. “You watched porn with Lommy because you asked him for help seducing me?”

“Basically.” She nodded. “Oh, Brienne was there too.”

“What the fuck?” 

“Don’t hurt yourself thinking about it too much, Gen. In the end, I didn’t really need a lot to seduce you anyway. Clearly my great taste in shit movies and snarky comments were enough to lure you in anyway.” 

Gendry snorted, “Yeah, there was a lot of seduction involved there.”

“Hey!” Arya gasped, offended. “I’ll have you know that The Skirt Incident was totally a seduction technique that worked.”

Gendry sighed, “Of course the skirt was a seduction technique. I should’ve known. You’d never wear a skirt like that normally.” 

“Just for you.” Arya smiled as she kissed him.

“As amazing as that surprise locker room blow job was – and it was, one of my high school fantasies in action – I feel bad. What about you?” He kissed down her neck gently, whispering along her skin and causing Arya’s flesh to tingle and raise.

“Not really the prime location for foreplay, Gen. Not for us girls, anyway. But, don’t worry, you can make it up to me later.”

“I will.” Gendry nodded smugly with that stupidly beautiful smile.

Arya smiled back and shook her head. “You’re so stupid.”

“Yeah,” Gendry smiled, wrapping his arms around her. “But you love me.”

Arya chuckled, snuggling into his embrace. “Yeah, basically.”

“You know, we haven’t even gone on a real date yet.” He said into her hair, her head on his chest and his arms around her shoulders, holding her to him. “I think I remember you asking me out on a ‘real date’.”

“You had a concussion, what do you know.”

Mild concussion. And I remember it all, thank you very much.”

“So, let’s go on a date.”

Gendry smiled, “Okay.”

 


 

 

Arya stood looking at herself in the mirror, scowling as she ran critical eyes over her clothes.

They were going on a date.

A real first date. 

Of course, it was with Gendry, so this was all slightly ridiculous and made her want to roll her eyes. But, there was that odd, sentimental, teenage part of herself that felt like she needed to savor this. 

She hadn't gone to Prom or Homecoming. She had never went out with anyone before. This was all so... new. 

Sure she was no stranger to parties, to drinking and dancing and generally having a good time, but she knew this was supposed to be different. This was her first boyfriend and their first outing as a couple. 

It was stupid, this was all stupid. They literally went out to eat food together all the time, now should be no different regardless of how their relationship had changed. He was still her best friend, they still hung out on his couch and watched poorly rated Netflix movies. Just because she was allowed to kiss him freely and talk about all the naughty things she wanted to do with him didn't mean they had to change. 

Right?

Right. They didn't have to change, they wouldn't. She hoped.

Regardless, she stood standing in front of her full-length mirror, staring at her choice of clothes.

Sansa was at work, Sandor was with the band, she was alone in the house and right now she was thankful for that. She had cursed when she realized Sansa wasn't home, but her initial anger at her sister's absence had faded and she was left with gratitude for the stillness of the empty house.

Sansa would make a big deal about it – which, sometimes she wanted – but right now she needed everything to just be... normal for five minutes.

They were going downtown to some burger place Gendry had been waiting to try and while Arya knew it was a casual establishment, she wasn't sure what to wear. It was their first date, wasn't she supposed to wear something jaw-dropping so that she could smirk at him and he'd know that he'd made the right choice in asking her out?

No, wait, that was a scene from a movie they'd watched not long ago.

Gendry didn't ask her out, it just sort of happened. This was technically a “first date”, but they were still them. She needed to keep reminding herself that.

Arya stepped away from the mirror, grabbing her bag and leaving the apartment. She was meeting Gendry at his and they'd leave from there to go downtown. It was normal, not at all weird, stop making it weird, Arya.

The drive was well-practiced by now, she didn’t really have to think about where she was going anymore, it gave her time to think. Which, she did.

She hadn’t seen Gendry in a week, which sucked. After the barbeque she had only seen him once at Syrio’s before he’d gotten sucked back into work and school, making up all of his lost time and late assignments. She had been busy too, Syrio had made her come in and take some more classes, seeing as she’d been totally avoiding the studio lately. Syrio had barked at her about college and scholarships and her deference, making her feel all guilty and shit, so she’d caved and spent all her waking hours over there.

Gendry had called her every night to talk before they went to sleep. It was… cute. Not something she’d necessarily ever thought she’d enjoy, but she found it sweet and answered every time. He also texted her throughout the day, but so did she. She was constantly texting him. She had quietly transformed into one of those girls seemingly overnight. Whatever, Gendry was still her best friend so she didn’t care. 

She parked in the free space next to the weird guy from 3B and practically ran up the stairs to Gendry’s apartment. She wanted to see his stupid face and kiss it.

She used one of the many keys on her keychain and opened the door, scanning around for him and not finding him. Pouting, she closed the door behind her and threw her bag down on the counter, rounding it to peek into his bedroom – which was also empty. But, the shower running pretty much cued her into where he was.

Arya slinked in, opening the door loudly enough to alert him to her presence. Gendry had been yelling at her for being so silent-footed, scaring him all the time. She was attempting to make herself a bit louder as to not give him a heart attack.

She sang along loudly to the song playing on the ipod in the bathroom, Gendry just snorted at her from where he stood under the spray. Arya continued her mini performance, dance moves and all, before falling down onto the toilet to catch her breath. 

“Hi.”

Gendry smiled and shook his head, “Hi.”

“I’d jump in there with you, but I literally just showered and my hair will get all weird if I wash it again so soon.” 

Gendry turned off the water and grabbed the towel handing on the edge of the rail, sliding open the door as he finished securing it around his waist. She watched the water droplets slide down his dusky skin, falling in between the ridges and contours of his insane muscles. 

Like, how was it even possible for her to have this hot as hell stupid idiot as her boyfriend? Didn’t make sense.

Gendry stood with a smirk, hands on his hips, and an eyebrow raised at her very obvious staring. But, Arya could see the bright blush making its home over his cheeks and ears.

Arya moved from her perch and made her way over towards him. It was muggy in the bathroom, the steam making her sweat and her hair was probably going to do something weird, but that didn’t matter. There was a naked Gendry all wet and smirking in front of her and Arya wasn’t about to let that opportunity pass up just because it was a little damp up in here.

“It’s such a shame that you’re just gonna need another shower tonight.”

Gendry raised a brow, hands coming to settle on her hips. “Oh, yeah? Why’s that?”

Arya stared up at him with wide, unblinking eyes, a false innocence on her face that many had told her was appealing. “Because I plan on having very dirty sex with you tonight. Finally.”

Gendry choked a little, that blush covering not only his cheeks but his neck and chest. Arya smirked, oh, this was going to be so much fun. 

“I hope that’s okay with you.” She continued. “We haven’t really had much time together since we started dating and I know this is our first date and all, and you’re not supposed to put out on the first date, but I think I’ll make an exception.”

Gendry just nodded and gulped, looking a bit dazed. “Okay.”

She kissed his lips lightly and gently, “Okay.”

Arya moved away from him, out of the bathroom and into the living room where she sat on the couch and turned on the tv. She heard him get dressed over the sounds of some horrible reality tv show.

“Are you watching this shit again?” Gendry came out of his room toweling his hair, a smirk on his lips. 

He was wearing one of those annoyingly tight navy blue t-shirts that made his wide-set shoulders look even more prominent and a pair of jeans that clung to his ass. She wanted to simultaneously punch him in the face and kiss his stupid mouth.

She looked down at her own apparel, wondering if he gave her a once over and felt like he wanted to die. Probably not, but it never hurt to try.

The grey t-shirt dress she wore wasn’t very long, showing off a lot more leg then was strictly necessary. She had black tights on to counter balance that, but they were sheer so she wasn’t exactly sure how much they were helping. Her oversized jacket was longer than her dress, so maybe that helped. 

She hadn’t wanted to dress too fancy, unsure of how Gendry was dressing, but now she felt like she’d made the right choice. Casual, but not too casual. She wondered if he was as nervous as she was. 

“Don’t mock my taste in shit television, Waters. That’s how I managed to woo you in the first place.”

Gendry snorted, finished drying his hair and was now pulling on his boots. “Yeah, that’s exactly how it went down.”

She turned her sharp gaze onto him, “So, how did it go down? If it wasn’t my amazing taste in terrible tv, what was it?”

He had that annoying smirky smile on his lips as he shrugged a shoulder. “Guess it’s one for the ages.”

She threw a throw pillow at his head, “You’re so annoying. I hate you.”

Gendry threw the pillow back at her, smiling. “I’m sure you do.”

 


 

The burger joint was down in the Keep, not far from where they ate that time with Renly when he announced his engagement to Loras. It was trendy, but not as trendy as that restaurant, making Arya feel slightly more at ease.

Gendry was in the middle of telling some story about Hot Pie and his professor as Arya stole his fries, having finished all of hers.

“So,” She started, the noisy room calming her slightly, giving her the feeling of anonymity. 

“So,” He smiled back at her, sipping his soda. 

“Tell me things.”

He chuckled, setting down his glass. “And what things do you want me to tell you, exactly?”

Arya stole a few more of his fries, shrugging all nonchalant, a small smirk hiding in the corners of her lips.

“Let’s chat about how I apparently didn’t seduce you.” She watched him panic a little and she couldn’t help but laugh. “Oh my god, Gendry. We’re literally dating, why are you getting all squirrelly now?” 

He scoffed, “I’m not squirrelly.”

“Alright, then. So, let’s talk about how long you’ve liked me.” 

Gendry rolled his eyes and looked away, trying to stave off the blush that was already forming. “Seriously? That’s so juvenile.”

“Oh, I’m so sorry.” Arya laughed. “I forgot how mature and worldly you are. Couldn’t possibly indulge in my sophomoric inquiries.” 

Gendry mock laughed at her took a bite of his burger. Arya waited, knowing he’d crack eventually, and just smiled smugly across from him.

He sighed, putting down his burger and rolled his eyes. “I’ve liked you since high school, okay? You know this already.”

The smile that slipped onto her face was wide and mocking and full of faux-shock. “Shut up.” She leaned across the table and pushed at his shoulder. “Shut up!

“Ow. Stop hitting me.”

“You’ve had a crush on me since high school?” She gapped at him, the excitement and scandal written all over her face. “Does Hot Pie know? Does Pod? Are you telling me all of your friends knew about your secret love for me and I was left all alone in the dark about it?” 

Gendry sighed, rubbing a hand over his face, attempting to dislodge the blush that had taken over his fair skin. 

“Shut up. Stop making fun of me.” 

Arya smiled and let out a genuine laugh. “Sorry, Gen. This is all just so scandalous.” 

“It’s not that scandalous, okay? I had a crush on you in high school, but I started having feelings for you once we were hanging out all the time. And, yes,” He sighed heavily. “The guys knew about it.”

“I practically stalked you in the library for two years.” Arya confessed, as though it was the hardest thing for her to ever say. 

Gendry rolled his eyes. “Yeah, I know.” 

Arya smacked him again, “Well, then tell me the juicy couture stuff.”

He sighed and bit back the smile that threatened to come over his face. “Be specific. What do you want to know?" 

“The good stuff!” She groaned. “I want the actual blush-worthy shit. Like, do you think about me when you masturbate, and why you’ve never even kissed anyone, and your kiss with Lommy! You know, the good stuff.” 

The blush on Gendry’s fair skin didn’t seem like it was going anywhere any time soon. He just huffed and rolled his eyes, attempting to hide the fact that he was uncomfortable talking about embarrassing things. Unlike Arya, who was brash, and loud, and didn’t seem to give a fuck. 

“Oh, yeah, well, why don’t you tell me the “good” stuff, then?” Gendry barked defensively. “See how you like being put on the spot.”

Arya smirked, “Well, I’ve never kissed Lommy. And, I have kissed other people besides you. And, I do think about you when I masturbate. A lot, actually.”

The blush persisted.

“How do you even know about the kiss with Lommy?” He deflected.

Arya rolled her eyes, “Bran told me.”

Of course. Starks couldn’t be trusted with state secrets, duly noted.

Gendry cleared his throat. “We were in high school and Lommy was a party boy, as I’m sure you’re very aware. He was straight back then – or, attempting to be anyway. I got at text in the middle of the night asking me to come get him. Lommy never did that, ever. So, I immediately went to get him.”

“As you should.” Arya nodded, warmed by Gendry’s genuine concern and love for his friends.

“I went to the party, found him waiting on the curb looking all…heartbroken. He got in the car and I kept asking him what was wrong, he wouldn’t tell me. I was parked in my driveway trying to get him to tell me what happened, I managed to get a few details – a drunken make out, someone busting into the room, and then Lommy started to cry.” Gendry worried the napkin in his hands. “I don’t think I’d ever seen Lommy cry before, took me off guard.”

“I can imagine.” Arya didn’t think she’d be quick on the draw either if she saw Lommy having an emotional breakdown. He just didn’t seem the sort.

“So, as I’m trying to get him to calm down, he leans in for a hug. I go, I’m an affectionate guy, all of my friends are affectionate guys, but he kisses me instead. Full on, hands on my face, climax of a rom-com kiss.”

Arya just gaped at him with wide eyes – fully invested in the story. “So, what happened?”

“He apologized.” Gendry shrugged like it wasn’t a big deal – because to him, it wasn’t. It struck him that this is exactly how his conversation with Bran ended up and Gendry could see the irony in it. “I told him not to, that it was fine.” He shrugged again, in a casual way that spoke of total acceptance. Arya really admired Gendry for that. “He came out to me in that moment, in my car, at three in the morning. Said the drunken make-out had been with Aeden Conners –”

“Aeden Conners.” Arya cut him off with her gossip face – complete with wide eyes and gaping mouth and excited features. “Aeden Conners?”

“Yeah?”

“As in, Captain of the Rugby team, Aeden Conners? Straight as a maypole, Aeden Conners? Mr. Pussy and Pints, Aeden Conners?”

Gendry couldn’t help but laugh at her shock over Lommy having a tryst with the very aggressively straight Aeden Conners.

“Yes, that Aeden Conners.”

“Holy fuck.”

He nodded, “So you can see why Lommy was upset. In-the-closet-Conners brought Lommy upstairs for a fuck and then outed him to everyone at the party when someone walked in on them. Made it seem like Lommy was forcing him into something he didn’t want.”

“Holy shit.” Arya muttered, her heart aching for Lommy. “That must’ve sucked, big time.”

“Yeah,” Gendry nodded, “He didn’t have the best year after that. But, I made sure to let him know nothing would ever change between us just because he liked dudes. What do I care? I was pining after you for five years, clearly I have no room to talk about what’s proper.”

Arya leaned over and kissed him, slow and sweet, smiling the entire time. When she pulled back se stroked his face, still smiling. “You’re a really good guy, you know that?”

Gendry couldn’t help but smile back. “So I’ve been told.”

Arya pulled back, settling back into her seat, her sweet smile morphing once again into something a little more smirky – though, it was still soft around the edges.

“You have two more questions to answer.”

Gendry rolled his eyes, but smiled back. “Yes, Mistress.”

Arya scoffed and rolled her own eyes. “Ugh, not this again.”

Gendry smirked, “What, you don’t like Mistress?”

“I preferred Milady over Mistress.”

“As M’lady commands.”

“Go on then,” Arya smirked haughtily. “do as your lady commands.”

Gendry smiled at her for a moment before looking away, thinking over his answer to her second question. “I have trust issues.”

“Me too. We should form a club.”

A little more at ease after her comment, he leaned back in his chair a bit. “You know, everything with Robert just… put me in a weird place when it comes to relationships.” He shrugged, tearing into the napkin on the table in front of him, not looking in her eyes. “And my mom never really got together with anyone after the divorce.”

“So you just don’t trust someone enough to get intimate with them?” She surmised.

He gave a noncommittal lift of his shoulder. “I guess, yeah. I just felt like it needed to be this… grand thing, or it’d be wasted on someone worthless and I’d end up like my mom.”

“You don’t want someone to treat you like Robert had. That’s normal, Gen.” She bit at her lip. “So what changed your mind then?”

He looked up at her then, still tearing into the napkin in his hands but no longer hiding from her. “You.”

Arya felt her heart expand in her chest and the blush that blossomed over her cheeks. She couldn’t help the wide smile that took over her face as she looked away from him and shook her head, groaning. “Gen. That was so cheesy.”

He smiled, ducking his head in the bashful way that made her want to tackle him to the ground. “Yeah, well, I mean it.”

“Why me?” She asked with a smile, the hint of laughter still in her voice. It was the most beautiful thing he’d ever witnessed.

He shrugged, “Why not you?”

She chuckled a bit disbelievingly, though not dramatically, shaking her head. “Because… I’m just Arya.” She said like her point was obvious.

“Uh-huh.” He nodded.

“You really trust me that much?”

He looked at her so open and affectionately that it almost made her uncomfortable even as her stomach clenched and her breath caught in her throat. It was beautiful and so honest. She’d never be able to do that, she’d never be able to be that vulnerable out in the open like this, not like Gendry.

“Of course I do.” He reached across the small table to gently touch her face.

Arya let him.

She let him look at her all open and gooey, touching her face so tenderly. She let him.

Then she moved back, out of reach. A smile on her lips to soften the blow. 

She was very comfortable with Gendry – more comfortable than she ever thought possible. But, there were still things that felt… difficult.

Arya cleared her throat, a sassy little smile on her lips. “You still have one more question to answer.” Steering away from her awkward inability to be a real human was a specialty of hers. 

Gendry just rolled his eyes and smiled. “Thought you might’ve forgotten.”

She scoffed, “As if I’d ever forget.”

He just sighed and blushed, eyeing the tables surrounding them in the loud room. “Of course I do, alright?”

Arya just smirked big and bright. “Oh, I’m gonna need details.”

Gendry huffed and returned to his food. “Not here, you’re not.”

Her laughter caused the surrounding tables to turn and look at them, which in turn made Gendry blush more and look down at his plate. Arya let her laughter die down to a solid chuckle, looking at her best friend and reveling in the fact that he was more than that now. 

“I have to tell you something.” She started, gaining his attention. 

“Oh?” He asked, taking a sip of his drink.

“Our first kiss, wasn’t our first kiss.”

Gendry’s brows furrowed, “I don’t really count your brother’s wedding as our first kiss.”

“No.” Arya bit at her lip, wondering if he’d be mad that she’d practically taken advantage of him, that she’d never told him. “Before that.”

“I think I would’ve remembered kissing you before that, Arya.”

“It was the night I picked you up from that bar.” 

He looked like he was trying to access that memory, but was coming up empty. He didn’t remember the next morning, she doubted he’d remember it now. 

“The night at the bar?” 

“Yeah.” She nodded, toying with the napkin in front of her. “I picked you up, brought you home, and when you kissed me… I didn’t stop you.” 

Gendry just looked at her blankly for a moment before the color rushed to his cheeks. “How embarrassing.”

Arya laughed, “It wasn’t embarrassing, trust me.”

“Says the one who was sober and had to deal with my sloppy ass.”

“I’m sorry I didn’t tell you.” She reached across to take his hand in hers. “I thought you’d be mad.”

Gendry entwined their fingers and looked at her so earnestly when he replied, “Why would I be mad?” that she had no idea why she ever thought he would be.

“I don’t know.” 

“Well, for the record, I’m not. Embarrassed, mortified, really, but not mad.” 

“Let’s get out of here.” Arya smiled.

 


 

They stumbled into his apartment, mouths locked together. Arya slammed him back into the front door, closing it with him. It was like she was trying to climb inside of him – she vaguely wondered if he’d let her.

He broke away, kissing down her neck as he backed her away from the door and out of the kitchen, into the living room area.

She pushed him off of her by the shoulders, catchin