When Arya arrives at the ER, she finds the place in complete and utter chaos. There are paramedics everywhere, people being transported to and from stretchers, and as a harried-looking nurse in lemon yellow scrubs tries to redirect her to one of the empty waiting chairs by the corner, she almost gets bowled over by an old man in a wheelchair with what looks like a steel pipe protruding from his chest.
Wow. Arya blinks and allows herself a moment to adjust to the situation. This almost feels like a regular Saturday night at the Greyjoys’, but with more blood and a hopefully lesser body count. So technically, she’d fit right in.
She surveys the row of available chairs in front of her and frowns. One is closer to the nurses’ station, but that means sitting next to the couple currently engaged in a no-holds-barred screaming match, one that’s bound to end in tears (“Am I really in a relationship with a guy idiotic enough to put a ring in a glass of wine?” “What? I thought it was fucking romantic!” “Romantic? The ring is stuck in my esophagus and the doctor says I need an operation. If I wasn’t so worried that I’d choke to death, I’d kill you.”).
The scene is so amusing she’s almost tempted to stay and watch, but given the fact that she didn’t bring popcorn… well. She settles for taking a seat next to a guy in an arm sling instead and hopes that the nurse will fetch her later. And by later, she means preferably within the next fifteen minutes. Rickon can’t be left alone at home for long or bad things will happen.
“Geez, what happened to you?”
Arya looks up from her phone and glances at the guy with the arm sling. The first thing she notices is his jaw. Arya has always had this belief that there is no such thing as a man with a perfect jaw, something that is sure to offend Sansa every time she brings it up (even though Arya’s argument that women have better jaws than men is a plausible one). But then this stranger jumps in and Arya is surprised to find out that for once in her life, she’s wrong. Men with perfect jaws do exist. And they have blue hair too.
She wonders what that says about her as a person, that she notices his jaw before his shiny, probably-salon-treated-every-three-weeks blue hair. Maybe she needs a new hobby. Or a new sex buddy. Probably it’s the latter.
“Um, hello? Girl with the five-inch laceration on her leg? What happened to you?”
Arya blinks out of her stupor and shrugs. “I was trying to teach my friend the knife game – the one where you try to stab between your fingers really fast – but he’s a slow learner, so I got stabbed on the leg instead.”
The stranger’s eyes widen in delight. “Sounds like a fun game.”
Arya raises an eyebrow. Are people at the hospital normally this perky? She thinks he might be high on pain meds – that, or maybe he’s secretly crazy and is just trying to get out of doing his monthly psych eval – but either way, she’s bored and could probably use the company. So she makes more small talk and asks him how he got injured.
“Ah, this?” The guy waves his bandage-wrapped arm around like it doesn’t even bother him and says, “Minor accident at home. One of those don’t-play-with-fire scenarios we all know we shouldn’t do but end up doing anyway. Granted, a little bit of this is my grandpa’s fault, but… well. It’s a long story.”
“I’ve got time.”
He laughs and rubs his neck awkwardly with his uninjured hand. “Nah, it’s really boring. It’ll put you to sleep.”
“Well, if you say so.”
Arya is just scrambling for another topic of conversation when the man with the crazy blue hair one-ups her and blurts out instead, “Hey, who did you say your doctor was again?”
“I didn’t,” she replies. “But if you’re wondering, I got… uh, I think her name was Dr. Tyrell? The nurse told me she’d stop by later. When she’s not, you know, busy trying to save the lives of those guys from the car crash and all.”
“Ooh, lucky you! Dr. Tyrell is hot. Why couldn’t I have gotten her? Instead I’m stuck with Pycelle Can’t-Keep-It-In-His-Pants. He tried to grope my ass in the examining room earlier, but I try not to think about that because I want to go to sleep at night without having nightmares.”
Arya bites back a grin. “Right.”
“And speaking of creepy men with MDs, have you met Dr. Qyburn yet? I should probably warn you about him. He’s got this weird thing going on with the hospital director’s daughter and between the two of us, I think he’s secretly gay. And really into corpses. If you get what I mean.”
“Eww. I do get what you mean,” Arya says with a wrinkle of her nose. “But how do you know all this?”
“I’m a regular here. Somehow I always end up getting involved in some kind of accident. I’m like one of those guys at the coffee shop, the one who always stays up past closing time and hogs the power cord. If I wasn’t so inconvenienced by it, it’d probably be funny.”
“Do you at least have proper health insurance?”
The man dazzles her with a grin. “I have excellent health insurance.”
“Good for you.”
Arya swivels around in her seat and sees a lady wearing blood-spattered scrubs walking toward her. She looks a little bit like she could be related to Willas, what with the rose tattoo and the perfect wavy hair and the way she holds her chart like a weapon, and though she must be exhausted after the day she just had, she shows no signs of it. Must be Dr. Tyrell then.
“Well, this is me,” Arya stands up, about to follow the doctor through the crowd, but spares a moment to acknowledge the blue-haired stranger next to her. “It’s been real nice chatting with you, but I gotta get this wound stitched up. Try not to be back so soon here, yeah?”
She’s rewarded with a two-fingered salute and a cheeky grin. “Yeah, will do. Thanks for the company. For what it’s worth, I think you’ll still look hot even with stitches on your leg.”
Jesus, is he flirting with her right now? Arya’s never been very good at accepting compliments, and she’s glad she has her back to him now so he won’t see the flustered expression on her face. Honestly, this is ridiculous. He could be a pyromaniac for all she knows. Or a psych patient, judging by the way Dr. Tyrell’s eyebrows rose when he greeted her with a familiarity that couldn’t possibly be faked.
All things considered, it’s probably a good thing she won’t be seeing him again.
One hour after she gets back from the hospital, Rickon knocks on her bedroom door wearing an eerily accurate replica of Ned Stark’s reproachful face – like he didn’t just hijack all the pillows in the house to build a pillow fort because he was bored – and says, “There’s a weird man looking for you outside.”
When she opens the front door, she sees the stranger from before, looking twice as crazy and hot (we’re talking jawline for days).
Arya blinks, feeling very confused at the moment. What is happening? Is this the part where she has to dial 911 and yell at Rickon to go get the guns?
“How the fuck did you find my house?”
The dude from the hospital wiggles his fingers at her like one of those creeps in a low budget horror movie and Arya has to bite back a scream. Because, really? First guy she likes in months and he turns out to be a serial killer? What are the chances?
“Hey, Arya,” he greets her, looking totally comfortable for someone whose name she doesn’t even know. “I was in the neighborhood and decided to stop by. Dressing my wounds took forever so by the time Hal came to get me, I was feeling so bored I wanted to cry. Thank god your house is just a few blocks over.”
“Okay, that’s it. I’m calling the cops.”
“Jesus, don’t be upset. I’m not some kind of psycho, I promise. I’m just bad at social situations. This is me trying to be friendly.”
“Really? That’s funny. I could’ve sworn you were out here to kill me,” Arya deadpans, her voice dripping with so much sarcasm she’s surprised they don’t just ooze out of her pores.
“Trust me, if I wanted to kill you, I’d just get someone else to do it. No offense.”
Arya gives him a look. “Of course, none taken.”
“See? I can be friendly.”
“Shut up,” she grumbles, hating herself a little for having a conversation with a guy who might or might not be a killer right on her doorstep just because his perfect jaw might or might not be distracting her. She’s a hopeless case, she knows.
“But seriously, how did you find me?”
The guy shrugs with a kind of awkwardness and forced nonchalance that Arya does not find endearing. Nope, not at all. “You left your wallet at the hospital. It had your address and everything. Figured you’d want it back, considering it had your middle school yearbook picture in it. It would be cruel of me to let someone else find it, you know? Might cause unexplained heart attacks and all.”
“Yeah, I know. It’s because I’m so cute.”
Rickon chooses that moment to drop down from the tree he’s been spying on and snarls, “Arya, would you please stop flirting with the crazy guy? It’s triggering my gag reflex.”
“Excuse me, I am a good Samaritan,” the guy Rickon accused of flirting with her says, looking offended.
It shouldn’t be possible for a boy in pajamas and a turban-shaped balloon on his head to look scary, but most boys aren’t Rickon. All he has to do is glower at them and allow Shaggy to growl like he hasn't had dinner in weeks and, voila, he goes from being a cute little kid to potential child assassin. Arya is used to him like this, but the new guy? Not so much.
He shoots Arya a look and says, “And you accuse me of being the bad guy here? Your child looks positively murderous.”
Arya makes a choking noise at the back of her throat and snaps, “My child? Fuck you. That’s my brother.”
“Oh.” He has the grace to look sorry, at least. “Duck says I judge people all the time, so I was trying my best to be open-minded about these things. Apparently, I’m still not very good at it?”
“Who is Duck and how the hell do I get out of this conversation? This is starting to sound like one of those 90s sitcoms where they have to play fake audience laughter in the background, and not to sound like a bitch, but I’m tired, I’ve got four stitches in my leg, and I’m really not in the mood for this. Maybe come back tomorrow?”
“Okay. Sure. That’s cool.” Arya assumes that’ll be the end of that, but then he sheepishly admits, “But I told Duck who, just so you know, is my best friend in the entire world, to pick me up at 6 and given that’s it’s only past 3, could you maybe, out of the goodness of your heart, drop me off at my place? I mean, obviously I can’t drive with my arm and – ohhhh, right, you can’t drive with your leg either. Shit, I’m sorry, I didn’t think of that. Maybe your brother could –? Wait, he’s like twelve –”
Given the murderous look on Arya’s face, he quickly backpedals and stutters instead, “Or I could just use Uber?”
Arya sighs and slaps a hand to her forehead. “Never mind,” she grumbles. “Just come inside before I change my mind.”
He grins at her until she’s sure she’s about to get photophobia or something. “Awesome.”
Rickon, who everyone has mostly forgotten until now, meets them at the living room and, in as serious a voice as he can muster, asks him, “Do you want to help me build a pillow fort?”
The guy, who Arya later learns is named Aegon but who kindly wants to be called Griff for reasons he won’t explain to her, agrees. She should probably warn him that Rickon’s favorite tactic is to lull his enemies into thinking he’s friends with them before going in for the kill, but given the fact that he just dropped by her house unannounced, like the secret psycho killer that he probably is, she decides it’s best not to tell him that. After all, what he doesn’t know won’t kill him.
Her phone buzzes in the middle of Sociology class. She ducks her head to read the text and barely misses the teasing grin Lya shoots her as well as Wylla’s loudly whispered, “Ooh, must be a guy. Go get ‘em, tiger.” She rolls her eyes and gives them the finger. Yeah, her friends are all assholes and she doesn’t know why she puts up with them.
Unknown Number: Pancakes or waffles?
who is this?
Unknown Number: Griff
well in that case, pancakes, duh
but seriously, wtf?
how’d you get my number?
is this going to be a thing now? you stalking me in every way imaginable?
Unknown Number: Thanks for your opinion! Currently omw to a diner on 84th street. They make awesome pancakes!!!
Also, your contact info is on your wallet. Duh.
If you don’t want people to know your number, maybe don’t leave it in public places? Just a thought
Arya: your concern is duly noted
She almost drops her phone when Wylla flicks her hair in boredom and leans over her shoulder to read her messages. Which shows how much her luck is holding out, because of course the crazy guy from the ER chooses that moment to send her a selfie. He’s leaning casually into the camera, elbows on the table and ratty sweater sleeves all rolled up, and in the background she can see cherry red walls, bright lights, and a jukebox in the corner. He looks good and, if Arya’s being honest with herself, kind of like he’s been sending her selfies his whole life. Maybe it’s a psychopath thing.
“Cute guy,” Wylla remarks, waggling her eyebrows casually as though to prove a point. “Didn’t know you were dating someone.”
“She isn’t,” Lyanna pipes in beside her, like all they ever do is discuss Arya’s failed attempts at romance while they’re in the middle of class. Knowing them, it’s probably all they ever do. “This is Arya we’re talking about. Her idea of dating is passive-aggressively texting someone all the time and chalking it up to being friends.”
Arya tells them both that they’re wrong, even though she does end up texting Griff the Psycho at random times of the day because he’s a surprisingly good texter and likes to use emojis as punctuation marks. He’s persistent too, and has a weird sense of humor that Arya gets (“A fucking kid at the grocery store just grabbed my hair and called me a minion. Help!” he’d texted her once while she was helping Sansa and her mom make dinner). She hasn’t seen him since he returned her wallet and helped Rickon build a two-foot castle made entirely out of pillows, but between the random texts and his occasional Snapchat selfies, she feels safe to finally call him a friend. Which isn’t even that weird, because she’s had worse friends. Just ask Sandor Clegane. And that’s assuming he forgets that time she almost ran him over with her bike for daring to like her sister.
Crazy ER Dude: Weird question: do you think I’d get more game if I were in a wheelchair?
Arya: why are you in a wheelchair?
Crazy ER Dude: I may have jumped off a cliff and accidentally broke my ankle
Arya: seriously? how did you even make it past your 20th birthday?
Crazy ER Dude: My dad says there was a red shooting star the night I was born. Calls me the Prince That Was Promised
Arya: clearly, you and your family have issues
Crazy ER Dude: I always knew I was special, but it feels good to get confirmation, you know?
you’re such a weirdo
say hi to dr pycelle for me. maybe he thinks you’re special too
Crazy ER Dude: Fuck you. You’re such a bully
Arya: (insert kissy face emoji)
Crazy ER Dude: I’m gonna cry on Dr. Tyrell’s shoulder just to spite you. We’ll make beautiful babies together, babies who’ll spite you even more
Arya: sometimes the intensity of your delusions astounds me
Crazy ER Dude: I’m just saying. She could be into hot guys in wheelchairs. People have weird kinks, right?
Arya: i’m gonna pretend you didn’t ask me that
anyway, i gotta go
text me in three hours if you’re still alive
She goes back to the essay she’s typing and hides her grin in the palm of her hand. Passive-aggressive texting her ass. Lyanna Mormont was so one hundred and ten percent wrong about her Arya’s not sure she really knows her at all.
“Arya, come look! I caught a jellyfish!”
Griff comes running to her in a way that oddly reminds her of Nymeria, plastic bag held triumphantly over his head. He’s dressed in nothing but swim trunks, wet locks of hair plastered to his shoulders, and Arya’s trying hard not to be distracted by the wide V shape under his abs and the way the water is trickling down his chest like he’s shooting a trailer for Baywatch. Honestly, it’s like he doesn’t even know how hot he is. It’s so unfair.
“Cute,” Arya quips, adjusting her hat so she could take a better look at him. At the rate she’s going, she’s gonna need to read the entire Bible or go visit Father Luwin at confessional, neither of which she’s looking forward to, to be honest.
“I’m so good at this I should just make a career out of it. I can see it clearly now. ‘Twenty-Something-Year-Old Man Promises to Save all the Jellyfishes in the World in an Effort to Combat Global Warming’. Don’t worry, I’ll cut the article in the paper and have it framed and sent to you.”
Arya snorts and takes a sip of her drink before Griff has the chance to snatch it away from her. Which he does, as soon as he shows her the jellyfish he caught by brandishing it in her face and making sure she sees it in every possible angle. “Maybe stick to surfing,” she advises him. “You’re a menace to society.”
“Are you saying that because of my bad busking skills? Because seriously, that was one time, Arya. And I kind of did it in the middle of a less-crowded street at midnight, so you can’t really blame me if no one left anything at the tip jar, I’m just saying,” Griff argues, looking like he wants to write a twenty-page essay as to why he should’ve been a Youtube star in his past life.
It’s not like Arya encourages him. All she does is post his videos on Youtube under the channel “My Friend’s Horrible Song Covers. Click if You Want to Be Completely Scarred For Life” and hopes that his career takes off from there. After all, she’s genuinely worried about Griff. It seems like all he ever does is surf, find meaningless ways to pass his time, and get sent to the ER at the same rate that Rickon gets sent to the headmaster’s office for fighting bullies, while the rest of the plebians like Arya attend college in the hopes of one day being successful at life.
“Fine. Just so you know, though, I’m only agreeing not to disagree with you because you’re my ride home. Now go surf. No more rescuing innocent jellyfishes and pestering me about it.” She flaps her hand in the direction of the ocean, where Duck and a few of his other surfer friends are busy riding another wave.
Predictably, this distracts Griff enough that he flashes her a smile and says, “Alright. Catch ya later.” Then he’s off, running along the shore with the sun in his hair and sand sticking in between his toes. He’s so adorable Arya wants to hate him.
“Jesus fucking Christ. Where did you find this guy?”
Clearly, she and Asha’s brain operate on the same wavelength. She smirks at her under the magazine she’s been reading – only someone like Asha would have the audacity to read Motor Track at the beach not because she wants to make a statement but because she actually enjoys it – and goes back to sipping her beer and lounging around her chair like she owns the goddamn place, which, technically, she does. After the untimely death of her father, Pyke Beach and the surrounding shipping docks and conglomerate chain of resorts were left to her, primarily because she’s better at not fucking things up unlike her brother. Arya doesn’t pretend to understand Greyjoy politics the way Theon or even Asha does, but she knows that the men like her friend well enough, and aren’t shy of letting everyone know that they don’t mind a woman telling them what to do. She kind of admires Asha for it, if only she wasn’t so damn cocky. And hell-bent on teasing Arya until her dying breath.
“I told you, I met him at the hospital,” Arya says by way of explanation. “Then things just snowballed from there.”
“Please tell me you’re at least fucking him.”
Arya chokes on her drink. “What? Why would I? That’d be weird.”
“Weirder than you ogling him all day and pretending like you don’t want to secretly jump his bones and cuddle with him afterwards?”
“I-What? Oh my god, is it that obvious? I mean – It’s hardly my fault –”
Asha snickers. “Sure. Blame it on the hot guy,” she says. “It’s always the hot guy’s fault.”
“It is. Have you seen his triceps? Sometimes I have dreams about his triceps talking to me and asking me to touch it.”
Asha slaps her palm against her thigh and grins at her with barely suppressed glee. “You’re hopeless. I’m giving you a week, tops. If you haven’t fucked him by then, I’m changing your caller ID picture to a spineless cow.”
Arya tries to pretend that Asha didn’t just say that because she has a bet going on with Theon about how long she and Arya’s “fucking sex-on-a-stick”, as Asha so eloquently likes to call Griff, would hook up. Asha may be right about her having the hots for her weird psycho friend, but there’s no way in hell she’s letting her win. At the very least, she’ll split the winnings with Theon.
They’re watching some weird show on Netflix at the Starks’ living room when it happens.
“Are you kidding me? Of course the bad guy gets to live. Everyone deserves a second chance!”
“No!” Arya argues vehemently. “Everyone deserves justice. And that? Is not justice.”
Griff sighs. “The evil warlord has the opportunity to make things right again,” he states calmly, even though the fire in his eyes says otherwise. “Besides, the whole point of him stumbling across a healer in the middle of the woods is so he can be saved and reflect on all the bad things he’s done. It’s a good redemption arc story, you gotta admit that.”
“I admit to nothing.” Arya turns her attention back to the TV screen just in time to see a scene so bad it makes her wince. “Oh, look, your favorite evil warlord is now making out with the hot healer. There goes your redemption arc.”
“Hey, just because they’re making out doesn’t mean –”
“Just admit it. You like the idea of them being together. Oh my god, you’re such a nerd.”
Griff flushes, but continues to stand his ground. “Oh, like two equally hot individuals having crazy outdoor sex doesn’t turn you on?”
“As a matter of fact, it doesn’t. Not when one of the hot individuals in question massacred an entire village just to prove a point.”
“Jesus Christ, you’re insufferable.”
Griff looks so mad at her she half-expects him to slap her on the face. The tips of his ears are steaming red, and he’s got this crazy wild look in his eye that says he’s just four steps away from doing or saying something stupid, which in turn makes Arya want to do something stupid in return.
The retort dies on her tongue the minute she realizes that Griff’s face is just a few inches away from hers. Somehow, they’d become so caught up in their argument that they’ve begun to unconsciously move towards each other. And now it’s impossible to miss the hard muscle ticking just above his jaw, nor the way the afternoon sunlight manages to turn his eyes impossibly blue. If Arya turns her head just so, she’s pretty sure they’d be kissing.
“Fuck, you’re so hot,” she blurts out instead.
Griff blinks at her in surprise. “Um, thanks?”
Arya leans forward, brushing her lips against his, and she has a few seconds to wonder if Griff is going to push her away and freak out about how badly Arya has ruined their friendship now, but then he hooks his arm around her waist and leaves a trail of soft kisses on her jaw before finally landing on her lips, and oh, Asha is going to be so fucking pissed Arya lasted two weeks before finally initiating a proper makeout session with Griff.
“Does this mean I’m allowed to keep you now?” Griff murmurs against her skin.
“I’m the one keeping you,” Arya corrects him, completely unable to wipe the stupid grin off her face. “Don’t you go getting any ideas now.”
“Isn’t that the same thing?”
“No, stupid, it’s not.”
Griff rolls his eyes affectionately at her. “Fine,” he says with pretend weariness. “Do whatever you want with my body. I’m generous like that. I’m a good Samaritan, remember?”
“Oh, shut up and put your tongue to good use.”
“Geez, so pushy.”
They make out on the couch for what seems like hours, until someone loudly clears his throat, startling them so much they leap apart and almost bump their foreheads against each other.
She looks up, half-dreading seeing her father, or god forbid, her mother looming over them, but instead, she sees Bran, looking fresh from gym class, a disapproving frown painted on his face.
“Hi, Bran,” she greets him, like her clothes aren’t completely mussed and her lips so swollen from kissing.
“I’m way too tired to deal with this. I need reinforcements,” Bran mutters under his breath. Within seconds, he has whipped out his phone and has put on his best poker face.
Arya glances suspiciously at him. “What are you doing?”
The continuous lack of expression on Bran’s face does not inspire confidence. At all. Arya has a bad feeling about this.
“Calling reinforcements,” her brother simply says.
Reinforcements come in the form of Robb’s Audi, Jon’s vintage but totally badass Harley Davidson, and Sansa’s shiny red BMW. Even Rickon’s rusty little bike is there, propped unobtrusively between the mailbox and the clump of bushes that Arya’s mother has been obsessively pruning since the dawn of time.
Arya fights back the urge to groan as she surveys the neat row of vehicles on their driveway, their flashing headlights an eerie reminder of the battle that is yet to come. She’d be lying if she said she didn’t see this one coming, though. The Starks are notorious for working in packs, and if Bran called them for an emergency pack meeting, there’s no stopping them from coming back home as soon as possible. It’s what Arya would do too, if the roles had been reversed. She almost pities Griff.
“Hey, Bran,” Robb nods at her brother as they all come filing inside the house, with Jon bringing up the rear. He spares a moment to glance at Griff, his gaze roving over his messy blue hair, the top two piercings on his left ear, and the casual way he’s sitting on the family couch dressed in nothing but his jeans. “So this is the guy.”
“Yup, that’s the guy,” Bran replies.
Rickon zips past them to squint at Griff. “Should’ve known it would be you,” he growls, sizing him up like he’s trying to decide which side of his face he’s gonna punch first.
“Hi?” Griff stares at all of them, looking confused as hell. Arya doesn’t blame him.
“Hey, man. Hello. I’d say it’s nice to meet you, but given the circumstances… well, you know.” Robb crackles his knuckles. “Let’s get this started, shall we?”
“Get what started?” Griff shoots Arya a panicked look, but to his credit, his grip on her waist does not loosen. Arya can’t help but like him a little bit more for it.
“Arya didn’t tell you?”
“Tell me what?”
Robb looks amused. “Oh, good. The more ignorant, the better.”
“You know this is completely pointless, right? I can scare him off better than all of you combined if I want to,” Arya says exasperatedly, even though she knows she has just as much chance of changing their minds as Catelyn Stark has of convincing Arya to quit fencing class.
“Yeah, we know. But it’s fun, not to mention you did the same thing when I first started dating again. It’s only fair that I return the favor,” Sansa tells her, looking far too pleased with this latest development for her to be of any help to Arya. “Don’t worry,” she assures Griff in her most innocent voice, “We just want to talk to you for a few minutes. Get to know you better. Since we’ll be seeing a lot more of you from now on. You have a sister, right? I’m sure you understand.”
Griff shrugs helplessly before rising from his seat. “Sure. Whatever. It’s cool.”
“Great. If you’ll follow us, please?” Sansa claps her hands together and smiles at him in a way that’s supposed to make him feel better but actually doesn’t. Any other day and this would’ve been amusing for Arya too, but c’mon. This is Griff. Her siblings are going to fucking murder him.
The first one who starts talking is Robb. He leans back on their father’s chair, all casual and business-like, rests his briefcase on the table, and says, “So, how long have you been dating my sister?”
Griff stares at the clock on the wall and replies, “Uh, thirty-five minutes?”
“Do you consider yourself a monogamous person? You’re not currently engaged in an incestuous relationship with your sister and/or other relatives?”
“What? No. No, of course not.”
“Sorry. Given your family history, I had to ask.”
“Fair enough. Anything else you want to know?”
“Just two things,” Robb says, rolling up his sleeves and brushing imaginary lint off his custom-made Armani suit in a subtle act of intimidation. Robb’s an asshole like that. “What do you think of marriage?”
“Marriage, like in general? Or marriage to your sister?”
If Griff seems bothered by all the questions, he doesn’t let it show. “Marriage is an important thing for me, sure, but not, like, right now, you know? I mean, obviously I don’t want to marry Arya now, Jesus, and I’m pretty sure she doesn’t want to marry me either, at least not until I manage to convince her that I’m not some crazy pyromaniac disguised as a normal guy. But I’m cool with fake marriage – according to rom-coms, it’s a thing that actually works – so for future purposes, sure, we can fake marry each other and see where things go from there.”
Robb only hums and nods his head in response while the rest of the Stark siblings watch on.
“So? What’s the other one?”
“You said there were two things you wanted to know. What’s the other one?”
“Oh. Right.” Robb straightens in his seat, making Griff unconsciously straighten his spine in return. Robb looks him in the eye and asks, “Do you consider yourself a good person?”
“I don’t know,” Griff readily admits, “and to be honest, I don’t fucking care? I’m good to your sister though, and at the end of the day, that’s the only thing that really matters to you guys, isn’t it?”
Sansa raises her eyebrow. “Wow. He’s good. Arya, where on Earth did you find this guy?”
“Trust me, you don’t want to know.”
“So, are we done?” Griff asks Robb and the rest of Arya’s siblings.
“Haha. Nice try,” Robb says, finally gracing him with a smile that instantly transforms his face and makes him look younger by years. “But there are five of us and, as tradition dictates, you have to go through each and every one of us before we pronounce you fit to date my sister. Bran, you got something else to say?”
“No, I’m good,” Bran tells him. “My main contribution to this meeting is basically, just, calling up the meeting in the first place. As long as he and Arya both promise not to defile the couch again –” Griff solemnly says “I promise” at the same moment that Arya yells “I make no promises!”, earning them both a snicker from Rickon and a glare from Robb–“then he gets my approval."
Knowing Bran though, he’d probably managed to hack his way into all of Griff’s online accounts in the time that it took Robb to show off his awesome interrogation skills, and was just too nice to say so. Either way, if he has nothing to say, then Arya assumes that he must’ve been satisfied with all the information he’d managed to gleam about Griff from the web. After all, mad hacking skills aside, Bran is a good judge of character.
“Sansa? You wanna go next?”
“Sure.” Sansa smiles like that’s the only opening she needs and stands up from her position on Robb’s side so she could tower over them all in heels that could probably slit a man’s throat. Griff’s throat, if you want to get technical about that kind of shit.
“Hi, Griff. I have an appointment at the bake shop in an hour, so let’s keep this simple, shall we?” Sansa shakes his hand, her nails grazing his palm, and Griff has a very hard time trying not to think about how long her nails are and how painful it would be if she ever decides to stab him in the neck with them because, let’s face it, Sansa Stark looks like a girl who is capable of killing someone and making it look like an accident.
“Do you like lemon cakes?”
The question throws Griff off guard. “Lemon cakes?” he repeats dumbly. “Yeah, I like lemon cakes, sure.”
“Good. Because I happen to be an expert at making those,” Sansa shares. “You know what else I’m good at making? Poison. So the moment you even think about cheating on my little sister, please remember that.”
Griff swallows and the room goes quiet.
“And now we’re done,” Sansa announces cheerfully.
Great. Three down, two more to go.
“Ooh, ooh, is it my turn now?” Rickon exclaims, raising his hand in the air and jumping up and down on his seat. Robb gives him the all clear, and Griff could only watch in vague horror as Rickon runs towards him and all but shoves his phone on his face.
“Here,” he says imperiously.
“Uh, what am I supposed to be looking at?”
Rickon scrolls through the photos on his phone before he finds an album labeled “Shaggy’s Kills”. Judging by the title, it’s probably something Griff wouldn’t be comfortable seeing, but Rickon seems determined to do the whole “hurt my sister and I will end you” thing, so Griff steels himself and grabs the phone from Rickon’s overeager hands before things get brutal real fast.
As expected, the photos aren’t pretty. Most of them are shots taken at the hospital – punctured wounds that look inflicted by a wild animal, a couple of greenish-purplish bruises that’s got to hurt something bad, and even a few avulsed wounds, with the skin completely ripped off – and if Griff didn’t know Rickon any better, he’d be wondering how in the hell a thirteen-year-old kid could get his hands on something that he’s pretty sure is classified information.
“Jesus fucking Christ, what the hell is this?”
“It’s a list of all the people who’ve wronged us in the past,” Rickon explains to him, like it’s completely normal for someone his age to be talking about these things. “We Starks believe in accountability. Shaggy does too. So he makes the bad men – and women – pay. It’s why he makes such a good pet.”
“So, in other words, you trained your dog to attack people in the name of justice. I get why you and Arya are siblings now.”
“I like you, Griff,” Rickon tells him, looking uncharacteristically serious for once. “But if you ever hurt my sister in any way, you’re going to make it to that list.”
Griff smiles wryly at him in an effort to hide his grimace. “Okay. I’ll try my best not to.”
Then, as though by some unspoken agreement, everyone turns to Jon. He hasn’t spoken a single word since he first came home, but that’s not unusual. Jon is not the chatty type and is every bit as brooding as Arya told him he’d be. Granted, Arya also told him that he was the nicest guy on planet Earth, and given the fact that he hasn’t so much as glared at Griff despite the fact that Bran caught them making out on the family couch, Griff is feeling hopeful.
“Any last words, Jon?”
Jon shares a look with Arya and shrugs. “Arya’s the toughest person I know and I trust her to take care of herself," he says. "If she wants to date the guy, she can date him.”
“Thank you,” Arya exclaims as she snuggles up to her brother and allows him to place a protective arm around her shoulder. “Finally someone who gets me.”
Griff thinks that this is it, he’s finally in the clear, but then Jon swivels his head in his direction and stares at him with such intensity it automatically makes all the hairs on his arms rise. “If you ever mess with my favorite sister though – I mean, no offense, Sansa –”
“None taken. I love you to death, Jon, but we all know you’re not my favorite brother either,” Sansa tells him, her eyes instantly sliding to Robb, who glowers at the compliment.
“Yeah, don’t mind me and Bran. We’re just – next-door neighbors or something,” Rickon loudly mutters, to which Bran smiles.
Jon clears his throat, and the atmosphere in the room immediately changes. “You ever shot a man before, Griff?”
“Does shooting pedestrians on GTA count?”
“Okay. Then, no.”
“Well, I have. Shot people before, I mean. I’m in the army,” Jon informs him, which has the desired effect of draining the blood right off Griff’s face. “I taught Arya how to use a gun when she turned nine. So don’t get too comfortable. If my sister ever reaches a point in her life when she decides that she wants to kill you, you can bet your ass I’ll be there to help her bury the body.”
Arya sighs but doesn’t correct him. She takes one look at Griff and his tight, white-knuckled grip on the armrest and says, “Still think you and I should be dating?”
Griff smiles weakly at her. “Absolutely.”
It’s a week before Christmas and Arya is standing in the middle of Dragonstone Park in her coziest sweater, looking lost and pissed as hell. She pulls her phone out for the ninetieth time that day and surveys her surroundings once more, hoping for something she might’ve missed, but, as all things in Arya’s life, nothing makes sense. All she sees are trees, more trees, and a wide stretch of road that, for all she knows, could lead her straight into hell.
Arya likes to think of herself as the most well-traveled one out of all her siblings, having gone off to places like The Titan’s Peak, Flea Bottom, and, hell, even fucking Harrenhal in all its ruined glory. So she cannot, for the life of her, understand why she’s having so much trouble following Griff’s simple instructions. She can practically feel her pride disintegrating the longer she stands there.
In the end, she gives up and calls Shireen.
As expected, her friend doesn’t take the news well.
“Quit laughing at me, Shireen. I’m being one hundred percent serious right now,” Arya tells her, annoyed.
“I’m sorry,” Shireen says, sounding anything but. “I’m just finding it a little hard to believe that you got lost in the neighborhood. You’ve been to Dragonstone Park – what, thirty times?”
“More like fifty,” Arya replies. “But Griff says he lives near the park; he even texted me directions. I’m telling you though, I’ve been standing at this same spot for like twenty minutes now and I can’t find a single house, much less a neighborhood. Shireen, this is serious. I can’t find his house on fucking Google Maps. I mean, that’s weird, right?”
“Very,” Shireen agrees. “Hold on, let me see what I can do.”
For a few minutes, all she hears is the sound of Shireen furiously typing on her keyboard and cursing, which says something, since Shireen rarely curses, thanks to her overzealous, religious mother and her equally overzealous redhead friend whom Arya still had nightmares about.
“Okay, this is getting officially weird,” Shireen eventually whispers over the phone. “I rebooted that program Bran copied onto my hard drive a few weeks ago, but it’s giving me nothing. And you can’t tell me it’s a glitch because Bran designed that thing. It’s about as legit as it could get.”
“So, what are you saying?”
“I hate to break it to you, but for all intents and purposes, your boyfriend’s house doesn’t exist.”
Arya frowns and bites her lip. “Are you seriously telling me that Griff is a homeless person?” she says incredulously.
“That, or he’s playing a prank on you.”
“Seeing as he knows very well that his sex life depends on pleasing me on a daily basis, I don’t see how he can possibly be making jokes. Inviting me to dinner with his family and then giving me a fake address sounds a bit extreme, right?”
“Uh, right,” Shireen says, clearing her throat. “Speaking of Griff, where is he, anyway?”
Arya sighs. “He told me he had to go home early. Said there was a family emergency or something. Then he gave me the directions to his house and said he’d meet me there. But I’ve tried calling him a dozen times and he won’t pick up. I’m trying my best not to freak out, but – yeah. Quietly freaking out now.”
“Sorry, Arya. I wish I could help,” Shireen tells her, sounding contrite. “Have you tried calling Bran?”
“Yeah, but he went on a hike with Hodor and Meera and won’t be home until the day after tomorrow. I can’t reach him on his phone.”
“Then call Griff until he picks up. Or murder him. Or call Jon and have him murder him.”
“Thanks, that’s very helpful.” Arya snorts and then adds, “But yeah. I should probably go with option one and call him again. I don’t want to resort to option three unless I really, really have to. I like making out with Griff. I’m not getting rid of him that easily.”
She hangs up on Shireen and, as promised, calls Griff again. Miraculously, he picks up right on the first ring.
“Arya?” he answers, sounding a bit breathless. “I was wondering when you were gonna call again. Are you okay? Are you stuck in traffic somewhere?”
“No,” Arya huffs. “I’m having trouble finding your place. Seriously, where do you live?”
“I told you. I live at – Rhae, I said don’t stir the sauce! You are nowhere near skilled enough to – Oh my god, Grandpa, don’t touch that! No, put that down! Uncle Viserys, a fucking hand here?” Griff yells. Arya could hear weird clanging noises in the background and figures she’d rather not know what’s making Griff so busy. “Anyway,” he continues, once things have slightly settled down, “Where was I? Oh, right. Did you get my text? I said head toward -”
“Dragonstone Park. Yes, I double-checked your instructions about a million times already,” Arya interrupts him, her patience fraying. “I’m standing at the entrance to the park as we speak and unless your family owns Tobho Mott’s Autorepair Shop, I don’t see where else an entire neighborhood could fit right here.”
“Wait, you’re at the park entrance? No, of course, you won’t see anything there. You have to go straight.”
“Straight? You mean, into the park?”
“Yeah, that’s what I told you in my message, right? Go straight.”
“Aegon, is there something you’d like to tell me?” Arya rarely calls him Aegon, but she figures that in this case, she’s allowed to not give a shit about his feelings. She’s been Googling his house, for Christ’s sake.
“Uhh, my entire family is crazy but I hope you still like me because I really, really like you too?”
"Not that, stupid. I was thinking more along the lines of, ‘Do you live in a fucking park?’ Because you could have just told me that in the first place and saved me all the trouble.”
“Weeell. It’s not that simple,” Griff mumbles. “Look, I’ll explain it once you get here. For now, just head straight until you come across the large dragon fountain with the crazy ruby eyes. Do you see it?”
“Yes, I see it. Now what?”
“Go left. Take two rights, and then another left.”
Arya curses under her breath but does as she’s told.
“Are you there yet? What do you see?”
“Just trees. And a tall wall covered with ivy,” Arya informs him.
“Okay. That’s good. You’re in the right place. Now just wave.”
“There’s a hidden camera mounted on the far right side of the wall. See the blinking red light? Wave at it.”
Feeling like this day couldn’t possibly get any weirder, Arya raises her arms above her head, middle fingers in the air, and waits for something magical to happen.
As always, Griff doesn’t disappoint. The wall splits open in half, revealing a space wide enough for two cars to pass through. Beyond that is an actual, honest-to-God castle, complete with sprawling lawns and turrets and old gargoyles perched on top of stone pedestals. It looks more like a UNESCO World Heritage site than a house inhabited by humans, and Arya feels a little stupid that she’s been jogging around Dragonstone Park her entire life without knowing that a structure this big existed right smack in the middle of it.
Sometime after she’d started dating him, Arya had sort of figured out that Griff wasn’t as poor as other people thought he was. He has a decent car, has no job but always manages to pay for his drinks at the bar, not to mention, he keeps destroying his phone by accident but somehow always shows up the next day with a new one, like iPhones just grow on trees or something. Arya has been bracing herself for the moment when Griff would finally confess to selling meth, which wasn’t entirely out of the realm of possibilities, but this… This is something else.
“What the fuck?” she exclaims once the front door opens, revealing a sheepish Griff.
“Welcome to Dragonstone Castle,” he says, sweeping his hand to the side to show off the inside of the house, which looks just as fancy as the outside.
"How is there a fucking castle inside a park that people don’t know about? I can’t even find this on Google, Griff. Who are you?”
Griff laughs and rubs the back of his neck, looking embarrassed for once. “Don’t worry, I’m still… me. It’s just – my grandpa’s really paranoid. He’s kind of a recluse. Half of the time he thinks the government is watching him, which makes him does all sorts of crazy stuff that – well, you’ll see what I mean when you meet him,” he tells her, sounding as though if he’d had his way, he wouldn’t want her to meet him at all. Like, ever.
“And here I thought my family was crazy.”
“Trust me,” Griff says with a long-suffering sigh. “Your family’s got nothing on mine. We’re practically the world champions of crazy.”
When they reach the living room, it’s seven thirty in the evening and the curtains are on fire. There’s an old man sitting at the head of the table with a box of matchsticks on his hands, laughing maniacally and shouting random words in Latin, an impeccably dressed older woman hefting a fire extinguisher around while calmly giving instructions on how to get the turkey out of the oven, a manic-faced guy in a World of Warcraft hoodie hunched over his laptop yelling “Die, peasants, die!” while a man with sad purple eyes plays the violin in the background.
“What. The. Actual. Fuck,” Arya swears, just before a black, one-eyed cat launches itself into the air, claws out, and lands in the middle of the chocolate fudge pie, where it then emerges, looking like a demon reborn from hell.
A tall girl with gorgeous skin runs past them and scoops up the offending creature, heedless of the goo dripping off of its’ fur. Then, as though sensing Arya’s eyes on her, she turns around, her face quickly lighting up the minute she sees her. “Oh, hi! You must be Arya, right?” she says without preamble. “I’m Rhaenys, Aegon’s sister."
A distant part of Arya thinks that now is probably not the right time to start making introductions, not when there’s a goddamn fire in the dining room and no one except the old lady in the corner seems to be doing something about it, because yes, contrary to popular belief, Arya does value her life – very much, in fact, that she’d prefer it if she could survive this dinner with all her limbs intact, though she’s afraid she can’t say the same about her mental state of mind. There’s something about these Targaryens that makes her feel as though she’s earned the right to wear a straightjacket for the rest of her life.
“Sorry about the mess,” Rhaenys apologizes offhandedly, as though putting out fires while creepy violin music plays in the background is just a part of everyday life. “Grandpa got a little too excited after his second glass of wine.”
“A little too excited?” Arya repeats incredulously, her gaze flicking to Griff’s grandfather, who has now commandeered the better part of the dining room so he can stick kitchen knives in his chair in a crude imitation of a throne.
Rhaenys winces. “Okay, maybe little isn’t the right term,” she admits, then decides to abandon the conversation entirely in favor of making sure that their grandfather doesn’t stab himself by accident.
“Is this your way of getting back at me for getting cornered by my siblings a few weeks ago?” Arya whispers to Griff, glancing every now and then at the room to check for any flying projectiles, fiery or otherwise.
“Nah. If I wanted to get you back for that, I’d bring you over on New Year’s Eve. Can you imagine my grandpa with firecrackers? God, that would be a disaster.”
“Just so you know, I’ve already got plans with my family for New Year’s Eve. There’s no way in hell I’m going to your party.”
“Fine. We’ll all just come to yours then.”
"Jesus, Griff. Don’t you even.”
When the fire finally dies down and all sharp objects are safely out of Grandpa Aerys’ reach, they all settle down and have dinner. Like fucking civilized people, Arya thinks wryly to herself. She gets introduced around the table as Griff’s girlfriend and no one seems surprised. Griff’s father takes one look at her and, in a sudden fit of inspiration, picks up his violin again to play something slow and mournful, and whether or not it means he disapproves of her is left completely up to anyone’s interpretation. Rhaella Targaryen smiles kindly at her but gives her a look that says she ought to run away from this dinner party while she still can because, hello, priorities. If she leaves now, there’s a chance she might make it past her twenties. Or thirties. Who knows? Griff’s grandmother is feeling optimistic.
And then there’s Griff’s uncle, who barely even looks a day older than him – Arya’s not yet totally convinced he’s not a vampire – and whose eyes barely even leaves his laptop screen, not even when Rhaella serves the turkey with the mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce that has Arya’s mouth watering for days.
She’s glad she manages to shatter Viserys’ concentration though, when he asks her if she plays World of Warcraft and she shrugs and says, “No. But my brother Bran does. He’s got, like, three infinite dragons and a Nozdormu, whatever the fuck that is.”
Viserys’ jaw drops to the ground and he almost chokes on his wine, and Arya feels only a little less guilty about it than she’s supposed to.
“Having fun?” The pretty, silvery blonde-haired girl she ends up sitting next to on the table asks her with a smile.
Apparently, she’s Griff’s aunt, her husband got murdered on the same year she got married to her, and she owns one of the largest airline companies in the country. Also, she’s probably the only normal person in the room, with the exception of Arya and Griff – Rhaenys would have made the cut except she owns Balerion and seems too heavily invested in Griff’s love life for Arya to be comfortable with. Dany, on the other hand, is crazy hot, and Arya wastes no time in getting her number, because hot blonde widows sound like something Asha’d be into, and Arya is nothing but a dutiful friend, so why the fuck not.
“I was actually having second thoughts about dating Griff,” Arya remarks, “but then your grandmother served the turkey and, well.”
Dany grins conspiratorially at her and says, “You’re welcome to ditch my nephew and date me instead. I know my mother’s secret recipe, if that helps.”
“Ooh, tempting. But sadly, I’ve grown attached to this dork, god knows why. I know someone who’d be totally into you though.”
“Great. Tell your friend to find me on Facebook.”
“Already one step ahead of you. I sent her your number. Expect a weird text somewhere between now and twelve-thirty. If you’re lucky, you might even get boob pics on the first hour.”
“I knew there was a reason I liked you.”
“While it’s exciting that the two of you are getting along nicely, I’m feeling a little neglected here, babe,” Griff suddenly interjects. The flushed, pleased look on his face betrays him though, and Arya guesses that he must have been more worried about this dinner than he’d initially let on.
“I’d kiss you now if it’ll make you feel better, but I don’t think your grandfather would like that,” Arya whispers in his ear, though she can’t help but reach for his hand under the table. “I think he’s convinced I’m a secret agent sent by the government to spy on you, if the way he’s glaring at me is any indication.”
“Still think you and I should be dating?” Griff asks her, sounding only half-joking.
“Are you kidding me? I’ve always wanted to date someone whose grandfather is a secret pyromaniac. I’m in this for the long run.”
The stupid grin he shoots her manages to melt her heart, but only just a little.
“Sansa, honey, would you mind helping your brother with the decorations? Your sister and I can handle this,” Catelyn announces on Friday night.
Sansa shrugs apologetically at Arya and mouths “Good luck” before draping her apron on the empty chair and prancing off toward the dining room, leaving her alone in the kitchen with her mother. Arya wants to say she surprised, but knowing her mother… well, she’s really not.
“So,” Catelyn says brightly, as though she hadn’t been planning on cornering her younger daughter for months now so she could criticize her for her poor life choices and equally poor taste in boyfriends. “How are things going with you and Griff?”
“Good, actually,” Arya replies nonchalantly, sensing a trap just coming. “I met his family last week. They’re... weirdly intense.”
Catelyn’s eyebrows rise up to her hairline. “He introduced you to his family already? Isn’t it… a little too early for that? You’ve only been dating him for a few months.”
“Robb married Jeyne two months after he met her,” Arya reminds her.
“I never said your brother’s rash actions was something you should all emulate. Not that – wait, Griff hasn’t proposed to you yet, has he?” Catelyn looks so horrified at the thought that Arya feels tempted to Snapchat the whole thing.
“No, of course not,” Arya reassures her, though she can’t help but add, just for her mother's benefit, “But if he proposes to me in the future… I might not be totally opposed to saying yes.”
Her mother looks like she wants to cry.
“But Arya, you’re so young!” Catelyn exclaims, abandoning her mad quest to chop carrots so she can smooth Arya’s hair the way she used to when she was a little kid in need of parental guidance. “You’re not even done with college yet. You have your whole life ahead of you! Besides, how can you even be sure that Griff is the right guy for you? Do you really want to be one of those poor women who get divorced in their early twenties, the ones who have to work twice as hard just so they can raise their kids on their own?”
“Mom, don’t be ridiculous,” Arya says with a laugh. “You said it yourself. I’m way too young. I don’t plan on having kids anytime soon.”
“Yes, but what happens if you get pregnant anyway? I know you’re using protection – your father and I raised you well – but what if despite that, something happens? You think Griff could be a good father? Honey, I’m sorry, but he doesn't even look like he can support himself, let alone you and a bunch of kids.”
And there it is, finally. The reason Catelyn Stark would sooner marry her daughter off to a Frey than have him date that Griff kid. Arya loves her mother, she really does, but sometimes she can be too much to handle.
“What’s wrong with Griff? Honestly, Mom, if you just sat down and talked to him for a minute, I know you’d like him.”
“He seems like a nice guy,” Catelyn grudgingly admits, even though Arya senses a but coming, “But” – Arya sighs – “I just don’t think he’d be right for you. Maybe if he’d stop dyeing his hair blue –”
“How is that even relevant to our discussion? Sansa dyed her hair black before and you don’t see me judging her as a person.”
“Arya, he lives in a park –”
“No, he doesn’t! It’s not like that.”
“He gets sent to the hospital a lot,” Arya’s mother continues on, as though she hasn’t even heard her. “He claims he went to a good college but he doesn’t have a job. All he does is surf all day and collect pennies at the park by singing horrible cover songs. Arya, I want to like him, for your sake as much as mine, but he’s not making it easy.”
Arya purses her lips and fights the urge to rub her temple. Arguing with her mother always gives her a headache.
“Okay, first of all,” she says, because at this point in time, she can no longer afford to keep quiet while her mother insults the love of her life (Griff’s words, not hers), “Griff graduated at King’s Landing University, which, as you know from how hard Robb worked to get his acceptance letter, is a really difficult school to get into. Second of all, Griff is actually short for Aegon Targaryen, which basically makes him super rich. He doesn’t have a job because, to be honest, he doesn’t need one. He can live the rest of his life without working and he’d still be richer than all of us. He doesn’t live at the park. His family owns the park. Also, he’s set to inherit the entire Targaryen jewelry business once his father retires, not that any of that matters, because I love him not because of his money but because he’s a dork who’s always there for me and loves me back. But, yeah, knowing that his entire net fortune is bigger than either ours and the Lannisters’ combined does make things easier, because I know you’d approve. As for the blue hair… well, I really have no excuse.”
That shuts her mother up.
Arya: congrats, u just got invited to our NYE dinner
Griffin McMuffin: Um wow
Did I do something wrong?
Is this a not-so-subtle attempt to tell me your brothers are about to gang up on me again?
Arya: honestly, no
tho that would be cool to watch
Griffin McMuffin: Thanks. I’m really feelin the love here
Arya: i think my mother likes you now, tbh
Griffin McMuffin: Wait, you mean she didn’t like me before???
Arya, what does that even mean?
I thought she liked me just fine
Arya: sat night at my place. c u at 9. don’t forget
and for the love of god, wear a tie
They’ve been dating seriously for over a year when they get into their first big fight. If anyone asks, Arya tells them it’s Griff’s fault, but to be completely honest, she doesn’t actually remember what they’ve been fighting about. They’ve been known to bicker over the smallest things from time to time – from Griff’s insistence to teach Arya how to surf despite the fact that she prefers skiing down to whose turn it is to pick the ice cream on date nights – so it’s really not that surprising. Whatever their argument had been about, though, Arya’s seventy five percent sure that she’s the one whose been wronged. The other twenty five percent can just suck it.
“You’re being an idiot about this, you know,” Sansa tells her remorselessly as she watches Arya devour an entire plate of nachos in what feels like a span of a few seconds.
Arya scowls at her. “Some sister you are. You’re supposed to be on my side,” she grumpily reminds her. “In fact, I thought you were willing to poison Griff on my behalf.”
“You seriously want me to poison Griff? You know I’ll do it if you ask me to.” Sansa puts her hand on her chin and looks contemplatively at the ceiling. “Okay, what sounds good to you? Arsenic? Cyanide? Strychnine? Or, ooh, arrow poison frog?”
“C’mon, Sansa. I wasn’t – I mean – It was just a joke, alright? I don’t really want you to poison him.”
“Good,” Sansa says. “Because I told him I’d poison him if he ever cheated on you and I don’t think he really had.”
“How would you know?”
Sansa smirks at her, like she’s stupid for even asking. Which she kind of is. Sansa, apparently, has a lot of resources at her disposal. “Trust me, you don’t want to know,” is all she says instead. Arya decides to leave it at that.
“At least you’re pretty vocal about not wanting to kill him,” Arya muses. “I’ve already had to field a dozen questions from Robb, asking me which method of execution I’d prefer. Garrote vs guns, that kind of shit.”
“Cute. What did the rest of them say?”
“Rickon and Bran haven’t talked to me about it, weirdly enough. I mean, I get Bran not saying anything, but Rickon? I’ll be damned if he doesn’t have something up his sleeve.”
“I’ll keep an eye on him for you,” Sansa promises. “What about Jon?”
Arya rolls her eyes fondly at the memory of her brother’s latest message. “He told me to call him if I need anything. Says he’ll come right over with the spade and a truck full of gasoline if I just say the word.”
“God, no wonder no one in this city wants to date me.”
“Shut up, Sansa. You’re, like, everybody’s dream girl. You’ve got so many guys hung up on you that I’m pretty sure if you ask them to jump, they’ll literally do it.”
“Like you don’t?” Sansa raises an eyebrow at her and fixes her with a no-nonsense look, the kind of look that makes Arya feel so guilty she can’t help but look away. “You’ve got one guy who would literally do anything, even dye his hair silver again, if you ask him to. Fix it. I promise you you’ll regret it if you let him go.”
Arya sighs, looking resigned. “I hate it when you make promises,” she mutters.
"Because you know I’m always right?”
“Because I know you’re always right,” Arya agrees, almost grudgingly. She’s glad she and Sansa finally grew up and got over their huge childhood rift – the one where they used to be constantly at war with each other, with Arya spilling tea down Sansa’s favorite dress and Sansa retaliating by calling Arya silly names that made her cry, up until the moment when their father gave them a lecture on lone wolves and the importance of sticking together. It means that now she can go to Sansa for girly advice, advice that would no doubt be lost on her other siblings, bless their dearly ignorant testosterone-driven souls. It doesn’t mean she has to like it though. For someone who gives relationship advice without expecting to get paid, Sansa tends to be right about these things a lot.
“So you’ll talk to Griff?” Sansa asks her hopefully.
Arya rolls her eyes and nods. “Fine,” she says. “Can’t say he’ll welcome me with open arms though. Our last conversation went badly.”
“Trust me. Just give him a blowjob or two and he won’t even remember he’s mad at you.”
“Ugh. Not exactly the kind of advice I’d want to hear from you, but yeah, whatever. I’ll come up with something.”
All her plans of reconciliation with Griff gets derailed when she ends up getting injured on the last day of fencing practice. So she goes to the ER with a bloody gash on her arm to match the old scar on her thigh, only to find Griff already there at his usual spot near the vending machine, clutching his bleeding fingers to his chest. Arya’s about to recite him her bill of rights – she’s pretty sure stalking is a federal offense – but the surprise on his face looks genuine enough she feels bad for even thinking of it in the first place. Still, the whole thing feels a lot like déjà vu.
“What happened to you?” she asks him, plopping down on the seat next to him as though she has always belonged there.
“Oh, so now you’re talking to me?”
“Last time I checked, I’m still your girlfriend. So yeah, I’m talking to you because I’m worried about you. Deal with it.”
“You’re worried?” The stubborn frown on Griff’s face is quickly replaced with a hopeful one. “That’s sweet.”
"It would be, except I don’t do sweet.”
“You just did though. You called yourself my girlfriend, which I count because most days you just call yourself that stupid girl who got roped into dating that stupid guy when really, you’re the one who basically propositioned me in your living room all those months ago.”
“I hate it when your memory doesn’t fail you,” Arya complains with a resigned sigh.
“Apparently, your brother’s memory doesn’t either, hence this.” Griff shows him the three punctured marks on his left hand. It looks a lot like a Stark dog’s handiwork.
Arya feels almost afraid to ask. “Which one was it?”
Griff shrugs ruefully. “Shaggydog,” he confesses. “Not that I blame Rickon. I mean, he did warn me, didn’t he? If I ever messed things up with you, he’ll set Shaggy loose on me. To be honest, I’m just lucky I didn’t lose a hand.”
“Holy shit. Did he really?”
“Yup. He did.”
Arya winces. “I’m ashamed of him, I really am,” she replies, sounding apologetic. “Don’t worry, when Rickon finally finds himself a girlfriend, I’m getting him back for this.”
An amused smile crosses Griff’s face. “What are you gonna do, pull on the kid’s pigtails and steal her lunchbox?”
“If I have to, yeah.”
“Thanks. That’s very comforting.”
“You know I live to comfort you.”
Griff doesn’t even have the decency to hide his laughter. It’s a good thing hearing him laugh makes Arya wants to laugh in return – Griff’s laughter is one of those weird, infectious types that always makes her feel warm and light and kind of like a little kid high on cotton candy, but maybe that’s just Arya. She’s so stupidly in love with him it’s not even funny.
“If this is your way of apologizing,” Griff teases her, “congratulations. You suck at it.”
“Why would I apologize? I’m not apologizing until you do it first.” Because yeah, apparently Arya is a mature twenty-year-old adult who’s very good at making mature, wise comments. Her mother would be ashamed of her.
Griff rolls his eyes. “Fine, I’m sorry about whatever it is I did to upset you,” he recites dully. “There, we okay now? Can we go back to making out and making cute snarky comments and arguing about weird shit that doesn’t make your brothers want to murder me?”
Arya leans her head on his shoulder. “Only if you promise to tone down a bit on the ER visits. I get that you want to maximize your health insurance, but when you’re on a first name basis with all the nurses and, like, ninety percent of the staff at the hospital, that kind of alarms me.”
“If it makes you feel any better, I have you listed as my emergency contact person.”
“It doesn’t, actually. But considering your dad is channeling some major Tchaikovsky vibes while the rest of your family is equally as crazy, I’m not surprised.”
Griff playfully pecks her on the lips. “You know, maybe I just did it because you’re hot.”
“All the more reason to list me as an emergency contact person,” Arya quips. “Who doesn’t want hot girls visiting the ER?”
“Dr. Qyburn, probably,” he says. “But not me. I’m glad I get to show you off every time I get the chance to, yeah. Because obviously I’m the shallow one in this relationship.”
Griff doesn’t even know the half of it, so Arya just laughs, shakes her head and pretends to agree with him. “Yeah, obviously.”
“But seriously.” His hand finds hers and he twines their fingers together. “You don’t mind getting called to the ER a lot? You know I'm always here and given that, I don't know, you’re busy trying to save the world and everything –”
The look she sends him stops him from talking. “You’ve met my brothers before, haven’t you? Don’t worry, I’ve got this. I can deal with crazy.”
Griff sighs contentedly and kisses her hair. “God, you’re the best,” he says.
“As long as you don’t forget it.”
Five days later, Griff gets into a fight with his grandfather over Dany – apparently, he didn’t like the fact that most of the investors at the company liked Dany more than him or Rhaegar, like that’s a total surprise – and Aerys, in typical Targaryen fashion, retaliates by throwing a bottle of wine at his grandson. Thankfully, he’s almost half-blind so he doesn’t do any lasting damage.
Still, Arya gets the call at nine in the morning while she’s in the middle of a shower, and she gets more than her share of weird looks once she shows up at the ER with mismatched socks and a towel wrapped around her head. So yeah, damn right she’s the best.