Arya sat in a chair by the hearth, a fire crackling to heat the room as light snowflakes danced passed the window. Winter is coming, she thought. She held a book on Nymeria, the Rhoynar warrior-queen in her hands, reading it lazily. Her direwolf of the same name lay at her feet, dozing off. She hadn't slept well the night before, nightmares of old coming back to haunt her. Her father's execution had replayed behind her eyelids all night, causing her to wake repeatedly in a cold sweat, tears clinging to her eyelashes. Nymeria had been by her side all night, offering her whatever comfort she needed but it wasn't enough. What she wanted was her family back.
She wanted Sansa by her side, working at her needles to make useless embroidery just for decoration. She wanted Robb and Jon to spar with. She wanted Bran and Rickon to ride horses with and practice archery. But, she wanted her parents most of all. She wanted her mother to tell her to be more of a lady, she missed her disapproval for some reason. She missed her father's encouragement, his acceptance of her choice to be unladylike. She missed her family. She always wondered if she should have gone looking for Sansa instead of going to Braavos.
There was a soft knock on her door and she hastily wiped away the tears on her face before she said as strong as possible, "Come in." She turned her head to looked at the door and watched as the king walked in. She smiled at him and he was smiling back at her.
"I have a surprise for you." He said, walking to her. He offered her his hand and she took it. Nymeria stayed where she was but Gendry called, "Nymeria, come."
Arya looked at him queerly and said, "She's tired."
"The surprise is for her too."
He pulled her out of her room and down the hall, Ser Narbert Grandison of the kingsguard following them. They went through the long dining hall of the Maidenvault and down another hallway, past the large chambers where Baelor the Blessed had housed his sisters. At the end of the hallway, Gendry stopped. Arya just looked at him as he opened the door after a short knock. He held the door for her and she walked through, stopping in her tracks.
The room was large with a sitting room then a chamber father on with a large bed. Chairs of various colors littered the entry chamber, all around the crackling blaze in the hearth. It was a lot like her own chamber — just as large and welcoming. But, this one had another inhabitant. Another Stark.
He was sitting in a chair by the fire, looking little like he had years ago last she saw him. He was nearing eleven, had to be by now. His hair was shaggy, well past his shoulders at this point. His face was hardened from his years away from Winterfell. His eyes were where she saw the real change in him. They had lost the innocence that once shone so brightly from their blue depths. Rickon used to be so sweet and would hold her hand as they walked through the halls when he was young. Now, with his unruly appearance, she almost didn't want to go near him.
Behind her youngest brother was a monstrous black direwolf: Shaggydog. He stared at her, his large, green eyes not showing any kindness. That was until he saw his sister enter the room behind Arya. Nymeria's eyes met Shaggydog's and for a moment, it was like no one had ever left Winterfell. The direwolves ran to each other and nuzzled the other's neck affectionately.
A woman stood behind Rickon. She was tall and lean, her brown hair wild and shaggy. Her hand was on Rickon's shoulder and she stood protective over him, always on guard from any who might harm the boy. Arya realized that Rickon had more or less been raised by the wildling woman, whose name she didn't even know. She had done their family a great service and Arya didn't even know who she was.
Arya approached Rickon slowly, glancing back at Gendry as she did. He was nodding in an encouraging way, but she didn't feel very reassured by it. She stood in front of him, the hearth at her back. He stared up at her, his blue eyes cold with almost no light behind them. But, slowly, warmth began to creep into them and he shuffled toward her at the insistence of the wildling woman, who whispered, "Go on, little lord."
Rickon, mere inches from Arya, reached out and wrapped his arms around her. The top of his head came up to her chin and she leaned down, pressing a soft kiss to the crown of his head. Her arms enveloped him into a tight hug and she found herself shaking as she let herself cry. Rickon's arms tightened around her and he seemed to melt into her.
Gendry sat in his solar hours later, having left Arya with her brother to reacquaint themselves after years of not seeing each other. He tapped his quill pen against the parchment, staring at the blank sheet. Now that Rickon was in the capital, he knew that the time had come to write the letter. He had made several drafts already but it had never been right, he was terrible at writing. In the end, with the candle running low and scraps of parchment littering the floor, he kept it simple.
Come to King's Landing. A marriage proposal awaits you.
King Gendry Baratheon
He leaned back in his chair and stared at the words he had just scratched into the paper. He wondered how fast a cripple could make it from Highgarden. He worried that he would arrive before his intended.
Gendry sighed and pushed himself away from his desk. He began to pace the room. A knock on the door interrupted him. It opened and Holin Buckler, the squire in his service, walked in.
He said, "Pardon me, Your Grace. Lady Stark wishes to visit with you."
"Always see her in, Holin, no questions need be asked." Gendry said. Holin nodded and walked out of the room.
Gendry leaned against his desk and watched Arya walked through the door. She shut it swiftly and crossed the room in three paces. She wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed him with so much passion, he thought he would faint from it. He kept his hands on the desk to brace himself because he was becoming lightheaded from her kiss.
She finally pulled away and leaned against his chest. "You're amazing, you are. I can't believe you found him — actually found him. I can never thank you enough."
Gendry smiled and wrapped his arms around her torso, feeling well enough to release the desk. She was holding onto him with all of her might. He could feel her tears on his chest, the wetness penetrating the light fabric of his tunic. He said, "You don't have to thank me, Arya. When you love someone, you do anything you can to make them happy."
She pulled back from him to look in his eyes. When she spoke, her tone was almost mocking. "Did you just say you love me?"
He smirked. "I may have, m'lady."
She smiled and smacked his shoulder. "No, you don't."
He kissed her quickly on the lips. "Yes, I do." He kissed her jaw. "And I know you love me too." He kissed her earlobe. With each new place he kissed, she squirmed away from him, trying to fight how much she liked it.
She eventually gave up and collapsed against his chest. She mumbled, "I might love you too. If you don't make a big deal of it."
Gendry smiled to himself, trying hard not to laugh. "Could m'lady do her king a favor?"
Arya rolled her eyes and said, "What is it, Your Grace?"
"Write your sister. Summon her here at once. Tell her to take a ship from White Harbor with haste."
Arya pulled away and looked at him skeptically. "Why? To see Rickon?"
"Something like that."