The narrow peninsulas of the Fingers aren't much different from Dragonstone: cold and bleak and rainy. Bare, treeless lands near the glacier river valley.
Hardly any people.
Once he's done all the rowing he can, Gendry lands there, starved and drenched and wheezing. He steals some rubbish meat pie off a windowsill in the dead, pale moonlight, shivering and licking the soured gravy off his fingers.
There's no gold or anything like that in his satchel, but Gendry travels his way up towards Coldwater Burn.
More people, and they're no more friendly than anyone he's met in Flea Bottom. Gendry avoids a knife to the heart in the nearby tavern, struggling against a drunken, raving man. They're both thrown out into the cold, cavernous darkness, with Gendry swearing at the ground and nursing a bloody, injured nose.
He doesn't feel much like a king's son. (The Red Woman said it… … but does it make it true?)
Maybe it's luck, but Gendry manages to reach Ramsgate, closer to the North than the Vale.
Maybe… Arya Stark would be there?
She must be home already in Winterfell. It's been nearly a year, but Gendry dreams of her occasionally.
Nothing particularly vivid or colorful in nature, just… it's the memories of her. That outraged, scowling expression. That trimmed chestnut-brown hair against her brow. She had been too young to be so full of rage and tension, practically a filigree-thread away from snapping apart or lashing out to others.
There had been nothing ladylike about her. She made him smile. She had been his friend. She wanted to save Gendry, but it had been too late.
He wishes he could thank her. For everything.
Another two years pass.
(He nearly been burned alive for a crazed hunt of King Robert Baratheon's half-royal bastards, and Ser Davos led him out safely in the middle of the night. )
Little to no attention strays towards Gendry's direction. He cleans and scrubs the floors and privys of a frequented, shabby-looking inn.
Nobody bothers him.
Unless Gendry wants to be bothered.
A few girls insist upon his attention, and they're pretty enough with their dark, luminous eyes or dark skin beneath a pile of furs. He's not an awful kisser.
He's awful with names however, except for Durand. A squire boy with auburn-gold curls and a fierce, unrelenting smile. Durand tastes softer than any woman Gendry has ever been fortunate enough to lay with. A fool and a dreamer and green as spring Highgarden grass.
It doesn't last. Neither does spring in the North.
(Gendry watches one of the knights yell into Durand's face, turning away and wincing at the loud, harsh smack of armour colliding into skin.)
Arya Stark is dead.
Arya Stark is wedded to a Bolton.
Arya Stark vanished into thin air and became a full-fledged warg beyond the Wall, no longer tied to man or beast, destined to be ethereal.
Gendry silences the voices with piss-warm mead, vomiting into a small, leaking bucket cradled between his knees. The insides of Gendry's skull roars endless and deafening.
Rumours of King Joffrey's death mean nothing to him. Or that another Lannister will take the throne. It does not matter to Gendry who is playing king.
(King's blood runs through his veins and you don't see him making any noise about it.)
As he discovers a smithing opportunity in a village southeast of Torrhen's Square, the whispers of Stark reach him once more.
"You there—who is your Master?" One of the Northern soldiers interrupts him in the forge, narrowing his eyes. Gendry doesn't give him an answer, only pauses from hammering down on a gorget's molten steel. "Or do I need to whip it out of you?"
It's an partly empty threat. Gendry doesn't blink as he looks up and says dully, "Clyment Stammel."
"We need smiths in the castle who are worth a damn. Men who can strengthen armour and weapons from the sodding shite we've got."
"I can do that."
Gendry isn't overly fond of the idea going further north, especially since the daylight grows colder every day. Maybe winter is coming.
Doesn't seem like he's got much of a choice.
The outer portion of Winterfell's castlehold seems burned and charred away into ruins.
He works alongside the local smiths brought in from different ends of the North. They're barely decent at their craft and lukewarm to Southerns. That's fine with him. Gendry isn't there to get along: a bed and a warm meal is its own reward. At least there's no pot shops or bowls of brown.
But his heart aches at each mention of Stark.
"Lord Stark, Lady Stark! I beg pardon!" someone cries out.
Gendry's eyes tic up for a moment.
He can't make out what they're saying, but the boy in a wheeling chair solemnly replies to a serving maid gesturing frantically. He turns his head and nods to another, shorter girl holding onto the handles of his chair. She releases them with mild, frowning exasperation and steps back.
Gendry's mouth goes bone-dry.
There's no scowl on her young, pale features. Her chestnut-brown hair gleaming, gathered up, tidy and clean.
Bran Stark and the serving girl disappear into another entrance, leaving their companion to gaze after them, chewing on her bottom lip.
The dented helm tumbles into the snow-flecked rubble, slipping out of Gendry's hands.
He's not sure if his voice will carry against the might of howling, wintry winds. The North is the place of Old Gods and they do not favor Baratheons and the Southern invaders.
Somehow, it's their mercy he's granted.
Arya jerks around and stares, her eyes growing wider and wider.
One of her fur wraps billows and flies completely off her shoulders, hovering onto the ground, as she quickly races forward. The first sensation Gendry registers is Arya's sword hitting him against the left thigh, and then her arms locking tightly around Gendry's neck.
He picks her up off her feet, hugging Arya's middle and shutting his eyes. The wash of relief and shock mingling inside him dizzies Gendry.
Another person's warmth has never been so intoxicating. He's never been… happier.
"Gendry," Arya breathes out, as if delirious and weakened down to her core, trembling a little against Gendry's front. Their cheeks pressed together. When he sets her down carefully, Arya's smile slowly lengthens and returns all brightness. "I thought you were dead…"
Whether he means being in the Red Woman's capture or hearing all the rumours about Arya's own death, Gendry isn't sure.
"I'm glad you're not dead," he rasps out, forgetting the awkwardness behind the sentiment. "That…"
Arya glances him over and shakes her head, as if still unsure of what she's truly seeing.
There's the awkwardness. Gendry spots the hot, sudden flush rising on her cheeks. He's not exactly certain of why, but can't resist teasing.
"I didn't recognize you at first," he says bluntly, grinning. "I thought I was staring at a lady."
Arya's mouth drops open as she huffs and curses and punches Gendry right on his good arm. Oh gods and hells, she's much stronger.
There's nothing to do but laugh through the pain.
Gendry spends a lot of time with swords, but not very much with practicing using them.
He does not like the manic glint in Arya's eye.
"Are you going to sing when I hit you?" she gloats, twirling Needle with exceptional, fluid skill.
The courtyard surrounding them emptied out minus a old battering ram and a wandering goat. Gendry dodges a hit, but not the one immediately after, feeling a rush of air as she levels the pointy end dangerously towards his chin. "You got better, Arry," he mutters but smiling.
Her eyebrow cocks.
"You didn't get better at all."
Gendry thinks about knocking her on her arse, but he remembers a severe-faced Brienne of Tarth glaring at him from the cloister high above.
He side-eyes her cautiously, then rubs his nape.
"… Did I offend her in some way?"
Arya hesitates and follows Gendry's continuous attempt to not look Brienne dead in the eye, flattening her lips together to muffle her giggles.
She holsters Needle, tilting her head and gesturing with an open hand. "Come on," Arya shouts eagerly, taking off towards the opposite enclosed wall, hurrying under an archway. Gendry realizes it's soon to be a chase, as Brienne stomps and hurries to get downstairs.
He heads out the same archway, leaping over a gaggle of wild chickens and ignoring the bystanders eyeing him with distrust, sprinting past them. Gendry climbs up a set of outdoor, weather-worn stone steps, already feeling winded by his heightened senses and the… excitement?
(Is that what it is?)
He doesn't remember the last time he had fun with someone else just because they could.
Up ahead, Gendry witnesses Brienne's shadow darting closer. Just at that moment, Arya flies around the corner, nearly colliding into him. He grabs and spins her, clapping a hand over Arya's mouth and dragging them into the nearest alcove, hushing the protesting scream echoing to Gendry's bare palm.
The lady-knight runs past the alcove without notice, her armour and hauberk clanging until it's distant.
Arya elbows him rudely and shoves his hand away until he lets go, finally scowling for the first time Gendry has seen her in years. She's far older and somewhat taller, no longer a youngling, but it's still adorable in a manner.
"I see you're still getting everyone into trouble," he says pointedly, folding his arms.
Her scowl melts away.
Gendry's stomach twists and feels lighter. He realizes this is a very tiny alcove, and they're practically a footstep apart from each other.
"You're not having fun?"
Arya's voice softens without losing any of the friendly mocking intent. Her lips separate.
"I wouldn't say that…" Gendry catches himself staring, tearing his eyes from her mouth. "No, no…" he babbles out. "What I meant was…"
(What did he mean?)
His throat clenches. Arya examines him, at first dubiously, before giving him another smile.
"Was… …?" she repeats, very slowly.
Gendry wants to kick himself, but instead meets her gaze and returns her smile pensively. "What were we talking about?" he murmurs.
She rolls her eyes.
"If you're gonna kiss me, then you might as—"
Gendry closes the gap, very lightly pressing his mouth to hers, cupping the side of Arya's face.
A tiny, surprised noise escapes her, mellowing out to a long exhale out of her nostrils. He pulls away after a beat, looking even more surprised.
"M'lady, I didn't—" Gendry mumbles, then stiffens when Arya's hands dig into his hair, their lips crushing together, noses banging. He cringes outwardly before easing the pressure, touching her shoulders and guiding a newer, less fierce kiss between them. It shouldn't hurt.
Arya isn't gentle or unhurried like this, so he won't force her to be.
Gendry opens his lips against hers, feeling her teeth nip down slightly on his lower lip, chuckling and pulling away.
"That was nice," he whispers, not meaning to but effectively ruining the fragile moment. Arya's cheeks burn a deep, mottled red.
"… Shut up."
GoT isn't mine. Woo boy! I have not done any fanfic for this fandom for so long, and haven't even written this ship before! But I had been talking with a friend while watching the new season and I got inspired, so here we are! Any of you Arya/Gendry shippers out there, come say hi! Any thoughts/comments deeply appreciated!