Gendry and Arya make it to the Wall with Yoren and the rest, and the two bastards of Houses Stark and Baratheon have a talk. Gendry/Arya
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Two men swaddled in furs, one in pure black and the other in an assortment of motley browns and blacks, sat together watching their hot breath hit the icy air. They saw nothing else but the solid white of snow and ice, the cold black of a starless sky, and the odd licks of yellow and orange from their fire.
Blue eyes that looked gray in the firelight watched the flickering shadows with small amusement. Even being close to the fire, the once armorer's prentice still felt cold. Everything looked and felt cold here at the Wall, even the fire. A low chuckle escaped him, earning him a questioning look from dark eyes that stabbed with chips of grey during the day.
He shook his head in answer, turning away from eyes that reminded him too much of the girl huddled under blankets in the other man's bed leagues bellow them in Castle Black.
They had been boys once, only a few moons separated them from lives that were now just hazy memories that no longer felt real. Another chuckle reverberated from under the mass of mixed furs. This time, the chips of grey slate glinted with slight humor.
"I underestimated you. It usually takes at least seven watches on the Wall before a man cracks, and here you are."
Shrugging his shoulders, "Just received the honor of standing atop the Wall without even having needed to take the Black" Gendry grunts in reply, finding a humorless smile mirroring his own on the face of his companion. Where his own skin was tanned by life in King's Landing's filthy streets, his companion's showed little sign of having seen summer, knowing only the north and showing signs of having been burnt by wind and ice.
This man, Snow, shared the same hair, the same look, the same eyes as the man that appreciated the helm he made in the forge, in a time and place that were far and foreign now. Features he also shared with a certain lady-who-was-not.
"You look like him." You look like her.
A frown forming on his companion's face. Where Snow shared the same stern mouth and tone as the dead Hand of the dead King, Gendry found, a set of dainty lips found themselves constantly worried on the pinched face of another Stark he knew.
"The Lord Hand"
He watched pain register on his companion's face before muttering an apology.
"Don't. Did you know him?"
"He came by to the forge where I worked. He took a look at me and asked about whatever the old Hand had asked me. Guess he figured I was one o' the king's bastards though I just learned it today. He was kind. He liked the helm I made."
A long time passed before either of them spoke and fresh snow had just started to fall.
"Has she stopped crying?"
Wincing, the man of the Night's Watch looked younger than ever despite his beard and the dark rings under his eyes, eyes filled with pain and scanning the sky for something known only to him.
"Only when I'm looking. That list she whisper's before falling asleep though-"
"Her prayer. So she will never forget. She says the north will never forget." Gendry offered, opting to look into the fires instead. He heard his companion breathe a heavy sigh. Silence fell between them again.
Gendry thought back to the urchin he met in the capital. He had met Arry, who became Weasel when they were captured by Lannister men, who became Nan and served the Bolton monster, who returned to being Arry once they found their way back to Kingsroad.
He believed he knew her, believed he had seen all the sides of herself, from the fierce girl who would kill a sentry without guilt to the girl who wept in her sleep.
They had talked as they traveled and had shared pieces of themselves. He was so sure he had seen everything about her. She had already told him about Jon. About the man who had given her Needle. About the bastard brother she loved and called for in her sleep.
In the end, he had not been prepared to see her scrabble and run past Yoren when they reached the Wall's gates. Unprepared to watch the same girl, who looked on stony faced at the home she had once from afar, crumble into a broken wreck of tears in the arms of someone he did not know.
He had forgotten that she was a girl barely twelve who had lost her father, and if the news was to be believed, her brothers and mother as well.
He had fought the urge to peel her away from the boy in black, allowing himself, instead, to be led with the other new recruits to the courtyard where Yoren and some others in black took stock.
He had not seen Arya since. She had taken to sleeping with Jon in his chambers and it took everything Gendry had not to insist they separate. Whispers about the half-siblings had already started, but he worked out his frustration in the castle forge instead.
"She asks for you sometimes."
The news had startled him from his brooding.
"She asked for you all the time on the road."
His reply earned him a half-smile from the man in black.
"Have you ever bedded a woman before?"
He could feel himself fluster at the question, resisting the urge to squirm under the scrutiny of the very boy who was brother to the girl he often dreamed about.
"You do not worry about fathering another bastard?"
Gendry could feel the ice in the other man's words without having to face the other.
"I've never spilled seed inside a woman before." he said, finding a need to defend himself.
Another heavy silence filled the air as they both watched fresh snow fall.
"Didn't care about being a bastard before, you know. You didn't walk a step in Flea Bottom without meeting a bastard. I was lucky to have found a trade. Now, though, I keep thinking about things I would never have thought before escaping King's Landing. I think about being a bastard, about how, if I have children, they'd all carry the name Waters. I was just a bastard out of hundreds living in the capital, now they say I'm a bastard of the dead king with a price on my head, and I think of how I can never get legitimized without angering some."
He let a dry chuckle slip his lips feeling his companion shift in discomfort.
"...traveling up here, I've had thoughts on what it would be like not being a bastard and having a name of my own. About possibly having a home in Winterfell's forges before we heard it no longer stood. Guess it's the cold and snow that have me funny in the head."
He found talking to the fire was easier than meeting the other's dark eyes.
"Ever since you met Arya?"
The question made him ponder a bit but he knew there was no other reason.
"Aye" he said, feeling his face flush not because of the cold or the fire.
"She's just a girl. You try anything funny-"
"I know she's a girl, barely a woman, and yet..."
He sighed, lifting his hands in surrender, finally meeting his companion's gaze.
"...and yet, I forget sometimes when talking to her."
He pausing to think.
"I hate thoughts of being parted from her, despising that I can't have her because of my low birth"
He watched for any anger on the other's face.
"You shouldn't worry about me trying anything on her though, with her holding on to that sword of hers...besides, she wouldn't have a bastard like me" he finished weakly.
He watched as Jon's eyes narrowed, reading him. Arya's brother pulled out his hands, rubbing heat back into them as he let out a sigh.
"Have you told her?"
He snorted in reply, making his companion sigh once more.
"I grew up hating being a bastard but Arya and Robb made life as a son of Eddard Stark bearable. Being a bastard won't matter to her. Sansa has always called me her half-brother while Bran and Rickon were too young to understand what being a bastard really meant. Other than Sansa, I'm all she has related to her by blood."
He watched as his companion in black struggled for words before continuing.
"I had to tell her though; the Night's Watch is my family now. My duty is to them. We take no part."
Gendry turned away as he heard his companion's voice crack in emotion, biting his tongue from asking how Arya must have taken it. As if reading his thoughts, Jon continued, his tone straining with pain.
"She just looked at me and said she understood. She went on about how the list is hers to finish. She started calling me Jon Snow after that."
"She will still love you, you know."
The words felt strange but he knew it was true. He almost held back, jealous all of a sudden. He watched as Jon's folders slumped forward, heaving a sigh.
Gendry pushed himself to his feet and brushed off the snow, his eyes not leaving Jon's, baiting the other to stand, as if renewed. He felt a little angry that the man before him would always have Arya's love while leaving her to avenge their family on her own, but somehow he understood.
"I'll be following her to wherever she decides to go, you know. I don't know about the killing and I know she can sure as hell survive without me. I'll stay by her anyway. I'll stay by her even if she screams her throat bloody for me to leave her alone, I'll stay by her side until the day she'll have me, gods be good, or until she will have someone else. Maybe we could go to the Free Cities, she talked about her Braavosi swordsmaster once. I could find work as a smith or sellsword and she could do whatever she decides to do."
His voice stalled as Jon rose to his feet, their eyes never breaking contact.
They stood there for a time, each studying the other.
"Do as you wish, but know this, if you break her, no matter where you are, Ghost will find you and rip you limb from limb."
As if on cue, a big white figure padded silently towards them as the dawn crept to paint the sky a new.
"But I believe he would have nothing to rip seeing as it is Arya we are talking about. If another girl does turn your head, it will be of no surprise to me if Ghost finds your gelded body by a river somewhere."
He could not help as a grin broke across his face, understanding that Jon was giving him his blessing.
"She really will, you know. If you do anything indecent before she becomes a woman grown or before marriage though, Needle and Longclaw won't be the only blades threatening your manhood."
Gendry nodded, acknowledging the warning, but he could not wipe away his own smile while it was being mirrored by an unwanted smile tugged on the Stark bastard's lips.
They left for the lift then, their watch over with slivers of light cutting through from the east. Gendry inhaled deeply, taking in the new morning's air. Winter was certainly coming but there was always spring after the snows despite how long the winter will reign with all its monsters in the dark and the wars to be waged, spring will come.