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Letting out an impatient huff, Arya leaned against the side of the alcove, crossing her arms and biding her time. She made sure to keep herself out of view of the castle guards patrolling around the corner. It wouldn't do to be seen here. It would raise too many questions.

What was taking him so long? Arya wasn't sure she liked the friendship that had sprung up between her brother, Jon, and the stubborn young man who had taken up the position of Blacksmith at Winterfell. In fact, she knew she hated it. They had become fast friends and spent far too much time conversing together, in Arya's humble opinion. She was worried that the Blacksmith might slip up and spill the details of their arrangement, and the youngest Stark girl had no intention of letting that happen. What she did in her private life was nobody's concern but her own.

Gritting her teeth, the girl turned her head to glance back towards the closed wooden doors. Laughter echoed from within and Arya was not amused in the slightest. A look of annoyance crept over her features. What on earth did they talk about in there? She sincerely hoped it wasn't about her but she had a strong inkling that they did, at least a little. It irritated Arya no end when Jon and Gendry gave her those pitying looks of concern that frequented their faces nowadays.

Ever since she had returned to Winterfell after the War, they had expressed major concerns about her well-being and attitude.

Jon said the years abroad had changed her tremendously but what did he expect? She wasn't a happy, little girl any more. Now, she was nearly a woman grown and a woman who had suffered enough devastation and heartbreak to last her ten lifetimes.

Gendry said that she was closed off from the world, that she had closed off her heart. Arya had snorted at him when he had come out with that one. Of course, she wasn't as trusting and open anymore. Losing as many loved ones as she had would have had that effect on anyone, she believed. She knew that building walls around her heart would be the only way to protect it.

Suddenly, the oak door opened and the young Blacksmith stepped out, shouting a final farewell to Jon, and proceeded to make his way down the corridor. Arya made sure she was shielded from sight until Jon had shut the door again.

Reaching out a hand, she grabbed the black-haired man's wrist and dragged him into the alcove, ignoring the surprised grunt he gave.

Whipping a hand over his mouth to keep him from making more sounds, Arya checked up and down the corridor to make sure the guards had heard nothing.

Satisfied that they were safe, she removed her small, warm hand from across his mouth which rearranged itself into a delightful smirk the second it was released. "We really have to stop meeting like this," he said, clearly amused by her antics.

Arya paid him no mind. "Shut up!" she whispered aggressively before motioning him to follow her.

Gendry did not hesitate in doing just that.

As they twisted and turned quickly down the maze of corridors, Arya took one of Gendry's hands in hers. Just so he wouldn't get lost, she rationalised. It wouldn't do anyone any good to have a lost Blacksmith, wandering aimlessly around the castle after all. He would be no use to them without a hammer and burning hot fire.

When they reached Arya's chambers, the young Stark did a quick check to see if they had been followed, before opening her door and flinging Gendry inside.

The look he gave her plainly showed his discontent at having been treated in such a manner.

Arya rolled her eyes. "Oh, you'll live. Don't be such a baby."

Gendry shrugged off his annoyance easily and that sinful smirk of his made a welcome reappearance. "As my lady commands," he said in a low voice.

Arya knew that tone well and she relished the thought of what that tone usually led to. Already tingling with anticipation, she forgot to take offence at his blatant attempt at riling her.

Instead, she placed both hands on his chest and, standing on her tippy-toes, leaned in to kiss him. The kiss was fierce and passionate in a rhythm they both knew by heart. It was a kiss that spread warmth to each corner of Arya's body, from her head to her toes.

Gendry's kisses seemed to have the magical ability of making the young girl forget everything, from her horrific memories of the past to her worries about the future. Every single thought that weighed her down every second of every day evaporated into thin air the second his warms lips touched hers.

It was such blessed relief.

What little time she could manage to spend with the young Blacksmith were the only happy moments of her day, not that she'd ever admit it, especially not to him. The last thing she wanted to do was inflate his ego. He was already far too proud of his skills in the bedroom, not that Arya didn't appreciate his talents.

She really and truly did.

As she deepened the kiss, Arya felt one of his hands reach up to cradle her head and the other moved to rest on her back. Every touch ignited slight tremors of anticipation from the young girl. Gendry tilted her head slightly to gain better access to her hot, little mouth. His tongue ravaged her mouth and Arya was powerless to stop it, not that she'd ever want to.

Slipping one of her hands to the base of his neck, Arya walked her fingers slowly and mischievously along his vertebrae to grab a handful of Gendry's thick, black hair. She savoured the grunt of pleasure he gave her at her actions. Usually, she was the one who couldn't control the moans and whimpers that tumbled unwillingly from her mouth whenever Gendry was lavishing his eager attentions on her. It felt good to know that he wanted her as much as she wanted him.

It felt more than good actually.

It felt truly magnificent.

When Gendry slipped his hand underneath the ivory linen of her shirt, Arya heard a generous moan escape from her own lips. She could feel Gendry's smile as she nipped at her swollen, pink lips. He was obviously delighted at how easily he could make her squirm. Softly, he caressed her back, rubbing small, urgent circles on her hot skin with the coarse tip of his thumb.

The brown-haired girl moved in closer to the man before her. She craved his heat. She needed much more than this to be satisfied and only Gendry could give her what she wanted, what she needed. Quickly, she tore off both of their shirts, discarding the ruined remains on the floor and pressing herself fully into the handsome man before her.

Her impatience was doubling by the second. She needed more and she needed it now. Without breaking the kiss, she nudged his body closer to bed. Gendry didn't open his eyes or hesitate for a second before sitting down and pulling Arya into his lap.

Swiftly, she straddled him, making sure to rub against him as she sat down. The Blacksmith grabbed her hips tightly in his hands, forcing her to still, while parting his lips from hers and turning his attention to the pale, white skin of her neck. Arya knew she'd be left with plenty of angry, red marks tomorrow.

Gendry had a habit of marking her as his, although she was always careful to hide the marks with Sansa's lotions and potions.

The Bull had made his opinion on their secret arrangement very clear.

He wanted more.

He wanted a lot more.

He wanted a lot more than Arya was willing to give.

He had made the mistake of asking for her hand in marriage once.

Arya had disappeared from his sight so fast, he was left wondering if he had imagined her into the night. She hadn't spoken to him for two weeks afterwards, until one night she slipped into his bed over the forge and cuddled into his sleeping body. When he woke up spooning her, he was convinced he was delusional until she reached up to kiss him, and he could see fresh tears forming in her grey eyes.

It was in that moment he knew that the words he so longed to hear were just trapped inside her.

That was the first moment of vulnerability she had allowed him to see since her return to Winterfell and since her return to him.

It was also the last.

She couldn't live without him but she couldn't admit that she needed him either.

Try as he might, she would not discuss the past or speak about any controversial subjects.

In fact, she largely objected to talking at all.

Trying to extract those three little words from her had proven to be an impossible task but, yet, he found he could not stay away from her or even divert his thoughts away from her.

The girl with the broken soul dominated his life and he only wished he could love her and be loved in return.

Arya felt Gendry's smooth lips leave her neck, a rush of coldness taking his place which made Arya frown and open her eyes.

The Blacksmith was gazing at her with that look, that look of adoration that frightened the living hell out of Arya.

She couldn't accept his love.

She didn't think she deserved it.

Besides, she wasn't sure if she had any love left in her heart to give away, or any feeling left at all.

It seemed to Arya that her heart had turned to stone an awfully long time ago and, now, all she could do was hope for some respite from the nightmares that plagued her.

The only thing that worked was the feel of Gendry's lips on hers.

With him was the only time she felt alive since her return to Westeros.

But, now, here he was looking at her like that again.

That dangerous, dangerous look.

A troubled expression twisted Arya's features and she tried to slip down from his lap and escape, just go anywhere, but Gendry's hands retained their tight hold on her hips and she couldn't break free fast enough.

In a flash, he had her pinned underneath him on the luxurious, cornflower blue blanket. The young girl tried to struggle but he slipped one hand up to hold her small wrists above her head, his knees trapping her hips to the bed. Defeated, Arya knew she had no chance of escape. Beads of perspiration formed on the Blacksmith's forehead as he held her firmly still.

Fear bubbled up inside Arya, not fear of Gendry but fear of the hold Gendry had over her.

He was one of only a handful of people who didn't see her as a lost cause.

He actually loved her despite all her faults, of which she knew there were many.

She felt that if she looked into those mesmerising blue eyes of his for too long then he could get her to do anything.

"You know," he mused with a chuckle, "you're far more trouble than I ever bargained for."

Arya didn't know how to respond to that so she kept quiet, her eyes dropping from his.

"So, what am I going to do? I can't not be with you." His low voice was saturated with pain and regret. "Believe me, I've tried. And, yet, I feel like you'll never ever give yourself over to me completely." He moved his free hand to caress her cheek and she moulded her flushed cheek into the palm of him hand, craving his touch but wanting to escape in the same breath.

"Gendry...," Arya didn't know what to say to him. She wanted to stop his hurt but she didn't want to lose herself in the process. Every time she had lost a family member, a friend or an ally she had felt like a bit of herself had died with their leaving her. She didn't know if she had any piece of herself left to give.

He moved to thread a few strands of her long hair through his fingers. "You don't fool me, Arya Stark. You may say you don't care about me but your eyes tell a completely different story." He caught her gaze and she couldn't for the life of her look away. "You have a thirsty, thirsty heart but you're afraid," he said simply.

He knows, Arya thought. She was scared. The only person who knows her is the greatest threat of all. She was pushing someone out of her life who genuinely and truly cared about her and she knew the reason why. "You left me," she said.

Arya could clearly see the hurt in his eyes. Regret marred his features and he frowned sadly. "Yes," he agreed in a quiet, rough voice, "I did. And, believe me, I've been paying dearly for the mistakes I made back then. You know, would everything have turned out for the better if I had gone after you?"

"I don't know," she whispered.

"But," at this he cupped her chin between his thumb and forefinger, "I can promise you that I'll never leave you again. I don't think I could bear it."

A lump appeared in Arya's throat and she felt hot tears prick at her eyes. He loved her. She had always known that but here, in this moment, was the one time she had felt secure since the day Ser Ilyn Payne had sliced her father's head from his shoulders and ended her childhood. She could see the devotion and loyalty in his eyes and it made her feel safe. Gendry would be one of the only two people who would never ever give up on her, the other being Jon.

"I love you, Arya," he murmured before lowering his lips to give her a sweet, chaste kiss, one Arya felt to the tips of her toes.

That kiss promised everything.

It promised an entire lifetime.

Gendry released her wrists and Arya immediately wrapped her arms around his neck, pressing her lips harder against his and deepening the kiss. Her tongue darted into his mouth, tasting every crevice she could find.

It was all too soon that Gendry broke the kiss. Arya looked at him in complete and utter confusion. What was wrong now? She tried to pull him back down for another kiss, losing her hands in his hair, but Gendry refused. Frowning, Arya raised her swollen lips to meet his, but again Gendry denied her his mouth.

The young girl flopped her head back on the bed and glared at the man above her.

Gendry looked at her, an amused look in his eyes. "Don't you have anything to tell me?"

Arya raised an eyebrow, not amused in the slightest. "Bull, now is not the time for your incessant stupidity."

"I'll give you a hint," he teased, slipping his tongue into the crevice beneath her right ear, "It's three words."

It took a second for Arya to process what he meant. Oh, she thought, he wants me to say it back. Out of the blue, her palms started sweating and her face flushed a bright pink. "I-," she stammered.

The Blacksmith chuckled in her ear. "Perhaps, you need a little encouragement?" he suggested with a deceptively innocent look on his face. Arya was in no way fooled.

Gendry laughed again before returning his lips to hers and slipping his hot tongue inside with no hesitation.

Arya moaned loudly as their tongues connected, dancing together in the fight for dominance. Gendry won the battle and immediately started plundering her sweet mouth and taking everything he could from it.

In an act of desperation, Arya pressed her naked torso against his, delighting in the low groan that escaped him. His hands travelled to her breasts, teasing her nipples before moving lower to fling her shoes from her feet and unbutton her trousers. Growling, Gendry tore off her remaining garments, leaving her completely naked before him.

Catching her eyes, he smiled a devious smile. With that look, Arya knew he had a devilish plan to make her squirm, to make her delight, to make her confess her love for him.

The Blacksmith trailed kisses down her body, paying special attention to her breasts, before dipping his tongue into her bellybutton, causing her to gasp.

"I'm waiting, Arya," he murmured.

Arya was having way too much fun with this little game of theirs to let him off the hook that easily. As far as she was concerned this was pleasure. The Bull could wait a while for his answer.

Gendry smiled before moving down her body and settling himself between her legs. He raised he right leg over his shoulder and planting slow, tantalising kisses down the length of her long, smooth leg. Arya's eyelids fluttered closed as she tried to resist the urge to buck her core against his waiting mouth. In her concentration, Arya bit her lip so hard she drew ruby red blood, licking up the metallic tasting liquid on her tongue.

When Gendry's kisses reached the inner thigh of her right leg, Arya sucked in a breath, waiting for him to reach her most tender place. She was so wet for him that it was nearly painful and she felt that if she didn't find her release soon that she would dissolve into a sobbing wreck right here on her cornflower blue blanket.

Just as he was about the reach the spot Arya so much wanted his attention lavished to, he dropped her right leg before picking up her left and repeating the same slow, torturous kisses.

Arya opened her eyes suddenly to discover her lover looking at her, a satisfied smile illuminating his features. "Something to say?" he asked.

Feeling her blood boil, Arya rose up to meet him, her lips meeting his in a vicious kiss. He pulled her into his arms and the young Stark slipped a hand down the waistband of his trousers. If he was going to play dirty then so was she.

Gendry's eyes bulged the second she wrapped her hand around him. Taking a deep breath, he slid Arya off his lap, before unbuckling his trousers and throwing them on the floor. His smallclothes soon followed and now they were naked before each other once again.

The Blacksmith sat at the head of the bed and swung his feet to rest on the cornflower blue blanket. He indicated for Arya to come join him and she was more than happy to agree.

He kissed her softly, a nice departure from their previous kisses, and she moved to straddle his upper thighs once more.

Just as she was about to join their two bodies together, Gendry stopped her by putting a hand on her wrist. Arya nearly cried out in frustration. The want and need had built up so much inside her and she was about to start begging Gendry for release. But when she looked in his eyes, she saw the same levels of want and need present there.

He wanted this just as badly as she did. His face tightened as he tried to control himself, to keep himself from slamming into her and working up a rhythm that would satisfy them both. "Arya...please...," he begged. His voice was almost a whisper, as if he was summoning up the last bit of his strength to ask this of her.

Arya swallowed thickly and took a long, shaky breath before uttering the words he so wanted to hear. "I love you, Gendry," she said softly.

Those words told the story of a broken girl who had learned to love again through the persistence of one bull-headed man.

Those words held the possibility of their future together.

Those words were the confirmation of the trust and devotion that those two lovers had for each other.

Blushing, Arya lowered herself slowly, one inch at a time, onto Gendry, filling herself completely. They fitted so perfectly together. They kept their eyes on each other the entire time, hardly daring to blink for fear of missing something.

As Gendry gripped her hips tightly in his rough, calloused hands, Arya began a steady rhythm that had a plethora of sounds raining from both of their mouths within mere moments.

As they neared both their climaxes, Gendry paused for a moment to roll Arya on her back. Thrusting into her with abandon he buried his head in the crook of her neck, murmuring sweet nothings in her ear.

They came together moments later and Gendry collapsed next to her, both unable to move for quite a long time.

Arya reached over to twine her fingers with his. He turned his head slowly and gave her a huge smile that filled her with certain happiness.

Gendry drew her to him and she rested her head on his chest, listening to the fast beating of his heart as it returned to normalcy.

Perhaps, Arya thought, the future wouldn't be so scary with Gendry at her side. Her heart was finally free from the prison of her own making and she had this handsome man to thank for it.

Closing her eyes, Arya drifted off to sleep, the last coherent thing she said being to whisper "I love you" over and over again to the sound of her lover's heartbeat through his chest, a mantra which would be her nightly ritual for years to come.

Her revenge list had long been forgotten.