High Heart had been one of the best night's sleep Arya had had since she left King's Landing.
Perhaps it was that she'd felt safe, being so high up and surrounded by the tree stumps, lying so close to the twinkling eyes of the night sky that watched over them.
Or perhaps, Tom Sevenstrings had been right, and the magic of the children of the forest really did linger here still.
It almost felt a shame to leave the lofty hill the next morning. But the men insisted on leaving early, claiming it would be a long journey to Acorn Hall.
So far, it'd proven to be.
This was their first stop, and as soon as Arya dismounted her horse and walked him to the shallow edge of the river for a drink, she looked up at the sky; trying to figure out the time of day by the sun, like Maester Luwin had taught her.
It was around midday.
Arya found a mossy root under a tree to sit on while their horses rested, and the men discussed the little old white woman from last night. Arya tilted her head to the side, feeling too much like Nymeria as she tried to point her ear in the direction of the men. She wished she had ears like hers... so she could hear better.
Lem noticed her, and he pulled Harwin and Tom by their sleeves, further away from where Arya sat.
She scrunched her nose. Adults always did that.
Who cares about that stupid old dwarf lady, any how, she told herself, shrugging it off and picking up a long twig.
She began swatting the air with it, as if it were Needle.
The balance was all wrong though, and doing so only made her miss Needle, and the comfort it brought her, resting on her side perfectly. So she stopped, letting her hand fall heavily.
I miss Jon, she thought with a sigh, and she twisted on the mossy root, so that she was now facing a large, muddy area that had once been a puddle and slid the tip of the twig into the mud, loving the feel of it.
Her hand slowly slid the twig across the mud, almost as if on it's own accord, tearing at the surface of the mud slowly, forming the letter "A".
She'd been so many names over the past few months. Arry, Weasel, Nymeria, Nan...
Only Gendry had known her as Arya up until a few days ago, when they got captured by the Brotherhood, and Harwin had let it slip in front of everyone, even Hot Pie.
She lifted the twig and inspected her "A".
She bit her lip, hoping to ebb the temptation. But it didn't work.
She carved an "R" next to the "A". Then a "Y" and an "A".
"Is that your name?"
Arya jumped, swinging the twig against Gendry's leg.
"Don't do that!" she snapped at him.
Gendry shot her one of his cocky smirks, kicking a few rocks aside so he could sit next to her.
He rested his elbows on his knees as he leaned forward, inspecting the letters on the mud curiously.
An idea occured to Arya then, and she slid forward on the root, a small smile teasing her lips as she began carving another name above hers.
When she finished, Gendry turned to face her, his eyes bright with amusement.
Her smile turned into a small chuckle.
"That's your name." she said, breaking the twig in half and handing him one of the halves.
He quickly turned to the floor and began to copy his name crudely under Arya's, checking every letter with hers before moving to the next.
He had a bit of trouble with the "R". . . but for his first time, he'd done it well.
"We share two letters." he pointed out, poking his twig under the "R" and the "Y" of his own name.
"Yes." she acknowledged. "They make the ree sound.
Can you hear it?"
He nodded, leaning forward to write Arya's name.
When he was done, he turned to her with a smile. She rolled her eyes, but she was smiling too.
This was the first time she'd seen Gendry for what he really was. . . Just a boy. A 15 year old boy.
His brows were furrowed and his lips slightly pouted in concentration as he wrote his name a second time, and Arya caught herself staring at his face too long, so she turned glad he hadn't noticed, and began carving another name.
"What's that?" he asked after he'd carved his name a third time and turned to look at what she'd written next to her name.
"Stark." she said proudly, trying to suck as much strength out of the word as she could. She needed strength. The strength of her name, and her family...
Her head snapped to him suddenly, and she cocked it to one side. "What's your surname?"
Arya dropped her twig, nudging the hand Gendry was holding his twig with towards the mud.
"Alright, You do this one. On your own. I'll tell you what to do. Start by making an upside down mountain with two peaks... Yes. Like that. Now an "A" ... that's the first and last letter on my name."
"And the third on Stark." he said as he carved the "A".
Arya bit her lip to keep herself from smiling. "Yes. And the third on Stark. Now do a "T" ... like this one here." she pointed at the "T" in Stark.
"Now "E" ... the..."
"I know," he cut her off with a smile. "It's the one in my name."
She couldn't hold the smile back this time. She nodded, and his smile turned into a grin.
"Now "R"... you know which one that is?"
"R" he said, screwing his face in thought. "R... R...R... Arya! That one." he poked his twig under the "R" of her name.
She was quite surprised. Maybe this wasn't his first lesson, and he was just pretending for her sake... the way her father pretended Bran could beat him in chess...
"Now "S" ... like a snake, or the way a river bends." she told him, warily inspecting his face.
He tried, but it looked more like a "J"
She laughed, "No... it's more like this." she said, reaching over to grab his hand and guiding it across the mud, carving an "S".
His hand was warm, and not as calloused as she expected.
This was the first time she had ever touched him. Like this, anyway.
There had been pushes and shoves, and an occasional hand to help her up, hold her back, or wake her up... but never like this... skin to skin.
She released him shyly, feeling her face and neck grow warm.
She could still feel his hand, in hers... it was an odd, lingering feeling.
"You did it," she said, not turning to him, grateful he was staring at his work and not her face. "That was good."
"You've done this before." it wasn't a question.
He turned to look at her now, his brow cocked up in that way it always was when he was puzzled or dubious. "No. What makes you say that?"
She shook her head with a shrug, picking up her half of the twig.
"Is it because I was so good?"
Arya didn't have to look at him to know he was smiling. She could hear it on his voice.
"Don't be stupid." she said, elbowing him.
"I was, wasn't I?" he was definitely smilling.
Arya met his eyes, ready to deny it.
They were really blue. And really bright. And not at all cocky... more like hopeful... as though he were searching for her approval, rather than her compliment.
And so, she felt a wave a shock when she realized she couldn't lie.
"Yes." she said, almost shyly.
She cleared her throat quickly, and turned to face the mud. "You were."
Gendry let out a long sigh besides her. "Thank you... m'lady."
"I told you to stop that." she whispered stiffly as she began to write Nymeria's name on the mud.
But he'd sounded so genuinely grateful, and, "m'lady" had sounded so sad, and almost hesitant, that she was certain he hadn't said it teasingly.
"Arya?" he said after a while.
"How do you write friend?"
Her twig froze mid letter. She turned to him, their eyes locking for a long moment. He smiled, very tenderly, and a wave of emotions made Arya hold back from shivering.
She parted her lips, about to say something, when from their right, came a voice.
"What are you two doing?"
They both turned. It was Lem.
"I'm teaching Gendry how to write." she answered rudely before Gendry could, hoping her tone warned Lem off.
"You want to learn how to write?" he asked Gendry with a laugh. "For what? Writing's useless! How does it put a meal on a table, or shield one from a sword? What use will it be to a bastard like you!" he scoffed, rolling his eyes. "Leave it for the highborn, and stick to what you know . . . unless . . . you're trying to impress someone?" he glanced at Arya meaningfully, but before Arya could yell at him, Gendry rose from the floor, fuming, and began to walk away with heavy footsteps.
Arya grabbed a handful of mud without thinking twice and threw it on Lem's face.
"You're an idiot! " she jumped to her feet, tossed her twig aside, and ran after Gendry.
He hadn't gone far... but by the time she reached him, so had the men with the horses.
Gendry was already mounting his horse, and Anguy's horse came between them.
Anguy was holding her horse by the reins.
Arya snatched them from his grip, and began to mount the horse.
"Alright, lets go" Harwin said, kicking his horse forward as soon as Arya was on the horse.
Gendry was quiet the rest of the ride to Acorn Hall, and even though Arya rode next to him, she couldn't really tell him everything she wanted to. Not with Anguy riding so close to her and telling her tales.
It's probably for the best, she thought... Gendry was so stubborn, he would probably ignore anything she'd try an tell him.
song for this chapter "Angels" by the Xx
I really hope you guys picked up on the "m'lady" bit. Gendry was having such a nice time with Arya, he almost got lost in the moment... so he said it to remind himself that she was still a highborn.
Ok, so, I think these will just be, like, random moments between Gendry and Arya...
nothing too special... but i personally really like this one.
The flower on was sweet too... very cute of Gendry to give her it... but this is something that came from Arya, and I just got all sort of warm fuzzy feels writing it...
Please comment, and tell me what you think!