Gendry worked day and night for four nights, beating at old swords…armor… horse shoes, barely making time for Arya. He was actually avoiding her. This good bye was going to be a tough one.
After four years of not knowing her whereabouts or if she was even alive, he had finally reunited with his old friend.
They had travelled back to Winterfell, and there he had sworn his loyalty to her brother Robb.
It was the eve of the battle that would probably haunt history for ages to come and Gendry was still working on fixing the swords, and armor, only making time to sleep and eat.
He knew he needed the strength for what was to come. He was to fight as one of Robb's men.
Ssteel rang under the hammer with every hit as sweat rolled down his forehead, his chest, his back, down the length of his arms... and the steel sang. It sang for him.
He knew Arya was in the room. Had been for quite some time now. Just staring at him.
"How long are you gonna hide there… staring at me."
"I wasn't staring!" she snapped, and her small form jump down from the loft.
"Yes you were. You have been for almost an hour."
"I was trying to figure out how it all works."
Gendry stole a quick glance her way. "Smithing?"
"You're fighting with them, aren't you?" she changed the subject. "You're leaving." she accused.
"Arya, I'm a knight now. I'm sworn to your brother."
"There are whispers … I heard them coming from the tents. From the men huddled close around fires for warmth. No one thinks Robb will succeed."
Gendry set the hammer and sword down with a clank and walked around the anvil, crossing to the small girl.
Four years had passed but she was still so small. Fierce. More so than ever, but small.
She had kept her hair trimmed too, but he doubted anyone was fooled now. Her face had lost all of it's roundness, and her bosom wouldn't be hidden with the tightest bandages.
"Lady Arya Stark, do you mean to tell me you believe your brother will…"
"I'm not a lady." she cut in softly. Hesitantly. She had made that claim many years before. The memory knotted his throat. He swallowed hard. The feelings her presence triggered were overwhelming and he realized that he was scared. He couldn't deny it now.
"Your brother said I'm to address you as one. You're the King of the North's youngest sister, not Arry the orphan. I am Ser Gendry and…"
"Yes, i know." she interrupted him a second time, slamming her shoulder against his arm as she walked past him and for the door.
"Arya." he turned to the door, but she was gone.
He exhaled sharply and combed his fingers through his hair as he turned towards the anvil picking up his tools and hanging them neatly on the wall. His concentration was completely blown. It made no difference anyway, whether he fixed 5, 10 or 20 more swords before the sun rose.
He had heard many great things about King Robb Stark. The Young Wolf. But that man was no longer all there.
Gendry first noticed it when he and Arya arrived at Winterfell.
Arya had a difficult time proving it really was her, but once inside, they were quickly led to the main hall.
A young man with a thick red beard and shoulder length curls was leaning over a frayed map, a small group of banner men gathered around him as spoke.
"Your youngest sister, my Lord, Arya Stark. She is alive." the man who led them to the hall announced as they walked in.
Robb looked up from his map and shared a quick look with his sister before his attention turned to Gendry.
"Oh… and an… escort." the man told Robb, but Arya took a step forward.
"My friend. He's a smith." she said. They exchanged another long look before Robb nodded and turned his attention back to the map.
"You must be tired. You know where your chamber is. Wil will see your friend to the forge." he called over his shoulder.
And that was it. No embrace. No tears.
The rumours of Arya were heard of everywhere Gendry went. Changing from mouth to mouth, but they all shared one thing, and that was that she was dead. It was easy to deny them at first, but Gendry soon came to accept them.
After four years and rumours like those, the last thing he would have expected was for Robb to greet his sister as though she had merely been out for a walk.
His mother had told him when he was a child, about the North men, and their cold, dry ways. But during the time they spent travelling together when they were younger, Arya had spent some nights awake, and Gendry had asked her about home. Her family. Walking into Winterfell, memories of how she had described it all played in his head, and the broken down walls were but a ghost of the majestic castle Arya had painted it in his head.
Looking into the eyes of the eldest Stark, he saw nothing of the young man Arya had, with such love and longing described.
But that was war for you. No one came out of it unscathed.
And as morning neared, the anxiety grew, and he felt himself grasping at hope as though it were water. Like very little water, slipping though his fingers.
He rolled out of bed and slipped into his boots, heading for the door.
The dark night sky was glowing from all the campfires inside and outside the walls of Winterfell.
Gendry walked past men slouched over small fires, who, like him, found sleep not. They were everywhere. Gendry doubted any man would find sleep tonight.
"I've stood by King Robb for over three years. Not once have a doubted him." a man whispered to another, as they both held their hands before the fire.
"Neither have I, until now. He's not the man he used to be. Not after his father and mother, and young wife."
Gendry quickened his pace, needing not to hear more filth to weigh down on the little hope he had.
He noticed the guards at the door, but after almost two months, he had Winterfell memorized and he knew exactly where he could sneak in through.
The halls inside the house were silent. Too silent.
He had only been to Arya's room once, to deliver Needle to her. There wasn't much to fix on it, but Gendry took his time with it anyway. He wasn't sure why.
He knocked once, softly. Arya was a light sleeper. She would hear that. Years of fearing for her life made her ears keen to the smallest noises.
The third night after their reunion he had learned that the hard way.
A large willow seemed perfect refuge from the cold, and with the King's Road just as dangerous as it had ever been, they had to huddle as close as possible, since a fire was out of the question.
It had been awkward at first.
Gendry had slept next to her several times, and in a bed too. But after four years and a few changes in both of them, nothing else could have been expected but awkwardness. He was a man now, and she a young lady.
There was a pebble digging into his side, but Arya was already asleep and he didn't want to stir her, so he put all of his weight on one leg, and lifted himself up on his side, feeling his way around the ground below him, in search of the small pebble.
He found it, and threw it over his shoulder.
The noise, which Gendry himself didn't even hear, woke Arya up and she had him on his back in one fluid move, with Needle digging into his throat. It wasn't Arya staring at him from behind those large gray eyes. It was… no one.
"Arya, it's me!" he yelled, tightening his fist around her wrist.
She had blinked a few times before rolling off him and apologizing.
"Who is it?" she called from inside her chamber.
He pressed his lips against the crack of the door, his eyes rolling from side to side making sure no one was around.
"Gendry." he whispered, and he heard her slide Needle back in its scabbard.
She opened the door a crack, peering out with a furrowed expression. "What?"
"Let me in." he huffed out in irritation, pushing his way inside.
She took a few steps back, crossing her arms over her chest. "You're not allowed in a lady's room, Ser!"
"Oh, shut up. You're no lady, and I ain't no knight." he said closing the door after himself. "You're Arya, and I'm Gendry."
She dropped the act and her hands fell to her sides. "What's wrong?"
"I leave in the morning. I don't care about titles. Men out there are scared. They have families. Wives, sons and daughters. They have something to lose. I'm scared too, and I figured out, that I have something to lose too."
Her eyebrows shot up at that.
"It's quite easy when you've got nothing… nothing can't be taken away from you. You fear nothing. Not death. Not anything. But I'm scared…. I'm scared cause, well I've got something. It's the only thing I've got, and that's you. You were the first person who ever cared about me except for me mum. Really cared about me. You considered me your friend, part of your pack. Worth enough to drag along with you when you escaped Harrenhal, and worth enough to offer me a place here, even when I turned it down the first time.
"But here I am. Here we are. Arya and Gendry." he took a step towards her. "You're all I've got Arya, and I think I'm scared shitless, cause I might die out there tomorrow, and that'll be the end of Arya and Gendry." he took another step. He was inches away from her now. "I don't know if I'm ready for that. The end of Arya and Gendry. Of you and me."
She bit her lip, the small wrinkle between her brows creasing in. He took her face in his hands, giving her enough time to pull away from him.
So he pressed his lips against hers. Gently. Taking in her scent in a long inhale as he closed his eyes. This is how he would remember her.
And then he pulled away….too quickly, opening his eyes on time to catch her opening hers.
"Just thought we deserved a proper goodbye." he whispered before turning for the door.
"Gendry." she called out to him, and when he turned around, she was right behind him, and she grabbed his face in her hands, and pushed herself up on her toes, pressing catching his mouth with hers.
He wrapped his hands around her waist and pulled her up delving his tongue inside her mouth, searching for strength inside of her.
When the kiss finally broke, they were both breathing hard and loud.
He leaned his forehead against hers and looked into her eyes.
"You better not die, you stupid, bullheaded idiot." she whispered to him.
More like pleaded.
Gendry smiled, kissing her button nose tenderly before dropping her to her feet again.
He had something to look forward to. Fuck the consequences, and that she was highborn, and he wasn't. He was happy that he had something worth fighting for now.
"I won't" he promised her before leaving her chamber. And he had meant it.
But when the sword slid into his stomach and out through his back smoothly, and his mind screamed. No. No! NO!
Then it slid out, and he didn't even get a chance to see who it was.
His hand pressed against his side, coming up a bright, sickly red. He could smell the blood. He was only able to take a few steps forward, before he legs gave under his weight.
Yellow hair flashed before his eyes as his face hit the frozen dirt.
All around him, the sound of war. Metal hitting metal. Screams of the wounded, and the dying.
But above it all, his mother's voice. Sweetly singing him to sleep.
Arya, 10 years old, on the floor in front of Hot Pie and Lommy, grasping on to Needle, flashed before his eyes.
Then her angry expression, as her small hands shoved him back, making him trip on that root.
"Do not call me m'lady!"
He began to cough up blood, finding it hard to breath. The pain chilling his bones. And fire in his stomach.
He could feel the life draining out of him through the wound, and in it's place, death seeped in.
"You want Gendry…. you've already got him."
He pushed off his helmet with his free hand, keeping the other pressed against his side.
"You can still make swords if you want…you can make them for my brother Robb when we get to Riverrun."
Gendry pulled his sword up, hugging against his chest.
"I look like an oak tree…"
Gendry smiled, closing his eyes. "A nice one." his blood rimmed lips spoke out.
"You better not die, you stupid, bullheaded idiot."
His eyes flew open. "I'm sorry." he whispered. Turning his head to his side, blinking what he was sure would be his last blinks.
That's when he saw it.
The large man was fighting a boy half his size.
Though the boy had skill, he was tired, and the man swiftly found his weakness, and in one swift move, the man's longsword slid into the armour like butter, and went straight into the boy's chest.
Then he pulled it out and he was gone.
The boy dropped his sword, and clasped his helmet with bloody hands, pulling it off as he stumbled forward.
And Gendry's faltering heart skipped a beat.
It was Arya.
Her face was streaked with dirt, and tears. She was scared.
She was terrified.
Gendry cursed himself. This couldn't be happening.
He should have known better. He should have expected it. Should have paid closer attention. Looking back, he had noticed what looked like armor cover by a blanket the night before when he was in her room.
He had been too nervous though. Too distracted.
"Arya!" he yelled thickly, but not even he could hear himself.
She fell face first into the ground.
"Arya!" he yelled again, pushing himself up on his knees. "Arya!" Tears burned down his face.
Fool! You fucking fool! Of course Arya would come.
"Arya!" he began moving forward on his knees.
A man on his left stepped on his foot. Gendry felt the bones shatter, and the pain made him fall on his side.
He turned his head, searching for Arya. When he found her he noticed her eyes were looking straight into his.
She was too far to reach, but he stretched out his hand anyway.
She was so close, and yet so far.
The feeling of helplessness was making it hard for him to breath.
He tried to pull himself up again, but he had no strength left. He turned his head once more to face her.
Arya mimicked him, stretching out her hand to him.
There was several meters between them. But this was the closest he'd ever be to her now.
"You better not die..."
He closed his eyes, remembering the feel of her lips against his.
It had been the best feeling he had ever experienced, and this one the worse. Not dying. No. But seeing her die, and not being able to do a single thing about it.
He opened his eyes.
Between legs of fighting men he saw her. Lying very still. Her eyes were closed, her arm stretched as far as it could go.
She was dead.
Gendry let out a sob, thick with blood and pain. His hand fisted around the earth and he parted his lips to speak her name, just once last time.
"A…." he exhaled…
….and his eye lids closed