A swirl of creamy white and auburn danced inside the cup as Gendry's grandmother poured tea into the milk. Arya stirred the liquid and smiled up at the old lady as way of thanking her.
"Gendry!" Ruth called up the stairs.
There was no answer.
"Oh, that boy." she shook her head disapprovingly and smiled down at Arya. "Biscuits?" one plump, wrinkled hand held open a glass jar and Arya reached in and took a handful. She hadn't realized until just now, how hungry she was.
"Thank you." Arya smiled again and leaned over the steaming cup in front her, taking in the aroma. She shuddered with pleasure. Her bones were still chilled from the rain, and the cold mud, and the hose down Ruth had given both Gendry and her earlier, when they had wrestled in the mud like a couple of immature savage children.
"Dress suits you." Ruth noted and took the seat across from Arya as she began to prepare her own tea.
Arya stuffed a biscuit whole in her mouth and looked down at herself.
The dress Gendry's grandmother left out in the trunk of the truck outside of the small cottage for her was sleeveless, so the goose prickles that ran all along Arya's arms were in plain sight.
The style and cut of the blue, pinstripe dress was very early 1990's and looked like it had once belonged to a girl in her mid teens. After the hose down, Arya had found a tall rose bush around the corner of the cottage to hide behind and began to peel off her muddy clothes, very aware of Gendry, just a few feet away, stripping naked himself, behind the truck. Ruth took her clothes and tossed them in the washer, even after Arya suggested they just throw them in the rubbish bin.
"You're so pretty though. Anything suits a pretty girl like yourself." Ruth smirked and took a sip of her tea. Arya forced a smile, idly tucking a stiff strand of hair behind her ear.
Her hair was almost dry, hanging hard and crusted with mud around her face. She desperately needed a shower. Her entire body was itchy and layered with mud; even in places that had not been exposed to mud. Gendry had stepped upstairs to shower, but all Arya had managed in the small downstairs restroom, was to wash her hands and face.
"Don't you worry about your pretty things. I'll have the mud out of them in no time. Your shoes too. Mud and I go a long way. Raise a boy and that's all he ever brings home after a long day out in the field. Mud. Mud, mud, mud." she gave Arya a sudden, curious smile. "This is the first time Gendry brings someone over for me to meet." she took another ginger sip of her tea. "Have you known him long?"
Arya bit her lip. "I don't think he intended for us meet." she said as politely as she could, softening the confession with a smile. "And I've only known him a day. Just today. We met today."
The woman's forehead creased. "I see."
Arya took a sip of her own tea.
"Well you could have fooled me. You two seemed, very familiar." Ruth forced a small laugh.
"I'm sorry. That was my fault. He teased me, and I just ...lost it."
Ruth chuckled sincerely at that. "And ...you two met...?"
"He went." she seemed both surprised and pleased. "That's good. Well... he likes you. Gendry doesn't make friends, so something about you struck his fancy."
Arya clenched and unclenched her teeth. Just bite your tongue! She mentally berated herself. "Well, you see. I don't know if you can call us friends. Not exactly. You see, I sort of followed him." Shit! She had not intended to put so much emphasis on the word follow. "He left school early, and I... skipped class to run after him. I was . . ." Just shut up already! " curious about . . . something." she sighed, frustrated at herself.
The expression on the woman's face was unsurprised and knowing. "The rumours."
This was so fucking embarrassing. "Yes." she bit her lip again. Hard.
"You know," Ruth began sadly, "he's not a bad person. He's just had a rough life."
Arya eyes met Ruth's blue ones.
Her face was old and wrinkled, with freckles peppered across her nose and cheeks, but her eyes were bright, almost youthful, and the same shade of blue as Gendry's. "What happened to him?"
"What always happens." Ruth smiled sadly. "A couple of teens fuck up, and are left with a child. They were clueless about how to raise him. They would drink what little money they made away and Gendry's father would beat my daughter. By the time Gendry was 10 his father was already in jail, and a year after that, my daughter passed away. Cirrhosis of the liver. I always told Gendry, just because your father was a bad person, it doesn't mean you are. Just because he beat your mum, it don't mean you should beat others. All the things you saw as a child don't give you an excuse to behave the same way. You should learn from their mistakes . . . ." the woman sighed, taking another sip. "But it's not often teens heed the words of their elders."
Arya gaze fell to her tea. She didn't know what to say. She'd been stupid to follow him. She had no right; sticking her nose in other people's business. Her curiosity was now completely replaced but regret and shame. I should leave. She thought, and opened her mouth, about to thank the woman for the tea and dry clothes and excuse herself, when Gendry walked down the stairs, in black jeans and an open vest over nothing.
"What are you two ladies chit-chattering on about?" he snatched a biscuit off of Arya's plate with a quick, impish smile her way before turning to his grandmother. He pressed a kiss on the lady's forehead and picked up the cup of tea in her small hands, emptying it out in his mouth.
"Mud." Ruth smiled up at her grandson. His brows shot up in his forehead at her answer.
"Fascinating." he muttered out sarcastically.
"I was just telling Arya I'll have her clothes mud free soon." she turned to Arya. "Mud and I go a long way. Raise a boy and that's all he ever brings home after a long day out in the field. Mud. Mud, mud." she repeated her word from their earlier conversation, and Arya wondered if she forgot she had already said them. "I know how to take mud out of denim, cotton, flannel, canvas, straw, hair, ears, nostrils. Mud under nails. Inside ass cracks."
Arya snorted at that, taking another sip from her tea. "Cracks?"
"Gendry loved playing naked in the mud when he was a toddler."
Gendry let out a mirthless laugh, never meeting Arya's eyes. "O..k..." he shook his head at his grandmother, clearly embarrassed.
"It's true. He used to pretend he was a baker and made me the sweetest mud cakes. Decorated them with all sorts of things. Pebbles and blades of grass and little blossoms and chopped up twigs. I never understood why you insisted on doing it naked though. I swear, I'd find dirt in his crack days after. Oh, he had the cutest butt too."
"Yea. I'm leaving now." Gendry turned for the door, but not before Arya noticed his face had turned a deep red.
"You're blushing!" she accused him evilly.
"And deliberately giving us his back so you can check his bum out." Ruth added. "Still cute wouldn't you say Arya?"
"Not nearly as cute as yours, nan." Gendry retorted to the old lady, saving Arya from having to avoid answering the question. He pushed the spring door open and turned Arya. "You coming, or what?" he asked her before stepping out, letting it slam against it's frame.
"You can slip into my rainboots there" Ruth pointed to a pair by the door. "Will you stay for tonight?"
"Tonight?" Arya downed the rest of her now cold tea and crossed to the boots.
"I'll let Gendry tell you about it." the woman smiled. Arya slipped her feet into the boots and stepped outside.
She found Gendry up in the loft of the barn house across the field, balancing himself on one of the rails as he set up a light bar from two of the rafters. "Disappointed?" he called down when he noticed her. "That I'm a simple farmboy, and not something more... dangerous."
"Farms are dangerous." she shrugged. He chuckled humourlessly. "I should probably head home." she told him.
Gendry jumped off the rail and made his way down the stairs. "Hand me the black extension from inside that box there." he pointed to the case behind her, ignoring what she'd just said.
"My phone is at the bottom of that lake," Arya crossed to the large equipment case and lifted the lid. "I'm sure my family is worried." She met Gendry in the middle of the stairway and held up the cable for his approval. Their eyes met. "Your grandmother told me." she uttered out hesitantly. She had to apologize for prying before she left. "About your parents. Gendry, I-"
Gendry snatched the cable from her hands. "Who the fuck do you think you are!?" he whispered through clenched teeth, bringing his face close to hers. "You stay out of my fucking business! Savvy?"
Arya shoved him away. "Don't talk to me like that." she warned him. "I was trying to apologize!"
He chuckled dryly, and rolled his eyes. Arya's narrowed with anger.
"You keep going on about how I followed you here, but you let me follow you! You brought me here! I didn't ask you to bring me here! Did I?! At any moment, you could have dumped me. You pulled out the second pill, remember? You were pedaling the bike here! So bull shit, Gendry! Bull shit if you think you can get angry at me, when... "
"I'm not interrupting anything am I?"
Arya's head snapped to the door, trailing off mid sentence.
Two men, one young and one in his mid 50's stood side by side over the threshold if the barn door. For a very long second, no one said a thing.
Finally, the younger guy gestured towards Arya. "This your bird?" he smiled and stepped into the barn, followed by the older man. Arya could see a third guy, standing outside the barn, arms crossed over his chest, eyes bored and and heavy lidded; staring off to the side.
"She's no one. She was just leaving." Gendry glared at her meaningfully and gestured to the door with a stiff nod of his head before jogging down the rest of the stairs and walking to the table. Both men had to turn their backs to Arya in order to face him. "What the hell are you doing here anyway?" Gendry demanded dryly, and Arya noticed something in his expression and stature that she had not seen in the few hours she had known him. Unease. He was trying too hard to hide it though, and if Arya could see it, so could this dodgy pair. "I come to you. Always! Remember? Besides,: Gendry shifted his weight defiantly. "Duke gave me an extension date."
"Yes. You have an extension." the younger guy agreed. "You don't have to remind us of that. It's our job to know. You have until tomorrow morning." he took a step forward, coming inches away from Gendry. He leaned in so close, that from where Arya stood, it looked like he was about to kiss him.
Gendry didn't flinch though, or try to take a step back. Arya noticed his hands curled into fists at his sides, and her body responded with vigilance. "Perhaps a little reminder is in order." the guy's hand turned to one side with a forced smile and if Arya had blinked, she would have missed his fist swinging into Gendry's stomach.
"What are you doing?" Arya started running towards Gendry as he fell to his knees and let out a pained groan, but the second man caught her just as she jumped off the last step. "Let go of me!" she growled, wriggling violently in his arms until she finally elbowed his gut. His grasp loosened and Arya's feet were on the floor again. She whirled to face him and punched him on the jaw. He stiffled a hiss and pressed a fingertip to his lip with an eerie smile.
"Consider yourself reminded." the younger guy spat at Gendry and trotted out the door, leaving the two men followed after him like worthless dogs.
Arya stared after them, flustered and a bit out of sorts, until she heard shriek of car brakes and the hiss of tires driving off Ruth's long, dirt driveway.
"What the hell was that about?" Arya turned to Gendry with her throbbing fist cradled in her hand. Her knuckles were red and beginning to swell. Gendry shook his head and stumbled to his feet with a curse. He smaked the straw off his jeans and wiped the back of his hand against his lip.
"Nothing." he offered curtly.
"Liar.That was not nothing! Random guys don't hit you for nothing!"
"It doesn't matter." he insisted, sounding slightly annoyed. "Follow me."
Arya rolled her eyes with a sigh, but followed him to the back of the barn house, where the stable stalls were lined besides the pile of straw from earlier.
When she came beside him, he pointed to a wine coloured horse on the first stall. It's snout was white as was the tip of one of it's ears.
"This," Gendry beamed proudly; blue eyes fixed on the sturdy looking animal. "is Porygon. Next to her is Mew and her sister Mewtwo is in the third stall. The tall, fierce black one in the fourth stall is Jillypuff." he crossed to the last stall on the right, skipping the two empty ones that followed Jillypuff and pointed at the beast inside it. This horse stood taller than the other four; even taller than Jillypuff, and was spotted like a Dalmation
"This is Lewis. King Lewis. He is an old grump, so you have to be gentle." Gendry stretched his arm in to cup the tip of the horse's muzzle tenderly.
Arya's head snapped from the horse to Gendry. "Gentle? What do mean be gentle?"
The sound of a car pulling up outside, cut off whatever Gendry was going to say next. A car horn rang twice and he sprinted for the door.
"There's some stables behind the cottage." he called out to her. "They'll practically lead the way, just open the stalls for them and lock up after them. I have to finish here, I'm already running behind schedule."
"Behind schedule for what?" Arya asked, but Gendry was already out the door. She turned to Lewis with a frown and scratched her muddy head with frustration. She needed a bath. She needed to go home. She did not need to escort some horses to their stables.
But she would do it anyway. She wouldn't go home and she would stay and walk Porygon, Mewtwo and Lewis and the rest of them to their stalls. Because she wanted to. She was intrigued by Gendry, and she was rarely intrigued by anything or anyone. She decided she liked being intrigued and she welcomed the curiosity and pushed the though to go home aside. It was her one true fault; having an insatiable curiosity. "You bite me, I bite back!" she warned the spotted horse before she unlocked the stall and cupped it's nose carefully just like Gendry had. It's skin had such a strange texture, but she liked it, feeling the smile creep across her face.
Gendry had been right. Lewis lead the way to the stables and picked a stall to step into. Gendry and two other guys were unloading crates of beer from the back of a white van when Arya returned to the barn for Jillypuff.
The horse that gave her the most trouble was Mewtwo. Arya had trouble getting her out of the stall and as the walked over the muddy trail between the barn house and the back stabled. the large beast knocked Arya in the back of the head a few times with it's great, bit nose.
As she was securing the last of the horses in, the bassy beats of housemusic could be heard booming through the stable walls. Arya stepped out into the night and threaded through the mud and grass in Ruth's rainboots. The glimmer of windshields in the distance caught her eye and she could make out the outline of a car and a few trucks lined side by side near barn house.
There was a few people inside, drinks in hand, and a guy up in the loft helping Gendry with a large strobe light. The barn looked nothing like it had earlier. There was large speakers on either side of the loft and a makeshift bar right outside the main doors.
"What is this?" Arya asked Gendry as she climbed up the stairs.
"I DJ twice a week." he tossed something to her before crossing to a table on the back of the loft. Arya caught it mid air and turned it in her hands. It was a black leather mask. It had metal bars across a mouth piece and a pair of leather horns protruding out of the head of the mask. She ascended up the rest of the steps and turned to Gendry in disbelief.
"You're a DJ?"
"What's so surprising about that?"
Arya inspected the mask once again. "Horns?"
"Yes. I'm The Bull, remember? No one knows I do this. It's better this way. I'm like a super hero... a music super hero... without the saving... just... the mask."
Arya snorted. "And this is what, the bull pen?" she asked sarcastically, a hand gesturing at their surroundings.
"I like the ring of that." he nodded stupidly and took the mask from her hands, pushing in it's place, the red bag they had picked up at the aquarium. "This is for you." he unzipped it to reveal hundreds of plastic baggies of what was clearly marijuana.
Arya rose her gaze to meet his. "What are you talking about?"
"I need you to sell these tonight."
"You want me to... sell drugs!?"
For some reason that made him laugh out idiotically. "If you want. I mean, I can get someone else. But ...you're already here."
"I have to go home." she offered as a weak excuse and pulled on baggie out with to fingers, taking a closer look at it's herby contents. "This is what the men where here for earlier."
It wasn't a question.
"In a way." he shrugged. "Can you do it?"
"I can do anything." she dropped the baggie in the open pack.
"Will you? Will you do it?" he corrected himself.
Fuck it! "Fuck it . . . I'll do it."
He grinned widely and traced the contour of her nose with his fingertip. "Good."
This was suppose to be the penult chapter, but I keep finding places to cut these damn chapter, so fuck it. There are two more to go.
Thank you all for the patience and support. This story has received to much love. Again, it's for the lovely Grace, aka magicmyth83.
please review, tell me what you think.
also, I am heavily adding some Alice in Wonderland references here and there. Some subtle, some obvious. I'd like to see how many of you caught most or all of them :)
That Stark Girl chapter update next!