AN: I don't know what came over me to start this fic, and I know it's been done before, but I wanted to make my own take. First, I would like to say Arya is a little older (almost 15) and I don't know how Gendry is (does anyone?) so I'm going to say he's around 16 or 17. We're starting off at the journey to the Wall, and I'm following the story pretty closely for now but I have plans for that to change. I will warn you if we get to spoilers for ASOS/Season 3. Anyways, if you like it review/favorite/follow and all of that great stuff. I'd also like to thank the Tower of the Hand website for reminding me of all the details I could not for the life of me remember. And of course, the rights belong to GRRM and the lovely people at HBO.
Arya sat on a tree stump with Needle laid across her lap. Around her, men were preparing for the journey to the Wall. She could hear Yoren yelling at some poor boy about dropping a crate or something of the like. She knew she should help load the wagons, but Yoren had not asked her, and she felt too exhausted to really do anything at all.
She let her fingers trace up the blade, stopping once she reached the sharp point. She pondered on how she would stick Joffrey with it. Maybe in the gut? Or would she cut off his head like he did to her father? No, she would save that for the man that had swung the sword.
Her mind flashed back to the memory of her father's death. She remembered King Joffrey's order for his head, and Sansa's pleading for his life. She remembered being held against Yoren's chest, his large frame shielding her from the gruesome sight. But most of all, she remembered the sickening sound of steel slicing through her father's neck.
And then Yoren had carried her away. He cut her hair off in uneven chunks and repeated she was a "boy" as tears ran down her face. She didn't hear him, though. She was still trying to understand what had just happened. It just wasn't possible for him to be dead.
Now, she was Arry the orphan boy, a recruit of the Night's Watch. How long until Yoren had her safely back at Winterfell? How long until she was with her family? How long until she could be Arya Stark again?
"That's a pretty blade! You steal it?"
The voice shook her out of her daze. She tore her eyes from Needle to look at the voice's origin. A chubby boy who seemed close to her age stood before her, greedily eyeing her most prized possession.
"It was a gift," she said, rising from her seat, and made to turn away. But the boy shoved her on the ground, her body landing with a thump.
"How 'bout you gift it to me?" he asked, but she knew it wasn't a question.
Anger overriding her pain, she made herself jump back up. Arya waved her sword in the boy's face, threatening to slice at any moment.
"I already killed one fat boy," she told him, as he backed away. "I could kill another. I like killing fat boys."
Behind the frightened boy, someone caught her eye. A well-muscled, tall man with black hair was talking with Yoren. He seemed… familiar? But that couldn't be right, she was sure she had never met this man. She wanted to get closer, to hear what they were saying.
Suddenly, she was back on the ground. The boy must have noticed she was distracted and had used this to his advantage. She mentally cursed herself for being so foolish. What would her dancing partner say? Every hurt is a lesson, Syrio's voiced echoed.
Just as the boy made to grab her sword, the familiar man was there. "You like picking on the little ones, do you?"
His hand grabbed the fat boy's shoulder, roughly pulling him away from Arya. "Leave him alone," he said. She noticed that he towered over the boy, and that he noticed, too. Clearly not wanting a fight with this man, he practically ran away.
The familiar man came over to her and offered his hand to help her up. She immediately lost herself in his piercingly blue eyes. Where had she seen those eyes before?
"I'm Gendry," he said. She forced her eyes to drift down, realizing she had been staring.
She ignored his hand and stood up. "Why did you do that? I had it handled, stupid!"
A small smile spread across Gendry's face. "Really?"
Was he mocking her? "Yes! I was just about—"
"To get your sword stolen?"
Arya clenched her jaw, and then turned away, storming off.
She heard him chuckling behind her.
It was only the first day of their journey, and Arya was already uncomfortable. Sure, her legs were tired from walking, but that was not the reason of her unease. No, it was being a boy. It took at least 2 hours for her to have a chance to sneak off into the woods and relieve herself, and by that time she had felt as if she might explode. Secondly, the cloth bindings she had used to conceal her breasts were, well, binding. Arya was petite, around 5'2", and had slim hips and small breasts, but existent, none the less. She wished she had a baggier shirt, then she would be able to pass as a boy without these constrictions.
So, when Yoren had noticed it was getting dark and ordered us to make camp, eager to relax, she was happy to oblige. As their first day of the journey was apparently something to celebrate, even if they hadn't made it very far, Yoren cooked up some rabbit and passed out the ale.
She sat alone beside the fire, already have eaten her share of the rabbit, she focused on her drink. People around her chatted and laughed. She spotted the boy who had tried to steal Needle, who she learned was called Hot Pie, hitting it off with another boy she had overheard was called Lommy. She saw Yoren alone, propped up against a tree, brooding and probably too drunk for his own good. Her eyes drifted over to the three men in the cage. One did not have a nose; she briefly wondered how that had happened. The second was bald and also fat, but he did not look like he lacked muscle. The pair did not look happy, as they had not been allowed any ale. The third did not seem bothered by his lack of drunkenness. He was not ugly like the others, she saw, with a slender frame and his fine-features. But his hair was unique to say the least, with half his hair being red and the other side white. Murderers, she had heard.
Just then she heard some sit beside her. She turned to see Gendry watching her with those familiar blue eyes of his. They were beautiful, she thought. Wait, what? She jerked her head back towards the fire.
"How did you get that sword?" he asked.
She gave him the same answer she gave to Hot Pie, "It was a gift." It was the truth after all.
Did he believe her or was he just humoring her? She turned back to him. He was still looking at her. It didn't seem like he did not believe her. "From my brother, Jon," she smiled at the mention of her brother. But it faded instantly when she realized she had slipped up. Should she not have said Jon's name? Surely they are many other men named Jon in the world. It's fine, right?
"Did he steal it?"
"I didn't ask." This technically was not a lie. Why was he asking so many questions, anyway?
He nodded his head. "Where is your brother? Is he in King's Landing?"
No, she wanted to say, he left me for the Wall. Not in the mood to lie, she asked him a question of her own. "Why are you joining the Night's Watch?"
Gendry visibly tensed beside her. "I was an apprentice at an armory. My master got sick of me, I guess. Threw me out and said if I wanted to eat I should join." He tried to sound like he didn't care, but she could hear the emotion underneath his words.
She felt guilty for bringing it up, so she tried to move on. "I've seen you carrying that bulls-head helm around. Did you make it?"
He relaxed a bit and a proud smile spread across his face. "Yes."
She smiled back, glad for the change of mood. "It's good."
"Thanks," he said, and she swore she saw him blush.
They sat in a comfortable silence, watching the fire and drinking their ale. Halfway through her second cup she started to feel a bit fuzzy and began to worry if Gendry started asking her questions again she might end up accidently revealing her identity. So, she told him she was tired and was going to bed. She picked a spot she liked near a tree and crawled beneath the furs. As soon as her head hit the ground, she fell into blissful, dreamless sleep.
Yoren's loud yelling woke Arya from her slumber. She rubbed her eyes and stumbled up. Her eyes adjusted to the light, even if wasn't very bright. It was barely dawn, she noted with a frown.
"Everyone up! It's time to move," Yoren stopped to shove a sleeping form with his foot, "It's a long ways to the Wall!"
Gendry got up beside her. "How is he up so early, and shouting, too? Last night, I saw him drink more than any other man I've seen."
Where had he come from? She glanced down to see his blanket lying about a foot away from hers. Had he been sleeping next to her?
She didn't have any time to think on it or reply to what he had said, as Yoren ordered them to help pack up their belongings.
All that week, Gendry was never more than a few feet away from Arya, and it irked her to no end. She could not figure out why he was following her, why every night he would lie beside her, or why he moved just a little closer to her when any other of the recruits were around her. The best she could come up with was that he didn't want Hot Pie or anyone else to bother her, but she didn't know why he cared so much.
For a moment, she thought he might suspect that she was Lord Stark's daughter. That would explain why he had asked her those questions that night. But if he did know, wouldn't she be in some gold cloak's hands by now? She wasn't so sure she would be. Her gut told her that she could trust Gendry, for whatever reason. Syrio always told her to trust her instincts.
Yoren's commands to make camp broke her from her thoughts.
"Arry, go find some wood for the fire," he said. She knew he had noticed she did not have a chance to sneak away to pee that day and was trying to give her an excuse. And she was grateful, but of course Gendry would not let her go off alone.
"I'll help," Gendry offered.
"I can handle finding some sticks," she told him as she left the road and started for the wooded area. He did not listen to her, as she expected. Arya could hear him trailing behind her, his feet noisily crushing leaves and twigs beneath him. He really was not one for stealth, she thought with a smile. But then she remembered was annoyed.
Tired of trying to find out his motive, and also frustrated because she needed to pee, she just decided to ask. "Why are always following me?"
"Obviously because you're a girl, and if you hadn't noticed, we are surrounded by thieves and rapers."
She froze in her tracks at the word "girl". He knew. Shit. Time to deny, deny, deny. She turned to face him.
"I am a boy!"
"No, you aren't," he said looking amused. "Do you think I'm as stupid as the others?"
"I'm a boy."
"Really?" he asked, clearly not believing her. "Okay then, take out your cock and take a piss."
"I-I don't need a piss." Actually, she really did.
He had her, and they both knew it. She didn't know what to say.
"I'm not going to tell anyone," he reassured. "But you can't hide it forever. They will find out." He hesitated for a moment, as if deciding whether or not to say what he wanted. "Why are you pretending to be a boy?"
Arya wanted to tell him. Sharing her secret would be such a load off her shoulders. She thought Gendry could be trusted, and he had been trying to protect her, not that she needed any protection.
"No one can know."
"No one will," he promised. "Not from me."
She bit her lip, and lifted her eyes to search his, and could not find anything besides honesty. She had decided. "I am Arya Stark."
The look upon Gendry's face was priceless. She would have laughed if they were in a different situation. "The Hand's daughter?" he asked, genuinely surprised.
"He's not Hand, anymore," the sound of the blade slicing through his flesh and bone replayed in her head. She shook it away, "But yes, he is my father."
Confusion was etched into his face. "But why are you trying to join the Night's Watch?"
She rolled her eyes. "I'm not, stupid. Yoren is taking me home to Winterfell. The Lannisters are looking for me. They want me as a hostage."
Something dawned on him. "So, you're like, a proper lady, then?"
Would she ever hear the end of this "lady" business? "No-"
But he was not listening, and quickly interrupted her, "Look, about all that stuff I said about cocks and piss… I shouldn't have—"
"Stop!" She could not hear anymore. She had grown used to being treated as an equal by him and was not ready for that to end. "I am the same! Nothing has changed, nothing is different."
"As m'lady says," he mocked, his eyes dancing with amusement.
Angry and annoyed, she pushed hard onto his chest, and with a satisfying thump he fell to the ground.
"Don't call me m'lady!" And with that she spun around and stomped away, leaving him laughing behind her, for the second time.
Arya had just set two buckets of water onto the ground when she heard a voice from behind her.
"Sweet boy, kind boy. Would this boy bring these men some water?"
She turned to see the man with half-red, half-white hair in the cage offering her a smile. Murderer, she reminded herself. She felt uneasy about giving him water, unsure if this was a trick.
"Give me us some water, boy, or I'll fuck you bloody. I will!" the no-nosed man vowed.
A twinge of her fear coursed through her. Fear cuts deeper than swords, Syrio's voice reminded her. She was about to unsheathe Needle when hands grabbed her by the shoulders and dragged her away from the three men in the cage.
"Alright, alright. You can let go," she said while twisting out of this person grip. She spun around expecting to see Yoren, but instead she saw Gendry looking worriedly at her.
"You shouldn't mess with them."
"They're in cages."
"And in cages," she repeated. "I can handle myself, Gendry." Her mind wandered to the stable boy's lifeless body, blood gushing from the gash the sword made. No, that she had made.
"How can you? You're tiny."
She grimaced at the word 'tiny", though she knew it was true. "I've been taught in the art of the Water Dance."
"It's a style of sword fighting." She spotted two sticks that would work nicely for what she had in mind. She fetched them, and handed one to Gendry. "And I bet I could beat you."
He didn't move to take his "sword". "I can't."
Growing annoyed, and anxious to practice fighting again, she asked, "Why not?"
"I don't want to hurt you."
She resisted the urge to roll her eyes. "You won't," she said confidently, hoping to ease his worry. She could see his reserve breaking and she offered him the stick once more. This time he took it.
She smiled widely and assumed the proper stance Syrio taught her. Knowing Gendry would not make the first move, she swung her stick towards his side, which he blocked. Not discouraged, she made another move, this time at his shoulder. He blocked this as well. Surprising her, Gendry made a hacking motion towards her hip, which she dodged easily to the side. Concentration was apparent on Gendry's face, now, telling her he was going to stop holding back.
His eyes drifted to her neck. Oh, wrong move. She saw it coming before he even raised his stick. She ducked the blow towards her neck, and slipped underneath his arm. Now behind him, she pressed her stick into his back and whispered, "Dead."
She was laughing when he spun around to face her. He was smiling, too. He had a nice smile, she mused. Her grey eyes drifted up to meet his blue, which she found staring intently at her, as if he was in a trance. A bizarre feeling she could not explain waved through her. It was strange, and terrible, but at the same time she found herself not wanting it to go away.
At the realization of how close they were standing, she went against every single thing her body was telling her and took a step back, dropping his gaze.
She raised her stick once more. "Again?"
Smiling easily, he teased, "As m'lady commands."
He broke the tension and for that she was grateful, but she could not help but smack him across the chest.
It was Arya and Gendry's turn to ride one of the wagons, much to their delight. They were enjoying letting their feet rest, but also each other's company. Arya had decided he was fun to hit and insult, and Gendry seemed to have fun provoking her into hitting and insulting him.
The wagon came to a sudden halt, the impact sending Arya flying for the edge. He grabbed her along her waist before she tumbled off.
"Yes. Why are we stopping?"
He was interrupted by Yoren's shouts, which traveled all the way to them in the back. Was Yoren capable of talking without yelling?
"Alright, you sorry sons of whores! We're stopping at this inn, and if you want to wash up, this is your chance!"
Gendry jumped down from the wagon, and without a second look to Arya, started running towards the inn. She didn't blame him, her body was screaming for a bath, too, but she wasn't going to reveal she was a girl over it.
She started the walk towards the inn. It felt like she hadn't bathed in a year, but she knew that was an exaggeration. She remembered having one a day or so before she went into hiding in King's Landing. That had all felt so long ago.
She had made it to their pile of belongings that were strewn about the brown grass near the inn. No one was around, not even Yoren. Well, the three men in the cages were there. But the bald and nose-less two were asleep. The man who asked her for water was awake, though, and was watching her. It did not fail to make her skin crawl. Wanting to be as far away from the man as possible, she walked over by the woods and sat down, leaning against a tree.
It was peaceful here, she thought. It was quiet. The wind rustling the leaves reminded her of the Godswood back at Winterfell. If she closed her eyes, it would be as if she were there. She let her eyes drift shut, letting the thought of home give her comfort.
"Arya," Gendry's voice whispered.
She blinked, coming to her senses. He was kneeling in front of her, his black hair wet and disheveled. She must fallen asleep. "How long have I been out?"
"Not long," he said. "Most of the men just finished washing." He pulled out something from his pocket. Was that a bar of soap? "I have a surprise for you."
He had dragged her off into the woods with the promise of a lake nearby. Arya was practically jumping up and down at the prospect of a bath. Gendry laughed at her excitement.
As soon as the little body of water was in view, she ran to it, peeling off all of her clothes on the way, her only priority getting into the water. When she dived in, it was pure bliss. Everything was forgotten, the cool water was washing away all the dirt, all of the nightmare she had been living, and everything that was wrong with her life.
She broke the surface, and sighed contentedly. Gendry sat close to the edge, his back turned to her, waiting for any indication of one of the recruits approaching. Realizing she had been stripping in front of him, she turned red. She knew he probably turned away when he saw what she was doing, but it did not help her embarrassment.
Arya made herself speak. "Can I have the soap?'
"You can't see me underneath the water." She swam toward him as he turned to face her. He outstretched his arm, offering the soap, which she accepted gladly.
She rubbed the soap all along her body, but the most gratifying was cleaning her hair. Her soapy hands ran through the knotted, uneven mess that was her hair. Yoren really had done a number on it, she thought as she rinsed it out.
"I wish I didn't have to get out," she admitted, glumly.
"I know, but it's getting dark. We need to go back."
He was right, and she knew it. She nodded in agreement.
After Gendry gathered her clothes that had been spread about when she had been in a rush to get to the lake, he turned around once more to allow her to dress. She inwardly groaned at having to wear her bindings again after feeling so free just moments before. And she was not happy to put on her other clothes either, for they felt extra grimy against her now clean skin.
They began to head back to the camp, walking quietly side-by-side.
Arya broke the silence. "Thank you, by the way. I really needed that."
"Anytime," he grinned.
When they reached a point where they could see their camp they were surprised to see gold cloak's surrounding Yoren. No, no, she thought, this cannot be happening. She immediately tugged Gendry down with her to hide behind an abnormally large bush.
"We're here for a bastard called Gendry," one officer said. "Carries a bulls-head helm."
What? She glanced to her left to see Gendry looking just as confused as she was.