A/N: My second fic! I can see this getting to be a regular thing, I have many in the works. I did post a o/s quite recently but this seems sort of time sensitive to me, so here's another!
Summary: "The world was on fire, no one could save me but you."
Disclaimer: Nothing belongs to me. All belongs to GRRM and HBO. Lyrics are from James Vincent McMorrow's Wicked Game. No beta.
the world was on fire; no one could save me but you
He can feel the heat from the flames lick his skin and he is resigned. There will be pain and blistering flesh. Most of all there with by the terrifying gaze of the red-eyed woman. But he is a bastard born of King's Landing. Barely a knight and not good enough for an armory.
Not good enough for a lot of things.
He feels his demise and he is resigned because what more could Gendry Waters ever amount to? He is no lord. He will hold no lands; win no glory. He is only a stupid bull without a helm.
The heat fades and he thinks he's dead. He's sure of it.
Especially when he sees her.
He's on his knees, shirtless, sweating and covered in ash and soot and the bones of rot and decay. He can't imagine this is what meeting The Father is like.
But it's her. He meets the Maiden instead. He doesn't account for the fact that she is four years older than he saw her last. In the strange heat of this den of death, he knows that it's her. But despite that fact, there is no other conclusion than that he is dead.
She is the first person he sees.
She performs the death dance.
The Red Woman's blood sprays Arya's face as she cuts her throat easily with the two daggers she brandishes. The Red Woman doesn't move. She just stares.
Gendry now knows that he is not dead.
"Wolf child. Blood child." The deathly whisper escapes the Red Woman's mouth, blood bubbles bursting, before she falls to the ground. Gendry doesn't suppose watching someone else slain before him means that he himself is dead.
He looks up. Arya has fallen to her knees before him. She looks even less like a highborn lady than she did before. Her face is dripping with the Dead Woman's blood.
But she is the most wild and beautiful thing he has ever seen.
She takes his face in her hands. "You stupid bull."
He doesn't know how, but the moment he saw her, he knew who she was.
The night she gets taken, he dreams of her. He dreams of her that and every night, but this is the first and the last. He had called her name until he was hoarse and drenched to the bone. But he saw what happened.
So that night he dreams.
He dreams of The Hound riding up, his burns more monstrous then when they were gleaming in the light of a flaming sword. But what really scares Gendry is how Arya's tiny and skinny body is so easily thrown onto his horse and disappears into the night.
He only dreams of that once – the first night.
He dreams of the truth. She was taken. And he would never see her again.
The nights after that are all different. He dreams every single incarnation of her that there is. He dreams of wolves howling and snows that never stop. He dreams saving her and shoving a sword through The Hound's throat. But what really terrorizes Gendry is not the little girl he once knew.
Day after day, year after year he dreams of her.
It doesn't occur to him that she doesn't look the same to him as she once did. In his dreams she isn't that little girl anymore.
Then his dreams taken on something that they never have before.
He never knew he could miss a dead girl. He misses this dead imagined girl, how she would be. Sword in hand, still small, but frighteningly beautiful. Like this winter that will never end.
But he loves this dead imagined girl and he does things to her that people do when they love in the songs that he's heard minstrels play from town to town. He wakes up in a cold sweat, haunted by her grey, empty eyes.
And he hates her.
Sometimes he remembers. He remembers her hair hacked off. He remembers how easily he realized she wasn't who she was pretending to be. But that isn't the worst of it. The worst was when she smiled. She would be gathering water. She would be unafraid of all the other criminals and degenerates. She was the one person who wasn't afraid of him.
But she would smile at him. Her smile was out of place. It was out of place in where they were. It was out of place on her young face. They were running from Gold Cloaks, rapers, and the gods knew what else. But sometimes she would smile at him – him and only him. He was the only one who could understand. They protected each other and they followed each other. More and more he would forget. He would forget the night that she was taken. He would forget the day he heard about the Red Wedding at the Twins. What he remembered was more painful. Smiles. Dresses. Wrestling in a forge.
She haunted him in more ways than one. She was Arya and she would haunt him in the cruelest way she could. She punished him for leaving just the way she punished him by dying.
That's what makes it worse. That little girl was taken away, but when he dreams of her, she isn't a little girl. With each passing year, she grows older and older in his dreams as though she is still living and breathing. She is fiercely beautiful and all he can think of is her cruelty. All he think of is, it's still as m'lady commands, even when she's commanding him from the beyond the grave. He still does as she bids and she bids to mourn her until the end of his days.
She had to be beautiful. She had to be a highborn lady of one of the oldest houses in the seven kingdoms. And he had to be a bastard boy, born out of shame and lust. And he knew that it would be his legacy. A night would not pass without his lady's smile.
She treats his burns. He doesn't know how she does it. At times, he still thinks that her soft hands are a cruel vision from the Red Woman. But time and time again he is told that the Red Woman is dead. Arya cut her throat right out because he was about to burn on a pyre. He can't exactly remember why he was there or what he was doing.
When he asks, Arya doesn't look at him. She continues to check after him with some sort of lordly maester who has concoctions he's never heard of. He's assured it will make him well again. But if being well means that she'll disappear into nothing again, he isn't sure that he wants that.
He knows he doesn't want that.
His wounds make him know it's real enough. But she is different from how she left. Still wild and untamed. But there is a coldness to her and he knows not to ask what happened to her or where she had been. The most knowledge he gets is Arya led a charge into the lair of the Red Woman accompanied by her bastard brother – the only one that trusted her enough.
Maybe his lady high had a liking for bastards. He never asks how she knew where he was. Her cold eyes look right through him.
The worst is her smile. No longer full of childish life that was seeping away from her. Instead, she looks exactly how she did in his dreams. He doesn't know how that can be. He doesn't know how the moment he laid eyes on her, he knew it was her when she was supposed to be beneath the ground with her true born brother and honorable lordly father.
All he knows is that she is as beautiful as he dreamed her. So much that this seems like a dream. But her hand feels real. Her blade feels real. The smell of blood on her is real enough. And he's missed it all. This can't be the same girl that he left and in turn left him.
But she's not a girl at all. Not anymore.
He's a stupid fool. He always was around her but this highborn lady has surpassed him. At five and ten, this woman grown presses her cold lips against his. He can't respond. His arm is inflamed from the heat that had since gone out. The Red Woman lays there, pulsing blood from her neck. And Lady Arya Stark sooths his burns with her winter lips.
It's only for a moment. The second passes and she pulls away. Her arms are around him but that is the last time that she touches him. He knows this at the inns and even a brothel or two. Almost as though they are traveling with the Brotherhood again except he is no knight and she will never allow herself to be ransomed again. She is a free woman and he's just a bastard.
He doesn't forget how he should address her but even more so, he can't forget the way she touched him when she found him on the pyre. He should. Even though she stinks of death and even though she still is a lady, she can never stop being Arya.
She never looks him in the face again. And when the night comes, she secludes herself away from him as though he's nothing to her. She doesn't remember him. No matter how many times she pushed him into the dirt for calling her m'lady, she is still high above him. He should have known better.
His dreams become more violent and they are still of her. Except the violence isn't of blood but something else. Bastards are made from sinful lust and he believes that now. Because she is high and he is low and he can never have her.
But he still dreams of her. More than he ever thought possible. Even now the wenches and prostitutes seem like vapor. She twists away from him, but somehow he catches her.
He sees a deadness in her. But he remembers her closeness and her warmth.
"Why did you come back for me?"
"I had to." That's the only answer she means to give him. She turns away.
"You could have let me burn."
"You didn't deserve to die for being an idiot," she mutters.
"And you came."
Her eyes narrow and he feels the chill. But she was never very sentimental then and she isn't now.
"Just forget it."
"Aren't you supposed to be obeying my commands or something?" She sounds petulant, like that desperate child with a sword he stole for her in her hand. But he doesn't see her that way. He can't.
"If m'lady commands," Gendry answers. "What happened on that pyre?"
"I don't know what you're talking about."
"Should I remind you?" He could never be so bold before. Back when he knew she was a girl, but thought she was just a gutter rat like him, it had been easy. Arya Stark would never make anything easy for him. He wondered if she had felt as happy as he did when he saw her for the first time. He saw her through the flames as though she was rising from the death he was certain that he saw.
Arys is frozen for a moment. She just stares at him. He knows she isn't allowing him to get close but confused like he is. She was never a proper lady anyway.
His mouth is still on hers when she regains herself and shoves him away.
"No." But her breath is ragged and she trembles. "And you won't try it again. Ever."
It was said that death by fire was the purest death. The red priest Thoros had fought with a flaming sword. She had left directly after they knighted Gendry. And she hated him. He left her like everyone else had.
But the fury for him that she felt now was different. Fury that stupid bull decided to burn himself up because of some red whore. Arya plunged her knife deep into the woman's throat and felt the familiar thrill.
Gendry was still breathing. He was dazed and unfocused but she wasn't angry at him any longer. Instead what she felt was something that she hadn't felt since she resided at Winterfell.
Joy. Relief. That stupid bull had decided to burn himself up but he was alive. She hadn't planned on kissing him. Kisses and songs were for the likes of Sansa. Arya chose swords and surviving. But she kissed Ser Gendry all the same like some maiden in a song. He was so stupid and she was so happy.
She couldn't be happy. She didn't have the time or room for it. Her list was growing longer. Love was dangerous. She understood that now. It was a weakness that she couldn't have. Love killed her father. Loved killed her brother and the mother that she once knew. If she knew what happened to her sister, she supposed that would mean the same fate.
The child in her had been furious with Gendry for leaving her when she had no pack to speak of. Now it seemed like a blessing. Gendry wasn't a Stark. He was a bastard boy of King's Landing and could be safe.
She was sure of this as his lips pressed against hers. But then she remembered the King's Road and how without her or not, the Gold Cloaks had been looking for him. Without her, he could have been killed.
That was the wrong way to look at it. So she pushed him away because love killed. Maybe she could protect him from the Lannisters and every red priest that decided to burn him. He was her stupid bull who couldn't help but get into trouble.
But the worst threat to him was her. Everyone died around Starks. So she could protect him. But she had to do so at a distance.
"It's strange what desire can make foolish people do."
"You are a fool."
He tries to smile and she wishes her heart wouldn't constrict.
"And you'll end up dead."
She watches his brow furrow. It's not anything that she should have said and not anything that he should hear.
"Because of me."
"What are you saying?" he finally asks. "I'm alive because of you."
"Luck," she says coldly. "They'll take your head just like they took my father's and my brother's."
"Why would they do that?"
"You really are a fool."
"Why would they do that, Arya?"
She doesn't like it when he says her name. It's her true name. The name that only he knows and the name that she hasn't used in a very long time. The name her husband would use if she would ever be forced into marriage to a high lord.
But as a child she had refused such a fate and life had not changed her mind about it.
"I'm a Stark."
"And I'm a Waters."
"No," she says. "You're Gendry."
He can't understand and she doesn't want to either. Her heart was supposed to be stone cold but the priestess' fire made her know that it wasn't.
"And you're a lady."
"Shut up," she says.
"As m'lady commands."
She punches him to the ground. Painful memories balance on the tip of both of their tongues.
"I won't marry a lord. Not ever."
"Neither will I."
She smiles, not wanting to laugh. But he grins at her and she pulls him to his feet. His hands don't leave hers.
"You were supposed to be dead."
"They'll never kill me."
"Nor me," he says, "with you."
His hands don't leave hers. They're callused and strong, but gentle when they hold her. Stupid, bull-headed bastard. She should be a stoneheart, like her mother. She should be winter, like her father.
Instead she walks with a blacksmith at her side.