Author's Note: This was written before the last two episodes and to be honest, I had a really hard time deciding if I should post this after watching those. The plot line took quite a different direction on the show (even from the books, which I haven't read but have a little knowledge on). But in the end, I think this is ambiguous and internal enough that facts and timelines can handle a skew with a little stretch of the imagination from the reader. Also, I am not one for posting notes on stories however I would like to say thank you to everyone who has reviewed and favorited, it's very flattering! I appreciate the feedback very much.
He finds her at the inn, standing in the doorway like she'd forgotten why she had entered. He nearly plows into her, his feet coming to a stop abruptly but his body still in forward motion.
He asks gently, like he's talking to a spooked horse. He slides by her to look at her face.
She blinks and drags her gaze up to his eyes.
The fire in them is raging strong and sure, the flames practically bouncing onto him as he stares at her. She shakes her head in a minuscule movement and her eyes- grey, stormy, fierce- flicker to the stairway that leads to the rooms, his room. He nods and they move out of the crowded inn. He doesn't know what's going through her mind as he climbs the stairs, listening to her quiet footsteps behind him.
The minute he opens the door to his room, she glides past him with a silent whoosh, the long billows of her dress grazing his legs before trailing after her. Her voice is strong and thick when she speaks.
"I need to go home." He closes the door and turns to her.
"You are. We're leaving in a weeks time." He reminds her. She nods her head, turning her back toward him just slightly.
"Bran and Rickon... I've been gone for so long." The words catch in her throat, he knows. He moves to the table next her, walking by her slowly. She looks at him out of the corner of her eyes.
"I don't even know if they'll recognize me."
He wants to scoff at her. There's no mistaking she is a Stark: her dark tresses and grey eyes are enough to give it away. But he knows her concern is serious and so he shakes his head.
"They will." She turns to him, staring at him.
She reminds him then of the old Arya- the young Arya that he knew. He feels a twist in his gut and a pain in his chest, because all he see's is woman Arya with her wind swept hair and curves where they had been none, a testament to the length of time they'd been apart. He nearly winces but holds it back because she's staring at him.
"Gendry?" She asks, her brow furrowed and he must have let something slip across his face. He stifles whatever it was and says "hmm?" in the best nonchalant voice he can muster. Her brow smooths and she walks to his bed, sitting with a small sigh on the edge of it, lost in some deep thought.
He knows that look. He remembers it.
He remembers everything. He remembers her being tiny and so young... So young that now- as he thinks back- it makes him angry for her. Angry at her loss, angry at everything that everything was stripped from her and not just her childhood, but her life, her family, her hope. He remembers her initial courageous stupidity that only belonged to those who had seen too little of life, too little of the harsh world, and he remembers watching it smolder into a deep seeded anger as she had grown during their time together. She was a child who needed him at the time.
At least, that's what he kept telling himself back then.
Because he was older and stronger and a boy and she was small and stupid brave and a little girl.
He remembers all of this now, as the man that he is. A man who had seen too much, been at war for too long, who had experienced more than he ever thought possible when he was young and just watching out for a little girl on the kings road because she would go off and get herself killed without thinking about it.
Killed, or raped. More likely both.
He thought he could help her, but he didn't. She'd been taken and so had he and they'd both spent monumental years apart. She is young and old to him for a moment, memories of her mingling with the presence of her and it leaves him feeling empty and conflicted.
She didn't need him now, not in the least.
He'd seen her with a sword in her hand. It both burned and ignited something inside him to say it: she was more lethal than he would ever be.
She had blood on her hands, he knew and could see it in her face when he looked at her, catching her in quiet moments when she was tired or exhausted, the lines of death and decay ghosted over her eyes.
He glances at her, taking her presence in and there is a familiarity there- with her. But so much less when his eyes sharpen, truly focusing in on her and her features. The familiarity is in her face and her smallness, but much less in her form, in the way in which she moves now- with the fluidity of a skilled fighter and the graceful ease that only a woman can possess. Her words have even changed, in the way she speaks with mingled accents and the way she seems to think through what she will say before she says it. Her rash anger in constant check now from the years spent with the Faceless Men. She's as fierce as ever, but it's a simmering fierceness that lays just underneath the surface whereas years ago it had bubbled forth whenever she deemed fit to let it.
And despite the fact that she didn't need him now, she was still here. And ready to return with him, to leave this place behind so quickly.
He's not stupid, despite what she calls him. He's a man and back when he had first spied her standing on the cliff watching the ships like a statue, when she had spun on him and an errant tear had fallen down her face, something in his gut constricted and he wondered why she still remembered him- the stupid bastard boy from years ago on the road to the Wall. He hasn't dwelt on it though and pushed it out of his mind, because... Well, she was Arya and he was Gendry no matter what they had done and what they had seen and how much time had passed or how changed they might both be.
But as he looks at her, all these thoughts collide somewhere in his brain making him feel like his mind can't keep up with it all: all these memories and moments and the here and now and the way it is now compared to then.
It's different now no matter how he's trying to fool himself into thinking it's not. It has nothing to do with memories of then and everything to do with the now, because neither of them are children any more.
He's sure that she knows that he's been fighting against himself, fighting to let their friendship be what it was- innocent and a necessity in the middle of a world torn to hell. But he can't lie and say it's a necessity now because it's not: it just is and he's not sure what it is because he's been finding himself more and more distracted and aware of the woman he's sharing a room with now then the memories of the young girl he once knew.
And even more startling to him, what makes him feels slightly disgusted with himself is that he's not entirely put off by it, that the tension between them- albeit, unspoken- is more comforting to him then the memories of her, that he'd rather have her now then what she was years ago, if only for his own selfishness and his recognition of his own pull toward the woman who was once was a girl he knew.
"Gendry?" He blinks.
She's standing in front of him, close enough to touch with a question on her face, one brow raised and a look of confusion on her features.
"I asked about the plans for travel..." Her voice trails off toward the end, her eyes holding contacting with his while he feels like he's just waking up from a dead sleep, the fingers of confusion slowly loosening their grip on his mind.
He shakes his head.
"Everything is arranged. The only thing you have to do is just come with me." He meant to say us, he realizes after it's out of his mouth. He scowls, not liking how his mind seems to be in a fog, weighed down by thoughts and he wishes he could just go back to before she had fled his room after Jaqen, before he got himself wrapped up in conflicting thoughts and lost memories. He's irritated with himself.
"I don't have to go with you." Her voice is steady, and his eyes whip to hers because he realizes he's been staring at nothing. His scowl deepens as he stares at her, her words adding to his mind pain.
"What?" He asks like he's stupid. He has no idea what she means.
"You got this rather pained and annoyed looked on your face when I just asked you about the arrangements. If you'd rather I not go with you, I can find another way." She's giving him a pathetic look, a look of resignation mingled with a tinge of fierceness to show that she's capable of making her own way. He consciously smooths his scowl, realizing how she had seen him, and offers her a smile.
"What? No. I don't want that at all. I was just... Thinking too hard. Of course not, you're not taking a different ship back. Don't be ridiculous." She smiles at him.
"Thinking? Not your strong point." She throws him a teasing smile, her eyes full of light, as if she hasn't just been wondering about her family and her return and all the implications behind it because insulting him is easier than facing any of that. He chortled and leaned against the desk he stood next to.
"I've been getting better, learning more, m'lady." He smiles at her because he knows not to call her that.
"Do not call... Oh, bug off with your m'lady's. I suppose I could call you m'lord now too." She throws back at him, volleying his insult into his court.
She's smiling at him, but it's the first time he's heard her acknowledge his changed status and the titles he now carries that he hadn't before. He's thought of it often since he's been here, the fact that they are now on equal ground regarding their nobility, that if anything he is of higher status than she because he is a King's bastard.
Legitimized, but still bastard.
"I'm no lord." He says because he doesn't feel one, no matter the ships he's sailed here or the men he's brought along under his banner (his uncle's banner, he tells himself) or the coin in his pocket that never used to be there.
She laughs at that, one hand braced on a chair next to her and a hand pressed between her breasts as if her laughter hurts her heart. He can't help but smile watching her mirth. Her laughing slows and she looks at him, still smiling.
"Who's loathing titles now, m'lord?" She spits out m'lord as if it's a curse word but the rest of her words are friendly and filled with amusement. He likes this, he realizes. This quick and easy enjoyment together between friends. He laughs with her.
"I don't loathe it..." But he's lying and she's staring at him with an incredulous look. He throws his hands up in defeat. She laughs again, the rich sound escaping her belly as she says to him "if you say so, m'lord." He shakes his head.
"Who's annoying who now, m'lady?" She groans, then chuckles.
She points to herself. "I've always been Arya. You're Gendry. Can we just agree on no more lords and ladies now?" She's smiling at him, her face glowing from the laughter and her eyes bright.
He doesn't think he could say no to her then if she'd asked for the entire seven kingdoms.
"Alright, alright," he says with a shake of his head," no more lords and ladies." She nods her head at him before smiling triumphantly.
They both know they're lying.