Had he been any closer to her, she may have broken all concentration and lost her borrowed face. He grasped her by the shoulders to remain standing after literally being thrown against each other on the deck of the ship. She realized that her own hands had wrapped around his waist as the ship's deck tilted again. "We should get below, septa," he offered. She let the breath she was holding go.
Arya allowed herself to be guided to her quarters below deck. A septa would fear for her safety, she reminded herself. "Thank you, Ser," she offered when he had delivered her to her doorway.
"I am no Ser," he said with a nudge of anger in his voice.
That's right. You're a stupid bull that followed stupid men and look where it got you. He had turned and walked to the ladder that led downwards to the men's general quarters. I was your family. When the door was closed safely behind her, Arya leaned against it, as if to close it further. By the old gods and new, how had they actually been put on the same ship to Westeros? Now, 3 days at sea, she was stuck with him.
The next day, the sea had calmed and Arya found herself on the deck, facing the direction of their destination. Were Jon and Sansa still alive? What news did arrive on Braavos was always embellished or missing bits, but Arya savored anything and everything from her homeland. She longed to return to Winterfell, even to walk among the ashes and creep into the tombs far below. The desire to place herself at her father's feet again had steadily gained momentum until she found herself stepping onto a ship to speed her fate. I am no one. I am Winter. I am the wolf. I am Arry, Weasel, Nan, Salty, Cat and Beth. I am no one. I am Arya Stark.
Her face, the middle aged septa, was easy to wear. It reminded her of home. The prayer of a septa was replaced by her own: Ilyn, Meryn, Cersei, Dunsen, Raff. Valar Moghulis. A mantra of death. An invocation of redemption. A septa was an unassuming life to take. The story of escorting a youth to Braavos and returning upon her death was easy to adopt. It was, in fact, her own, leaving Cat and Beth behind on the docks of Braavos to die. A slight smile played on the septa's lips knowing that she would kiss the weirwood of her home soon. Blessed wind, speed me home.
His voice reached Arya's ears and she felt her façade waver. She was angry at herself. He had no power over her. No one did. She was overcome with the feeling to flee and practically ran to her quarters. Stupid bull. One shaky breath proceeded another until she felt tears on her own cheeks. I am no one. I am no one. I am not Arry. I am no one. But even her own mind could not keep the loneliness at bay or the sting of betrayal from burning her heart. Her thoughts seemed jumbled until she found Needle and held it. Everything centered and the tip of Needle bit through her left palm. Valar Moghulis. A thin stream of blood snaked down the septa's sleeve as her borrowed face returned. This dance was no different than any other, albeit the stakes were her life. Although she had no fear of dying, she did not want to die because of that….man.
Arya wished that she had not thought of him as a man. She wished that when he had her by the shoulders that she had not looked at his face and seen how he had changed. The eyes of the ship's cat had filled her mind with glimpses of him from the men's quarters. She had not even intended to slip, but found herself gazing through feline eyes as she pondered as to where he was inside the ship. Her dreams did nothing to help. The septa took to staying in her quarters except for early dawn and late at night.
Curse him for becoming a man, she thought late one evening, as she leaned against the railing. Does he still work at a forge? How did he get to Braavos? Why do I care? He didn't choose me. She could let her mind rage at itself in the dark, as the bow cut into the sea. But even the noise of the ship could not mask the heavy steps that she suddenly prayed were not coming closer.
"Are you alright, septa?" A deeper voice than she remembered.
Valar Moghulis. She kept her back to him and cleared her throat. "Yes, thank you." Go away, stupid. I am no one.
"It's just that you seemed pretty shaken up." He stepped next to her on the rail and grasped the rail next to her. His hands were calloused and dirty. Bigger than she remembered. "If anyone has bothered you, I can let the Captain know." We could be family! She could tell that he was facing her. "Some of the men were being rude and I am sorry for it."
"You stupid bull!" Arya froze. Her own voice had betrayed her. No, no, no, no!
"What did you say?" He had moved so close to her ear that she felt the rumble in his voice through her hood.
Cementing her borrowed face in place, Arya turned her false face to Gendry. "I believe you heard exactly what I said. "
"Gods. Oh gods," he barely squeaked out.
"Not a god and you're still stupid."
"Arya." At that moment, the only sound that would've been sweeter to her ears world have been her father's voice calling her name. "Arya?" this time, a question as he searched her eyes. He's only looking at my eyes. She fought for control over the septa's features and nearly lost it when his big hand touched her cheek.
Arya stepped back and Gendry advanced towards her. "Milady." He had no time to react to the tip of Needle coming from the folds of her robe to push the bottom of his chin.
Her eyes stormed. "Do not call me that." Keeping the tip of Needle in the soft skin of his shaved chin, Arya leaned in closer. "You have no right to call me that. I was your family." There was no mistaking the fury in her voice. As quickly as Needle had appeared, she turned and disappeared below deck, leaving Gendry in the darkness.