[A/N]: It's been almost four years since I last updated and no amount of apologies will ever be excusable. I struggled with the tone of the chapter and the overall feel of it. For what it's worth, I think this is the best writing I've done in the entire story haha
I feel I should thank that one person who kicked my ass into gear to finish this chapter. Thank you very much to AudiLion for helping me get back into this mindset. This chapter is for you.
It may be on the short side but I feel really confident with it. I hope you guys will enjoy it...even if you have to reread the story lol
It felt as if time had stood still.
One minute, she had been idly wandering the corridors and the next; she was backed up onto a pillar. In her haste, she had lost track of both her path and Nymeria. At least she still had Needle with her and was more than willing to use it.
Standing before her was none other than Joffrey Baratheon. The mere sight of him made her skin crawl and the way he leered at her made her want to retch. He had a smirk on his face but his eyes were filled with venom. Arya knew that he was still angry and embarrassed about his broken betrothal to her sister, but mostly about what happened at his name day tourney. Arya had challenged him to a sparring match and won, defeating him before the entirety of court, and humiliating him in the process. The Queen had been furious and the King had done naught but laugh at his failure. Adding insult to injury, both her brother and husband had won separate events, infuriating Joffrey even further.
"Well, if it isn't Lady Baratheon? What brings you around this part of the Keep? Not lost are you?" He sneered.
"No, not at all, my lord. Was taking a walk is all."
Joffrey looked her up and down and then looked behind her, as if searching for something. Arya stood as still as possible, keeping her head up and not letting him faze her.
"A walk alone, my lady?"
"Hmm...well then lucky for me then. It gives us plenty of time to chat."
She stiffened as he reached for her arm. "About what, my lord?"
"I am your prince , not your lord . You'll do well to remember that." He huffed and grasped her arm tightly and spoke in a low voice as if to intimidate her. "And you will repay me for that stunt at my nameday tourney, you stupid bitch."
Arya pulled her arm away and pushed him. "That was no stunt. I challenged you to a fight and you lost. I suggest you spend more time practicing in the practice yard because it is more than clear that your swordsmanship lacks skill."
Joffrey's face contorted and grew red, huffing angrily at the comment. "I don't care what you think, but you will pay. I am to be King and you will respect me. I demand that you respect me!"
"Demand? " She laughed. "Respect is not demanded, it is earned . You are nothing more than a spoiled brat whose mother tended to his every whim and desire. What you are in dire need of is a good beating or a lashing. And at the rate you're going, no one will ever heed your commands. You'll run the Seven Kingdoms right to the ground. "
Joffrey seized her by her upper arms and threw her into the pillar. "And you are nothing more than whore who lays with a bastard in the stables. Come to think of it, you're just as much as a wanton whore as that bastard's mother."
Her palm struck his cheek with a sounding crack. Joffrey laughed.
"Struck a nerve, have I? Seems you care more about that bastard husband of yours than you lead on. But no matter, he'll pay as will your brother." He paused and looked at her in disgust. "You think yourself so high and mighty but without that wolf bitch of yours,you're nothing ."
"At least I don't need others to come to my aid like you. It's like those songs Sansa loved so much; except, instead of being the valiant and honorable knight, you're nothing more than the damsel in distress."
The back of his hand stuck her face twice. She made no sound and instead balled her hand into a fist and struck his jaw. She saw as he gasped and his hand flew to his cheek. Joffrey glared at her and hissed, "You're going to pay for that you fucking cunt."
He turned and looked over at his guard, the Hound, who stood hidden in the shadows and motioned him to come closer. Arya watched as the Hound came to stand behind him. "Hound, it seems as if my lady is in need of a lesson. Be a good dog and make sure we are not disturbed ."
The Hound said nothing and turned to leave. Joffrey approached her again and grabbed her face in his hand. "It's time I taught you a lesson, the same lesson I taught that slut of a sister of yours before she went and blabbed to your father."
Arya knew of his attempted rape against her sister and prepared to fight him off. She tried to push him away again but he held her to the pillar and started clawing at her dress. "Let go of me...get off."
Joffrey paid no attention to her protests and went about tearing her dress. He ripped her bodice open and pulled her sleeves down, bunching her skirts at her knees. All the while Arya was shoving and pushing at him. Each act of defiance cost her a slap or a shove to the pillar. He started to loosen his jerkins and doublets, leaving his breeches for last.
Arya stopped moving and stood still. She could feel the lump forming in her throat, the bile rising with it, and the pressure build behind her eyes. Yet, she refused to show any emotion, to let the tears spill.
He's not worth it. I am a Stark of Winterfell. Let him see what a wolf can really do to a stag.
Joffrey Baratheon was no stag nor was he the lion he favored so much; he was nothing more than a coward. No, not even that. He was a craven; a craven that hid behind a name, a family, and his mother's skirts. He could not hurt her, she was no doe. She was a wolf .
"Tell me, my lady, will you scream for me as your sister did? Or will you howl like you did for that bastard husband of yours?" The Prince sneered as he began to untie his breeches.
Arya desperately grasped Needle's hilt and struggled to pull it from its scabbard. Her fingers kept slipping until she secured it and pulled it upwards. The blade pierced her skin but she oversaw the pain and thrust the pommel into Joffrey's face. He screamed and lost his footing, falling to the ground as he covered his bloody face.
Arya fell back against the pillar and exhaled sharply. She strained to push herself off the column and hissed at the contact. By then Joffrey had stood and Arya was still trying to get away, but he caught the skirts of her dress. She almost tripped over the fabric and instead ripped it to get away, but his grip was tight and strong. Joffrey pulled her back to him and he struck her face again, busting her lip open and bruising her right cheek. He started pulling at her skirts again and pulling his breeches off, but she fought him off still. Arya waited for him as he positioned himself above her and brought her knee up as he pawed at her skirts again. She waited for him to stand straight before she slammed her knee into his groin.
Joffrey screamed in agony but clasped his arm around her throat. His grip wasn't tight but it was firm and he squeezed but she bit his hand. He yelped once more and she pushed him off her with no luck as he fell over her. Arya saw as his hand began to form into a fist and she closed her eyes and waited for the next hit that never came. Joffrey's weight had been removed from hers and she could breathe again. She slid down to the ground and slowly opened her eyes, relief filling her body at the sight before her.
Nymeria was at her side, licking the blood from her hands and face. Joffrey was on the ground uselessly trying to fight back and Gendry was on top of him, beating him to a pulp. She hadn't heard as Nymeria snarled and attacked Joffrey. Nor had she seen as Gendry had pulled him off of her. Just as Gendry's fist was about to come down, he stilled at the sound of a booming voice.
All three looked up to see King Robert and Lord Stark standing before them. Jory Cassel, Barristan Selmy, and The Hound stood beside them.
"What is the meaning of this?" It was Ned that broke the silence. "Where is my daughter? Arya? Arya?!"
Arya stood from the ground and ran to her father. "Father."
He clutched her tightly and pulled away to see her face. She could see the look of relief and anger that settled on his face as well as the worry that rested on his brow. He kissed her hair and held her tighter, muttering apologies in her hair. That was almost enough to make her cry, her fury leaving her instantly.
"I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry. I don't hate you."
"Oh, sweet girl that doesn't matter now. All you alright? Who hurt you?"
Gendry rolled off of Joffrey and strode towards Arya. Arya let go of her father and stilled as Gendry gently took in her appearance. His hand softly touched her face and his thumb brushed slightly against her split lip. She could see the rage and concern swirling in his eyes. He's afraid he's hurt me, even though it was not wasn't his fault. He had nothing to do with this.
She pressed a kiss to his palm and he exhaled.
"I'm fine." Her voice was almost that of a whisper.
He wrapped his arms around her and kissed her hair, mirroring Ned's actions. Ned stared at them before averting his eyes. The sight of his daughter with blood on her hands triggered a memory he wished he could forget.
Robert was the one to resume the conversation. "I don't know what in the Seven Hells is going on here, but I want answers and I want them now . All of you, to the Small Council chambers, immediately. I don't fancy this becoming public knowledge."
They walked silently to the Small Council chambers, careful to not attract attention. The chambers were empty save for the table and chairs. Robert was seated and the doors barred, Ned took the seat to his left, and Arya, Gendry, and Joffrey stood before the King. Each was to be given a chance to explain their side, Gendry going last and Arya going first. It was going smoothly, that was until the Queen came storming in and demanding to see her son.
Arya sat still in the middle of their bed as her handmaiden attended to her wounds. She could hardly feel the pain though, her mind still reeling from the meeting in the Small Council chambers.
Cersei had arrived not too long after Gendry told his side and proceeded to call his story hearsay. That Arya had set Nymeria and Gendry on Joffrey for not accepting her advances. Her father had looked so old in that moment, refusing to look her in the eye for some reason. It had hurt but she didn't have time to linger as the next minute after that they were escorted back to their chambers.
"My lady, my lady?"
Arya was so caught up in her memories that she hadn't heard the handmaiden addressing her. It wasn't until Gendry called her that she snapped out of it.
"Forgive me," She shook her head and sighed, "I-I—I was a bit distracted."
Gendry eyed her wearily and stalked towards her.
"I can take it from here, thank you. Leave us, if you will."
The handmaiden bowed and left the room. Silence filled the air as he finished wrapping her hands with the cloth. He moved to the cut on her lip and the bruise on her cheek. She hissed at the contact of the wet cloth and he stopped.
He nodded and returned to the task at hand, gently applying the ointment the maester had given them.
Arya could feel the shift of emotions that Gendry was going through: anger, resentment, guilt, worry, relief. They were plain on his face but only to her. If had been any other person, it would've seemed like he was indifferent to the situation. But Arya, she could read him like a book. She brought up one of her hands and cupped his face, tilting it so that she could look at him.
"This is my fault."
Gendry stood and pulled from her hold. "Don't. Don't you dare do that."
"Do what? Speak the truth, Gendry?"
"That's not what you're doing, Arya."
She rose from the bed and strode towards him. "I was upset and I acted irrationally. Instead of confronting the situation, I ran away."
"And Joffrey attacking you was your fault as well?"
"Then how can you stand there and tell me that it was your fault? Seven hells Arya, you're a lot of things but stupid isn't one of them."
That flared up something inside her and before she knew it, her hand had struck his face. Gendry stared at her and she blinked. Arya looked at her hand and her face several times before apologizing.
"Forgive me; I don't know why I did that."
He huffed and let out a chuckle. "I do."
Arya stared at him until she smiled and laughed with him. When the laughter died down she reached for his face again.
"It's fine, you've done enough apologizing today." He kissed her wrapped hand and then her forehead.
"Yes, m'la—" He stopped mid sentence and started again. "Yes, Arya?"
"I never did thank you."
"For saving me." Gendry's mouth twitched at this.
"I didn't save you, Nymeria did. And you saved yourself."
"That doesn't make sense."
He laughed. "Yes it does. The only thing I did was pull him off of you. You were the one who fixed his face and righted the bulge in his pants. You're no helpless lady, you're a wolf."
You're a wolf. The comment made her smile.
The smile was fleeting; her expression became sullen after remembering why Gendry had told her that.
It's because of Joffrey…
And just like that, the tension was present once more and found a way to wrap itself around them and beckon her to withdraw from him. It tempted Arya, creating a rift between her and Gendry. It wasn't like there was much there to begin with; the Seven knew she only enjoyed his company in their bed and in between her thighs. Their marriage was nothing more than a means to an end. So why did it feel like her marriage was the only thing keeping everything in perfect balance? And why did she feel a pang of guilt over hurting Gendry even more so?
Gendry for his part seemed to be in deep thought. His form was tense and his face was screwed up, as if he had been thinking too hard about something. She could hear the way his breathing sped up and how he hesitated to break the calm façade around them. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath, sighing before he turned to face her.
Before she could so much as utter a word, Gendry finally broke the deafening silence.
"We can't leave King's Landing."
Arya blinked, slowly striding to him. "What?"
"We can't leave the capital."
"I-I-I don't understand. Why?"
Gendry's face was solemn but his eyes were filled with conflicted emotions, and in that moment, she knew.
Somehow, it always came back to that, to the fact that she had yet to conceive. She nodded her head and looked away from him. They both knew why she wasn't with child yet. It wasn't because they didn't share a bed or fuck regularly. Any fool would know that wasn't the case as Arya spent the majority of her nights wailing in pleasure because of Gendry. And it wasn't because she was infertile.
"Bran was fearful of the King's intentions and told me of a conversation he overheard." Arya stood silently, unsure of what do or say. "That's why I came looking for you, to tell you about it."
"Did you tell him?"
"But he suspected something, didn't he?"
He nodded. "It's hard to tell with your brother sometimes. I think he knows but hasn't fully figured out all the pieces yet."
"We can't leave until I produce an heir."
When she finally spoke, she spoke free of emotion. "He means to keep me here. Cast aside his frigid wife and take me."
For the second time that night, she looked close to tears. Gendry didn't hesitate this time to console her. He took her in his arms and he placed his hand under her chin to look at him.
"I'm not going to let that happen. Father, King, or whatever he may be, I won't ever let him touch you. I promise that we will find a way out of this and out of this snake pit, or so Seven help me."
Arya couldn't respond to that, not when the sincerity was so clear in his voice.
I don't deserve him...not after what just happened.
But her lips and hands had minds of their own, touching and gripping him as if he were her lifeline and she, his. She wasn't sure how they made it to the bed or how they managed to undress as all she saw were his eyes. Blue eyes that seemed to peer into her very soul and never cower from her. Eyes so blue, she could never understand how Gendry could come from such a man. It wasn't until she whispered his name and came hard, that she knew everything would change.
When morning came, Arya found herself wanting his touch but revolted at the idea of it. Arya withdrew herself from his arms and their giant featherbed as softly and quietly as possible, deciding to dress for the day.
She slept in her own chambers with Nymeria that night.
She was looking out at the bay, watching the ships as they came and went. For a split second it seemed as if she was going to dive in after one, but then she sighed and averted her gaze. He hadn't dared to approach or touch her without her consent. Not after what happened. All he did was linger in the back and wait until she was calm and fine again. But sometimes as he watched her, he could still see the tiny bit of fear inside her. That small piece that almost had her scarred for life...
If I hadn't gotten there when I did...I would've never forgiven myself. It's a miracle that when she yearns for touch, she still reaches for me. Still lets me to hold her in my arms.
It had been a moon since her attack but only a week since she returned to sleep in their shared chambers. The ice that had begun to thaw in their relationship had frozen solid yet again. Gendry hardly saw Arya after they last coupled and spent his time with Renly and Tommen. Bran and Myrcella kept him occupied in his studies and lessons. It wasn't until he was tired of wasting parchment after parchment trying to spell his name that he decided to head to the forge to clear his head. Gendry could see already see the sword he was going to craft in his head as he entered the forge. His thoughts stopped short when he saw his wife standing near an anvil, holding the blade he had finished just two days ago.
"I'm sorry, I didn't think you'd be here so early." Arya calmly spoke as she returned the knife to the anvil.
"Your brother thought it best to stop my lesson for the day. Told me to gather my thoughts and return on the morrow." Gendry slowly inched closer to her.
It was awkward to say the least but Gendry would not shy away from his wife. Not when this was the first time in almost a fortnight.
"Have I done something wrong, my lady?" He broke the tense silence with a question he was desperate to know the answer to. "If I have, then I apolo—"
Arya let out a breath and walked to him. Her hands sought his and gripped them tightly.
"No, never! It should be I who should be apologizing. You have done nothing to deserve this attitude of mine."
"You have nothing to apologize for Arya."
She sighed. "This place...it brings out the worst in people and I feel as if I'm suffocating here. As if my every move is being watched and I can't have a moment to myself. Here," Arya looked up and around the forge, "I can think and breathe."
A small laugh escaped his lips. "That's why I love it here. Smithing makes me forget everything and everyone. The King, the Queen, Joffrey...my lessons and my horrid tries at learning to write my letters. Being here reminds me of working on the Street of Steel and visiting my friends at Flea Bottom."
Arya could see the small gleam of something in his eye. The blue of his eyes almost seemed to brighten as he spoke of his former home.
"Flea Bottom of course."
Gendry looked at her with a stunned expression. "I don't think that's wise my lady."
Arya pulled away from him and crossed her arms over her chest. "And why ever not? May I remind you that we visited once before. Surely another visit will not do us any harm?"
He could see that she was gearing up for a fight and decided to let it be. I could use a leave of this castle as well, Gendry thought.
"I'll let Lord Stark know we won't be joining him for midday meal."
She smiled at him for the first time in a fortnight and wrapped her arms around him.
That morning and afternoon were the happiest Arya had been in moons. The children from the Orphanage remembered her and received her with open arms. She spent the entire morning telling them stories Old Nan used to tell her and the afternoon was spent teaching the older kids how to dance the Water Dance. Gendry could do nothing but stare at his wife in awe of her charisma and personality. The children were saddened to see them go and just glad to hear that they would return the next day.
As they walked the streets toward what Gendry called the best bakery in Flea Bottom, it broke Arya's heart to see so many smallfolk living in squalor. It made her think of her people in Winterfell and how attentive her father had been toward them. It gave her an idea she hoped she would be able to fulfill.
Hot Pie and Lommy were certainly not what she expected. They made an odd pair of friends but after a few pints at the tavern, Arya could see how her husband could ever befriend the baker and the dyer's apprentice. They were all so different yet the same, the stigma of being orphans and a bastard made them the unlikeliest of friends. Just like Jon and me, Arya had pondered after her third pint of ale.
They returned to the castle that evening but returned to Flea Bottom every day for the next fortnight. It wasn't too long until they were dubbed "The Prince and Princess of the People".
The thought always made him smile.
Gendry was shaken from his thoughts when Arya embraced him.
"I don't want to go back...not yet."
He wrapped his arms around her and kissed her temple. "Fine, we can spend the night at an inn, if that's what you want."
Arya lifted her head up and nuzzled his neck. "I do."
He kissed her hair and led them back to their horses.
They said their goodbyes to Hot Pie and Lommy and rode off in search of an inn. They found one not too far from the outskirts of the city and paid for a meal, a bath, and a room. As Arya bathed, Gendry sent word to the Lord Stark that they would be staying outside the Keep for the night after all.
When he walked back into the room, Arya was standing by the small hearth wrapped in a linen towel.
"Water's still warm. Bit murky and brown, but hope that you don't mind."
"Not at all, I can live without a bath for the night." He chuckled as he walked over to the water basin by the bed.
He stripped off his shirt and boots and set about washing his face. Arya stood and crossed over to the bed. She grabbed his discarded tunic and slipped it over her head. As she debated whether or not to put her small clothes back on, Gendry quirked an eyebrow at her.
"You took my shirt."
"I did. It was cleaner than mine and...it's warm." She admitted, her bottom lip caught between her teeth.
He smiled. "I have to admit, it does look better on you than it does me."
She blushed and sat down on the bed. Her fingers toyed with the threadbare sheets, her mind seeming elsewhere. Gendry was about to ask her if she was alright when a knock at the door sounded. Arya blinked and stood but Gendry gently nudged her back onto the bed. It was the daughter of the inn keeper with their meal.
"Your meal, m'lord."
"Just put it on the table there please."
The girl nodded but he didn't miss the way her eyes ventured all over his torso. It made him feel slightly conscious about himself and he strode over to sit on the stuffed mattress. Arya unconsciously found herself settling on his lap and laid her head against his shoulder. His fingers unknowingly sought her long tresses and she kissed his shoulder. The innkeeper's daughter blushed, leaving the food there and quietly exiting the room.
"Will you sing to me?"
He pulled back to see her. Her request wasn't odd but rather it was always him who asked this of her. Grey eyes were wide with wonder and calmness. Tucking a lock of her hair behind her ear, he kissed her nose.
"Okay, I'll try."
He sang her a lullaby his mother used to sing to him when he was small. He could barely remember the words but seeing the calming effect they had on her, he did his damndest to remember. He felt as her lips curved against his bare chest, could feel the small laugh fall from her mouth. Arya held him tighter and then she let go. Gendry was confused until he saw her bring their food back to the bed.
"Thought you might be hungry. I'm starving."
"A wolf through and through, no m'lady?"
Arya laughed and then slapped his arm. "Do not call me m'lady."
He tore a piece of bread and popped it in his mouth before replying, "As m'lady commands."
The rest of the night was spent throwing food, cleaning some of it up, laughing and teasing, talking a bit, and lying together on the bed. Arya liked the feeling of Gendry's around around her, even with his shirt as a barrier between them. It made her feel safe if she was being honest with herself.
"I want to go home." Arya whispered as she lay with Gendry.
"I know, Arry. I want you to go home, too."
She lifted her head to see his face. Even in the dark, his blue eyes shone brilliantly.
"Really? You'd go to Winterfell with me?"
"Of course, why wouldn't I?"
She wasn't sure how she was supposed to answer that. They'd grown closer in the days following their first trip to Flea Bottom and had been inseparable since the incident with the royal family. But she felt as if there was still something missing between them.
Trust? Loyalty? Love? Had she grown to care for the stranger she'd wed?
She was over thinking a simple question and she shook her head. "No reason thought you'd want to visit Storm's End with Renly is all."
Arya felt as Gendry's chest rumbled with his laughter.
"Mayhaps. But mayhaps, I'd love to see the place my wife loves so much first."
"You'd like it. It's amazing. The Godswood in Winterfell is larger than the one here and the weirwoods are real. There's a hot springs there too and the heart tree with the carved face. It's the most beautiful thing in the world."
The way she spoke about Winterfell made her entire face light up. Her eyes sparkled with happiness and it was a look he'd never seen before. It was a look he'd do anything to inspire in her one day.
Gendry turned on his side to face her, his arms still around her. He reached for her face with one hand and cupped it, pushing back stray hairs from her face. "Not as beautiful as you."
She opened her mouth to say something, but nothing came out. Instead, she felt her back hit the mattress again and saw Gendry looking down at her. Nudging his nose with hers, she kissed his lips. And for just one moment, one second, everything was perfect.
Ned Stark had been so immersed into his work that he almost missed the rhythmic knocking that had begun at the door of his solar.
"Let them in Jory."
Renly Baratheon strode in with a look about him. It was almost akin to that of Rickon's when he was up to something.
"Renly, what can I do for you?"
"I believe I have a solution to a problem of yours that could benefit all involved, Lord Stark."
Ned took a moment to consider this before speaking.
"What did his grace have to say about the matter, Lord Renly?"
"Robert will agree to what I have in mind if it means keeping Tywin Lannister off his back."
Ned nodded. The last thing they needed was Tywin Lannister and his influence in King's Landing.
"And what do you propose will help keep Lord Tywin at bay, Lord Renly?"
Renly smiled a knowing smile. "You're a smart man, Ned. Surely, even you must know what I'm considering."
[A/N]: The theme of this chapter was touch and how much it affected her and their relationship. In this case, the attempted assault made her wary of it but she pushes through it. She knows Gendry would never hurt her, no matter what.
Consent is important and Arya is capable enough to know whom she can without a doubt entrust it to and Gendry is that person.