Rickon and Shireen- 15
Bran - 16
The Stark Banner had seen better days. It was grey and old, and looked like it was falling over on one side. It was tattered and faded and there was a tear in the stitching that they all prayed Robb wouldn't notice, but when Gendry looked over at him, he was beaming with pride.
The rest of the Starks were less thrilled.
The youngest Stark was shifting uncomfortably under his brother's weight as Bran struggled to hang his end of the banner. On the other side, Jon was stretching up to match their combined height.
"Okay..." Robb said, narrowing his eyes. "A little higher on your side, Jon. Now lower it, a little higher. Lower it just a bit." Gendry laughed as Rickon rolled his eyes. "There!" Robb shouted. "Right there!"
"Finally!" Bran shouted.
"Don't move, I'll go find the tape." Robb said.
Rickon groaned, "Are you fucking kidding me?!"
"This is our second House party, everyone knows who's place their showing up to." Bran reasoned.
"Not when there as high as you." Jon joked. "Besides, it's just Robb being proud. You know how he gets."
"Yeah, we know how he gets, but come on, this is just overkill."
"I don't think so." Sansa said, smiling as she came down the grand staircase. Her red hair was half curled and she was dressed, like the other Starks, all in grey and and white. "I think it's just enough."
Robb rushed back into the room, nearly running over Sansa in the process. His hair was tousled and his face was flushed and there was a permanent smile glued on his face.
"What happened to you?" Bran asked while his brother passed the tape up to him.
"Nothing." Robb said.
Rickon rolled his eyes and muttered up to his brother, "Talisa's here."
Robb glared at him, "Just tape the banner."
Sansa stood next to Gendry. "I think Mya and the others are on their way." She said with a tight, nervous smile.
"Yeah, Edric said they left their hotel this morning. They should be getting here any minute."
"Are you excited?" Sansa asked.
"It's just like any other party." He said. This wasn't totally untrue, it wasn't just a house party, it was a House party, as in all the Houses of Westeros would show up and be represented by the kids who showed up tonight. They'd get drunk, and high, and dance and make mistakes, and it really was just like any other party. But if tempers started to fly and House pride got in the way, things could get ugly quick.
"True." Sansa said. "But this year is a bit different."
Gendry nodded tightly. House Baratheon would look different from last year's party.
"Are you ready?" She asked.
He'd never talked much to Sansa before. Gendry didn't come up to the Winterfell Estate often but Sansa had been nestled up here for the last eight months or so. The only link between her and Gendry was his half-sister Mya, who was now standing at the front door ringing the bell.
"Yeah." Gendry said.
Sansa nodded. "Good." She said as she walked away, towards the door. "That's good."
Gendry turned to Jon as he and Robb admired the banner.
"Am I missing something?" He asked as Robb scoffed and walked out of the room.
Jon shrugged his head, "Who knows what she's on about."
When Gendry turned around Bran was standing in front of him, inspecting him, his cane gripped tightly in his hand.
"You're not wearing yellow." Bran said. "Just black. That's not enough."
"It's fine." He said, waving Bran away.
"Not it's not, Gen. This is your first year not being a-" Bran caught himself before he spoke any further.
Gendry chuckled "Relax, Bran. Yellow just doesn't really go with my complexion."
Bran smiled hesitantly as Gendry patted his shoulder.
Robb and Talisa entered from the kitchen, smiling and swinging their interlocked hands back and forth. "Who's at the door?" They asked.
"Baratheons." Bran answered. Gendry shook his head, that word would never feel normal to him.
"Okay, good." Robb said. "More helping hands. Hey, Rickon?"
Rickon was nowhere to be found. "Nevermind," Robb continued, "Bran, you, Gendry and Edric go downstairs and set up the basement when you get a moment. Sansa and I will corral the others and finish getting the upstairs ready."
"Fine." Bran said. "Is it okay for Gendry to say hello to his family first?"
Robb wanted everything to be perfect this year, and he didn't want anyone to forget it. "Right, sorry. But people will be showing up soon so-"
"Good god man." Bran shouted. "It's a party, try and relax."
"I think I'll leave that up to you." Robb laughed.
"You say that now, wait til you got a drink in you." Bran said.
Gendry smiled as Mya, Sansa, Edric and Jon walked towards him... and someone else too.
His eye bulged as he saw the small figure walking towards him, "What in the seven hells is she doing here?" He asked.
Shireen Baratheon stared in awe as the car peeled up the twisting drive to the Winterfell House, the giant mansion that housed the remaining Stark family. She could hear Edric chuckling next to her and soon felt his elbow poking into her ribs.
"Gods Shireen, it's not that impressive." He teased. She saw Devan chuckle in the passenger's sear and Mya peering back at her through the rearview mirror.
"At least we didn't completely lie to your mother." She said. "You are appreciating the beauty and culture of the North."
It had been a tricky few weeks, getting the parental nod for Shireen to join her cousins for a trip up North. Shireen didn't see what the big deal was, but Mya and Edric were insistent.
"You weren't there last year." Mya said. "You don't know what you're missing. And it'll only get better now that the news has all come out. Things will be different."
"It's hands down the best party of the year." Edric said. "Last year shit got crazy. At one point I was in the hot tub with-"
"No." Mya had said, holding up her hand to cut her brother off, "None of your stories." Her eyes softened as she looked at Shireen "You're gonna be sixteen soon, really soon, and you're still... slightly sheltered, not that there's anything wrong with that. We just want you to start experiencing things, slowly, with us there to make sure you're safe."
"Basically, if you're going to start drinking and doing... other things we want to make sure you're family is there to watch out for you." Devan said.
"Exactly." Mya smiled.
"Don't go in the hot tub." Edric said.
A year ago she hadn't had a family, not officially anyway, and definitely not anyone like Mya. She'd known Devan her whole life, and Edric had been under her father's care for as long as she could remember and he was practically a brother to her. But once everything was made final, it was like it all fell into place. Suddenly she more family than she knew what do with. Always watching her, checking in, asking how she was doing, if she was feeling okay, caring so much. One in the east, one in the north, Devan with her in Dragonstone, and Edric in Storm's End. It was overwhelming in the best possible way.
"Hey," Edric said, bringing her mind back into focus as they got out of the car. "This is culture, just not the type her mother would approve of."
Devan nodded, "Besides, rumour has it that this might be the last Stark House party and what kind of people would we be if we didn't let you experience that?"
"Terrible people." Shireen joked, walking up the front walk.
"Shit, awful people!" Edric shouted.
Mya laughed and shushed him and rang the doorbell while Shireen, standing at the tail end of the group, stared up at the giant house.
Edric, impatient as always, leaned forward to ring again but Mya slapped his hand. "It's a big house, give them a minute."
"And Gendry's inside, right?" Shireen asked as she backed away.
"Yeah, of course." Mya answered, turning around. "Where are you going?"
"I just want a look around." She shrugged.
Shireen walked around the front lawn, which seemed to stretch on for miles. She pushed through the rows of Winter Rose bushes and pressed her face to the window. Inside was a dusty room covered in rows and rows of floor to ceiling bookshelves. She smiled and pushed on to the next row of windows. She could hear her cousins still waiting for the door. As she moved away their voices got quieter and quieter.
And then one came through perfectly clear.
"Who are you?" A girl asked, stepping out from the forest surrounding the mansion.
She had long brown hair and her eyes were hidden behind the overgrown bangs that fell over her forehead.
"Who are you?" Shireen echoed.
The girl shrugged, "No one." She said. "No one special." She was looking Shireen up and down. "Are you going to the Stark party tonight?"
"Of course, that's why I'm here." Shireen answered.
"You're young." The girl said, sizing her up. "How old are you? Fifteen?"
"Yes... how did you-"
The girl shrugged, "I'm good at guessing these things. This is your first party."
"Ever." She said.
Shireen sighed, "Yeah." She chuckled a little, "Is it that obvious?"
"Nah, but you're going to need this." She said, pulling something from her pocket and holding it out to Shireen. She looked down at it. It was a knife, with a brown handle and something carved into it in a messy scrawl.
"What is this?" Shireen asked, taking a small step away from the girl.
"I call it Needle." She said, holding it out to her, waiting for her to take it. "You'll need it more than I do tonight."
"Why?" Shireen asked.
"You never know what might happen. You're a young, pretty, innocent little girl."
"You're like a year older than me." Shireen mumbled.
"People might try to take advantage of that." She finished without a smile.
"Did they do that with you?" Shireen asked.
"Not me. Someone I know. Just be careful." She said, "Go on, take it."
Shireen reached out cautiously and accepted the knife.
The girl watched her. "What's your name?"
Shireen look down at the knife, turning it back and forth in her hands. "Shireen." She said, looking up. There was a small smile on the girl's face.
"A Baratheon." She said.
"Yeah... And you are?"
"Shireen!" Mya yelled, waving her over impatiently. "Come on! We're going in!"
Shireen nodded and stuffed the knife in her pocket. When she turned around the girl was gone.
The inside of the house was even more magnificent than the outside.
A girl with beautiful, flowing red hair ushered them into the house. She greeted Devan, chuckled quietly when Edric gaped at her and tripped over his own feet and hugged Mya for a good, long minute before letting her go. Her eyes landed on Shireen and she smiled gently.
"You must be the cousin Mya's so crazy about." She said. "It's nice to meet you, Shireen. I'm Sansa."
"Nice to meet you." Shireen whispered as the girl hugged her. "Your house is amazing."
"Thank you." She said, "I've heard your home at Dragonstone is beautiful, as well."
"You should come visit sometime." Edric said, from inside the room.
"Perhaps." Sansa said politely. Though her voice was shaky.
Shireen looked around the room, and the Stark banner hanging in the corner, and found her last cousin standing underneath it, gawking at her.
"What in the seven hells is she doing here?" He said.
"Nice, Gen, way to welcome your family." Mya said, punching him in the arm.
"Sorry." He said, stepping away from Mya. "I am happy to see you guys, it's just... you brought Shireen?" He said, pulling his tiny little cousin into a hug and hoisting her up.
She giggled as he put her down and smiled awkwardly at her. "How in the seven hells did you parents agree to this?"
"It wasn't too hard actually." Mya said. "Edric and I were all prepared with this big speech,"
"Filled to the brim with lies." Edric said.
"I prefer to call them half-truths." Mya said. "To try and convince Selyse and then out of nowhere Stannis just said 'Let the girl go.'"
"That was the final word on the matter." Shireen said.
"Hmm." Gendry mused. His eyes shifted down to Shireen. "You'll be careful?"
Shireen rolled her eyes. "Yes. You've told me to be careful, Mya's told me, Devan's told me, my mom has been telling me for the last three weeks, even Edric told me. I'll be careful and I'll be fine."
Gendry smiled awkwardly, in a way that reminded her of her dad. "Good." He said. She returned his smile and then his phone rang and he reached into his pocket to pull it out.
"Hello? Yeah, alright I'll meet you outside." He said, hanging up quickly.
He tapped Edric's arm and pointed to the door.
"Hot Pie's on his way up with the supply for the night, you two come help us get it." He said, pointing to him and Devan.
"Where are the others?" Mya asked Sansa.
"Um, Robb and Talisa are upstairs, Jon and Bran are downstairs setting up the Smoke Pit and... where did Rickon go?"
Mya waved her hand, "Oh who knows with that boy. Let's go upstairs, I need to get ready if I'm going to be standing next to you all night." She chuckled as they made their way up the stairs.
"You coming Shireen?" Mya called, and Shireen followed quickly behind.
The two girls got ready together while Shireen sat on the bed, glancing at the piles of old magazines she'd pulled out from under Sansa's bed. She flipped through the pages as she listened to Sansa and Mya pace around the room, talking while they got ready.
"So," Mya said, "Is she coming tonight?"
"No." Sansa said sadly, ignoring Mya's growing smile.
"Yeah," Sansa said, thinking back to her conversation, weeks ago. "Good."
She'd called one night, when Sansa had been watching TV with Robb, while they supervised Rickon as he did his homework, even though he was itching to go out with some of his Wildling friends. They smiled at each other for behaving like responsible big siblings and laughed as Rickon mumbled under his breath about how they were the worst. Then the phone rang and Sansa leaned over, still laughing, to pick it up.
"Hello?" She giggled into the receiver.
"Hello, my darling Sansa." Margaery cooed, "How are you tonight?"
Instinctively, she turned away from Robb. She could feel as his eyes shifted from the TV screen to her suddenly tense body, curled up on the other end of the couch.
"Fine. And yourself?" She replied.
"I'm simply marvelous, Loras has taken me out for my twenty-first birthday tonight to a glorious club on the south end."
"You're nineteen." Sansa said.
"Yes, but I do a very convincing twenty-one year old when the moment calls for it." She laughed. "I wish you were here, Sansa, you really should be here."
"Okay." She said awkwardly. She could hear the slight stumble in her words and knew she had more than a few drinks tonight.
"Anyway, I'm calling because I got your invite to the Stark party"
"Well you're welcome to come." Sansa said."I would love it, I really would."
"Oh I plan to." Margaery answered. "... And it says plus one."
"Yeah, you could bring Loras, or Elinor or-"
"Or Joffrey." She interrupted.
Sansa's breath caught just at the sound of his name.
"Margaery," Sansa said carefully "I don't know if that's-"
"Oh please Sansa? Renly's got his own invitation and he's bringing Loras with him, and I don't want to be all alone all night."
"You'll be with me." Sansa said.
"Oh, you're too cute darling. You'll be spending the night with all your fabulous Northern friends... and that one girl, what's her name?" her voice turned sour at the end.
"Mya?" Sansa asked. She doubted Margaery had actually forgotten her name. Especially since it had changed so recently.
"That's the one." She said.
"Look, with Mya there... and her brothers... and my brothers... not to mention the rest of the North... I'm not sure it's such a good idea if you bring him." She said.
"Bring who?" Robb asked, muting the TV and turning his full attention to his sister.
"Oh please Sansa?" She pleaded. "He won't cause any trouble at all, I really do promise. I need to see you, sweetling, and he simply can't be without me for one night. Once we arrive he'll be so smashed he'll pass out on the pool chair and then it'll be just us two girls. I'll make him behave. I promise."
"Margaery, I really don't think it's a good idea. I don't want... he just wouldn't be welcome." She said.
"What about me? Won't I be welcome?" She asked. Sansa could practically picture her face. The pout on her lips, the hurt look in her eyes.
"Of course you're welcome Margaery but-"
Robb ripped the phone right out of her hand.
"Hello? No, Margaery, that's not allowed. Because I don't want Joffrey Fucking Lannister in my house. I don't want him, or any of his Lannister relatives anywhere fucking near the North. That's my domain. Of course Renly's welcome, Renly's never bothered me, Renly never fucked with my family, he never threatened my father. Mmhm? Well then I guess you're just not going to be able to make it this year. Yeah, here."
He handed the phone back to Sansa.
Sansa sighed. She wanted Margaery at the party, sure the girl had her faults, but who didn't? Sansa had been the same way two years ago and if everyone had abandoned her back then she'd been in a heap of trouble now. Besides that, she truly missed the girl she remembered. The girl who'd been her one true friend when she'd needed it most, despite the turn of events that had taken place towards the end.
"You're brother doesn't want me to come."
"I heard." Sansa said.
"Do you want me to come?" Margaery asked.
"Of course, but-"
"Oh this is such a ridiculous mess! Why are we all fighting right now?" Margaery laughed. "I don't want to fight, and I know you don't either, so let's stop. I'll come to the party, just me, no plus one. I have something very important to tell you."
"What is it?" Sansa asked tiredly.
"I want to save it for the party, darling." She giggled. "Oh Sansa you simply must come out to Highgarden once the summer begins, you'd fit in so well out there, and it's been ages since I've been home. Our house is so beautiful and my grandmother would love to see you again. We could play tennis, and go swimming, and go for walks and talk like we used to and every night we'd go out and be adored the way we should be by all the fabulously gorgeous men in town."
"You've made that promise before, Margaery." Sansa whispered.
"Well, suppose this time I keep it? Suppose this time I throw you over my shoulder and drag you out to Highgarden myself, like I should have done last year. Oh please, Sansa? You'll see. I'll come to the party and all will be well, I promise. And you and I will be just like old times, just like it should be."
Sansa was lost for words, finally she managed to stutter out. "Do you promise?"
It wasn't what she'd intended to say. She wasn't even sure she'd said those words out loud until her eyes landed on Robb's shocked face. But she missed the friend she remembered so well, and all her sweet words.
"I promise." Margaery said.
She hung up the phone and gripped it tighetly, ignoring Robb's outstretched hand. Her eyes stayed trained on the ground.
"I don't want him at our party." Robb said, after minutes of silence. He'd sent Rickon away soon after he'd figured out who was on the other end of the call.
"She said she wouldn't bring him." She said, her eyes widened as she tried to convince herself and her brother of what she'd just said.
"If she's coming, you can bet he'll find a way to get up here too."
"No. She wouldn't do that." Sansa said. Her voice shook as she spoke.
Robb scoffed, "Believe that if you want, but you're crazy if you think Joffrey is going to let her come up here alone."
"It's not your concern." Sansa whispered, holding the phone to her chest.
"What?" Robb asked.
Sansa whipped around, her eyes steely and her determination clear. "I said, it's not your concern."
"It's my house, and my party." he said.
"The invitation says 'Stark' and besides she's my guest." Sansa had argued. Robb just shook his head at his sister,
"Why are you doing this to yourself?" He asked. Then she threw the phone at him and stormed out of the room.
That had been weeks ago. Some time afterwards, Robb had come into her room, stiff and reserved and said that even though he didn't understand her decision, and doubted she had any real idea what she was getting herself, and all the rest of them, into, he would respect her idiotic choices. A few hours before the party had started, he'd crushed her with a hug and said to come find him at the first sign of any trouble.
"Well, I mean, Margaery called a few weeks ago. We talked and she said she was coming, but Robb and I said she couldn't bring Joffrey so I doubt she'd actually show. Robb thinks she wouldn't come without him. But she wouldn't actually bring him. She wouldn't do that." Sansa said, causing Mya's smile to falter. "Right?"
Mya gaped at her, then shook her head and walked away. "I can't believe we're actually having this fucking conversation."
"Mya..." Sansa called. "Are you-"
"Fuck sakes! Seriously, Sansa? Why would you fucking invite her?"
"You shouldn't swear in front of Shireen." Sansa said quietly.
"Like she won't hear worse tonight." Mya called from the bathroom. "Actually," She said storming over to them. "Listen up, little cousin, time for a life lesson. When a boy threatens to beat you, threatens to kill your family, practically holds you captive in his home, then dumps you for the one girl you thought was your friend, then when she tries to help you, he fucking stops her and instead you have to get your creepy uncle to help you escape, YOU DON'T FUCKING INVITE HIM TO YOUR PARTY."
"I didn't invite him, I invited Margaery." Sansa said. "And... and I think you're being a little overdramatic."
"Sansa, I was with you in the Eeyrie. I saw what he did to you and now you're letting him back?"
"Why is everyone so certain he's coming back?" She said hysterically. "I invited Margaery. I told her not to bring him. Robb told her not to bring him. She's the one who insisted on coming. She heard me say that she couldn't bring him along so what makes you think he'll be here? Nothing's going to happen."
Mya scoffed and rolled her eyes.
"Mya," Sansa whispered. "Nothing's going to happen... right?"
Mya's face softened as she ran to her friend's side and wrapped her in a hug.
"No, sweetie, nothing's going to happen. We won't let it, right Shireen?"
Shireen nodded silently as Sansa put a smile on her face, wiped away her tears and walked off to the bathroom.
"I don't want to see Joffrey either." Shireen whispered.
He'd been her cousin once, he wasn't anymore. He hadn't been pleasant when they were related and now that they definitely weren't, he hadn't gotten any more likeable.
Mya patted Shireen's head, smoothing out her tangled, limp curls.
"It'll be okay. Nothing bad's going to go down tonight." She kissed her cousin's forehead. "I won't let it."
Mya jumped up and stood in the frame of the open bathroom door, looking back and forth from Sansa to Shireen.
"Just forget about all this shit, okay? Tonight isn't about any of that. This a fucking Stark Party, at Winterfell, in the North. This is your land, your home, and no one can fucking take that away from you. You got that?" Sansa smiled and nodded. Mya chuckled, brushing the hair out of Sansa's eyes. "Do you want to do something fun to take your mind off of it all?" She nodded. Mya looked around the room and bit her lip, then her eyes landed on Shireen and she smiled wickedly. "Do you wanna give Shireen a makeover?"