Gendry was looking down at the living room, watching as the party took over the house.
He was standing on the stairs, the only place in the whole, giant estate that hadn't been swamped with people, and spilled drinks. It was a perch from which the creators could observe their chaos.
And so Gendry, and Jon, and Rickon, and Bran, and Robb stood along the steps of the great staircase admiring their own handiwork.
"We did good, gentlemen. Lots of preparation and tolerating me and my jackassery is about to pay off. Gendry, I want to thank you and Hot Pie for your generous supply." Gendry nodded to Robb and tapped the edge of his beer bottle to his. Jon chuckled and added his own.
"He seems to have mellowed." Jon shouted to Gendry over the music.
"I told you, once he gets a drink in his hand." Bran said, pulling the joint out of his mouth and putting it out on the bannister.
Robb glared at him, "What the fuck are you doing?"
"Spoke too soon," Bran muttered, "Relax Robb, people are gonna do much worse before the night's over."
Robb clamped his giant palm onto his brother's shoulder and grinned ear to ear. "Doesn't really matter. We did good." He said. "They'll talk about this one for years."
"If you say so, Robb." Rickon laughed.
"I do, little brother. I tend to know about these things." Robb said, walking past his brother and down the steps to join Talisa and their friends.
Rickon smirked at Jon as he walked past him, and then followed after, leaving Bran and Gendry alone on the staircase.
They stood in silence until Bran elbowed him in the ribs, "Come on, let's get another drink." Bran said and they headed for the kitchen.
As he passed underneath the Stark banner he spotted Jon getting yanked downstairs by some girl, though he couldn't see who.
"Lucky bastard." He muttered walking into the relatively empty kitchen.
Bran passed him a new beer, "What?"
Jon had some girl already, Edric was whispering in the ear of some Dornish girl in the dark corner of the room, Sam had shown up hand in hand with Gilly, Robb was off with Talisa and probably wouldn't be seen for the rest of the night, Gendry's ex-grilfriend had shown up with Ramsay.
"Everyone's got someone." He said, a sigh snuck it's way into his words.
"You sound as pathetic as Sansa." Bran said, sticking a joint in his mouth and lighting it. He took a long drag.
"Well that's a bit harsh." Gendry said. "But fair." He was eager to change the subject "I don't see the Reeds around."
"She'll be here." Bran said, more to himself than to Gendry.
"Who? Meera?" Bran smiled at the sound of her name. Gendry rolled his eyes "Seven hells, Bran, she's like twenty you know, she's my age, and you're the same age as her little brother."
"You're three years older than Arya," Bran countered, suddenly sobered. "But that's not stopping you."
"You don't know what you're talking about." He countered.
"Sure I do." Bran said. "Why else would you be dating Jeyne Poole? She looks like Arya for fuck's sake!"
"Bran, we broke up at last year's party." Gendry said. Bran stared around the room uncertainly.
"Course you did." He said lighting a spliff and placing it between his lips. "Course you did."
Then the curly haired, Jojen Reed strolled lazily into the room.
"Been looking all over." He said, walking up to Bran and pulling the joint from his mouth. He sniffed it a cringed. "That is some weak shit, Bran. Damn, who conned you into buying that?" He threw it in the kitchen sink and turned the tap on, sending small clouds of smoke up between Bran and Gendry "Come on, Meera's all set up downstairs with some premium stuff, that's what took us so fucking long to get here. She was freaking out we'd miss the whole party" He grabbed Bran's arm and the two left Gendry behind in the kitchen. "She's been shittered all night, keeps going on about some giant fucking moose."
Then they were gone, and Gendry was left alone with a warm beer and his thoughts.
A year and one week ago, he'd found out Arya was alive. He could still remember how he'd felt that day, and the day after when Jon had shown him the letter. He could picture her, looking so grown up, and alive, in the standing, breathing, moving sense of the word. With her eyes looking bright and mischievious, and holding a million secrets from all the years she'd been gone. And now, a full year later, nothing.
He took a sip of his drink and ended up chugging what was left of it.
When he lifted his eyes, he found someone was watching him. A man stood in the doorway, looking older than just about everyone attending the party, and yet Gendry couldn't quite tell his age from his face. But something was undeniably familiar.
The man smirked at Gendry and retreated into the next room, his long red and white hair whipped around his shoulders as he turned.
"Where in the seven hells have I seen you before?" Gendry whispered.
They'd started throwing these parties after their parents had died. After they'd thought Sansa had deserted them, only to discover she'd been fighting to make her way back, after they'd thought Arya was taken away only to discover she'd gone willingly, after Robb and Jon had lost so many fights and Bran and Rickon had grown up away from their home.
The Stark children had grown up so far from each other, which was not the way it was meant to be, but each year they took this time to prove that House Stark was still strong. That's why Robb hung the family banner, and wore a smile that dripped with pride as people flooded into their house. Rickon didn't have the heart to tell him it was really just the free booze that brought them from all corners of the land.
But pride and Houses didn't matter to Robb right now. Rickon knew he was out by the pool with Talisa, happily enjoying each other's company while the party thrived around them.
Rickon smiled and stared down at the party with a satisfied grin. It had always been like this. Robb had Talisa, taking care of everything their parents had left behind, Jon had the Crows and the life their father had wanted for him, Sansa had the South although they didn't keep her long, Arya had school in the East, and Bran had his friends from the Swamps. That left Rickon with the Wildlings: The great mass of half drunk people swaying and grinding with each other in the middle of his living room.
He made attempts to join in and smile along but his eyes were distracted by movement down the corridor. A couple, hand in hand, had made attempts to go into the library and Sansa was swooping in like a guard dog to shoo them away.
She looked nervous and tired and the party had only just begun. Last year's party had been hard on Sansa, Rickon knew that. Not only had their house gotten trashed (they'd even found two of Robb's friends fucking on the floor of the parents room, a place that usually went untouched) but Sansa, who was still with Joffrey at the time, had to watch as Rickon's friend had pummeled him to the ground and beaten him bloody. Mysteriously enough, a few weeks later the truth came out, Joffrey Baratheon was really Joffrey Lannister. And suddenly Stones and Storms and Waters were Baratheons instead.
As Rickon was pushed around the makeshift dancefloor, smiling halfheartedly at his friends, he kept his eyes trained on his sister. She had a stack of towels stuffed under her arm and her eyes were stuck to the ground, staring at her shoes. She'd spent hours preparing for the party, bought a new outfit, Rickon couldn't believe he knew that, and spent hours doing her hair and make-up. She'd been excited for weeks, although that quickly turned to anxiety as the party grew closer.
And still no one notcied her. She worked endlessly and tirelessly and she deserved to have someone pay her some attention.
Rickon pushed through the crowd of people and walked over to her side, silently coaxing the towels out of her hand,
"No one can go in there." She shouted nervously.
"I know, Sansa." He said.
"That room is off limits, but Robb wouldn't let me put up signs. I need to make sure no one goes in there." She ranted.
"It'll be okay, Sansa, go enjoy the party." Rickon said.
"No, Rickon, I'm fine. I'm just looking for Mya, she said she'd be back soon, she was dropping coats off in the bedrooms, and... Rickon." She was using her big-sister-warning-voice as he placed the towels on the floor. A group of kids walked by, half-baked with a sack of pills in their fist, tried to enter the library but Sansa shook her head,
"Fuck off." Rickon shouted at them. "And spread the word: This Fucking Room Is Not For Public Fucking Use." He said, grabbing his sister's hand.
"Smoke room's in the basement." Sansa yelled, pointing to the staircase leading downstairs, it was barely visible through the green tinted smoke rising up it.
Rickon dragged her to the middle of the floor and smirked as everyone around her danced while she just stood there dumbfounded.
She wasn't sure what he was doing. Rickon was a silent, snarky, surprisingly observatory fifteen year old boy. But now he was smiling and laughing and dancing around her and she realized he was being uncharacteristically goofy.
Sansa gave in and started to dance. The Wildlings weren't a particularly graceful bunch, and when Sansa had imagined dancing with a boy at this party she didn't expect it to be her little brother, but nevertheless she was smiling and laughing and dancing around like an idiot until was out of breath.
"Why are you doing this?" She screamed over the music, though by this time her voice was hoarse from laughing.
"It's nice to see you smile." Rickon yelled over her words, giving her a sort of half answer. She smiled and continued dancing until she felt a pair of fingers prodding her back. She turned to find Mya Baratheon smiling widely at her.
"You look amazing!" Mya shouted as she began to dance just as carelessly as the Wildlings surrounding them. Mya reached forwards and grabbed Sansa hand, "If we're going to keep this up, I'm gonna need a strong drink." She shouted.
Sansa's cheeks felt tired from smiling.
"Rickon, do you-" But Sansa stopped short. Her little brother was already nowhere to be found.
Shireen had finally made it to the library. It was hard for such a small person to push through such a noisy, drunken crowd but she'd made it. And now she was leaning against the double doors and breathing heavily, happy to be safe and alone.
Her breaths slowed and she looked up at the room around her. It looked less dusty than it had when she peered in through window. The stacks of books seemed inviting instead of forgotten and the soot covered fireplace didn't seem as menancing anymore.
She smiled to herself, as she began perusing the shelves, and let her fingers run along the desk in the centre of the room where it looked like nothing had been touched for ages. She pulled her fingers away and they were coated in dust. She wiped it away and drew a swirling 'S' along the empty desktop, then she continued along the rows and shelves.
The library had astonishing sound proofing abilities. The shaking of the walls was barely felt as the music pulsed outside and the thumping bass line was reduced to a mean hum. It wasn't as large as the library at Dragonstone, but it was new to her, and that was enough to make it the best place in the world.
She'd grown up alone on the island of Dragonstone. Just her, her mother, her father, and everyone else inhabiting the island. But she didn't get to meet anyone, or talk to anyone, or really see anyone. Then Edric came along, and her father said he would be staying with them. Then her Uncle Davos came to work for her father. He wasn't her uncle then but he became her Uncle quickly enough, and his son Devan was a few years old then Edric, who was a few years older than Shireen, so they all played together and gotten along well.
Of course now she was grown up, a full fifteen years old. Now she understood that her true Uncle Robert had had a son with some woman who wasn't Cersei Lannister and that son wasn't welcome in King's Landing so long as the Lannisters were in charge. That explained Edric. And she understood that her father was viewed as a very cold man, very calculated and unfeeling, but her Uncle Davos advised him and helped him and people liked Davos Seaworth and his sons, especially her father. So that was why they'd stayed around since she was six. And Shireen understood that Melissandre saught to her family's spiritual needs as well as advising her father, and doing a few others things she didn't want to understand. She didn't think about those things much. But that explaned the lady in red.
She'd come to learn that Westeros was a very big place, and that Dragonstone wasn't as big as she'd thought, and that her mother was a very nervous creature, and that for a full grown fifteen year old girl she hadn't really done much. In fact she hadn't really done anything.
Shireen's fingers absentmindedly stroked the pale, crusted birthmark running down her neck as she thought of how much her mother hated that she'd decided to travel North with Mya and Edric. And how quickly her father had let her go. And how after all the worry and planning, she was here, at the party, and she wasn't even enjoying it very much.
She found herself in the section devoted to the history of Westeros, something she'd always loved to read about, but before she could pull a book off the shelf, the doors to the library burst open.
A boy and a girl stumbled in, attached at the lips, their legs were intertwined as they tripped over each other's feet and stumbled blindly into the room.
Shireen hid behind the shelf, watching as a boy with curly reddish-brown hair ran his hands down the girl's back, cupping her butt and hoisted her legs up around his waist. He walked her over in the direction of the desk but stumbled and they slammed against a shelf nearby. The couple chuckle as they slid to the ground and Shireen could tell the girl was drunk. She was too unsure to move. The two of them were sprawled out on the floor and blocking her path to the door. And besides, there was something else in her way now.
"GET THE FUCK OUT." A voice boomed from the hall. A tall man stormed into the room, looked down at the couple with their red, swollen lips and shifted clothing, and shouted it again. "This room is off limits. GET THE FUCK OUT."
The couple got up and the boy, adjusting his shirt, looked up at the one who'd stormed in, "You shouldn't speak like that to me, Robb told me I was welcome here again."
"I'll deal with Robb later then, but you can't be in here." He pointed to the ground. The couple began to leave when he stopped the girl, "Also, Theon Greyjoy? Really?" He stared into her eyes with a disapproving look, "You could do better."
The couple scurried out and separated once they left the room. But the other man stayed back. Shireen watched him, he looked younger than he sounded. He was tall and in dire need of a haircut and at first sight he looked all grown up, but no she realized he couldn't be much older than her. He walked over to the desk and began to pick up the items the couple had knocked over, placing them back within the confines of their dusty boundaries.
He looked down at the lettering Shireen had traced onto the wood and smiled, running over it with his own finger. She leaned forwards absentmindedly and all at once, he turned around, his eyes narrowing in on her, the sheer force of them knocked the breath out of her.
"You really shouldn't be in here." he said, tiredly.
"Yeah, I know." She said. "It's just, my cousin said I could come in here if things got to hectic and-"
He smirked, "You think this is hectic? This is only the beginning."
"I'm just not used to all this." She said, crossing her arms around herself defensively.
"Well, hiding out in here isn't going to help you get used to it." He said. "Where are you from?"
"Dragonstone." She said. "Why?"
A look of understanding washed over his face, "You're Shireen."
Her hand flew up to her face, and the mark spanning her neck and jaw.
He shook his head. "Nah, your cousin, Mya wouldn't shut up about you earlier. Kept saying it was your first time away from home." He said. His eyes followed her hand as she lowered it from her neck.
"You know my cousin?" Shireen asked.
"Of course, she's my sister's best friend." He said.
Shireen nodded, "You're a Stark."
"And here I thought it was obvious." He said. "Though I've been told I look more like a Tully." He reached down and traced the S she's drawn on the desk. "S for Stark."
"And Shireen." She whispered.
"Yeah." He said, turning to look at her again. He held out his hand, "It's nice to meet you, Shireen."
"It's nice to meet you too,"
"Rickon." He said.
Shireen froze but that only made him chuckle.
"So my reputation still precedes me?"
"What?" Shireen said, trying to cover her shock. "No, not at all I-"
"No no, please, enlighten me. What have you heard?"
"Honestly, I swear it wasn't-"
"Was it just the whole raised by Wildlings thing, or was it something a bit more original?"
"That was the gist of it," Shireen said. "I think."
"I'm not unstable. I'm perfectly capable of behaving myself around human beings."
"It was never suggested that you couldn't." She said.
"I'm not like you, I wasn't shut up in tower for fifteen years, I was forced out of one." He said, sitting on the edge of the desk.
Shireen cautiously took a seat next to him.
"Well, towers aren't all they're crack up to be, believe me." She thought of Dragonstone.
"Is this really you're first time away from home?" He asked. Shireen nodded, "That's a long way to go. How does it feel to be out?"
"I'm still huddled up in a library, so I can't say it feels like a very big change." She said.
"This was my father's library, this was his desk. Sansa's been paranoid all night that someone would break in here and touch it, move things from the way he left them, breath the same air he breathed. I don't tell her, she likes to believe the room hasn't been touched in six years, but I still come in every once in a while and sit in his old seat and just... think. I try to keep it as intact as possible."
"Hence the dust." Shireen said.
"Yeah, I don't dust." He added.
"So, what do you think about when you come in here?" She asked.
"I try to figure out what my father spent all his time in here thinking about." He said, staring over at the empty fireplace, "I never get very far."
He stood up all of a sudden, "Well, come on, there's a party out there, it's your first and probably my last and we shouldn't spend it in here."
"I don't know." She said shakily.
"With me by your side, all night, nothing can go wrong." He said, walking towards the door.
"All night?" She asked.
He nodded and opened the door, then turned back to extend his hand.
Shireen walked forward. She didn't know why Mya was so afraid. At first he'd seemed frightening, but he was kind, and charming, and yes, he was cute. He had a goofy smile and curly hair that didn't quite match his height and strength.
'But I'm not in any danger' She thought as she followed him out of the library, down the corridor, and into the party. Rickon turned and grinned at her as he led her through the crowd. 'No danger at all.'