AN: Sorry for the delay. Influenza spread around the house and there is currently enough OTC drug medication around to start a meth lab. This chapter was written in a haze of NyQuil, so hopefully it turned out okay. Thanks again to Crogos, for wading through my haze to Beta read this. Also, thanks again for everything who follows and most of all reviews this story. It sounds corny, but I love getting feedback. Not only do I enjoy it, it makes my writing better.
Anyways – onward!
Love – Part Four (or that's when things got messy)
The Wayward Stark
December 24th 2003 (or Arya's first Christmas away from her the Starks)
"Okay, here comes the best part!" Eddie Baratheon announced with a sly, shit eating grin. The further he got in the story, the more excited he got. And the more excited Eddie got, Gendry got equally annoyed.
"No, it doesn't," Gendry groaned and nudged his brother in the shoulder.
"Ohh yes, it does." Eddie nudged back.
It was nearing three o'clock on Christmas Eve at the Baratheon house. The four of them, Gendry and Arya, Eddie and Willow, were sitting around the dining room table. Eddie, although only 18, was indulging in egg nog with his older brother. Willow allowed this after some protests from Eddie saying it wasn't fair Gendry and his girlfriend got to drink and he didn't. Arya was surprised that Gendry's mom allowed her youngest son, but that's only because her own mother was on her mind. Catelyn would never allow any of her children to drink underage, besides maybe some wine at church, and that's because it came with a thumbs up from Jesus.
Stop thinking about her she thought. You're not going to see her or anyone else named Stark. Arya couldn't help but think of her mother that day. This was the first Christmas she had ever spent apart from her mother and considering how Arya left things with Cateyln Stark she wasn't sure if she would ever spend Christmas with her mother again.
It wasn't only her mother that clouded Arya's mind that day; there was also the small quarter-sized bruise on Gendry's neck. It was a hickey, a monkey-bite, a love mark, that everyone in the room knew Arya gave to him. Truthfully it was Gendry's fault, really. He was the one that woke her up that morning with devious thoughts on his mind. He was the one that had pinned her down on the bed and perform those devious thoughts on her. He just had to make her cum and she just had to bite down on his neck. It was just so mean of him. He knew they were going back to his house tonight. He knew that his mom and Eddie would notice, which they both certainly did. Eddie had to hold back his snickering when he laid eyes on Gendry's neck. At least Willow was nice enough to pretend not to notice, even though she did. Why couldn't he just have worn that damn turtle neck?! I told him they'd notice.
Arya didn't know why the hickey was bothering her so much, Willow had certainly noticed them on her eldest son before, but now…it was different. Now, she and Gendry were living together. Now she couldn't pretend that Willow didn't know that Arya regularly did devious things with her son. She was living with Gendry, she was fucking Gendry, and now Willow, much like Catelyn Stark, probably thought Arya was a trollop. And maybe she's right, Arya thought. No. No. No. That's your mother. That's not you. You love Gendry. Living with your long term boyfriend is a good thing that actual people do in the real world. Mom can live in her fantasy world if she wants too…I just can't live there anymore.
"So, anyways, we were rowing the boat back from the island," Eddie continued his story about the one summer when a young Eddie and a young Gendry absconded with a canoe well on a family vacation. "What did we call that island?" He asked his brother. "It had that awesome Boulder that looked like a dragon or dinosaur."
"Dragon...rock," Gendry mumbled half-heartedly. It was the mumble of man avoiding a subject. "I don't freaking remember." Arya knew Gendry very well freaking remembered. She'd heard this story from him before, just from a slightly different point of view. Gendry told her that on one summer vacation at their families' cabin by the lake, when he was ten, his parents got into a particularly nasty fight. It seemed that one night his father, well rather drunk, took far too much notice in a waitress. Willow didn't take too kindly to his wandering eyes and they had a huge fight that ended with him storming out of the house at three in the morning. When he returned the next morning, even more drunk, the fight continued and Gendry took flight with young Eddie. That's when things got…messy.
"Anyways…" Eddie continued the tale, the young man who was clearly inexperienced with alcohol slurring every other word. "We're rowing back from Dragon rock, or whatever, and Gendry gets this panicked looked on his face and stops rowing."
"Dude, stop," Gendry ordered with a slight shove that jostled a bit of eggnog out of his little brothers mug.
"Gendry, be nice," Willow softly ordered. Something changed, but how these three acted around each other never did. Eddie tried to embarrass his older brother, Gendry tried to stop it, and Willow sided with her baby. Gendry rolled his eyes and took a slug from his drink. Based on her demeanor Willow had never heard this story, because if so she'd understand why Gendry was getting testy. Arya kinda liked that his mom didn't know, because that meant Gendry had only told his girlfriend this story.
"Anyways…Gendry gets this look of panic and starts saying 'I have to go to the bathroom! I have to go the bathroom!'" Gendry probably yelled he had to shit, but Eddie cleaned up the language for his mother. Arya glanced at her husband and Gendry looked like he wanted to run away, be anywhere where he could find privacy, oddly enough the bathroom would be a good place. "So he starts rowing faster and faster, but we both realize that he isn't going to make it." Some concern splashed over Willow's face as the story took a turn for the worst. "We're in the middle of the lake and he isn't going to make it. So he stops rowing, throws his ass over the edge of the boat, drops his pants…"
"Ohh…no…" Willow sighed.
"And it just all comes out!" Eddie cackled and added his own disgusting sound effects. "Last night's dinner, breakfast, maybe some vital organs, all go spewing out into the lake!"
"Okay, Eddie, that's enough," Willow sighed at her son.
"Fine, fine," Eddie laughed and finished off his drink. His older brother did the same as his face reddened in shame. Even though Gendry had already told Arya that incredibly embarrassing story she could tell her boyfriend certainly didn't want the story told in front of his girlfriend and mother. "Do we have anymore?" Eddie excitedly shook his empty mug.
"No, we don't Eddie," Willow sighed. It looked like she regretted letting Eddie partake in the yuletide cheer.
"Can we get some more?"
"I can walk to the liquor store. It's just down the street and I think they're open until five today." Gendry offered, trying to be helpful. Only after his mother glared at him did he realized he had made a mistake. "Or…maybe not…"
"That'd be great!" Eddie exclaimed.
Willow looked at her two boys, whom she had only seen a handful of time the last couple of months, and she broke. Cat Stark's steely resolve never broke in the face of her children. "Fine," Willow relented.
"Awesome," Eddie grinned and skipped towards the front door like a giddy little boy. Giddy, drunk, little boy. Arya still didn't believe that Eddie was in college. He wasn't supposed to go to college, he was always supposed to be Gendry's annoying little brother. But, things changed.
"You wanna come with?" Gendry asked Arya. She was still a little mad at him; it would have been very easy to wear a turtle neck. Although, staying there would mean being alone with Willow…which could be awkward. The deciding factor was the fact it was December.
"It's ten degrees outside," Arya furrowed her brow. "What do you think?"
"Fine," he kissed her on the cheek. "I'll be right back." He looked at both his mother and Arya. "You two girls are going to be okay?"
"Of course," Arya groaned. She had a great relationship with Willow, so she hoped that even if Arya was a trollop that hickeyed her son, everything would be okay.
"Did you want your usual tonight?" Gendry asked his wife. "We have OJ, and Cranberry juice, but I think I'd have to get some vodka and peach schnapps."
"That would be great," Arya answered. The more she saw Willow notice Gendry's neck the more she wanted a drink.
"What drink are you getting?" Willow asked as her boys exited the house.
Panic streaked over Arya as she opened her mouth. Why did this drink Sansa introduced to Arya have to have such a dirty name? She considered lying, but she was afraid her fake name would be dirtier than the actual name. "Oh…it's called…" she nervously nibbled on her bottom lip. "…sex on the beach."
"Ohh…" Willow lightly gasped, but forced a smile and continued forward. "Is…it good?"
"Ohh, yeah," Arya chuckled and tried to make the awkward work for her. She was an adult, so was Willow, this didn't have to be blood curdling awkward. "Sex on the beach is great. Just make sure to put a towel down first." Willow lightly laughed and took a sip from her tea. "I'm going to get back to get started on dinner," Willow said and noticeable turned away from her. Or she turned to the sink, Arya wasn't sure which.
Good job Arya…good job. "I think I'm going to go up to our…Gendry's room…and get a sweater." Willow gave her a quiet nod and went back to preparing dinner.
As Arya walked up to Gendry's room she remembered how she always kinda hated Gendry's house. It was more of a mausoleum now, with ancient relics of a family that once included Robert: Wedding pictures of Robert and Willow, pictures of Robert and his boys, even a picture of a twenty something year old Robert with a twenty something year old Ned Stark and his then girlfriend Catelyn Tully. Arya tried to rush past that picture and upstairs to Gendry's old room. It was bare now, just a mattress in a pale blue room. She spent so many hours in this room with Gendry talking, hanging out, and…other things.
Arya found a gray woolen knit turtle neck lying on the very bottom of her suitcase. She was tempted to give the damn thing to Gendry to cover his neck, but it'd never fit over his big stupid head. She couldn't even remember why she kept it—it was a size too big and was a terrible decaying tone of gray. But, when she looked in the mirror, the one thing that remained hanging on the wall, she remembered why she kept it at all and why out of force of habit she packed it for this holiday trip. Her mother gave it to her and Arya would get so much shit if she didn't pretend to love it. Even though the sweater was itchy, and dull, and such a pain in the ass, her mother still gave it to her.
"You doing okay?" Arya saw Willow standing in the doorway. Not this too. First the hickey and now she catches me crying. Just perfect.
"Huh?" Arya feigned ignorance of her current state, sadly staring at a shitty gray sweater. "Yeah…yeah…I'm doin' okay."
"It's fine. Gendry told me what happened with you and your mom…did you want to see her while you're down here?"
"I do, but only if she wants to see me…and Gendry."
"Have you talked to her at all since you moved in with Gendry?"
"Nope," Arya chuckled and sobbed as she answered. "If she can't be happy for me…" Arya gulped as she spoke, "If she can't be happy for us…then I don't want to be around her."
Willow smiled and joined Arya on Gendry's bed. "That's the way your mother has always been. She's always been a little …judgmental." Arya felt a smile crawl across her face as she heard Willow say 'judgmental' instead of 'bitchy.'
"I can't imagine you and my mother at my age," Arya shook her head. "Was she always this bad?"
"No," Willow shook her head. "She used to be young and stupid…we all used to be young and stupid."
"Really? My mother was young and stupid? She went to bars and had drinks with dirty names?" Arya knew this was factually true, but whenever Arya thought of her mother in her youth she assumed she was the exact same Catelyn Stark…maybe just smaller.
"Yes, of course," Willow chuckled. "When I met her she was actually twenty-two and she behaved like a twenty-two year old. Maybe a twenty-two year old prude, but still, a twenty-two year old."
Arya was brimming with morbid curiosity and disbelief. "No way my mother ever acted like a twenty-two year old. No way my mother ever did any of the things I did…lived with any of the people I do."
"Arya, don't let your mother bother you," Willow wrapped her arm around Arya's shoulder. "Now…I know your mother would be very upset with me by telling you this…and before I do you have to promise you won't tell your brothers and sister." Arya nodded. "Your mother and father dated for over a year before they were engaged and then there was another six months before they got married…do you think that they stayed…pure that whole time?"
"What?" Arya's eyes popped open.
"I mean, they didn't live together, but…they were…together before they got married. I mean I remember this one night I walked into your father's bathroom without knocking…"
"No…" Arya stopped Willow. "That's enough. I don't need the gory details."
"Ohh, yes, of course," Willow smirked. "My point is that you shouldn't let your mother's views get you down. Parenting is hard, and she is a good mom, but sometimes she takes the easy way out. The easiest thing for a parent to do is to say 'do as I say, not as I did.'"
"I guess…I just want to see her again…or never again…" Arya sighed. She didn't know what she felt, but she just knew she felt too much of it. "I think I just really hate Christmas now. I think my mom ruined Christmas."
"Don't be like that," Willow playfully nudged Arya. "It's Christmas. And you're with family."
"I am," Arya smiled. Willow tightened her grip on Arya again and then she left the room. A few minutes later Gendry did return with the booze and after a drink Arya felt some Christmas cheer return to her. They had dinner and although she missed the Starks she was happy to still be with family.
December 23rd 2008 (or the present. Okay…maybe…that doesn't help in a story that jumps a lot, but you know what I mean. You do, right? Okay, 2008 is the year everything goes to shit and Sansa gets married. So this would be the Christmas after Sansa got married. Everyone with me? Kay, cool.)
It was a dreary Tuesday as Arya packed a bag for a five day weekend back home to celebrate Christmas with her family. She threw in her underwear next to Gendry's along with some nice shirts; her mother always liked it when they dressed up for Christmas. It was the only time of year they wore the awful clothes Catelyn bought for both of them. Gendry was still at work, unable to get off the Christmas Eve-Eve. He was less than excited when he had to get up that morning and go out into gray and sleety world.
They would be leaving sometime tonight probably and spending the night in Willow's guest bedroom. Although she had moved out of the large house Gendry grew up in Willow's apartment was still within driving distance from Arya's house, which meant that Gendry and Arya could easily spend time with both the Starks and the Baratheons this Christmas. They had talked about having Willow and Eddie over for dinner with the Starks over the next couple days, although that idea made both Gendry and Arya nervous. It wasn't a coincidence that Willow had not had dinner with Arya's family, at least while Gendry and Arya were around. It'd probably be great until Willow would drop a subtle, yet very unsubtle hint, that she wanted grandchildren, which would probably set Arya's mother, and then before she knew what was going on Cat and Willow would probably planning baby showers while trying to tamper with Arya's birth control and slipping Gendry Spanish fly.
As per usual Arya was very excited, and incredibly nervous, about seeing her family. It would be the first time since Sansa's wedding that the entire Stark clan would be united, except for Robb who was spending the holiday with his wife's family. The last time she saw Sansa she was an emotional wreck, but a subsequent phone call proved she was in better spirits after the PMS and sadness over not being pregnant had passed. Arya still didn't know how Tyrion would be fairing and feared that the newest member of the Stark family could cause problems. It wasn't just the fact that Tyrion was struggling with his career and staying off drugs, it was also that Arya had learned long ago Tyrion could always cause problems.
But, the real concern was with her big brother Jon. Although the bruises had faded from Gendry's face, Arya knew there would be some tension, or at the very least awkwardness, between Jon and her husband. The few times Arya had brought up for brother the last couple of nights and Gendry didn't seem that concerned. "It'll be fine," he said. "Jon's cool with me."
"Why?" Arya pointedly asked.
"Well…" Gendry mumbled, "he just is." Arya of course pressed further, but ran into a wall. "It isn't a big deal Arya," he said, "he just had a shitty night. Don't worry about." Gendry telling her not to worry about made her worry about it more, but there wasn't anything she could do. She loved both the stupid bastards a lot and decided that she would just let them deal with it. And if either of them caused a problem she'd just bang their heads together until things really were 'cool.'
Arya finished packing a few minutes later when she heard the front door open and she went to greet her husband. "Hey, my mom called and was wondering when we'd be down. I told her I'd call her…" Arya trailed off as Gendry briskly stalked passed her and rambled toward their bedroom. Okay then, I guess he had a shitty day. In the bedroom Arya found her husband sitting on the bed, next to their packed suitcase, staring off into the distance. "Rough day?" Arya asked and got zero response. "Hello?!" Arya laughed and waved her hand in front of Gendry's vacant face. "Hey, have you seen my husband? Big guy, around your size, seen him?" She got nothing from him, not even a chuckle. "Gendry…you okay?"
"We aren't going down tonight. We aren't going to spend any time with my mom or Eddie."
"Why?" Arya asked. It wasn't like Gendry, or his mother, to suddenly change plans, so something was very much up. She rubbed his back and waited for an answer, but got none. "Gendry, what's wrong?" she repeated.
He finally answered by kissing her. Mauling her was a more apt description in hindsight. She was surprised by the sudden attention, but when his lips lightly grazed hers she responded in kind. His lips moved faster and faster, his tongue slipped into her mouth, and in one sudden move his entire crashed against her and flipped her onto the bed.
"Wow!" Arya yelped out of surprise as his attention turned to his neck. "Gendry? What the…" she asked as he kissed her neck, making it hard to concentrate. She certainly enjoyed his mouth on her neck, his hands grasping her pants...she missed this. Although their sex life had been rejuvenated lately, it was moving slower than Arya liked. Gendry had just flipped it back to ten, but Arya just didn't know why. This wasn't like her husband...not to say she wasn't enjoying it.
"Gendry…what the hell?" she repeated, but couldn't as teeth softly nipped at her neck. He didn't stop kissing and she felt her pants begin to loosen. "Gendry," she said again and he stopped, which disappointed her more than she expected. "What's going on?"
"Arya," he grunted into her neck. "I just…please…" although he was on top of her, pinning her to the bed, his voice wasn't that of someone in control.
"Okay," she nodded and ran her fingers down his spine. She closed her eyes and enjoyed his lips on her neck and his fingers on her stomach. She lifted her ass off the bed and felt her pants ripped off her body, along with her red and blue polka dotted panties. He pulled her hands up above her head and she was fully exposed. His kissing came harder, and faster, almost rabid.
Arya matched his fevered movements and tore at his shirt. There was a gentle ripping noise as she tossed to the side. She started to reach down to remove her own shirt, but when she started to move her hands again his pinned her down again. He slipped his fingers into between hers and with one quick motion thrust into her. "Fuck," she groaned at the sharp sensation and struggled to keep up with his pace.
The bed rocked back and forth, unceremoniously and loudly smacking into the wall. Arya wasn't sure if the next door neighbors were home or if they had left for the holiday, but if they were home they were certainly getting an earful. Any and all profanity that passed through her mind instantly spewed out her mouth. Normally she wasn't this…wanton…but it had just been so long since she had gotten this kind of attention. She knew she wanted it, but she had no idea how badly until her eyes rolled into the back of her head amid the chorus of the bed slamming against the wall.
His grip tightened around as his pace slowed and his breathing escalated. She felt every muscle in his body tense as he pushed into her one last time. Hearing that groan, that oddly sex groan he had, pushed her over the edge too, and she clamped onto him. They stayed like that for a moment, their chests heaving, as they slowly came down together.
"Goddamn," he moaned and pulled out her, leaving a sloppy mess on the bed and her.
"That was…something else…" she panted. Gendry stumbled to his feet and tried to catch his breath. "You okay?" she asked. He didn't seem to even notice the question and wandered toward the bathroom. She followed suit and heard the shower turn on. In the bathroom mirror she caught her reflection in the mirror and saw large splotchy mark on her neck. Son of a bitch. If anyone notices that I'll never hear the end of it.
Gendry was in the shower, the curtain not drawn, the water washing down his back, his body limply leaning against the wall.
"Gendry…what's wrong?" Arya wrapped her arms around husband.
"My mom," he groaned without removing his head from the wall. "She lied to me. She told me that it would just be us and Eddie at Christmas. Eddie called me at work today and told me that fucking Robert is going to be there through the weekend."
"Ohh," Arya mumbled, "I'm sorry…what do you want to do?"
"Nothing," he sadly chuckled. "I want to go to bed."
"So, you don't want to go down tonight?" she asked.
"No. I don't. We can go tomorrow." He paused and finally looked back to her. "And we won't be visiting with my family."
"Yes," he sadly mumbled and put his head back on the cool bathroom tile.
"Okay," she kissed his back, "…as long as I can get a turn in the water.". He chuckled lightly and moved out of the way so she could wash up.
They spent the rest of the night in bed. The only thing Gendry said was, "Thanks for understanding…I love you."
The Next Day (or Christmas Eve)
"Where are they?" Catelyn asked her husband. It was seven o' clock and Arya and Gendry had yet to arrive. Catelyn had told her daughter that dinner was at six and Arya said they'd be on time. Of course it was just like Arya to be late. When she was a child Arya was always the last one to the dinner table, pushing dinner back for everyone. Now her youngest daughter and her husband were an hour late, stalling dinner. Cat knew it was a long car trip for them, and it was snowing, but they should have made better plans. Holding up everyone's dinner was just rude.
"They'll be here soon," Ned reassured her.
"Well, I think we should start dinner. Or else the roast beef is going to get cold."
"Fine," Ned shrugged and exited the kitchen. "Dinner in five minutes everyone," he told everyone assembled in the living room. With Robb not visiting that Christmas it was Ygritte and Jon, Sansa and Tyrion, and Bran.
Jon and Ygritte had arrived late last night, their red eye flight arriving at three that morning. Ygritte had been out of sorts all day, sleeping in until one that morning, and didn't seem like her usual energetic self. Jon just dismissed it has jet lag, but Cat thought something else seemed wrong.
Tyrion and Sansa arrived earlier that day, both seeming in high spirits. Sansa was positively glowing and Tyrion, although he had spoken frequently about some problems in his professional life, also seemed to be quite happy. It probably helped that he and his new bride were staying at hot tub suite at the hotel they were staying at. Cat would have preferred Tyrion and Sansa staying at their house, but it was packed as it was, and she didn't want to force Bran to sleep on the couch again. Not to mention that as Cat knew from her daughter that she and Tyrion were working on starting a family and that work was best done in private.
"Hello!" Cat heard come from the front door. She craned her head down the hallway wand saw her youngest daughter stomp into the front down, her hair wet with snow, with a suitcase in one hand and a backpack slung over her shoulder. Gendry followed closely behind with another smaller suitcase in his hands. "Sorry we're late! You guys eating already?!" Arya yelled.
"No," Ned yelled back, with a chuckle in his voice. "We were just about to." Ned was just as upset as Cat was that Arya was late, but Ned couldn't be upset at her about that. He hadn't seen his little girl in so long and greeted his little Arya with a great big hug. Gendry also got a hearty handshake and hug.
"Hi Ned," Gendry said with a heavy voice, weighed down by exhaustion.
"Arya, you're late," Cat told her daughter.
Arya rolled her eyes. "I know. I know. We ran into some traffic and some snow."
"You should have left earlier."
"Good to see you too mom."
Cat was still annoyed but couldn't help but smile. Besides Sansa's wedding, where she barely said a word to Arya, it had been a very long time since she had really talked to her daughter. "Well, its okay, just put away your stuff and come back down. Dinner is ready," she told her daughter. Arya took her luggage, with Gendry slowly in tow, the 'Baratheons' took their luggage upstairs.
A few minutes later dinner was served. "God, I'm hungry," Arya said as she greedily dolloped a heaping pile of mashed potatoes on her plate. Even through her youngest daughter was twenty-seven and married, she was in so many ways still a child.
"Let's say grace first," Cat told her family and they stopped loading their plates with food. Dinner was later than planned, pushed back to eight because her youngest daughter was two hours late. But, tradition was important, and they always said grace before Christmas dinner. Cat wished she had taught her children to say their prayers before every meals, but she knew well enough to take what she could get.
Everyone at the table joined hands and Catelyn looked at her family. Robb was missing from the table, spending Christmas with his Jenye's family. To Cat's left was Sansa who looked beautiful in a festive green and red sweater. Besides her was Tyrion, who was wearing a polo that matched his new Wives'. Cat couldn't help but smirk that Sansa had finally found a man she could wear matching outfits with, although Tyrion wasn't even close to the man Cat imagined Sansa would end up with.
Beside Tyrion was Gendry, who had shaved off his goatee since the last Cat saw him. She liked the new look, it made him look less than his father. Gendry had very little in common with Robert and that was especially true that night. Robert was the life of the party, vibrant and out-going, letting you know exactly what he was thinking even if you'd rather not hear it. Gendry was always quiet, but that night he particularly withdrawn. Heavy purple bugs hung under his eyes, his hair was dishelved, and he had barely said anything since he and Arya arrived late. For her part, Arya looked sharp in a gray turtleneck, one that Cat gave her a few Christmases ago. Arya was still distracted though. Cat didn't know what was bothering Arya and Gendry, but she assumed it had something to do with their abrupt change of plans last night.
On other side of the table was Jon and Ygritte. They both seemed to be in high spirits which was a pleasant surprise. Catelyn was afraid there was be friction between Gendry and Jon, but thankfully that hadn't happened yet. Bran, Cat's youngest, and her pride and joy, sat beside his mother. His hair was far to shaggy, and he had a terrible unshaven face, but he was still her little boy. Even if he had a terrifying bird of death tattooed on to his wrist.
Not a moment after they finished their prayer Arya broke the silence. "I'm freaking stravin," she told the table as she continued to load her plate with food.
"You're straving?" Ygritte playfully asked. "We're all straving waitin' for dinner! What took you two?"
"Ohh, we over slept," Arya answered with a shrug. Gendry didn't even seem to acknowledge the question. In fact he was pointedly looking away from Ygritte.
"I thought you two were coming up yesterday?" Sansa asked.
"We were…but our plans changed," Arya told her sister.
"Ohh, what happened?"
"Nothing, Sansa," Arya gave her sister a glare.
"Okay, geez, just asking," Sansa rolled her eyes.
"Bran, how was the flight in?" Arya asked her brother, changing the subject.
"Same old," Bran shrugged. "Flight was delayed by an hour and I swear the plane was stuffed with crying babies."
"And the job's good?" Arya asked.
"It's not too bad," Bran again vaguely answered.
"When'd you get the tattoo?" Tyrion jumped in and nodded towards Bran's wrist.
"A few week ago," Bran answered and glared at Tyrion.
"It looks pretty cool," Arya smiled at her little brother and Bran enjoyed the compliment.
"Yeah, it looks nice," Sansa also said.
Cat's eye popped at Sansa's compliment. Sansa likes it? This was maddness. Arya liking the tattoo she understood...but Sansa? No, that wasn't right. She just had to join the conversation. "Bran, is your boss okay with you getting a tattoo?"
"Mom…" Bran whined, "my boss doesn't care I got a tattoo. It isn't 1953…people get Tattoos now-a-days."
"I just don't want it to hurt your chances at getting a promotion...or meeting a girl."
"It won't…" Bran sighed and shoved a pile of stuffing in his mouth. "No one, but you, cares that I have a tattoo."
"I just remember in my day that no one really ever had a tattoo."
"Mom…" Bran sighed. Cat noticed both Jon and Tyrion quietly chuckling at Bran's discomfort. "…it's fine."
"No, it's not," Cat sternly told his son. "I just don't know why you got that thing."
"It was a group thing...all my friends were out, and we're drinking…" Cat didn't like to hear that detail. Even though Brandon was twenty-three, she didn't like to think about her little Bran getting drunk. "…and we went out and all got tattoos."
"I just don't understand," Cat shook her head out of exasperation. "None of your brothers and sisters got tattoos. It's just so…childish…"There was a moment of silence that followed as all the children at the table exchanged looks. "What?" Cat asked.
Arya took a deep breath, a sizeable sip of her wine, and turned her head to her mother. "Mom…I don't want to burst your bubble or anything, but I have a tattoo too." A hush came over the room at Arya's admission.
"You do?"Cat asked.
"Yeah…Gendry and I got matching tattoos freshmen year."
"Who gave you tattoos?" Cat asked. She wasn't familiar with tattoo parlors and the laws that governed them, but her eighteen year old getting a tattoo seemed fishy.
Arya turned to her husband. "What was that place called?"
"I dunno," Gendry shrugged. "It's not like I did a lot of research on it. It was in walking distance and it didn't look like we'd get Hep C."
"God, what was it called?" Arya wondered out loud. "It was something with an octopus or something…"
'"You two don't remember?" Cat asked. It boggled her mind that they wouldn't remember. "You remember at least what tattoos you got?" Tyrion, Bran, and Jon both chortled at that remark, Cat decided to ignore that.
"Yeah, we got matching tattoos…" Arya mumbled.
"What were they?" Cat asked and couldn't help but notice two different moods set on the table. Cat was deadly serious, wondering about what life choices Bran, and Arya, and all of her them, had made. Her children were all a giggling mess, acting like the children Cat still couldn't help but see them as. Ned was removed from the situation, sitting with a bemused smile, enjoying his dinner.
"Just a video game thing called the Konami Code," Arya mumbled. She had a sheepish grin on her face as her brothers and sisters giggled around her.
"And where are they?" Cat asked.
"Gendry's is on his shoulder…and mine…" Arya finished off her glass of wine. "…it's on my butt."
"You have a tattoo there?" Cat pointedly asked and Bran couldn't help but laugh at that. "This is serious!" Cat tried to stop the children.
"Mr. Inky," Gendry said out of nowhere.
"What?" Arya asked.
"The name of the tattoo parlor was called Mr. Inkey," he explained. "The logo was a squid with a puddle of black ink under his tentacles."
"Oh yeah!" Arya smiled. "Mr. Inkey, I remember now!" She turned to the table. "Can I get another glass of wine?"
"Really, Arya, how could you forget that name…" Cat sighed. "…how could you even get a tattoo at a place called Mr. Inky?"
"'Cus, she was stoned," Sansa said under her breath, but everyone at the table heard.
"What!?" Cat tried to keep her voice down, but hearing that her daughter used drugs was rather unsettling.
"Sansa, shut up," Arya sighed. "You got stoned that night too…"
"You tricked me!"
Arya laughed at her sister. "You walked in, Gendry and I were high as kites, there was a plate of a brownies in front of us, and you were unable to put two and two together."
"I didn't even know you there was such a thing as pot brownies!" Sansa yelled back and all the other children giggled.
"It's good to have the kids home for the holidays…" Ned said under his breath. It surprised Cat how okay her husband was with this. His Arya, his little Arya, got high in college, and all he did was mutter a little sarcastic comment under his breath.
"Okay, negligence of the existence of pot brownies is not a defense," Arya scoffed. "You got high, just like us."
"Nice," Tyrion commented. "That actually sorta sounds like something resembling something a lawyer would say."
"Thank you!" Arya tipped her glass to Tyrion. "I've been studying." She turned her gaze back to her sister. "And besides, I'm not the only here with a tattoo."
Sansa's face turned as a white as ghost. "What…are you talking about..."
Arya rolled her eyes. "Really? C'mon, I saw you basically naked when you wrapped yourself into your wedding dress," she laughed. "Just because mom didn't notice that little red thing on your inner thigh, doesn't mean I didn't notice."
"You noticed that?"
"Hard not to," Arya chuckled. "What is that thing anyways?"
Sansa twitched"It's a fireball," Sansa responded and took a gulp of wine.
"Fireball?" Arya, Bran, Jon, and Ygritte all asked at the same time. Gendry seemed to be paying a little more attention, but was still in his own world. Ned watched the scene unfold, neither upset or angry, just amused with this fire Cat unwittingly lit.
"Yes," Sansa groaned. "I…umm…liked that design when I was at the tattoo parlor…I might have been a little drunk."
"Oh my god," Cat sighed under her breath as the other children laughed.
"Tyrion got one too!" Sansa exclaimed, which in turn made her husband join her with a ghostly complexion.
"Thanks," Tyrion told his wife with a pained smile.
"What did you get?" Jon asked.
Tyrion's face went from mild embarrassment to near panic. "It's…private…" Tyrion mumbled.
"Where you'd get it?"
"Mr. Inky?" Arya suggested with a giggle.
"That's…private too…" Tyrion answered.
"Sure is," Gendry chuckled under his breath.
"What?" Arya turned to him. "You know about this?"
"Yeah, you know about my tattoo?" Tyrion chimed in before Gendry could answer. Near panic now turned to intense curiosity pointed at Gendry.
"Yeah, I do," Gendry causally said.
"You didn't tell me?" Arya pointedly asked and her tone changed quickly. When she was teasing Sansa she was playful, but now there was an undercurrent of hostilely in Arya's voice.
"You didn't ask," Gendry defensively offered. "And it isn't a big deal."
Arya didn't seem to like that answer, but Tyrion butted into the conversation before she could say anything. "How do you know about this? Did Sansa tell you?" Tyrion looked to his wife, very confused at everything going on.
"No," Gendry laughed. "I saw it."
"You saw it?!" Tyrion asked. "When!? How?"
Gendry looked around the table at the eyes watching them both. "You sure you want talk about this right now?"
"Ummm…no." Tyrion relented, but seemed very bothered and equally confused.
"Okay, enough, enough," Ned told the children. "I think that's enough on that topic." They all shrugged and stifled their laughter. "Does anyone have anything else they want to talk about?"
"Well," Ygritte quietly said and looked to her Jon, who gave her a smile and nod. "We have some news…" she grinned, "…I'm pregnant."
"What?!" Arya almost spat out her water.
Later that night
A rattling thud woke Catelyn Stark from a meager slumber. Although Christmas Eve dinner was always a joyous occasion, this would be one that Catelyn would never forget. This was the night that Catelyn found out she would be a grandmother.
Although the evening had been filled with awkward conversations before Ygritte told everyone about the bun in her oven things took a great turn after that. There were toasts all around as Cat and Sansa asked Ygritte if she was taking prenatal vitamins and when she was due. She was due in July and was on some vitamins, but she couldn't remember the type. Sansa than listed all the vitamins that Ygritte should be on and listed them on a post-it note. Catelyn couldn't help but be impressed with Sansa, she was ready to be a mother.
After dinner they had dessert and drinks. Everyone was upbeat, except for Gendry. He was happy of course, but well everyone else seemed over to be simmering with joy, he seemed lukewarm at best. Not to mention he didn't even seem that surprised. Arya was baffled at the news and the words "you've gotta be fucking kiddin' me,' escaped her lips several times. No one expected this news. Jon and Ygritte had told everyone they weren't planning on starting a family anytime soon. Everyone was shocked, and excited, and nervous at the same time for Jon and Ygritte, but not Gendry. He wasn't surprised at all. Cat wasn't sure what to make of Robert Baratheon's son at the moment.
The rest of the night happened without incident. The family opened their presents as was tradition and the rest of the night unfolded as Cat expected. Tyrion and Sansa left around ten, heading back to suite that Tyrion got them for the long weekend. Cat and Ned stayed up a little bit longer, but around eleven they went to bed as well. Catelyn heard the two couples plus Bran head up to their bedrooms around midnight and house grew quiet.
Sometime later, Cat wasn't sure when, she heard a rumbling on the stairs and a loud thud that sounded like the front door slamming. "Did you hear that?" she asked her husband with the nudge. Ned groaned and rolled over on his side. She went back to sleep assuming she was hearing things.
She knew she wasn't hearing things when she heard the same thud again what seemed like an hour later. "I know I heard something," she nudged Ned again, but got the same response. She knew he was tired from the long day, but for all she knew there was a serial killer downstairs. There was a moment where she complimented trying again to wake up Ned, but it was a fool's errand she realized. Also, she knew that there was probably not a serial killer down stairs. There were five guests in the house and it could very easily been one of them. However, she wanted to know, she found her slippers and a bathrobe and headed downstairs.
What she found was surprising. At her dining room table sat Gendry Baratheon, in jeans and a slightly damp sweatshirt. He was sipping a cup of tea and only noticed Cat when she coughed away a tickle on her throat. He looked up at her with blurry, blood shot eyes. "Did I wake you up?" Gendry asked.
"Did I wake you up?" Gendry asked.
"Yeah…did you go outside?"
"Oh, yeah…" Gendry took a sip and deep breath, "I was having problems sleeping so I went for a walk."
"Is something wrong?"
Gendry shook his head and gave Cat a weak smile. "It's no big deal. Just couldn't sleep."
"Does that happen a lot?" Cat asked joined him at the table. She noticed beside the electric kettle a bottle of Whiskey that Ned kept around the house.
"It happens now and again. When I'm stressed, or somewhere I'm not used to…I just can't get any sleep."
"Do you usually go for walks…and make tea?" Cat wasn't even sure why she was asking him these questions. She did care for her son-in-law, but that wasn't it. She was asking because she really wanted to know, she wanted to understand the boy her daughter fell in love with. Not to mention the bottle that sat on the counter. Even if Gendry shaved his beard, he still looked so much like this father.
"Sometimes I go for walks, when I'm more restless. The tea thing started when I was a kid. One night I couldn't fall asleep and my mom, not knowing how else to help me, made me some tea. It's what she did when she was stressed and she figured it might help me too." He also looked at the whiskey. "The booze was something I added recently. But, don't worry, I don't add that every time…" he sighed, "just after particularly shitty days." Gendry got up and refill his mug. "Did you want some?" he asked.
"Sure," Cat shrugged. Gendry quickly steeped another tea bag. He picked up the bottle of whiskey and gestured it towards Cat. "No thanks," Cat shook her head and Gendry brought her some tea.
Cat took a sip of her tea and finally asked the question that had been on her mind all day. "Gendry…is there something wrong? Something you want to talk about?"
"Yes," Gendry nodded. "There is a lot I should probably talk about." Gendry sighed and said nothing more.
"Did you want to talk?"
"No," Gendry shook his head and then looked Cat in the eye. "But…I guess I should…but, I don't want to be a bother."
"No bother," Cat sternly told him. "You're family."
"Family," Gendry chuckled. "I might need all the family I can get." Cat cocked her head, hoping he'd go further than that. "I don't know what family I have left after today. I don't know what family I want."
"My mother lied to me. She told me that my dad wasn't going to be there for Christmas and he is. She wanted to trick me into bonding with my father." He angrily got up from the table, grabbed the bottle of whiskey and took a swig. "She lied to me to make me bond with my father."
"Would that be the worst thing?" Cat asked. She had no love for Robert Baratheon, but she remembered what it was like being separated from Arya when she moved in with Gendry. The pain of losing a child was unbearable to Cat and she wouldn't wish it on anyone, not even Robert.
"No," Gendry sighed and sat back down. "It wouldn't be. But…I can't."
"Why not?" she asked.
His face twisted as he thought of the words. "When I was a kid my mom always said that my father loved me. That no matter what he said, no matter what he did, he always loved me. She said I should forgive him because he loved me and that's all that mattered," he sadly chuckled. "But, the thing is...I don't think I love him."
"You didn't…you don't love your father?" Cat asked. Her voice wavered more than she expected. Even though it was Robert, it still broke Catelyn's heart to hear a son say he didn't love his father.
"I think maybe I did once, when I was little, but now? No. I don't…I don't know." he looked yearningly at the bottle, like he wanted another shot. Cat did not enjoy the irony of Gendry drinking as he spoke of his father. Robert never said no to another drink, but Gendry in this case at least did. "…how can you forgive someone if you can't stand to be in the same room with them?"
"I don't know," Cat mournfully said and slightly regretted declining on the whiskey. "What about your mother? Are you really not going to visit her?"
"I don't know. Maybe after the holidays I might give her a call. I love her, so it's easy to forgive her. You know when I was a kid lying was so much more simple. I lied to avoid getting in trouble and because something was embarrassing. I thought those were the only reasons people lied. But, it turns out people life for all sorts of reasons. My mom lied because she loves me…because that's what people do. We lie to the people we care about. To protect them, to help them…we lie for so many reasons."
Catelyn wasn't sure what to make of it, but she could tell that Gendry wanted to be alone. She wanted to help him, but she didn't have the words. In a better world Gendry should have forgiven his father. But, in a better world Robert wouldn't be his father. Robert Baratheon didn't deserve Gendry's forgiveness. "Thanks for the tea," she said with a smile. "I think I'm going to go back to bed. You should try to too."
"I will…" he said but did not get up from the table. Cat quietly put her mug of tea in the sink but before she got down the hallway Gendry stopped her. "I'm lying to Arya," he coolly said.
That got Cat's attention. "What?" she asked and felt her jaw clench.
"I think I want to have kids…" he flatly said.
Cat felt herself relax. "Well, that's great."
"Not for Arya," he snorted. "She doesn't want to, never has, maybe never will. I thought I was the same way…but I guess not."
"You haven't told her?"
"I have no idea how to start that conversation. I don't know what she'd say and I don't know what she'd do…" he paused for a moment. "We've been going through a rough patch lately and I don't want to make things worse. I don't want to make things bad again."
She was tempted to prod further and find out exactly what this rough patch was, but it didn't seem right. "Well…you should tell her," Cat told him.
"Like you don't have a point of view on the issue," Gendry chuckled and smirked at her. "We sometimes joke around that you would put replace her birth control with skittles if you thought you could get away with it."
"I won't lie; I would love to see Arya be a mother. But it's her choice. And yours."
"Yeah, it is…" he said. "I just never thought it's a choice I'd ever have to give some thought to."
"It'll be okay Gendry," she told him. "You and Arya will figure this out."
"Thanks," he sighed.
"Of course," she answered. "We're family."
Next Time - On Christmas Day, Jon and Arya talk about their marriages, Gendry goes to visit his father, and some version of the following conversation will appear.
Gendry : "It wasn't a werid thing. His penis was out and I sneaked a peek."
Arya : "Not to sound like a snotty fifteen year old, but that sounds kinda gay."
Gendry : "No, it isn't."
Arya : "You were looking at another man's penis to see how big it was - kinda gay."