Actions

Work Header

Taming of the Wolf

Chapter Text

The sun just began to rise in the horizon, and despite it being the long summer, the ground was peppered with small dainty snowflakes. It was a peaceful dawn in Winterfell, or at least as peaceful as a day could be in Winterfell, considering the rather rambunctious group of Stark pups, especially the two sisters. Arya ran to the stables as soon as the first rays of light peeked through her window. She would not let her sister get her hands on her today of all days. The stable boy, up early as ever, sent her a questioning glance, but all it took was a sharp glare for him to ready her horse and to open the gates, sending her off into the Wolfswood. The wind braided through her hair as she picked up speed, with Nymeria flying alongside the flank of her mare. She was truly free, and today, she thought, would be her last day knowing that freedom.

          Sansa awoke long after the first light. She leaned up from her featherbed and yawned a soft yawn and fixed her auburn hair. When she looked in the looking glass, she smiled back at her rusted reflection despite herself. Today is the day, she thought, Today is the day Arya’s suitor arrives at Winterfell, and I will be allowed to court Willas Tyrell, oh how long I’ve waited for today! She walked to her wardrobe and dressed herself in one of the prettiest gowns she owned, perfectly designed just for the occasion. When she walked back to the looking glass, she braided her hair how she remembered her lady mother did. With a final look at her reflection, she left her chambers, off to wake and ready Arya.

          It was known throughout the kingdoms of the promise Ned Stark made to his wife so many years ago, also known as the Curse of the Two Sisters. Catelyn Stark died shortly after birthing the youngest Stark, Rickon. A fever took her far too soon from the complications of childbirth, but one final promise was made between her and her lord husband. Sansa was a lady at eight. She practiced and knew her courtesies far better than any lady her age, and she was already such a beautiful little lady. Arya, on the other hand, was their wild wolf girl. Cat feared for Arya, thinking she would never find a husband. Her one last wish was for Sansa not to be allowed to wed until Arya was betrothed as well. Ned Stark always kept his promises.

          When Sansa daintily knocked on the door to Arya’s chambers, she waited patiently, but no reply came. She must be sleeping in, she thought. She knocked again, three soft knocks, but there was still no reply.

          “Arya, please wake up, we have a big morning ahead of us!” Sansa called through the chambers, hoping her sleeping sister would awake. She didn’t even hear a stir. More fiercely, Sansa pounded on the door, “Arya, open this door!”

          She waited one, two, three seconds before she slammed open the door, revealing an empty bed. Sansa had never been more furious in her life.


 

Father,” Sansa came storming into the Great Hall, almost making Rickon jump from his seat while breaking his fast. Bran had to bite his tongue to keep from laughing, and Robb stared from his father and back to Sansa. No one had ever seen Sansa angrier.

“Sansa, what is the matter?”Ned asked, leaning back from his chair to look at his daughter.

“It’s Arya.” She spat. Of course it was about Arya, Robb mused, whenever Sansa lost her ladylike courtesies, it was about Arya.

“What did our sister do this time?” Bran asked, his smile spreading from ear to ear. All it took was a glare, and Bran’s smile vanished, and he looked back to his food.

“She’s spoiling it, she’s spoiling everything.” Sansa yelled. Ned told her to breathe, and to take a seat beside him. “She knows today is an important day for m- for her. Everything has to be perfect, I have to do her hair and dress her so she could meet her suitor, and there she goes out, probably riding and putting mud in her hair just in spite of me!”

Ned hushed his daughter and stroked his hand through her auburn hair, as if petting a wolf. “Hush, my sweetling. I am sure your sister meant no harm.”

Sure enough, at that moment, the doors of the Great Hall burst open, revealing Arya dressed in breeches, her hair flying in as many directions as there were bastards in the kingdom, and mud on the hem of her breeches with Nymeria by her side. Her grey eyes widened in panic as Sansa stared her down. Arya only wanted a small snack to break her fast, she thought mayhaps she could sneak past everyone and that her family was not awake yet, but there was Sansa, ready to pull out Arya’s hair herself.

Sansa immediately burst off her chair to chase Arya, leaving Ned’s arm hanging in the air. Arya yelped and ran away as fast as she could. Just as the two sisters left the Great Hall, a servant ran to tell of the arrival of the suitor’s party. Ned rubbed his forehead, attempting to ease his headache. They were not meant to arrive until much later; they were far too early. Ned sent Rickon off to find the girls and make sure they didn’t kill each other before Arya met her suitor. Meanwhile, he left with Bran and Robb to march to the east gate and prepare to greet the caravan.

“Sansa, stop chasing me!” Arya screamed to behind her, where Sansa was easily catching up. Who knew she had it in her? She was even wearing a dress, which she lifted up to her ankles to allow easier running.

“I need to ready you for the suitor! You can’t look like that, and you still have to apologize to me!” Sansa roared to Arya, who was not too far away.

“There is no way in the Seven Hells I am seeing that idiot!”

“You can’t call him that, you haven’t even met him!”

“He must be an idiot if he wants to marry me!” By this time, Arya was starting to slow in pace. She was tired from riding, her legs were sore, and she had not broken her fast. Sansa took full advantage, and grabbed her by the arms, locking her in place.

“Come with me now. We have to make you look presentable.” Sansa reprimanded while practically dragging Arya to her solar.

“No, let me go!” Arya tried to squirm out of Sansa’s grip. As Sansa opened the door to her solar and entered in, it was as if she was ushering Arya into the depths of the Seventh Hell.


 

The chilled summer breeze whipped through the air, yet Ned stood tall with Robb and Bran, awaiting the Tyrell’s caravan. When the green banners with golden roses came into view, Ned fixed his posture and cleared his throat.

“Where are your sisters?” He leaned to Robb and whispered under his breath as the Tyrell party came closer.

“Rickon should have found them by now.” Robb shrugged. Ned looked back at the castle, sure that his daughters and his youngest boy were causing a riot inside. But it could not be helped. The Tyrells have already arrived, and Willas stepped out of the caravan. Ned knew him as the man who wished to court Sansa, but Ned would always keep his last promise to his sweet Catelyn. They greeted each other kindly, and Ned introduced Willas to his children, or at least two of them. But it was not Willas who Ned was interested in seeing. Behind Willas, a tall man dressed in leather armor dismounted his horse and bowed deeply before Ned.

“M’lord,” he croaked. His hair was as black as coals, but his eyes as blue as water.

“Rise,” Ned said, “it must have been a long journey all the way from the Reach, ser…”

“Ser Gendry, m’lord.” Gendry did not dare to look Ned in the eyes.

“Yes that was it; Ser Gendry of Highgarden.” Ned said, finally remembering the suitor’s name. He then gestured towards two of his sons, “These are my sons Robb and Bran. My apologies, my daughters and my youngest son are… still readying themselves. You were expected to arrive much later.”

“No need to apologize, m’lord.” Gendry said as he nervously looked over Robb and Bran. Robb bowed his head in respect, and Bran took out his hand to shake Gendry’s. Just as the grip of their handshake tightened, a loud and shrill shriek emanated from the Great Keep. No doubt it was from Arya arguing with Sansa, or mayhaps from Sansa trying to get Arya to cooperate. Both men noticeably flinched by hearing the noise, but Bran could see how Robb bit his tongue to keep from laughing.

“My sister simply cannot contain her excitement to meet you, Ser Gendry.” Bran said with a smirk on his face. This time Robb did chuckle, but covered it with a cough when Ned looked his way.

The travelers were invited into the Guest Houses where Ned asked to have a private word with Gendry. Gendry sat and squirmed nervously in his cushioned chair, obviously not used to speaking to such high lords. He must not have been a knight for so long. Ned sat down across from him, and leaned back in his seat fully aware that Gendry was not comfortable with the situation. He ought to get used to it if he wanted to marry Arya.

“So, Ser Gendry,” Ned spoke slowly, trying to make him feel comfortable. “Why is it that you seek my youngest daughter’s hand in marriage?”

“Well you see, m’lord,” Gendry stuttered and tried to find the correct reasoning. “I heard stories in Highgarden of the beautiful daughter of Lord Eddard Stark, the lovely and the wild wolf.”

Ned almost laughed. “Is that so?”

“Of course, m’lord. When Lord Willas Tyrell told me of the Stark family, he spoke fondly of Lady Sansa’s younger sister, and suggested the match.” It wasn’t even entirely a lie.

Ned tried harder not to laugh. Before Gendry could sputter another excuse as to why he wished to wed Arya, Ned hushed him. “Please, Gendry. It is well known that my daughter is a woman grown, and at the age of marriage. If you can gain her consent to the betrothal, you have my blessing.”

When Ned lead him out and told Bran to lead Gendry to Arya’s solar, Bran did not fail to notice Gendry’s smug smile on his face. Surely Gendry thought gaining Ned’s approval would have been the hardest part of his proposal, but oh was he wrong. Bran smirked and looked to Gendry as they crossed the courtyard.

“If I were you, I’d prepare myself, Ser.” Bran said. “And don’t look as if you’ve won something just yet. The hardest part is soon to come.”

Gendry quickly wiped his smug smile from his face, unaware that it was too obvious. But surely, the worst part was over? Lord Stark practically gave Gendry his blessings, all Gendry had to do was earn Arya’s. And a lady must not be too difficult to convince, especially when it was a southern knight asking for her hand. Surely, Lady Arya would fall into his arms as soon as she laid eyes on him. Just to be sure, Gendry fixed his hair and smoothed it down and tried to wipe his face as Bran stopped in front of a door. Both could hear arguing from inside, none too discreet. Gendry cast a nervous look to Bran, who only smiled knowingly as he stepped aside and opened the door. Inside revealed two women clawing at each other’s faces while a boy tried his best to pull them apart. As soon as the door opened, the older girl with the auburn hair and the young boy pulled apart and stared wide eyed at Bran and Gendry.


 

Gendry had come a long way to get where he was now. Two moons ago was the day that got him there in the first place, vying for the hand of a lady he had only heard of. He used to live in Highgarden, working as the personal blacksmith for the weapons of Highgarden. Gods knew his mother hardly earned enough coin working at the nearby alehouse. Every day when he would go to his small home he would find her exhausted with her feet aching and growing older and weaker with each passing year. Therefore, when the Tyrells offered the proposal, he jumped at the opportunity without second thought.

It was a sunny morning in Highgarden, the flowers blooming, and the harvest bountiful. When a squire came to the forge requesting to follow him to the gardens, the last he expected was the lady of Highgarden herself sitting with her grandmother. His mouth fell open and he instantly took the knee.

“Please, rise.” Margaery smiled and ushered for him to sit next to her. She was prettier up close. She had a small nose and a heart shaped face, he remembered, but something about her he found unsettling. He sat in his chair uncomfortably. She smiled sweetly and offered some pie to him. “You are very strong and brave, blacksmith. What is your name?”

“Gendry, m’lady. My name is Gendry Flowers.” He almost choked and a small blush rose to his cheeks.

“Yes, well, Gendry, you certainly are rather large. I suppose you would work fine.” Olenna Tyrell spoke. If Gendry found Margaery creepy, he definitely found Olenna scary. “Have you ever heard of Arya Stark?”

Gendry chewed thoughtfully. He has only heard the name once or twice by lords passing through his forge. He barely knew anything of the lady, only that she was the daughter of Eddard Stark and the late Catelyn Tully. “I have heard her name once, m’lady.”

“Good, because you will be marrying her.” Olenna nodded. This time, Gendry did choke on his pie. Margaery frowned sympathetically.

“What my grandmother means to say is that we would be very grateful if you could offer your hand to the daughter of Lord Stark. My brother wishes to wed her older sister, but unfortunately that cannot happen until the younger is betrothed as well.”

“I am a blacksmith, simply a bastard, m’lady. I cannot marry a highborn.” He sputtered. The idea was insane.

“Ser Gendry Flowers,” Lady Olenna huffed, “don’t you like the name? It has a certain ring to it, I think.”

“Perhaps a bastard cannot marry a lady, but a knight can.” Margaery spoke softly and smoothly, sure to ease Gendry into the plan. “We can give you a proper home and land and your mother will live comfortably for the rest of her years, Gendry. If only you will agree, all will be yours. Arya Stark is a willful lady of the North, young and beautiful. She will make a fine bride.”

He leaned back in his seat. If he agreed, he would be married to a beautiful highborn lady, he would be granted lands, and his mother would be living comfortably. He never knew that perhaps the offer was so insane because no one else wanted to marry the girl.


 

          “My apologies, ser. We were not expecting you so soon.” The girl with the auburn hair said smoothly. She definitely was pretty, with porcelain skin and copper hair that shined red in the sunlight. Her beauty was unmatched, but surely she was too delicate and posh for his liking. He sighed and bowed, accepting his seemingly boring fate of marriage with her.

          “My lady, it is a pleasure to meet you.” He addressed her kindly. He almost went to kiss her hand when he looked back up, but instead the auburn haired girl was nudging the younger closer to him.

          “Greet him!” Sansa whispered between her teeth to Arya’s ear. Arya grit her teeth together and glared at Sansa, but Sansa sent an equally challenging look, as if silently threatening to pull her hair into a braid.

          “Pleased to meet you, ser.” Arya said, none too sweetly. She looked at him with eyes of distaste, Gendry could not help but cringe. He was wrong all along; it was the younger woman who was Arya, the woman he was to marry. But she did not look like a lady at all, wearing breeches and a tunic too large for her, and her brown hair sticking up wildly. Yet, he found that he liked her better. He found this to be far more interesting than if he were to be with the auburn haired perfect lady.

          With that, Bran walked into the room and laced his arms around Sansa’s and Rickon’s. “Yes, well we’ll leave you two to it. Enjoy yourselves, and Arya, please do not hurt the poor knight.”

          Behind them, Bran shut the door quickly leaving Arya and Gendry in the room alone with Arya glaring daggers at him. He sat on a stool near her, sure that if he were to stand she would kick him right then and there. She crossed her arms over her chest and looked him over, unimpressed. He was far too large and ungraceful to be a knight. He wore dirty leather armor and did not even keep a sword with him. She would have made a far better knight, she knew. How dare some stupid knight come and think he can whisk me off my feet away from Winterfell, she thought.

          “Lady Arya, I am glad to finally make your acquaintance. I have travelled far to meet you, and your beauty is worth the travels.” He said, unsure of how to strike a conversation and woo the wolf. Surely, he would first call her beautiful. All ladies wanted to be called beautiful, right? Yet instead of smiling sweetly, she scoffed.

          “Oh please, do not lie to yourself, Ser.” She hissed. His lies were laughable. She was far too ugly at that moment with her dirty hair and boyish clothes that any man would not want her. She had planned it that way, to dress ugly and look disheveled just for this occasion so her suitor would not take interest in her. She raised her head and scowled. “You don’t look like a knight.”

          “And you don’t look like a lady.” Gendry retorted before he could stop himself. He cursed himself in his head; now he had truly ruined any chances at wooing her and earning her consent to the marriage.

          “That’s because I’m not. My sister is a lady, and my mother was too.”

          “But your father is a lord and you live in a castle, m’lady.” He said with a smirk. He found it amusing that with every word he said, she became angrier. He momentarily forgot his true intents.

          “Do not call me m’lady!” She stomped her foot stubbornly for extra emphasis.

          “As m’lady commands,” He bowed his head, all too amused by her reactions. She was fed up with him, and with stupid Sansa. She kicked the stool from under him and made a run for it, slamming the door to her chambers behind her. She ran through the courtyard as fast as she could. She saw Sansa with Willas, and she laughed at something he said. As soon as Arya passed her sister, it took all of Sansa’s self control not to yell at Arya in front of Willas. Sansa let Arya pass without a word, scared that if she were to react, Willas would think her as wild as her sister. As soon as Arya was out of sight, surely smiling smugly as if she had won, she did not know that Gendry was racing behind her to catch his lady. Sansa smirked and turned to Gendry. Two could play this game, sweet sister.


 

          Arya locked the door to the kitchens behind her and barred herself in, sure that no one could intrude. When she was positive no one would be able to disturb her, she broke into a fit of laughter. How foolish he was! She laughed, remembering how irritating she found Gendry. I lost him so fast, there is no way he still wants my hand. He will return to his stupid home in Highgarden and look for another unfortunate lady to call his bride. She giggled again at the thought of winning this battle so quickly. She thought she finally won a victory over her sister, and over that stupid knight. She fell atop a soft pile of wool, and took an apple from the countertop and took a small bite from it as well, basking in the glory of finally being victorious.

          She heard a terribly disturbing creaking noise coming from beneath her, and she turned her head to find the stupid knight peeking his head out from the trapdoor, slowly coming out. She tossed her apple at his face, but he quickly dodged it, smirking.

          “M’lady, please, I only want a word!” He begged, but his words were too covered by laughter. She screamed of frustration and stomped on the trapdoor, forbidding him to enter the kitchens and take her. She sat on it as well for extra measure. She groaned and sat comfortably, taking in the seconds of peace before she felt a pushing from under her. She looked down to find that the trapdoor was again being pushed open. She gasped and quickly stood from her spot and threw a sack of flour down at the trapdoor.

          “Go back to Highgarden,” she yelled, pushing another flour sack down atop the door. She stomped on it again for extra measure as he was pushed back down beneath the kitchens, unable to come up. She put her hands on her hips, silently daring him to try again. Sure enough, the door rose slowly by the sheer strength of Gendry pushing it back up beneath the two heavy sacks of flour and her own weight. He’s strong, she admitted bitterly.

          She raced to the second floor of the kitchen, trying to get as far away from him as she could manage before he escaped the trapdoor. When he finally arose and pushed the two sacks of flour off the door, he chased after his lady. She tried to push two water barrels toward him, but he dodged those as well.

          “How did you even find your way through the trapdoor?” Arya screamed at him as she ran away and tried to throw more obstacles to his path.

          “Your sister was very eager to tell me the quickest way to you.” He replied with a smile. She boiled over, infuriated at both the stupid knight and her sister. She opened the door leading to the rooftops and slammed it shut, leaning her own weight against it. “You cannot run away from me forever. Why do you even run, m’lady?”

          “I run because I will never let you marry me, you stupid bull!” She yelled back through the door. She heard silence as a reply. She thought she had won once again, but when the silence was prolonged, she quickly jumped away from the door, sure of what was to come. Sure enough, he rammed his own strength into the door, knocking it over. She screamed out of frustration and shock which she would never admit, and ran away, well aware that they were both on the rooftops of the kitchen by now.

          She ran quickly and easily, used to having to adjust her footing from her water dance training. Gendry struggled to keep up with her, but she was soon distracted. Sansa and Willas made their way towards the kitchens, only to find Gendry chasing after Arya on the rooftops.

          “Arya!” Sansa reprimanded. She sounded just as infuriating from far away. She called her name again, and on the second time Arya spared a look at her sister only to find her face utterly betrayed and heartbroken. She suddenly felt a tinge of guilt bite at her. Her sister had waited nine long years for this day, the day a suitor would come for Arya’s hand. Sansa was right to be bitter towards her.

          However, before Arya could apologize or say anything of the matter, she was knocked down by sheer force. She landed hard on the roof, her stomach landing flat on the panels, and they were both lucky they didn’t fall off. Sansa gasped and jumped, but Willas chuckled under his breath. The sight certainly was amusing, with small Arya squirming under the large man, only knighted not too long ago solely for this purpose alone.

          “Get off me!” Arya screamed from under him. She tried to push him off her, or even move, but his body was far too constricting. She was trapped between him and the roof. She huffed when she realized her defeat. “You are by far the worst knight I have ever heard of!”

          Gendry blew her hair out of his face and restrained her arms. She was as wild as winter. No one told him of her spirit, and he was hardly prepared for it. But she was far too amusing for him to simply give up. Mayhaps the deal he made with the Tyrells was only favored to him. “And you are the worst lady I have ever heard of. We are perfect for each other.”

Chapter Text

Arya paced back and forth in her chambers, Bran sitting on the repaired stool watching her amusingly. She was downright infuriated, and if anyone were to knock on her door at that moment, Bran did not doubt she would stick them with the pointy end of Needle herself. Only he and Robb knew of the sword Jon gave to her in secret before he left to the Night's Watch. If Sansa were to find out… he shuddered at the very thought.

"He's so stupid! Who does he think he is, prancing about all the way from bloody Highgarden demanding my hand? And he doesn't even look like a knight either! What kind of a knight chases innocent girls to the kitchen rooftops and tackles her down?" She fumed.

"Since when were you an innocent girl?" Bran scoffed. Even then, not too long after the incident, he already knew of the sour meeting. News travelled around Winterfell fast. After Ser Gendry caught Arya, Sansa shouted for them to get down. Arya was sent to her chambers, and Gendry apologized dryly. "From what I heard, you kicked his seat from under him."

"He deserved it." Arya stopped pacing from wall to wall and pointed at the stool Bran sat on. "He was just being so-"

"Stupid?" Bran guessed.

Arya groaned and sat on the edge of her bed. "I can't believe he actually expects me to accept his proposal."

"Will you ever accept any proposal, Arya?" Bran asked out of mere curiosity, and to prove a point.

"No, of course I won't marry. I'm going to stay in Winterfell forever; no one will ever marry me. Sansa is the one who is supposed to get married to a pretty lord and frolic off to who knows where, giving him sons and what not."

"But Sansa can't marry unless you marry." Bran leaned back in his seat, point proven. Arya just glared at him. He found that Arya and Sansa were similar in that matter at least, both hated to be proven wrong by their little brother and were very stubborn when it came to the matters of their father's last promise to their mother. He sighed and looked back to his sister, who was still glaring at him in defeat. "So, what is your plan for the feast tonight if you so heavily intend to avoid Ser Gendry?"

"A feast is being thrown?" Arya's eyes grew in worry. No one told her they were going to throw a feast upon the Tyrell's arrival. She almost stood from her bed and crossed her arms over her chest. She would have to act fast if she wanted things to work right.

Bran almost cursed himself. She did not know. Mayhaps Sansa could have caught her unawares and mayhaps Arya would have been more compliant with Sansa if she was surprised. It was a hope, but now crushed. He was sure that Arya would not go down without a fight.

"I have to go." Arya gathered a cloak from her oak dresser and shuffled towards the door.

"Where are you going?" Bran stood from his seat and watched his older sister all but dash down the halls.

"I'm preparing for the feast, what does it look like I'm doing?" She called back to him, already turning down the bend of the corridor. Bran went with Robb after that, both praying that Arya did not kill Ser Gendry the moment she laid eyes on him again.


When he found that Bran and Robb returned from the Godswood with a worried smile on their face, it only took moments after for him to find his youngest daughter. As expected, she was in the stables, doing her best to ruffle up her hair and make herself smell as the horses do and put mud on the hem of the skirts intended for the feast. When she saw that her father was now standing in front of her, his arms crossed over his chest and eyebrows raised expectantly, she almost dropped the garment from her hands.

"What do you think you're doing?" Her father asked in a reprimanding tone as if he was speaking to Rickon, not to Arya who was almost seven-and-ten.

She would have lied, and she could have if it was anyone else but her father. But instead, she sighed and lowered her head in defeat. In truth, she actually was readying herself for the feast. She intended to dirty her appearance so much that even the persistent stupid Ser Gendry would be appalled by her that he would have to give up on his endeavors. "I cannot marry, father. I simply cannot."

Because her head was still lowered, she was not able to see her father's sad melancholic smile. She reminded him of his dear willful sister so much, he could not stay mad at her. He bid her to sit next to him on one of the near benches.

"Why do you not wish to marry so badly?" He asked her sweetly, tucking a stray hair behind her ear.

"I won't be Arya Stark anymore. I'll be the wife of Gendry, the idiot knight. I can't marry. I'm the daughter of Winterfell, the she-wolf of the North."

"You can still be all that after you marry, my sweetling. Marriage will not change you, and I am sure Ser Gendry will not even attempt to." Ned sighed and held his daughter closer to him. She was his flesh, his blood, the very spirit of his sister. He will not force the marriage upon her, he could not even if he tried, but he attempted to steer her in the right direction.

"But I don't even want to marry. That has always been what Sansa wants, not me." Arya shook her head against Ned's chest. "You need to let her marry, father."

"Arya, my sweetling, I made a promise to your mother, a promise I swore to keep. What is a man measured by, if not his honor?" He shifted so he could look better at his daughter. "Do you remember your mother's words, Arya?"

It was Arya's turn to sigh. Lady Catelyn died when Arya was still so young, and the few memories she remembered were vague and foggy at best, but at least she knew the words of House Tully. "Family, duty, honor."

"That is right." Ned nodded and stood from the bench, extending his hand to help Arya up as well, as if she was some dainty little lady. "Please, Arya, let tonight be peaceful. Do this for your sister."


Sansa all but shrieked when she arrived back in her solar after tea with Willas. Their father was behind Arya, his hands on her shoulders as if keeping her from running away at any moment. Arya had a scowl on her face, and looked like she would run away if she could. Ned saw that his work was done and hurried out of the room as soon as Sansa got her hands on Arya. Before he left, he gave Arya a pointed look, as if silently reminding her of their conversation. She glared, but nodded. How could she refuse her father?

Sansa ordered a bath to be readied for Arya at once, with rose petals sprinkled into the water. A servant came to help scrub Arya's skin clean, the mud dissolving into the water. Arya had planned out her scheme so perfectly, too. She learned from other feasts exactly when it was too early or too late to hide from Sansa's willfulness to dress Arya accordingly, and if only Ned hadn't arrived, she would be free to hide by then. But no, instead, after the bath Sansa dressed her into one of her own gowns since she soiled the one intended for the feast. The gown was grey with a long skirt and sleeves which were cut to the elbow so if she were to put her arms up, half her arms would be revealed. Sansa pinned wisely where the skirt was too big, where her curves filled in but Arya's didn't, so the dress looked custom sewn for Arya. White flowers were embroidered onto the skirts, and the dress looked far too dainty and innocent on her. It almost gave off the impression that the woman wearing it was as delicate as the gown.

Keeping her promise to her father, Arya did not yell or fight Sansa when she put powder and rogue on her face and kohl on her eyes, or when she braided two parts of Arya's hair by her ear and connected them into one braid at the back of her head. She only squirmed and made minor sarcastic comments at times, but Sansa was so grateful, and yet so surprised that she almost did not believe it was Arya who she was dressing.

"There," Sansa said, letting Arya glance at the looking glass in front of her. Her jaw almost dropped. What had her sister done to her? She almost looked like a true lady; there was no way Gendry was to refuse her now. Which was Sansa's goal, Arya thought bitterly.

More sarcastic comments and japes were made while Sansa readied herself. Arya sat next to Nymeria and Lady, and she was sure the wolves hummed in agreement with every jape she made. Sansa was dressed in a blue gown with gold flowers, the neckline plunging and without sleeves. Arya puckered her lips as if she tasted a sour lemon. The dress was far too impractical, she was sure her sister was to freeze as soon as she stepped foot outside. The dress was a gift from Highgarden, delivered by Willas and Margaery.

"Isn't it lovely?" Sansa asked in a dreamlike trance as she twirled around. Arya was not sure if she spoke of the dress, or of her intended. Willas and Sansa did make a fine match, Arya admitted. Willas, although crippled, was handsome when he smiled, with curly Tyrell hair and hazel eyes. If the betrothal worked as planned, Sansa would fit into Highgarden perfectly.

"It's perfect." Arya admitted dryly. Sansa almost choked.

"Are you sure nothing is wrong with you today, Arya? Maybe you hit the roof too hard when Ser Gendry tackled you… should I call upon a maester?" Sansa's words would have been a jape from anyone else, but she truly was concerned. Arya was peaceful while she was dressed and she complimented Sansa? Surely, something was wrong.

"You act as if I have never said anything nice before." Arya scowled, ruining the image Sansa attempted to portray of the beautiful lady of Winterfell.

"Oh, don't scowl. You'll ruin your makeup." Sansa worried. Arya scowled further.

"Ser Gendry ought to know what he's getting himself into anyways." With that she stood from the two wolves and allowed Sansa to walk to her side. "Let us get this over with."


The feast was as lively as the North could manage. The Great Hall bustled with eager Northern lords and guests and the refreshed Tyrell visitors. With them, the Tyrells brought Southern wine traded from Dorne, and it seemed to have add its effect and charm to the feast. Such wine usually did not make so far North, and each attendant was making a fine job not letting any drop go to waste. Arya sat on her appointed seat at the dais with her elbow on the table, her hand holding her chin. On her right sat Sansa who was busy flirting with Willas, and on her left sat Ser Gendry who she refused to speak to. Call it stubbornness, but she was still quite annoyed at him, and who wouldn't be, considering he tackled her down on the top of the kitchens? The only words they exchanged as of yet were greetings, and even then he refused to meet her eyes. Now they both watched awkwardly as a singer sang The Bear and the Maiden Far and excited couples, already in their cups from the Dornish Wine, took to the dance floor. They were more jumping and stumbling than dancing, and it amused Arya.

Gendry opened his mouth to speak to her. I swear, if you ask me to dance…

"M'lady, I don't think I have apologized for… earlier this morning." He cleared his throat and tried to speak to her.

"No, you quite haven't." She agreed. It sounded much colder than she expected. She almost wanted to apologize. Almost.

He scowled, just as stubborn as she. "And you have not apologized for kicking my seat from under me."

She glared at him, but was not able to put her anger into words.

"Oh, sweet she was

and pure and fair

the maid with honey

in her hair, her hair

the maid with honey

in her hair"

"Listen here, you-" She all but yelled, but at that exact moment was when Sansa decided to show interest in her sister.

"Oh, dear sister!" Sansa turned in her seat and hugged her sister, almost stuffing her shoulder into Arya's mouth to shut her up. When she pulled away she feigned a sweet

smile and turned to Gendry. "Oh, please take her to dance. She does love her dancing lessons."

Arya almost froze in her steps as Gendry nodded and extended a hand for Arya to take. So Sansa knew of the secret sword practicing she does with Mycah, the butcher's boy. Sansa confirmed her thoughts with a smile that Arya knew as if you don't do as I say, I am telling father. So Arya reluctantly took Gendry's hand and let him take her to the crowd of couples.

"Oh I'm a maid

and I'm pure and fair

I'll never dance

with a hairy bear

a bear, a bear

I'll never dance

with a hairy bear"

His hand practically shook as he placed it awkwardly on her waist as gently as he could. He never touched or got this close to a highborn before, let alone a highborn lady. She smirked when she noticed his struggle. He frowned and reminded himself she was hardly a lady. It came for the part where the men were to lift their partner into the air, and so he did. She was definitely surprised; she had not expected him to be so bold after their "fall out" when they met. Her eyes were wide with shock and defeat, but she did her best not to show it.

"The bear, the bear

lifted her high

into the air

the bear, the bear"

"You look very beautiful tonight, m'lady." He said, unsure of what else to say. Ladies liked to be complimented, or so he thought.

"You're stupid, you know?" She said. He rolled his eyes.

"Your compliments are making me blush, m'lady."

Her scowl deepened. He was just as stubborn as she, and it would not do.

"I told you not to call me m'lady." She protested. Another lift came and she almost pounded her fists on his back to put her down. When she was back on her feet she realized she was making the same face she made when Sansa put on the dress from Highgarden. She smoothed her expression, not wanting to make a scene in front of her father and her sister. Her brothers were somewhere on the dance floor with her, but she was sure they were watching her as well. "What kind of a knight chases someone to the rooftops and tackles them?"

"I called for a knight

but you're a bear

a bear, a bear

all black and brown

and covered in hair"

He closed his eyes and sighed. He remembered his mother, and the deal that was to be seen through. If nothing else, do it for mother, he told himself.

"Why do you hate me so much?" He asked, merely curious. "Even before you kicked me from my stool, you seemed to hate me already."

She frowned. Why do I hate him? Father already talked to me and asked me to calm and at least try for Sansa, and Sansa, Gods know how much she needs my consent… "Truly, why did you come all the way from Highgarden, Ser? I know it was not for my hand. Why would anyone travel that far for the hand of the she-wolf?" She mocked, but her questions rang true. He almost scowled like her. She did not answer his question, but instead answered it with another question. How stubborn she was.

"Then she sighed and squealed

and kicked the air

she sang: my bear so fair

and off they went

the bear, the bear

and the maiden fair"

"I came because…" Before he could think of an excuse or decide to tell her the truth of the Tyrell's plan, the song ended and the couples stopped dancing to applaud the singers. He almost dropped on his knees and thanked the Seven. Instead, he returned with Arya to their seats on the dais. Sansa smiled happily and almost thankfully. From where she sat, their dance looked like a peaceful affair, almost romantic. Arya almost scoffed.

In Arya's vacated seat she noticed Margaery was now sitting next to Sansa. Margaery was comely with a heart shaped face and a small nose. She had the same Tyrell curls as her brother, but something about Margaery seemed daunting. She arrived with her brother's caravan, but was late to come out of the carriage which carried her. When she noticed Arya and Gendry were (reluctantly) returning arm in arm, she smiled and greeted both.

"Lady Arya, I am pleased to meet you. You look very lovely, my dear." Margaery spoke to Arya as if she was Sansa, as if she was talking to a sister. Sansa looked to Arya expectantly.

"Thank you, my lady." Arya said and nodded none too gracefully or kindly.

"If I may steal Ser Gendry for a moment? I saw you two dancing and I cannot help but want to dance as well." Margaery smiled sweetly and looked between Arya and Gendry.

"Steal him all you want, my lady." Arya sighed happily as if a burden was taken from her shoulders. Margaery giggled and took Gendry by the arm and almost dragged him back to the dance floor to dance to Milady's Supper. Willas' smile twitched when he saw that Margaery took Gendry away, but Arya could not guess why.

"How are you finding the North, Ser?" Margaery asked with a glimmer of humor in her voice as he danced even more nervously with Margaery. Sure, Arya isn't a lady, but Margaery is. How in the Seven Hells do you hold a lady?

"It is very cold, but it has its beauty." Gendry shrugged, unsure as to why she insisted to make such small talk.

"Much like your lady, do you agree?" Margaery asked, a beautiful smirk on her lips. He was speechless. He was surprised Margaery dared to say such things next to so many Northerners, but the singers were much too loud for anyone to hear even if they tried. He was not used to talking to such highborns, especially one as quick witted as Margaery. She took in his silence as an agreement. She leaned in closer, but not too close to be inappropriate. It was a part of the dance, after all. She whispered, "We cannot spend much time here. Willas needs to return to Highgarden soon, and we need his betrothal to Sansa Stark solidified before we leave."

He pulled away, stunned. He expected more time for Arya to ease into him, to get to know him. Now she all but hated him and wanted to kill him herself. Before he could object, say it was impossible, that Arya would never offer her approval, Margaery spoke again, her voice still smooth and casual.

"When we return to Highgarden, it will be a joy to visit your mother in your lands sometime, Ser Gendry." She smiled and wisely chose her words to remind him all that was given to him by the Tyrells if he only does this one task for them. He understood her silent threat. Do whatever needs to be done.

By the time the song ended, he let Margaery take his hand, but it was more of her guiding them back to the dais. He would never accustom himself to the company of highborns. He thought all ladies dressed in pretty dresses and listened to pretty songs while they let the lords do the work. He was, however, glad to find himself proven wrong. He liked girls like Arya, girls who did something else than listen to pretty songs and let the lords do the work. When they returned he saw that Willas was engaging in conversation with Sansa Arya and Ned, telling them a tale of Highgarden. Margaery let go of Gendry's arm and instead coaxed Arya up from her seat.

"Oh, lady Arya you do look so lovely tonight! I love your dress and your hair especially." Margaery would not stop cooing over Sansa's work, it was almost Sansa that said 'thank you'. Ned raised an eyebrow at both of his daughters while Margaery continued. "You will have to teach me one day."

"You must teach me to do my hair like yours, Lady Margaery." Sansa replied sweetly as if it was her Margaery was talking to. Which it was, technically. Margaery smiled and nodded then turned to Willas. His smile wavered for a moment before he cleared his throat.

"And how is the happy couple?" He smiled towards Gendry and Arya. Arya almost looked behind her, not knowing what happy couple he referred to. "Lady Arya, I saw your adventure on the rooftops this morning. I must say, you two are a match made by the Seven." Sansa and Margaery nodded in agreement.

Before Arya could tell them that they were all wrong, that they were a match made for the Seven Hells, that they were not a 'happy couple', or a couple at all. Gendry spoke instead as if this entire conversation was scripted. "Thank you, m'lord. But I fear Lord Stark will not let us wed until I gain milady's approval, but I am sure I will gain it soon enough." That stupid boy was brave enough to send a wink to Willas, and right in front of her father, too!

He better know that he will never gain my approval, that stupid boy…

Again, before she could say anything to differ, It was Ned's turn to speak, surprised by the sudden change of conversation. "Is this true, my dear? Have you a change of heart?"

All eyes were on her now. The singers stopped singing, excited with news that they would finally have a wedding for the two sisters. Even her brothers looked at her from the dance floor, awaiting her answer. Sansa's blue Tully eyes were wide and hopeful, wanting to finally wed. Margaery was only doing her 'Margaery smile', as Arya now liked to call it. Willas was the only one not smiling, but only watched Arya's reaction carefully.

Arya smiled sweetly to her father. She feigned the best happy in-love smile she could. She then turned to Gendry and showed him the same beam. When she turned back to everyone else, she let her true self go. How dare they believe I would change my mind so fast? Her expression quickly changed from sweet to furious, and she was ready to yell and make the scene her brothers prayed not to happen. Arya opened her mouth wide and shouted for the entire Great Hall to hear, "Of course I do-"

Before she could finish her sentence and say 'not', Gendry panicked. He did stupid things when he panics, he realized. Do whatever needs to be done. He made a silent prayer to the Gods that Arya would not kill him in front of everyone else. With that, he pushed his mouth over hers and kissed her words away. Her words melted in her mouth and before she could register he dared to kiss her to silence her, cheers broke out through the hall with the assumed proposal acceptance. The instrument players banged on their drums happily, the singers singed a happy tune, dancers clapped, and others cheered. Sansa wrapped Arya in a hug, and Margaery gave Gendry her congratulations.

Behind Margaery Gendry was brave enough to glance at Arya who was being smothered happily by Sansa. She sent him the worst glare she could muster, and he quickly looked to his feet. If she was not mad at him before, now she was ready to pull out her sword and stab him in front of the Heart Tree if she need to.

Her silent glare continued, and Gendry looked up only to see silent words moving around her lips. This isn't over, stupid.

Chapter Text

         She had never been more furious in her life. Or at least that was what she thought the turning in her stomach was. She stared at him while northern men and men from Highgarden crowded to congratulate him. If looks could kill, he would have been dead hours ago. He had the right mind to look afraid of her at that moment. After the crowd dissipated, a song was called for the announcement. The lute players instantly readied for a jolly tune, but Sansa, sensing the tension, quickly suggested that it was by far too late and asked Ned if she could escort Arya to her solar. Ned obliged, nodding to his eldest daughter. When Sansa and Arya passed through the crowd, Arya could see the looks of shock on each of her brother’s faces, their jaws on the floor. By the time they were safe and alone in Arya’s solar, she found it just to speak her mind.

          “That stupid, stupid, bullheaded fool!” Arya paced back and forth in her solar while Sansa sat patiently on the corner of Arya’s featherbed, watching her sister’s tantrum. “Who does he think he is, just thinking he could kiss me like that, I-”

          “Enjoyed it?” Sansa smiled devilishly. Arya stopped in her tracks to stare at her sister. Her solar was dim and no candles were lit, but she could still see the hint of romance and innuendo in her sister’s eyes she thought she had imagined it. Before Arya could launch an attack on her sister, she laughed and held up her hands in surrender. “Please, Arya. I could see your blush from across the hall after he kissed you.”

          “I did not blush.” Arya stuck her nose up defiantly, but she could feel her cheeks getting warm again. “If I did happen to color, it is just my fury. Really, Sansa, you are being as stupid as him.”

          Sansa raised one of her delicate eyebrows, but did not dare to tell Arya the truth; her sister did blush whether she liked it or not. Arya did seem to cool down after her rage however, and dropped herself on her featherbed beside Sansa.

          “What am I to do now? Now everyone believes I am bloody in love with him, and I am to marry him, this is awful.”

          “How is it awful?” Sansa asked honestly.

          “He is stupid, that’s why! I would never want to marry such a stupid knight.”

          “He is quite handsome.” Sansa admitted dreamily. “His eyes are so blue, and he looks just like those knights in the songs, doesn’t he?”

          “But he acts just like those fools in Old Nan’s stories.” Arya sighed and put her head on Sansa’s lap, Sansa softly taking out the braid which her hair was tied in. “I have to tell father the truth.”

          “No!” Sansa almost jerked the tie out of Arya’s hair in surprise, and Arya whimpered from the sharp pain.

          “Seven hells, Sansa.” Arya massaged her scalp and took out the rest of the braid. “I have to tell father, or else I will be married to him.”

          “Please Arya, please don’t tell father.” Sansa scooted so Arya would move her head off her lap, and so that Arya could see her sister. Sansa’s hands were put together in pleading, and she looked as if she was ready to drop to the floor and beg. “If you tell him, then you will not be betrothed to Ser Gendry.”

          “Yes, that is quite my point.”

          “No!” Sansa shook her head desperately. “Please, Arya. If you must tell father, wait until Willas and I are married, or even betrothed. If you tell him now, father will not let me marry my Willas. If you wait, father will still let you out of the betrothal, he loves you too much to refuse. Please, all of us will get what we want, just wait a few moons.”

          Arya stared at her sister. At first she thought Sansa was being downright selfish, but then she realized this would probably be the only chance Sansa would ever get to marry Willas. Both sisters honestly believed that Gendry would be the first and the last suitor Arya would receive, and Sansa would forever be a maiden. If Arya went through with her sister’s plan, Sansa would be married, and Arya would simply tell father soon after the wedding, and Arya would never have to see him again, and there would be no more talk of her mother’s last promise, for it would have been fulfilled.

          “Fine,” Arya muttered, and was almost suffocated by Sansa’s hugs. Sansa kissed her younger sister on the cheek, forever grateful.

          “Thank you, Arya.” Sansa sighed happily. When Sansa let go of Arya, she laughed. “Do not worry, I am sure it will not be long until I am wed to my Willas. Lady Margaery says that he is going to ask for my hand by the morrow. But this means you will have to act civil to Ser Gendry for now, you can’t be jumping at his throat; you have to act like you have at least some interest in him.” Sansa bit her tongue so she wouldn’t add, which would not be too hard for you.

          Arya groaned and dropped back on her featherbed. Seven hells.


 

          They sat in the library tower together, him reading to her a novel of Aegon the Conqueror and his sister wives, and she was lounging on a chair beside him, the couple looking like a muse for a painting. She wore an emerald gown which was perfectly fitted for her, the sleeves long and bell shaped, but cut at the sleeves. The neckline was lower than she would have preferred, but Margaery made sure that she wore that gown.

          “Are you sure?” Sansa remembered asking, her voice nervous that Margaery’s brother would not appreciate the style. “Should I not dress in the dress you gifted me from Highgarden? Surely…”

          “No, dear Sansa, he would much prefer you in this gown, I assure you. He has already seen so many ladies in Highgarden, all fitted in those flowery gowns, but you are the beauty of the North.” Margaery winked wickedly at Sansa before helping to lace her gown so she could send her off to Willas.

          “Lady Sansa?” Willas peeked from the tome he was reciting to Sansa to check if she was indeed awake. Caught from her thoughts, she practically jumped in her chair.

          “Forgive me, my lord.” Sansa smiled apologetically. “I confess I am a bit tired. Last night was… eventful.”

          “Eventful is a kind word to use to describe the end of last night’s feast.” Willas laughed and set down the large book on the table beside them. He looked perfect then, with his beautiful brown curls and his hazel eyes. He looked up from his hands to Sansa. She smiled, awaiting the words she so wanted to hear. “May I escort you to your chambers?”

          She did her best to hide her disappointment. Ask for my hand while you have the chance! She smiled weakly but shook her head. “I assure you, my lord, I am fine.”

          He nodded, but chuckled at her formalities. “My lady, you needn’t call me ‘my lord’. Willas is just fine.”

          She looked as if she was to protest, but he was quite adamant. She sighed as well. “Then I suppose, Willas, you may call me Sansa.”

          He smiled as if he was a boy on his nameday. He looked best when he smiled, Sansa decided. “Sansa, what do you propose-” Sansa nearly jumped at his words, but sighed when he continued; “we do today, taking that you do not like the library tower?”

          They went riding together, she sat side saddle and he rode beside her on a saddle specially made for his leg. She showed him Winterfell, and he even asked for her to take him to the Godswood. With a proper escort of course, off they went, like a proper lord and his lady riding in the sunset. When they arrived by the heart tree, Willas let the guard stand by their horses, and he took her soft hand in his large calloused fingers, and lead her to the tree. It seemed much like a wedding procession, she thought, except ours will be in a sept.

          “Your Godswood is very beautiful.” Willas remarked with a longing sigh, still basking in the glory of the Godswood. He still held her hand in his, and she was not sure if he was conscious of their contact. He looked back to Sansa, and grinned similar to Margaery. “Tell me Sansa, which gods do you pray to?”

          “The old and the new, but my father’s gods are of the old.” She was taken aback by his sudden question, but she answered honestly.

          “The Godswood in Highgarden is very beautiful; I think you would like it.” He paused and smiled wider, his bad leg seemingly forgotten. “I would prefer to be married in the Godswood… if you would have me?”

          She nearly screamed. Oh, has she been waiting for this moment! She smiled widely and quickly nodded her head. “Of course I would have you, Willas.”

          “But I would like to court you first, Sansa.” He said chivalrously. Her smile nearly fell. “I will not marry a woman who barely knows me, and I would like to know you more before our wedding.”

          “O-of course,” Sansa sighed. Courting was still good. She could court him, but she wanted to marry him before it was too late. She was afraid Arya would kill her betrothed any second if they waited any longer. Can we not just marry now? We are already in the Godswood.

          “Would you like to come to Highgarden with me?”

          Oh, Arya is going to kill me herself.


 

                Arya really did want to kill Sansa herself. When her father summoned her to his chambers and told her that the Tyrells intended to leave within a fortnight or sooner to show Sansa Highgarden, and so Willas and herself could bond. He had this terrible notion that Arya would ever intend to do the same with Gendry, and she was organized to leave with the Tyrells before she knew it. She only managed to haul Bran with her through constant begging. Although she promised Sansa she would act kind towards Gendry that did not mean she had to talk to Gendry. All throughout their trip Arya did her best to ride beside her sister and stay as far away from her ‘betrothed’ as she could manage. One day, when they were nearing Highgarden and camped for the night, Sansa brought it up in their shared tent.

          “I am suspicious of him.” Arya raised her nose in the air defiantly.

          “Oh?” Sansa’s eyebrow perked up as she crossed her arms over her chest, readying herself for another of Arya’s excuses.

          “When we were in Winterfell, he would always spend all his bloody time in the forge. What would a knight have to do in a forge?” Arya spoke blatantly. And it was not completely a lie. When Sansa spent her time with Willas and her brothers were busy, she would find herself readying her horse in the stables to venture through winter town, or even the Wolfswood if she was ambitious. However, without fail, each day she would hear him banging steel on the anvil, making it sing. Once she spared a glance, but all she saw were sparks and his muscles moving harshly as he pounded louder and louder onto the metal.

          “Mayhaps he was forging himself a new sword?” Sansa spoke as if it was quite obvious.

          “A knight has a squire to do that for him. Or he could even pay a blacksmith.”

          Sansa sighed and rolled her eyes. “You just enjoyed watching him work while he was without a tunic.”

          Arya’s eyes widened and she almost scoffed. She could feel heat rising to her cheeks from a sudden burst of anger, “Did not!

          Whilst taking her auburn hair from her tedious braid, Sansa looked at her sister and laughed. “You are blushing.”

          Not wanting to argue with her sister, Arya settled with a groan and moved to her temporary cot while travelling. Her eyes were open, and she could not help from believing that sometimes Sansa could be just as stupid as Gendry.


 

          The journey was long and troublesome, but within at least two moons, they arrived at Highgarden. The castle was all too fancy. Flower vines crept up the gates, the shrubbery was lined with flowers, the pillars were shiny marble, and each tower was tiered. The courtyard contained fountains and paved pathways. Everywhere you looked, there was a flower in sight. Sansa was in awe and gushing over each detail of the décor with Lady Margaery and Lady Olenna. Arya was only left to gawk at the ostentatious castle.

          They supped soon after they arrived, as the Tyrells that stayed in Highgarden were seemingly ecstatic with the return of Margaery and Willas, and even Sansa and Arya. Margaery and the rest of her cousins whisked Sansa away as soon as they arrived in the castle, and Arya was left to herself. There was no way in the seven hells that Arya would spend her spare time with Gendry, and so instead she intended to go with Bran to venture around the castle and the gardens. It was much less practical than Winterfell, and far too gaudy for her and Bran’s taste, so instead they returned to her appointed chamber she was to share with Sansa. They weren’t given much time to themselves though, because by the time they returned to her chambers they were summoned to the dining halls for seared fish. Sansa was seated between Margaery and Willas, and on her head a crown of white and gold flowers. After the Tyrells were finished with their questions of the Kingsroad and gawking over Sansa, silence quickly fell upon the supper, and Arya took it upon herself to clear her throat.

          “So, what did you do before you were a knight, Gendry?” Arya asked smoothly as if she had practiced the question in her head. Gendry almost choked on his food. This was the first time she formally spoke to him ever since their betrothal was announced and since their “kiss”.

“You ought to learn to swallow your trout, Ser Gendry.” Lady Olenna commented with a snarky grin. Margaery gently patted his back to let the food ease down. No Tyrell dared to answer Arya’s inquiry, and she almost thought she won this battle, that Gendry truly was suspicious, until Willas spoke up.

          “He was a blacksmith, my lady.” Willas replied. Arya could not help but notice the pointed look Margaery shot towards her brother.

          “Oh, really?” Arya raised her eyebrows and acted ever so interested in his tale. “How did a blacksmith come to be a knight? This will be a fun story.”

          Willas was baffled on how to reply. He did not enjoy playing with Margaery and Olenna’s games, and on that note he was not sure what to say and what not to say. Sansa smiled apologetically but before she could apologize on Arya’s behalf for being rude, Gendry looked towards Arya with a smirk that made her blood boil.

          “M’lady, if you want to know so much about me, you need only ask me. I never knew you were so interested.”

          It was Arya’s turn to almost choke on her food. How dare he, she thought, how dare he think to make such a fool out of me.

          To clear the awkward air, one of Margaery’s cousins spoke up about Sansa’s flowers, “Lady Sansa, your flowers are so beautiful. It almost looks as if you were crowned Queen of Love and Beauty.”

          Arya did not fail to notice the almost part, and the sass in the girl’s voice. Are all people in Highgarden prats?

          “Thank you, Lady Elinor.” Sansa smiled sweetly and replied, “You should try flowers on your head as well tomorrow. Mayhaps you will make people believe even you are the Queen of Love and Beauty.”

          Arya and Bran both bit their lips so they would not giggle. Sansa’s words had a bite to it, yet she recited them so perfectly and sweetly, she was sure Elinor did not even notice. Elinor smiled in response and stuffed more fish into her mouth.

         “Ah, yes, the tourney tomorrow,” Margaery clapped her hands together in excitement. Her exclamation cleared whatever awkwardness was in the air. Arya raised an eyebrow with the sudden announcement of a tourney. Mayhaps it was not so sudden, and they spoke of it while travelling for when they would arrive, but she never noticed. “The tourney thrown for the Stark family’s arrival will be wonderful.”                           

          “Well, Gendry,” Arya directed her sass straight towards the stupid man. “I would give you my favor for tomorrow’s tourney, but I am unsure if you are competing. Only seasoned knights compete in tourneys, I hear.”

          Gendry’s reply was filled with just as much attitude as hers, but also tied with amusement. He grinned and looked towards Arya, “I will compete tomorrow, m’lady. I am so happy you were so thoughtful as to plan ahead for giving me my favor. I shall crown you with a crown of flowers like your sister’s, and you shall be my Queen of Love and Beauty.”

          Arya scoffed, but only rolled her eyes as a reply. Not a chance.

Chapter Text

The morning of the tourney, Arya woke as the first ray of sunlight burst through her ostentatious window which overlooked the guest chamber she was given to share with her lady sister. Like all other feasts and tourneys planned, Arya had a tight schedule. Picking out one of the fancier dresses the seamstress was forced to sew due to Sansa’s command, Arya dressed herself into the dimly colored gown which matched her House sigil and did her best to sneak out the chamber. Bran was put into a separate chamber across the hall, and Arya did not yet know the castle well enough to bypass all the guards on the way to his chambers, and instead decided to tread on her own.

The Highgarden palace was rather too extravagant for her taste with vines creeping along each hall. Flowers were placed around every corner with a floral scent wafting through the castle’s open design. Arya knew she could never call Highgarden her home if she were to ever marry the stupid knight. Only Winterfell was her home, and Winterfell was where she belonged.

Arya managed to prowl across the palace to the gardens without being noticed, a feat she thought of quite fondly. Her hair was still undone and messy from when she awoke from her far too soft featherbed so there wasn’t much to be done there, but she went to work dirtying her hem in the mud so the grey detailing on her dress soon transformed into a muted brown. The girl raced to the stables, her hair soaring freely behind her as the sun fully rose and illuminated the garden. The image of the young and willful girl of the North looked like an artist’s muse in that moment. She was a different beauty than her sister’s traditional comeliness. Arya’s own beauty stemmed from her headstrong nature and old allure of the North.

Before Arya could finish her checklist to prepare for the tourney, however, she was interrupted by the sound of a man clearing his throat. She immediately stopped laughing like an idiot and looked to her left to see no other than Willas Tyrell feeding his horse.The eldest of the Tyrell brothers looked at Arya with wide eyes as his hand lay limp on his horse as if he just saw a ghost. Arya’s morning was getting better and better.

“My lady, I was not expecting you here in such a state.” He must have been referring to Arya’s soiled dress and chaotic hair. Willas tried to smoothly recover as he did his best to bow, despite his injured leg.

“I really should get back to…” Arya stammered, looking for an excuse to get out of this situation as fast as she could. It’s not that she despised Willas. If there was anyone in Highgarden that she despised, it was stupid bullheaded Gendry. Arya simply did not want to live with the awkward situation of ‘getting to know’ her future good brother better, or rather, the man that wanted to have her sister’s children. “I should get back to my sister. She should be awake by now and wondering where I am.”

“Really, my lady, there is no need to leave. You were not intruding on anything. I was simply caring for my sand steed.” Willas replied, gesturing to the creature’s glistening and freshly brushed fur. In truth, this piqued Arya’s curiosity. She’s always heard of Dornish sand steeds, and has always wanted to ride one for herself. She heard that the creatures could race day and night and not tire. She walked closer to the creature and raised her arm to caress the lean horse’s golden mane.

“How do you have a Dornish sand steed?” Arya asked in awe of the beast.

“Prince Oberyn gifted me the sand steed after my first tourney.” Willas cited, also appreciating the horse as much as she. Arya instantly cringed as soon as he mentioned Oberyn Martell. If Sansa was there, she would have smacked her upside the head right then and there, as unladylike as it was. She heard the story from Sansa’s lips far too many times, of how the gallant Willas was injured by Oberyn Martell in his first tourney. Before Arya could apologize, Willas laughed, seeming to read her thoughts. “I bare no ill-will of the prince, if that is what you are wondering, my lady. We still correspond with each other, and he bestowed upon me this gift as a token of friendship. I don’t let any of the stable boys care for her, as I find it quite relaxing doing the work myself.”

“I would love to ride a sand steed one day.” Arya spoke her thoughts out loud. Although only six and ten, there was no man in Winterfell that was able to outrace her. On a sand steed, she would be unstoppable.

“Mayhaps Ser Gendry may take you riding through Highgarden on the morrow.” Willas smiled as he looked upon his future good-sister. Of course he meant well, he was not up to date on his family’s schemes (and preferred not to get involved) after all, but Arya’s face bloomed beet red all the while.

“I'd rather jump off the highest tower in Winterfell before I go riding with that bullhead.”

“If that is so, then may I ask, my lady, why your face is so red?”

Before Arya could reply, another person entered the stables and gasped at the sight. As Arya turned, it was no other than Margaery Tyrell looking upon the dastard Stark sister. The Tyrell sister was already prim and proper, despite the early hours of the day with her bouncy curls and flowing gown.

“My lady, forgive my intrusion, but may I ask what happened to you? It seems as if you tread from Winterfell within a night.” Margaery managed to regain her posture and smiled kindly. As beautiful as the Tyrell girl was, Arya always felt off-put in her presence.

“She tripped when she entered the stables, my dear sister. I found Lady Stark wandering in the gardens and brought her here as she inquired of my sand steed.” Willas lied to his sister, managing to produce an excuse for Arya’s sorry state. He then nudged her in the side, urging her to say something.

“That is completely correct, lady Margaery.” Arya murmured, unable to think of a better thing to say. Margaery sighed and walked to Arya and warmly encased her arm with her own.

“Let me help you fix yourself, my lady.” Margaery sang as she swept Arya towards the castle with no further notice. “After all, we are to be good-sisters soon enough, if all goes well.”

Arya tried her best not to groan. Being in company of Willas Tyrell was not as much of a bore, and was actually quite entertaining and intriguing, no matter how embarrassing the experience was. However, being in company of Margaery Tyrell may as well have been as boring as being in company of Sansa when they were younger. The Tyrell girl managed to flit Arya into her grand antechamber with golden sunlight pouring through and adorning each detail embossed into the architecture. Various Tyrell cousins and daughters of families sworn to House Tyrell smiled and greeted their Lady and Arya kindly. However, there was one lady in the room that looked none too kindly upon Arya.

“We have already broken our fast, as no one could find you, but I offered to search upon the gardens for you, as your lady sister said that you like exploring.” Margaery smiled as she ushered Arya to her seat. “We have saved some lemon cakes for you, however.”

“No we have not.” Sansa spat with her arms crossed. All the ladies in the room looked at Sansa in shock, until she quickly recovered her composure. “I mean to say that all the lemon cakes seem to be gone, and my dearest sister must learn to live with her decisions.”

The last bit of Sansa’s speech seemed to be strained and pointed with fury at only her sister, but the other ladies in the room smiled in kind as if it was a wise lesson taught by her elder sister.

“No matter. The feast following the tourney will have plenty of food, I am sure.” Margaery clapped her hands together and twirled around Arya in earnest.

“Her dress is soiled, Ser Gendry simply cannot crown Arya in that state.” Sansa stated, still frowning all the while. Arya rolled her eyes, as Sansa stated quite the obvious point in Arya’s morning endeavor.

“He can’t crown me because he won’t win.” Arya drawled on boringly as if the matter was not even worth her attention.

“But of course Ser Gendry will win!” Lady Elinor exclaimed dreamily. “With those strong arms, how could he not win?”

The rest of the morning dragged on with the ladies giggling about Gendry’s physique and “dreamy eyes like water”. Every time Arya tried to make a dash for it, Sansa would pin her down with her icy gaze as if warning her that she has already done enough. Margaery somehow seemed to have a spare dress that she kept from when she was younger. She apparently intended to give it to Elinor, but Arya needed it more. It was rather more plain than the rest of Margaery’s wardrobe and not too much of a sight with its dark and long sleeved fabric. They could not do much with her hair or her stench before the tourney, so they only managed to pull it into one rather thick and painful braid of her coarse hair. They did not have enough time to beautify the girl as they wished, but they fixed her up enough so she would look like she was just plain and regular Arya Stark. All of it was torturous, and Arya wished the entire while that Gendry never visited Winterfell so she would never have gone to Highgarden in the first place.

The tourney was not too ostentatious, much to Arya’s surprise. Not too many knights were in attendance on the list, and so the tourney was to be short and sweet. Arya sat in the second to top bench in the audience rafters with Sansa on her right and Bran on her left. Willas, who sat beside Sansa, smiled lovingly and offered the elder Stark a fragrant white rose. Sansa giggled and accepted the gift in earnest. Arya shot Bran a look and they both wrinkled their noses in unison, gagging in response to Sansa’s lovesick aura. However, Sansa was quick to notice her younger siblings’ actions and stabbed Arya’s bare wrist with her new rose. Arya yelped in pain and surprise, and couldn’t help but loathe the smug and victorious expression on her sister’s face. Soon enough, it was time for Gendry to take his first turn at the tilt.

“He looks quite handsome, does he not?” Sansa whispered into her sister’s ear. It took all of Arya’s might not to gag again. Gendry was dressed in shining silver armor and mounted atop of a gallant white steed. The armor was tailored to Gendry’s physique, and yet the entire shimmering perfection of it all did not seem to fit his character.

“He looked like he fit in better in the forge than in a tourney.” Arya stated her observations without truly thinking about what she was saying.

“You only liked him better in the forge because he wasn’t wearing a tunic.” Sansa chided, all too happy with the way Arya’s face glinted crimson at the very thought.

“Shut up, stupid.” Arya spat. Sansa poked her sister’s wrist with the thorn once again and burst into ladylike giggles that sounded like morning bells. Before Arya could swipe the rose from her sister’s hand, cheers chimed from the audience. She looked to the arena to see that Gendry was still on his horse, victorious in his first round.

“Maybe he’s not so bullheaded after all, sister.” Bran laughed, thinking of what she would do if her ‘beloved’ were to emerge victorious.

“He only won because his opponent was a skinny little squire.” Arya frowned, not liking the outcome of her stay at Highgarden at all. Each round continued like that, with her siblings teasing her as Gendry progressed onward into each sequential stage. It went on until the only two contestants left were the bullheaded boy and a scrawny knight competing under House Dunn.

“How in the seven hells did this knight even make it to the last round?” Arya exclaimed in a panic. She could feel the eyes of Lady Olenna on her back from the top stand because of her language, but Bran simply shrugged.

“Might as well accept your fate now.” Bran smirked, his amusement matching Sansa’s.

Sure enough, Gendry was the last one to remain on his horse, and was named as the winner of the tourney. What a surprise. Arya slumped down in her seat in defeat as the stadium roared with applause and cheers. When a wreath of roses was handed to Gendry to name as his Queen of Love and Beauty and dedicate his victory to her, Arya more than ever wished she could become invisible. Before she could dart from her seat, her sister’s hands flew to her wrist to anchor her down. Who knew Sansa had such a grip? Her sister’s surprising strength managed to keep Arya at bay, while it only looked like a loving embrace of excitement between two sisters to the audience. Without fail, Gendry ascended through the stands until he was in front of Arya, and extended his hand to her.

“I refuse.” Arya crossed her arms over her chest and refused to look at the stupid boy. The crowd made a collective gasp of disappointment.

“I insist, take the flowers, m’lady.” Gendry thrusted his hand closer to hers, urging her to take his stupid flowers. Arya’s distaste and discomfort seemed to amuse him, which only served to infuriate her further. Her cheeks and her ears ran warm and pink.

“I don’t want it. Choose someone else.” Arya demanded. Her brother was unable to contain his mirth with laughs bubbling from his puckered lips. Gendry stood there like an idiot for what felt like an eternity until he finally budged.

“If Lady Stark does not accept to be my Queen of Love and Beauty, then no one else will.” Gendry announced to the crowd while holding up the crown of flowers. Disappointed groans from girls echoed throughout the audience while some even dared to give her pointed looks. Arya, however, did not care, for she considered this to be a victory. Before she could celebrate, Gendry continued with his speech, “If my lady love will not accept my gift, then there is no other I wish to dedicate my victory and my devotion to.”

Despite the rather rude looks Arya received only moments earlier, now she was greeted with glances of longing and even jealousy. To an untrained eye, this was a true vow of devotion and love, like one of those songs Sansa would sing about when she was a girl. To Arya’s eye, however, she was able to notice the mischievous glint in Gendry’s gallant smile, the same smug face he made on the first day they met, when he managed to chase her up to the roofs.

Xx

The celebration following the tourney was far more jovial with minstrels playing their merry tune and guests dancing along the aisles. Arya was forced to sit next to her betrothed, and it was the first time they were left somewhat alone to talk to one another since the day he first met her.

“You look beautiful, my lady.” Gendry managed to break their silence. He seemed somewhat more nervous around her when it was only the two of them together. He wasn’t cocky or bullheaded like he usually was. Arya liked to believe it was because of her daunting presence, but of course Gendry only acted this way because he was still unused to how to talk to a highborn lady, or any highborn for that matter.

“Oh, really?” Arya rose an eyebrow in disbelief. It was quite an unoriginal way to start a conversation, and there was nothing special about her appearance today rather than any other day he saw her.

“You’re missing something, though.” Gendry nodded, and his usual smirk returned. He was getting more used to her presence.

“And what am I missing, ser?” Arya rolled her eyes, sarcastically stating his title.

“You’re missing a certain crown of flowers.”

Arya pinned him with one of her death glares he was starting to get accustomed to. You’re missing a sword stuck in your side if you keep talking. Arya placed her hands on Gendry’s chest ready to push him off his chair.

“And how is the happy couple?” To Gendry’s luck, Bran Stark decided to walk to the couple’s side of the table and intervene at the most opportune of moments. Before Arya could answer with a loathing response, Gendry lovingly removed her arms from his chest and caressed them with his own.

“My dearest lady love simply cannot contain her excitement for our wedding night, isn’t that right?” Gendry quickly thought of an excuse to her misconduct.

“Of course, my dearest.” Arya’s words were of honey, but were spoken with ice. Before their conversation could continue, the hall quieted due to the minstrel’s pause in his tune.

“I have never before seen quite a scene as romantic as I have seen this day.” Arya’s eyes widened and her stomach dropped as all eyes in the room moved to her and Gendry who looked as if they were in a loving embrace. “Today’s events inspired me to write my greatest song yet.”

Giggles and applause filled the room, and yet all Arya could feel was dread. The tune was jolly and upbeat, similar to The Bear and the Maiden Fair, summarizing how the wolf of the North denied the flowers from her beloved knight of the South, only retold with a bawdy pretence. The song seemed to get worse, ending with the statement that the only “gift” she wished to receive from her love was his “sword”.

Applause and cheers erupted from the hall, Arya’s face turning beet red. When she looked to Gendry, he only seemed amused by her expression and the situation of it all. He’s enjoying my torment, she realized. There was not a chance she would let him laugh as if he was victorious. He’s going down.

Chapter Text

It was the morning after the tourney, and the warm sunlight poured over the gardens where Gendry sat with Lady Margaery. She invited him to break their fast together, and Gendry nearly had no choice but to dine with the frightening woman as her cousins sent to give the message stared him down in his light clothes meant for sleeping. So he blushed profusely, changed into appropriate clothing to meet a lady in, and followed the ladies to Margaery, who smiled warmly and beckoned for him to sit beside her.

“What a marvelous triumph yesterday, Ser Gendry!” Margaery beamed as an equally frightened servant brought a platter of cheese to the table. Unsure of what to say, Gendry stuffed a slice of cheese into his mouth and nodded in reply. The lady continued to watch him eat. “You and Lady Arya make an excellent match, if I have any say.”

“You have all the say in it, m’lady.” Gendry plainly remarked before he could think of a better response. He instantly regretted it as Margaery’s smile began to thin.

“I shall hope so. My brother plans to set a date for the wedding soon, and it would delight me to see him and Lady Sansa married.”

“It will be a beautiful wedding, I am sure.” Gendry gulped down his tea, unsure of what Margaery exactly wanted from him. He was still not so keen on the way highborns talk amongst each other in sugared riddles.

“It seems that Arya’s affections for you are clear.” Margaery finely spoke plainly and it was her turn to sip her tea as Gendry almost choked on another slice of cheese.

“She hates me almost as much as she hates the days she’s expected to wear dresses.”

Margaery smiled plainly then, her eyes filled with mirth as if she could see something that clearly Gendry was unable to.

“If you say so, perhaps you should bring her to explore more of Highgarden together. If you plan to marry her after all, you will have to woo her first.” Margaery replied smoothly, instantly reminding Gendry of why he even was brought in her presence. “I am sure when this is all over it would be nice to return to your mother as a knight married to a lady fair.”

With thoughts of his ailing, aging, and poor mother working hard by herself,Gendry left

the table with a purpose, rushing back towards the castle as everyone else who did not awake at ungodly hours began to rise. Margaery smiled after him, fully knowing what she was doing, yet fully wondering what was it with he and her brother and those Stark girls.


 

Arya awoke to pounding on her door and bright light shining through the windows. She did not bother to move, knowing that Sansa usually gave up after a few knocks to break her fast in hopes that she would see lemon cakes on the table. However, the knocks began to grow louder, and more impatient. With a groan, Arya slid off her bed none too gracefully, and wiped away the slobber that dribbled down her cheek only to find none other than the bullheaded Gendry dressed in the silliest cloak and tunic she had ever seen.

“What in the Seven Hells do you think you’re doing?” Arya hissed. Her hand almost went to fix her hair knowing it must have been a mess, but she quickly stopped herself.

“I wish to go riding with you through Highgarden, m’lady.” She could have sworn she saw his cheeks color a bit as he looked her sorry state over, but he cleared his voice and fixed his posture. Unimpressed, Arya looked him over.

“No.” She said plainly as she made to close her door, only to be stopped by Sansa, who was presumably on her way to her room to wake Arya.

“Oh, sweet sister!” Sansa proclaimed as she practically threw her slippered foot in the way of the door frame, forcing Arya to keep the door open. “What is this I hear about exploring Highgarden?”

Ser Gendry wanted to go frolicking in Highgarden before I could even break my fast.” Arya frowned, still dazed by sleep.

“Oh hush now, haven’t you always been going on about how you want to explore more of the Seven Kingdoms?” Sansa smiled innocently as she framed the question.

“Yes, but-”

“Then it is settled! You will go with Ser Gendry as soon as I help you get dressed.” Sansa practically pushed Gendry aside and rammed Arya through the door, closing the door behind her before any of them had a say in it.

“What was that for?” Arya attempted to regain her balance as Sansa brushed off her skirts. She then searched through whatever wardrobe they managed to travel with from Winterfell.

“Oh, don’t act like it will be so awful.” Sansa rolled her eyes as she picked a pair of Arya’s riding trousers and tunics. “I saw how your faced almost turned a rather Lannister shade of crimson as he went to crown you at the tourney.”

“I was blushing out of fury.” Arya crossed her arms over her chest and recited an excuse she grown rather fond of repeating whenever she was accused of growing soft for the man. Sansa rolled her eyes and tossed the clothes at Arya. “You’re actually suggesting that I wear trousers?”

“Of course.” Sansa shrugged as she turned away, expecting Arya to begin changing. “How else would I expect you to go riding?”

Arya smiled then, warmed by the thought that Sansa finally understood her to a point, and was equally surprised that she was encouraging her to wear such garb in front of her future good-family. She changed swiftly, a part of her excited to actually explore Highgarden for once, even if she was forced to go alongside the sorry excuse of a knight. Sansa smiled then as she turned around to face her sister, fully dressed in a pants and tunic fit for riding. When did she start getting so old?

“At this rate, he will hardly be able to resist you.” Sansa pinched her little sister’s cheek, instantly making her scowl. Now there’s the little sister I remember.


 

The ride throughout Highgarden was interesting enough, yet even more interesting was watching Gendry fumble for conversation throughout the entire guided tour, as guards escorted them through the path. However, she found Highgarden itself rather plain. All she found were flowers, flowers, and more bushes of flowers at every glance she took. It was even almost as silly as the flowers embossed on Gendry’s cloak and sleeves, fashioned like Lord Willas and Loras’s garb, most likely in the attempt to make make him look more like a dashing knight.

“What do you think of my city, m’lady?” Gendry held the reigns of his horse with one hand and attempted to smile at her in the gallant manner that knights in Sansa’s old stories ought to. Instead for him, it only looked like a nervous battle for balance on his saddle.

“The flowers look interesting,” Arya shrugged.

“Would a crown of flowers have interested you more?” Gendry laughed this time as Arya glared at him. He was walking on thin ice. He then looked back to her, in a real and actual smile, and for whatever reason, Arya felt her cheeks grow hot. “You know Arry, the flower crown is still intact if you still wish for it.”

“What did you call me?”

“Oh… Arry?” It was Gendry’s turn to blush. “I only thought it would be easier to say than ‘ She Wolf of Winterfell ’, or even worse, ‘Arya the Cursed ’.”

“They really call me that?” For a moment Arya genuinely laughed, forgetting that there were guards escorting them, or that this man was even asking for her hand. She decided she rather liked that title. It sounded menacing enough. “Though I suppose I would rather have you call me Arry than m’lady.”

“Don’t you worry. You’d always be m’lady to me.” Gendry smiled at her, and it made Arya want to knock him off his horse. Instead, she guided her mare closer to his horse, so that she was able to whisper to him without their escorts hearing.

“What do you say we have a race?” She asked tantalizingly.

“Where to, m’lady?” Gendry attempted to ask coolly. Without a reply, she only smiled and kicked her heels into her horse, sending her dashing far beyond the guards. No one in the Seven Hells knew where she was going, but Gendry knew he would follow her anywhere at that moment. He playfully gave into the chase, making the guards panic as they did their best to follow. It took a while, but they finally lost the guards as they ventured off the beaten path.

“I suppose I won that race.” Arya smugly dismounted her horse first and let her mare drink from the nearby pond. In all honesty, she originally intended to lose Gendry in the chase as well, but conceded to her consciousness in the end.

“You left so fast, it was hardly fair.” Gendry dismounted his horse as well and guided the steed towards the pond.

“I just had to lose those guards. It felt like I was a child again being escorted like that.” She then went off in a flurry of childish laughter. “And did you see their faces? I bet they’re still looking for us right now.”

Gendry laughed as well, allowing himself to appreciate the company of the true Arya, who let down her usual menacing aura. Laughing like that, no one could hardly suspect she was the same woman who he chased down on the rooftops of Winterfell, or who rejected his crown of flowers. She sat on a nearby bed of flowers and he picked out an apple he kept in the pack tied to his horse and followed.

“I’m sorry for forcing you to give up your morning meal.” He tossed the apple at her, and she gracefully picked it from the air with minimal effort. Amazed at her reflexes, he awkwardly sat next to her. “The apple was all I managed to steal from the kitchens before we left.”

“It’s good enough for now, I suppose.” Arya heartily bit out of the apple. They managed to hold a conversation like normal people ought to, and she again almost forgot that he was asking for her hand in marriage. They laughed, he asked her about life in Winterfell, and she asked him about being a knight.

However, if they knew of the eldest Stark daughter and the second Stark boy hiding in the bushes nearby, none of that would have happened.

“Do you think we should go now?” Bran whispered as softly as he could to his sister, who was still peeking over the bushes, looking at how Arya playfully hit Gendry’s arm, not even aware of her flirting.

The two siblings were following the party the entire time, and when they saw the two dash off, they sent the guards away and went to follow the couple themselves. It was all Bran’s idea , Sansa would later defend herself saying.

“I suppose they don’t need our intervention.” Sansa shrugged and they snuck away, leaving the couple to themselves.

Chapter Text

They both leaned back and basked in the sun. Highgarden was nothing like Winterfell, Arya decided. The castle grounds were much more open, and even on the path they followed she saw more travellers than she had ever seen in Winter Town. The forest and gardens hardly compared to the secluded serenity of the Godswood, or even the Wolfswood, but still she had to admit there was some sort of beauty to Highgarden’s warm and verdant allure.

And yet when she opened her eyes again, she could hardly believe she was taking a nap. Gods, she did not even remember falling asleep. The sun was now bright and above them signaling noontime, and her stomach grumbled from only eating the apple Gendry had offered her. Even worse, whatever she had been lying on had made her neck awfully stiff. She looked to her side and realized it was no other than Gendry who was acting as her pillow, her cheeks imprinted with the pattern of the fabric that was on his shoulder. Even more petrifying was the discovery of his arm lazily wrapped around her, pulling her closer. With a start, Arya horrifyingly screamed and pushed away his unconscious body. Later on, both of them would deny any shrill ladylike screams that anyone would have claimed, but at that moment Gendry opened his eyes and screamed as well.

“What in the Seven Hells were you thinking?” Arya crossed her arms over her chest and glowered at Gendry, who was looking at here just the same.

“What in the Seven Hells were you thinking?” He dared to ask her the same question.

“Excuse me?”

“It was your head on my shoulder.”

“Well it was your arm that wouldn’t let me move!” Arya dramatically threw her hands in the air, and Gendry wondered if she argued like this with Sansa too.

“How am I supposed to control what I do when I’m asleep?” Gendry raised an eyebrow and Arya scowled. He decided to bait her further with a smug smile on his face. “I suppose m’lady just can’t keep away from me.”

That was it for Arya. Without a second of hesitation, she pounced on him, and they were wrestling on the grass. She was agile and fought viciously, but his strength quickly overpowered hers as he gained the high ground and ended up atop her, restraining her hands away from him so she wouldn’t hit him.

At that very moment, Gendry froze. His cheeks felt as if they were on fire, and his eyes were so widened he thought they would pop out of his skull. He looked down at Arya, whose dark hair was wildly splayed across the grass and binded with a crown of leaves. Her stormy eyes stared at him wondering what he would do next. Her arms were pinned above her, creating a scenario in his mind that was hardly becoming, and something that he ought to pray to the Seven for their forgiveness for even imagining. Red lights quickly went off in his head.

I am sitting on top of a lady.

Without grace and without preamble, he jumped practically a mile off of her, which ended up shoving her aside on the grass. Arya looked at him curiously, completely unaware of the implications of a knight and a lady wrestling on the ground.

He looked as if he was just caught sitting on top of Willas Tyrell.

“We-we should start heading back.” He refused to look her in the eye as he readied his horse.

“I suppose so.” Arya went to ready her horse as well, but continued to stare at him. “Why are you acting so stupid?”

“You know, you shouldn’t insult people that are bigger than you.” Gendry rolled his eyes and mounted his horse.

“Then I wouldn’t be able to insult anyone.” Arya stuck out her tongue and he looked at her again and laughed. She found herself strangely comforted knowing he wasn’t angry at her. She then reminded herself that she shouldn’t care if he was or if he wasn’t.

“I’d race you back.” Gendry offered, as if winning this could fix his wounded pride. “If I win, you wouldn’t be able to insult me.”

“But I won when I got here first.” Arya frowned, remembering their first race to lose their escorts.

“But that was hardly a fair race. I didn’t even know where we were going.”

“I still won.”

“So I’ll win this time.” Gendry smiled and kicked his horse, leaving her behind to gawk. It took her a moment to realize that he was already ahead, and she kicked her horse as well, giving into the chase.


 

Arya cursed Highgarden and its stupid trees and its stupid bushes and its stupid flowers. She had forgotten at first how to get back onto the beaten path, as everything looked alike, but quickly made up for the lost ground as she raced towards the castle. She found Gendry then, not too much ahead of her. It was a close race, but he ended up arriving at the stables a second before her, leaving the servants and citizens of the castle alike ogling at the pair who raced past them.

“It appears that I won,” Gendry gloated as he dismounted his horse. He found a misplaced hat nearby, likely worn by the stable boy, and proudly placed it on his own head treating it like a crown. He looked even more stupid then.

“That wasn’t fair, I got lost.” Arya bitterly frowned down at Gendry.

“A victory is a victory.” Gendry offered her his hand, meaning to help her dismount her horse. If she had more energy she would have dismounted herself, but after eating nothing but an apple in the morn, wrestling, and racing twice, she was beat. She decided it wouldn’t hurt to let him help just this once. She would deny it ever happened later if he decided to bring it up anyways.

“Race me in Winterfell, that would be a fair race.” Arya scowled and placed her hand in his.

For whatever reason, perhaps he was still feeling the adrenaline from the race, or the victory from her letting him help, or perhaps he just wasn’t thinking, but at that moment he said the most stupid thing he could have said.

“Perhaps once we are married, we can visit Winterfell again.”

It was all fun until he suddenly reminded her of the reason why they were out together this morning, and why she was even in Highgarden. She felt as if ice water had been poured on her, and instantly regressed into the state of mind she had when he first travelled to Winterfell with the Tyrells to ask for her hand.

“I won’t marry you, and I won’t marry anyone.” Arya recited her lifelong argument as she knocked the stupid hat off his head with her free hand. She kicked her heels into her horse, which sent her dashing out of the stables, leaving Gendry staring after her, cursing his choice of words.


 

Sansa Stark walked into her sister’s temporary solar in Highgarden only to find Arya stuffing lemoncakes down her mouth as if she was bordering on starvation. Sansa’s first thought was to swipe away any lemoncakes left on the platter; Lady Margaery knew they were her favorite and so always had extra left, and Sansa suspected those were the extra left over from their morning meal. However, she was immediately startled when she looked at Arya closer. Leaves were woven into her hair as if she had been digging her head into the dirt for the past hour. Her trousers were worn through, and her tunic was soiled with grass stains and patches of dirt.

“Did you manage to ride all the way to Dorne and back?” Sansa placed her hands on her hips, instantly forgetting the reason why she seeked Arya out in the first place, and acted as Lady Catelyn might have if she lived long enough to raise the youngest daughter.

Arya ignored Sansa’s question and crossed her arms over her chest, swallowing the last supply of lemon cake.

“I’m not getting married, and I’m not leaving Winterfell.” Arya pouted, and Sansa overlooked Arya’s state of dress and manners and sat next to her little sister, offering whatever comfort she could. She knew they were both women grown; Sansa had reached marrying age long ago, and Arya was on the cusp of womanhood herself, but a little sister can age to be 100 and she would still be a little sister.

“Perhaps you won’t have to.” Sansa stroked the leaves out of her sister’s hair. Arya looked at her then, and Sansa allowed herself to smile. “Father and Robb are on their way to Highgarden; the date for my wedding to Willas is set.”