Gendry couldn't sleep.
Most days he would hammer away in the forge until he could barely lift his arms, even then sleep would not come easily. Tonight there was no hope. His mind was a chaotic mess, playing over and over again what had happened this afternoon. He closed his eyes and watched it all unfold once more. His heart beat so hard in his chest, like a hammer upon steel, it wouldn't have surprised him in the least if it suddenly burst from his chest and landed in his lap. She's alive.
Arya had paid to have a room to herself at the inn. Gendry wondered where she got the money, as he left the warmth of his cot in the forge. He tried to convince himself that he needed to see she was safe. Not only did she obviously have money, something the remaining members of the Brotherhood would have noted, but she was just as clearly no longer the boyish child she was when they'd last seen her. She was a woman grown.
The grass was cold and wet underfoot, why hadn't I thought to put my boots on? He made his way pass the stable, briefly noting the horse Arya had rode in on was also awake, what was it's name again? He would ask her. He thought perhaps the horse was awake thinking of it's owner, like he was. He shook his head, he wasn't thinking of her, just checking that none of the men at the inn had been stupid enough to attempt stealing into her room. He hastened his pace at the thought, his jaw clenched painfully as he imagined beating to a pulp any man who would lay a hand on his friend. His friend. Were they still friends? It had been five years, would she still blame him for wanting to join the Brotherhood? For wanting to make something of himself? He supposed she might, he still blamed himself for not finding her when she ran. The Hound did. He'd worry about that later, there were already too many questions tormenting his mind right now.
The front door to the inn wasn't locked, about a dozen men slept on the common room floor of a night, and would make frequent trips to the trees outside for a piss after all they'd drunk at supper. He silently thanked the last one for forgetting to lock the door on his return. Gendry crept around an assortment of cloaks, blankets and limbs, careful not to wake anyone on his way to the stairs. Gods help him if he were caught sneaking up to Arya's room, he'd never live it down. The stairs were sturdy, and thankfully didn't creak or groan under his considerable weight. Now one and twenty, Gendry stood head and shoulders above most men.
Arya's room was the second door on the left. His eyes followed her at supper from his place at the hearth when she retired for the night. Now that he was at her door he realised he hadn't planned what to do next. There were no noises coming from inside, no scuffle. Deep down he knew that even if anyone had been stupid enough to sneak up on her, she'd be more than capable of protecting herself. Apart from noticing how her dark brown hair fell in waves down her back now, and that her storm grey eyes were no longer set in the drawn face she had as a child, but in the sharp, graceful face of a woman. He'd also noticed the lean strength in the line of her arms, marked here and there with old scars, she's fought hard to stay alive all these years. It made him feel both proud and terribly sad.
She was taller, but not so tall as he. The top of her head reached his chest when he caught sight of her this afternoon, and drew her in for what must have been a rib crushing embrace. He smiled to himself, at the memory. Gendry felt the weight lift from his shoulders. His head was no longer a jumble, all that remained was the sight of Arya rounding the corner of the forge on her horse. He slid down to sit on the floor in her doorway, legs stretched out across the hall, leaning his head on the door frame. He felt at ease, sleepy even. He'd been hammering away at a breastplate, sweat beading on his face, arms and bare chest, when he glimpsed the horse and rider outside the doorway. She looked so different, and at the same time so much the same. Gendry knew at once it was Arya. He had imagined her over the years, picturing what she would look like had she grown up, always shutting down the thought, heartbroken and ashamed at being unable to save her. Until that very moment, he had long thought her dead and thinking otherwise hurt just as much. But, as she came off that horse and looked straight into him, he knew he wasn't imagining her. Laying his hammer down upon the anvil, Gendry walked around the workbench toward her. She didn't move to meet him halfway, she didn't stop him as he wrapped his sweaty arms around her either. Gods, I probably stank. "Arya." He breathed, tucking her head into his hand and under his chin. She was flesh and blood. She was real. She was alive.
He drew in a contented breath, remembering the smell of grass and pine leaves in her hair, and her warmth as he held her in his arms. Somewhere in the dark with Arya safe in the room behind him, Gendry fell asleep.