Chapter 1: The Kingsroad
Really short summary: In the road to King's Landing, the whole direwolf incident through the eyes of the eldest son of Robert Baratheon.
He found the youngest Stark girl playing "swords" with a boy, by the river. Sticks in hand, they attacked each other with little skill, but that was part of the fun. Lady Arya had some talent, though. Her blows hit the boy more than his hit her and despite his size, she had some advantage.
Before he could ask to join them (because in his mind, four-and-ten wasn't too old to play), he heard loud, angry voices in the camp. Some guards didn't have much to do, but had a lot of wine to drink, what was never a good combination. He walked to them, his presence enough to cease the fight and create silence. He called some servants and ordered them to take the wine away.
"Since you can't control your actions, you'll have no more wine until we reach King's Landing. And if I hear that any of you got into another fight, you won't reach the town!"
The guards, two Lannister men, were clearly displeased, but they nodded and bowed to their prince. Gendry walked away, back to the river to play with the kids that were not much younger than him. He wanted to forget he was prince, even for a few moments. Just play and laugh and not think that he was almost five-and-ten. He could be married in a few months.
When he found out that Lord Stark was bringing his daughters to King's Landing, he thought his father had arranged his marriage with Sansa Stark. It didn't look like that was the plan, though. The girl had an obvious preference for Joffrey, only the Gods knew why. And the youngest Stark, well, was too young. Arya couldn't be more than 10 or 11 while he was almost 15. He would be nine-and-ten when she reached proper age. No, Lord Eddard had brought her for another reason, to keep her sister company, probably. A failed mission, for what he knew. Arya and Sansa didn't seem to spend much time together.
Gendry saw Mycah, the boy who was playing with Arya, running towards him, scared like he was being chased by the Strange himself. He didn't stop next to Gendry, didn't even pay attention to him, just kept running, heading to the camp.
He was about to call him and ask what was wrong when he thought of Arya. What if she was hurt or worse? Gendry ran to the river as fast as he could thinking of what could have gone wrong. Maybe the boy was running because he had hit Arya really hard and was afraid of being punished. He tried not to think of thieves. They had guards and knights all around the camp, but maybe... He shook his head, moving his hand to his belt, trying to find the hilt of a sword that wasn't there. Damn!
Finally reaching the river, he saw what was the problem. Joffrey. Arya was on the floor and Joffrey was threatening her with his sword, but before he could do anything - like punch his idiotic brother - a direwolf attacked.
The animal bit Joffrey's wrist while Arya and Sansa yelled: Sansa, at her sister; Arya, at the wolf (Nymeria was the name). The younger girl grabbed Joffrey's sword and threw it in the river, then ran into the woods, along with the wolf.
Gendry almost went after her, but his brother's whines stopped him. He turned around and walked until Joffrey and Sansa. The girl said she would call help, got up and ran to the camp. Joffrey was holding his bleeding hand close to his chest.
"Let me see it."
"You'll hurt me."
"Don't be stupid! Let me see it!", He pulled Joffrey's arm carefully and looked at the wound. It didn't look too bad. His brother would probably carry a scar, nothing much worse than that. "You'll live. Get up, come on." He helped to get Joffrey on his feet.
"That little cunt! I'll have her whipped! I'll whip her myself! I'll kill that fucking wolf of her!"
"With what sword? The one she threw in the river? Go find Lady Sansa, you need to get this treated."
"Where are you going?"
"I need to find her. Lady Arya. She ran into the woods and might get lost."
"I'll send the guards after her." He said that with an evil smile. Gendry needed to find the girl first.
It was dark and Arya were nowhere to be found. Guards carrying torches were calling her name and getting no answer. He was hoping to find her before the Lannister guards did, but the hope was severely small by now. Maybe she already have been found, he thought. Maybe she's safe with her father and I don't know... He decided to come back.
He was sneaking out the woods, trying to avoid the Lannister men when he found the wolf. Or the wolf found him, who could know? Gendry froze, afraid to even breathe. Maybe the wolf knew where Arya were.
The animal tilted her head and just stared at him. Gendry relaxed a bit. He raised his hand slowly, trying to not startle the wolf, but Nymeria turned her head, saw the guards coming in that direction and started running, passing through Gendry and disappearing into the darkness.
He tried to convince his father, but the Queen demanded some punishment. Lady Sansa's wolf was killed to appease Joffrey's blood thirst. He hated his brother for that. Joffrey always got what he wanted. And what he always wanted was to cause harm. He was a menace to everyone!
Few days later, he was training with some guards in an improvised arena, more to get rid of the tension than to actually get better with the sword. Joffrey had been bragging about the death of the direwolf like he had hunted down some savage beast. The truth couldn't be more different: Lady was docile and had been Lord Stark the one that killed her. Fucking Joffrey! Fucking Cersei! They always win! Everything has to go their way!, he thought. He wouldn't forget easily the pain in Lady Sansa's eyes and the pure hatred in Arya's. He had apologised to Lord Stark, told him he was sorry and that his father had been unfair. Lord Eddard told him it wasn't his fault, but the king's words were final. He took those words to his heart. He would be king one day.
Joffrey showed up with his smug smile, making all the guards bow to him. Gendry knew he was about to do something really stupid, but, for the Seven, he needed to do it. Asking for another training sword, he looked at Joffrey.
"Come here." He knew the Lannister prince couldn't say no in front of the guards. He saw some of them hiding smiles when the blonde boy walked to the center of the arena. Gendry handed him a sword. "Fight me."
"It's better, I know." He stood in front of his brother, waiting. "Attack, come on!"
They started fighting, Gendry's blows getting heavier and heavier until he made Joffrey drop his sword. He threw his own sword away and grabbed his brother by the collar. The punch he gave Joffrey made the other fall on the ground, lip split. He pulled the other prince back to his feet, ignoring his crying face and shook him.
"Run, now. Run to your mother, go hide behind her skirts! Tell her who did this to you. Who gave you another scar to bear. And don't tell her any lies! Let's see if she can poison my father against me! Run! Go!" He pushed his brother, that almost tripped in his own feet in his way out. The silent in the improvised arena was palpable. The queen could demand those men's heads, accuse them of not protecting her precious son. He picked both of the training swords from the ground and handed them to the man in charge.
"Listen, all of you. What I did-"
"We won't tell, Your Grace!", said one of the guards. The others started to agree. Gendry felt a great wave of sympathy for them.
"No. The queen can turn against any of you and I won't have that. If she or the king ask you what happened here today, you'll tell exactly what happened: I punched Prince Joffrey to the ground. And I gave you all an order to stay out of this. You were obeying me by not interfering."
"But, Your Grace-"
"Didn't you hear me telling you to not interfere?"
"He heard, Your Grace", said another man. "We all did. We didn't defend prince Joffrey because you ordered us to not interfere. We were just obeying."
Gendry looked around and saw all the men nodding. He had punched Joffrey, he'd handle Queen Cersei's rage the best way he could, But he also would do anything to defend those men, innocent like Lady Sansa's wolf, from her claws.
He thanked the men and went to find his father. He would get to the king first. He'd make sure no innocent would be punished this time.
Chapter 2: First Kiss
Really short summary: But when Gendry's lips touched hers, she knew she was wrong.
Sansa was talking about her knights again. Why she thought that Arya now cared about those songs was a mistery. The stories weren't interesting when she was a kid and still weren't.
Arya was four and ten now. Maybe that was why Sansa was pestering her with stories and songs.
She knew their father had started to try to find a match for her, but nothing really official. Not like Sansa, that was betrothed to Willas Tyrell and was extremely excited about the wedding. Despite how annoying she was lately (talking about marriage all the time), Arya was happy for her. The betrothal with Joffrey had been undone by their father after a particularly unpleasant incident.
He had invited Sansa for a walk along the Kingswood. Arya, not trusting Joffrey, decided to go with them and dragged Gendry with her.
After a while, when she and Gendry were discussing the pros and cons of swords and warhammers, Joffrey took Sansa with him and tried to kiss her (though Arya suspected he had tries other things too).
She found them, pulled Joffrey away from her sister and slapped him. He slapped her back, but in the next second, Gendry punched him so hard that he fell straight to the ground.
"You'll never touch her again! None of them! And if you dare, I'll break both of your hands!" He escorted the girls back to the Tower of the Hand and after a few days, Sansa wasn't betrothed to Joffrey anymore.
Willas Tyrell was good to her and the thought of living in Highgarden made her eyes shine.
Arya sometimes wished she was more like her sister. She knew she had to marry, but she didn't want to be a wife. Her father would have to find someone who accepted her swordplay lessons, her dislike for gowns and jewelry, her general unladylike behavior. Practically a failed mission.
She had come to terms with the idea that Gendry was the match for her. He knew her, they had fun together, he used to say that he didn't care about her behavior. They were good friends. But he was a prince and would be king and Arya didn't believed she could be a queen. Queens should be graceful and beautiful and Arya wasn't any of it, though no one call her 'Arya Horseface' or 'Arya Underfoot' anymore.
Her father had asked her to behave and be polite and she was trying. She attended to dance lessons, was forcing herself to learn needlework and even had learned one or two songs. Everything to spend some time with her sister before Sansa be sent to Highgarden.
But that afternoon, Sansa had smiled to her and told her to go enjoy the day outside. She got so happy that she kissed her sister on the cheek!
Gendry found her on her way to the Godswood.
"You're not gonna sing with your sister today?"
"No. She told me to go out and enjoy the day."
"Good. 'Cause I've heard you singing and you're terrible."
"I've seen you shooting an arrow and you have to get a lot better to be considered 'terrible'."
He laughed at that.
"Fine. Let's avoid songs and arrows for now, shall we?" She nodded, smiling at him. "So, uh, did your father find you a good match?"
"I don't believe that those exist. What about you? Who are the fortunated ladies that can betroth our prince?"
He didn't like when she talked like this, like she wasn't good enough for him. He frowned.
"I was thinking of an alliance to Highgarden or to Dorne. So, Margaery Tyrell or Arianne Martell."
"I'd choose Arianne. The Dornish seem very interesting people."
"Or I could marry you!" He blurted out.
She looked at him like he suddenly had grown another head.
"You can't be serious."
"You know what everyone on court says about me. The savage Stark. You think the king will accept that?"
"Hey, not everyone mean that in a bad way."
"It is bad enough. I'm not a lady, how do you expect me to be queen?"
"I would be good for you. You could even love me... Someday..."
He looked almost uncertain. She decided not to ask why.
"I could love you. But you couldn't love me?"
"Of course I could love you."
"Still, the people would never accept me as queen. They expect queens to be beautiful and sweet."
"You are beautiful!" She scowled at him. "You are!"
"Why are you telling me all this? You don't really want me to be queen, do you?"
"What if I was just a lord, not the prince? Would you marry me then?"
She hesitated. She liked Gendry, they were good friends, what was more than many lord and ladies had before marriage. He was a good match for, she knew that. If only he wasn't a prince...
"If you were a lord, would you let me help you to rule the castle?"
"You want to rule a property?"
"My father said once that I couldn't. What do you think?"
"Do you know how to rule a castle? It's more than deal with numbers. You have to solve conflicts, defend the lands, be sure that your people has what to eat... Ask your father how much work he had in Winterfell."
"I could learn how to do all that. And if men rule, what women do? Give birth to children?"
"Well, you would have to do that..."
"Because I can't, of course! Have you heard of men having children? This is something only women can do. But I'd let you help. Rule the castle, I mean. As long as you know what to do..."
Arya fell silent for a while. Gendry looked around the Godswood and noticed that they were alone. He became strangely aware of her proximity.
"If you were just a lord, I'd marry you. But since you're not, you better marry the Dornish-" She stopped talking when he stepped closer and took her hand.
He was so tall now. She had grown up too, but not like this. He was taller, broader and stronger now at nine and ten, but she never felt in danger with him.
He took her other hand and pulled her gently closer to him.
She knew what was coming. Sansa had told about the kiss Willas had given her. When Arya listened, she vowed never let a man kiss her 'cause it sounded gross.
But when Gendry's lips touched hers, she knew she was wrong. His lips were soft and she could feel the warmth of his body. Or maybe it was her temperature that was going up.
She kissed him back, leaning against his chest, wanting to get closer. His tongue touched her lips and she nibbled at his. His hand moved to her waist. She felt heat building up in her stomach. No, lower. She bit his lip again and he moaned.
The sound brought them back to reality and they stepped away from each other. Arya glanced at Gendry and noticed he was blushing. By the heat she was feeling on her face, he knew she was too, but according to Sansa's songs, all women blushed when kissed. The singers had forgotten to mention that men could blush too.
She turned around, but he grabbed her hand, keeping her in place.
"Arya, I can't be a lord. I'm a prince and I'll be king and I'm asking you to be my queen."
"Because I like you! And if you like me too, why not?"
"Sansa told me that the Tyrells want to bring Margaery to court. They want her to marry you."
"But I want to marry you! And if you think about this, you'll see that I'm the best match for you."
"Then say yes!"
"Stop pressuring me!"
"Just think about it. If you decide you want me, I'll talk to my father and he'll talk to yours."
"Fine. Now, if you excuse me, I'll go find my father. I need to ask him what do I have to know to rule a castle."
Gendry smiled. "Your father is presiding the audiences today. Do you want to go see it?"
She nodded and accepted the arm he offered her. Gendry is so silly sometimes. But she liked him just like that.
Chapter 3: Yes
Really short summary: By all means, Gendry was more powerful than her and yet he was the one pleading.
She knew about the commentaries. She heard the whispers, noticed the eyes glancing at her direction. The savage Stark. Savage as the North.
She didn't care, though. If much, the insult made her feel proud. The North was savage, yes. And hard and strong. And she was the North.
Margaery, on the other hand, looked soft and delicate as a flower. The preference of all ladies and almost all lords in court for her was obvious. Margaery was funny, gentle and polite while Arya wasted her time trying to be a man. She had heard that once. But they were wrong. She didn't want to be a man, she just had more fun with a sword in hand than with a needle. Her father understood and respected that.
But the ladies in court disapproved. They had made up their minds and decided that Margaery would be a better match for Gendry than Arya. She would be a better queen.
Arya had talked to Margaery only once, but they were surrounded by other ladies, so she couldn't really be sure of what kind of person Margaery was. But one thing she knew instinctively: Margaery wasn't helpless at all. She could be a rose, but all roses had thorns.
"Have you talked to Margaery?" Gendry asked her after the water dance lessons.
"Yes. And no. She talked, I talked, but we didn't actually say anything. She intrigues me. I don't know if she's a good person or if she's just good in pretending..."
"See with your eyes, child. Keep them open and Lions or Flowers won't be a problem for you."
She smiled at Syrio as he made a curtsy and left her and Gendry alone. This wasn't an issue anymore. Sometimes, she or he would steal a kiss, but nothing else. What they would do more was talk. Gendry had started to attend to the small council meetings and liked to share his ideas and discuss the political matters with her. She was a fast learner and the debates were interesting. Sometimes, they had completely opposite point of views. But after much talk, they both would give in in something, and would come to a satisfactory conclusion for both of them.
"Things will get more complicated now. With another potential bride, my father will pressure me to choose."
"And you will pressure me to say 'yes'."
He sighed. "I'm worried about you."
"The Tyrells want Margaery to be queen and you are in her way."
"You think they can try something against me?"
"I grew up in court. I've learned that, here, no one can be trusted. You'll have to be careful."
She nodded and fell silent for a moment. She didn't look at him when she spoke again. "She's perfect. She's so much better than me at these court games... She has everything it's needed-"
"She doesn't have everything. Because the thing she wants the most it's already yours." He held her chin and kissed her softly. She gave him a half-smile.
"Stop that. We're having a serious conversation."
He looked away and nodded, a small smile on his lips. "Right. There is something else, a thought that crossed my mind last night."
"What is it?"
"Margaery wants to marry a prince. But it doesn't have to be me. Joffrey has a pretension to the throne until I have a son."
"But trying something against you would be too obvious..."
"And since when my brother is famous for his intelligence? Now, his mother is a complete different story."
"You believe she can plot with the Tyrells to make Joffrey king? This is treason, it's madness!"
"It's a possibility, Arya. You said Margaery is better in the court game. It's simple to be good in this game. You just have to be a good liar. It's not something one should be proud of. No one can be trusted around here."
"I know. You are different from them."
"And that's a bad thing!" She got up and started pacing. "Can't you see? Everyone already loves her. You'll end up finding opposition for marrying me. You have to do what's best for the kingdom."
"Why do you think she's the best? She's seeking power just like Cersei for what I know!" He got up as well. "None of them needs me, Arya. They just need the crown I can give them. If I marry her, they can plot to get rid of me as soon as my son is born. And she can rule as Queen Regent until the child comes to proper age."
"You don't know that. She can like you. She can come to love you!"
"But I won't love her!" They were screaming at each other's faces now.
"How do you know?"
He walked up to her and took her face in his hands. "Because I love you!"
"Is a flower! And when winter comes, the flowers fade. But wolves... They resist because they're made for the winter."
She started the kiss that time, pulling him down to her by his neck. He pulled her closer until their chests were touching, not caring that she was sweaty from her water dance lessons. There was desperation in the kiss. Real and deep need. Gendry felt her already familiar bites on his lips and pushed her against a wall, pressing his body against hers. She didn't protest. On the contrary, she almost climbed him, wanting to have him close, closer.
When they broke the kiss, he let his forehead rest against hers. When he talked, he was breathless.
"Please, Arya. I don't want them, their lies and deceit around me. I want to be a good king, I want to do what's right and you can help me. I want you with me!"
He would be king of the Seven Kingdoms one day. He was older, stronger and taller than her. And he was a man. By all means, Gendry was more powerful than her and yet he was the one pleading. To her, that had never been good enough: not beautiful enough, not polite enough, not talented enough.
But not to him. She didn't act different around him, Gendry was the one that thought differently. He'd see strenght and courage where the others saw savagery. And he was right. Because she was the North. And the North was hard and strong.
She whispered the word against his lips, that single word he wanted to hear so much.
She wasn't scared of flowers and lions. Wolves were better prepared to face the winter. And Winter was coming.
Chapter 4: The idea
Really short summary: She kept attacking until take him out of balance and he fell to the ground. She had a knife at his neck in the next second.
Margaery had invited Arya to join her and her cousins in the solar. They were all singing and embroidering and eating cakes. The place was filled with music and laughter and Arya wished she could throw herself from a tower.
They are so annoying, she thought each five seconds, schooling her face to not let her feelings pass. She could feel Margaery's eyes on her all the time, even when the Tyrell wasn't looking at her. Someone else was. Always. All those cousins worked like extra eyes and Arya knew everytime she bit a lemon cake, someone was watching.
But she wouldn't be intimidated by flowers. Roses could have thorns, but wolves had claws and hers were specially sharp.
Margaery treated her better than the other ladies. She smiled and asked Arya questions about her general knowledge of weaponry, actually paying attention on the answers. Arya asked her about Highgarden, trying to imagine Sansa in the beautiful places Margaery described.
The betrothal between Gendry and her had been announced a week before. Arya would never forget the look on Cersei's face. But Joffrey's expression had been even better. The pure hatred in his eyes when he looked at her made her smile. Gendry's marriage would put a bigger distance between Joffrey and the Iron Throne and the fact that she, Arya Stark, that girl whose wolf had given him a scar, that girl that had threw his sword in a river was going to be his queen filled Joffrey's green eyes with fury.
Now, the Tyrells wanted to arrange a marriage between Margaery and Joffrey. Gendry's words still in her head, she felt like the invitation was a perfect opportunity to watch her better. See with your eyes. Arya needed to see her, to know her. That was the only way to find out what she was capable of.
But she got nothing. Hours of that torment, of boring conversations, annoying songs, badly disguised disdain and she couldn't figure out Margaery Tyrell. The girl wasn't innocent, that Arya was sure of. But she was really good in pretend she was.
A call from the door caught the attention of all ladies and Arya turned to see Jory Cassel.
"Lady Stark, your father wishes to see you."
Arya remembered the courtesies almost too late, but she excused herself and followed Jory outside the solar.
"What my father wants with me?"
Jory smiled. "Nothing, I just thought you could use your time in more pleasant activities." He handed her Needle in its sheath and she smiled at him, thankful, while taking the sword.
"Thank you, Jory! I was going crazy with them."
"Why did you accept the invitation, then?"
"I wanted to see something."
"And did you?"
"No. Or maybe yes. I saw something but I don't know what it was."
"What exactly you were looking for?"
Arya didn't want to talk about Gendry's suspicions, so she lied.
"A way to make people like me."
Jory laughed at her and she frowned.
"I wouldn't like to bring Gendry problems for marrying me."
"Then you'll have to win their affection in a different way."
"Your way. Why do you think the people like Lady Tyrell?"
"Because she's a lady. And I'm not."
"But there are other things that people love. Courage, bravery. Things you have."
"Things that don't matter in court."
"Things the people care about. They need to know that their leaders are strong, that they can fight for them, defend them. Show them how strong you are."
"How? You want me to best every knight in the kingdom?"
"Well, we will have a tourney for the Pince name day."
"You're not suggesting-"
"I'm not suggesting anything you haven't thought of, am I?"
Arya chewed her bottom lip. "I don't have an armour."
"And you're gonna need a new sword. This one won't last in a tourney." He smiled and she felt like she was a child again, back in Winterfell with Jory keeping secret of her whereabouts when Septa Mordane called her to her lessons.
"But I'm trying to be a lady, Jory!"
"And how's that working for you?" She looked down, but he put a hand on her shoulder, comforting her. "You sit with them, trying to mingle but you really want to be accept by them? Befriend them?"
"Then bring them to your board to play your game. Show them that you can't be fooled. If you best all the knights in the tourney, not only the people will see you as their warrior queen. These flowers and lions will see it as well."
And so she trained. All time she had, she was with Syrio or Jory or even Gendry, though he didn't know why she was practicing so much.
The first time they fought, he didn't put much strenght in his blows, evading more than actually trying to hit her. Angry and frustrated, she threw the wooden sword at him.
"Fight me! I'm not gonna break!"
"I don't want to hurt you."
"You won't! Because I can defend myself. But I can't show you unless you really attack me."
Gendry sighed and looked at Syrio, that only nodded, with a small smile, like giving him permission to use real strenght.
"Fine, Arya. But if I hurt you, I will never fight you again. These are my terms."
"Oh, if I get hurt, you won't fight again? You don't make sense, Gendry."
"You know what I mean." He threw her the wooden sword and assumed a fight posture.
Arya noticed the subtle changes. His face was serious, not a single hint of smile visible. His eyes focused on her, ready to read and respond to each move.
They started dancing. She moved faster than him, but his attacks were harder. Each time their swords meet, she felt the force of the blow running through her arm.
But she resisted and the dance lasted. Gendry was learning to predict her moves, he was truly seeing her, like Syrio would say. But she could see him too. His defense wasn't perfect and she could explore the gaps.
The dance changed. Her speed made his strenght useless and soon a particular hard blow from her disarmed him. She kept attacking until take him out of balance and he fell to the ground. She had a knife at his neck in the next second.
They were both breathless and her face was right above his. Their smiles showed up at the same time but before she could yank his head up to kiss him, Syrio started clapping and brought them back to reality.
"Very well done, girl."
She got up and helped him to do the same. "I want you to bring your warhammer next time."
"No. It's too dangerous. You would have to be wearing a full armor for me to even think of using it. Maybe not even with armor."
"I never saw you fighting with it..."
Something in her tone moved him.
"I'll be training in the yard with the guards... For the tourney. You can come to see me. But don't ask me to use my warhammer against you. I won't do this."
Arya sighed. "Well, I guess I'll have to just watch, then..."
He smiled at her. "If you come to watch me, I'll defeat all guards and knights! At the training yard and in the tourney!"
"Let me guess. You'll make me Queen of Love and Beauty?"
"I can give the flowers to someone else if it pleases you, Milady." She glared at him. "I could give them to Lady Margaery."
She hit him with the training sword and he laughed. "Wouldn't that be scandalous? You are betrothed to me and she can marry your brother..."
He laughed again. "What's court without a good scandal?"
She chuckled. After a few moments of silence, he noticed she was chewing her bottom lip.
"What is it?" She looked at him with an interrogative expression. "You want to say something, I know you. Say it before you eat you whole lip."
She didn't meet his eyes when she asked the question. "Would you really choose Margaery as your Queen of Love and Beauty?"
He looked at her, incredulous. She was still biting her lip. "Of course not! I'd first give the flowers to Joffrey."
But she didn't laugh. "I'm serious."
He sighed and smiled at her. Her braid was partially undone, she was sweaty and dirty and beautiful. And insecure.
"You'll be my Queen of Love and Beauty, Arya. You already are."
She rolled her eyes at that. "You'll have to best everyone..."
"Are you going to watch me?"
"I'll definitely be watching you." Like all the other contestants. And I'll have to defeat you.
"Then I'll win."
"Champion of your own tourney? Predictable. Maybe some mysterious knight show up to take all the glory."
He frowned. "What people will think of me if I lose my own tourney to an anonymous contestant?"
She bit her lip again. "Whoever beat you in the arena, will be loved. A lot of people wants this... Don't take it personal."
The look he gave her was filled with suspicion but he said nothing.
"Your father will preside the audiences again today. Wanna go watch it?"
"I can't, I have my lessons. Some Targaryen kings were very interesting. Others, not so much. But I want to know all the history."
He nodded and smiled and pulled her close to a kiss, but she put a hand on his chest, stopping him.
She sniffed at him. "You should go bathe before showing up at the audiences, Your Grace."
"Oh, because you're smelling like roses right now!"
"Ladies smell like flowers..."
"Sweaty ladies smell like men. Guess which one you are."
She laughed and gave him a quick peck on the lips. "See you later, Your Grace."
"See you later, Milady."
While he watched her walk away, he promised himself that no one would best him in the tourney and he would make Arya be his Queen of Love and Beauty.
Chapter 5: Godswood
Really short summary: "If you wait for my friends to take off your clothes, you'll be undressed by Jory Cassel and Edric Dayne. Wouldn't this be a interesting change in the tradition?"
He walked in the Godswood and saw her lying on the grass, eyes closed. She wasn't wearing men's clothes. Instead, she was getting a beautiful light blue gown all stained and dirty. He watched as she dragged her bare feet on the ground, her shoes kicked aside. Her hair was sprawled around her head and Gendry felt his fingers itching to touch it.
She was so beautiful. He could tell her that everyday, but she wouldn't believe. She was convinced that all the other maidens were fairer than her. Silly. The others were beautiful, yes, but Arya was special. She was different and interesting while the other ladies were plain and boring.
He might have made some sound, because she opened her eyes and looked straight at him.
She chuckled. "Hi."
"You act like you don't know me, sometimes. Come here."
He walked to her and sat on the ground. She scowled at him and he lay down beside her.
"If this is how you pray for the Old Gods, I might abandon the Seven..."
"I'm not praying. I'm just... enjoying. It's peaceful here. We can hear the wind."
"It reminds you of Winterfell." She nodded. "Your Godswood is different from this?"
"It's bigger. And we have a hot spring. My father used to sit by the heart tree to sharpen Ice, our greatsword."
"You miss it."
"It's my home."
"You want to go back to Winterfell?"
She smiled at him. "You're confused again, Gendry. How can I go back if I'm going to marry you? You want to rule the Seven Kingdoms from the North?"
"You're mocking me."
"You make it easy... I miss Winterfell and my family. I want to go visit them but I know I can't live there again. I always knew."
"Yes. Women are not supposed to stay home. That's a privilege for the oldest son, not for a daughter."
He took her hand.
"It's not your fault."
"Things are different in Dorne... Women can inherit there."
"They might be smarter than the rest of us. You should have chosen Arianne Martell, like I told you to.", she said, smiling.
He rolled closer to her, his body partially on top of hers. "We're not having this discussion again." He kissed her, loving the sensation of one of her hands buried in his hair and the other scratching the back of his neck. This was so easy, so comfortable. It felt natural to him kiss her, touch her. And the way she kissed him back, nibbling at his lips, scratching his neck or his arms showed him that her feelings were the same as his. There was always so much passion between them that was hard to keep himself under control. And of course Arya would never back down. Competitive as she was, she wouldn't be the first to break the kisses.
He pulled away and rest his forehead against hers.
"Gendry? I need to ask you something."
"What is it?"
"On our wedding night, I don't want to take part on the bedding ceremony."
"I don't want strange men ripping off my clothes and dragging me to the bedroom!"
"Oh, right!", he sighed, relieved.
"You thought I was talking about lying with you?"
The bright red that covered his cheeks was answer enough.
"Why don't you want the bedding ceremony?"
"Because it's humiliating and it doesn't make any sense to me! I was told my whole life that my body was to be seen only for my husband. Yet, a handful of drunk men undresses me in front of everyone and there's nothing wrong because it's traditional? Nonsense! And you know what else is completely abnormal? The husband. How can he not be bothered by the fact that other men, his friends maybe, are seeing his wife almost naked? It's madness."
"Wow, I had no idea that you felt that way..."
"Be honest. Would you like to see your friends undressing me?"
She said 'friends', but all he could think about was Edric Dayne, a rookie knight that had been esquire to Sir Berric Dondarrion. He kept following Arya around like a lost puppy. Edric would be invited to the feast, everyone would be. He would be there when the time to take them to the bed came. He would see Arya... Gendry closed his hands in fists at the thought. "No, I wouldn't like this."
"Good. Because if anyone tries to take off my clothes, I'll attack."
"I'm assuming that you don't want me to take part on the ceremony too..."
She looked away, what was a hard task since they were so close. "I can't choose for you. If you want a bunch of strangers to take off your clothes...", she shrugged.
"Be honest. Would you like to see your friends undressing me?" He laughed at the her scowl.
"If you wait for my friends to take off your clothes, you'll be undressed by Jory Cassel and Edric Dayne. Wouldn't this be a interesting change in the tradition?"
He rolled off her after that. "You're not funny!". He sat up, not looking at her.
After a while, she called his name and he looked at her, an annoyed expression on his face.
"I don't want you to be undressed by other women." Something shone in her eyes. Anger? Maybe jealousy?
"And I don't want anyone but me touching you."
"Then what are we going to do? Run when they announce it's time to take us to bed?"
"We can sneak out very discretely..."
"I can pretend I need to go get something and you follow me..." She pulled him to her by his hands.
"We'll think of something. I can always order them to not touch you. I'm the prince, after all. They have to obey me." She chuckled. He touched a strand of her hair. "You are beautiful."
This time she didn't scowled at him or rolled her eyes or scoffed. She just blushed lightly and looked away, a small, shy smile in her lips. And he knew that, for the first time, she had believed in him.
He kissed her gently, hands on her waist, his tongue touching hers. This shouldn't feel different 'cause it was just another kiss and he had lost count of how many kisses they had shared. But here, in the Godswood, lying on the grass with the wind whispering through the leaves above them, it was. This was Arya. More than the training yard, this place, the nature, the freedom, it was all about her.
He sucked her earlobe and she gasped softly in his ear. She moved a little and he noticed she was pressing her thighs closed. His hand descend upon her skin, resting on her hip and he pulled the fabric of her dress up a bit.
"What are you doing?" She was a little breathless and he smiled.
"I want to make you feel good."
"But we can't. Not yet."
"Your maidenhead will be intact, I promise." She blushed furiously at his words. "I won't even touch your skin."
"What are you gonna touch then?"
His time to blush. "Under your skirt, but over your smallclothes. You're pressing your legs together because it feels good, right? I can make it better."
"I'll show you." He tugged at her dress again, like asking permission to lift it.
She swallowed but set her knees apart just a bit and pulled her dress up until the middle of her thighs. Gendry kissed her again until she relax and start running her nails against his skin. He touched her softly, just with his fingertips, attentive to any sign of discomfort.
She moved her hips and his fingers brushed against the sensitive skin between her legs. Even through the fabric of her smallclothes, the touch was enough to make Arya gasp. He kissed her to muffle the noise and kept moving his fingers, slowly, insistently, discovering her.
He lost track of time. All that mattered was Arya, her eyes wide open, the soft noises that escaped her mouth. She was warm and wet and all he wanted was lose himself inside her. But they couldn't, not yet. And this was only for her pleasure, not for his. Though seeing her underneath him, the erotic sight she was, was sending all his blood to his groin.
He could feel she was close by the way she was pulling his hair, the friction of the fabric against her skin making her moan and claw his arm. He tried to slow down, to make it last for her but Arya was impatient. She let her head fall and pulled him to her, whispering against his lips: "Please."
His touch became more urgent and she became louder. Anyone could hear them, so Gendry needed to finish this soon. He leaned to kiss her again, but she sank her teeth into his shoulder to stop screaming and came.
He pulled his hand out slowly and fixed her dress, lying beside her.
"So what?", she was breathless and he smiled.
"It was good?"
"I never had any experience like this to compare, so I don't know..."
"Oh, stop that! Admit you liked." She nodded, unwillingly. "Sore loser." He chuckled.
She pushed him and he fell on his back, still laughing. She sat up and noticed the bulge in his pants.
"I can make you feel good too. In fact," she brushed her fingertips over his clothed erection. "I think I can make you feel good faster than you did."
"Not everything is a competition, Arya."
"So, you don't want?", she raised her eyebrows.
"Are you going to do this for me of or yourself? To prove you can win?"
She smiled and leaned down to kiss him, her hand resting on his thigh. "I want to do this for you, like you did for me. Now, if you could stop being stupid and show me what I have to do..."
And later, when she had him throwing his head back and biting his bottom lip to not scream, he knew that she had won again. But only for that moment, that didn't matter at all.
Chapter 6: The Queen of Love and Beauty
It's past midnight, so I probably let something (a lot of things) pass and I'm sorry. =/
Really short summary: The light, the fresh air, his voice, the loud roaring of the crowd came into her senses, smothering her.
She took a deep breath while Jory finished to adjust her armour. It was normal to be nervous, he had said to her, but Arya felt like she was about to pass out. Her hands were trembling, she would end up dropping her sword before the fights start. She would embarass herself in front of everyone and give those lady bitches more reasons to laugh at her and think she was inadequate! She was going to ruin everything!
"Arya! I'm talking to you!" Jory's voice and the snap of his fingers in front of her face brought her back to reality.
"You need to focus now, girl." He leaned down a bit, so he was looking in her eyes (Arya was surprised to notice that they had almost the same height now).
She swallowed, closing her hands in fists. "I'm nervous."
"You can do this, Lady Stark. I wouldn't send you there if I didn't believe it."
"They're all bigger than me...'
"And slower. And a bunch of them is so drunk that they'll probably be holding a cup of wine instead of a sword. Don't go to the middle of the arena at first. Watch them, let the drunks for the others, don't waste your energy on them. There'll be rookie knights fighting today and they're always eager to prove themselves. They will fight with all their strenght right at the beginning. You know what happens next?"
"They get tired first?"
"Exactly. But you know better."
She nodded. Syrio had told her something like that. Save your energy for the latest fights, the true opponents will be the last ones standing. She would keep the advice in mind.
"Stay away from your prince until there's no one else to fight against. Don't attract his attention. He can't know he's fighting you."
She nodded again. Gendry would probably yell at everyone to stop fighting if he found out she was in the arena. No, she would have to remain anonymous until the end.
Arya wasn't sure of how he would react. Or her father or the king. Her betrothal could be ended in the moment she took off her helmet. Gendry could never look at her again. The King could order her to be sent away, back to Winterfell! She would lose the only good match for her!
She shook her head, sending those thoughts away. It wasn't time for pessimism. Not now when Jory handed her the new sword and she could hear the crowd cheering as the contestants entered the arena.
How can anyone fight with a helmet on?, she thought as she dodged from an opponent that was probably twice her size. It was so hard to see with that thing, all she wanted was to take it off and threw it at someone's head.
Arya had tried to do what Jory had told her, stood aside and watch, but some knights had other ideas. She was easily the smallest of all the competitors, so everyone decided to try their hands at her first. Two had already seen that size didn't matter and the third was in his way to it. A spin and a quick move of her wrist were all she needed to put the big knight to the ground.
It wasn't easy. Not that she was expecting it to be. She got too close to a defeat several times and her legs were starting to hurt. One less standing., she thought each time someone fell to ground.
She looked around the now silent arena to see Brienne of Tarth defeating Loras Tyrell. She was close to victory now, she just had to defeat Gendry or Brienne, two of the strongest contestants (unless they decided to fight her first).
But Brienne was already moving towards Gendry and she just watched, secretly cheering for him. The crowd was obviously on his side and Arya almost moved to attack Brienne when she disarmed Gendry. But he was quicker than she thought he was, and the way he dodged Brienne's attack and dove to retrieve his weapon looked too much like a move of her water dance. She smiled. No one would see it under the helmet anyway.
The warhammer looked like a really inconvenient weapon for her. Swing that thing in a useful way in a fight seemed impossible, but she had seen him using it on his training sessions. Gendry was much stronger than she thought at first. He could make the heavy hammer look almost graceful while knocked opponents out with just one blow. The weapon was like part of his arm, swinging and spinning in a beautiful and deadly way. She watched while he blocked Brienne's shield and hit her on the chest, making her fall on the ground. He used her own sword to make her yield.
She looked from the crowd to where the court was sitting. Everyone was roaring or clapping (except for Joffrey and the Queen). Gendry helped Brienne to stand and bowed politely to her. When she was out of the arena, he turned and looked directly at her, his head cocking lightly to the side, like he hadn't noticed the small unknown knight.
Arya's grip on the sword tightened. It's time, she thought.
Gendry was tired. All he wanted was to take off his armour and rest. When Brienne of Tarth yielded, he thought it was over, that he was the champion of his tourney. The cheering crowd did nothing to correct him. But he was wrong. There was another knight to defeat, a small man with no sigil visible on his armour. A mysterious knight... Great.
He saw how the little man's grip on the sword tightened. He was ready. And so I am., he thought, charging forward.
He was surprisingly good. His attacks aimed for the gaps on Gendry's defense and he wasn't too quick to effectively cover them. If he doesn't knew better, he would say he was fighting Arya.
He stopped mid-step and turned quickly to the where the court was sitting, his sudden move taking him out of the reach of the other fighter's sword. He saw his father, Queen Cersei, Joffrey, Ned Stark, Margaery and her cousins and other lords and ladies he didn't bother remember the names. Arya wasn't there. He turned back slowly, raising his arm almost too late to stop his sword. Hers.
He slowed down his rhythm, suddenly afraid of hitting her. Him. He wasn't sure. Arya was not watching, but she could be somewhere else. But she promised to come.
He needed to know. And there was only way. If the tiny knight was Arya, she would show herself. He just had to bide his time.
The fight lasted. Like in their first training session, he was merely blocking her attacks and noticed how they became more angry, less controlled.
They were really close to each other and he tried to see something through the opening of her helmet.
The stillness was answer enough. He was about to drop his warhammer when he heard her whispering back to him, in an urgent, angry voice.
"Fight me! Let me do this!"
She looked around quickly.
"Because a queen can do so much more than just smile and eat cakes! And that's all they want from me! Help me show them that I can be more, that I can do more!"
He stood there for so long that the crowd started to boo. Then moved so quickly that she almost hadn't time to raise her shield, the impact of his hit running up her arm. She smiled despite the pain. Gendry was giving her what she asked for, a real fight.
Soon, the crowd started cheering again. The combat was hard for both of them, they knew each other too well to not predict exactly how the next blow would come.
The fight went on. Arya wasn't sure of how long she could last. He was tired too, it was easy to notice, but neither of them wanted to be the first to break.
He used his shield to break her guard and pushed her to the ground, her sword falling away from her reach, but she rolled away and hit him in the head with her shield. His moment of disorientation was enough for her to trip him and throw his hammer away. She knelt over him, opening his helmet and holding a knife against his face. She saw his lips moving, but her blood was pumping in her ears and Arya couldn't hear him.
Her breath was shallow and quick and she noticed her hands were shaking. Gendry was holding her hand, pushing it gently away from his face, but she pressed back. The helmet felt heavy and too tight around her head and the air was coming hot, heavy.
Gendry's hand was in front of her face and she crane her neck, trying to escape him, but he was merely opening her helmet.
"Breathe! It's over, you've won."
The light, the fresh air, his voice, the loud roaring of the crowd came into her senses, smothering her.
I've won... I've won!. She let go of the knife and smiled at him. Arya felt about to pass out. Gendry hold her by her arms and steadied her.
"Breathe." he removed her helmet, her long braid falling over her shoulder. "Can you stand?"
She nodded and raised. The first person she saw was her father. He didn't look angry. If anything, he was proud, clapping, like the other lords and ladies, like the King, like the crowd, the other knights, everyone. They're applauding me. The realisation seemed to run through her veins, warming her.
She retrieved her sword and raised it, what made the roar of the peasants grow louder. Gendry held her other hand and raised his warhammer, the handle crossed with Arya's sword.
"Your champion and my bride, Lady Arya Stark of Winterfell!"
The noise became thunderous. People were throwing flowers at them, at her.
King Robert called her name and she turned. He was holding a crown of flowers.
"As the champion, you must choose someone to be the Queen of Love and Beauty."
Arya took the flowers and looked at the King. There were only amusement in his blue eyes. She knew Robert never hid his feelings, if her behaviour had made him angry, he would yell at her right there, in front of everyone. But he was smiling approvingly, like he was ready to pat her back.
Queen Cersei and Joffrey were obviously completely different stories. The disdain, the disgust in their faces made her smile.
"As a tradition, the champion chooses his betrothed as Queen of Love and Beauty. It would be a good consolation prize for my brother.", said Joffrey.
"Gendry will be king after his father. He doesn't need this crown. Should I give it to someone who is craving one?" She smiled at him, feeling more daring than never.
Joffrey's expression would never fail to make her laugh.
She walked closer to the crowd, undoing the crown, separating the flowers.
"We're all loved and beautiful today." She put one rose in her braid and threw the others to the audience. "Today, we're all queens!"
She curtsied to them and watch as they returned the gesture. She noticed a little girl on a man's shoulder, carefully holding one of the roses, a big smile on her face.
Gendry was at her side and held her hand again. She looked down and noticed how strange their hands, still covered in armour, seemed when joined. She pulled away to take off the metal gloves. Gendry did the same. When their hands joined again, it seemed familiar, comfortable, right. But not so right as when their lips touched and the crowd roared.