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Really short summary: Arya and Gendry talk about their feelings. Or almost that.

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Gendry was tired of running after her like a lovesick puppy. He was lovesick, but what's the point of loving and not being loved? He thought she would feel the same way, so he stuck around and waited. And waited. And waited. She didn't feel the same way. For her, he was a friend. Her best friend. And she wouldn't date a friend. Or kiss a friend. Or fall in love with a fucking friend. But he was stupid enough to wait and hope. But not anymore.

He looked around for the first time since he realized his feelings for her. Looked to see that she wasn't the only girl in the world. He could find love somewhere else. So he went after it.

It wasn't easy. Many dates, many different faces, some quite nice conversation, many more that were too terrible to even remember. It was hard to find love. Yet, loving her had been so easy.

-------

She noticed the dates. He was never available for their usual programs now: some Karate training or fencing practicing... He was always well shaved and stopped wearing his old hoodies and jeans. She asked why. "I want to look nice for the ladies.", he answered with a shrug. She called him stupid for that. "They have to like you for what you are!", she replied. He smiled that smiled she hated, the one that meant 'I'm older and wiser than you, child' and answered "They don't know me, Arya. They will have to like me for my looks at first."

"Why do you want to find a girlfriend, anyway? You never had one."

"That's not true! I dated Jeyne Heddle for 2 years."

"And that was 3 years ago! She broke up with you... What happened?"

I fell in love with you and she noticed, he thought. "It didn't work out."

"Then why keep trying?"

"Why not? Being in love makes me feel good. Happy, hopeful... Well, when it's not making me want to kill myself.", he smiled her favorite smile, the one that made his blue eyes shine.

"You talk like someone who's already in love.", she mocked.

He looked embarassed for half of a second.

"No, I just... remember how it was."

"Jeyne got you really good, huh?", she nudged him, smiling. "I didn't know you liked her so much... I'm sorry you're not together anymore."

He shaked his head, smiling. "It's okay. Love comes, love goes, love comes again." He looked at her, uncertain if he should ask the question that was at the tip of his tongue. He almost decided not to, but they were friends, right? "What about you? Why did you never have a boyfriend?"

She considered the question for so long that he was surprised when she answered; he wasn't expecting it.

"I loved a guy once. I felt exactly what you said: happy, hopeful, a complete sap.", he chuckled. "But like you and Jeyne, it didn't work."

"You never told me this. Who was this guy, what happened?"

"He was dating someone else. I never told him. Why should I? He was happy..."

"Do I know this guy? What's his name?"

"It doesn't matter now."

They fall silent for a minute or two. He spoke first.

"You still like him?"

"I don't know. Sometimes, I think I do."

He never had felt jealousy before. At least, not that much of it. Arya had loved someone once. Some guy he could know, someone he could be a friend of! He clenched his fists and jaw, his breath getting heavy, when she called his name.

"Gendry, what's wrong?"

The worst wasn't his selfish feelings, though. She had loved someone and, much like himself, never could really enjoy it. Arya always seemed to not need anyone and the only time she could have needed someone (the mysterious guy), she was left alone.

"Gendry, what the hell? Talk to me!". She grabbed his arm and shook him. He came back to Earth after that.

"Sorry. I was... Nevermind. I'm sorry things didn't work out between you and this guy."

She smiled his favorite smile: that one that made her look acessible, so different from the independent, almost untouchable person she was for everyone else. Everyone else but him. That smile was just for him.

And for a second, instead of jealousy, he felt sorry for the mysterious guy; he would never had her smiling like this for him.

And suddenly, everything felt right again. They were best friends and he was happy for it. She seemed happy for it too. Everything was right.

But there was just one more question he needed to ask.

"What happened to the guy you liked?". He didn't say 'loved' on purpose.

She smiled his secret smile and started walking. A few steps later and without looking back, she answered:

"He became my best friend."

Chapter Text

Really short summary: She would never understand why he liked that so much.

 

-------

Her smile died when she saw what he was wearing. That yellow hoodie. The one with a giant stag on the back. Under that, an ordinary black shirt she'd have seen in him at least a thousand times. Old jeans and even older black Converses completed his look. Now, Arya wasn't vain. She never cared about how people look, that was a Sansa thing. But after seeing him dress up to those dates, she was a bit disappointed.

"What?"

"It's the first time you come to my house in weeks and that's what you wear?", she rolled her eyes and moved from the door, so he could enter the apartment.

"I didn't know your house had a new dress code...", he smirked, sitting on the couch and opening his backpack. "I brought the new Mortal Kombat, by the way."

"I should give this yellow monstrosity a fatality, then.", she muttered and he chuckled.

-------

Later, after several hours of Mortal Kombat, Marvel vs. Capcom and Street Fighter, pizza and beer, they were both nestled in the couch, watching some terrible made-for-tv movie that was bad enough to not deserve any time slot, not even that between 2 and 5 AM.

Arya picked the yellow hoodie from the couch arm and frowned at it. You see, Gendry wasn't a small guy. He had a big chest, large shoulders, muscular arms. And he was tall, too. Not too much, but tall enough. He was already hard to not notice. Wearing that... You know when someone asks for directions and you point to some freaking McDonalds and say 'turn left there and walk 2 blocks'? When he was wearing that hoodie, Gendry became a walking McDonalds. 'You see that huge guy in yellow one mile ahead of us? You'll turn right on that street he's crossing now'. It was just a really ugly hoodie.

"Why do you hate it so much?"

"Have you seen this color? You go out in the sun wearing this and people go blind."

He chuckled and took it from her. "I won't wear it around you anymore, then. To not hurt your fashion sensibility."

"Why don't you wear it on your dates?"

"Because I like to impress on my dates."

"But you don't like to impress me?"

He thought of her question for a long time before answering: "You don't like to impress me either."

Her time to go silent. It was true. They were best friends. He'd had seen her after karate practicing, covered in sweat, with the hair so tousled that would make a yeti laugh. She knew all of his old band t-shirts and had seen him in all of them. Looks were never a problem between them. But now, this was bothering her.

"You want me to?"

"What? Impress me with beautiful clothes?" She nodded. "It wouldn't be weird play videogames, eat pizza and drink beer wearing heels and a fancy dress? Or whatever you use to impress?". He was mocking her, that 'I-know-more-than-you' smile was on his lips.

"I just want to know why you don't bother to even try to look nice to me!"

"'Cause you're my friend! We don't have to look nice, we've passed this point. ...Didn't we?"

She let out a heavy sigh. What the fuck was happening to her? She was picking a fight over clothing? That was so unlike her. She shook her head and looked away. "I'm sorry, I don't know what I'm saying anymore. Maybe we should go to sleep."

"Okay."

She got up from the couch and said good night, heading to her room. Gendry lied down, trying to figure what was on Arya's mind.

-----

The next time he came to her apartment to one more night of games, pizza, beer and bad movies, she was expecting to see the yellow abomination again. Gendry would put that on just to piss her off. So, no one could blame her for the small gasp that escaped her mouth when she opened the door and saw him. He was wearing a suit. All black, just the silk tie was of a different color, blue. He was shaved and his hair was, well, perfect. His eyes glistened with amusement when he asked:

"Are you impressed?"

She bit her lip and let her eyes take all of him. He was a sight! Not that she would ever tell him that.

"Yes." She moved from the door and he entered the apartment smiling the 'I'm-sexy-and-I-know-it' smile. She controlled the impulse of punching him.

"So... are you going to impress me?"

The challenge on his face was everything she needed.

"Give me 40 minutes."

And almost 1 hour later, she came out of her room and it was his time to gasp.

Chapter Text

Really short summary: Are you saying that not all friends act like this?

 

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"Hey, there! Arya Stark, our future champion!"

"Hi, Lommy.", she greeted him with a small smile. "What are the colors today?"

He lifted his hands; they were stained with red and yellow. Lommy was a graffiti artist that used to decorate the walls next to the campus. He was only a couple of years older than Arya. His signature name was 'Lommy Greenhands' because that was his favorite color. But Lommy's hands could come in all sorts of colors and shades. His real surname was a mystery.

They entered the cafe, the one that belonged to Hot Pie's mother. This was another friend, but strangely enough, he'd never tell them his real name. Everytime they ask, he'd reply with 'Why do you wanna know?' and no matter how good the reason was, he'd never tell.

She sat on her customary table while Lommy sat by the counter, so he and Hot Pie (friends for a longer time) could talk. Arya didn't mind, she'd much prefer being left alone to eat than to carry on a conversation.

She was almost finishing her chicken pie when Lommy asked about Gendry:

"So, Arry, where is your conjoined twin?"

She decided to ignore the stupid nickname. "What?"

Hot Pie answered first: "Mr. Gendry Waters Baratheon. Who else?"

She checked her clock. "Working, probably."

"You know his schedule?!"

"Yeah... So what?"

Lommy shook his head, chuckling. He didn't answer the question.

--------

Later, she was finishing her notes for a test when Gendry called. It was their customary right-before-bedtime-call and she picked up the phone with a smile.

"Hello."

"Hi. How was your day?"

"Same as always. Oh, I saw Lommy today. He called you my 'conjoined twin'."

"Hm, he's getting better. Last time I saw him, he said we were married, but we forgot to fill the papers."

After a few minutes detailing their days, she decided to ask what was bothering her.

"You think our friendship is weird?"

"What you mean?"

"We call each other every night, I know your daily schedules, you know mine, sometimes, you sleep here and leave your clothes, sometimes I use your shirts to sleep... You think this is normal?"

"I don't know what is 'normal', Arya, but if you want to change something-"

"No! No, sorry, that's not what I meant. I like this way."

"I like it too. Uh, I... started to sleep better after our goodnight calls." And by his tone, she could say he was blushing. That brought a smile to her lips.

"Good night, Gendry."

"Good night, Arya."

They hung up and Arya went to bed. Before sleep, her last thought was about how pissed a boyfriend would get if his girlfriend called another man everynight before sleep.

Chapter Text

Really short summary: Best friends tell you what you need to hear. Not what you want to.

 

------

She was talking to some new guy. He looked about her age, and was smiling. He smiled the whole time Gendry watched them, but left before he could reach them.

He stood beside Arya trying to not show his annoyance (the word 'jealousy' came to his mind, but he rejected it).

"New friend?"

"Kinda. He's in two of my classes and is always trying to start conversation. So, I thought why not?"

"'Why not' what?"

She took a deep breath and looked at him. "I was talking to Sansa last night-"

He rolled his eyes and sighed.

"Shut up, let me finish. We were talking and you know how obsessed with manners and courtesy she is." He nodded. "She told me that no guy could like me. Because I'm too rude."

"She told you that?" Gendry knew Arya wouldn't lie to him. He also knew she and her sister were always having little fights. But, sometimes, Sansa would say things that Arya would misinterpret. He wondered if this was the case.

"Yeah! And I'm gonna prove her wrong!", a smug smile was on her lips. "And he's gonna help me. Ned Dayne is his name."

"Same as your father's..."

"Yeah, kinda weird... But it doesn't matter. I'll make him like me. I'll prove to Sansa that guys can like me!"

"Let me get this straight. You turned your sister's opinion in some useless challenge and now you're gonna make a guy like you just to prove you can?"

"Yes. And it's not useless!"

"No, it's mean. Cruel, almost."

"What are you talking about?"

"You're going to manipulate a guy into liking you?"

"No! I'll show him that I can be 'likeable', so he'll like me."

"And then what? You're going to start dating him?"

"You know I don't date..."

"And does he know? How this is gonna end, Arya? If you succeed, he'll like you and your point will be proven and you're going to shove this on Sansa's face?"

"Basically."

"And what about him? You'll pat him in the back and say 'thanks, have a nice life'?"

She didn't answer, just stared at him with angry eyes.

"What if this was the other way around? If he tried to make you like him just to prove he can?"

"I'd kick his ass! I wouldn't let a man play with me."

"But you can play with men..."

A long silence came between them. He was right beside her, but seemed so far away that she couldn't bring herself to touch him.

"I don't wanna hurt him. He's cool. I just-"

"The road to hell is paved with good intentions. Isn't that what people say?" He started to walk away.

"Where are you going?"

"I have class now."

"No, you don't!"

"Right! I just... don't want to talk to you right now. I'm disappointed with you."

Then, he left.

---------

She stormed into her parent's house that night so angry that she could kill with just a look. To make it worse, Sansa was the first to cross her path.

"Hey, you're home tonight!" She was smiling, like she was really happy to see Arya. That just made Arya angrier.

"It's all your fault! You told me a guy would never like me and now he hates me! And it's all because of you!"

Sansa seemed shocked. "What? I don't-"

"You told me that a guy would never like me! And now the only that ever did hates me!" She ran to her old room and slammed the door shut. She was so angry with everyone, but mostly with herself, that she couldn't sit. She paced around the room like a caged animal. Sadness, anger and frustration building up inside her, making her want to cry. Arya didn't like to cry and the possibility made her feel worse.

Her father came one hour later to find her sitting by the window. He sat on the bed and patted the matress. She huffed and sat next to him.

"Did Sansa tell you that I yelled at her?"

"Yes. But I couldn't understand why."

"It wasn't her fault. I'll apologise later, I swear. I was angry and I took out on her."

"What happened? From the beggining."

He was using the 'awesome father' tone: patient, friendly, free of judgement. It almost made her start crying.

"We were talking yesterday and she told me that guys wouldn't like me. I wanted to prove her wrong, so I decided to try with a guy in college. I told Gendry my plan and he started to lecture me! What gives him the right? Just because he's older, doesn't mean he knows more!"

"But he knows! If he advised you against this idea, he knows better."

"I wasn't thinking, dad! I got so angry with Sansa when she told me that that I, I don't know, I needed to prove her wrong!"

"And why this is so important, Arya? You never cared about this before."

"I know. But..." That was something she wanted to keep to herself. But that was her father and she could never hide anything from him. "You have mom. Robb is going to marry Jeyne, Jon has a new girlfriend, Sansa broke up with Joffrey, but her friend Margaery wants to set her up with one of her brothers."

"Which one?"

"The one with a problem in the leg, I think. Even Bran is closer to have someone while I'm always alone! I've always been alone, dad. It wasn't a big deal before, but when she told me that... I needed to know if I can make someone like me. Because if I can't..."

She couldn't talk anymore. The tears were already rolling down her cheeks and the hug her father gave her didn't make them stop. She held him with all her strength. Ned let her cry until she calmed down.

"And now I think Gendry hates me. He told me he was disappointed with me."

"Arya, he's your best friend. He told you what you needed to hear, not what you wanted. It makes you feel bad, it makes you think, makes you realize you took a bad decision. He's a good guy, I'm sure he's feeling bad for saying those things to you, but he was right." She only nodded. "Explain your reasons to him and I'm sure he'll understand."

She nodded again, but she was not sure she could tell Gendry about her fear of being lonely. Sometimes she had the impression that she needed him more than he needed her and, honestly, how do you tell that to someone without freaking him out?

Ned kissed her forehead and offered to make her a sandwich. She smiled and hugged him again. They went to the kitchen together.

Later, back in her room, she decided to text Gendry.

"I was being stupid, I'm not gonna play with him. Sorry."

He called instead of just replying.

"I know you're not. And I'm sorry too, I was too hard with you-"

"No, you told me what I needed to hear. Because you're my friend."

"Yes, I am."

"You're my only friend. I only have you!" That came out of nowhere and Arya mentally kicked herself for letting it slip.

He spoke after a long silent. "Arya, I only have you too."

"If I ever have a boyfriend, I'll have to stop being your friend?"

"Only if you want."

"Would you stop being my friend if some girlfriend asked?"

"No. Never."

"And what if-"

"You're not gonna get rid of me, stupid. Stop trying.", the smile on his voice made her smile too. He didn't hate her, he wasn't even angry with her! Everything was well.

"Good night, Gendry."

"Good night, Arya. Sleep tight. And dream with me!"

She knew he was joking, but she wasn't when she answered: "I will."

Arya hung up before he could say anything.

Chapter Text

Really short summary: One night he decides to stay home. Well, not exactly home, but he feels like it might become home someday.

--------

The house was dark and silent, like a haunted castle. That was exactly what he used to think of his father's house. His house, he still had trouble forcing those words through his brain. A haunted castle of a fallen king. Haunted by the ghost of the woman he loved, Lyanna Stark.

Gendry knew the story, everyone did. Robert and Lyanna were engaged and and he loved her more than anything. But apparently her love for him wasn't big as his for her, 'cause she broke up with Robert, found a new love and had a kid with him. She had died on the birth and the baby was raised by Ned Stark 'cause the father had died as well, in weird circumstances. He had been shot by a man in a car, on the road by the river. The cops never find out who did and justice was never given to Lyanna's new love.

That had happened 26 years ago. One year before Gendry was born. One could say that his father was getting over Lyanna, but fathering bastards was a pastime for Robert Baratheon. Gendry knew he had siblings, none of them born inside a marriage. He suspected that the oldest, Mya, had been conceived while Robert was still engaged.

Sometimes, thinking of the whole 'losing his beloved' drama, he wondered if she should be more sympathetic to his father. But he couldn't. Life was never easy. Robert had lost his love, but how many hearts had he broken?

Everyone used to say that he was a copy of his father, but the only resemblance Gendry saw was the physical: black hair, blue eyes, large shoulders, muscular chest and arms. Character and personality? No. He couldn't live with himself if he was similar to Robert in those aspects.

He walked through the dark halls and corridors. A dark castle for a dark king. What made him a dark prince. Arya would call him stupid for thinking like that. He smiled as entered the kitchen and found Barristan Selmy, chief of security, having dinner by himself.

"Hi, Barry."

"Good night, Mr. Gendry."

It was a small joke between them. Gendry would not cease calling him 'Barry' while he didn't stop calling Gendry 'sir' or 'mister'.

"How's he today?"

"He went to work."

"Did someone send a car?"

"No, he decided to go."

Gendry nodded and took a bottle of water from the fridge.

"Where's he now?"

"TV room, sir."

"Thank you, Barry. Night."

"'Night, sir."

 

 -----------

 

He went to see his father. It was a strange relationship they had. Most of the time he was sure Robert didn't want him there. And he wasn't sure why he insisted in staying. Arya once had told him that he was stupid for not noticing that he cared about his father.

He sat on a chair beside Robert's.

"Not going to sleep at your friend's today?"

"No. You're stuck with me."

Robert chuckled. "Aye."

"Have you been drinking?"

"No."

The question he always asked and the sincere answer he was finally getting. Robert was trying to stop drinking, much because 1) Gendry used to throw away every single bottle of alcohol he found in the house; 2) He had told the house's staff to do the same; 3) Ned Stark kept an eye on Robert everytime he went to work. Gendry cared for Robert, that was truth. He didn't like to admit it, though.

"How was your day?"

"I went to the company. To remind them I'm still alive."

"It would be easier to remember if they saw you there everyday."

"Don't start lecturing me, boy. I'm still the father here."

"Then act like one."

"How?"

"Advise me."

That surprised Robert. Gendry never needed advices. Not from him, at least.

"What troubles you?"

"A girl."

Robert laughed. A true laughter, full of joy. One that Gendry didn't know that existed.

"What's with us, Baratheon men, always falling for Stark girls?"

Gendry decided not ask how his father knew he was talking about Arya. "I don't think Stannis or Renly ever fell for Stark women."

"And I don't think Renly ever fell for any girl. Period. As for Stannis... Well, I don't think either."

"He's married. He must love his wife, they have a kid."

"He got married because that's what a man of his age was supposed to do and had a kid for the same reason. His life is an endless sucession of duties. He doesn't know love or pleasure."

"But you do.", he raised his eyebrows at his father.

"Aye. Love and pleasure, I used to know a lot of both."

"And Renly?"

"Ah, young Renly. He loves everyone and everyone loves him more. He's the best of us three." There wasn't admiration in his tone. Gendry felt like Robert was making a statement, not complimenting his younger brother. Robert leaned towards him, like he was going to tell a secret. "He knows how to love wisely."

"Love wisely?", he frowned in confusion.

"Yes. Stannis can only be wise and I could only love, but Renly learned how to balance both. I took a lot of stupid decisions because of love. That's what is killing me.". He sounded defeated, like he was giving up of all the battles he still had to fight.

"Stop whining. What was killing you was the booze."

"Who you think you are to talk to me like that, boy?"

"Look around you, Robert.", he got up from the couch. "I'm the only family you have left."

He walked away, muttering a 'good night' and left his father alone in the room. He knew Robert was stronger than that. He had heard the stories of when he was younger and he used to go through the whole town trying to drink all the beer and fuck all the women. And more than that, Gendry knew his father was strong because of himself. His mother would have been sweet, kind and submissive and the last set of genes she didn't pass to him. He was a fighter like his father. Like his father used to be.

Chapter Text

Really short summary: The park is a peaceful place. Ideal for memorable moments with a dearest friend.

 

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They were at the park, lying on the grass and watching the wind move the leaves. She didn't want to talk about the exchange, not now. That was one of those perfect moments when they didn't need to fill the silence. They were comfortable enough with each other to remain quiet for long periods, just smiling, like they shared some private joke.

But of course, he had to destroy the moment.

"When are you going?"

"Saturday."

"This saturday? After tomorrow?" She nodded. "How long?"

"One year. Maybe more."

"Hm, I thought exchanges were shorter..."

"It'll depend. It's longer if things go well, I think."

He nodded again, but remained silent. Arya didn't want to ask, the answer wouldn't change anything and the question was stupid! But, hell, she needed to know.

"Do you want me to go?"

He considered the question. "It's a great opportunity."

"This doesn't answer my question."

"Have you made up your mind?" She nodded. "No matter what I say, you won't change your decision?"

"No."

"Okay. I don't want you to go. I'm selfish, I... I don't want you to stay away." And that was the least pathetic way he found to put it. When he found out she got selected to an exchange program, he got extremely happy for her. He was still happy, but she was part of him, of his life. She was the best part. The only thing between him and the darkness and solitude of Baratheon Manor. He didn't want to imagine how his life would be without her. "But at the same time, I know how good this will be for you. So I want you to go... What I don't want is to be apart from you."

She sat on the grass, eyes piercing his. "What if I tell you I'm not going anymore?"

He sat in front of her, his hands close to hers. "I'll throw you over my shoulder and carry you to the plane myself."

She smiled.

"Want to sleep in my place?"

"Yes."

"Don't bring that yellow thing!"

"I know you like the Stag.", he replied, smiling.

"Stag? You gave that a name? My God, Gendry...", she rolled her eyes and shook her head.

"What? I like that hoodie."

"That's because you're stupid!" She pushed him to the ground and tried to get up to run, but he grabbed her ankle. They wrestled like kids for a moment, before Gendry finally manage to pinned her down witrh his own body and catch both of her hands in his. She was conscious of his body pressing hers, their faces close to each other and she knew what people would think. She knew that have him pratically lying on top of her should feel wrong, since they were just friends. But no. Nothing felt wrong. If anything, she felt... warm. Yes, that was it. Gendry was warm. Gendry made her feel warm. She would miss him more than anyone.

He pulled something out of her hair. "Grass."

"I'll miss you." She blurted out, before she could control herself.

"I'll miss you too."

They had been close like this before. She could see a lot of things in his eyes and some of them, she didn't understand. Arya wondered if her eyes were showing something too. Maybe some kind of... warmth?

Gendry blinked and got up, handing out a hand to her and helping her to stand.

"What time you want me to come to your place?"

"Same time as always."

He smiled and picked their backpacks from the ground. Arya pulled hers, before he could think of offering to carry it for her. They walked out of the park in silence. He was still holding her hand and she didn't pull away, so they remained like that.

Chapter Text

Really short summary: Practically her last day here. He had to ruin everything.

-------

He came to her apartment wearing the yellow hoody. She almost shut the door on his face.

"You're kidding me..."

"Are you going to let me in or not?"

"I should make you sleep on the sidewalk!", but she moved and he walked in the apartment. "It's not even that cold, why are you wearing this?"

"It is cold enough for me." He took it off and set it on the arm of the couch. "So, is everything ready?"

"Yes, it's all packed."

"What about those clothes?" He pointed to a small pile of fabric on a box over the coffee table.

"Sansa sent them." She made a face at the clothes and nodded when he made a gesture towards the box, asking permission to see. "They're just dresses."

He picked one from the box. It was cute, he supposed. White, with small flowers in the fabric. Sansa would look beautiful in it. Arya probably would look good too, but she would want set herself on fire if she had to use that.

"Why did she send you clothes?"

Arya picked a note from the coffee table and read it. "New country, new life. Maybe, also new clothes? Love, Sansa."

"She had good intention."

"Then why didn't she send clothes I could actually like? She's always expecting me to wear dresses and be girly and find a boyfriend and blah, blah, blah. I'm sick of it. And my mom wants the same! 'Arya, I'd like to introduce you to some random guy you'll probably hate, but you have to come anyway.' It's like they don't believe that I can't be happy without a man! It's like all they want for me is to get married and have kids and fuck what I want."

"And what do you want?"

"To prove that I'm not a scared girl who needs to be protected. I don't need to be protected, Gendry! I'm not weak, I'm not gonna cry for every little thing. I'm a fighter, not a bloody lady!"

"I don't see why you have to choose between-" The look she shot him made him stop talking.

"They're obsessed with the idea of me being all gentle and delicate, it's ridiculous!"

"I'm sorry, but I know you for years and sometimes I'm not sure of why you do the things you do. I mean, It's like you will only do or say the opposite of what it's expected from a girl. Maybe they don't want you to marry because you're a woman and that's what is "expected". Maybe they want you to find love. To find someone you can share your life with. And this is not a girl thing. It's a human thing."

"You're saying men want to get married?"

"I'm saying that going through life alone is not something people should wish for themselves. If they want you to have a boyfriend or a husband, maybe they just don't want you to be alone. Is this so bad?"

"I can have friends..."

"This is not the same thing. A marriage is for companionship, is for you to have someone to share your problems and your joys, someone who will be there! You can hate it all you want, but I honestly think this is a fantastic idea."

"Really? You want to get married?"

"Yes. Having someone that agreed to be with you for the ups and downs, that love you, that is so important to you that makes you want to spend your whole life with it. Free given affection, acceptance, advising, support, hugs, kisses, sex... Is this so bad?"

Arya considered his words. Except for the kisses and the sex, Gendry was describing their friendship. She frowned at the realization. He went on.

"If you don't want to marry, it's okay. If you don't want to wear dresses, make up, heels and this stuff, it's all okay. But it's okay to change too."

"What you mean?"

"I know you for a long time. And I worry that one day, you might lose good things because you might think they are girl-stuff, so you'll reject them. If one day, you wake up and decide to wear different clothes, why not? Or if you really like a guy, like to the point of wanting to have a relationship, why not? These things won't make you a different person, Arya. Wearing a dress and heels and make up don't make you less brave or capable. Having a boyfriend doesn't mean you need a man." He walked up close to her and held her face in his hands. "Wanting to have someone close doesn't make you weak. We're humans, we all want this, we all need someone we can rely on."

"Do you need someone?"

"My mother is dead and my father is an alcoholic." He raised his eyebrows.

Her head was a complete mess. The things he was saying made sense, but were his eyes the ones making her doubt of everything. Earlier, in the park, she wasn't sure of what was in them. She still wasn't, but all that talk about marriage and love and having someone lit Gendry's eyes with all the emotions she couldn't decypher. Or maybe she was too afraid to even try. She knew he wouldn't judge her if she decide to wear make up or change her hair or anything. He had seen her in ups and downs in her life, he knew everything about her. Sometimes, she had the impression that he knew her better than herself.

Then it hit her. And Catelyn's and Sansa's worries seemed unfounded. She didn't need to go find someone. She had someone. Gendry was hers and she was his and there was no point in denying that.

"You have me."

And his lips were on hers.

And the mess on her head and in her heart got worse. He shouldn't be doing that, her hands shouldn't be going up his arms, his hands shouldn't be burying themselves in her hair but they were and he was warm and strong and the kiss was everything she expected. Was she expecting a kiss from him? But they were friends and he was trying to find a girlfriend, someone who could end up being his wife. He wanted to marry. She didn't. And that made that wrong. But he was hers, no woman in the world could have him the way she had. And his tongue was touching hers and, God, How can this be wrong?

But it were since Arya wasn't sure of her feelings. She wasn't brave enough, not in that department and she couldn't risk losing Gendry's friendship. So she pushed him, walked back and whispered "No."

He looked at her face and covered his with his hands.

"I'm sorry, I'm so sorry! I shouldn't... I thought you wanted, God, I'm so stupid!" He looked around like he was looking for a way out of a burning building, his hand running through his hair. "I- I'm sorry!"

He opened the door but she grabbed his arm, keeping him in place. Nothing felt more wrong than Gendry leaving like that.

"I, I just- ...Please."

He turned around and looked at her and his eyes were so intense that she closed hers, afraid of what he might see in them.

"No." He touched her face and she almost gasped. She was on the edge of the abyss and, for all that was sacred, she wanted to jump. "Look at me."

She opened her eyes. His face was close again and her breath was catching. Her nails sank in his arm when she squeezed it, but he didn't seem to feel it. She was afraid of his intensity. Arya wanted to run away, to kiss him again, to hide, to pull him closer, everything at once.

She opened her mouth, but he shook his head. He rested his forehead against hers and, with his eyes closed, took a deep breath to regain control of himself.

"Arya, if you feel something that can change us, I mean, this between us, you'll need to tell me." Her eyes widen. That was what she was afraid of. But he kept talking. "Not now. Think. Make up your mind."

"Can't you just guess? You're always good at guessing what I'm thinking."

He looked at her. "No. Not this time. This is too important. You need to tell me. I want you to tell me. When you come back."

"I won't be back before a year."

He smiled. "Then you'll have plenty of time to think. Good bye, Arya." He kissed her forehead and walked away, without looking back.

She closed the door, sure of nothing. Fucking Gendry. Why he had to talk about his feelings and how he wanted to get married? Why he had to kiss her? And, most important, why did he stop? No, that wasn't fair. She stopped the kiss. She wasn't sure, she thought he deserved better.

Arya saw his yellow hoody on the couch. She'd have to call him and tell him to come pick it on the next day. She didn't think much of what she was doing, she just grabbed the hoody and put it on. It almost passed her knees. She smiled and walked to her bedroom. Sansa could have her dresses back. Gendry had left to her the only different clothing she needed.

Chapter Text

Really short summary: "Call me tonight." "It's a different timezone, Gendry. It'll be middle of the night here." "Call me anyway."

 

---------

 

She decided not to call him and ask him to get his hoody back. She decided to force that thing into one of her bags and take it with her. It would be her connection with Gendry during that year. And, yes, she knew that that was really sappy.

She couldn't help. Gendry had unleashed something inside her, something strange, feelings she didn't want to explore, feelings that made her crave him. She wasn't sure of anything now. That was one of the reasons why she didn't call him. Her nerves were sensible as a bare wire. All the sensations of his kiss and his touch were too fresh on her mind. She couldn't deal with Gendry right now.

So, she shoved the yellow hoody into her bag and forced it closed. She would think about it later. She would think about Gendry later.

 

---------

At the airport, she hugged Jon and Robb one last time.

"Take care, little sister."

"I'm not so little anymore." She replied, with a smile.

"You'll be always my little sister!" Jon ruffled her hair, making her laugh. He was actually her cousin, son of her deceased aunt Lyanna, but he had been raised along with them, so she considered him a brother. "You better go. Call when you get there."

"I will." They hugged again. Just one more time, she thought. "Bye, Jon. Bye, Robb."

"Bye."

"Arya, wait!"

They looked back to see Gendry running towards them, waving to get their attention.

"I thought he wasn't coming to to the airport... Haven't you said goodbye to him already?", asked Robb.

"Not exactly." She tried to hide her nervousness.

The look her brothers shot Arya with was suspicious. "What happened between you two?"

"Nothing." The reply came too quickly to sound genuine.

"Ooh, I thought I wouldn't make it!" said Gendry, finally reaching them.

"What are you doing here?"

By the face he made, one could say there was an invisible wall right in front of him and he walked directly to it.

"I... I came to say goodbye...?"

"After what happened, I thought..." She trailed off. Her brothers were close and she didn't want them to know.

"Yeah, but we're still friends. ...Right?"

She looked at his face. He had the same hesitant expression of when they started being friends. Like he didn't know what to say or how to act.

"Stop that! We're still friends, of course we are! Don't be stupid."

"Oh! Okay." He looked so relieved that she almost punched him. "Well, take care, Arya."

He gave her the most awkward hug ever, his hands barely touching her back and she frowned.

"What's wrong?"

He glanced very briefly at Jon and Robb and answered on a low voice.

"I don't want this to be a weird situation."

"You're making it weird. Come on, just give me a proper hug and get over it. The plane won't wait for me."

His arms were around her in no second. Their chest touching, her feet in the air (because Gendry, being stupidly tall, had to pick her up). He was everywhere: around her with his arms, inside her with his scent and the taste she still remembered. He was whispering sweet words (I'll miss you, I'll wait for you) and his voice filled her head. She allowed herself to close her eyes and enjoy the moment.

When they broke the hug, she tried to look everywhere, but the three guys.

"You forgot your hoody in my place." He only nodded. "I'm taking it with me."

He smiled. "Take care of the Stag, then."

She rolled her eyes. "Goodbye, Gendry."

"Goodbye, Arya."

When she looked at Jon, he had an amused expression on his face. Robb had his hands in fists and was oddly serious. She didn't bother to ask why. All she wanted was to put some distance between her and Gendry and calm her body down. Fucking Gendry! He was smiling at her, he shouldn't be smiling! Why couldn't he be affected by her like she was by him?

"Oh, Arya?"

"Yes?"

"Call me tonight."

"It's a different timezone, Gendry. It'll be middle of the night here."

"Call me anyway." And by his tone, she could notice he was affected, he was just better at hiding that.

"I will."

And she was gone.

"Hey, Waters?", asked Robb, taking him out of his Arya induced trance.

"Yeah?"

"What's going on between you and my little sister?"

Oh, fuck!

Chapter Text

She's about to call and you better pick up the damn phone!
-ES

Not even a whole minute after the text message, his phone started ringing. Mya. Again. He considered not to answer, but she was his sister and might be worried with his long silence.

"Hello."

"Gendry- Jesus, thank God! Where have you been? I've been calling you for days!"

"I was busy. I have to work, I have to finish my final project for college, I have to keep an eye on Robert..."

"Have him been drinking again?"

"I found a bottle of scotch in his room few days ago, but it was sealed. I threw it away."

"Why you do this to yourself, Gendry? He never did anything for us."

"We are not like him, Mya. At least, I know I'm not."

"Stop that. You can't guilt trip me into caring about Robert."

"Why did you call anyway? To express your disapproval regarding my life choices?"

"I'm your sister, I care about you. Edric told me that Arya traveled... I just want to know if you're going okay..."

"How Edric knows about Arya anyway?"

"Facebook. Now tell me. How have you been? Please, tell me you're not sitting in the dark, in your room, missing her and feeling sorry for yourself."

Gendry looked around and quickly stretched on the bed to light the lampshade. "Of course not."

He could imagine perfectly  her facial expression.

"Anyway, remember our youngest sister, Barra? It's her birthday today and we're going."

"'We?'"

"Edric, you and I. I'll be there in 40 minutes, so shower, shoes, shirt. Go!"

He got up and picked clean clothes from the closet. There wasn't a point in arguing with Mya.

"Am I not supposed to be wearing pants?"

"We've talked about this, Gendry. You're not really a funny man."

"Shut up." She giggled. "I don't have any saying in this?"

"No." Came the answer in Edric's voice. "Come on, brother. When was the last time we spent some time together?"

"Okay, fine!" Fucking Edric! Almost 22 years old and still sounding like a child... "I'll be ready."

"Good, we have to buy her a present first. What 13-years-old girls like?"

"How can I know?"

"You should know. Didn't you meet your girlfriend when she was 13?"

"Arya was 16 when we first met."

Edric waited patiently for him to understand.

"Oh, fuck off, Edric! Let me get ready!"

"Haha, you're in love, bro!"

-End of the call-

*****

Text message
From: Robb
To: Sansa



Did you talk to her? I'm thinking about calling him to a serious conversation. I mean, she's our sister! Our baby sister! She never had a boyfriend! It was different with Sansa, because Sansa was popular, she always knew how to deal with people. But Arya is not like this. I'm going to talk to this Gendry! Wanna come?


Text message:
From: Sansa
To: Robb



You sent this to the wrong number, Robb. I'm not Jon.


Text message
From: Sansa
To: Robb



And for God's sake, let Arya live her life!


*****


"How's everything? Is the apartment comfortable?"

"Yes, mom."

"Did you organise your clothes like I told you to?"

Arya glanced at her bags, opened at the foot of the bed, clothes pilled half inside/half outside of them and others spread all over the floor.

"Yes. I took them out of the bags and put them on the drawers."

"You're lying."

"I'm not!"

"I can always tell when any of my children lie, Arya. Go clean your room. And what have you been eating?"

She thought of the pile of empty pizza boxes on the kitchen trash can.

"There a small restaurant down the street-"

"Is it pizza?"

She sighed, defeated. "Yes. But I'm trying to learn how to cook! The pizzas are for emergency, I swear."

She heard her mother laughing softly and smiled. "I miss you, mom."

"I miss you too, sweetling. Now go clean your apartment."

"Mom!"

-End of the call-

 


*****



"Hello?"

"Hi, Theon. It's me, Robb. Wanna go out for lunch?"

"Wow, you're not gonna eat with sweet Jeyne today?"

"No, she cancelled. Some problem with her mother."

"It pains me that I'm your second option, Robb. I have feelings too."

They laughed. "Shut up. So, you're coming or not?"

"I can't. Have a lot of work to do..." He regreted saying those words as soon as they left his mouth.

"...Theon, send the girl away."

"What girl?!"

"The girl in your lap or under your desk. 'A lot of work' is our code for 'girls' since college, Theon." He laughed. "I can't believe you slipped!"

"Fuck you, Robb. Why am I even your friend in the first place?"

"Because I cover you up when you bring girls to your office, that's why."

"Fair enough. Hey, wanna go to the club tonight?"

"You're supposed to go have dinner with your father and your sister..."

"Oh, noes! What a shame... I forgot the dinner. I won't remember until tomorrow morning. And then, it'll be too late. See you at the club at 11 o'clock. Don't get late!"

"Fine."

"I can almost hear you rolling your eyes, Robb. You need to relax!"

"I'll relax tonight."

"Yeah, but don't relax too much, 'cause you'll be the driver! Bye!"

-End of the call-

"What?! Theon? Theon! Fuck."



********



"So, how was your day?"

"I went to my sister's birthday party."

 "Mya?"

"Barra, the youngest. Don't lose the count."

She chuckled. "Yeah, like I don't know your siblings..."

"I'm starting to think  don't know yours. Sansa texted me today."

"I didn't even know she has your number. What did she want?"

"You gave your family my number two years ago, before our failed road trip, remember? Apparently, they kept it. And the text says 'Don't pay attention to Robb. He's being an overprotective dick'. Well, she replaced the 'i' with an exclamation mark, but i got it..."

 Arya laughed this time. "She doesn't curse, not even in texts. But what's going on with Robb?"

"He thinks we're together and is being a zealous older brother."

 "Wha- Really? You know what? Robb can go fuck himself! I can date whoever I want."

"We're not dating..."

"...I know! It was a way to speak." The smile in his voice made her want to punch him over the phone.

"But we kissed."

"So?"

"It meant something..." Oh, no! He was bringing up what she was trying to avoid! Before she could have a chance to change the subject, he asked: "Did you like the kiss? I never asked."

"What?"

"Did you like the kiss? Yes or no?"

"Why? You need me to stroke your ego?"

"I need to know if it was good for you like it was for me."

"Ugh, why you do this? Why you say these stupid, perfect things to me? You know how much I hate this romantic crap, but you always make it sound good! It's infuriating, Gendry!"

"I just said I liked the kiss, Arya! Calm your panties!"

"Well, I didn't like the kiss."

"You're a liar."

"I know. Ugh, I hate you!"

"I miss you too." He smiled.

"Next time I see you, I'll kiss you first."

"I'll be waiting."

"Good night, Gendry."

"Good night, Arya."

 -End of the call-