Chapter 1: Part 1
He’d never had a little sister.
But she had brothers, big and little. One was a bastard named Snow. Her favorite brother, he could tell.
Her eyes – winter's eyes – would flicker with a candle’s flame and the corners of her mouth would twitch and tug upward. A look reserved only for Snow. (She didn’t talk about her father).
It was stupid. Bull-headed and selfish and stupid…he was jealous of that look. Her special smile for the bastard named Snow. He wished he were someone’s best brother. He wished he could be special to someone, be someone to someone, anyone to someone.
He’d never had anyone. He wasn’t anyone. He was no one.
The strangest thing about her was the dress.
Not her spitfire eyes with her obnoxious, demanding little mouth and razor-sharp tongue.
Not castle-forged Needle at her belt, or her exaggerated tales of pet direwolves.
Nor her water dancer’s grace when he’d spied her hacking desperately at an unseen list of faces in the godswood.
(Even her gods don’t seem all that strange, when he thinks about it).
Those all fit.
This dress just didn’t fit.
It was a far cry from her special look for Snow. But it was a look.
A look that tells anyone with eyes that he is someone. A look that whispers, but you were part of my pack. WERE. Just like that other bastard. The one who’d chosen the Wall.
Confusion-disappointment-resentment-hatred-RAGE flash into defiance, and just like that she’s gone. Running. Away from him.
He was someone to someone. He wasn’t no one.
No one ever found her body, so he never believed her to be dead. They found Lady Stoneheart. And the Hound. Never her.
What he believed even less was that she’d ever submit to that other Bastard Snow’s bed. Her name was Arya, not Lady Bolton, and Gendry knew with a certainty that she would have escaped tooth and nail, with or without her own head, leaving that Bastard in a pool of his own blood.
The North cannot be held.
He mourned for the girl whom they called Lady Arya. Whose wails were rumored to echo the halls of Winterfell.
He refused to mourn for Arry.
It’s the first thing he notices about her when she unceremoniously reappears, unruffled and smooth, offering up little more than pretty details of pretty canals.
Everyone else can’t shut up about how tall and beautiful she is. “A woman grown,” they rattle off, one by one, some less innocent than others.
But what he sees is the blank grey of her eyes, with none of the sparkle and magic of winter that he still recalls in dreams. He sees the way her features almost seem like they no longer belong to her. He sees the falseness of her expressions. Too perfect.
He’d once wished for her to look at him with that special look reserved for her best brother, the bastard named Snow. With a candle flickering warmly in her eyes as her lips twitched into a fond smile.
Now he just wished for her to look at him like anyone.
She looks at him like no one.
Chapter 2: Part 2
They cling to each other, to the branches, to the sky.
Disclaimer: I own nothing…GRRM is the Grand Maester…titles, titles…
Not for the last time, it’s down to the wire.
Not for the last time, she makes precisely the right move at precisely the right moment, and he finds he’s still breathing and pulsing and buzzing with life.
It’s almost an addiction.
He looks up at her and wants to hug her, thank her, m’lady her. (And mayhap a few other things a bastard blacksmith shouldn’t want).
She tilts her head. Cocks her eyebrow. Looks down at him like no one.
Not for the first time, he nurses wounded pride. And mayhap something else.
He punches the tree he’s pissing on, curses to the Crone.
There’s a snort of laughter and it’s her and he’s fumbling with his breeches and it’s m’lady this and m’lady that and she snorts again. Reminds Ser Waters that it’s nothing she didn’t see when she was Arry.
His eyes shoot up from the ground and she’s hiking North, her pack slung over her shoulder.
Her laugh was her laugh.
The first time is dirty, desperate, clothed. Half an ear perked for danger, spatterings of drying blood marking their relentless dance with mortality. They straddle one another on an ancient bough under cover of early spring leaves and dappled spring stars, out of reach of sword and sight of archer.
Desperate and reckless and stupid.
They don’t kiss. They don’t sigh. They cling to each other, to the branches, to the sky. Mouths slack and panting, grappling to climb inside one another, needing this as dearly as the droplets in their waterskins.
They live, they live, they live.
She puffs erratically in his ear and he tugs at her hair. Takes in her face. Dirt, blood, sweat. He stares straight into her eyes and she stares straight back and they're shuddering into one another...and for a heartbeat or two he swears he sees something glimmer there.
A heartbeat or two, and it’s gone.
Then they’re lacing their pants and checking their weapons and she darts into the treetops and this can’t happen again. Not now. Not yet. But not never, he hopes.
She howls at the moon. The wolves howl back.
Gendry almost smiles.
The North cannot be held. And Arya Stark cannot be buried.
Grey eyes speak faintly of winter magic, crackling with each northbound step. Childish, stubborn, sly, wise. Hard. A woman grown. The words buzz and fade and nearly lose all meaning.
She’s too old, and she’s too young. A child tempered by war. Death, death, death. A child that found her freedom and a child that found her way. But somewhere inside…lost. Lost father, mother, sister, brothers, home.
When she kisses him chastely with chapped lips and shoves him into the snowbank, tossing her own laughter over her shoulder as she darts between the trees, he melts into the drift and puffs into the summer snow and, seven hells, he’s been holding his breath his entire life.
He’d lost her, and she’d found him.
This time when she runs away from him, he follows her.
In his dreams, her face opens in surprised desire. His forge is hot and her skin glows red. She’s smooth and she’s wanton and Arya does as Arya pleases.
And in his dreams, he pleases.
In his dreams, Arya sings.
Awake, he searches her face for clues from his dreams. She raises her eyebrows.
An afternoon in the short summer, and it’s not a dream.
Chasing-tickling-wrestling becomes kissing-groping-tumbling, and he knows it only happens because Arya chooses to make it happen, and Arya does as Arya pleases.
He bends to her. Swears he’ll make her sing.
He’s burning up, engulfed in flames, a white-hot piece of steel.
Her skin is cool and silken smooth, and it’s Arya’s neck, Arya’s breast, Arya’s thigh.
She tastes of wildberries and Arya. She smells of grass and crisp winter air and Arya.
His own skin sizzles and hisses and smokes with each touch. He’s a forge, all molten sweat and steel. She’s the North, fresh as midsummer snow. She siphons his fire, bites at it from his mouth, his ear, his shoulder. Stays him from combusting into a smoking cloud of ash. Inside, she's as smoldering hot as he. Hotter.
He’s a forge, and her face melts opens for him. Arya’s face, her own. Eyes deep and clear of clouded veils. She bites her swollen lip and sings.
Her eyes are for him, and her eyes blaze a scorching winter.
It’s a far cry from her special look for Snow.
He's not no one.
He is Gendry, and she is Arya.