Although he had been expecting her, Gendry still jumped when Arya barged through the door of the forge. Stubbornly, he remained on his pallet, facing the wall.
And really, if he had not anticipated her arrival, he should at least have predicted the kick to his kidney.
“Ow!” he hissed, spinning into a sitting position. “Do you actually want to kill me this time?”
Instead of answering, she kicked him again, aiming for his sternum. Ignoring the sting, he caught her foot against his chest and wrenched, tumbling her to the pallet and using his superior strength to hold her down. She slithered and struck like wildfire, and he made sure to keep all tender bits clear.
“Let me up, you stupid bastard!”
“Oh, that’s what you’re calling me now. And here I thought we had gotten to know each other.”
Even after all this time, the look in her eyes still frightened him. “You don’t know me, Gendry bloody Waters.
“That verdict’s best left to experience, aye? I doubt either of us are impartial enough to decide that alone.”
“Why don’t you bloody listen?”
“I have been listening, m’lady - it’s you who don’t want to hear it.”
“Let me up.”
“Not until this business between us is settled.”
“It won’t be as long as you don’t get off of me!”
“We’ll be here a goodly while, then.”
“You’ll have to sleep sometime, stupid.”
“Aye, and I’ll do that on top of you. I’m over twelve stone, and what are you? Seven? Good luck moving me on your own.”
She scowled. “I’ll scream, and you can explain to Jon why you passed out on top of me.”
“I reckon he’ll have guessed.”
“Stop it!” she shrieked. His grasp relaxed in shock, and she kneed him sharply in the stomach, scrambling away. There were tears in her eyes. In Arya’s eyes.
“M’lady - “
“You don’t know me,” she whispered forcefully, as if trying to contain all those years - before they met, after they parted - in four short words. “I want you to stop pretending like you do.”
“I will keep on it until you prove me otherwise,” he said stubbornly.
“I don’t have to prove anything,” she shot back.
“Of course not. You’re Lady bloody Stark, returned from the dead or Lord Bolton’s bed, though I reckon they’re much the same. You’ve never had to prove a thing in your life.”
“That’s not true, you know it isn’t!”
“Oh, aye? Now we’re talking about what I do know? I thought you only cared for what I don’t.”
“If anyone caught me here with you, they’d have your head!”
Gendry snorted. “If anyone caught us, I’m sure you’d have it first.”
Arya stared at him, a tiny furrow between her brows. “What do you want?”
You. You, you, it’s always been you, you and your messy hair and dirty cheeks and the way you could always make me laugh, especially when you didn’t mean to because the times you did were so precious they were all I held onto when I thought you were dead and I had failed you and all the Sers before my name and all the blood on my blade would mean nothing if I hadn’t you to kiss my brow at the end of it. I want to make you proud, to live up to whatever it was you saw in me that made you curl against me at night and share your secrets and your stories and your family, and now that you declare yourself nameless all I want is yours, because I do know you, Arya Stark, I was the only one to know you on the road to the Wall and the flight through the forest and whatever you did in those far away lands, because with everything you are to me you can never be more or less than mine. I’ve bowed to false kings and cowardly lords but this I will never give up, not for the gold in the Rock or the wine of the Arbor or a million maidens’ kisses. Every man has a wound he burns open, a line he will not break, and I would forswear a thousand oaths before losing you again. You had bloody well get used to it. I may have lost my helm, but I never lost that.
“I want to sleep in peace, m’lady.”
She stared at him, and he wondered what she had done to make his Arry die.
“Fine. But this isn’t over.”
For once we agree.
He did not know if it shone through his eyes or not, all those years of silence and prayer and then silence again - but he hoped one day she would hear it.