Gendry forged the circlet himself. She was hardly a princess, yet, and had no need of holding court until the bloody business was finished, but one day he looked on her and realized her head was born to be in a crown.
She scowled and smacked him when he brought it before her. “How much did you spend on that? We barely have money for grain, let alone a bloody crown no one needs.”
“I didn’t spend anything, I found the silver and forged it together,” he said stubbornly. “And you ought to wear it. What happens when you need to rule and all anyone sees is a crazed wild girl?”
“Ruling is for Sansa, not for me. Give it to her for all I care.”
“I made it for you.”
“Well, don’t do it again.”
He did not give it to Sansa, but left it among Arya’s belongings, Needle crossed beneath it. Although she would always be little, she had grown too large for her first blade. Gendry drifted his fingers across it, remembering the boy who had grown into a woman who would always be a wolf before she was his. The ache ran deep, where she had sank her bastard sword into his bastard heart, so very long ago.
“We’ll have jewelers, once we take Winterfell.” She stood at the opening of the tent, watching him. “The coronet that was my aunt’s should still be in the crypt - if I’m expected to wear anything it would be that. But I won’t. A crown is too heavy.”
“I’ve heard the weight’s meant as a reminder.”
“I have a good memory.”
“Aye, and so does the north. They’ll want to see their queens crowned again.”
“I’m not a queen, Gendry. And you’re not of the north.”
“I am what you are. Take that away and there’s nothing left.”
“I know you’re wroth to give comfort, m’lady, and I’m not asking for it. A queen is a queen because she bends others to her will, and you’ve been a queen all your life. I’m not sorry, mind. Sometimes I wonder if I were made just for you to come along and make me again, and don’t that make me more north than anything, where the trees bear fruit only for winter to come and shriek them down? With your grace I would serve you. I can’t read or write and even little Rickon can best me at arms - but I can make things, and if with these hands I make you stronger, then- then I guess I’ve served well.” He turned the circlet over in his hands, looked at them with reddened cheeks. “I’ve loved you long, Arya. I’d hoped to love you longer.”
He had barely seen her cross the room when she grabbed him by the ears and pulled his lips down to hers.
The silver landed on the carpeted floor with a clunk as he drew his arms around her, gasping against her mouth, the sweet chapped flesh that surged against his. It was only a moment before she pushed him away, but kept her hands upon his cheeks.
“I am not a queen, Gendry. I’m not.” Her eyes were much too close. They had not been this close since that night in Harrenhal, when she inched her hand across the dirt to grasp his wrist and shut her eyes to the darkness.
“A good thing, too,” he murmured, touching her cheek, her mouth, her neck. “I’m in no ways a king.” He leant down to kiss her again, now that he was allowed, and murmured against her heated skin, “But for you, m’lady, I would be.”
And she was a lady, yes - a lady without a castle, without a kingdom to her name, who bedded bastards and bore a blacksmith’s crown and so hardly a lady at all - but he could not help thinking, later, tracing the hair that fell over her breasts, that she was something better.