Gendry looks at her and thinks, this is not the same girl he left behind all those years ago.
Then he realises, she is not a girl at all now; she is a woman, her hair longer and her features sharper. It is not just the physical differences, though - he marvels at the way she coldly stares up at the Hound, remembering how he had once held her back as she had screamed at him to burn in Hell. She doesn't flinch under the Hound's gaze - she matches it, even - and she holds herself with a confidence and surety that the girl Gendry had known never had. Perhaps it is the kind of certainty that comes with being home, Gendry wouldn't know, but he thinks perhaps it is more than that.
Suddenly her eyes and voice are on him, and his brain short-circuits as he tries to come up with a reply to her carefully controlled words.
"You look..." Beautiful, his mind supplies, but he ignores it. "Good," he finishes lamely.
"Thanks," she replies after a pause. "So do you." She keeps her voice neutral, but there's something in her gaze that tells him she knows what he wanted to say. He shifts uncomfortably for a second, then turns and heads deeper into the forge, knowing she will follow.
"Not a bad place to grow up if it wasn't so cold."
"Stay close to that forge, then," she replies, and he smiles, grabbing a sword and surveying it.
"Is that a command, Lady Stark?" he jokes, seeing her draw up beside him in her periphery.
"Don't call me that," she says calmly, a world away from this same conversation years ago.
"As you wish, m'lady," he says, turning to face her and grinning. She holds his gaze for a second before smiling and laughing, and suddenly it feels for a moment like they're that boy and girl again, running for their lives from Lannister soldiers.
But the moment passes, and neither of them are the people they once were. He is no longer a nameless bastard boy and, perhaps for the first time in her life, she now seems to truly fit the title of Lady Stark.
She hands him a piece of parchment with a design on it, and he can barely believe what he's seeing. He doesn't understand why she'd need something like this - not when she has her sword back and some fancy new dagger. It's Valyrian steel, must have cost someone more money than Gendry will ever see in his life.
"I always knew you were just another rich girl," he teases, causing her to roll her eyes. She takes her dagger back and handles it with practiced ease, slotting it back into her belt.
"You don't know any other rich girls," she says innocently, eyes wide, humour dancing in them. It's the most emotion she's shown since she first opened her mouth, and it confuses him. She's always confused him, really, but at least he understood the anger and desire for revenge she used to have. He suspects she still has them underneath that cool façade, but they're more controlled now. He wonders again what she went through to bring such a drastic change, then decides not to ask. It's not important.
She walks away from him and he watches her go, surprised when she turns and smirks at him one last time before leaving. He keeps watching the exit long after she's gone, unsuccessfully attempting to figure out the feelings seeing Arya - this new Arya - has brought up in him. He gives up eventually, telling himself that these don't matter either, not with the impending doom that's facing them, but he can't bring himself to ignore them. She's on his mind for the rest of the day, and he can't help but long for her, even though he knows it's impossible, for more than one reason.
But then, everything Gendry had thought impossible is now not so, and he secretly thinks, perhaps this might not be too.