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wicked and wild wind (blew down the doors to let me in)

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No one had seen the younger Stark daughter in months, not since she disappeared from the icy halls of Winterfell days after slaying the Night King. There had been whispers of a girl on a horse riding through the Dragon Queen’s camp before the attack (the sack, the massacre, the day hell rained down on King’s Landing from the back of a dragon) , but those were merely whispers, unsubstantiated at best, strange rumors of a wildling child and the Hound heading into the city, never to be seen again once the walls came crumbling down.

The Northmen say that Jon Snow had gone mad when he’d heard talk of his little sister caught in the crossfire of the Dragon Queen’s fiery revenge. He’d received a raven from the Lady Sansa, demanding he find their sister, that he send her home, claiming she’d followed after him, that she’d planned to kill the Mad Lion Queen. Lord Davos had done his best to calm his once sworn king, but the news of Arya Stark’s assumed death was simply was too much for Jon’s tenuous hold on his rage. It was said that he nearly killed his beloved queen in his grief, only stopped by her loyal Unsullied guard. The former King in the North awaited judgement in what was left of the Black Cells, accompanied by the Lannister brothers for treason against the throne. He expected to be joined by familiar faces before his time was up.

Queen Daenerys Stormborn of House Targaryen, the First of Her Name, The Unburnt, Queen of the Andals, the Rhoynar and the First Men, Queen of Meereen, Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, Protector of the Realm, Breaker of Chains and Mother of Dragons , called for a grand trial, witnessed by all the high lords of Westeros. All those who arrived would be required to bend the knee or face her wrath. All those who did not would be burnt. There was a dragon in King’s Landing again, and she would be obeyed.

It would be a reckoning of “Fire and Blood” indeed. The Queen was determined to rule this hostile land, full of those she knew opposed her very existence. Sansa Stark and all her followers, the Mad Queen Cersei and her Lannister armies, nothing was going to stop the reclamation of her birthright, not even the man she thought she loved. The Iron Throne was hers after years of dreaming and scheming, and it was a victory as cold as the metal at her back. To sit in her father’s chair had cost her dearly, and she would make all those responsible pay for the pain she had gone through ten times over, until they were begging for death. Lost in a haze of righteous vengeance, all the measured voices of her counsel dead or led astray, Daenerys Targaryen miscalculated. Badly.

Because little did the Queen know, one of the lords whose loyalty she was most secure in (for after all, she had generously gifted him with his very name and titles rather than kill him for looking just a bit too much like his father), had a rather dangerous secret. A secret that he would have taken to his grave, had he died in the frozen wastes of the North. For you see, he was a man of incredible loyalty… just not to her. Gendry Waters had loved one woman, one person really, in his life, and suddenly becoming Gendry Baratheon did not change that defining trait of his existence. Daenerys had no way of knowing he would betray her, that he would do anything for the girl he called his lady, for there was only one person left alive who knew even half of the history between the Baratheon Bull and the Bringer of the Dawn, and queens don’t take counsel from mere baker boys.

Had he been asked, Thoros would have mentioned how they fought side by side, always protecting each other, how selling the boy years ago had mercilessly torn two hearts in half in the name of the Lord of Light.

Had he been asked, Lord Beric Dondarrion would muse that for those two to find one another after so many years could only be the work of fate, of destiny, of a bond far stronger for all the years and distance caught in between.

Had he been asked, the Hound would have grunted and rolled his eyes. He had seen the way the boy looked for the girl, the source of all the happiness in his gaze, and had heard the girl whisper the boy’s name in her sleep, love on her lips and a small smile on her face. He knew, and he pulled her from the open arms of death to fall back into the warm embrace of life (her smith).

To stand before that pair was to court death. Their love was their defiance, their bond was their strength. They knew each other inside and out, loved each other for every flaw and scar, every experience they shared and those they did not. They were fighters, not soldiers. They were an assassin and her smith, a bastard and his lady. A man and a woman, united against she that would destroy a kingdom where even Death itself had not succeeded.

Robert Baratheon tore apart the realm seeking the love of a Stark woman who would never choose him. His son forged it back together with a fury filled she-wolf standing at his side, fiery heart and well worn hammer working as one.

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Stubbornly clinging to the back of the white mare she found wandering the streets, Arya had charged out of the city, thinking only of escaping the chaos raining down around her. She rode south for hours in the shelter of the ancient trees, stopping only once at a stream to scrub the grime from her face and arms, watching as the gray, dusty film was replaced by red, raw skin.

She knows she should go north, she should turn back to Winterfell, or at least back to the camp where her brother and his men are, but there is something drawing her in a different direction. She’d made it out alive for a reason, and she will follow the pull of instinct in her gut that kept her safe in the blazing streets of the capitol wherever it may take her. So Arya climbs back onto her horse and keeps to her path, mindful of the destruction she’s left far behind. Alone but for her own thoughts, all Arya can think of are the people she carries in her heart.

Father, Mother, Robb, Rickon. All gone, lost somewhere she cannot follow, somewhere she refuses to follow, not yet, not today.

Sandor, almost certainly dead in the crumbling Red Keep, and gods she hopes he took his brother with him and found some sense of peace. He’s the reason she made it back out of there, after the madness of revenge had taken over and all she could see in front of her was death. Sandor knew she had so much to live for, the only one who had any idea that she had more to come back to then just her siblings. But, oh, her siblings…

Bran, staring out into the Godswood, searching for answers to the questions only he could hear and seeing into murky futures only he could see. No longer her adventurous little brother, no longer even truly her brother at all if the creature inhabiting his body is to be believed.

Sansa, holding the North together through sheer force of will and the loyalty of lords who see her spine of unbending steel and skin of unbroken ivory. Her lady sister, once the girl she despised most in the world, jealous of their mother’s love; now one of her closest allies and staunchest supporters. She might be safe for now, far away from the ashes and smoke, but she’s painted a target on herself with the way she provokes the queen’s ire, and there is only so much Brienne of Tarth’s sword can protect her from.

Jon, her favorite brother, her best brother, who she can barely recognize under his devotion to his bloody dragon queen. He’s so different from the boy she grew up with, the one who never made her feel less than she was as a girl; but they’ve both looked death in the eyes and made it home, and that’s an experience she knows will change anyone.

The biggest difference between them is that while Jon has become enraptured by a woman hell bent on conquering the Iron Throne, she has found someone who may not understand precisely what she went through during their years apart, but loves her anyway, bloody claws and all.

Because she has her Gendry. Gendry, who she left laying in his cot off the main forge, completely dead to the world after a night spent fixing what she almost broke when she’d turned down his proposal. She loved him, with a fierceness that terrified her, but Arya had to finish her list before she could even dream of the future they’d whispered into the quiet stillness of their refuge from duties and destinies, queens and lordships, siblings and propriety.

A home to share, vows in front of Winterfell’s heart tree… children, if she could even have them, with storm filled eyes and soot dark hair. Things that a young Arya Stark of Winterfell had once given up on ever having, but falling in love with her bull-headed bastard of a blacksmith had changed her, helped her see that just because she wasn’t Sansa didn’t mean she couldn’t want the same things. He would be her family and she would be his lady, Seven Hells to anyone that told them otherwise. All they needed was time together, and it would work itself out; it had to. The world owed them that much after the horror they’d been through.

She’d promised to come back, to him, to them, to all those still in Winterfell, but she can feel in her bones that she is where she needs to be. If she can make this right, can stop the Mad Queen before she turns on them completely, Arya thinks her loved ones will forgive her for the delay in her return.

In any case, she needs to get away from the city, and south is a direction no one will expect her to be taking, since Starks were known for not lasting terribly long in the South. Arya is a killer, yes, but even moreso she is a survivor, and if she can survive Harrenhal and the Twins and the Faceless Men, then Arya Stark can and will survive whatever Daenerys Targaryen decides to throw her way. There is too much at stake for her not to. So she carries on, moving ever farther from Winterfell and all its residents.

And then hours later she sees Gendry not twenty feet away from her, slumped against an oak tree with a horse grazing nearby. He isn’t covered in ash or blood, a clear sign he’d managed to avoid the carnage that she’d barely escaped from. He’s alone, gazing into the darkness of the surrounding forest, an emotion she can’t read written across his face. Sliding off her own surely exhausted horse, Arya walks towards him, not bothering to quiet her footsteps. When a twig cracks beneath her foot, his head snaps up, catching her watery gaze with his own, her name a gasping cry into the evening air.

Suddenly he’s right in front of her, love shining through the wetness in his eyes. Gendry stops just in front of her, hands reaching out then stopping, a hair away from her skin. They stand inches apart, not daring to shatter the perfect vision in front of themselves. In the end, her impatience wins out as Arya throws herself into his arms and plunders his mouth for the first time in nearly a month.

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It seems to take him a moment to respond, but when Gendry kisses her he is desperation personified, as if he can’t truly believe she is real and in front of him, that his lips are touching hers. She is surrounded by him in all the best ways, Gendry is everything she knows and feels and tastes. He gathers her closer in his arms and backs her against one of the trees in this small clearing, lifting her legs to wrap around his waist. It’s an onslaught of sensation, so very welcome in the numbness that had overtaken her since she escaped the city.

Overwhelmed, she freezes, because she’d half believed him to be a head injury induced hallucination; because Arya Stark is not someone who good things happen to, not anymore. She cannot have found the man she loves, thousands of miles from where he was supposed to be, yet somehow still safe and sound far from the horrors of King’s Landing. That he had forgiven her for nearly leaving him and trampling over his heart in her haste to kill Cersei had been a miracle, but his presence in these woods feels like a gift from the gods.

When he starts to pull away in doubt after her less than enthusiastic response, she hastily surges upward, nearly knocking him backwards in her eagerness to feel him, sturdy as steel against her trembling body. Their teeth clash together as they collide none too gently before Gendry softens the kiss, silent tears streaming down both of their faces.

His hands come up to frame her face, one brushing away the tracks on her cheek while the other quickly burrows into the messy braid she’d pulled her hair into. Gendry’s lips are warm and insistent on hers, drawing her deeper and deeper into his mouth until she cannot tell where he starts and she begins. For a moment or two, he is her entire world and nothing else matters, not the burning of King’s Landing, not the Mad Queen and her dragon that caused it. All she knows is that they have survived and she has a chance to live and love him and be truly happy for the first time since she left home years ago.

With great reluctance, they seperate, still wrapped up in each other and the giddiness of their reunion. Arya rests her head against his chest, drinking in the sensation of having Gendry with her once more. Moments, minutes, hours could have passed before she finally looks back up to his face, catching his eyes with hers. Pressing another soft kiss to his mouth, she murmurs, “How are you here, how did you find me? I thought...” 

“That I would still be in Winterfell?” Arya nods against his chest and he sighs. “Aye, well, it’s been an interesting month.”

She closes her eyes and nuzzles further into his embrace as he tells her of the events in Winterfell after she had left. Her ear rests against his steady heart as he stutters over the less than subtle threats of the Dragon Queen that had coerced him to head south with the army, despite his intentions to stay and help rebuild Arya’s home, as they’d discussed. When he mentions how Daenerys had begun to soften and then pay particular attention to him on the road south, asking him to sit with her for dinner, requesting he sit in on strategy meetings for the upcoming siege, ignoring Jon the farther South they’d traveled, something clicks in her mind. Once he’s finished, explaining how he was able to leave the war camp in the night after telling her brother he was headed to Storm’s End, he pulls back a bit to look down at her. Blue eyes meet gray as Arya takes in his nervous expression and has to bite back the sarcastic comment on the tip of her tongue, choosing to instead peck his lips lightly.  

Well, she held it in for a moment. “You do know the queen was trying to seduce you, right?” The dumbstruck confusion on his face is enough to make her laugh, harder than she has in what feels like years. 

“Arry, no.” 

“She’s given you a name, title, castle; tried to woo you with her rich foods and rewards.” Placing a fluttering hand to her forehead, she leans back, knowing he will hold her upright. “Why Lord Gendry, did the fair maiden try to swoon into your burly blacksmith arms?” The scowl he gives her mimed performance is enough to send her into another fit of laughter, especially when he manhandles her back upwards, gripping her in a way that sends shivers up Arya’s spine. 

Almost growling, the glare he aims at her does nothing to subdue her mirth. “I’ll have no one but you, Arya Stark, and I think you well know that.”

“Oh do I?” Cocking an eyebrow at him, she waited, hoping he would take the hint she’d thrown out. Of course, her silly bull would never take to the subtleties of double talk and implications, no he was a man of blunt words and actions. So she happily laid down her final card. “Isn’t there a certain question you should be asking me then?” Eyes wide, he made to kneel before she holds both hands to his cheeks, keeping him close. 

“Marry me Arya? Be my family, be my wife.” Gendry paused to take a breath, hugging her against him as he continues in a rush before she can answer. “In Winterfell, we talked about what would happen after, and well, maybe the war isn’t over yet, but maybe it will never be over. We’re fighters, the both of us, and we may never find the moment of peace we’re waiting for. So marry me Arya Stark, my Arya, my lady, because I love you, and I want to be able to call you mine and know that I’m yours in every way that matters.” 

“Yes,” she whispers into his chest. Because she has long since realized her previous answer hadn’t truly been no, it had been not yet. And he is right. They know not what tomorrow might bring, but they are together and that is a precious gift she will not forsake twice. Beaming, she repeats herself more loudly, for he hasn’t moved an inch, doesn’t seem to have heard her. She reaches for his chin, causing his disbelieving eyes to meet hers as a wide grin made its way across her face. “Gendry, yes!” 

They meet in the middle, crashing back together like the tide against the shore. Her arms tightly clasped around his neck, hands scrabbling for purchase against his back and in his shorn hair, still too short to truly grasp. His arms are bands of iron around her waist as he pulled her off the ground in excitement, spinning in a circle completely drunk on love.

Tearing her mouth away from their frantic kisses once he sets her down, she leans her forehead against his as she catches the breath he’s stolen straight from her lungs. Tilting in, just a bit, their noses rub against each other, and she giggled quietly, unable to fathom how she could possibly be this lucky. Grinning, she glances under her eyelashes into his blue eyes, only to be slammed with lust as his dark, dark irises meet her own. Her blood catches on fire, and she pounces again, fingers trying to tear the laces on his tunic open.

They may be wearing less layers this far south, but their hands are clumsy and unfocused, so preoccupied with each other they can barely will themselves to break away longer than it takes to get their shirts over their heads.

He becomes distracted by her breasts before he can manage to get either pair of their pants off, but when he begins to suck and kiss and bite at them, she finds it within herself to magnanimously allow for the delay. Pinned against the tree, Arya can do little more than writhe in pleasure as he methodically works his way across her skin. For the first time, she doesn’t even have to think of being quiet, of being worried that someone will interrupt them in the forge or the storeroom; that someone will take offense to Lady Arya of Winterfell fucking the blacksmith. There is no one to hear her moaning and keening into the evening air as Gendry’s lips leave a fiery trail down her chest. 

He doesn’t pay her scars from the Waif any mind, which she appreciates; they are of her past, and he is her future. Instead, he seems to be cataloguing every twitch and sigh that escapes her, focusing on doing everything possible to make her lose her mind. Arya barely notices as he unties her trousers and kneels, pulling them down her legs until they meet her boots, too distracted by his tongue on her nipple. It’s only when he draws back with a furrowed brow  that she realizes what the problem is, quickly reaching down to twist out of the constricting garments. Once she is free, Gendry immediately pushes her to lean back against the tree, hands spanning the entirety of her slim waist as he kisses her belly. The contrast of the rubbing, rough bark on her bruised back and his warm mouth working its way down between her legs is too much and she gasps, half pain and half pleasure, when Gendry bites lightly along the inside of her thigh.

He’s teasing her, and while she hopes they have many, many years together to explore each other in great detail, right now she just wants him, pure and simple; patience has never exactly been her strong suit. Tugging on his short hair, she directs him back to her center. Gendry sends her a mischievous glance before he sucks her clit between his teeth and sets every nerve in her body alight with wildfire. Head thrown back, she arches into his mouth, feet barely touching the ground anymore as he takes more and more of her weight.

What a picture the two of them must make here in the forest, loving each other desperately, no featherbed in sight. One arm scrabbling above her for purchase, while the other scrapes through his scalp. Her left foot up on the tips of her toes, her right looped lightly over Gendry’s sturdy shoulder. He on his knees in front of her, smoldering desire blazing in his eyes as he draws her over the edge into paradise, catching her as she falls gasping into his arms, folded nearly in half. She pushes away throbbing pain echoing through her body, choosing instead to curl her arms around his head again. Thumbing at his stubble covered chin as she brings him in close, she kisses the man she loves with all her heart passionately, every piece of raw devotion and overwhelming love on display for the only person she will gladly let into every deep and dark corner of her soul.

They shift again, as Gendry ever so slowly stood back up, grinding his hardness into her stomach. Blindly fumbling with the strings holding his pants together, she groans in frustration and throws up her hands as he huffs a laugh at her and quickly frees himself. Stroking him quickly, she leans back up on her tiptoes to kiss him, whispering her love against still wet lips. They share a lewd grin, and then his hand shoots down and yanks her leg up around his waist. Something in her thigh pulls , an aching pain shooting through her body. Arya hisses, barely more than a breath, but this time he freezes, alarm crossing his face instead of the beautiful expression of carefree lust he’d just been sporting. When she tries to bring his face back to hers, tries to coax him back to wanton excitement of only a moment ago, he only looks at her with concern.

“Arya, are you hurt?” Her stubborn bull ignores all her protests and sets her down like she’s a delicate maiden afraid of her own shadow, hands tracing along her sides with care. The aches and pains she’d managed to take her mind off of bloom back to life at his touch, but she refuses to blink, still intent on finishing what they had started. But her Gendry, he looks as if he is about to explode from panic. “Did I hurt you?”

Intertwining their fingers, she kisses his knuckles before placing his hands firmly on her hips. “Gendry, you could never hurt me! I’m just a little bruised, which tends to be what happens when what feels like half the fucking city falls on top of you.” 

Even now, though his face is hesitant, he’s started to softly skim up and down her sides, from her breast to arse, leaving goose bumps in the wake of his fingers. She sighs and leans in with closed eyes, expecting him to meet her once more. When he doesn’t, Arya cracks one eye open to glare at his sheepish expression. 

“Gendry bloody Baratheon, you better touch me right now or so help me gods I will…” Her half-hearted tirade is cut off with a gentle kiss, a strategy she is only a tiny bit annoyed at him for employing. She melts into him, arms braced on his chest as he holds her to him, his beautiful hands covering her entire back. Together, they kneel among the roots of the oak, lips never parting as his hands search for his cloak. They are finally forced to break apart as he spreads the well worn cloth on the ground before laying her back and propping himself up on his elbow beside her. 

Fingers dancing along her skin, Gendry snorted, amusement evident as he looked down at her. “I had to fall for the most stubborn woman in Westeros.”

“Well I fell for the most stubborn man in the world, so I think we’re well matched.”

“Aye, that we are.” Softly, he hummed, seeming to come to a decision. If the lascivious smirk on his face was any indication, she’d probably enjoy whatever it was. “Now, I do believe, we were in the middle of something. And I think it went a little bit like this…” Quick as a snake, he settled over her and brought their lips together, a squeak of unbridled joy escaping Arya as she pressed into him, holding tight and burying herself in the safety of his embrace.