The first thing Arya noticed about her brother was how tired he looked. Bran had been king for only a few months and yet her brother’s eyes seemed years older than they had when she had seen them last. The king cleared his throat and the room went silent.
“My friends,” he said, his voice measured, eerily calm, “Thank you for answering my summons. I was not exaggerating when I said that the situation is urgent. I have brought you here because I can trust you all, and I want you all to be aware of the fate that we face.”
The small group waited in silence for the king to continue. Arya saw Gendry shift uncomfortably out of the corner of her eye. He seemed to sense that he was only there because Arya was. Sansa’s eyes were narrowed in concern, not leaving Bran’s face. Ser Davos glanced around nervously, while Brienne stood stoically at Bran’s side. Ser Podrick and Ser Bronn were not present.
“Time is... breaking,” Bran said, and Arya thought she heard a trace of fear as he spoke, “The Children of the Forest do not know why, nor how, but they have sent me warnings. Our world is unstable. It is bleeding with other worlds, confusing itself. Perhaps some of you have sensed it - memories of events that never happened, feeling as though you have lived the same day twice, an unpleasant urge to act in a way that does not feel natural to you. My own mind is oddly clouded some days.” Arya shivered.
Before they had left for Kings Landing, Gendry had found her staring blankly out to sea. She had a tear in her eye, and felt thoroughly alone, as if she had been forced to say goodbye to all whom she had ever loved. He had thought it another moment of post-battle despair, and had laced his fingers through hers and brought her head to his chest. The feeling had left her swiftly, forgotten in favour of Gendry’s warmth.
“Our world, this consciousness we share, will collapse,” Bran continued, and there were mutterings of concern throughout the room. “The Children of the Forest do not know how to save us, but they have directed us to a chance at survival. Lord Tarly, the book.”
Samwell Tarly shuffled forward, dropping an ancient tome in front of the king. It was only then that Arya noticed a small, untouched cup of steaming liquid beside her brother. She wondered what he was drinking - perhaps a tonic to clear his head.
“Thank you, Sam. The Children of the Forest understand time and space better than we can, better than I can explain to you. The passage in this book shows records from the First Men suggesting that time may have been reset once before, using a remedy we have recreated to the best of our ability. The remedy must be drunk voluntarily, and should it work, three acts that must occur for time to heal itself - a forgetting, a repetition, and a remembrance.”
The room was silent, and Arya was surprised when Bran looked to her.
“If someone willingly enters another world, they will forget themselves. They will lose their memories of this world, and, to some degree, their sense of self. To set time right again, they will have to remember. They will have to remember themselves after forgetting themselves. It is almost impossible,” Bran paused, and Arya knew what he was about to ask her, “Arya, I wish there was another way.”
“Arya?” Gendry said, his voice so heavy with concern that he sounded angry, “What does Arya have to do with this?”
“Because I can do that,” Arya said, so quietly that only those nearest her could hear. Sansa stared at her in shock. Arya met her sister’s eyes briefly, but she could not look at Gendry just yet. “I have forgotten Arya Stark before, and I can remember her again. I can.” She nodded at Bran, hoping desperately that she was not wrong.
“You are the only one who may be able to save us, I fear,” Bran said sadly, “The only one who has done this before.” Arya could feel Gendry’s eyes on her. Still, she could not look at him.
“The world you find yourself in may be very similar to ours, Arya. It may feel as though you are living in a dream, an altered state of being. It could also be very different. Time is a funny thing. You may arrive in this place long before we were all born, or years later, our names lost to history. We may not have existed at all. There is no telling where you will land, but this is our only hope. Are you ready? I fear that time is of the essence.” Bran motioned to the cup and Sam moved forward once again. “All you have to do is drink this.”
“Arya,” said a rough voice to her left, and Arya finally met Gendry’s eyes, wide and blue and terrified. Every plea for her to stay remained unspoken, but they crashed over her all the same. Gendry knew as well as she did that this was their best hope, she could see that in his face. Arya knew that - should she ask him to - he would follow her without a second thought.
Sam placed the cup in her hands and she gave the world she knew a glance, praying to every god she had ever known that this would not be her final moment within it.
“I’ll be back in time for the wedding,” Arya said to Gendry, her voice breaking slightly as she attempted to smile. She drank Bran’s remedy swiftly, burning her lips and tongue. Arya stepped forward to kiss Gendry one more time. He pulled her tight to his body and she thought she heard him choke out a cry against her lips. The world dissolved.
Arya Stark hated Wednesdays. Signing up for an Intro to Chemistry class that started at 8 o’clock in the morning had been a terrible idea, and she cursed her past self for it. She checked the time on her phone and groaned. She had time for either a shower or a coffee, but not both.
Fifteen minutes later, she left her flat with her hair wet and her mood foul. She rushed across the road, slipping through the slow moving hordes of pedestrians. Studying in London was everything Arya had hoped it would be - vibrant, bustling, always surprising - but some days the crowds drove her mad.
“‘Scuse me,” she said, pushing past a particularly slow walker, a tall man with his t-shirt on inside-out, who appeared fascinated by the airplane overhead. Tourists.
She rushed along the sidewalk towards the uni, sidestepping a pram and almost running into a scowling businessman.
“Arya!” She spun, sure she had heard her name. The crowd on the sidewalk carried along, knocking into her as she stood. Arya waited, wondering for a moment if a friend had been attempting to catch up. She shrugged and slipped through the university gates, rushing across the courtyard to the Chemistry building. Whoever had wanted to speak to her could always find her after class.
It wasn’t that she didn’t care about the Periodic Table of the Elements. It was just that attempting to memorize atomic numbers and melting points with no caffeine in her system was very nearly impossible. She left class swiftly, planning on spending the four hours she had before her next lecture cozily tucked into the nearby cafe she loved that mercifully did not charge for refills.
“Arya!” called a man’s voice and she turned to see Dylan hurrying towards her. He swept her into a hug as she greeted him. “You coming out with us this weekend?” He placed his hands on her hips.
“Think so,” she said, removing his hands delicately and stepping back. She and Dylan had hooked up once a few weeks ago and she had no desire to do so again. He was a nice enough guy and they hung out in the same circle of friends, but he was truly, unforgivably horrible in bed. It had been sloppy, over in moments, and all about Dylan. She kept herself from cringing at the memory as she gave him a friendly smile. “Ella said Jack and Krish were having a thing. Hey, by the way, was that you yelling at me before class this morning?”
Dylan raised his eyebrows and shook his head. “I’m only just out of bed, Arya. You ever seen me up before 9?” He held up his watch. “Shit, you’ve made me late for class. I’ll text you!” Dylan hurried off, and Arya sighed, not looking forward to the flirty messages she would have to navigate through.
She turned in the direction of that cafe and found herself face-to-face with a rather intense looking young man who stared at her with a mixture of relief and concern. Immediately uncomfortable, she was about to turn heel and head in the opposite direcation. And then he spoke.
Oh, she thought, do I know this guy? She racked her brain, trying to figure out if she had ever seen his face before. He was handsome and quite tall, with messy black hair and skin more tanned than her own. His blue eyes would probably pretty if they weren’t boring into her so intensely. He definitely lifted - his arms were massive. There was absolutely nothing remarkable about his clothing, apart from the fact that his shirt was on inside out. Oh.
She had seen this guy before, though only from the back. Unless there was another tall, built guy walking around East London with the label of his shirt on display.
“I found you,” he said, his voice hoarse as his eyes drank her in.
“Er… Hi?” Arya said, doing her best to be polite, “I’m so sorry, have we met before? Do you go to school here?” Perhaps they had a class together, or maybe he was one of the guys that Ella kept trying to set Arya up with. However, the longer she looked at him, the more she doubted that they had ever met. Between the bizarre energy he gave off and the fact that he was undeniably very attractive, Arya knew she would have remembered him. The stranger blinked at her and his face fell.
“You don’t know me?”
“I’m sorry, I just can’t remember where I know you from,” Arya said, a little nervous at how upset this guy appeared, “Did we meet at a party?”
“Arya, it’s me,” his eyes were desperate now, “You have to remember. Bran needs you to remember, everyone does.”
“I’m sorry, I think you have the wrong Arya,” she said, backing away, “I’ve got to go this way now.” As curious as Arya was, she also knew that no matter how handsome he was, sticking around to listen to the ramblings of a strange man who knew her name was not the prudent thing to do. She ran in the opposite direction.
After spending almost half an hour hesitantly avoiding main walkways, Arya finally made it to her cafe. She ordered a coffee and found herself a table by the window, ready to get some work done. Opening up her laptop, she began downloading the reading she had to complete before her British History lecture the following afternoon. The document had almost finished downloading when a large figure dropped into the chair opposite her.
“Please stop running away from me,” he said, “I have no idea where we are and I can’t lose you again.”
“Oh my god,” Arya groaned, holding her head in her hands, “I’m going to have to phone the police, aren’t I?” She said this to herself as she glanced back up at the man, who was still looking at her with that mix of concern and relief in his face.
“I don’t know what that means,” he said.
“Are you stalking me?” Arya demanded, keeping her voice low so as not to disturb the fellow patrons, “Who are you? I have mace.” It was a lie, but he didn’t need to know that.
“You’ve got a mace?” He asked, his eyes lighting up. “Where?” What the fuck is this guy on about?
“Mace. Not a mace.” She watched his brows knit together, seemingly disappointed by the fact that she wasn’t carry a literal medieval-style mace. He was cute when he was confused, she decided, before remembering that he was likely a stalker who wanted to lure her into his basement and kill her. “Who are you and why do you know my name?”
“I was hoping you would at least remember me, since you brought me here,” he said, a trace of bitterness in his voice. He caught himself and gave her an apologetic look. “Not that I would have preferred to stay behind and let you do this alone.” His voice was softer now, and he glanced at her hand on the table. She pulled it away before he could make any sort of move to touch her. Arya watched his shoulders fall as he sighed sadly and she felt a twinge of pity for him. He obviously had some issues and as much as she wanted nothing to do with them, his delusions likely weren’t something that he could control.
“I’m really sorry about whatever you’re going through,” Arya said, as kindly as she could muster, “but I don’t think I can help you. I didn’t bring you here, you just came in and sat down. I don’t know you, and I think you should go back to where you live. Do you need help finding your home? Or do you stay somewhere with someone who looks after you?” She pulled out her phone. “I can call someone if you tell me their number?”
“Number?” he asked, and she was amazed at how genuine it all seemed. It was as if he had dropped in from another world completely. There was nothing contrived about his confusion, and though half of what he said was crazy, he didn’t seem all that unstable.
“Never mind,” she said, setting her phone on the table, deciding not to confuse him further, “How about we start with your name. Do you remember your name?”
“Of course I remember my name,” he scoffed, “Gendry. You’re the one who needs to remember -,”
“Gendry,” she cut him off, hoping to make some progress, and not missing the brief flicker of hope that appeared on his face as she spoke his name. “I’ve never heard that name before. What’s your surname?”
“Don’t have one,” he said simply, “Wait, no, I do.” Arya raised an eyebrow. “Baratheon. Gendry Baratheon. Sorry, it’s still new.”
“Recently married?” Arya asked, doing her best not to laugh at him forgetting his own last name mere seconds after scoffing at her question about his first name. He really was cute, despite all of the weirdness.
“What?” Gendry asked, “No, we won’t be married for another month.”
“Who’s ‘we’?” She pressed, hoping he would name some sort of emergency contact.
“Us,” he said, “You and I.” He smiled at her, the thought of their wedding seeming to breathe new life into him. It was the final straw for Arya.
She slammed her laptop closed and stood up. “Okay, I don’t know who you are or what drugs you’re taking, Gendry, but you and I are not engaged. If you try to speak to me again, I will phone the police.” She walked briskly out of the cafe, glancing back to see him staring after her but, thankfully, not following behind.
Of all of the stupid things Arya had done in her life, leaving her phone in the possession of a stalker might sit atop the list. She realized it as soon as she arrived home and swore loudly to herself, happy that the tenants who rented the flat above hers were likely not around to hear her.
She spent forty-five minutes deciding if her phone was worth retrieving before she tucked her pocket knife into her bag and made her way back to the cafe.
Arya was surprised to see that Gendry had not moved. He was still sitting in the same spot, her phone untouched across from him. He sat with his hands on the table, thinking so hard that he appeared to be in pain. She sighed and walked over.
“You didn’t try to steal my phone,” she said, picking the phone up.
“It kept buzzing and saying ‘Die-lan’ and I didn’t know what to do with it,” he said, “so I just waited for you.”
“Dylan,” Arya corrected, noticing that there were indeed five notifications from Dylan on the homescreen, “He’s a friend of mine.” Gendry nodded, and Arya could tell that he was nervous. He didn’t want to scare her away again. “Thanks for waiting with it.”
“Please accept my apologies for how I’ve acted,” he said, his voice careful, “I didn’t mean to frighten you. I’m just very confused.” He looked up at her and she cursed herself for succumbing to the desperation in his eyes. She sat down.
“I’m not your wife,” she said, and he put a hand up to correct her, “or your fiancée.” He shut his mouth and cocked his head at this, and she realized that if he was unsure what to do with a cellphone, basic french might be beyond him. “Or your… betrothed, or whatever you think we are. I’m not with you. In any way. I don’t know you.”
His eyes were not quite angry or sad, but somewhere in between, somewhere intense and frustrated and bewildered. His face otherwise placid, he nodded. “I apologize if I caused you discomfort.”
“Thank you for saying that,” Arya said stiffly. “Look, I don’t know what your deal is, but I’m willing to help you get home, alright? Do you know your address? Or like, the general neighbourhood where you live?”
Gendry sighed. “I don’t even know what city I’m in. It’s not King’s Landing, there are no hills. The big river and the bridges made me think maybe Braavos, but no one’s talking Braavosi.” Arya blinked at him.
“This is London, Gendry.”
“Is that in Essos?”
“Essex? No. We’re not far from Essex, though.”
They stared at each other for a moment, and Gendry shook his head and waved his hands in defeat. “Alright, London it is, then. Where’s London?”
Arya let out a long breath. “England, Gendry. London is in England. You know - tea, biscuits, football, colonialism. You’ve got a British accent, for God’s sake! You sound like you grew up in Hackney, if I was guessing. Don’t take that in a bad way.”
“I don’t know what any of those words mean,” Gendry said, shrugging almost nonchalantly, seemingly having accepted that nothing she said would make sense to him. Arya sighed. She needed more coffee if she was going to deal with this. And some food.
“Do you want a panini?” she asked, taking her wallet out. He shrugged.
“Don’t know that word, either.” Of course he wouldn’t, Arya thought.
“A sandwich,” she said and, when he still looked lost, “Do you want food?” His eyes lit up.
“Gods, yes. I haven’t eaten since arriving here. Where is the food?” She rolled her eyes and told him not to move.
She brought the sandwiches back to the table and set his in front of him with a glass of water. Gendry watched as she picked up a half of hers and bit into it, mirroring her movements. He hummed appreciatively as he ate. “Is this ham?” He asked, swallowing. Arya nodded, unable to stop herself from smiling at the excitement in his voice. “There we go, then. Our worlds have got one thing in common - ham.” Worlds?
He finished his sandwich quickly and smiled at Arya, as if relieved she was still there with him. “When you said you hadn’t eaten since arriving here… How long has that been, exactly?” she asked, and Gendry thought about it for a moment.
“Two days, I suppose? Woke up in that field across the way, wearing this stuff,” he tugged at his inside-out shirt, “and was more worried about finding y- someone I knew than I was about eating.”
“You haven’t eaten in two days?” She asked, deciding to ignore the last bit. Gendry nodded and she immediately pushed the second half of her sandwich to him. He stared at her, a small smile on his lips, his eyes a little hopeful and a little sad.
“You don’t remember that rabbit, do you?” he asked, and Arya threw her head back with a groan.
“Enough of that weird shit, okay? I’m trying to help you.” He looked down, scowling at the panini.
“Sorry,” he said sullenly.
“You say you woke up in the park?” Arya asked, nodding across the road in the general direction of the nearest ‘field’ she could think of.
“Yeah, the grassy area. It’s nice in there. This morning there was this little thing, like a dog but tiny. Didn’t have a proper nose.”
“You slept in the park last night as well?” She asked, incredulous. He nodded and popped the final bite of her sandwich into his mouth. Arya pulled out her phone.
“Alright, we’ve got to get you home. How do you spell your name?” She demanded, and his eyes widened with concern.
“Do you even know how to read and write?” She sounded rude, she knew. She couldn’t help it. This guy was weird.
“Yes, I do!” he said defensively, “You - no, sorry - the Arya that I know is teaching me. I can do my name perfectly. I’m just better with ink than I am at spelling out loud.” She shot him a look of exasperation before rummaging in her bag for a pen. She pushed it towards him alongside a napkin.
“Go on, then.” she said, taking their empty plates away. She returned to him waiting patiently, having written nothing.
“You didn’t give me any ink,” he said bluntly. She leant towards him and snatched the pen from his hand, drawing a line along the napkin.
“The ink is in the pen, genius,” she said, picking up her mug to go and get another much-needed refill.
Arya sat back down with the napkin in front of her. He had his arms folded and was staring out the window, scowling at the cars going by. She figured cars were also probably new for him.
Glancing down at the napkin, she let out a short gasp.
“What?” he asked, sounding annoyed.
“Nothing,” she said, “I’ll look you up on my phone now.”
His writing was somehow imperfect and fancy at the same time, and it was unmistakably a copy of her own. The “ry” at the end of his name was done exactly the way she did the “ry” in the middle of her name. He also made the cross on his “t” a little longer than it should be. Their capital “G”s were identical, with the silly little loop at the bottom that Ella always rolled her eyes at.
She glanced back at him. His big arms were crossed, almost bulging out of his stupid inside-out shirt as he stared moodily out the window. She typed his name into her phone.
“So I just don’t exist here, then?” Gendry said, watching with great interest as a cyclist passed them on the sidewalk by the river. Arya wasn’t sure where she was taking him, but secretly hoped something along the way would jog his memory.
“Apparently not,” Arya replied. She had Googled everything he had offered her - Gendry Baratheon, just Gendry, Gendry Waters, Gendry Rivers (he was laughing as he suggested this one, but he didn’t explain why), Gendry of the Hollow Hill, Lord Gendry Baratheon (“Lord?” “Let’s not get into that just yet.”), Gendry Blacksmith Flea Bottom Tobho Mott Bastard (“Lots to unpack there.” “Sure is.”). There wasn’t a single profile on Facebook under the name “Gendry”. Gendry had been fascinated by how quickly she searched all of his potential identifiers up.
“All it consistently came up with was the word ‘gentry’, which apparently means ‘noble-born’ in French,” Arya said, putting her phone away. Gendry snorted.
“My name means noble-born?” He asked, highly amused.
“Guess so,” she shrugged, “Fitting for a ‘Lord’.” He scowled at her.
She checked her watch and decided to give up on making it to her second class. “Alright, I still think you’re crazy,” she said, and he sighed, “but I also think that this would be a very strange and elaborate lie to keep up if you’re some sadistic serial killer freak trying to lure me into a dark corner to murder me. So let’s get an ice cream and you can tell me your story, and we can try to find a way to get you back home from there.”
“I’m glad you don’t think I’m going to kill you,” he said sincerely, “That’s more your thing, anyway. What’s ice cream?”
“Killing is more ‘my thing’?” Arya asked, a little offended and now very curious about whatever version of herself Gendry thought he knew.
“We’ll get to that. Show me ice cream.”
“So you’re, like, convinced you’re a medieval lord or something,” Arya said, settling down on a bench with her strawberry ice cream cone. Gendry had just taken his first lick of vanilla ice cream (she didn’t want to overwhelm him) and his eyes lit up.
“Sorry, did you say I was an evil lord?” he asked, frowning at her, “I’m a lord, yeah, but -,”
“Medieval,” Arya said, “It means like… from the old times. Back when everyone fought with swords and rode horses and died at age 30.” Gendry considered this.
“Most people live longer than that, but you got the swords and the horses correct. I don’t use a sword, though, I’ve got a warhammer.” What the fuck is a warhammer?
“And in this world, we’re engaged to be married,” she said, watching him carefully as she spoke. “And you’re a lord,” she repeated.
“Yes,” he said, “I’m not very good at it, though, which is why I’m so lucky you - my Arya, that is - wanted to be with me. I’d be rubbish without her.”
“Why would you be rubbish at being a lord?” He certainly looked the part, aside from his inside-out shirt and jeans.
“I’m not a proper highborn,” Gendry said, “I grew up in Flea Bottom - the slums - and the only thing I was any good at was smithing - making swords and armour for knights. Found out a few years back that my father was the king, so after all the wars and fighting stopped, they made me Lord of Storms End.”
“If your father was the king, shouldn’t you be king, then?” Gendry laughed loudly at this.
“I want nothing to do with that throne,” he said, “Lordship is enough work for me. Without you, I’m not sure I would have bothered with it at all. No, your brother is the king. He’s the reason we’re here.”
Arya stared out at the river, trying to take this all in. She didn’t believe it, not really. Wherever this lord had come from, she was not a part of his world. “I don’t think I’d be so good at being a lady of some castle. I’d be just as rubbish as you,” she said after a moment. His eyes crinkled as he smiled at her.
“You grew up in a castle, though, you’re a real highborn, not some bastard from Flea Bottom. You’re not rubbish,” he said, and then he smiled, “and when you are, it’s not such a bad thing.”
“Right,” she said, apprehensive, “And in this world, I have a brother?”
Gendry paused mid-lick. “Do you not have brothers here?”
“I’ve got a sister,” Arya said, “Elaine, she goes to school in Scotland.” Gendry considered this.
“Does she have red hair?”
“Strange,” Gendry said, before looking back at his ice cream, “This stuff is amazing.”
“Isn’t it? Not sure why you’re so bothered getting back to a world that doesn’t have ice cream,” she said, and she was relieved to see him smile at her jest.
They spent the afternoon wandering London, Arya learning about Gendry’s ‘world’, Gendry learning about Arya’s. Gendry didn’t quite explain what her brother - the king, apparently - had done, but the gist was that they needed her - Arya - to remember this other life if they had any hope of ‘fixing’ anything.
“I’m not trying to kidnap you or take your life from you or anything,” Gendry said, watching a boat disappear under the bridge they were crossing. “I just have to find a way to fix things. And I figure you’ve got to have something to do with that.” Arya thought about the way he wrote his name like hers and found that she couldn’t argue with him here. The least she could do was help him get home.
“I got hit by one of them yesterday.”
“You got hit by a car?”
“Yeah, it wasn’t moving fast, just a bump. Hurt my leg a bit. They’re strong things.”
“So if my ‘brother’ is the king, that would make me a -,”
“Princess, yeah,” he smirked.
“If you think that I’m a princess, shouldn’t you be calling me by some stupid title? ‘Your Highness’ or something?”
“How about ‘m’lady’?”
“Ew, no. Never call me that.”
“As m’lady commands.”
“So are you going to explain any specifics about what my king brother did to send you here?”
“He sent you here, you just accidentally brought me along.”
“Oh. Well, sorry about that.”
“You don’t have to pretend to believe all of this, you know. But don’t be sorry, I wanted to go with you.”
“Why are there no stars here?” Gendry asked. It was evening now.
“Pollution,” Arya shrugged, “You see them more when you’re out of the city. I suppose the stars where you’re from are amazing.” They looked up at the sky together, watching as a blinking satellite made its way over London.
Arya knew it was crazy, that it went against every single thing she had ever been taught about strangers. But he had been ready to sleep in the park for a third night in a row, and she had a perfectly good couch.
“First rule - do not come into my bedroom. I’m going to lock the door when I go to bed, and if you even attempt to open it, I’ll phone the police and scream bloody murder, alright?” Gendry nodded. He looked around the small living room appreciatively.
“Your rooms are nice,” he said. “Is this my bed?”
“Yeah, it’s only a sofa, but it’ll be more comfy than the ground,” Arya replied as she opened up her cabinets and pulled out a packet of digestive biscuits. She set them down with an apple on her coffee table. “If you’re hungry, eat these. I don’t want you rummaging around in my stuff.”
“Thank you, Arya,” he said, his voice rather serious, “For all of this, all of your kindness. I know that none of this makes sense.”
She was relieved to hear that he knew what toothpaste was.
“Yours is spicier,” he said, making a funny face as he left the bathroom, “but I liked that little brush you gave me, even though it made me bleed. The cloths we use for our teeth aren’t so strong.”
“Can I ask why your shirt is on inside-out?” She asked as she locked the front door and turned out the light in the kitchen. His shirt had been bothering her all day.
“Oh, this thing was annoying me,” he said, tugging on the label and then looking at her. “What? Why are you laughing at me?”
“I’m not laughing!” Arya said, failing to stifle a chuckle. “Sit down,” she said, and he plopped onto the couch. Placing a hand on the back of his neck, she pulled hard, ripping the label right off of the shirt. “There you go,” she said, “maybe we can grab you a couple of extra shirts tomorrow.” She realized with a jolt that her hand was still on his neck, her fingers touching the ends of his hair, and hastily removed it. His own hand immediately went to the spot hers had occupied.
“Thanks,” he said, his voice a little funny.
“Good night, Gendry,” Arya said. Maybe she would wake up and this would all have been some bizarre, elaborate dream.
“Thanks for trying to get me home, Arya,” he said. She smiled and made to close her bedroom door, but he spoke once more. “I tried to get you home once. I hope you’re better at this than I am.” She gave him one last glance. He smiled at her sadly before flipping onto his back to stare at the ceiling. Arya shut her door and leaned back against it, overwhelmed by a sadness she could not quite explain.
The problem with Gendry, Arya decided, was that he was objectively attractive. He was still asleep when she slipped out of her room, and she was horrified to see that he had taken his shirt off at some point during the night. Though Arya could not quite wrap her head around much of his story, he certainly looked the part of some fairy tale prince come to rescue his lady love.
His body was that of a marble statue from some museum come to life, moving gently with each breath. There was a little bit of black hair on his chest, trailing down his torso. His lips were parted and his eyelashes fluttered every now and then. It was tragic, really, that he was either completely delusional or meant to return to another universe, because otherwise… Stop it.
When he woke, he sat up in a hurry, blinking rapidly. He took in his surroundings, confused, until his eyes landed on Arya and he let out a breath. “I guess that wasn’t all some really weird dream, then.” Arya shook her head, watching his torso as he stood and stretched. She bit her lip, doing her best not to openly ogle him.
“My Arya does that too.”
“Bites her lip when she’s thinking too hard.” Arya felt her face grow hot, hoping he couldn’t tell just what she was thinking hard about.
“I have class in half an hour,” she said, washing her cereal bowl in the sink, finding conversation easier when she wasn’t looking at him, “Are you okay to stay here alone for a little bit? I’ll show you how the shower works before I go.” He shrugged and nodded.
“What’s a - ,”
“Gendry, do not finish that sentence. I don’t want to think about your grimy medieval bathwater.”
She arrived home to him standing at the kitchen counter, flipping through an old magazine. He was wearing his shirt properly now and his hair was still a little damp from the shower.
“These are bizarre,” he said, holding up a page that showed an ad for some skincare product, “They look so real.” Arya smiled as she put her bag down.
“Suppose you lot just have fancy oil paintings,” she said, moving to stand beside him. “You’ve never seen a photograph, have you?” He shook his head, flipping the page.
Arya pulled out her phone and snapped a picture of Gendry furrowing his brow at the magazine. “Look,” she said, showing him the screen, “a photograph of you.” His lips parted and he reached out to touch the screen, lightly tapping the little version of himself.
“Weird,” he said after a moment.
“Now I have proof that you were real,” she said, “in case you disappear back into your own world without warning.” She didn’t know why the thought made her stomach feel funny. Gendry didn’t say anything.
“Right,” Arya said, breaking the awkward silence she had created, “Let’s get you some new shirts, then. And maybe even a way home.”
Taking the tube was a mistake, Arya realized as she grabbed Gendry’s hand to keep track of him as she navigated the corridors to the platform. His hand was rough, worn - she supposed this made sense, if he was a blacksmith in his world.
“Sorry,” she said, pulling her hand away as they reached the platform.
“Not a problem,” he said, not looking at her, “Don’t want to get lost.”
Gendry took a few minutes to recover from his time on the London Underground. As they carried along the sidewalk, he would shake his head every now and then, as though he couldn’t quite believe what he had just done.
“You alright?” Arya asked, doing her best to hide her smile. He looked at her and exhaled, his own lips breaking into a grin.
“I’m alright,” he nodded, “It was sort of fun, really.”
“Glad you think so. You’ll need that attitude to survive this next spot,” Arya said, “The only place in London that might sell us some magical amulet that’ll take you home - as well as some new shirts.”
Camden Market was packed, as usual. She picked out a cheap old Clash t-shirt and held it up to him, nodding.
“What does it mean?” Gendry asked.
“It means you’ve got good taste in music,” Arya said, finding a simple grey shirt that looked about his size and throwing it over her arm as well.
“Do you have to go back to your classes today?” Gendry asked, glancing up at a rack of colourful scarves.
“No, I’m all yours now,” Arya said, “for today, that is. Or however long it takes for - you know what I mean.”
“I do,” Gendry said, “Look, they have ice cream here, too!”
“Arya!” a shrill voice cried, and Arya froze. She and Gendry had been poking through a box of old rings, half-heartedly trying to find one that might hold the power to send Gendry back to his own universe. He had been jokingly optimistic about a mood ring he had uncovered when her name had been called.
“Molly!” Arya said, as the girl approached. Arya knew Molly from school, though she couldn’t quite remember what classes they had taken together. The girl was beautiful, her blonde hair curling perfectly around her face, her red lips pulling into a smile at the sight of Gendry.
“It’s been too long,” Molly said, pulling Arya into a hug and glancing up at her companion. “Hi there.”
“This is Gendry and he doesn’t speak English!” Arya said, rather quickly and a little too loudly. “He’s a family friend from, um, the Isle of Man. He only speaks Manx! He’s properly old school.”
“Oh,” Molly said, surprised. Gendry was looking at Arya, his eyes alight with amusement. “Then he won’t know that I’m asking you if he’s single. Unless you two…,”
“Oh god, no,” Arya said, her face growing red. “He’s got a girl back home. They’re practically married. He’s definitely, definitely taken.” She was determined to not look at him, though she could feel his gaze on her.
“How tragic. Wouldn’t have needed to do a lot of talking to do what I was thinking of doing.” She winked at Arya. “Anyway, lovely to run into you, Arya. Maybe I’ll see you at Jack’s this weekend!”
Molly was barely out of earshot when Gendry laughed out loud. “Is the Island of Man a real place?”
“It is,” Arya said, “Sorry about that.”
“No need,” he said. “You’re very similar. To my Arya, I mean.”
“How so?” She was genuinely curious as to how a lie about a family friend who only spoke Manx was in any way similar to some medieval lady he loved. He considered her for a moment, seemingly choosing his words carefully.
“She’s… protective of people. A bit possessive sometimes.”
“It’s something I like about her.”
The booth was tucked in between a tent selling used books and a stall overflowing with knock-off purses. It smelled like incense and dust and was very dimly lit. The fortune teller sat behind a table, her hands folded neatly as she nodded to them.
“My friend here needs help,” she said, sitting Gendry down in front of the older lady. “He’s… lost. And we have to find a way to get him home.” The lady surveyed Gendry and reached out for his hand.
“Fifty quid,” she said, her eyes not leaving Gendry’s face.
“Fifty?” Arya cried. The lady nodded to the sign on her table that demanded payment upfront. Arya grimaced and handed her the notes, sitting on a beanbag as the fortune teller stroked Gendry’s hand.
“He’s not from here,” the old woman said softly, “No, he’s different. Old.” Gendry glanced nervously at Arya. He hadn’t been sure about this fortune telling process, but Arya didn’t know where else to start. Mystical time travel bullshit was not something she was accustomed to dealing with.
“But home isn’t what you’re looking for, my boy. You know where your home is,” She looked to Arya now. “You cannot let him choose you.”
“Pardon?” Arya asked, a sudden sense of claustrophobia sweeping over her. Her stomach tightened.
“You two have complicated a complicated situation. We cannot know what will happen.”
“Alright,” Arya said, standing up, “Either give us some advice about getting him home or we’re leaving.” The fortune teller surveyed Arya and pulled her hands away from Gendry.
“It is already repeating. He knows where his home is,” she said, smiling knowingly at a bewildered Gendry.
“Bloody ripoff,” Arya said, storming through the market, “Shouldn’t have bothered.”
“What d’you think she meant?” Gendry asked. He scratched the back of his head. “About me not choosing you.”
“Probably that you’ve got to choose your princess Arya and not get distracted,” she spat, frustrated at how much the comment had bothered her. Gendry made a thoughtful humming noise.
“But you’re the same,” he said after a moment, “You are the Arya I know.” Arya snorted at this.
“I’m not a princess, though,” she laughed, “Princesses are beautiful and proper and -,” Gendry grabbed her hand and stopped her. A man on the sidewalk harrumphed as he stepped around them.
“You are beautiful,” Gendry said with a stubborn straightforwardness that gave Arya pause. She felt oddly grounded as his eyes bore into hers, as if they were kids again, lost in the forest. Forest? Arya shook her head. He mistook this motion for further protest. “You are. You’re the most beautiful girl I ever -,”
“Gendry,” she said, extracting his hand from his, “I’m not. I get that I look a little bit like your princess Arya, but I’m just… normal looking. I’m sure that your Arya has princessy hair and blushing cheeks and I understand that it’s weird for you to meet someone that resembles her, but that’s not me. I’m not your princess.” He paused, his eyes flashing briefly with hurt.
“You and she look the same,” he said quietly, letting go of her hand, “Beautiful. And not at all normal.” His words were so honest, so full of an earnestness that made her almost believe him. She deflected this feeling by narrowing her eyes at him.
“A bit rich to say that I’m not normal. You nearly pissed yourself when the tube lady told you to mind the gap today.” Gendry sighed and rolled his eyes.
“That’s not right,” Gendry said through a mouthful of digestive biscuit - he had taken quite a liking to them. “Copper melts quicker than iron.” Arya tore her eyes from her assignment and stared up at him. He was leaning over her, his brows together as he did his best to read the instructions on the worksheet. “You’re supposed to be putting them in order of how hot the fire’s got to be for them to melt? Copper should be further over here.” He fingered the page lightly.
“You know about chemistry?” She blinked at Gendry as his mouth silently tried to form the word ‘aluminum’.
He looked to her, shrugging. “I know about metal. And I’ve made enough fancy copper bracelets for you lords and ladies to know that it melts sooner than iron does. You’ve got the order wrong”
Arya opened up her textbook and found the section on copper. Sure enough, she had copied down the melting point wrong in her notes. He shrugged smugly as she made to correct her list.
“I thought you said you were an uneducated peasant from the slums of wherever,” Arya said.
“I am.” Gendry smiled, “Never said that made me stupid.”
Arya had secretly hoped Gendry would still be asleep when she left for her jog on Friday morning. She stepped out of her room in her shorts and her sports bra with her headphones around her neck and groaned internally when she saw him sitting up on her couch, flipping through her chemistry textbook. He looked up when he saw her and his jaw dropped slightly.
“Morning,” she said, feeling her face grow hot as his eyes fell on her legs. “I’m going to go for a run. I won’t be long.” He nodded, remembering himself and meeting her eyes again. She realized then that what she wore was likely scandalous to him, far more revealing than whatever his sort wore as underwear. “Sorry about my clothes. You must think I’m a total slut in these shorts.”
“Slut?” he repeated.
“Er… I just mean, like, my legs. You probably haven’t seen this much of my - Arya’s - skin.” She winced internally. Why had she bothered bringing this up? Gendry’s eyebrows disappeared under his hair and he looked as though he was fighting the urge to laugh.
“Arya, I - we - I’ve seen your legs before.” Both of them were blushing now, though Gendry looked quite amused. He gestured towards her body, “I’ve seen all of you - her. I’ve no issue with your clothes, or lack thereof.” He smiled a small smile, his cheeks pink and his eyes dancing.
“Oh,” Arya said, rubbing the back of her neck, “Wait, so even though we’re not married, we -.” But her question was interrupted by Gendry suddenly jumping to his feet and moving to her, his eyes wide.
He was staring at her midsection. He reached her and let out a breath, fingers hovering over her side. Arya watched his hand, an inch from her skin, trace lines along her abdomen. She looked up at Gendry’s face and was shocked at the mix of emotions on his face. He looked confused and scared and relieved all at once. Tearing his eyes from her middle, he met her gaze. They were very close now. Arya had no idea what was going on, no idea what he had been so freaked out by, but she did not feel any desire to step away from him.
“You’re safer here,” he said, so quietly that she almost missed the sadness in his voice. She stared at him, mere inches away. His eyes were so blue, so blue and concerned and overflowing with love. The world felt blurry and her head felt funny but she felt unwaveringly safe. Arya watched Gendry’s eyes widen as she felt the blood run from her nose to her upper lip. She fell forward into his chest.
Arya woke up on her bed wearing the Clash t-shirt she had bought Gendry the day before. It was so big on her that it covered her shorts. Gendry sat beside her, watching her.
“How do you feel?” he asked cautiously. She touched her nose. “I cleaned it off,” Gendry said. “I used the big cloths from the bathroom, I hope that’s alright.” She noticed the blood on his shirt and nodded.
“How long was I out?” she asked. She couldn’t remember ever having fainted before.
“Not long,” he said, “half an hour, maybe. Are you feeling okay?” She nodded again.
“What happened? You were looking at my stomach.”
Gendry shook his head dismissively. “That doesn’t matter, so long as you’re feeling better.” Arya rubbed her eyes and sat up properly. She took a breath. Her head felt fine now, her mind clear.
“So, we’ve had sex, then?” She said, remembering now what she had wanted to ask him before her brain took an unexpected nap. His head snapped to her.
“What? That’s what you want to talk about? You just collapsed!” He sounded exasperated but unsurprised by this severe pivot. She raised her eyebrows at him, awaiting an answer. “Alright, yes. We - Arya and I - have not…,” he paused, looking for the words. Perhaps she was still a bit woozy, but she thought him rather cute, searching for an appropriate way to tell her that they had fucked. “We haven’t abided by the rules of traditional marriages, no.” Arya chuckled, unable to help herself.
“And I thought you a proper fairy tale prince,” she said, mock scandalized, “You’re not a gentleman after all. Running around and ruining a princess.” Arya tutted at him and Gendry winced.
“You weren’t a princess the first time,” he muttered.
“Technically the first two times, I guess,” Gendry smirked at her and then caught himself. “And I’m not taking any blame for ruining anyone when you practically jumped me that night.”
“I jumped you?” Arya laughed, incredulous, “And what? You protested?”
“Gods, no,” he laughed, “But you did start it. The first time, anyway.” He leaned against her headboard and grinned at her. She smiled back at him.
“I think this has got to be the strangest conversation I’ve ever had,” Arya said. “You must be good.” He looked at her curiously. “If I supposedly dragged you all the way through time and space, you must be a decent shag,” she said playfully. He swallowed and briefly looked as though he wanted to say something equally flirtatious, but instead he just shrugged and made to stand up.
“I should hope I’m good,” he said after a moment, picking up a bloody towel from the floor, “You’ve given me enough practice.”
“Gendry,” Arya asked. They were sitting on the couch now. She was still wearing the shirt she had bought for him, curled up like a cat against the armrest. He looked at her. “Do people often marry for love in your world?” It had been weird, discussing her mythical sex life with him, but it had also got her thinking. If he and Arya had been sleeping together before their wedding, they might have actually been in love. The thought made her both happy and sad.
He furrowed his brow. “No, not usually.”
“So you two had a proper fairytale love story, then? Poor boy, rich girl, against all odds and all that?” She asked, pulling her knees to her chest.
“What’s ‘fairytale’ mean? You’ve said it a few times now.”
“Fairytales are, like, nice old stories for children. Cinderella, The Little Mermaid, Sleeping Beauty - they made them all into movies that Elaine and I would watch as kids. They’re all about princes and princesses and evil witches and magic forests and stuff. The prince usually rescues the princess and everyone lives happily ever after.”
“Huh,” he said, thinking hard, “I don’t suppose there’s one where the princess rescues the prince? While she’s all dressed up as a boy and telling him he’s stupid? And then she goes on to save the entire world?”
Arya stared at him, shocked. “Yeah, actually, there is one like that.”
“That was so weird,” Gendry said as the credits of Disney’s Mulan scrolled up Arya’s computer screen. The animation had fascinated him for the first twenty minutes, and he had laughed out loud at the little dragon. “Dragons don’t look like that,” he had said, before sobering up and glancing at her carefully, “You don’t remember the dragons, do you?”
“There are dragons where you’re from?” Arya had asked, her eyes wide. She would have liked to see a dragon. His face had gone all funny then, and he had looked as if he wanted to put his arm around her. Instead, he folded his hands and looked at the screen.
“Yeah, there were dragons.”
Now, as the names rolled by, she awaited his assessment. “Well? Is it anything like your story?”
“Bits of it,” he said slowly. “When Arya and I met, we were just kids. I figured out you weren’t a boy pretty quick, though - didn’t tell anyone, of course, ‘specially not after you told me you were a highborn.” She had a thousand questions for him - why was she pretending to be a boy in the first place? How long had they known each other, if they had met as children? Why would it matter if someone else had known who she was? But she let him continue.
“She reminded me of you when she fought,” he smiled, “You’re frightening with a blade in your hand. I’m not as stupid as him, though. Didn’t need to be told twice that you were the person I’d follow to the end of the world.”
“Or to another world entirely, apparently,” Arya said, and he met her eyes. He looked a little sad and a little hopeful.
Gendry had never tried spaghetti, and Arya couldn’t help but giggle as he watched it cook, his eyebrows raised apprehensively. “Looks like worms,” he said, frowning at the bubbling water.
“Well, it won’t taste like worms,” Arya said, dicing an onion for the sauce. He watched her chop, eyes flicking between the knife and her face.
“Can we test something?” He asked. She shrugged as she used the blade to push the onion into a pan.
“Sure, what are you thinking?” Gendry picked up the wooden cutting board and walked to the other side of the room.
“Try to hit the middle,” he said, pointing to the center of the board and holding it in front of him. Arya raised an eyebrow.
“With the knife!”
“The knife? Are you crazy? I could kill you!”
“Throw it. Close your eyes and trust yourself.”
“No! I do not want to be taking you to the hospital!” She figured that even if they could dislodge the kitchen knife from his skull, they’d send him to the psych ward as soon as he opened his mouth.
“Arya, just try it. One throw,” His eyes were pleading, “Trust me.” Arya sighed and shut her eyes. She adjusted her hand automatically, flinging the knife forcefully towards him. When she heard a dull thud and no agonized scream, she tentatively opened her eyes. Gendry was staring at her, an odd smile on his face. The knife had landed precisely in the middle of the cutting board.
“How did you know that would work?” She asked quietly, as she watched him pluck the knife out of the wood. He set the blade down and shook his head, looking bewildered and a little thrilled.
“You’re Arya,” was the only explanation he offered. He gave a look that made her feel like she was on fire. The spaghetti water boiled over.
“Spaghetti is good,” he said. His shirt now had tomato sauce as well as her blood on it. She still felt a little funny after her knife throw, but she couldn’t help but smile as he struggled to wrap the noodles around his fork.
Arya put away the last of the dishes and pulled herself up to sit on the counter. He was leaning against the fridge, watching her. “So that knife stunt,” she said, “That’s why you said killing was more ‘my thing’, right?”
He nodded. “You’re sort of deadly.” His voice was soft, as if he was calling her beautiful again. “Just, though, for the most part.”
“Cool,” Arya said, because she wasn’t sure how else to respond to being informed that she was apparently a murderer in another life.
“You became too familiar with death, I think,” Gendry was looking at her sadly, wearing the same expression he wore when he had mentioned the dragons, “But you’re healing.”
“And you’re helping?” She asked, not sure why she continued to play along as he told her about this life she had never lived, not sure why she so desperately wanted to know more about this murderous version of herself.
“I do my best.”
Arya dreamt she was a wolf. It felt too real, stalking through the woods, following her prey. She awoke with the taste of blood in her mouth. She brushed her teeth for twice as long as usual.
Arya’s attempts to write her British History essay came to a halt because kept spelling King John’s name as Jon. It infuriated her, so much so that tears sprang to her eyes as she mistyped the word for a sixth time. Her insides felt hollow with grief. She slammed her computer shut and ignored Gendry’s curious look from the couch as she ran her hands through her hair and paced around the kitchen.
“Who is Jon?” Arya asked, running her hands down her face. She felt crazy - she was crazy, surely, for seeking answers from him. Gendry watched her carefully. “Why does that name hurt, Gendry?” He knew something, she could see it. He knew and she felt a chill in every bone in her body because she didn’t know a Jon - but Gendry did. He scanned her quietly and took in a deep breath. Arya’s phone rang.
“Where the fuck have you been?” Ella demanded, as brash as ever, “Are you trying to ghost me? Good luck with that, babe.” Arya sighed.
“I’m not ghosting you, El, I’ve just been -,” she looked at Gendry, sitting on her couch, still looking at her with mild concern, “I’ve just felt a little off. I’m probably sick or something.”
“Too sick to text me back? You better be dying.” Arya laughed and felt a wave of relief wash over her. Ella was real. Ella was loud and obnoxious and her friend and she was real. “You’re coming tonight, though, right? You said you’d be there.”
“Yeah, I’ll be there,” Arya said, doing her best to sound enthusiastic. You need this, she told herself, You’ve been cooped up for days with… whoever he is. You should to go to the party and be around real people. Ella’s voice had made the brief panic over her typos feel ridiculous. She was alive now, here, in this universe, and that wouldn’t change. She would go to this party and have a normal, good time.
“By the way, Dylan still thinks he has a chance with you,” Ella laughed, and Arya laughed with her. She felt grounded, present, as if she had been living in a haze for the past few days.
Arya left Gendry the better part of an six-pack, showing him how to open the cans. He raised his eyebrows at the little ‘pop’ it made.
“You have beer, right? In your fairytale land.” He rolled his eyes at that as she passed him the can.
“Of course we have ale,” he took a sip and made a face, “Eugh. This tastes like water. And metal.” She laughed at him as he scowled at the can and tentatively took another sip.
“Well feel free to finish those, then - Ella’s bringing me a bottle of wine, so I’ve no need for them. You’re alright here?” Gendry smiled and nodded.
“Go have fun, Arya.” She hated how genuine he sounded. As if Arya having one carefree night was everything he could ever want for her.
“Don’t wait up,” she said, though she knew he would.
Arya had ordered him pizza and set out exactly the right amount of cash that he would need to give the delivery man. The TV was on, playing a nature channel, and she had left him all of her textbooks to peruse. He would be fine.
She, on the other hand, was decidedly not fine. She was drunk, so drunk that she wanted to sit on the floor of Jack and Krish’s tiny kitchen and cry, or laugh, or do both at once. Ella had disappeared with Krish half an hour ago and though Arya recognized almost everyone at the party, she couldn’t seem to remember anyone’s name.
“Hey,” said a voice she did know, and she spun to face Dylan. He offered her a sip of his drink, and she grabbed his cup and downed the entire contents. “Whoa, thirsty much?”
Arya winced, surprised at how strong Dylan’s drink had been. She giggled girlishly at his raised eyebrows and shrugged, wrapping her arms around her neck. He was ordinary. His hair was cut the way every boy’s hair was cut - short at the sides, longer on top. Dylan’s hands wrapped around her waist automatically, his smile eager. His eyes were blue, but a familiar blue, not like - not like anything out of a fairy tale. He was boring, average, harmless - he wanted to fuck her again, and she was sure it would be boring and average and harmless again. She kissed him. He kissed her back, his tongue sloppily bumping against her own. Arya pressed her body tight to his. Pulling away, he hesitated.
“You’re really drunk, Arya,” Dylan said, and she kissed him again, harder this time, desperate.
She wanted normal. No poor-boy-rich-girl fantasy bullshit, no magic spells, no other worlds. She wanted Dylan. Dylan was ordinary and safe and so much easier to think about than Gendry, than the confusion she had felt every time she mistyped “John”, than the wounds in her heart, the fear she felt, the fire -
Arya pushed Dylan away, stepping backwards and running into the counter. “What the fuck?” he asked, “What is going on with you? You never text me back, you barely looked at me tonight, then you kiss me like that and now -,” he gestured at her. She stared ahead, hardly even seeing him.
“I have to go home,” Arya said simply, and she left, not bothering to apologize or explain or even spare him a second glance.
Her walk home was dark and quiet and all she could think about was the burning bodies she had seen as she had kissed Dylan. The screams, the bursts of flame, the shadow overhead.
You don’t remember the dragons, do you?
She stumbled through the door, not surprised to see Gendry awake on the couch. He stood up when he saw her teetering as she pulled her boots off. “‘M’fine,” she said, standing upright and grabbing his arm for support. “I’m drunk,” Arya admitted, and he laughed.
“I can tell,” he said, leading her to the couch. She grabbed the glass of water that sat on the table and drank greedily. “Did you have fun?”
She shook her head. “I kissed Dylan because I didn’t want to think about you anymore.” The words fell out of her clumsily and Gendry blinked at her. Arya wasn’t sure what exactly she wanted from him. She wanted him to be jealous. She wanted him not to care, since none of this was real. She wanted him to forget she had even said it. Mostly, she wanted him to show her what a proper kiss was, a make-believe kind of kiss, the type of kiss that only happened in the movies. Gendry only stared at her. “I’m drunk,” Arya repeated, “and I don’t know what I was thinking.” She hiccuped.
He snorted. “I’ve been there.”
“Yeah?” Arya challenged, “You’ve kissed a boy to distract yourself from the stranger you’ve got sleeping on your couch? Who insists that he’s a medieval lord that some alternate version of you is going to marry?” Gendry smiled, his eyes crinkling pleasantly, and sighed. She wished he wasn’t so handsome.
“No, I’ve never quite done that. But I’ve done some stupid things when I’m drunk, I promise you.”
“Like what?” She folded her arms, her head still spinning, but in a more manageable sort of way now. She felt safe here, tucked onto her couch, her feet resting by Gendry’s thigh.
“I asked you to marry me. Drunker than I’d ever been, hours after you had saved all human life from certain death.” He looked down, sheepish.
“That’s not stupid. It obviously worked if we’re engaged,” she scoffed. He looked up at her with a funny look on his face.
“You said no.”
“I said no? But I thought we were in love.” She raised an eyebrow at him, curious now.
“We are,” he said, and his voice sounded surer of this than of anything else she had heard him say. He patted her knee lightly, glancing up at her face to make sure that this was okay. “It worked out in the end.” She wanted to ask more, but her comfiness was beginning to get the better of her. She curled into the couch and shut her eyes, hoping she wouldn’t dream.
“Gendry?” she whispered. He hummed in response. Her legs were across his lap now. “I think I remembered the dragons.” She heard his sharp intake of breath.
“Arya,” he started, but she shushed him, adjusting her legs slightly.
“We can talk about it in the morning. If I remember.”
She woke up with him on top of her, sort of. Sometime in the night he had slumped over, resting his head around her midsection. Nothing about his body looked comfortable, but he let out a content breath as she shifted slightly.
Feeling rather like a cat, Arya extracted herself from Gendry’s large limbs and headed for the shower. She should have felt like hell, she knew, but her mind was oddly clear. She had awoken with an idea. It was stupid, and perhaps selfish, but it might work. And she wanted it to work - she wanted him to return to his world and leave her to live her own regular life. His presence made everything feel off-kilter. She brushed her teeth twice.
“True Love’s Kiss?” Gendry repeated, his face skeptical. He leaned against the kitchen counter, arms crossed, an eyebrow raised.
“It’s in almost every fairy tale,” she insisted, “It sounds stupid but it works in those stories. It breaks curses, it undoes spells, it gives everyone a happy ending. And I know I’m not your Arya, but I think we’d be stupid not to try it.” He narrowed his eyes slightly at her.
“Alright,” he said after a moment. “True Love’s Kiss,” he scoffed, “let’s give it a shot.”
“If this works and you go back,” Arya said, moving to stand in front of him, “I hope everything works out. I hope you and your Arya live happily ever after.” He nodded, his eyes tracing her face as if trying to memorize it. She stood on her tiptoes and kissed his lips. It was a peck, a chaste thing.
“That’s it?” he asked, bewildered, “That’s what True Love’s Kiss is like? That’s what all of the fuss is about?” Arya felt her cheeks grow hot.
“Shut up,” she said, “Fine, I’ll do it properly.” And she kissed him. She kissed him as if he was a fairytale prince and she was his princess, as if he was the only thing tying her to life, as if he was her happy ending, as if the world might end tomorrow and they only had this moment. Arya’s hands fingered the back of his hair as he cupped her face and pulled her closer. Her body molded into his as their lips moved against each other, as if they had done this a thousand times before. Whatever her intentions had been, this kiss did not feel like a kiss from the animated movies she had watched as a child.
She pulled her lips away and caught her breath. Gendry’s forehead rested against her own. His eyes were closed. “Nothing happened,” she said quietly, “I don’t think it worked.” He opened his eyes to hers.
“Guess not,” he agreed, and his lips were on hers again. She tugged his bottom lip softly with her teeth and he groaned, walking her backwards until she was pressed against her fridge. Her fingers never wanted to leave his hair and she never wanted his lips to leave hers. When they did, though, they found her neck, and oh, this was alright, too. She murmured an agreement to his path down to her collarbone and she felt him smile against her as he placed his hand by her head on the freezer door. He paused then, and she opened her eyes to a confused face staring slightly left of her face. His eyes were wide.
“Your father,” he croaked, taking the photograph off of the fridge, his swollen lips parting. The photo was from the previous summer. Her dad was kissing her temple as she tried to pull away from him. The picture was blurry but she loved it. Gendry stared at it.
“Does he look the same in your world?” Arya asked, and he nodded blankly, not taking his eyes off of the photo. “Does he approve of us?” she teased, “Or does he take issue with the whole bastard thing?” Her smile faded when he looked at her. His eyes were troubled and suddenly she felt as though there was no air left in the room. And she knew, she knew why the photo had shocked him. She remembered now why she had met Gendry in the first place, how she had ended up on the Kingsroad with her hair shorn off and her heart in pieces.
“You’re safer here,” Gendry’s whisper was strangled, almost distraught, “And happy. He’s seen you grow up - your father’s alive and you’ve got no scars and you sleep without screaming.” His words rushed out, his breaths becoming ragged.
Arya exhaled heavily, her eyes not leaving his face as she tried to process all of what he said, as she tried to process every feeling and memory that rushed into her head. “You have to stay here,” Gendry choked. She shook her head.
“I remember now,” Arya said. “I remember my father, and my mother. Robb and Rickon. Jon.” Her voice broke on his name. He had walked into that throne room and never walked out.
A tear rolled down Gendry’s cheek and Arya wiped it away, wishing she could quell the frustration and sadness in his eyes. She understood now. The father she knew and loved here might look like Lord Eddard Stark, but he was not her father. Her friends’ lives would be unchanged should she disappear. London, such a large and dirty and fantastic city, was not home for her. The only thing in this world that belonged to her stood in front of her, apologizing, desperately wishing for her to stay in this surreal, safe utopia. Arya shook her head at him and brought their foreheads together once more.
“A repetition,” she breathed, remembering her brother’s words. “You were the only one in the world who looked at me and knew who I was, and you did everything you could to keep me safe,” she said, his nose touching hers as he winced. She touched a hand to his cheek and kissed him softly.
She was Arya Stark of Winterfell, the hero of the dawn, the soon-to-be Lady of Storms End, and she was going home.
Arya awoke with her cheek against the cold stone floor. Gendry lay beside her, unconscious, his chest rising and falling steadily. She breathed a sigh of relief as she rolled to stare at the ceiling.
“You’re back,” Bran said, a rare hint of mild surprise in his voice. Arya sat up and realized she was in the council room again, though now only the king sat at the table. She stood up gingerly, noting that she was wearing the tunic and breeches she had worn when Bran had summoned them. Strange.
“Did it work?” she breathed, “Is time… healed now?” Her brother nodded slowly.
“My vision is clear once more. You’ve saved us again.” She shook her head.
“Gendry,” she breathed, “he - I wouldn’t have been able to, not without him. He brought me back.” Bran smiled at her.
“A rather useful loophole you discovered. You kissed him with our solution still on your lips, bringing him along but not wiping his mind. A risk, certainly, but it seems to have paid off.” He glanced at Gendry’s unmoving body.
“I didn’t mean to bring him,” Arya said shakily, “I could have killed him, sent him anywhere, I -,”
“I believe he would have found you no matter what world you and he were in. However, this way allowed for a solution within mere days of your departure, saving our world a great deal of distress and trauma. I thank you both.” She looked at Gendry. “He’ll be alright,” Bran said, knowing what she had been about to ask, “Give him a couple of hours.”
She let go of his hand only briefly, to hug her sister and to tell her she had beautiful hair - their mother’s hair. Sansa looked taken aback but smiled warmly. “Thank you,” Sansa said, fingering her hair absentmindedly, “for that and for saving us, again. Both of you.” She looked down at Gendry, still unconscious, now resting in the bed the castle staff had brought him to.
Sansa smiled at Arya, who had returned to her seat at Gendry’s side.
“You two are like something out of a song, you know,” Sansa said with a smile as she made to leave, wanting to offer them some privacy. Arya smiled at her, not having the energy - nor, she found, the desire - to roll her eyes in jest.
Arya had drifted off to sleep and was awoken by his thumb tracing her jaw. Her eyes blinked open and she turned to face him, her heart stuttering when she saw him smile sadly.
“I’m sorry,” he whispered, “You deserved that life.” She shook her head and stood, lifting the covers so that she could join him where he lay. She wrapped her arms around his torso, the warmth from his chest radiating through her.
“I don’t know what I deserve,” she said into his body, her voice slightly muffled, “but I want you. Every time. In every world, I want you.” He ran a hand delicately through her hair and kissed the top of her head. They lay like that for a peaceful moment, or perhaps hours. The world felt quiet for once.
“Do you think if we told him what it was like, Hot Pie would be able to make pizza?” He asked, and she grinned against his chest.
“We should tell them that you’ve woken up,” Arya murmured. She lay with her head on his chest now. Gendry grunted in dissent.
“I’m sure Bran already knows,” he said, “Besides, we’ve got more pressing matters.” Without warning, Gendry rolled her over so that she was on her back. For a moment, she thought he would kiss her, but instead he just leaned on his arm and looked at her, his free hand untucking her shirt from her breeches and pushing it up her body. His eyes fell to her torso and softened.
Gendry’s lips traced her scars, delicate against the puckered skin. She closed her eyes and ran her fingers through his hair as he moved his kisses along the bottom of her ribcage.
“Gendry,” she said, and he paused, “Can I ask you something?” He brought his face up so that they were level and nodded. She gave him a coy smile. “Would you have fucked me in that kitchen, up against the fridge? If you hadn’t seen that picture, I mean.” He knit his eyebrows together, as if unsure what she was asking. “Since you weren’t sure that I was the same Arya.” His face broke into a smile.
“I knew you were the same Arya the whole time,” he scoffed, “I played along with the suggestion that you weren’t my Arya because I figured it would make everything a little bit less intense for you. I wanted you to be able to relax around me.” Arya blinked at him.
“You manipulative little...,” she breathed, a chuckle escaping her lips, “Lulling me into a false sense of trust.”
“Joke was on me, though,” he said, “It worked better than I wanted it to in the end.”
“And I’m glad of it,” Arya told him, reaching out to touch his face. He nodded into her palm.
“Me as well,” Gendry conceded, “I would be a miserable man if you weren’t in this world.” He leaned down to kiss her. His lips were gentle against her own as his hand moved up the underside of her shirt. He cupped her breast and ran his thumb over her nipple. She hummed into his kiss before pushing him away.
“You never answered my question,” she said, “About fucking me against that fridge.” His confused expression shifted to a smile.
“Do you really need to ask?” He brought his lips to the underside of her jaw, “I’d have you anywhere, anytime you’d like me to.” His lips trailed down her neck, pausing only long enough for him to pull her tunic over her head. Gendry looked down at her, bare and scarred, her hair mussed and her cheeks flushed.
He kissed her lips again. “I’d have had you against that fridge.”
He kissed the base of her neck. “I’d have had you on that stone surface in the kitchen.”
He pressed his face against her chest, kissing her between her breasts. “I’d have had you on the couch, in your bed,” he brought his lips to a nipple, his fingers teasing the other one. She moaned quietly as he took his lips away. “The shower,” he suggested, and she looked down at him apprehensively.
“How would that even work?” she frowned.
“I’m sure we could have found a way,” he mused, shifting down so that his lips were at the hem of her breeches. A knock came at the door and he growled quietly.
“Arya,” Sansa’s voice called, “Is he awake yet? Ser Davos is growing rather concerned.” Gendry sighed against her abdomen and rolled off of her. She pulled on her shirt and smiled at his reluctant face.
“You can have me in every room of our castle,” she said, standing and offering him her hand, “but first, let’s give poor Ser Davos some peace of mind.” He sighed and joined her.
“Storm’s End is a very big castle, m’lady,” he said. Arya paused with her hand on the door and smiled up at him, an eyebrow raised.
“I hope you’re up for it, m’lord.”
Arya opened the door to leave, and, as he would for the rest of his days, Gendry followed after her.