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Tight Knots and Dark Thoughts

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 It all felt like a fever dream, like they all weren’t asleep but they weren’t quite awake either. Everything they had lived through had been something out of a nightmare. Dead men and dragons. When it was over and the bodies had begun to fall, they all stood in a stunned silence as they clutched their weapons and waited. The dead had risen before in that span of the night. There was no reason to suspect that they wouldn’t rise again.

Standing a few feet away from him, Tormund let out a yell to break the silence. “He’s done it!” The Wilding shouted. “The crow’s went and done it!”

Gendry’s mace fell to the ground with a thud as he scrambled down the mass of bodies. “You think?” He breathed heavily. Just a few moments before he had been fighting for his life alongside everyone else. The living present already managed to feel like a different timeline.

“He must’ve.” Tormund wiped a smear of blood from his face, though it only stained his beard. “They were talking. We had an idea. Kill the one who controls ‘em. And he did it.”

The Wilding threw down his own weapon and motioned for him to follow. Survivors all around were moving past them, calling out to one another and rushing to help the severely wounded. It was a comforting sight to see: Wildings, Northeners, Dothraki, and Unsullied all together.

The two men slowed to a stop in the next courtyard. “Well fuck me.” Tormund breathed as they came to a stop near the edge of the godswood. They moved to stand near the charred and decaying remains of the queen’s white dragon.

“You think Jon brought it down?” Gendry asked as his gaze darted back towards the godswood. Lady Sansa had already passed them in a frantic search for her siblings with Lady Brienne and Podrick on her heels.

The Wilding leader nodded and they resumed their search once more. “Aye. Didn’t you see him in the air on that great green one?”

“I was a little distracted by the dead men trying to kill me.”

His fighting companion opened his mouth to respond only to close it in surprise at seeing the swarm of people that had gathered in the archway to the prayer woods. He was comforted by the sight of Davos breaking from the circle to greet him.

“Son.” The older man muttered as he pulled Gendry into his arms. The man’s eyes were wet with tears, which felt like a full force blow to Gendry’s stomach because of his own worry that came with it.

“W-what? I mean, is it- the Starks? Jon?”

“I’m alright.” The man in question suddenly appeared at his side once Davos had released him from his grip. “Little bruised but I’m alright.”

“You’re both alive.” Davos explained in a voice thick with emotion. “Against it all, you’re alive.”

Tormund turned to Jon. “So. Did you – you know?” He made a stabbing motion. “That’s why they all fell, wasn’t it? You killed the Night King?” The redhead was grinning with pride.

“Not me.” Jon answered honestly, shocking everyone who had gathered around them. Tormund’s blue eyes clouded in confusion. Jon then turned back to the group behind them and Gendry was able to see in the direction that his friend was pointing towards.

His heart nearly stopped.

Arya.

Just the sight of seeing her alive in front of him was enough to fill his heart to bursting in that moment. There she stood just a few feet away, surrounded by her sister and Lady Brienne. His gaze traveled over every visible part of her body, checking for injuries and praying that the wound to her head wasn’t nearly as bad as it looked. Gendry was so concerned with her wellbeing that it took a few moments before Jon’s words truly started to sink in.

Arya had killed the Night King.

He was still staring in a stunned silence when Tormund released a loud, whooping laugh and ran for Arya. She moved quickly to try and side step him only to be trapped by Lady Brienne, giving the Wilding time to pull the Stark lady into his arms. He lifted her into the air and spun in a circle while calling out his praise for her. “You saved us all, little crow! And who would have thought?”

“It was always supposed to be Arya.” Bran said cryptically from where he sat in his chair just a few feet away, causing everyone to refocus on him. Arya used the chance to slip from the Wilding’s grasp and she moved to where Jon, Gendry, and Davos were standing. Though she kept a wary eye on the red-haired Wilding as her brother continued to speak. “It was all of the Starks who brought an end to this night. Sansa spent years uniting the North and Jon was the one who gave Arya her first sword.” Bran’s gaze was steady as he looked up at Jon Snow.

“It’s true.” Arya agreed, speaking for the first time since Gendry had arrived in the godswood. “I couldn’t have done it without you. Without any of you.” She met Gendry’s gaze for the briefest of moments but it was all it took for his heart to swell with pride. Arya’s gray gaze flickered back to her sister, who seemed to understand the silent request as much as Gendry did.

She wanted away from everyone’s attention and the praise that they would no doubt try to sing when they learned of what she had done.

“There is work to be done.” The Lady of Winterfell commanded. “We need to see to the wounded” Her words stirred everyone into motion.

“Dany.” Jon murmured as his eyes widened in concern.

“She survived.” Bran confirmed. “You’ll find her outside the North gate.”

Jon nodded and the rest began to disperse, called into action by the orders that Lady Sansa was giving as she raced back towards the survivors that were collecting in the courtyards. Gendry hung back, uncertain. His gaze traveled back to Arya, who remained standing at Bran’s side. He tried his best to untangle his own tongue but it was to no use. What was one supposed to say to the woman who had just single handedly saved all of mankind?

Their eyes met and he did everything in his power to try and convey how he was truly feeling in that moment before the sound of Davos calling his name caught both their attention.

“C’mon lad.” The old smuggler called, pulling Gendry from the day dream where he had been able to take Arya in his arms while confessing everything he had wanted to say the night before. “They’ll be moving everyone to the hall.”

He followed reluctantly, finally tearing his gaze away from Arya. She smiled softly in understanding.

They would talk later.

Gendry clung to that hope in the long day after that was spent moving from one end of the castle to the other. As he helped to carry complete strangers into the hall where the gathered maesters and healers were treating the wounded, he thought of how hopeless everything had seemed the day before. The army of the dead had been marching for them but now those left standing were able to recover.

All thanks to Arya.

Arya.

He took a moment’s rest to lean back against the wall of a corridor as he thought of the way she had smiled at him when they had parted. Gendry allowed himself to hope of what the next few days would bring. When he had moved to the front of the vanguard, he hadn’t expected to see the few hours ahead, let alone the dawn that was now rising over Winterfell. Some had joked about his intelligence but he knew that he wasn’t stupid. Life had given him this chance with them both surviving and he wasn’t going to waste it.

Because he loved her.

He understood it now, though he hadn’t been able to before. They had been reunited in Winterfell and all the emotions which had been suppressed for so long had finally started to reemerge the more time he spent with her. And then she had started asking questions, started talking off her gloves …and he was lost in the world that was Arya Stark for every moment afterwards. Classes be damned. Gendry thought with a smile to himself. They had lived through the end of the world and he wasn’t going to let that stop him from being able to say how he truly felt.

. . .              . . .              . . .

It had taken nearly a day but she had finally managed to escape the horde of people that had been at her side ever since Jon had broken the news that she had been the one to end the Night King. They all wanted to offer her their praise or their services. They all wanted to know how Ned Stark’s youngest daughter had returned from being assumed dead all those years only to slay the embodiment of death itself.

Every part of it was unsettling. Arya breathed a sigh of relief when she had finally escaped into the back corridor that evening. Nobody had slept in the castle just yet, though people were starting to disperse now that the injured had been treated and the more severely wounded were under careful watch in the hall. With the help of Podrick, she had been able to finally talk Sansa into retiring to her own chambers to rest and Arya was on her way to take her own advice when a familiar figure caught her eye. She couldn’t help but to smile at the sight of Gendry leaning back against the wall. He was catching a moment’s rest himself. Arya looked around quickly and took note that no one they knew was nearby to see them as she reached out to wrap her hand around his wrist, tugging him awake.

Gendry jumped at the touch and reached for the dragonglass dagger that was still strapped to his waist. He was just about to draw his weapon when he managed to open his eyes to see Arya smirking up at him. He opened his mouth to speak but she was able to silence him by raising her brow. All it took from her was a slight tilt of her head and then he was following her down the back corridor, her hand gripping his own tightly. He must have known that she was leading him back to her own room but he didn’t protest. He didn’t say a thing, even when she had started to try to unlace the ties of her jerkin after having locked the door behind him. Gendry only moved closer to her in response.

“How bad are you hurt?” It seemed to be the only thing they could manage to say to one another in that moment and Arya understood.

“Only a little.” She answered honestly. “This isn’t mine.” She said as she motioned to the blood that stained the front of her jerkin. “I just … I need to wash.”

“I’ll get the water.” Gendry mumbled as he turned away from her to where the large wash basin had been laid out near the fire. She followed him and reached for one of the cloths that sat beside the basin, passing one to him. “But you’re safe? I mean, just … your head?”

“Wolkan said its fine long as I take it easy.” Arya muttered in return as she allowed him to tenderly wipe at the wound to her forehead, closing her eyes at the touch. It never ceased to amaze her how someone so strong could be so gentle. And the feel of the warm cloth against her sore temple was something close to a heaven itself. Her breathing slowed as he continued to wash the grime from her skin and she began to try to unknot her laces once more, though her hands were shaking.

Even though her eyes were closed, she could still feel his closeness as he moved closer to take her hands in his own. “Let me.” He breathed. Arya opened her eyes to see him set the cloth back in the basin and he began to work the knots. “You’ve earned a rest.”

Arya could only roll her eyes. “Not you too.” She grumbled, reaching for another cloth after he somehow managed to loosen the ties that had knotted themselves together in the dirt and grime that had tried over the strings. “They all have something to say, something to ask. So don’t say anything.” Her cloth made contact with his cheek and it was Gendry’s turn to close his eyes at her touch. “Please?”

Gendry nodded and she knew that she wouldn’t have to explain herself any further. He understood. If anything, he probably wanted to escape just as much as she did. He had never been one for large groups of people. The attitude around the castle had already begun to change now that the largest threat had been dealt with. Everyone was starting to slip back into the way of lords and ladies and she couldn’t stand it. Arya managed to clear most of the blood from his skin before she decided to shrug her jerkin to the floor and moved to untuck the stained shirt beneath it. She winced as she tried to pull it up over her head.

Like always, Gendry was there to help. His hands eased the fabric over her head gently and so her shirt soon joined her jerkin where it laid on the floor, leaving her chest exposed to him. Gendry then pulled her into his arms with a sigh and she felt his warm hands at the small of her back as they worked their way up her spine, kneading the tight muscles that were one of the reasons for her pain. Arya pressed herself against him, ignoring the pain from the bruised ribs that she knew for certain she had. It just felt so good to be pressed against him.

“I don’t want to go back out there.” Arya confessed into where her head was pressed against the crook of his shoulder.

Gendry released a sigh and turned his head so that his lips came to rest on the curve of her neck, kissing along the icy bruise that she knew would soon form. He was taking note of her injuries, though he didn’t question them. Just as he didn’t question her about the scars when he had noticed them the night before. She pulled back slightly and her hands moved to the own knots of his jerkin. Arya focused intently on the knots themselves as she did her best to control her own emotions. “I don’t want – they all –“

“Let’s run away.” Gendry blurted, only to blink suddenly in return.

Arya’s head tilted back sharply as she stared up at with surprise. Her gray eyes were as wide as his own blue ones, making it clear that his suggestion had stunned himself just as much as he had stunned her. “What?” She forced herself to breath in response.

“We could do it.” He seemed quick to buy into his own suggestion. “You don’t have to stay here if you don’t want to, Arya.” She was overcome with the trust and emotion that he was putting into his own suggestion as she thought it over. She was now Arya Stark, Savior of the North. Surely that would mean something in the days to come. And after everything, they were alive. Though Gendry seemed to panic when she was slow to respond. “I just meant …” He sighed. “You know what I meant. Yeah?”

“Of course.” She murmured as she pressed her body against his. “But there’s work to be done, Gendry.”

Before he could ask what she meant, Arya reached up to kiss him properly on the mouth and this kiss was deeper than before. It stirred a flame inside them that had been dormant for what felt like ages, even though it was truly less than a day.

Arya pulled away in order to kiss a line from his jaw down to his chest. Her hands came to rest between them as she began to untie the knots of his breeches. “Arya.” He breathed in a way that she wanted to hear over and over again. “Are you sure?” She felt his warm hands on her exposed skin and she leaned into him once more.

She nodded and began to walk them back towards the bed as her one hand strayed to her own knotted breeches. “I want to feel something.” Arya breathed. “I want to feel you.”

Gendry brought his lips to hers in an opened mouth kiss that had Arya moaning into him. He responded by moving so that he was sitting on the edge of the bed with Arya standing over him. She locked her hands behind his neck and leaned back in for another deep kiss. Her tongue brushed against his lips until he opened his mouth for hers eagerly. Arya couldn’t help but to smile when he pulled back for breath, bringing his forehead to rest against her own.

They had been surrounded by the looming threat of death for so long but Gendry was life itself in that moment.

She managed to lose herself in his touches as his calloused hands roamed her body and pushed her breeches from her hips. Arya laughed softly and returned the favor before shoving him back against bed as she climbed over him. Gendry could only laugh in return as he brought his hands up to cup her face between them as he kissed her slowly. We’re alive. We’re alive. We’re alive. She kept repeating to herself as his one hand traveled down to rub her breast softly. Their bodies were covered in bruises and he was being careful not to hurt her any more than she already had been. “Gendry,” she breathed though she wasn’t quite sure what she had to say. All she knew for certain was that his name coming from her lips was so natural in that moment.

As his hand traveled further south and began to massage the tense muscles of her thighs, Arya suddenly found herself underneath him when Gendry rolled her onto her back in one swift moment. His hands worked at her knotted muscles while his mouth left a trail of wet kisses down her body. Arya could only thrust her hips upwards in anticipation. She had heard the whores in Braavos speak of the Lord’s Kiss but the night before had been so rushed that she had never thought …

His mouth was then at the apex of her thighs and a surge of heat rushed through her body from the contact. Her hands scrambled for something to hold onto as they clutched the bed furs in a frantic way as his mouth continued to work against her with his tongue moving in slow, purposeful strokes. When it swirled around the bundle of nerves at the top of her slit, Arya cried out with a moan and clutched the furs tighter in her hands. Gendry’s own hands were now massaging the muscles of her upper thighs as he held her legs open. Her hips began to thrust upwards on their own in rhythm to way he was working his mouth and Arya felt herself climbing higher than she had the night before. This was something entirely different and in that moment she was so very glad that they had both survived. She couldn’t imagine having died without knowing the true bliss that came over her body like waves crashing in the sea.

Gendry crawled on his knees until he was hovering over her with the most tender expression that she had ever seen on his face. It brought a rush of flutters to her stomach to see him look at her in such a way, much like he had done the night before, so she brought her face to his and kissed him slowly as she leaned back against the mattress. He moved with her so that his elbows were resting on either side of her shoulders as her mouth moved against her own. Arya tilted her hips towards his with a moan and slung her leg up over his back as she drew him into her until they were joined fully. Completely. Just as she had been planning for them to be since the moment that she had reached out to take him by the hand in the corridor.

He groaned at the feel of himself sheathed inside her only to thrust his hips once she began to rock her body against his own as she set the pace for them. Arya reached up to bring her mouth to the line of his collarbone and she began to leave a number of sucking kisses in return, determined to leave a bruise of her own. It would mark Gendry as hers even if nobody would be able to see it. She would know of its existence and she would know the truth: that in that moment, she was every much his as he was hers. They were joined emotionally as well as physically as their bodies thrusted together in a tender dance atop the mattress. And though the thought terrified her because of the certainty that she felt, she knew that her time with Gendry would be something that she would never be able to forget. It was clear in the way that he looked down at her after he had pulled back abruptly to spill his seed across her stomach, his blue eyes dark with wanting. Arya mirrored her need to feel connected to him and she reached out to bring his mouth back to hers, ignoring the stickiness of their bodies as her legs remained wrapped around him.

After years of trying to distance herself from anyone and everyone, she had finally managed to let down a portion of the wall that had been built to secure her emotions.

It was terrifying. And electrifying.

She just hoped that he understood how much it would cost her. Cost them.

Ultimately, Gendry was the one to fall asleep first, just as he had been the night before. And Arya settled into the curve of his body, resting her head against his chest as she let the calming sounds of his deep breathing lull into a much needed rest.

. . .              . . .              . . .

Cold. She was cold and struggling to breathe while the faces of her loved ones disappeared all around her. Sansa. Jon. Bran. Gendry.

Arya sat up in shock as she looked around the room, her heart beating wildly as she clutched at her throat. Just a few moments before, the Night King’s hands had been on her throat, squeezing the life from her as she fought to live. Except it wasn’t true.

The Night King was dead. She had killed him.

When her gaze settled on where Gendry laid sleeping beside her, Arya felt herself immediately relax. He looked so peaceful in his sleep and far younger now that the stress of the looming threat had started to fade. She managed to tear her gaze away from the man sleeping beside her in order to peer at the wisps of light that were streaming in from the cracks in the shutters. Was it really daylight? She couldn’t be certain. It had felt like night for far too long.

Everything had been dark for far too long.

It was something that she had been able to admit to herself in the hours before when they had been wrapped up in one another with her legs around him and his hot breath on her neck. It had been as far from darkness as she could have gotten. It had been heat and light and passion and life. Gendry had brought a new part of her life back to her when he had arrived in Winterfell. For a short while, she allowed her mind to wander as she thought of what it would be like to wake up with him next to her every morning.

Arya couldn’t stop watching him now that the thought had settled in her mind. They had been through so much together before, and now. He had been her best friend in their younger years and now he was just so much more.

And he wanted to run away with her . . .

His suggestion had surprised him just as much as it had her. And though her heart ached to do it and to leave the stress of Winterfell behind, Arya knew that it could never happen. The Night King may have been gone but Cersei Lannister was still alive. There was yet another war on the horizon. The Mad Queen in the South would never let the last of the Starks live, especially not after they had publically allied themselves with Daenerys Targaryen.

And Gendry . . .

He had held himself with pride when he had admitted the truth about his parentage on that night before the battle. But didn’t he understand the danger that came with being the dead king’s son? She was sure that he probably hadn’t thought of the price that would be on his head if Cersei Lannister remained on the throne and learned the truth about his father.

Which meant that her original plan was back in motion.

She would have to kill the queen.

Arya’s gaze traveled back to where Gendry was sleeping beside her. His body was already turned to face her own, as if he wanted to be closer to her, even in his sleep. The thought made her stomach twist in discomfort. Gendry had always been there for her when they were younger. While on the run, all they had had been one another.

But she couldn’t allow it to be that way again.

In a few weeks’ time, the Dragon Queen would be mobilizing what remained of her armies and Arya already planned to be moving south ahead of them. Her time in Winterfell would be at an end and that meant her time with Gendry would be over as well.

He deserved better than her. It was a dark thought that seemed to constantly appear in the back of her mind whenever they were near one another, whenever she found herself close to admitting the truth of her past. She was a killer, a monster. Didn’t he deserve better than a monster?

Would he look at her with his sky blue eyes that she loved so much and still want to hold her in his arms if he knew the truth about everything she had done?

No.

Because who would want to be with a killer?

It felt as if all her wounds had been reopened as she forced herself out of the lie that she had been trying to tell herself. Gendry had always been a part of her life, even after he had been taken away. Names had been added to her list because he had been stolen from her. They hadn’t been given the chance for a proper goodbye all those years ago but she was determined for things to end differently this time. Arya knew that she couldn’t bring herself to leave without spending just one more day, just one more night with him.

Their bodies were recovering from the battle that had just been won. She would have a few more days with him in the least. And Arya already knew that those days would be something she would have to commit to memory forever. Because memories were the only safe thing to have those days.

Arya shifted in the bed so that her naked body was pressed against his, leaving her face inches away from his own as she tried to commit every detail to memory. The crinkles around the corners of his eyes that always seemed so much more pronounced whenever he smiled. The dark stubble along the sharpness of his jaw. The blush of his lips and the softness of them that had surprised her when they had first come crashing down against her own.

Gendry love her. She knew that much. He was warm and caring and good. The knowledge of it sent a flood of emotions through her every time she thought about it. He loved her.

And she loved him.

But she was a different person. The Arya he was in love with was the part of her that he remembered from before. She knew that a time would come and he would turn her away whenever he learned of her past. And because she loved him, she couldn’t bear for that to happen. She couldn’t risk it.

So she would give herself mornings like this where they could just be together without anyone saying anything and without any risks of her true self being exposed. She would give herself the nights that they could spend together, learning every inch of each other’s bodies before she would ultimately have to leave. She would give herself one more moment, one more day before the dark thoughts came back to claim her and her destiny.

Brown eyes. Blue eyes. Green eyes.

Arya felt her stomach sink like a stone in the sea as she leaned in to kiss Gendry softly, her lips ghosting over his own with a sad sigh.

They should have run away together all those years before.