She woke up screaming her first night in Storm’s End. It shouldn’t have surprised her, with as many nightmares as she had, but it did. What didn’t surprise her was how quickly he reacted. He’d pulled her into his arms and was stroking her hair, murmuring quietly in her ear before she was even fully aware of her surroundings.
She’d been in King’s Landing again, choking on ash and evading flame, watching helplessly as the people around her turned to dust like they did on so many nights before. But this time, he was there. Right in the middle of the chaos, surrounded by the fleeing crowds, kneeling in front of her with hope in his eyes. She tried to scream at him, tell him to run, that being with her meant death, but when she opened her mouth, instead of words, fire came pouring out, and she could only watch as the flames consumed him.
The second night in Storm’s End, it was Winterfell, and she was hurtling past the White Walkers, dagger in hand, about to slay death, but when it turned and caught her by the throat, it wasn’t the Night King. It was him, eyes an icy blue and skin ashen and dead. Her dagger dropped and slipped inside him, and he was suddenly no longer dead but dying as he gasped her name, deep blue eyes widening in surprise.
The third night was Harrenhal. Rats tearing him apart relentlessly as she stood over him demanding the location of the Brotherhood.
The fourth night, she was the Red Witch, burning him for the power in his blood.
The fifth night, she turned him into the Gold Cloaks, laughing as the sword cut off his head.
The sixth night, she didn’t sleep at all. Just curled herself up in Gendry’s arms, terrified to close her eyes and watch him die again. Watch herself kill him over and over.
“I don’t understand,” she whispered, face buried in his chest.
“Don’t understand what?” he asked gently.
“The nightmares. Why they’re all about you now.” He tightened his arms around her. “They’ve never been about you before, not like this. Not this...brutal, this relentless.” She’d dreamed of his death before, but it was never at her hands, never so blatantly her fault.
He didn’t say anything, just hummed noncommittally and waited for her to continue.
“I thought...being here with you would make them go away, not make them worse,” she said, her voice small and vulnerable. “I’m exactly where I want to be. Here with you.” He kissed her gently on the top of her head. “So why am I suddenly having the worst nightmares of my life? Why do I kill you every night in my dreams?”
“I don’t know, love,” he said. “Maybe…”
She waited for him to finish his thought, but he seemed unsure of what to say. “Maybe what?”
“Maybe it’s because you’re finally where you want to be?”
She sat up and turned to look at him, confusion on her face. “What do you mean?”
He furrowed his brows, thinking. “It’s just- You ran from this. You ran from us.”
She opened her mouth to argue, but he cut her off.
“Don’t deny it, Arya. You know you did, but I don’t blame you for leaving. You needed to. You needed time away from all the death and destruction. Time on your own. Time to heal.” He reached out and took her hand. “But you didn’t stop. For two years, you just...kept going. Sailing from place to place. You told me you never stayed anywhere longer than a week, but now you’re here.”
He gazed at her, a cautious look on his face. “And I know we haven’t really talked about it yet, but I think you’re here to stay.”
She was quiet. “I am,” she said softly. “If you’ll have me, I mean to stay.”
He smiled and leaned down to kiss her gently. “So you’ve finally stopped, and the thing you’ve been running from has caught up with you.”
She thought about what he was saying. “I suppose that makes sense,” she said slowly. “You told me you’d wait for me, but I never really let myself believe it. I couldn’t let myself believe it, because what if you hadn’t? What if I’d shown up at your gate six days ago and threw myself at you only to be told you were married?”
He smirked at her. “Then immediately fucking you in the forge would have probably been really inappropriate.”
She laughed, but quickly sobered. “The point is, Gendry, that I never thought we’d actually be here. I didn’t let myself worry about losing you, because I convinced myself you’d never be mine again. But you are. You’re mine, and I’m yours and now...”
“Now you wake up screaming every night because you killed me in your dreams?”
“You’re not going to lose me, Arya. I waited two years for you to come back to me, but I would have waited a lifetime for you. I’m yours, as long as you’ll have me.”
Smiling softly, she leaned over and kissed him. “So what do we do?” she asked. “How do we make them stop?”
He reached up and cupped her cheek. “Maybe they never stop, not completely. The things you’ve been through, they leave a mark, Arya. That kind of pain never leaves us, not truly. We’ll never be rid of it, but maybe...we learn to deal with it. We learn to contain it somehow.”
“I don’t want this to be your life, Gendry.”
He gave her an exasperated look. “But I do. What part of ‘I’m yours, as long as you’ll have me’ was I unclear about?”
“Gods, and you call me stupid. You could wake up screaming every night for the rest of our lives, and I’ll be there waiting to hold you and wipe away any tears. It wouldn’t change a thing.”
“I just- I want them to stop, Gendry.”
“So then we figure it out. We find out what helps you sleep. We talk about it. We get you so exhausted from fighting and fucking that you’re too tired to dream. And when the nightmares come back, we try again and again and again. But we do it together, because I love you, and I’m not going anywhere. ”
A swell of love for him erupted inside her, and she wondered, not for the first time, what she could have possibly done to deserve him. Smiling, she leaned over and touched her forehead against his. “As my lord commands.”
She woke up grinning her seventh night in Storm’s End. It wasn’t the last of her nightmares, but at least it was a start.