Death, he had told her, they look like death. It had been the best way to describe them at the time, it was still the best way to describe them, but at the same time, the battle was so much more than those five words could describe.
He hadn't seen her in hours, hadn't seen anyone beyond the ones who'd gone on the wight hunt, who'd been alongside him in the vanguard, as well as the Unsullied commander and the fat black brother. And the dead. Unending legions of the dead, rolling over Unsullied and Vale knights and Northerners. Climbing walls, ripping through doors, stampeding and hacking and stabbing. He'd stuck close to Beric and the Hound for a time, but then he'd lost them sometime after the trenches had been lit, until he and Tormund were fighting atop an unstable mound of bodies, both fresh and heavily decayed, the dead who had arrived at Winterfell dead and the dead who had fallen that night.
Parts of the castle were covered in sheets of ice; spiking, dangerously jagged icicles, waiting for those unfortunate enough to fall upon them. Other sections of the castle were burning, orange flames of fallen torches and braziers and living dragonfire, and blue flames of the dead dragon. They'd heard the shrieking, somehow more otherworldly than the other two dragons' cries had been.
And then the shrieking was gone. There was silence. And the wights that had been climbing the hill of bodies fell over, still and lifeless, properly lifeless, the glowing blue disappearing from ruined eyes.
Gendry stayed tense for a moment, two, watching as all the other wights in the courtyard, on the roofs and battlements, all fell over, utterly still. He glanced over at Tormund, whose eyes were still wild from battle, looking all around for the next threat. Not too far off, he could see the black brother rising from where he'd fallen upon a different pile of the dead, but his eyes stayed brown, not the blue of the Army of the Dead. The Unsullied commander was still there too, dragonglass spear gripped in hand, turning slowly to take in the quiet courtyard.
The next movement they saw was the door to the Great Hall opening, gently, unlike the wights tearing down everything in their way. Gendry tensed when he saw the Red Woman come out, but Clegane was at her side, and then Davos was coming down the staircase toward them as well.
Melisandre walked right past them, out the gaping open gates, and Davos followed slowly, watching as she let her red cloak fall from her shoulders as she walked out of Winterfell. Gendry couldn't bring himself to care one way or the other what she was doing, and instead began to slowly climb down the mound, grimacing as he tripped over an arm or leg and nearly fell headfirst into the blood-soaked stone below.
Jon arrived then, with an expression similar to Tormund's, still looking for a threat despite the quiet. He still had his Valyrian steel sword in his hand, though his clothes were ripped and a bit singed, and he'd lost the cloak he'd been wearing when he'd gone out with the Dragon Queen before the battle.
"You did it, Snow, you fucking did it!" Tormund hollered, following Gendry down the mound, and Jon turned in their direction, eyes softening from frantic anxiety into something far closer to relief.
"You both survived, that's good." It's a simple sentiment, probably too simple, but Gendry appreciated it all the same. He probably wouldn't be able to manage much better.
Tormund stomped right over to Jon and picked him clear off the ground, the smaller man's feet hanging several inches off the ground as the Wildling embraced him. "You did it!"
"I didn't," was Jon's reply, muffled under Tormund's arms and gory furs, but Gendry heard it all the same. "It wasn't me, I didn't kill him. I tried, but he got away."
Tormund put him down then, looking bewildered but no less thrilled that the fight was over. "Well, who did then? That man needs a drink."
Movement from across the yard paused Jon's answer, and they looked up to see the people who'd be in the crypts emerging into the daylight. Sansa Stark and Tyrion Lannister led the way, with the Dragon Queen's advisor, the Spider, and the black brother's lady friend following.
That was when the reunions properly began, the Lannister brothers, Jon Snow and Sansa Stark, the Unsullied commander and the advisor girl, the black brother and his friend and her little son. Davos had returned to the courtyard from outside the walls, without the Red Woman, and came to clap a hand on Gendry's back, which he returned with a relieved, exhausted grin. And then he spotted half of a carefully made dragonglass staff lying discarded on the rooftops near the battlements.
"Arya," he murmured, eyes glued to the broken staff, and felt his heart plummet rapidly toward his stomach. Davos turned to look as well, hand gripping Gendry's shoulder a little tighter.
"I saw her fighting, once they started climbing the walls," Davos told him quietly. "With that spear. She was something else, a force to be reckoned with. I don't know what happened after that, she moved on and I got pushed elsewhere, but she wouldn't have gone down easily."
That was true, and it was enough to get Gendry moving again. His head turned, scanning the survivors who kept arriving, but his ears caught the conversation happening nearby, between Jon and Clegane and Tormund.
"Beric?" the Wildling asked.
"Dead. We saw the wolf-girl running for her life, went to find her in the keep. He died protecting her."
Running for her life.
"...Red Woman said something to her. 'Bout shutting blue eyes forever, and what to say to the god of death?" Clegane just sounded confused at that, and Gendry whirled around in time to see him shake his head.
"Not today," Gendry said, and Clegane looked up sharply, making Jon and Tormund look as well. Davos was casting a glance his way by his side, but he shrugged the old knight's hand from his shoulder as he stepped in the general direction of the Godswood.
"The lone wolf dies, but the pack survives," she had told him the night before, when they'd laid sated but still wakeful together. "The last wisdom my father gave Sansa and I. We were both too stupid to heed it then."
"Arya!" he shouted, walking toward the Godswood, where only a hunch, a memory, and a prayer were leading him. "Arya!"
He was sure the others were following behind him, sure her brother and sister were exchanging confused glances, sure Davos was frowning and Clegane smirking or scowling, it could go either way with the Hound. If Tormund was following, it was likely only out of a nosy curiosity.
"Arya!" he shouted again, jogging now, his mace still in hand but largely forgotten.
"Gendry?" a quiet call came back, and he sped up, ignoring the footsteps pounding after him. Just past the entrance into the Godswood he encountered piles of bodies again, not as high as those in the courtyard where he'd been fighting for his life, but long, seeming to circle all around the heart tree.
And right in front of him, standing shakily atop the pile, was Arya Stark, her face covered in blood from a jagged wound on the right side of her forehead, grey eyes somewhat hazy but looking straight back at him.
"Arry," he breathed, rushing forward again as she tried to step down off the mound and nearly fell over, catching her and then sinking down to his knees as his legs suddenly failed him. She didn't seem to mind, clinging to him and pressing her face into his neck, and he held just as tightly to her.
"I can't get Bran out," she murmured against his skin, and he shivered at the feeling of her warm breath against his throat. "I tried, but the bodies…"
"The others'll get him out," he assured her. "You hurt anywhere else, 'sides your head?"
He pulled back, and noticed she was basically sitting in his lap, but he didn't care in the least, more worried about searching her for injuries. Her jerkin was torn in a few places, near her shoulders and chest, and there was a long gash across her thigh, the leather breeches she wore torn, but it didn't seem to be bleeding too heavily. He raised his hands to cradle her face, and she winced subtly, but he noticed. The others were arriving, Jon and Sansa pulling up short to stare at them while Tormund, Brienne, and Jaime Lannister went past to attend to Bran.
He leaned down to look at her neck, and found dark purplish circles around her throat. His own tightened, breath catching in anger and fear.
"Night King got me," she rasped, and he moved his hands to grasp onto her shoulders, away from potentially hurting her neck and face more, eyes wide in shock. Jon was kneeling beside them now, holding onto her forearm, and Sansa was looming over his shoulder in a way that would have intimidated him the previous day, in a different situation.
"How are you alive?" Jon asked, his Northern accent gruff and heavy in his fear and disbelief.
She grinned, rolling her eyes his way briefly, and then raised her left hand, which was grasping her fancy Valyrian steel dagger.
"Stuck him with the pointy end."
There was a brief moment of absolute quiet, as the trio stared at the girl and her dagger in total bewilderment. Jon's mouth was opening and closing, but no sound escaped him. Sansa's hand had somehow come to rest on Gendry's shoulder, and she actually seemed to be leaning on him slightly. Somewhere behind them, Clegane snorted, and then Gendry laughed, brushing hair away from Arya's forehead gently.
"That's My Lady," he grinned, and she smiled back exhaustedly, only jabbing him gently in the side once before leaning her forehead against his, both closing their eyes and breathing the other in.
"How...what?" Jon finally managed, and Sansa came around Gendry's other side to sit beside him and her sister in the snow.
"Well, she is a strange assassin now," the Lady of Winterfell said exhaustedly, and Arya finally released her dagger to reach over and take her sister's hand instead.
"She's the Princess that was Promised," Bran's voice rang out, and all four looked up to see Brienne, Jaime, and Tormund working together to lift the Three-Eyed Raven's chair over the dead. His blank eyes were square on Arya, but Gendry shifted at being so close to his unnerving stare. "This was how it was always going to be. She's Arya Stark, the Princess that was Promised, the Hero of the Dawn, Azor Ahai Reborn."
Gendry turned wide eyes back to her, and saw her lip curled in something resembling disgust. "Well that all sounds awful."
Sansa snorted an unladylike sound at their side, and Gendry saw Jon's eyes roll heavenward even as a rare smile spread over the other man's face.
"Seems you're a Princess again," Gendry teased, and got another jab for his trouble.
"Keep that up and I'll kill you in the morning," she rebuked sharply.
"As Her Grace, the Princess that was Promised, says," he agreed, and her head clunked against his again, even as she laughed and winced. Then she kissed him, slow and warm, enough to melt the cold from his bones, quite unlike the fire she'd lit in him the night before but infinitely sweeter, a warmth that would last him to spring and beyond, a promise.
"So. You two know each other, then?" Jon finally asked, after the kiss had ended and they'd simply been holding each other again. In truth, Gendry had completely forgotten about the people around them the moment she'd pressed her lips to his, and his face blossomed into heat at her brother's words.
"Aye, I know him," she replied, keeping her eyes on him, with a gentler smile than he would've expected.
"How do you know him?" Jon pressed, but she snorted, using Gendry's shoulders as leverage to push herself back up to her feet, and he was quick to follow her, keeping an arm around her waist to steady her. Jon did the same from her other side, while Sansa moved to check on Bran and walk alongside him when Tormund pushed his chair from the Godswood, a smile on her face as she glanced back to them. Brienne, Jaime, and Clegane moved with them as they left the Godswood behind.
"That is far too long a story to tell right now," Arya said, her fingers tightening on Gendry's arm. "But I'll tell you later. I promise."
Later, there would be stories told. Stories of the Night, stories of the years before, stories of loved ones lost. Later, there would be baths to clean up, quick cold meals to eat and regain strength, brief moments of stolen sleep wherever one could find a spot to lean or lay.
Later, there would be wounded to tend to, dead to remove from the castle walls, pyres to light and words to say.
But for the moment, Arya curled into Gendry's side, and he held her close enough to feel the warmth from her body, and feel the way her chest rose and fell with every breath. He'd lived, and she'd won, and they'd face whatever came next later.