So tired. I should be packing to go back to uni and yet I am here, editing this. But on the upside, THANK YOU FOR YOUR REVIEWS. And the favorites, although I feel like I should suggest you alert it instead, it's not exactly reached it's thrilling conclusion yet. But hey, if it's worthy of your click, maybe a review next time? *shamless beggar-woman* Also the summary is shitey. I need a new one, so suggestions would be appreciated.

And oh yes, this chapter has helped me realise that I SUCK at dialogue. And I apologise for it. Arya's line about talking without saying anything, that is total self-reflection. I am not above that.

Gratuitous shirtless Gendry for your troubles?


Arya woke early the next day with a dry throat and damp everything else. Sleeping by the roadside had its advantages but being underneath all the run-off from the pines above wasn't one of them. The night before she had fallen asleep whispering names under her breath, curled up beside Hot Pie and Gendry, facing back down the road toward King's Landing. This morning her throat scratched and she wondered if she'd carried on saying them in her sleep.

Cersei, Joffrey, The Hound, The Mountain.
Cersei, Joffrey, The Hound, The Mountain.

Sitting up, a fat water droplet landed right on her head adding its round, little 'thap' noise to the music of water falling elsewhere. What she then noted was the lack of any true music. No birds were singing. The occasional turbulent crow-call didn't count and Arya shivered, looking up at the trees, conscious of something up there that wasn't birds, and judging from her recent experience, certainly weren't Gods either.

The sun wasn't yet above the horizon, the sky lit an early morning shade of pale blue. It made her think of her father and Winterfell. Then as she moved around, picking her wet trousers away from her legs, she became aware of an uncomfortable tightness shifting inside her. She got up quickly and headed for the woods, slipping between a few trees where she'd be beyond sight.

There was a little creek running down the incline, spreading out into lots of tiny rivulets coming together again in little eddies. She followed it up a ways before she found a reasonably rooty tree and looked around. The beat of water was her only company. Pulling her trousers down she squatted against it, forcing free the meagre remains of sustenance she had got hold of the last three days. Lorch and his men weren't exactly generous. It was finished quickly and Arya had a quick wee to make sure Gendry wouldn't have to come with her again. A clump of dead wet leaves served as her privy rag – she thanked someone that there was at least one tree here that wasn't a spindly evergreen in the area – then stood and pulled up her trousers. Some remaining human modesty made her throw some earth over her produce. Once it was covered in twigs, discreetly ensconced in the tree roots she walked down to the stream to clean her hands.

She plunged her hands into the icy water and withdrew them quickly, scraping clean her palms with her nails, hoping she hadn't pooed in a rabbit hole. That would be a nasty shock for any little creature coming to the surface. Then as she picked filth from her finger-nails, she began to listen again for any animal sounds in the underbrush. "Just because you can't see it, doesn't mean it isn't there Arya. Everything leaves signs."

That had been her father's explanation. She had argued of course – challenged him to find signs of things they couldn't see. He had pointed out burrows and animal droppings – even broken sapling limbs that deer had left behind. She had a hard time believing anyone would notice those, even if they were looking. She had said that as well and he had laughed, smiling in that adult way that meant he wasn't taking her literally. He reminded her that some things were invisible too, but instead of pursuing this she agreed to play the game he suggested; things they could not see but were there.

"Birds," she began, "you can hear them but you can't always see them."

"Music."

"Bread baking."

"Speech."

"You can see people talking!"

"Oh really, y'majesty? You can see words hanging in the air can you?" Silence. "That's what I thought."

"Hodor's breath!"

He had laughed, then become mock-solemn and said, "Love." She made a face at him.

"Bravery!"

"Intelligence."

"Justice."

"Gods."

And without giving it much though, she had added that to the ream of things you could feel, taste, smell and believe in, but couldn't see.

She started to walk back to camp when she laid her hand on a tree. She paused and looked up through the bows. No God's resided here. Not in these new woods. And anyway, these days, she liked to see something with her own eyes to believe in it. No God's watched over Arya Stark. Something crunched.

Arya flattened herself against the trunk, her foot nudging a fallen branch. She leaned down to pick it up, and holding it by the thickest end, prepared to peek around the tree.

"Gendry!"

He was panting hard and his eyes were running all over the place.

"Oh for- I thought you'd run off!"

She hopped off her tree root and came around the trunk, feeling she couldn't adequately express herself from behind a tree-trunk.

"I do not run away and leave my friend's to die, thank you very much."

He pressed his lips together the way she'd seen her own brothers do. "Fine!" Then stopped. "Sorry for caring!" Silence again. Neither said anything, they just stared each other down. Gendry snapped first. "Look, I'm sorry, I didn't mean it. Just what were you doing?"

"What do you think I was doing?" she snapped back, walking past him. He shut up again as the tips of his ears turned red.

"Fine, but you should wait for me, next time." He turned around to follow.

"You were sleeping."

He followed her across the uneven ground.

"So wake me up, I'm serious Ar-"

"Wake you up for what, lad?" The pair of them stopped, Gendry just behind Arya, as Polliver stepped towards them, one hand on the hilt of his sword. "Trying to make a break for it?" He asked, mad eyes popping at them.

"No!" Arya said breathlessly.

"Really?" said Polliver even as he drew his sword and let it hang by his leg.

"We weren't!" Gendry shouted coming up behind Arya and putting both hands on her shoulders. It felt protective but all she could think was she wouldn't be able to move backwards if she needed to get out of the way, quick. Polliver snarled and pointed his sword in Gendry's face.

"We were only doing what we've always done," Gendry said, voice shaking just a bit.

"I don't care if you were buggering each other blind, out here boy!" Arya was completely pressed against Gendry now, trying to push him away from the sword tip. "You ran off."

"You know we weren't leaving, we were heading back!"

"We were praying," shouted Arya. Both the men looked at her. Polliver's bottom row of teeth jutted beyond his lip as he stared at her, working through what he'd been told. "Our parents kept the old Gods. They live in the trees."

Polliver's eyes darted around the pines quickly, following the sounds of wind and water. Slowly he raised his sword, up and away from Gendry's face and brought it back to its scabbard. Gendry's fingers dug painfully into Arya's shoulders, but it couldn't kill the flush of power she felt as she watched Polliver's eyes flit around the trees. Then suddenly it was replaced by a sinking feeling of betrayal; blasphemy from using the Gods as an excuse, without giving anything in return. It felt surreal, especially since, minutes before she had dismissed those God's for their intangibility. Luckily the feeling itself was quick to vanish as well replaced by the cool wash of relief at what was sure to be a successful lie. It left her with only a sense of her own cleverness. That was good for a girl once in a while. But as she watched Polliver, she must have done something, maybe smiled or smirked because his eyes suddenly caught hers and he whipped Needle out of its scabbard, and this time, into Arya's face.

She stared at the tip of her sword, as it bobbed against her nose. Then, slower than she would have thought possible, he moved Needle to her arm. Gendry was squeezing her so tight she was losing feeling in her finger-tips. Needle's point pressed against her small bicep. She leaned back, but damn it, why wouldn't Gendry move? The 'shuck' sound as her tunic and shirt were pierced nearly made her flinch but in the next second the feeling of cool metal on her skin had all her attention. She tried to take a step back but landed on Gendry's foot. He loosened his grip on her for half a second before pain shot up her arm. She squeaked as Gendry let her jerk back, grasping her arm. Arya felt a drop of blood well at the blade. Curses, it hurt for something so small. Arya had been scraped, grazed, bruised, whacked, sliced and gashed, but never pierced. Her eyes filled with tears of pain as Polliver twisted the blade.

"Pray to your God's to heal that, boy!" he spat and wheeled around, storming back to camp. Arya lurched away from Gendry clutching her arm. "Not today," she managed to whisper before rounding on Gendry. "What in seven hells?" Why didn't you let me move?"

"It's better not to back away from a man like that," he said, eyes on Polliver's retreating back.

"So you let me get stuck instead?"

She grabbed her arm and dropped it just as quickly when pain suffused the abused limb.

"Let me see." Gendry stepped towards her. She swatted him and tried to look at the wound herself, but he didn't give up and knelt down before her, drawing her back over and parted the tiny eye in the fabric. Arya watched hawkishly as he found most of the blood had soaked into her sleeve. Only a bit of blood sat on the cut now.

"You got poked," he said and she punched him. Appeasing her, Gendry lifted a thumb to his mouth, wet it and gently smeared away the blood. "It'll be fine, just let the air have it." Arya yanked her sleeve free, scowling and furious, whipping about and storming back to camp. He followed, and Arya would have killed him if she'd seen him smile.

They reached the road side what could only have been minutes after Polliver did but they found the camp almost completely packed. They'd just discovered Hot Pie, who was helping load the freed wagon with Lorch's tent, when Raff appeared. He was grinning at the three of them. None of them asked about what because he was twisting a thick length of rope between his hands.

"Can't have you running off," he said with a wink at Arya and both boys drew closer to her sides . Lorch, mounted on the white horse this morning, trotted towards them.

"Come on Sweeting," he snapped, apparently his good mood from the day before had vanished. "Get their hands tied. They aren't walking into Harrenhal looking like freemen, besides our runaways need to learn their lesson."

And that was how they came to the huge castle, hands bound, to see the melted towers. Melting that Arya solemnly pronounced could only have come from dragon fire. Then walked down the hill towards a worser fate,

As the man who could easily have been Hot Pie was eaten alive by rats, she found Gendry behind her again, and found –despite her earlier fury- she was really glad to have him there. She lay down that night, not too close to him , but close enough. Once again she began listing names in the dark.

Cersei, Joffrey, The Hound, The Mountain,
Cersei, Joffrey, The Hound, The Mountain,
Polliver.

And drifting off, Arya found she had something else intangible for her and her father's list.

Hatred.


In the near black of the tiny smithy, Gendry struck the hot steel. Over and over he raised the hammer and brought it down; one strike for every two of his heart. It was an easy rhythm he had taken up at Mott's. That seemed so long ago now, even though it was just a few weeks in life. He struck the sword for the last time making the hollow clang echo around the forge, and using the rusty tongs to put the glowing metal into the water. A column of steam burst forth and clouded his eyes. It was boiling but that was a forge's advantage as a sleeping place too. He laid down the tongs, promising himself without conviction that he would make a new pair soon. Looking across at the stack of armour and weapons he had to mend, he snorted. Maybe another time. Reminding himself the Smith was the God of broken things, he stretched out the kinks in his lower back. Broken he would be, if the resident Master didn't drag his arse out of the kitchen eventually. Seven hells he need a piss. Rolling his shoulder in one hand, he walked out of the forge. Thinking of the seven had reminded Gendry of Arya and the old Gods – she didn't strike him as devout but it had been bloody quick of her. He should tell her that. Or maybe not. He hadn't seen her since yesterday when they'd been shoved in different directions.

He remembered in jewel bright colour all of what happened the day before. For a horrible moment he had thought the Mountain had pointed at Arya and said 'him'. His stomach had turned to wood as he glanced at Arya. But her eyes were terrified, bright and only directed at him. Then his eyes had met 'The Mountain' and he came back to life. Fear, there had been that mantra of expletives you would expect, going around in his head, but also an absurd relief that it wasn't her.

But then of course he'd been dragged to the gate and lashed there. Breathing hard through his nose, he'd wanted to be like the metal, but at the same time he's been almost supernaturally away of Arya. Arry, who wouldn't look away. Look away! He'd wanted to shout at her but if he'd opened his mouth he wasn't sure what would have happened. He tried to focus on answering their pointless questions curtly, before snapping his mouth shot but she was just there. Out of the corner of his eye – fixed on the fence post.

He felt the rage overtake him then, at the injustice. The pointlessness of his death after they came this far. He knew it was vanity but he couldn't help feeling that maybe they had all been something special. That they were intended for more than just the Black. As if this was a story and he was her protector. She needs me. Not that she'd admit it if you dragged her to the end of Westeros. But who would look after her if her died? Hot Pie was next to useless, and no one else knew the truth. All the grief crashed down on him then, all the disappointment in himself, and all the rage for believing they could be special. And then as her slid his eyes to her he felt an absurd flash of relief that she hadn't turned and was just stuck there. Because it was the closest thing to being held, he would ever feel again.

As soon as he stepped out of the forge into the open air all the sweat on his skin had turned ice cold in the wind. He cursed, his teeth chattering. Making a quick jog to the privy he slid inside – holding his breath – and pissed as quick as he could. Then stumbled out the door. Everybody shits. He thought wryly and grinned because that at least was universal and reassuring. He nearly ran back to the forge in the cold. Upon getting back inside his shirt felt damp so he reached over his head and pulled it off. The orange glow lit the back room where the curtain divider had been pulled aside. Squeezing out the shirt and using it to sop the sweat on his chest he looked at the sword he had just finished, but it wasn't where he'd left it. Turning around quickly, he peered into the shadows.

"If I was an assassin, you'd be really dead by now," said a voice – and he looked toward the curtain. That was the thing about Arya – she'd never let you see her til the last moment. Only where she had been. Like a little ghost. He lost count of the times on the road, he'd seen Yoren laugh but no sign of the source, one of the men reach out to cuff only air. She leaned on one of the beams, face pressed to the wood. Good Gods, had she actually combed her hair? She held the sword in the hand that wasn't wrapped around the beam.

"Wouldn't be the first time." He regretted saying that when she winced. "You been alright?" Found a bed an' all? Lady of the castle."

"I've got a place to sleep. In a cupboard."

"A cupboard?"

"Don't say it like that."

"Didn't say it like anything...but , you're safe?"

He remembered the declaration of 'this one's a girl' and the No, no, no, NO! spinning in his head. He was convinced, perhaps irrationally, that the next sound he would hear would be her screams, and he'd be stuck to that fence. She sneered at him.

"Yes I'm safe. I don't need to be protected, I can look after myself."

"You bloody love saying that don't you. Well sorry m' lady," He faked a bow "What's wrong with you? You're being a proper little madam."

She ran at him, dropping the sword and shoved him hard. He fell backwards over his anvil. Jammed between the wall with his legs over the huge metal block he stared up at her. All her hair had fallen back over her face and she was glaring at him.

"Shut up! I wish that rat had eaten your belly inside out, stupid"!

"Bloody hell, Arya!" he bellowed. "Do you have to try and harm me every time I tell the truth?"

He struggled back to his feet by extricating his legs one at a time.

"Shut up! Stop being a twat! I hate it when it's like this!"

She had crossed her arms tightly across her chest and was staring at the floor.

"Like what?"

"Like we talk and say nothing. I speak to you and you to me but the things we say don't matter. It's like court all over again!" Then she stopped suddenly, huffing short –frighteningly teary sounding breaths- before speaking again. "Sorry." Gendry tried to get a look at her face but failed. "I'm sorry was crabby yesterday morning, "she mumbled, before turning and walking into the tiny domestic part of the smithy. He followed her and she almost ran into him coming back through the door. She was clutching a small loaf of mealy looking bread. "Here, this is for you," Gendry took it and she walked over and slumped on his tiny bed, tucking herself against the wall.

"You been okay then?" he asked quietly, putting his bread on the table before throwing his shirt over a roof beam. Turning around he found her watching him, then her eyes went back to her knees. He picked up his leather vest and pulled it on.

"Yes," she said eventually, "I don't think half of them even know I'm a girl."

Gendry found he was relieved about that. He went and sat on the table and picked up his loaf for a bite.

"Where's Hot Pie?" he asked,

"Kitchens," she said dully.

"Understandable," he said and she laughed, a bit wetly but it was good to hear, "How's the arm?"

She looked non-plussed then realised, "Still hurts, but you we're right. It's not as bad as I thought."

"Let's have a look." And he went to sit beside her. There wasn't a lot of light so he had to lean in and squint as she rolled up her sleeve but he could make out a hardy looking scab.

"Don't pick and it'll be fine."

"Yes, thank you maester Gendry."

He nudged her with his elbow.

"Here, do you want a bit of this?" he asked and she nodded. He tore a chunk off the loaf and handed it to her, she held it, but did not raise it to take a bite.

"So what name are you going by? It can't be your real one,"

"Nymeria...or Nan."

"Oh."

Jon and Nan, they were good simple names that would keep them as safe as possible while they were here.

"What did you mean earlier when you said we don't say anything? We talk."

"Yeah," sighed Arya, leaning her head against his arm, "but we don't talk about things that we should. We're always trying to stay safe, and it makes me want to scream. I'm never allowed to say what I'm thinking. Not ever."

"Well consider this an opportunity then," said Gendry looking down at the mop of greasy hair. She lay there for a second then elbowed him half-heartedly.

"Now I can't think of anything."

He snorted.

"I miss my family." That was said quiet enough that the spirits could have missed it, but said it was.

"Nothing wrong with missing the people you love," he countered.

"I just didn't think I'd feel like I was all by myself. We've always been a pack, even Sansa. And people used to joke about our family words, but father would always say, 'When Winter comes, the lone wolf dies. The pack survives.' And now I'm alone."

Gendry say, a bit stunned, never would he expect her to sound so defeated. "You're not alone," he said, and she chuffed against his chest, scepticism on her breath. "I'm serious. You're family is spread out but they're still alive, and they're still thinking of you, wherever they are." He paused. "And in the mean time, you've got me and Hot Pie." Then he stopped, "Well you've got me, and hey, when winter does come we can always eat Hot Pie."

She burst out laughing, and it was startlingly good to hear.

There was a small cough and they both turned to see a surprisingly clean girl standing in the door holding a tray,

"I've brought you some stew...ser," she said, and then dropped an awkward curtsy. She was plump for Harrenhal staff, Gendry noted, and pretty too, around Arya's age. A girl who had embraced being a girl for all it was worth. Blonde ringlets framed her face and her fat rosy cheeks.

"Thanks," said Gendry, "stick it here." He pointed to the end of the bed. She took a hesitant step forward and put down the tray on the pallet.

"Who are you?" asked Arya a little too hostilely. The girl's gaze snapped to where the grubby individual sat and flushed further, folding her hands in her apron.

"Veleth," she whispered then took a step back, followed by another and another. Then quickly, she gave a tiny smile, bobbed again, turned around and ran, a wash of golden hair behind her.

"By the mother and father," whispered Gendry.

"What," she asked, staring darkly at the meal the girl had left, picking at the loaf.

"A girl. I'd forgotten what one looks like!"

Arya slapped him across the stomach, "Shut up, moron. I'm a girl."

"Not that you'd know with you looking like that. Maybe you could court her, I'm sure she'd be happy to have a little sweet-heart."

Arya leapt up and punched him, "You're disgusting!"

"You weren't in King's Landing for very long were you?" he asked sandwiching beef between two bits of bread and smirking up at her. "Whole parts of town, dedicated to that kind of thing."

Arya's mouth fell open and Gendry popped a bit of beef in there, laughing.

"Oh shut up, you prat!" she cried, pushing him and ran for the door but he leapt up, grabbing her arm.

"Stay and have some stew." He said but he was still grinning with a full mouth.

"If Nymeria was here, I'd have her eat your face."


I got to the second half and it just would not flow! I possibly invited carpal tunnel ever closer by persevering but just went on a music bender and listened to 'Real Good Looking Boy' while I wrote. Dreaming of Joe Dempsie and his beautiful arms.This was meant to be out last night but I went running and then got lazy after-wards. Sorry.

Balls, its 11.30 and I have to leave at 8.