a dark world aches (for a splash of the sun) part 2
split into four parts because I think there’s a word count limit on text posts! all four parts total roughly 14,000 words :)
AU. when she is three, Lady Arya Stark is betrothed to wed Prince Gendry Baratheon.
The next few months pass much the same as the last few years passed, and nothing changes.
She hears talk about the Dragon Queen, ready to reclaim the Iron Throne, but Gendry says the woman does not yet possess an army, and they needn’t worry about idle threats. “Not yet, at least.”
Queen Cersei wants Joffrey to be wed, but King Robert insists that Gendry marry first.
Arya turns four-and-ten, and Gendry presents her with a broach shaped like the head of a wolf, a token made with his own hand. He isn’t an artisan, or even a very skilled smith, and the edges are rough, but it is a wolf, and it is meant especially for her, a better gift than necklaces with pearl, opal, or amethyst. She fastens the broach to her shirt and tries to pretend he wouldn’t rather have her wear his ring.
The cold rises every day as winter creeps into King’s Landing, and Arya loves it, loves the way the cold makes her breath rattle in her chest. She is a Stark, and House Stark is built for winter.
It is as she is exploring the castle, the wind outside particularly fierce, when she hears them.
The door is open merely a sliver, likely on accident, and the people within pant and moan and —
And a woman says a name. Arya doesn’t know what is worse, the name she says or the voice that says it. She stumbles away, panicked, because Queen Cersei moaned Jaime, but Jaime is her brother. Arya needs to find her father or Gendry, the only two people she trusts.
She stumbles across her father first, and she clutches his arm, out of breath.
"What is it?" he asks, smiling a little. "What is the matter?"
"I think — I think I saw, or, I mean, heard, I think I heard —"
His smile starts to fade. “What is it?” he asks, voice a little lower. He looks around suddenly, steers her away from the open courtyard, and pulls her into a small room, closing the door. “What is it?”
She tells him.
He sighs, singing into a chair. “You heard what you think you heard,” he says.
"But —" She shakes her head. "But that can’t be. It can’t!"
"It is," he says. "I learned of it shortly after we arrived." Before she can respond, he takes her hands. "Arya, listen to me. I did not tell anyone, because I did not see what purpose it would serve. I believe Jaime fathered Joffrey, Myrcella, and Tommen, but Prince Gendry is the rightful heir, and I am positive King Robert is his father. His mother was young. Sweet. Adored Robert, and no one can look at Prince Gendry and deny the Baratheon blood in him. He is the rightful heir, as will be your eldest son."
"But Queen Cersei dishonors King Robert with her brother!" Arya exclaims.
"King Robert dishonors the queen every night," her father says. "It is not right, nor honorable. But if I were to tell King Robert, he would not only have his wife killed, he would likely kill her bastards with her, and they are innocent children who deserve no such fate. Prince Gendry is a Baratheon, and it is Prince Gendry who will take the throne. It is not worth the risks to tell King Robert the truth."
Ours is the fury.
King Robert would kill them. He has a terrible temper, Arya has seen it herself.
"But will you ever tell him?” Arya asks. Her father is the wisest, most honorable man in Westeros.
"I will," he replies. "As soon as Prince Gendry is made king, and he can show mercy to his siblings."
They aren’t really his siblings, though, are they? But Gendry will show them mercy, he is right. Gendry is honorable. She nods, and her father seems to age half a hundred years. “Arya, you cannot tell the prince, do you understand me? You can tell no one. You must not even speak of it aloud.”
"I won’t tell anyone," she murmurs, and he pulls her into a hug. "I swear it."
She decides that will be the end of it, but it isn’t.
She returns from a ride, sweat still dripping down her forehead, mud splattered on her tunic, and comes face to face with Queen Cersei, waiting for Arya. She tells a servant to draw a bath for Arya, and Arya doesn’t know what to do.
"Does your grace need something from me?" she asks.
She knows. Queen Cersei knows that Arya knows, and she means to confront Arya.
"I thought we should talk," Cersei says. "After all, we are to be family soon."
But what does this woman know about family? Her whole life is a twisted, incestuous betrayal.
Arya tries not to reveal her thoughts. “I didn’t think you liked me very much,” she says, hesitant.
But Cersei smiles. “I do not show affection as easily as others, I’m afraid.” Her eyes sweep over Arya. “You are a pretty girl,” she says at last, “even if you would rather pretend you aren’t. I can almost understand why King Robert loved Lyanna Stark so well if she looked anything like you.”
"I don’t look like her," Arya says. "My aunt was beautiful."
"And you do not believe you are?" Cersei asks, eyes bright. "No, you do not. I don’t suppose you notice the way that men look at you. The way Prince Gendry looks at you. But you are not a child any longer, Lady Arya. I must ask, my dear, for what reason do you wait to wed the prince?"
Is that why Cersei wants to talk?
Arya isn’t sure what the woman wants to hear. “I want to be older, your grace.”
Cersei stares at her. “Are you afraid to lay with him? It isn’t difficult. He will do all the work.”
Arya feels her face flush. “Why do you care when I wed him?” she asks, remembering to add hastily, “your grace.”
Cersei smiles. “I wanted only to offer you the advice I would offer my own daughter,” she says, and she stands. “I would like to be your friend, Lady Arya. After all, it isn’t easy to be wed to a Baratheon.” She stares at something only she can see for a moment, before she looks at Arya with sad, sympathetic eyes. “It is clear that you possess a certain fondness for Prince Gendry.”
"He is my best friend," Arya says, and I will never do to him what you’ve done to King Robert.
"Yes, and he seems to possess a similar fondness for you, his uncouth Northern bride. But when he becomes like his father, when he would rather keep company with whores than with his wife, perhaps you will want to be friends with me, too."
She touches Arya on the shoulder, and she sweeps from the room.
Arya doesn’t know what to think.
She finds Gendry in the forge.
No one ever bothers him in the forge, he says, and he likes to watch the blacksmith work. The kindly smith lets Gendry pound the anvil when he wants, because Gendry says he likes how a hammer feels in his hand. He smiles when Arya comes into the forge, sitting on the bench against the wall.
She likes the forge, too.
He swings his hammer through the air, smashing aside invisible opponents, and she watches him for a moment. “Gendry,” she starts calmly, swinging her legs, “have you ever laid with a woman?”
He stills, and he looks over his shoulder at her. “No,” he says, lowering his hammer. “I haven’t.”
"Not with anybody at all?" she asks.
He nods. “Not with anybody at all.”
"Why not?" she asks. "I thought all men —" She doesn’t really know how to say it. She shrugs.
"All men what?" he replies, voice hard, jaw locked. "All men like to lay with whores, is that it?"
"Well," Arya says, defensive, "yes.”
He stares at her, and he looks at the smith for a moment before he sets his hammer down, and he sits beside Arya. “I’ve never been with a whore, my lady, or with anyone. I’ve never wanted to be with a whore. I don’t want to be like my father, a drunkard with more bastards than I can count.”
Arya nods. “Alright. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to offend you. But Queen Cersei said —”
He laughs, humorless. “I can imagine what Queen Cersei said. But I wouldn’t lie to you, Arya. I’ve never been with a whore, and I never will be. I swear. The only person I will ever lay with is you.”
His stare is so intent, his voice so serious, and she can’t really breathe. She flushes, and he reaches out, presses the back of his hand to her red cheek, can feel the heat. It makes her face burn brighter.
"Have you ever kissed a woman?" she asks. The words come out softer than she wanted.
His hand turns, fingers ghosting against her skin, and he tucks her hair behind her ear.
"Who would I’ve kissed?" he replies, and he is suddenly close, too close. She tries to respond, but her thoughts flee her, and he smells like sweat and soap and the forge. “Arya, let me kiss you.”
His breath is hot against her face, making her dizzy, sending her stomach into somersaults.
"If you want," she whispers.
His eyelashes are dark and long, sweeping against his cheek, and she doesn’t know what do; she tries to sit as still as she can, but she is afraid to breathe. He kisses her.
His lips move against hers, warm and wet, and she rests her hands on his shoulders to steady herself, but his own hands find her hips, and he pulls her closer, presses her against him, making her gasp. She feels as though she will melt from the inside out. Her heart pounds. He pulls her into his lap, and she settles against him easily, her knees hugging his hips as she holds his face.
Her eyes flicker open when his mouth leave hers, but his lips trail along her jaw, and he nips and licks her skin. He kisses his way down her throat, and she curls her fingers into his thick, sweaty hair, her eyes slipping closed. He nuzzles her collar bone, and his mouth finds the top of her breast. He stills at last, his lips right over her racing heart, and she tries to catch her breath.
He raises his head, looks at her, and he kisses her, a short, sweet, quick kiss.
"Yes, my lady," he says. "I’ve kissed a woman." He smiles. Another sweet kiss. "I’ve kissed you."
He tugs on her braid, affectionate, and she shoves his chest.
She strips off her clothes to look at herself in the mirror.
Her arms and legs are thin, bony; her knees and elbows are odd, sharp angles. Her breasts are as small as apples over ribs she can count, and her dark hair is ratty as it falls around her shoulders.
Her face is pretty, she thinks, with her eyes, Stark eyes. But she is not a woman grown, not really, not like her sister, not like her mother, not like the other woman at court. She is still a gangly child.
Her body is lithe, though, ready to run, to spring into a fight, to ride, to shoot.
That is much more important.
She dresses, braids back her hair, and decides to practice with Needle. But that night she sends a raven to Sansa, because she can’t help herself, and she asks Sansa what she might use to make her hair a little softer. A little prettier. Sansa sends a raven within a fortnight with a list of herbs.
He doesn’t try to kiss her again, not after that first kiss, but his eyes follow her all week.
His touches are somehow more intimate, his hand against the small of her back, his lips lingering on her forehead, his fingers toying with her hair.
It is two moons yet before she is five-and-ten, but she cannot wait forever. She finds her father, and she tells him. King Robert announces the news at dinner, loud and cheerful. As soon as her family can travel from the North, Lady Arya of House Stark will wed Prince Gendry of House Baratheon.
Gendry kisses her that night, presses her back into the wall, his hands tangled in her hair. She is left dizzy and dazed, his smell on her clothes, soap and sweat and boy; she is left warm and needy.
Her brothers arrive from Winterfell with her mother within a moon. Her brothers stand a little taller, a little broader, but they are very much the same. Bran teases her, says she looks like an actual woman grown. Arya kicks his leg out from under him. Sansa arrives with soon after, large with child, Willas Tyrell at her side. A few days later, Jon comes from the wall.
Her whole family comes.
She feels more like a child than ever when her sister helps her into a dress, her mother brushes her hair, and Myrcella puts powder on her cheeks. Myrcella is beautiful, Arya realizes, and she will be wed to Robb before the year is finished. Arya thinks about her secret. Myrcella doesn’t know.
Her father was right. It is better kept a secret.
"How do you want your hair?" her mother asks.
"A braid," Sansa says, "pinned up in a twist the way Gendry likes it."
Arya agrees, and her mother smiles as she starts to braid her hair. It isn’t until after Sansa leaves with Myrcella that her mother takes her hands, pulls her to her feet, and Arya realizes she is nearly as tall as her mother now. “It feels as though no time at all has passed,” her mother murmurs, “since you were my sweet, wild little girl, vowing never to be wed.” Her eyes are wet, her smile too soft.
"He doesn’t treat me like a lady," Arya whispers.
"And you like that, do you?" her mother asks, amused.
Arya nods, and her mother laughs, tearful, as she pulls Arya into her arms. “No matter what,” she whispers, “you shall always be my sweet, wild little girl.”
Arya hugs her mother tighter still.
It terrifies her suddenly for a moment, everything, but Gendry smiles, and his hands are steady as he fastens the Baratheon cloak around her shoulders. She is Princess Arya of House Baratheon.
Ours is the fury, she thinks.
The whole night is a whirlwind, because everyone wants to dance with the princess, everyone wants to congratulate her, everyone wants to tell her she is beautiful, everyone wants to see her smile, to make her laugh, to drive her absolutely mad.
But she smiles and laughs and —
And suddenly it is time for the bedding.
Arya looks at Gendry, who smiles, sheepish, and she looks at the lords who approach her. They’re laughing, and they’re drunk. She doesn’t hesitate. She bolts for the door, and she is too fast to be caught. Rickon trips a large, burly fellow, and Jon opens the door for her to bolt right through as King Robert chortles loudly, shouting that Gendry will have a time of it taming that wild woman.
Her heart pounds when she reaches the bedchamber, and she is flush with victory.
But she remembers where she is, and what is about to happen. She sits on the bed.
She should undress. He will arrive undressed.
Her hands tremble a little, but she manages to unfasten the cloak, to wiggle out of her clothes, and she crawls onto the bed, only her smallclothes left. She wraps the sheets around her shoulders, covering herself.
It is not a second too soon, because the door opens, and she can hear loud laughter before he appears, batting away hands. The door shuts, and he is left to turn to her. He stares for a moment.
"I thought I would undress myself," she says.
He nods, moving slowly towards the bed, towards her. “I was happy not to share you,” he admits, sitting on the bed, smiling. “Lady Baratheon.” His eyes are dark.
"I am not a lady," she replies, straightening, "and I never will be."
"No," he says, "but you’re mine." He touches a wisp of her hair, free from the braided twist. They are married, and he is her husband. She rises to her knees, and she reaches her arms up to pull the pins from her head, to let her hair tumble down around her shoulders. The sheets fall to her waist.
She won’t be afraid. It is only Gendry.
He reaches out, and his fingers find her face. Her breath comes short. His hand falls, his palm radiating warmth as his hand skims against her skin, against her throat, her collar bone, her breast. He takes her breast in his hand, brushes his thumb against her nipple. She shudders, her eyes falling closed.
"Arya," he says, voice rough. "Open your eyes."
She opens her eyes, meets his gaze, his impossibly dark gaze. He tells her he loves her.
"I thought you might," she breathes. "I think — I think I might love you."
He smiles, and his hand slides around to touch her back. He moves onto the bed, moves over her as she lays back, and he follows, hovering over her. She trembles under him, but his mouth is warm, and he kisses her until she feels herself start to relax.
Something starts to coil inside her stomach at his kisses, at the feel of his weight over her, a solid, warm weight, at the way his chest brushes against her breasts, such a strange, warm friction.
But he pulls back, and he draws the sheets away from her. She stares at the ceiling for a moment, takes a deep breath, and props herself up on her elbows to look at him, to meet his burning gaze.
His hands find her waist, and his fingers curl into her smallclothes. She lifts her hips to allow him to slide them off, and she doesn’t let herself look away as he looks at her. She can feel his smile in her toes. He kisses her ankle, her calf, his hands grazing her skin up her legs. He kisses her knee, and his hands part her legs. He bends his head, kisses a trail up her inner thigh, until —
Her breath catches, head falling back to the pillow, the world unsteady beneath her.
His tongue sweeps inside her, and her hands fist around the sheets, but it isn’t enough, and she feels the slow burn that builds inside her. It is strange, overwhelming, the sensation of his tongue, of his lips, of his fingers, of his teeth, licking and kissing and touching and biting. His hands hold her hips suddenly, hold her to the bed, because she tries to buck against his mouth, wants more, something more, anything more.
The burn builds and builds and builds, spreads, hot and heavy, and her legs slide uselessly against the sheets, trying to find purchase as her hands curl into his thick hair.
She rises up off the bed, and the burn becomes an indescribable pleasure that wildly rushes through her, until she is on the bed, boneless, panting, and Gendry crawls up her body, kisses her.
She tries to help him pull off his smallclothes, but she is too flushed, too dizzy. He kisses her, she holds his face in her hands, and he slides into her, a sharp sting, a painful pressure. He pants into her mouth, nonsensical words about how he loves her, how she is beautiful, how she feels so warm and so wet and so perfect, and he slides out and thrusts in, pushing her up the bed a little.
Her hands grapple across the smooth planes of his back, and he bends her knees before his hands finds her hips. He rocks her against him, even as he thrusts steadily in and out. She tries to follow his rhythm, feels herself finally catch it, feels the burn start to build. But he grunts against her shoulder, and he shudders, thrusting so hard, so fast the motion steals her breath, once, twice. That’s it.
He collapses against her, breathing hard.
It takes him a moment, but he rolls onto his back, pulling her with him, kissing her flushed cheek.
They fall asleep like that, her body sprawled on top of his. She wakes to his kisses against her neck, and they lay together a second time, a third. She touches his cock, feels it jump in her hand, laughs at how strange it looks, but he swallows her laughter, kisses her, thrusts into her yet again.
Arya refuses to let them put her in a dress when she is presented to King’s Landing.
King Robert doesn’t care, nor does Gendry, and Arya ignores the disdainful stares of the court. She pins up her hair herself, and she is presented with her wolf broach fastened on a silky, silver tunic, with Needle on her hip and Nymeria at her side. She remembers what Gendry told her when she was still a child at Winterfell. A queen can do what she wants, he said. Mine can, at least.
She can say what she wants, too, because no one is about to tell Arya Baratheon that she can’t say what she likes or do what she wants. No one other than the king would dare. But Arya thinks of the king, saying whatever he likes, doing whatever he wants, no one willing to chastise him.
How many people actually like King Robert?
Arya is married a month when Margaery Tyrell is betrothed to Joffrey.
It doesn’t take long for Arya to hear the whispers around court, whispers that Margaery should’ve been wed to Gendry rather than Arya, that Margaery would’ve made a better wife, a better princess.
She asks Gendry about it.
They are in bed, candles burning low, almost extinguished. Her head is against his chest, feeling his heartbeat. She traces pictures against his stomach as his fingers toy lazily with her hair, and she asks what he thinks of the whispers that Margaery would’ve been a more fitting match for him.
He snorts. “They are foolish whispers, that’s what I think.”
She bites her lip. “I think they are right.”
"No," he says. "Arya, no. They aren’t. I couldn’t imagine a better wife for me. You’re —"
"But what about a better princess?" she asks, and she shifts, moving to rest her weight against her palms as she looks at him. "What about a better queen, Gendry?" she says. He can’t deny it. "I’m not a lady, yet I am expected to be Queen Arya. It’s — it’s absurd. I’m not —" She shakes her head.
His hands cup her face.
"Arya, it does not matter what anyone in court thinks. They are not as scornful of you as you might think. A few ladies are, yes, but every man makes enemies, and no one can take away from you who you are, Princess Arya of House Baratheon, the fiercest woman in Westeros."
She wants to believe him, but she isn’t sure she can.
She loves Gendry. But the more time that passes, the more she realizes that she never truly acknowledged what it would mean to marry the prince. Mayhaps it was a mistake.
But she can’t tell him that. She kisses him, and she tries to pretend he is right.
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