Characters: Arya Stark, Gendry Waters, others
Warnings: violence and canon character deaths
Summary: Sandor Clegane is never captured by the Brotherhood without Banners, and Arya's journey takes a divergent path
A/N: This story is the result of a possibility that would never quite leave my mind, of what would happen to Arya should a Blackwater AU take place. It's a little different from my normal work, and I hope that you will enjoy it! A huge thanks to my beta reader kimberlite8 and to kylathelurker who encouraged me to keep going when this was in its initial phases.
Arya counts down the days until she will be back with her family, back where she truly belongs. The sooner she is away from the Brotherhood the better.
She had tried to run away from them, after Hot Pie chose to stay at the inn and Gendry decided to become a stupid knight, but the rain had been so heavy that she had had to go back; she would never have gotten far and besides, she’d had no idea where she was going.
She wants nothing to do with Gendry now, not after the choice he made. She had thought that he was her friend, that they would stand together against all odds to survive the winter as a true pack would. She has no pack anymore, she knows that now. It was all lies, and she’s as alone as she’s truly been since the moment her father was betrayed.
She’s glad that Gendry is going to stay with the stupid Brotherhood to be a knight; let him, she doesn’t need him anymore and if he doesn’t want to stay with her then why should she care?
He tries to make it up to her, giving her sideways glances and starting conversations. Arya resolutely ignores him and concentrates on the idea of being back with her mother and brother at last. They are her family, the ones she truly belongs with, and once she is with them again everything will be alright; maybe they will even be able to find some way to free Sansa from the Lannisters.
Arya cannot wait to be reunited with them, to be safe at last and yet… there are things that Arya will never be able to tell them. Would they still love her if they knew that she was a killer? If they knew what she’d had to do in order to survive? Would they even want to know her anymore?
She hopes that they never find out, that they never know just what she’s become in the time since they last saw her. Her mother, her gentle proper lady mother, she would never understand… Arya would not be able to bear it if they ever found out, if she had to see disgust in their eyes.
No, Arya will keep her secrets when she sees her family again.
She has grown very good at keeping secrets ever since she left Winterfell.
They are on their way to the Twins to ransom her, just a day’s travel away, a day away from finally seeing her family again, when they hear the news.
A small inn where they have stopped for food and ale; Gendry is seated beside her, speaking quietly about how it’s all for the best and how she’ll be safe and protected from now on, when the sound of a conversation between some of the other guests in the inn drifts towards them.
“Now that the Young Wolf is dead, we’ll soon be overrun by lions again…”
Arya freezes, stock still in her seat even as Gendry turns towards her, fright in his eyes and her name on his lips.
She’s misheard, it’s not possible, the farmer has it wrong. Her breathing comes fast and she forces herself to remain calm, still as a… to listen, to learn.
“Guest right doesn’t mean shit after what Freys have done, and nobody left to challenge them with all the Northern forces gone.”
“Not Bolton forces.”
The Boltons. Roose Bolton whom she once served as a cupbearer called Nan. He had been her brother’s bannerman, he could never have betrayed the Starks, he was a Northman after all, that is why Arya had helped his men to retake Harrenhall. Arya knows it’s a lie then, it must be.
“No, not the Boltons, they saw their chance and they’ll seize the North now. Always was unnaturally cold, that Roose Bolton, and now he’s betrayed his liege lord to take his place.”
There is a moment, before she has time to think, in which Arya opens her mouth to scream, to challenge, to call them liars, to demand they explain themselves, but before she can, Gendry has slapped a hand over her mouth and is dragging her outside before anyone can notice.
“They’ll kill you too,” he tells her when they’re outside, surrounded by the dark and the cold and his hand still over her mouth. “Nobody can know who you are now, not ever.”
“But they… it’s lies, it has to be. How could they kill Robb? He had an army, a whole army, and there was Grey Wind. Grey Wind would never let them kill my brother…. and my mother, what’s happened to my mother? They wouldn’t have killed her, she’s a lady, they couldn’t have killed a lady.”
Arya is allowed to cling to this hope for only a matter of moments, for only as long as it takes for Harwin to come out and join them.
“Milady…” he starts off hesitatingly, unsure of what to say.
“Don’t call me that, I’m not a lady,” Arya breaks in angrily, not wanting to hear what it is he has to say, not wanting to give him a chance. “My mother is a lady, and my sister, not me. My mother… we’ll find my mother, she must be locked in a dungeon, or they’re taking her to King’s Landing to Joffrey. We have to help her, we can still save her.”
“Your mother is dead, milady.” Harwin tells her, as quickly as possible, just as if he's pulling out a thorn, the better to get it over with.
Her lady mother is dead along with Robb, and Arya will never need to worry now of what she would think about what Arya has become.
Her mother is dead, her poor gentle lady mother, and she’ll never see her again.
Two days later and that’s no longer completely true.
They find her washed up on the river bank, naked, her skin clammy and pale from the water, and Arya forgets to breathe.
“Don’t look,” Gendry tells her, trying to turn her face away from the sight, but Arya refuses.
“No,” she insists, “No, I need to see.”
She memorises it all then, the fingernail marks down her mother’s face, the deep cut across her throat where her blood is congealed. She memorises it and she swears she’ll make them all pay, every single one of those Freys and Boltons and Lannisters who betrayed her family.
Somebody throws a cloak over Catelyn Stark’s body, to give her back some of her dignity. Arya wonders if it matters at all, if her mother knows, wherever she is now.
“I’ll kill them all,” Arya promises, angry tears falling down her cheeks, even as Gendry grips her arm tightly to keep her from sagging to the ground beside her mother. “All of them, every last one.”
“That we will, sweetling.” Thoros of Myr tells her, “But first, let us see to your mother.”
“Can you save her?” Harwin asks him, “Bring her back to life, like you did Beric? Please, Thoros, if we could save Lady Stark...”
At that moment, Arya feels a desperate hope, her mother… if she could be brought back to life…
“She’s been dead too long, I’m afraid.” Thoros tells them, his sorrowful gaze fixed on Arya, “I can’t bring her back.”
“I’ll give her the kiss though, to speed her on her way.” Beric Dondarrion intones sadly, and bends towards Catelyn Stark.
Arya looks away at last then.
She does not see the first moment when her mother’s corpse opens its eyes.
It takes days for Lady Catelyn to remember who she is, and even longer than that for her to remember who Arya is.
The moment her mother had reawakened, Arya had heard the gasps and exclamations, and turned around to see what had happened. As Gendry had kept a hard grip on her arm, fear apparent in his eyes, she had turned; turned to see Beric Dondarrion dead upon the ground and to see her lady mother alive once more, come back to life and sitting up, clutching the cloak that had been put around her.
Arya had never been so happy. She had believed that the gods had heard all of her prayers and given her mother back to her.
She hadn’t realized then, the truth of what that would mean.
For the first few days Lady Catelyn had only sat there – silent and non-responsive, her eyes darting around the camp. They had found her clothes to wear and tried to give her food to eat – but she did not need to eat anymore. She clutched at her throat, where the wound was, attempting to close it but never quite succeeding. Lady Catelyn’s hair has turned brittle and white, half gone now, and Arya finds that she cannot quite recognize her mother in this resurrected woman.
She feels ashamed for that.
It takes her mother days to remember who she is, and when she eventually does, what she remembers is vengeance.
She cannot speak yet, but she is aware. She remembers, oh she remembers.
Lady Catelyn clutches at Arya’s hand and her flesh is cold and clammy, she clutches Arya’s hand so tightly that it is hard to withstand the pain. Arya wishes that she could pull away but she can’t, she won’t, she couldn’t do that to her mother.
Her mother is silent, unable to speak yet past the wound in her throat, but she looks at them all, and by signs, she lets them know what she wants.
Arya looks into Lady Catelyn’s eyes, looks into them and sees only hate.
She suspects then, that the woman Beric Dondarrion resurrected is not really her mother at all.