She knew it was going to be a rough day when she was woken by a hundred- and sixty-pounds crash landing on top of her.
“Seven hells!” Arya started, trashing under the covers and shoving at Rickon hoping to hit him with her pillow and knock the wide grin she knew was on his face off.
“Get up Arya!” the little brat tugged the blankets off of her legs. Nymeria barked in protest at the cold, Arya settled for curling into a ball and flipping her little brother off.
“It's Christmas.” he whined pulling on her ankle in an attempt to drag her from the bed. Arya cracked her eyes opened to glare at him.
“Aren’t you a little old to be acting like this?” she asked grumpily.
Rickon huffed and glared down at her. He looked scarily like their mother as a result. “You’re never too old for Christmas.” he said wisely before picking up the pillow she’d thrown (and missed) at him. He hit it with her lightly before heading out of the room to terrorize some other poor unsuspecting soul. “Now get up before I open all your presents!”
Arya threw an arm over her eyes and groaned.
She was never forgetting to lock her door on Christmas eve ever again.
By the time she made it downstairs everyone else was already there, all looking far too awake for this early in the morning. Arya yawned into her hands and shuffled to the edge of the room where Gendry was sitting like he was trying to make himself small enough that everyone would forget he was there. With his bulk it wasn’t likely no matter how hard he tried to will himself into the walls. After three Christmases with her family, she would have thought he would have been used to them by now but she supposed they were a big bunch and they did take a little bit more time to accustom too than a few days every other year.
She flopped onto the floor beside him still half asleep. No one had ever accused her of being a morning person. She couldn't remember the last time she had woken up before the sun. She would glare out at the dark windows or at Rickon but that would take more energy than she had at the moment. She settled instead for resting her head on Gendry’s arm and snuggling into him.
He tensed under her touch but she supposed he just wasn’t used to physical affection in front of her family. He never seemed to mind when she cuddled up to him when they were back in Storm’s End. Arya pulled away to look up at him curiously. The tips of his ears were bright red but before she could wonder why he was shoving a large mug of black coffee into her hands.
Arya took it from him so fast a bit of liquid sloshed out and burned the back of her hand. She was too busy guzzling half the mug to wince.
“This is why you’re my best friend.” Arya sighed happily feeling slightly more like a person as the caffeine hit her blood stream.
“Glad to know what I’m here for.” Gendry rolled his eyes. Arya knew him well enough by now to know he wasn’t really annoyed with her so she looped her arm around his and went back to drinking her coffee. She was going to need an IV drip of it if she was expected to make it through this day with all of her family here.
The room was full to bursting with all of the Starks and their guests. There wasn’t a free seat in the house and Arya noticed with some distaste that Sansa was sitting on her boyfriend Harrold’s lap. Arya might have only met him two days ago but she could already tell that he was the most boring and arrogant person that Arya had ever met proving yet again that her sister’s taste in men was abysmal.
Robb and Margaery were sitting on the couch closest to the tree, he was rubbing her back and she looked a little green. Arya figured that was because Theon was next to them talking about his latest conquest in Winter town. He rarely left little to the imagination. Bran and Jojen sat across the room on the other couch with Sansa and the most boring person in the universe squished between them and Jon and Ygritte who looked way too awake for this early in the morning.
Their parents sat in the arm chairs across from the Christmas tree smiling happily at their family even though Arya was pretty sure they couldn’t see her and Gendry where they sat on the floor. Arya was sure it didn’t really matter. They were mainly just smiling at Rickon who was sitting in front of the tree sorting presents into piles as giddy as he was as a little kid.
“Before we start.” Catelyn spoke suddenly and Arya cringed knowing what was coming. Why her mother insisted on doing this every year Arya would never understand. “I just want to say that I love you all very much and I am so happy to be spending the holiday together.”
There was a chorus of ‘Love you’s’ and ‘aws’ and Arya shuddered and went back to trying to get more coffee from her empty mug.
“Arya didn’t say it back!” Theon chided grinning wickedly at her like they were children again. She resisted the urge to chuck her cup at his head.
“She’s no good at the mushy stuff.” Bran reminded them sagely. Arya nodded in agreement; she wasn’t, it was a well-known fact.
“Because she doesn’t have any feelings.” Sansa sniffed in disdain. Arya put her mug on the floor before she really did throw it at someone.
Her mother looked so sad and dejected that Arya felt a flicker of shame in her gut. She knew it was only three words, it shouldn’t be so hard for her to say them. She felt them after all, she loved her mom of course. She loved all her family, even Sansa. She had just never been really good at emotions and expressing them. They always made her feel like she was breaking out in hives.
Thankfully someone changed the subject and Arya was spared of anymore talk on the matter.
The morning passed in a blur of wrapping paper and pancakes and the smell of more than one sheet of cookies burning. Rickon was running around trying to convince them all to put on a Christmas pageant with him when his girlfriend got there later the afternoon and Arya was running around trying to hide from him. He had gotten way too into drama since starting college.
“Arya.” Jon’s soft voice pulled her from spying around the corner to see if it was safe. She looked over her shoulder to see him and Ygritte looking at him in amusement, both bundled up to face the cold outside.
“Want to go sledding with us?” He asked curiously.
She was tempted as it would get her away from Rickon but she was still in her pajamas and only two cups of coffee deep. She needed at least three if she was going outside to face Winterfell’s cold.
“Maybe I’ll join you later.” she said gesturing down at her pajama clad form. Jon shrugged and headed off outside. Arya peeked around the corner again and seeing it safe she managed to grab another cup of coffee and pull Gendry free of Harrold’s clutches while she was at it.
Arya dragged him upstairs with her and ducked into her room with a grateful sigh. The door shutting behind them was like locking the two of them into their own world. Arya loved her family dearly (even if she wasn’t able to say it) but sometimes when they were all together it was a little bit much for even her. She couldn’t imagine how Gendry was holding up so well. Maybe he wasn’t really. Maybe he was as desperate to get out of there as she was.
With that thought in mind she felt ready for the cold and she grinned at him hopefully, “Wanna try to take the dogs for a walk?”
Ten minutes later they were both bundled up and trying to guide all of the dogs out of the front door when Ygritte and Jon barged back in. Ygritte had both her hands on Jon’s shoulders to steer him and he was clutching his head and walking like he was in a daze.
“What happened?” Arya asked in shock as Ygritte led him to the couch. Catelyn came in from the kitchen at the sound of Arya’s voice and she hurried to Jon’s side to peel his hands off his head and survey the sizeable lump growing there.
“Icicle fell off the roof. Cracked on his head.” Ygritte explained hovering over Jon’s side and glaring down at him like she could will him into feeling better that way.
“Is he going to be okay?” Arya asked lingering at the edge of the room.
“I’ll get some ice.” Ygritte offered and bustled into the kitchen.
“No more ice.” Jon groaned closing his eyes.
The dogs were going nuts in the foyer after being tempted with the thought of a walk. Catelyn nodded towards the door as she rested a hand on Jon’s shoulder. “Take them out, Jon will be fine.”
Arya frowned and looked at Jon curiously. He waved her away so Arya shrugged and turned, looping her arm through Gendry’s to pull him after her. “Call me if you need anything!” she cried over her shoulder as they left.
They were quiet as they followed the dogs across the yard meaning they heard quiet a lot of the argument Jojen and Bran were having as they built their snowman. Honestly who argued so intensely about carrots?
Gendry was quieter than usual as they trudged through the snow. He always got a little weird on the holidays that was why she insisted on inviting him every year. He only agreed every other year, always afraid that he would wear out his welcome with her family. He didn’t seem to understand that Arya wanted him there and that was enough for the rest of her family.
She didn’t press him to talk, knowing that sometimes he just needed to be alone with his own thoughts. Besides she was more than happy to breathe in the fresh air and enjoy some time away from the craziness that was her house. They couldn’t stay out forever though and eventually they turned the dogs back home. Arya’s face felt half frozen as they headed inside.
Between them and the dogs they got water everywhere in the entry way.
“I’ll go get a towel.” Arya said before heading off to the closest bathroom. Before she could open the door, it flung open from the inside and Margaery nearly stumbled into her. She shoved past her while brushing at her eyes. Arya looked after her curiously for a moment before shrugging and grabbing a towel. It was probably something about Robb and she was not about to get involved with her siblings’ love lives.
Gendry and her spent the afternoon trying to build a gingerbread house that simply did not want to stand straight. They called it the leaning tower of sugar and when Nymeria’s tail knocked it over later they were too busy staging Lego figures on the wreckage to be upset.
Lyanna, Rickon’s girlfriend, arrived late afternoon. He had spent the majority of the day trying to convince people to be in the play he had written her for a Christmas gift but he didn’t get any takers. Arya wished they had spent more time trying to talk him out of putting it on. She spent the whole time cringing and watching him through her fingers while Gendry winced beside her. To her credit Lyanna didn’t look horrified but she definitely did not look impressed. Arya had a feeling that relationship was going to be short lived.
She didn't have too long to dwell on her little brother’s unfortunate life choices because Theon called them out to play a game of hockey before they lost what little daylight they had left. Arya grabbed a pair of skates and sat at the edge of the pond behind their house to put them on. She wobbled a little when she stood so she knelt and tightened her laces. Much better.
The game was rough as it always was. Ygritte was the most vicious player on the ice, even more so this year since Jon was sitting out. Arya’s team was ahead by one point and she was just pulling her stick back to shoot when the screaming started.
She looked up in surprise to see Sansa standing at the edge of the lake with one hand over her mouth and the other stretched out in front of her. Arya’s nose crinkled in disgust as she noticed Harrold slipping a ring on her finger.
Great, another sibling making a terrible life decision. Was she the only Stark with any sense these days?
Arya turned her focus back to the game, pulling her stick back to shoot. Before she got the chance, Robb barreled into her and she tilted sideways feeling the blade give way on her skate and her ankle letting out a sickening pop as she went down hard on the ice.
“Christmas in the emergency room, this is a first for me.” her father said as he helped Arya settle onto her bed.
Arya glared at him as she scooted back against the pillows trying to ignore the heavy black boot around her ankle.
“Don’t worry,” her father said patting her comfortingly on the shin of her good leg. “I’m sure your sister will forgive you for stealing her thunder eventually.”
Arya huffed in annoyance and crossed her arms over her chest. “I’ll never forgive her if she marries him.” she grumbled under her breath. Her head felt foggy from all the meds the hospital had given her but she meant what she said with startling clarity.
Her father didn’t say anything he just gave her leg a comforting squeeze and left the room, shutting the door behind him.
Gendry, who had been loitering near her desk approached the bed and sat down carefully on the edge. Not only had he gone with her to the hospital but he’d carried her off the ice to the car and up the stairs once they got home even though Arya told him she could manage just fine with crutches.
“Thanks for your help.” she nudged him with her knee and he looked up from the stray thread he was playing with on her blanket. “Sorry I ruined your Christmas.”
“You didn’t.” Gendry reassured her quietly.
Arya rolled her eyes in disbelief. As if anyone wanted to spend the holiday in the emergency room.
“Any day I get to spend with you isn’t ruined.” Gendry whispered.
Arya frowned at him and felt her stomach flip over unsettlingly. That was far mushier than anything they said to each other. They weren’t the kind of friends who got all touchy feely with their emotions. Sure, they talked about everything but neither of them were very good with talks on feelings so those conversations were few and far between and the little they did have were short and to the point. That didn’t feel like this, where was he going with this?
Gendry took a deep breath like he was about to submerge himself underwater and looked at her nervously. “I need to tell you something. I know it might be hard for you to hear but please listen.”
Arya nodded slowly not trusting herself to speak around the lump forming in her throat. Wherever they were going she had a feeling it wasn’t anywhere good.
“You are the most important person in my life Arya. I think you are strong, and beautiful and amazing. I really like you.”
His eyes were so wide and earnest that Arya was having a hard time breathing. Her vision seemed to be swimming. What had the hospital given her?
“Of course, you like me. We’re best friends.” she whispered past the lump in her throat. Mentally she was screaming at Gendry not to do this but he didn’t seem to hear her.
“You know that’s not how I meant.”
Arya blinked at him in confusion before horror washed over her.
He was really doing this. Gendry was really telling her he liked her like romantic style.
In one fell swoop he was ruining everything.
How could he do this to her? It wasn’t like the idea of it repulsed her, Gendry was a good-looking dude and more importantly he was funny and clever and he truly got Arya. Which was exactly why she had always told herself not to get feelings for him. Relationships never worked out. Someone always left and someone always got left behind. If they dated, eventually one or both of them would be unhappy. If they dated, she would lose him eventually and Gendry mattered way too much to her for her to ever risk losing him.
She couldn’t get any of that to form a coherent sentence and even if she could she doubted she would be able to say it around the lump in her throat. The silence stretched on between them for so long that it seemed to take on a life force of its own.
“Please say something.” Gendry whispered looking at her with such openness in his expression that it made her whole body hurt.
Arya shook her head and tried to ignore the burning in her eyes. Couldn’t he tell that she couldn’t say something even if she wanted too?
Gendry waited a moment while she tried to get her racing thoughts under control. When it became clear that she wasn’t going to he got to his feet slowly and she curled her good leg up to her chest, wrapping her arms around it and resting her head on her knee.
“I guess I have my answer then.” Gendry whispered before turning and leaving the room.
Arya let out a sob as the door shut behind him. This was why she had never let herself have any romantic feelings for Gendry, this was why she didn’t let herself fantasize about kissing him. It was a universal fact that relationships never worked out.
All of her hard work at keeping her emotions at bay and she had gone and lost him anyway.
Eventually her tears ran dry and Arya curled up on her bed, willing herself to fall asleep early so that the day and this blasted holiday could be over already.
Arya woke with a jolt as Rickon jumped on her. She shoved him off her bed forcefully and he landed with a loud thump! on the floor.
“Are you insane? Watch out for my ankle!” she snapped as Nymeria barked in annoyance beside her.
“Why?” Rickon asked curiously popping up to his feet before taking off out of the room as quickly as he’d come in.
“Why?” Arya mocked under her breath before throwing the blankets off her legs and standing up gingerly. She frowned as she felt the familiar worn carpet underneath her feet.
Looking down Arya stared in shock at the sight of both of her pale feet, no black boot in sight. She sank down onto the bed slowly and lifted her broken ankle up turning it side to side expecting pain to flare up with every movement.
Less than twelve hours ago she’d snapped it in two places and now it looked as good as new.
Arya was still looking at it in wonder when Rickon yelled at her from downstairs.
“Arya! If you don’t get down here now, I'm going to open all your presents!”
Presents? Arya frowned as she stood up and slowly headed downstairs disorientation and sleep making her mind feel foggy.
Her family was all sitting around the room as Rickon passed out gifts she distinctly remembered them opening yesterday from under the Christmas tree. Arya frowned around in confusion as Robb looked up at her with a grin.
“Figures you’d sleep late even on Christmas.” he teased good naturedly.
“It’s Christmas?” she asked running a hand over her face. Seriously what had been in those pain meds?
Her family laughed, thinking she was joking and Arya looked at each of them in turn noticing that the lump was no longer on Jon’s head and Sansa’s finger was ringless. Looking around it was like yesterday hadn’t even happened.
Gendry caught her eye and held up the cup of coffee in his hands. She could barely even look at him after his confession last night but he held her gaze steadily like nothing was wrong.
What in Seven Hells was happening?
If it wasn’t for the fact that her ankle was miraculously healed Arya would be certain her family was playing some weird elaborate joke on her. But even the Starks couldn’t magically heal bones overnight so she knew that something far more nefarious was happening.
She managed to keep it together until the gifts were opened and everyone headed off into the kitchen. The moment people started leaving the room she grabbed Gendry’s hand and pulled him after her onto the back porch. Holding his hand made the memories of his confession last night even more vivid in her mind but Arya wasn’t even sure that had happened at this point. Maybe the whole thing had all just been a dream. A really vivid and intense dream.
She could only think of one way to find out.
“It's freezing out here.” Gendry shivered as she shut the door behind them, keeping her back on her family who was no doubt watching them nosily through the windows. Arya ignored them and the chill that immediately seeped into her through her pajamas. It hadn’t started snowing yet but if yesterday had really happened it would soon enough.
“Do you like me?” Arya blurted staring at Gendry with wide eyes. She tucked her hands in the folds of her baggy pants and hoped that he said no. That would mean she had dreamed the whole thing. And sure, dreams that vivid probably meant something, especially if she was dreaming about her best friend confessing his undying love for her but she could deal with that later. Right now, she could only handle one thing at a time.
“You’re my best friend.” Gendry said unknowingly echoing her sentiment from the night before.
Arya shook her head and looked at him in annoyance. Now was not the time to play coy.
“Do you like me?” Gendry spluttered when it became apparent that Arya wasn’t going to say anything else.
Arya rolled her eyes. “You’re my best friend.” she reminded him annoyed. That was enough for her, it hadn't seemed enough for him last night. Maybe it had just been a dream?
“Glad we got that settled then.” Gendry crossed his arms tighter over his chest and nodded towards the door. “Can we go back inside now?”
Arya followed him inside the warmth of the house and felt some of the tension relax from her shoulders. It had all just been a dream. A weird intensely vibrant dream but a dream nonetheless. There was no reason to panic, her best friend wasn’t in love with her and she wasn’t having her second Christmas in a row, everything was just as it should be.
She managed to hold onto that belief until she was back out on the ice.
She wore a different pair of skates this time because even if it had all been in her head, she still didn’t want to go through the feeling of her ankle breaking. A few things seemed to happen the same as they had in her dream but Arya choked that up to some of the weird Stark family magic Bran was always going on about. He always said he dreamed up weird shit and then it happened. So, she had dreamed up Christmas, big deal. All she had to do was get through the day and then this endless feeling of déjà vu would be over.
Unfortunately, she’d been so busy focusing on the dream feeling and making sure Gendry wasn’t really in love with her Arya had forgotten the other thing that had happened while she was out on the ice. This time she managed to avoid the tackle and watched in disgust as Harrold slipped a ring on Sansa’s finger. She’d been hoping that part of the dream would be wrong but whatever, it's not like it was her life.
The rest of the night passed in a blur of too much food and drinks and cheer. Arya went to bed with no declarations of love and a heavy sense of relief that the holiday was finally truly over.
Except it wasn’t.
She was woken up by Rickon jumping on her bed shouting about Christmas.
Arya couldn't figure out what was happening to her. She was stuck in her own private hell or according to google, a time loop. She spent the passing Christmases avoiding her family and stuck on her phone reading everything she could about loops and watching Groundhog’s day on repeat. As far as she could tell she hadn’t done anything to get stuck in a loop, she hadn’t drunk any weird things or touched a magic amulet or got cursed by a witch so why the hells was she still stuck on Christmas?
Most time loop she read about seemed to happen randomly and breaking them was even more randomly. All the advice she found (if it could even be called that) seemed to be to just ride it out. Eventually she’d do something right and the loop would break itself. Arya didn’t know if she could handle that many holidays in a row before she went crazy.
After about a week of Christmases that all blurred into one long stressful day Arya officially declared (to herself at least) that she had had enough. If sitting still and watching time loop movies wasn’t going to help her than she was going to start doing things drastically.
The door to Sansa’s room swung open so hard Arya heard the knob crunch into the plaster of the wall behind it. She worried about it for a moment before remembering by this time tomorrow it would have fixed itself. Could she even call it tomorrow if it was still the same day as today? Sometimes this whole time loop thing made her feel like she was spinning in circles.
“Harrold is an ass.” Arya said by way of hello. Sansa spluttered at her from where she sat in front of her vanity, putting on her makeup.
“He’s my boyfriend.” Sansa said defensively, spinning on her seat to glare at Arya.
“He has the personality of a stale piece of bread.”
“Arya!” Sansa chided, jumping to her feet in anger. “I don’t talk about your boyfriend that way.”
“What boyfriend?” Arya huffed, crossing her arms over her chest. Too late she realized this was veering into dangerous territory. She'd come in here out of the goodness of her heart (and time loop magic but really who was keeping track of that) to stop her sister from making a terrible mistake with her life not to be judged on her own life and listen to unfounded allegations based off of nothing.
“Oh gee maybe the guy who follows you around like a lost puppy!” Sansa snapped putting her hands on her hips and glaring at her.
“This isn’t about Gendry! And he’s not my boyfriend!” Arya cried stepping into the room. They were both shouting now and Arya knew it wouldn’t be long before the rest of the family came to investigate. “Harrold sucks! Don’t marry him!”
That seemed to stop Sansa in her tracks and she shook her head at Arya in confusion. “Marry? Who said anything about mar-”
“I guess the cat is out of the bag.” a pompous voice from behind her set Arya’s teeth on edge and she turned with a glare to see Harrold in the hallway behind her. He smirked at her before shoving past her into the room already dropping to one knee. Arya groaned loud enough that she almost managed to drown out his voice, “This isn’t exactly how I pictured doing this but-”
He started to pull the ring box out of his pocket and Arya threw her arms up in frustration. She’d seen enough.
The rest of the day passed with her silently fuming and Sansa showing off her giant ring to everyone who came within a two-foot radius of her. Arya downed eggnog after eggnog even though the taste made her shudder. She wished for something stronger but she needed to keep her wits about her to come up with a plan. She’d figured out what her problem was, she’d started too big. If she wanted to make the changes that would get her out of her own personal hell, she needed to start with something small, something she could easily fix.
By the time she fell asleep that night Arya had a plan.
It was easy enough to stop the icicle from falling on Jon. Arya was a little embarrassed she hadn’t done it yet. She hoped that the ten or so concussions he’d had from it wouldn’t have any lasting effects on him once she finally got out of here but since her ankle felt as good as new, she figured it was fine.
Even though it was such a little thing Arya was feeling pretty good about herself. This proved that she could do good things while in the loop she just had to try. Her good mood lasted until she opened the door to the bathroom and found Margaery with tears streaming down her face and clutching something in her hands.
“Oh gods what now?” Arya sighed, slumping against the doorframe.
Margaery looked up at her in horror, clearly not having heard the door open. “Arya!” she shoved her hands behind her back making Arya raise her eyebrows. That was obviously suspicious.
They stood in a stalemate for a moment neither of them moving. Finally, Margaery motioned for Arya to close the door. She did so curiously, it had been so long since something new had happened to her that she was practically shaking with excitement. Margaery didn’t seem to notice she just sighed and pulled her hands out from behind her back.
“Don’t tell Robb.” Margaery whispered blinking back tears as Arya stared down at the pregnancy test in her hands incredulously. She didn’t know what the hells she had been expecting but somehow it wasn’t that.
“It is his right?” Arya blurted confused by Margaery’s statement. She knew the moment the words left her mouth it was the worst thing she could have possibly asked. It wasn’t that she thought Margaery would ever cheat on Robb, Arya just wasn’t good around people who were crying and apparently, she was really not good around women who were pregnant and crying.
The older woman’s eyes burned in anger. “Obviously! God Arya.” she bumped Arya’s shoulder angrily as she fled the room leaving Arya alone in the bathroom with even more questions than she’d gone in with.
This was what she got for trying to help.
Rickon’s wakeup call was no less annoying or startling on the twelfth Christmas as it was on the first. If she ever got out of this loop, she was going to wake him up like that every day until he died as payback. It didn’t matter if he didn’t understand why, she would and that was all that mattered.
The moment he left her room Arya pulled her pillow over her face and screamed. Nymeria jumped from beside her but Arya was too frustrated to feel guilty.
She couldn’t do it. She could not go through another Christmas right now and pretend like everything was normal and happy. She had reached her merry limit on her first Christmas, she was running on nothing at this point.
Her mind suddenly made-up Arya dressed as quickly as possible before sneaking down the stairs. She made it around the corner before anyone spotted her and she overheard Bran telling Rickon to go wake Arya up again. Arya grit her teeth in annoyance, what a traitor. He might not remember this but she sure would.
Plucking the keys to her mom’s car off the hook where they hung Arya felt guilt course through her before she quickly shook it off. It wasn’t like anything she did mattered anyway. Her family would be pissed at her for a day and then it would all be forgotten.
She left her phone on the table as she fled the house. Just because she couldn’t break the loop didn’t mean she had to keep going through it.
It turned out that she was not the only person who wanted to be out on Christmas. There were more businesses open than she had thought and she visited all of them. She would drive until she ran out of gas and then explore wherever she ended up. No matter where Arya went, no matter how far she drove, the moment the clock was about to tick over to midnight she woke in her bed with Rickon jumping on her.
Arya had given up on family Christmas. It was all just too much for her right now. They were all so happy and cheerful and she was a black hole of misery. She was the human embodiment of the Grinch. Leaving was the best thing she could do for them. At least that was what she told herself to make it easier every time she stole someone’s keys and left.
She couldn’t figure out why this had happened to her and more importantly she couldn’t figure out how she was supposed to stop it. Arya had never been the biggest fan of the holiday and that was before she woke up to find that every single day was Christmas. Was she going to have to go on like this forever? What if she never saw December 26th ever again? Could she even die in the loop? Most of what she read made it sound like she would just wake up in her bed at the start of the day again but Arya was too scared of the chance that didn’t happen to test it out. Besides there was a small part of her that thought she might already be dead or at least in a coma. Maybe that fall on the ice had been a lot worse than she’d thought.
She wasn’t sure how many Christmases she skipped out on before she finally grew weary of the driving. She had stopped keeping track a long time ago. Besides anything she wrote down got erased at the reset so it wasn’t that easy to keep track of things anyway.
The headlights lit up her driveway and Arya felt a sinking sensation in her gut. Ever since she had started leaving, she hadn’t bothered to return home and just let the loop reset her wherever she was. She hadn’t been able to bear the thought of facing her family and their anger and disappointment. She didn’t know if she was in the mood for punishment right now or what but something had led her to head home and now, she was back in Winterfell and it was only 11:49. She could still be yelled at for eleven minutes.
Arya shut the car door as quietly as she could. Even with the headlights off she could still see because someone had left the porch and all the Christmas lights on. Arya’s heart lifted at the sight of that. Even running away her family didn’t give up on her completely. It was more than could be said for her.
“I’m glad you’re safe.”
Arya jumped in surprise, placing a hand over her racing heart as she noticed her father looking at her curiously from the porch swing. He was just outside of the shine of the lights; she hadn’t even noticed him.
Arya sighed and shuffled up the steps to sit beside him. “How mad is she?”
Arya didn’t have to clarify who she meant. There was only one she it could be.
“She’s more confused than mad. She’s been worried sick about you all day. We all have.” her dad wrapped his arm around her shoulders and Arya leaned into him gratefully. All at once she was overcome with an exhaustion so deep she could feel it in her bones.
“Sorry I worried you.” she mumbled feeling that all too familiar shame wash over her.
“You don’t have to run away again.” her father whispered causing Arya to pull away with a start. Could it be?
“Again?” she asked breathlessly, her heart pounding in her throat. All this time she thought she’d been alone in this loop but maybe-
“Like Bravos.” her father looked down at her curiously his gray eyes so similar to hers filled with concern.
Arya’s shoulders slumped and she curled back up against his side. Her hopes crumbled around her and she sniffled as tears tried to make their way out of her eyes. She wondered if she could hold them back through sheer stubbornness alone.
“Whatever this is it will all look better in the morning.” her father whispered as he kissed the top of her head.
Arya laughed wetly into his chest, a few tears making their way out. “I doubt that.”
Leaving hadn’t exactly made her feel any better so Arya decided to try sticking it out again. Her break seemed to have done her some good. At least now the sight of the presents and the tree didn’t make her want to throw up.
Sometimes it was the little things.
It was easier too to sit next to Gendry with her coffee. His confession was so long ago that Arya had almost forgotten the earnest look in his eyes and the way his hands shook...
She shifted away from him at the memory and he looked at her curiously. She faked a big stretch that almost spilled her coffee and tried to pretend like everything between them was normal.
When Jon and Ygritte ask her to go sledding Arya was already dressed. It was easy to pull Jon out of the way of the icicle and he looked at her with surprise.
“Anytime.” Arya shrugged feeling sheepish as she realized with her running away, he’d been hit by the ice even more times now. Oh well, there didn’t seem to be any lasting effects so far.
“Are you okay?” Jon asked curiously as they huffed their way up the large hill behind the house. Ygritte was already far in front of them and nearly at the crest and Arya stared at her retreating form as she shrugged.
“Why wouldn’t I be?”
Other than the time loop she didn’t dare tell anyone about of course.
Jon didn’t say anything and Arya thought that might be the end of it until he reached out and place a gloved hand on her shoulder.
Arya turned to look at him in confusion. Jon had never been one for touching and the look on his face was pained. He was almost as bad with the feeling stuff as she was so Arya nearly fell backwards down the hill as he squeezed her shoulder and said gruffly, “I’m here for you. No matter what. You know that right?”
Not trusting herself to speak Arya nodded staring at Jon in wonder. A look of relief came over him and he gave her a microscopic smile before motioning for her to hurry up. Arya followed after him and wondered if saying how you felt could really be that easy.
It had certainly never felt that way to her.
The days blurred together and she could barely keep track of what was happening anymore. She saves Jon from the icicle, tries to stop Rickon from embarrassing himself in his play, throws out the broken skates so no one else breaks anything. She tries to convince Sansa not to marry Harrold, she even goes so far as to throw the ring out into the snow one day. Nothing stops it. The man might have the personality of a wet napkin but he was certainly determined.
Most of all, she avoided Gendry. Even after all this time his confession was still too real to her. She couldn’t forget it even if she tried. Arya didn’t know how to act around him now knowing what she did.
She was building a group of snowmen with Bran and Jojen (they still didn’t have any carrots for noses, she’d have to remember to grab the bag from the fridge before they got cooked next loop) when she noticed the car drive up.
Arya cursed as she watched Lyanna get out. No matter how many times she sat through Rickon’s disastrous Christmas play it never got any easier to handle.
They were called inside not long after and Arya rubbed her hands together in an attempt to warm them while Rickon bounced on his feet in front of the tree wearing a Santa hat. Lyanna sat before him on the ottoman looking confused. Arya’s stomach sank as Sansa and Harrold arrived into the room last and Rickon launched into his play.
It was just as cringy this time as it was every time before. The script itself was, well it was pretty bad, but it was made even worse by the fact that Rickon was playing all of the roles. And he was so earnest about it. It was so obvious he wanted it to be good, that he wanted to impress this girl so desperately he was willing to make an ass of himself in front of her and his entire family to do so.
Lyanna smiled politely and Arya had to hand it to her she was doing far better than Arya would in this situation. Tittering to her right drew Arya’s attention from the performance and she turned to glare at Harrold who was pointing his phone at Rickon and openly laughing. Sansa glared at him and tried to get him to put his phone away but he shook her off and lifted it higher. Arya knew without a doubt he was probably playing it live on some social media site and anger made her blood boil over.
It was one thing if she made fun of her family it was quite another if this pompous jerk or strangers online did.
“Oh elven king the reindeer refuse to fly!” Arya cried crossing her arms over her chest and glaring at Harrold.
The room fell silent and Arya felt her face heat up as everyone turned to look at her in surprise. She glared at Rickon and gestured for him to continue.
He gaped at her for a moment before remembering himself and continuing the script. “But why my child?”
“Their hooves have grown too heavy with the absence of belief.” As much as she hated to do it Arya picked her way across the room and begrudgingly stood next to Rickon to act out the rest of the play. She’d seen it enough times to know the whole thing by heart. She’d expected it to be just as rough with her up there, if not worse, but to her surprise people actually laughed a few times. It was still bad, there was no saving that, but with someone else to play off of Rickon was less stiff, less like he was doing a really weird and long spoken word poem.
Somehow, she made it through the performance and the clapping at the end didn’t feel nearly as forced as before. Rickon grabbed her hand and pulled her down into a bow with him. He turned to look at her with wide eyes.
“How’d you know the script?”
She was spared from having to come up with an answer by Lyanna tackling him with a hug.
“Did you like it?” Rickon asked.
“I loved it!” Lyanna assured him pressing a kiss to his cheek.
“Was it good?”
“Not at all.”
Arya decided she liked Lyanna a lot more than she’d originally thought.
The rest of the night was peaceful, or at least more peaceful than the other nights had been. Arya couldn't help but feel a sense of pleasure, she’d actually done something good in here. Something she’d done had a positive affect for once.
Maybe she could actually do some good in here after all.
She didn’t even have it in her to be mad when Rickon jumped on the bed to wake her up. All she felt was a crushing sense of disappointment. Yesterday had gone so well. It had been the first good day she’d had in a really long time and now all of it was just gone.
She’d known that changing one thing wouldn’t have been enough to get her out of this hell but she supposed a larger part of her than she’d thought had been hoping for that or else she wouldn’t be feeling so very disappointed right now.
The morning passed on autopilot and Arya shuffled around and wondered why she was putting herself through this again. The thought of leaving and being alone didn’t really appeal to her but neither did sitting around and watching her family do the same version of the same thing she’d seen so many times lately.
Arya poked listlessly at a plate of gingerbread cookies and watched as Bran and Jojen bundled up to go outside and an idea hit her so hard she dropped her cookie.
Darting around the others she grabbed Bran’s arm as he headed out the door.
“I need your stash.” she whispered in his ear.
Bran looked at her serenely. “What stash?”
“Don’t play stupid. I know you have it.” Arya didn’t need her extra knowledge of the day's events to know that wherever Bran went chances were high that he had weed.
Bran looked like he was ready to pretend but Jojen nudged his arm and smiled. “It’s the holidays. Sharing and caring right?”
She should have done this ten loops ago. Or hells, every day. It wasn’t like Bran’s stash would ever go empty. And now that she knew where it was, she didn’t even need to get him involved again.
Not that she really minded him being there. It was actually nice to have the company as she sprawled out on his floor and stared up at the glow in the dark stars they’d plastered on his ceiling more than a decade ago.
“Remember when you were scared of the dark?” Arya asked sleepily stretching her hands up like she could pluck the stars off the ceiling.
“Humans have always been afraid of the dark.” Jojen mused from where he and Bran were cuddled on the bed.
“It's in our nature.” Bran agreed.
“What are you afraid of now?” Arya asked curiously her hands still stretching above her.
“Spiders.” Jojen offered helpfully.
“Time.” Bran corrected.
Arya felt something ache inside of her. “Me too.”
They might have waxed poetic for hours more except at that point Bran’s stomach let out a huge rumble and they made a mission out of sneaking downstairs for food. Robb saw them and raised his eyebrows in question but he didn’t say anything as they piled food into their arms and tiptoed back upstairs. The effect of their sneaking was ruined when Bran bumped into a table and knocked a bowl of ornaments to the floor with a clatter.
“Who keeps ornaments in bowls? They belong on trees.” Bran gripped as they all tried to stuff the balls back into the bowl in between giggles.
“It's decoration. It's for the aesthetic.” Jojen offered.
Arya thought this was the funniest thing she had ever heard and she had to sneak off to Bran’s room she was giggling too much to help.
They hid the afternoon away in Bran’s room although they did have to sober up enough to eat dinner with the family. If their mom thought anything of how much food they were eating she didn’t comment on it.
Arya sat next to Gendry and felt a little bad that she had abandoned him all day (and in the majority of the Christmases past) but he seemed to have had a good time playing hockey with Theon so she didn’t feel too guilty. Sansa was showing off her ring and Arya was having a hard time not rolling her eyes.
She escaped back to Bran’s room after dinner and that’s where Gendry finally found her in a haze of smoke.
“Fuck, open a window you guys.” he chided shutting the door behind him and quickly doing just that.
“It’s too cold for windows.” Arya whined, curling tighter into a ball on the bed where she had crammed herself with Bran and Jojen.
“Do you have air freshener or anything?” Gendry asked as he looked at the three of them with a sigh.
Bran pointed to a bottle on his desk and smiled at Gendry crookedly. “Merry Christmas you filthy animal.”
Arya laughed so hard tears began to fall down her face. Gendry shook his head at either her or the joint Jojen offered him.
“If your mom finds you like this she’ll freak.” Gendry sighed sitting down beside Arya on the edge of the bed. It groaned under the extra weight.
“She better not find me then.” Arya giggled before she let out a huge yawn. She hadn’t realized how tired she was. Although she supposed she wasn’t really sleeping anymore, just resetting. A nap sounded amazing at the moment.
She let Gendry lead her to her room where she collapsed onto her bed in relief. If she dreamed, she didn’t remember them and when she woke up there was a soft light in her room and no one jumping on her. Arya pushed herself up to sitting and looked around the room in wonder hope blossoming in her chest that the loop had finally broken. She was finally free. Her eyes fell on Gendry sitting and reading at her desk and her stomach dropped to her toes as she noticed the red numbers on the clock beside him.
It was still Christmas, just like yesterday was Christmas and tomorrow would be Christmas and every day after that would be Christmas. Arya had had enough of Christmas to last her twelve lifetimes and she had a sickening feeling she wasn’t done yet.
“Gendry?” she whispered her mouth feeling thick. She noticed the glass of water on her bed table and drank it greedily as Gendry came and sat next to her on the bed.
Arya looked up at him curiously through sleep heavy eyes. “You stayed?”
Gendry shrugged and plucked at a stray thread on her blanket. “Didn’t have anything better to do.”
Tears suddenly pooled in her eyes and Arya blinked furiously to try to stop them. “I’m sorry.” she burst out unable to keep the words in anymore. “I’m sorry I've been avoiding you, I'm sorry I can’t-”
To her utter horror and embarrassment, the tears refused to be choked down anymore and sobs started to shudder through her body. She buried her face in her hands and for the first time felt grateful for the loop and the fact Gendry wouldn’t remember this moment come morning. Arya expected him to run screaming from the room (it's what she would have done) but instead he put an arm tentatively around her shoulders.
She turned and collapsed into his chest as sobs shook her body.
“I hate Christmas.” Arya cried into his sweater, clutching at his arm to keep him close to her.
“It’ll be over soon.” Gendry whispered comfortingly, running a hand through her hair.
Arya laughed, the sound high pitched and hysterical even to her own ears. “No, it won’t.” she sobbed, her fingers digging in tighter to his arms. “It’ll never be over.”
And it wouldn’t. It would be Christmas until the end of time and she would be the only one who knew.
Gendry must have been incredibly confused but he didn’t say anything else and he didn’t let her go until the numbers on the clock ticked over.
Arya woke up with a grunt as Rickon knocked the air out of her. At least she didn’t feel high anymore just the lingering sense of embarrassment of crying all over Gendry. She found it hard to look at him as she sat beside him and took the cup of coffee from his hands.
“Thanks.” she muttered nudging his shoulder. She hoped if there was any part of him that remembered the loops that he knew she meant for a whole lot more than just the coffee.
She was quiet throughout the morning, just going through the motions. Presents, pancakes, save Jon from concussion by icicle. It had all been getting old a few loops ago, now getting through the day felt positively ancient.
“Hey.” Gendry stopped her as she came inside from saving Jon from ice related injuries. Arya blinked up at him in surprise and felt something flutter in her chest.
Finally, something new.
“Come with me?” Gendry asked and Arya nodded, surprised at the flicker of doubt in his voice. As if she wouldn’t follow him anywhere.
He led her back outside although he took her to the left away from the direction that her siblings were in. They didn’t speak as they trudged their way through the knee-deep snow. She wondered where they were going but it had been so long since she had been curious about something that she didn’t question him choosing instead to trust Gendry knew what he was doing. He hadn’t led her astray before.
They made it to the tree line that was the start of the woods surrounding their home and Arya expected them to stop but Gendry kept leading them on. She stared at his back at they went and was so lost in her own thoughts that she walked into him when he finally came to a stop.
“Oof.” Arya grunted smiling sheepishly as Gendry looked over his shoulder at her. “Sorry.”
He shrugged and stepped away from her slightly, shoving his hands in his pockets and looking down at the snow-covered ground nervously. He’d led them to a small clearing just deep enough into the woods that you couldn’t see the house. It felt like they were the only two people in the world. Arya closed her eyes and drew in a deep breath of the cold air. It stung her lungs on the way down but it was clean and fresh and quiet.
After a few breaths she felt calm for the first time in a long while.
Opening her eyes, she took in Gendry who was standing and watching her in silence. Normally she would be embarrassed to find someone watching her when she hadn’t thought they were but it was Gendry. She knew he would never judge her.
“Thank you.” she whispered.
He shrugged like it was no big deal and looked around the clearing with interest. “I found it last time I was here. I like to come here when I need to think.”
The fact that he felt so alone he had to explore her family's land rather than hang out with her made Arya’s heart clench. She invited him to these Christmases so he wouldn’t feel alone not make it worse.
“I’m sorry.” she wasn’t even sure what she was sorry for anymore. Abandoning him on Christmases past, continuing to abandon him on this never-ending holiday, or maybe for not liking him the way he wanted her too.
Gendry shrugged again before tilting his head up to watch the snow that was starting to fall softly around them. “Sometimes I like to be alone.”
He said it so easily, letting her off the hook with that one simple sentence. It was like he always seemed to know exactly what Arya needed to hear even when she didn’t know herself.
“You’re my best friend, you know that?” Arya asked her throat suddenly feeling tight. She clenched her fists in her pocket and willed herself not to cry. She would not cry two days in a row in front of Gendry even if he wouldn’t remember either of them.
Gendry smiled at her and either it was her imagination or he looked a little sad as he did so. “I know.”
She wanted to say more, wanted to tell him how much she wished it could be more than that but she wasn’t sure how to. She’d only been in a handful of relationships before and two of them were with people she had been friends with first and when the relationship ended the friendship did too. Arya couldn’t risk that with Gendry. He meant too much to her. She couldn’t let herself be with him the way he wanted because if she did that it would end. Maybe not right away but one day. Arya loved him too much to risk losing him like that but judging by the sadness on his face it felt like she was going to lose him either way.
She had never been good at expressing herself and there was no way she was about to say all of that so instead Arya did the only thing she could think of and she threw herself down backwards into the snow.
“Arya?” Gendry asked in surprise.
“I’m making a snow angel.” she explained, moving her arms and legs through the thick snow around her. It was tough, it was denser and heavier than she’d thought but somehow, she managed.
She couldn't see Gendry but she felt the snow settling different towards her right and smiled to herself knowing that he was laying down in the snow with her. For a long time, the only sounds were them brushing the snow with their limbs and the soft snow falling down on them.
The next day Arya woke up feeling refreshed even if the morning was the same as usual. It was time she got to work on changing things in here and she had set her sights on the biggest thing that needed to be righted in her family. She snuck away after pancakes to follow Sansa to her room. Harrold was downstairs talking their father’s ear off about something boring no doubt. Arya hoped he’d be distracted long enough for her to do what she needed to.
Arya knocked once on the door and slipped inside, shutting it tightly behind her. She'd learned her lesson the first time.
“What do you want?” Sansa asked looking at Arya in the mirror of her vanity. She sounded annoyed already, Arya swallowed down her own annoyance. That start didn’t bode well for her.
“Why are you dating Harrold?” Arya asked, opting to go for a less direct approach than before. Maybe if she could keep this about Sansa’s feeling instead of her own deep dislike for her boyfriend, they wouldn’t end up shouting at each other.
“Because I love him.” Sansa rolled her eyes and went back to applying her makeup. Arya watched her in silence for a moment waiting for more but it soon became clear she wasn’t going to add anything else.
Sansa’s hand hovered halfway to her eye, mascara tube in hand. Slowly she put the cap back on and turned to face Arya fully. Arya stood up straighter happy that she finally had her sister’s full attention. Maybe she would take her seriously this time around.
“Is this about Gendry?”
Or maybe not.
“Why would it be about Gendry?” Arya huffed crossing her arms over her chest. So much for not getting annoyed. “This is about you and you toe rag of a boyfriend.”
“There’s no need to be rude Arya.” Sansa somehow managed to stretch every syllable of Arya’s name as long as possible as she turned back to the mirror and resumed her makeup. Arya grit her teeth and felt the urge to stamp her foot in anger.
“Seriously what do you see in him?” Arya snapped only growing more annoyed when Sansa didn’t say anything and began to pretend like she wasn’t there. She knew that they had never been very close but she was trying here. Wasn’t this the sisterly heart to heart Sansa had always wanted from her?
“Is he nice to you? Does he make you feel safe? Does he make you laugh?” Arya asked, stepping closer with each question. “Does he make you feel understood? Seriously Sans what is it?”
She was hovering above her sister’s shoulder now, glaring at her in the mirror. Sansa slowly lowered her eyeliner back to the table and watched Arya wearily. She didn’t blame her for the look on her face, Arya didn’t really know where she was going with this either.
“I’m with him because I want to be and I don’t have to explain that to you.” Sansa albeit growled, returning Arya’s glare with a fierce one of her own.
Arya threw her hands up in annoyance and turned to stomp from the room. “Don’t come crying to me when you get divorced in three year!” she snapped over her shoulder as she flung the door open. She knew that she might not ever get out of the loop for Sansa to even have the chance to cry about it with her but her sister didn't need to know that and it would have been harder to say in anger anyway.
“Don’t come crying to me when Gendry finally gets sick of waiting for you to get your shit together!” Sansa yelled after her. Arya flipped her off with both hands and slammed the door shut behind her.
She slumped against the wall next to the door and put her head in her hands biting back a scream of frustration. She just wanted what was best for her sister why was she being so pigheaded?
Arya’s head snapped up and she winced as she saw Gendry staring at her wide eyes. By the way he kept glancing between her and the door Arya could tell he’d heard Sansa’s little comment.
“Nope.” Arya shook her head turning and walking away. “I’m dealing with Sansa today I can’t deal with you too!”
Was it a fair comment to make? No.
Was she going to use the fact that the loop would reset and he would forget this ever happened to her advantage?
Deciding that dissolving Sansa and Harrold’s relationship might be too hard of a project to start with Arya decided to start a little bit smaller. She knew how to help Rickon with his problem and she’d spent long enough living this day to know the only problem Bran faced was not getting the carrots for the snowmen in time. Jon she saved from the ice and she was not about to tell Robb his girlfriend was pregnant so she didn’t really know how to help with that. Her parents only problem seemed to be the cookies kept burning during the hockey game but if Arya prevented that then Harrold proposed. It was a vicious cycle really.
Since she’d helped her family as much as she could for the time being, she decided to turn her sights on helping Theon. It was not because she was avoiding thinking about Gendry, it was all from the goodness of her heart.
As far as she could tell from watching him over a few days the only problem Theon seemed to have was that he played ice hockey too viciously. He always got some injury but it was always minor and it always came from a different source so Arya couldn’t stop them all unless she got him not to play the game and she knew him well enough to know that simply wasn’t going to happen. She was just about ready to give up on him needing any help that she could provide at all when it happened.
With the play not being as terrible Rickon and Lyanna weren’t in weird moods the rest of the night bringing everyone else down. Sure, Margaery was still acting cagey and Sansa was mooning over her ring and Harrold was strutting around like a pompous peacock while Theon looked dejected but-
Why did Theon look so upset?
Arya followed his line of sight to where Sansa sat with Margaery oohing over her ring. Arya turned to look at Theon again with wide eyes. She knew that look. That was the look Gendry had given her that first Christmas. Theon liked Sansa.
Gods was she stuck on Christmas or Valentine’s day?
At least now she might be able to kill two birds with one stone.
“Theon likes you.” Arya announced shutting the door to Sansa’s bedroom behind her.
“Theon tolerates me at best.” Sansa quipped winging her eyeliner. One of these days Arya might actually ask her to teach her how to do that.
“Why would I ever do that?” Sansa asked raising an eyebrow at her.
Arya winced at that but really it was a fair question. She didn’t exactly have the best track record when it came to giving out sisterly advice. Or any advice really. But hey she was trying to change for the better in here. How dare people keep using her past mistakes against her? All her old grievances felt like a lifetime ago. Unfortunately, the same couldn't be said for everyone else.
“I know I've been shitty to you in the past.” Sansa scoffed and Arya frowned at the interruption. “But so have you. I'm turning over a new leaf.”
“By telling me our family friend likes me even though I have a boyfriend?” Sansa asked dryly before rolling her eyes. “Maybe pick a different plant Arya.”
“You’re impossible!” Arya cried throwing her hands in the air.
“Let’s say I believe you, which I don’t.” Sansa turned to face her fully and her glare was so intense it didn’t even look silly that she only had one eye made up. “Why would I ever take dating advice from you?”
“It’s not advice. I'm just telling you to open your eyes and see what’s right in front of your face!”
“You’re one to talk.” Sansa scoffed.
“What is that supposed to mean?” Arya huffed even though the moment the words left her mouth she regretted it.
“Does the name Gendry ring a bell?”
Arya shook her head; she should have known by now that this was all a waste of time. Sansa and her would never see eye to eye no matter how many different ways or times Arya tried.
“Why do you even bother?” Arya asked surprising herself by saying it out loud. Sansa looked at her in confusion and Arya found herself continuing despite how badly she wanted to leave the room and run as far from this conversation as possible. “With any of this?”
She meant the question more for herself than for her sister but to her surprise Sansa looked at her thoughtfully, some of the annoyance slipping from her face. “With what, dating?”
Arya nodded because sure why not? Let someone else give her advice for once.
“Because no one wants to be alone right?” Sansa shrugged and inspected her flawless manicure. “We all just want someone to see us.”
“Does Harrold see you?” Arya asked in surprise. She didn’t think Harrold was capable of seeing anything more than his own reflection.
Sansa glared at her again. “I thought this was about you and Gendry.”
“Why are you so convinced Gendry likes me?” Arya asked with a sigh although what she really wanted to ask was why was she so convinced that Arya liked him.
“I’ve seen how he looks at you.” Sansa said as if that answered everything.
All it did was give Arya more questions. She shook her head in bewilderment. “How does he look at me?”
Sansa looked at her with something akin to pity. “The way you look at him.”
Arya spent the next three days feigning illness and spending the whole day in bed staring up at the ceiling with only Nymeria as company. Her parents brought her soup and Gendry tried to keep her company but she pretended to be asleep anytime someone came in. She heard things falling apart outside her door, Jon getting hit with the icicle and Jojen and Bran fighting next door about the carrots. Apparently, it had been his job to get the carrots for the snowmen and him forgetting to do things was a very common problem in their relationship. Arya listened to a very long list of his past grievances before pulling her pillow over her head and wondering how long it would take to suffocate herself.
She could hear snippets of Rickon’s one man performance and later the whole family toasting to Sansa and Harrold. She listened to all of it and wondered why she even kept trying. Everything was going to happen the way it was supposed to. All she was doing was delaying the inevitable.
While she was wallowing Arya’s thoughts kept drifting of their own accord to Gendry. Maybe it was time she was honest with herself, she had plenty of time to do so now after all. Maybe she did like him as more than a friend. She certainly thought about him far more than she did any of her other friends. She wanted to be around him more than her other friends. She found excuses to touch him, to curl up beside him, to hug him more than she did with anyone else in her life.
She knew all of his facial expressions, she knew his comfort food, his favorite song and she knew that he knew hers. She knew him better than anyone else in her life and he knew her the best out of anyone in hers. Around him she felt more herself than with anyone else. As for the physical stuff she’d always found Gendry attractive she’d just forced herself to ignore it. It was easier to be his friend that way. But maybe that wasn’t all she wanted to be anymore.
But even if Arya did like him and he still liked her back (which she was pretty sure the time loop hadn’t erased that from him but she didn’t know how loops worked so she couldn’t really be sure) there was still a very high probability that their relationship would end. Was she really willing to risk their friendship for something more?
She had spent so long thinking she was content with what they had. When had it changed? Was she even ready for more with him?
She thought of the way he’d held her without judgement while she’d cried, of him flopping into the snow next to her to make snow angels, his face when he’d watched her performance in Rickon’s play. Arya buried her face in her hands as she realized she already had her answer.
She didn’t even bother to wait for the loop to reset. She took long enough to change into fresh pajamas and brush her hair and teeth and then she was out the door. It was late enough at night that most of the house was quiet as everyone settled down to sleep. Arya headed to the guest room where Gendry was staying and knocked lightly on the door.
There was no noise from inside and for a moment Arya felt nervous that he might already be asleep and she’d have to put this off until tomorrow. Now that she was allowing herself to feel what she felt she wanted him to know as soon as possible. She wondered how long he had managed to keep his feelings from her and she couldn’t help but marvel at his self-restraint.
The door opened a little bit and Arya smiled up at Gendry feeling suddenly shy.
“Can I come in?”
He nodded and stepped back to let her through, looking at her curiously. “Are you feeling okay?”
Arya turned to look at him and noticed that her hands where shaking. She tucked them behind her back and cleared her throat. She found herself repeating his words from that night even though they hadn’t seemed to do him any good. Maybe she’d have better luck since he wasn’t hopped up on pain pills. “I need to tell you something. I know it might be hard for you to hear but please listen.”
Gendry watched her with wide eyes but he didn’t say anything. Arya cleared her throat and continued; her voice shaky.
“I like you. And not just as a friend. And I think you like me too.” her words were coming out in a rush, racing and stumbling over each other to get out of her mouth. Seriously how had Gendry kept quiet about this for so long?
“And if we like each other I think that we should be together what do you think?” Gendry looked at her in stunned amazement before he slowly nodded. Arya heaved a sigh of relief and darted forward to wrap her arms around his middle. His arms encircled her back slowly like he couldn’t quite believe this was real. She nuzzled her head into his chest and whispered, “I know we’re doomed but we can still enjoy it while it last.”
“Arya.” Gendry said softly, putting his hands on her shoulders. Arya felt her stomach drop into her feet as he carefully pushed her away from him. He looked down at her with his eyes clouded and Arya had thought she knew all of his expressions but she was clearly wrong because she didn’t know this one.
“I don’t want to do this with you if you’re going in with an expiration date.” Gendry said slowly as if the words were causing him great pain to say.
“No!” Arya reassured him. “I don’t have a date set or anything. I just mean that all relationships end and we will too.”
Gendry’s ears begin to turn pink and she knew she was making him angry. Well, she was getting angry now too. Why was he pretending what she was saying was false? Things ended, it happened. She just didn’t want their friendship to end. If they talked about it before they started dating maybe she could figure out a way to salvage it when she had too.
“Wow gee thanks Arya that’s so different.” Gendry rolled his eyes and stepped away from her.
“Come on Gendry don’t be stupid-”
“Oh, so now I’m stupid!”
They were still fighting when the day ended and Arya woke in her bed with a start.
So that went well.
How many times did it take to tell the boy you like that you like him and end with you getting together?
That wasn’t a riddle. It was a real question and Arya really wanted to know the answer.
So far, she was on attempt number eight.
Each confession and result had gone about as well as the first. Sometimes there was yelling involved (both him and her), once there was crying but that wasn’t their fault, they hadn’t realized Robb was in the room. Weirdly enough the time they spent comforting Robb (he kept wailing “I just want you two to be together!”) was the best attempt she’d had so far which said something about her and her ability to talk about her feelings that Arya very much did not like.
As she got closer to the double digits of attempts Arya couldn’t figure out what the problem was. She had stopped bringing up the whole ‘all relationships are doomed from the start’ bit. She figured it was pretty common knowledge and Gendry knew about it as well as she did. She didn’t need to remind him of it and tell him she liked him at the same time. It wasn't exactly romantic after all.
She was busy mulling over her attempts in the kitchen after volunteering to help her mother with the cooking. It was the first time she’d had a moment alone with her mother in weeks, or maybe it was months by this point. She had no idea how long she’d been trapped in this endless cycle.
“Mom?” Arya asked staring very intently at the potatoes she was peeling so that she didn’t have to see her mother’s face as she asked, “How do you tell someone you like them?”
Her mother was silent for a moment and Arya looked up expecting to see her staring at her in judgement but to her surprise she was staring into space looking thoughtful.
“Well, it's different for everyone of course but I’d say the best way is to just be outright. Be honest.”
Arya sniffed and blushed as tears suddenly sprang to her eyes. What was it about Christmas that made her cry so much? “What if you already tried that and it didn’t go so well?”
She dropped the peeler in surprise as her mom sighed and wrapped her arms around her and pulled Arya into a hug. She resisted for a moment before relaxing into her mother’s touch, some of the stress she’d been feeling lately lifting away.
“You have to be vulnerable.” her mother said softly.
“Even if it's scary?” Arya asked looking up at her through her overgrown fringe.
Her mother squeezed her tighter. “Especially then.”
Deciding she’d already rushed in once and it hadn't exactly gone well for her Arya gave herself two days to work up what to say.
She tuned out her mother’s usual Christmas morning love speech and barely resisted the urge to flip Theon off when he called her out for not saying ‘I love you’ back to her mom. Couldn’t he see she was busy over here?
Her original plan had been to tell Gendry at sunset but she only made it to midafternoon before the pressure got too much for her.
“Come with me?” she asked him, leaning against his side to whisper in his ear. He looked up from the book he was reading and followed her to the door without a word. After they were bundled up Arya led them on the trek to the clearing that had become familiar over the last few weeks. It might have started as Gendry’s quiet place but she had definitely been taking advantage of it lately.
Her hands felt like ice by the time they arrived and she cursed herself for not remembering her gloves. She did have more important things on her mind so she supposed she should give herself a little bit of slack. The sun was setting as she turned to face Gendry and she took a deep breath and reminded herself that for one to fall they first had to jump.
Be vulnerable. Seemed easy enough.
She could do that.
When she woke up to Rickon jumping on her Arya barely got a pillow over her face before she started screaming. The sound was barely muffled and Rickon was still in the room and it made Nymeria bark in worry and Arya didn’t care about any of it.
She was vulnerable, she was open, she was honest, and look where it had gotten her! Right back to where she’d started. What in the Seven Hells did she have to do to get out of this shit?
It was nearly impossible for her to sit down next to Gendry let alone look at him. All she could think of was the way his hands felt in her hair and how his lips had tasted like peppermint. She hated the fact that assuming she ever made her way out of this they wouldn’t even have the same memory of their first kiss. She hated a lot of things these days.
A few days passed with her acting like she had at the beginning of all of this. It took a day of Robb playing ‘you’re a mean one Mr. Grinch’ every time she walked into a room for her to finally snap out of her funk. She already knew that acting this way wasn’t going to get her anywhere. She thought that she was on the right track with the open and honest bit but maybe it wasn’t just Gendry she needed to be vulnerable with.
She tried having heart to hearts with her parents, with her brothers, she even tried with her sister but none of it worked. No matter what she said or what she did or how many tears were shed she still woke up in her bed every morning. Nothing she did worked. Against all of her wishes it was still Christmas.
“It’s not right.” Bran sighed, looking at their snowmen collection with a sigh.
Arya rocked back on her heels and surveyed the yard. There were nearly ten snowmen scattered around the yard, some were the classic stick armed kind and others were doing things like raking or playing an old broken guitar they’d found in the garage. Arya thought they looked pretty great and she’d seen enough snowmen lately to consider herself a bit of an expert.
“What’s wrong?” she asked.
Bran sighed and gestured uselessly before him. “It’s just not big enough.”
Arya frowned at him before a thought struck her and her eyes widened.
She knew what she had to do.
If this worked, she was going to have a serious conversation with Rickon about the way he woke people up. Rubbing her collarbone where his elbow had hit her Arya took the coffee Gendry offered her and looked around at her family as a ball of nerves twisted in her gut. She didn’t know why she was so nervous; she’d done this before. Although that had all been on a smaller scale but still. They were her family, they loved her, she didn’t need to be so scared.
“Before we start-” her mother began but she stumbled to a stop as Arya shot up to her feet, coffee sloshing onto the floor as she did so. All eyes turned to her and Arya tugged nervously at the collar of her pajama top suddenly wishing she wasn’t wearing her reindeer onesie while she did this.
“I need to say something.” Arya winced at how her voice shook and she took a deep breath to steady herself. If this didn’t work no one else would remember this and if it did work so what? It wasn’t nearly as embarrassing as what she was going to do later that afternoon. Besides, go big or go home. Or in this case, hopefully go big and go to December 26th.
“I just wanna say that I love you all and I’m really glad you’re my family and that we’re all here together.” Arya rushed out in one breath her fingers shaking where they clutched her mug
Silence stretched on for a long moment and Arya felt a part of herself die of mortification with each passing second.
Sound erupted suddenly as everyone began to talk at once.
“Who are you and what have you done with Arya Stark?” Jon called over the sound of Margaery and Robb making ‘aw’ noises.
“You’re such a sap!” Theon cried throwing a candy cane at her.
“Was that your gift? You’ve gotten better at this.” Bran decided nodding at her thoughtfully.
“Yuck.” Rickon wrinkled his nose and shook his head at her before going back to sorting presents.
“Oh my gods how badly did that hurt you to say?” Sansa laughed but for once it didn’t sound like she was laughing at her.
“Shut up.” Arya blushed as she sat back down. Gendry looked at her questioningly but she just shrugged in response.
“We love you too Arya.” her mother told her making everyone chorus the sentiment. Arya buried her head in her hands and groaned as her father leaned over to pat her comfortingly on the back.
Gods this better work. She couldn’t even imagine having to do that twice.
After reminding Bran to grab his carrots Arya dashed upstairs to change barely managing to race down in time to pull Jon away from the falling icicle's path.
“Thanks!” Jon cried after her but Arya was already running off to her next goal. This one was going to take a while and she needed all the time she could get.
“Theon!” she cried grabbing the older man’s arm and pulling him to a stop at the edge of the pond.
“Arya!” he mimicked her tone and she resisted the urge to kick him in the shin.
He was such a child why was she helping him again? Taking a deep breath Arya reminded herself that she wasn’t doing this for him.
“I need you to distract Harrold for an hour or so.”
Theon’s face pinched in disgust. “No way.”
“Please!” Arya pleaded clasping her hands in front of him.
“Why?” Theon asked distrustfully.
“It’s for the greater good. Believe me.” Arya held her hands over her chest and waited for Theon to shoot her down. To her surprise he sighed and nodded.
“You owe me one for this.”
“If this works out Theon, you might just owe me forever.” Arya laughed leaving Theon in confusion and racing back to the house.
Sansa was finished with her make up and moved onto her hair when Arya darted breathlessly through her door.
“What’s going on?” Sansa asked curiously, putting down her curling iron to watch wearily as Arya approached her and dragged her desk chair over to sit beside her so that she could look at her sister in more than just a reflection this time.
“You deserve to be with someone who loves you. Someone who sees you. I don’t think Harrold is that person.” Arya held up a hand as Sansa opened her mouth to protest, her eyes blazing in anger. “I can’t stand him but this isn’t about me.” Arya shook her head and blinked furiously as tears threatened to fill her eyes. Gods she really had become a sap lately. “This is about you. Tell me you love him. Tell me you can’t imagine a future with anyone but him and I’ll drop it. I’ll never say another bad word about him. Hell, I’ll be a bridesmaid at your fucking wedding if you want me to be. Tell me you are with him because you love him and not because you are scared to be alone and I will drop this forever.”
Arya barely dared to breath as she held her sister’s gaze. Sansa glared at her in silence for a long moment and Arya waited for her to shout and snap and cry. What she wasn’t ready for was Sansa’s shoulders to drop as she stared at Arya in dejection.
“Is it that obvious?” she asked with a sigh.
“A little.” Arya whispered trying to be polite for once.
Sansa sighed and stared down at her hands. Arya didn’t know what else to say. She'd never made it this far without one of them screaming.
“I just don’t want to be alone.” Sansa whispered more to her hands than to Arya.
“What’s wrong with being alone?” Arya asked in genuine confusion.
Sansa looked up at her and rolled her eyes. “Of course, you say that, you’re strong you know how to be by yourself.”
“You’re strong too Sansa.” Arya said, surprised her sister didn’t know that already.
“Please.” Sansa rolled her eyes and began to straighten objects on the vanity top.
“I mean it.” Arya promised, surprising them both by reaching out and placing her hand on Sansa’s and stilling its movements.
Sansa looked over at her and blinked furiously at the wetness in her eyes that Arya chose to ignore.
“What’s gotten into you today?” Sansa asked curiously.
“Call it a Christmas miracle I guess.”
Sansa let out a breath of a laugh before groaning and dropping her head onto her arm. “I should break up with Harrold.”
“Can I watch?” Arya asked brightly.
Sansa glared at her. “No. And I’m not going to do it today. I can’t break up with someone on Christmas. I’m not cruel.”
Arya shifted awkwardly and tried to hide her wince. “You might not have a choice.”
Sansa furrowed her brow in confusion that quickly shifted into a glare. “What do you know?”
“Nothing!” Arya cried meekly, holding her hands up in defense.
Sansa grabbed the pinkest lipstick off her vanity and uncapped it, holding it in front of Arya’s mouth in a silent threat.
“I might have seen a ring box in Harrold’s pocket.” Arya lied. The truth would be too impossible to explain and she simply didn’t have the time.
Sansa blinked in surprise and her face quickly shifted into a look of horror. “We’ve known each other six weeks!”
“I know!” Arya cried, throwing her hands up. Finally, Sansa was seeing reason.
“I don’t want to get married until I finish grad school.” Sansa shook her head in disbelief. “And I would never want to be proposed to on a holiday, what was he thinking?”
“Clearly he doesn’t.” Arya agreed, happy to finally get to trash talk Harrold. She felt like she had been waiting years for this.
Sansa looked at Arya with solemn resolve. “I’m going to have to break up with that poor boy on Christmas.”
Arya didn’t bother to hide the delight from her voice, “Looks like it!”
Sansa flicked a hair tie at her face and groaned again.
Knocking lightly on the bathroom door Arya waited until she heard a muffled ‘yeah’ before slowly opening it. Margaery was sitting on the edge of the bathtub with her arms wrapped around herself and her eyes red rimmed. Arya shut the door softly behind her and moved to sit on the counter.
Margaery looked up at her curiously, running a hand under her nose as Arya thought of the best way to handle this. She felt like she was maybe sticking herself into her siblings’ lives a little too far with this one but she couldn’t just go about her day knowing she didn’t at least try to offer Margaery some comfort.
“So pregnant huh?” Arya asked wincing as soon as she spoke. Smooth.
“How’d you know?” Margaery asked, mystified.
“Lucky guess.” Arya lied. “Congratulations.” she offered halfheartedly still not knowing where Margaery’s emotions stood on this.
“Thanks.” she sniffed, wiping at her eyes again.
“Robb is crazy about you. He’s going to be ecstatic.” Arya reassured her. “You won’t have to do this alone or anything. If that’s what you’re worried about.” she tacked on hastily when Margaery looked up at her in shock.
To her surprise Margaery began to laugh. Arya frowned and looked around the bathroom like there was a joke written down that she hadn’t seen.
“I’m not crying because I’m worried Robb will leave me.” Margaery promised after she’d calmed down.
“Oh.” Arya said her shoulders slumping in confusion, “Is it the hormones then?”
She felt a little guilty that she’d never thought that Margaery would be crying over any other emotion than fear. That’s how she would feel if she was pregnant. Maybe she’d been projecting a little too much with this one.
“No. Well maybe a little.” Margaery admitted. “It’s just we’ve been trying for so long and it’s finally worked.”
“You’ve been trying to get pregnant?” Arya asked in surprise. Robb hadn’t said anything to any of them and usually he couldn’t keep things this big to himself.
Margaery nodded before giving Arya a watery smile. “And now it worked. We’re gonna be parents.”
“Oh well, congratulations.” Arya smiled, actually meaning it this time. It was so weird to think of her older brother as a dad, even weirder to realize this would make her an aunt. “Do you want me to go get Robb so you can tell him or-”
“Arya.” Margaery cut her off by standing up and placing her hands on her shoulders. “Listen to me very carefully.”
Arya met her eyes in surprise and Margaery’s brown eyes twinkled as she whispered, “I am not telling your brother about our baby in a bathroom.”
“That’s probably a good choice.” Arya agreed making Margaery laugh. The older woman leaned forward suddenly and hugged her, squeezing her a little too tight for comfort.
“Thank you.” she whispered; her voice close to Arya’s ear. “It was nice not to be alone for this.”
“Anytime.” Arya whispered crossing her fingers behind Margaery’s back that this would be the first and only time they had to have this conversation.
Despite her best efforts no one else would join her in Rickon’s play. Even worse this time she had joined him early enough that he managed to convince her to put on a costume. She tugged on the itchy tensile collar he’d forced her into and made a face at Gendry who kept fighting back a smirk every time he looked at her.
The play was as terrible as ever but she really went for it this time, giving her elf (or was it a reindeer? It changed several times throughout the script) character a posh accent and even doing a little jig when they rescued the snow princess from the evil gingerbread king.
She bowed with Rickon before hugging him tightly.
“Never. Again.” she whispered into his ear making him laugh.
Her siblings high fived her as she made her way across the room to Gendry who was no longer able to hide his grin as she approached. “Who knew you were such an actress.”
Arya rolled her eyes and waved her finger at him threateningly. “We will never speak of this again.”
“We don’t have to speak of it. This is burned on my retinas. I'll see this in my dreams forever.”
“Shut up.” Arya chided as she tugged off her tinsel collar and hat. She felt suddenly bare without them which was ridiculous as she looked up at Gendry nervously and asked for what she hoped was the last time. “Come with me?”
It was dark by the time they reached the clearing but it was bright with the fairy lights Arya had dragged out there earlier.
“What is all this?” Gendry asked as he looked around the clearing in wonder.
Arya didn’t answer as she pulled up music on her phone. The Bluetooth speaker picked it up and the familiar opening notes of the song began to play. Gendry turned to look at her in surprise and she shrugged sheepishly.
“You are the most important person in my life.” Arya began her voice catching as Gendry’s eyes widened. “You’re funny, you’re smart, you’re beautiful. You see me. Even when no one else does.” she had to speak louder for him to hear her over the words of the song and she took a small step forward as she continued. “You are my best friend. I’m sorry it took me so long to realize that I want more than that.” she shrugged helplessly. “I was scared. Scared of what it meant. Of losing you. I don’t want to lose you. But more than that I don’t want to look back ten years from now and regret never trying.”
“What I'm saying is that I like you. As more than a friend.” Arya quickly added as she came to a stop in front of Gendry. She looked up at him shyly. “And if you like me too, I want to try. Even if I’m scared. Actually no, especially since I’m scar-”
Gendry cupped her face then, tilting her head up so that their eyes met. The fairy lights twinkled off his eyes as he smiled at her shyly. “I’m scared too.” he admitted on a breath.
“We can be scared together.” Arya promised.
Gendry smiled before leaning down to kiss her. ‘All I want for Christmas is you’ crooned on in the background as Arya had her second first kiss with her best friend. The setting was a little different but the words and the feelings were the same. Gendry still held her gently.
His lips still tasted like peppermint.
By the time they returned to the house they were both soaked from the snow that had started falling. After changing into her warmest pair of pajamas Arya waited for Gendry at the top of the stairs and slipped her hand into his shyly to head down to where her family was watching White Christmas with a large fire blazing in the fireplace.
“Where’s Harold?” Arya asked curiously after doing a quick head count.
“He decided to head home early. We broke up.” Sansa explained.
“Finally.” Arya sighed in relief as she led Gendry into the circle of couches. She didn’t want him to feel like he had to sit on the outskirts ever again.
“We dated for six weeks.” Sansa rolled her eyes.
“Felt like a lifetime.” Arya countered back as she scanned the floor for a place to sit that wasn’t covered in food or dogs.
Sansa noticed her hand in Gendry’s then and raised her brows in question. Arya blushed but nodded once rolling her eyes as Sansa nudged Margaery beside her and gestured to Gendry and Arya’s hands. Margaery squealed in glee, accidently knocking Robb’s hand off of her stomach where it lay.
“What?” Robb asked in confusion before looking at Arya as she pulled Gendry down to a clear spot on the floor and proceeded to curl up against his side. After a moment he hesitantly put his arm around her shoulders and pulled her closer to him.
“Oh gods its finally happening.” Robb squealed softly. Arya snorted and tucked her head against Gendry’s arm.
“What did you not know they were dating?” Bran asked in a whisper that was very much not quiet.
“Great does this mean I'm the only single one now?” Theon sighed from across the room.
“I’m single now too.” Sansa reminded him.
Arya grabbed a cookie off a nearby plate ignoring Jon’s protests at her thievery as Nymeria settled her head in her lap and Gendry ran his fingers softly up and down her arm. The cookie was a little burnt but hey, not everything could be perfect.
One Year Later
“Six five four three two one yes!” Arya cheered throwing her hands in the air before jumping on Gendry and kissing him fervently.
“Um love not that I’m complaining but New Year’s Eve isn’t for another week.” Gendry said as he lightly set her feet back down on the floor of their bedroom.
“Who cares about new year's?” Arya laughed, tightening her hold on his middle and grinning up at him. She was certain she looked a little wild (she certainly felt it) but she didn’t care.
“It’s December 26th! The most magical day of the year!”