|bound_by_honor (bound_by_honor) wrote in doorslogs,|
@ 2012-08-26 00:55:00
|Theo approached the door in a much better mood than Ned. The Lord had last spoken to his daughter nearly three weeks ago and the conversation had been far too short, but that wasn’t nearly as painful as not having seen her since Nell’s initial arrival to Las Vegas. Given the girl’s rather public lifestyle, Ned found his blood pressure rising at each new turn of events. Theo had to laugh because there was nothing either man could do to curb her bad habits. Neither man was her father and Ned’s connection as Arya’s father gave him no hold over the blonde, despite his insistence that it should count for something. Fortunately, Theo’s life was starting to look up. There was the unresolved issue of his sister but after his trip to Lake Tahoe, he was all smiles. Not even Ned’s sour demeanor could ruin it. |
He was dressed rather typically in black slacks and a light blue button down shirt, still a bit formal for crossing the door, but it was so Theo that he didn’t think anyone who knew him would be bothered by it. He just forgot that Nell didn’t know him at all. ’Something you should endeavour to change immediately,’ Ned counseled, sounding only a touch annoyed at the other man. Theo simply brushed it off and stopped in front of their door, waiting patiently for Nell to arrive. He was only ten minutes early and his phone occupied him while he waited.
If she was being honest with herself, Nell knew it was surprising that she was even showing up for her meeting with Theo, let alone on time. She had been more than self-absorbed over the last few weeks (or the last year, really) and putting Arya ahead of the mess in her own head was an indication that all was not well with the teenager in her head. The onslaught of memories had spooked the girl (for good reason), and the sudden silence in her mind was even worse than hearing a fictional character in the first place. The girl was tough as nails; it was impossible not to be to survive in Westeros having seen what she had seen and become what she had become. That the memory of her father’s death seen from his own eyes had sent her into such a panic was telling.
Not for the first (or last) time, Nell thought it poetic that the two completely messed up girls had wound up with each other.
She wound her way through Passages easily, her feet finding their own way to her door with relative ease. Nell knew the trip to Westeros would be good for her, and not just because it would force Arya to the surface. It would be good to sink back into oblivion for a while, put her constant worries about MK and the situation with Sebastian on hold. Straightening her shoulders as she spotted Theo across the hall, Nell steeled herself for what was to come. If Arya was not ready for this or did not want to see her father just yet, it would be too damn bad. The girl refused even now to speak up, and Nell was not going to be responsible for the conversation that happened through that door.
“Hey,” Nell said in greeting once she was close to Theo, her voice low enough not to carry through the long hallway. “I’m glad you’re here already. Are you ready for this?”
He heard her approach, but didn’t look up from his phone until she spoke to him. Theo tried to get Nell to talk to him a few times already, but perhaps his mistake was that he was trying when she was least likely to listen. It was unfortunate, and he didn’t really understand what was so bad in her life that she needed to publicly display herself like that, but he didn’t have a leg to stand on. At least, when it came to the drinking. He’d been drinking more and more over the past month and a half, though he imagined that would lessen now that he and Kitane had worked through some of the tension. Aubrey, too, drank a great deal, but he was private about it for the most part and he was always off-duty while indulging, something Theo was both proud of and grateful for. Just seeing the blonde was enough to get Ned focused on the issue at hand, and that was seeing his daughter.
“Nell,” Theo replied warmly, slipping his phone into his pocket. “Oh, quite. I haven’t been through the door in a while.” He took a generous step back and gestured for her to go ahead and open the door. Ned was curious as to where it would open and reminded Theo for the umpteenth time that he needed to read faster. He wanted to know everything. “I trust you have time for a few hours?” He understood the difficulties of balancing a full schedule and accommodating trips to Passages, but it was certainly worth it in his mind. He couldn’t recall if Nell was working or not, but either way, she should still be able to make time to cross. Unless it’s Arya that doesn’t- theo started to think, but Ned firmly nipped that in the bud. He didn’t think that was the case.
Nell pulled her keys from her purse, and the plain black key into the keyhole. The door unlocked easily, leaving her only a second to wonder where it would open this time. Arya had been heading back to Westeros and up towards the wall the last time they had come through, but there was no telling where the girl wanted to be at this moment.
The sight that greeted them when she swung the door open was a desolate, but beautiful one. Years of winter had left the soil mostly barren, and the ground casting a blinding white glow in the pale sunlight. As a trueborn Stark, the sight was as familiar and comforting to Arya as the four walls of her old home. They must be north of Winterfell, somewhere along the road to the wall. She stepped out onto the frost-covered road, the ice crunching beneath her feet, waiting for the transformation to complete before turning around to greet her father.
Theo took the lack of response as a yes and left it at that, particularly since she opened the door a moment later. Ned recognized the landscape as the road to the wall and informed Theo as much, but it didn’t really make much of a difference to him. Ned was so used to the cold that he didn’t feel the chill and it wouldn’t carry over into Las Vegas once he crossed back. He waited for Arya to appear before stepping through himself and firmly closing the door behind him. The change was immediate and perhaps a little jarring for someone to watch, but neither Theodore or Eddard were bothered by it. They were so connected on either side of the door that it was just a matter of switching from driver to passenger. Ned was dressed much in the same way he had been when he'd first left Winterfell toward King's Landing with Robert. None of that mattered nearly as much as seeing his daughter did, and he pulled her into a tight hug.
"How are you? Truly, Arya," he asked, letting go of her and starting their journey north. They wouldn't reach the wall for another half a day riding, which would mean nearly a full day on foot. He would walk it willingly with her, if that was what she wanted. Ned simply wanted to see his daughter, to talk to her and be assured that she was alive and well. "I know the memories were...disconcerting." That was an understatement more than likely, but he didn't want to worry her unnecessarily.
Arya allowed herself to be pulled into the hug, closing her eyes as the familiar scent of her father drifted through her senses. The memory she had received from him flashed vividly against the backs of her eyelids – the dirty, grimy young girl across a sea of people, the terror on her small, grimy face, and his own horror as the realization of what was about to happen sunk in. Arya knew she was on the small side, even as an adult, but it struck her just how little she had been when her father had been executed. Tiny and innocent, with no idea about how much worse everything would continue to get from that point onwards. Her father’s execution had done more than just change the trajectory of the rest of her life; it had taken off the wheels, thrown it into a roadside ditch, and buried it in muck.
“I’m alive, Father,” she replied, because it was true. Even after all these years of him being gone from her life, she still hated lying to him. Most of her life had required lying through her teeth just to survive, but it still felt wrong where he was concerned. And as there were certain truths she could never tell a man such as Ned Stark, she had to be sure not to add on to her pile of secrets. She walked in silence next to the sturdy man, heading towards the wall where she knew Jon waited. “It wasn’t the memories I minded, Father. It was reliving… all of that that I hated.” As well as re-experiencing all that helplessness and anger that followed, but she could not tell him about that, for she knew it would only serve to make him feel worse.
He too recalled the memory he’d received of his death, from her point of view. He had watched, through Theodore’s eyes as the show depicted his death. It was exactly the way he recalled and reliving it with Kitane sitting next to Theodore had been difficult. Now though, he’d seen it from Arya’s point of view, felt what she felt. He would never be able to apologize enough for what had transpired and, from what he’d seen from the television show, for the way it affected his children, Arya specifically. She’d been so young...It was likely that he’d be just as concerned about Sansa if she were present, but she wasn’t and so Arya got the focus of it. As they walked, he stayed within reach of his daughter, though if she moved away from him, he wouldn’t crowd her.
“I understand,” he replied carefully as they walked. “It was...difficult to live some of those memories,” he agreed, though he wasn’t sure how to broach the topic of his death. They certainly couldn’t roll back the clock and pretend the last ten years hadn’t happened. “I know that my presence here does not change the past, but I hope it can change the future.” Ned paused to consider his next words carefully. “I know that you were forced into an unusual and certainly not ideal situation after...my death. If you- If there’s anything I can do, you know you need only ask, yes? I will never stop loving you, no matter what.” He wanted to make that abundantly clear, that he would never think less of her or love her any less, no matter what. She was his world, from the moment she’d been born, to the moment he died, to the moment he was reunited with her.
Difficult didn’t begin to describe what Arya’s life had been like since her father’s death. She knew her secrets would not be safe for long, what with the books and television show the girl on the other side loved and that everyone seemed to watch. But even if Theo had read all the books, he would know nothing about the life she had been living these last several years. She glanced over at her father, lips pursed, considering the implications of his being back on her future. “Westeros is still in chaos, Father. But I think now that you’re back and Robb’s back we can do something to change that.” A small part of her worried they would try to take her back to the castle life and turn her into a proper lady, but she knew that was silly. Father was the one who had taken her to her dancing master; he would never try to make her something else now.
Arya clutched on the fact that her father loved her, and considered the rest of his words in silence; long enough to where the only sounds disturbing the cold afternoon was the crunch of ice beneath their boots. “I want to fight.” She knew this would draw objections, and hurried to press her case before he could object. “I’ve spent years training, Father, and I’m very good. I might not be large, but I’m quiet and I’m fast and I know how to move in the shadows.” She paused, taking a deep gulp of the frigid air. “When the time comes – and I know it will – I want to fight right by everyone else. I will make you proud, I promise.”
Ned would never - could never - understand the true impact that his death had on the members of his family. He could tell from watching the television shows through Theodore’s eyes that his children had been forced to grow up very quickly and there was nothing he could do to change that. “We will,” he replied, already well aware of the opportunities they had presented to them. “Your brother - I’m not sure if you have spoken to him, but he is still the King of the North and we seek freedom from the Seven Kingdoms,” Ned explained, filling her in on what she might not be aware of. “I am unable to cross as frequently as I would like so I am not abreast of everything going on, but Stannis Baratheon has declared himself King.”
If he were completely honest with himself, her request wasn’t a surprise. Ned considered his options as they continued to walk, wanting to be absolutely certain that he thought before speaking. He would not force her to do something she didn’t want and, in truth, he’d known as soon as he enlisted Syrio that she would not be a proper lady like her sister. He would not deny her, could not, but he also did not want to risk losing her. “I do not doubt your skills, Arya, nor your training. I would not see you confined to a castle and unhappy. I know that path is not yours to take. I fear losing you, but that is a fear I have for all of your siblings.” He paused there, in part to let his words sink in and because he wasn’t sure what else to say, other than to allow her to do as she wished.
Arya took a moment to figure out the implications of what her father said. So long had her focus been on just staying alive from one day to the next that she had mostly lost sight of the greater political game. “What happens to the rest of the seven kingdoms if we seek freedom?” Arya was by no means power hungry, but she knew little of how capable or not Stannis Baratheon would be as a ruler. Her knowledge of him came through what was whispered through the kingdom and what was considered juicy enough to make it through the lower ranks. “And what of the war in the North?” If anything, there was even less news of the goings on beyond the wall, but Arya paid more attention to ravens from there because of Jon.
“We lose each other even when we don’t fight, Father.” The Starks had been fated to be torn apart the day Robert Baratheon rode into Winterfell. “Trying to be safe is what’s torn us apart, and we’re weaker when we’re not together.” As much as she loathed the Lannisters, they seemed to know their best strategy was to stay united. “We’ll be stronger and safer if we fight side by side.” With Ned and Arya and possibly Jon by his side, Robb could avoid having to rely on outsiders who would then eventually betray him.
Ned sighed heavily when she asked the implications of what they were trying to do. He wasn’t sure what would happen to the Seven Kingdoms, but he did know that Daenerys Targaryen was certainly planning to take the Iron Throne as her own. Neither Stannis nor Renly, should he appear, would make for a good King in Ned’s eyes, but there was always a chance that he was wrong. The Wall and the White Walkers were a concern though, and with their forces marching south, he worried about what might come to pass. He didn’t think they would get help from the Baratheons when their forces were ready to defend the claim to the throne. What that would mean for them, he wasn’t sure. They would need every available sword though, and Arya was more skilled than some of the men of the Night’s Watch. “I have been relying on Jon for information about the Wall. What time I do have here is spent in Winterfell, attending to the needs of the people there.” He paused to consider answering her first question in the best possible manner. “It is...a complicated endeavor, but things cannot remain as they are. That much is clear. How that change occurs remains to be seen.” A careful answer, but honest all the same.
She made a compelling argument and Ned had to turn to look at her. It was surprising in some ways, because it showed just how much she’d grown and matured in the time he’d missed. He wouldn’t leave her again and although he wasn’t entirely sure he could find the right mindset to fight alongside her, they had time. He could learn, and he would because it was something she so clearly wanted. He couldn’t deny her this, even though it seemed impossible. No, he’d find a way. “You’ve grown in many ways, Arya. I am certain that you will make me proud in this as you have with everything else,” he said simply. Before anything else could be said, Ned stilled, glancing up to the trees to his right. It was a thick cluster, where someone could be easily concealed, and an unnatural rustle of leaves from behind them caused him to turn just slightly, his hand on the hilt of his sword. Ned turned to warn Arya, but three men appeared from behind the tree line, swords drawn, and there wasn’t time for anything save reacting. He drew his sword, blocking an attack before moving seamlessly into an attack of his own.
Arya kept her silence as her father spoke, nodding as they walked to indicate her agreement. She considered telling him how happy she was to have him alive and well and near her once again, about how the world felt less unsteady when he was in it, but her thoughts were interrupted by the sudden appearance of the men in the trees. Arya knew immediately that these men had marked them as a man and a young helpless woman, underestimating her in the same way most men in her life had. Instead of being upset by it however, Arya turned it to her advantage, surprising the men when they weren't looking. Here, now, she pulled Needle from her scabbard with her left hand, and threw herself into the fray, working with and around her father. Her blade was much smaller than those the other men were using, but she was small and fast and surprising, and the men would leave this encounter much bloodier than she.
It took no more than a few minutes for the pair of them to dispatch their attackers, five men bloody and dead on the ground around them. Ned hadn’t had to fight like that in a good while, but he was only slightly out of breath by the time Ice was back in her scabbard. Immediately, he turned to Arya, checking her over briefly for any obvious injuries. Seeing none, he knelt next to the man closest to him and brushed his eyes closed, respectful of the dead even under the circumstances. “Robbers. Why they’d be on this road though...” It was something he’d have to take under consideration. He stood and wiped his hands on his pants. “When we reach the wall, I’ll have them send a small party to scout the immediate vicinity.” Ned looked up ahead and then back to Arya. “We should be there in an hour or so. Keep sharp.”