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It was starting to get weird.

Gendry would have reported to her to HR, but the trouble was she was HR. So naturally it was easy for her to get his phone number and text him at 3am. She’d even found his social media accounts and he was scared to login in case she’d sent him another picture of her boobs.

‘Oh, jeez,’ Gendry grimaced when he made the mistake of opening up his email to a picture of a bride and groom with their faces superimposed.

‘What the fuck is that?’ Arya peered over his shoulder.

‘Nothing,’ Gendry said through gritted teeth.

‘Doesn’t look like nothing,’ Arya retorted. ‘Looks like a wedding invitation.’

‘She’s not still bothering you, is she?’ Jon asked as he stepped into the kitchen.

‘It seems like it,’ Gendry replied with a sigh. ‘I thought after the conversation Brienne had with her she might have backed off, but it seems to have fueled her fire.’

‘Who?’ Arya demanded. She was sat on the countertop of Jon and Gendry’s kitchen, swinging her legs and clutching a large bowl of popcorn to her chest. Jon looked at her exasperatedly at the sound of her feet hitting the cupboard. Jon hated when she left marks on his kitchen cupboards. Which was exactly why Arya did it.

‘Gendry’s getting harassed by this chick where he works,’ Jon explained. ‘Arya, please can you get down from there?’

Arya stuck her tongue out at her brother but hopped down anyway. ‘Harassed how?’

Gendry scratched at the scruff along his jaw. ‘Ah, she’s just coming on a little strong. Stares at me in meetings, texts me, emails me weird pictures every now and then.’

Jon barked out a laugh. ‘I think that’s putting it lightly. Has she sent you any more nudes?’

Gendry winced.

‘What the fuck!’ Arya cried, storming over and snatching Gendry’s phone out of his hand. She ducked under his arm as he tried to grab it back and quickly navigated to his text messages. ‘Bloody hell, there are like, a thousand texts from her!’

Jon chuckled. ‘And that’s just the texts.’

‘The Waif?’ Arya raised an eyebrow incredulously. ‘What kind of a name is the Waif?’

‘I’m not even sure that’s her real name.’

‘You should get a restraining order.’

‘It’s a bit difficult to do that when we work in the same office,’ Gendry muttered glumly.

Jon clapped him on the back. ‘Cheer up, mate. At least it’s a woman.’ He stomped off to answer the door, signalling the arrival of Sansa and Pod for movie night.

Arya snorted. It was well known that Jon had fought off the affections of a particularly lascivious gentleman by the name of Tormund on a field trip to the far North when he was at university. ‘What are you gonna do?’

‘I’m not sure. It’s making my working environment pretty uncomfortable.’

Arya threw some popcorn in her mouth. ‘Just tell her you’re dating someone,’ she suggested.

Gendry rolled his eyes. ‘Sure and when has that ever worked?’

Arya shrugged. ‘It’s better than getting pics of her vag,’ she teased, tossing him his phone as she slinked off to the living room.

Gendry made the mistake of looking at the screen and Seven Hells he needed to change his phone number.

He was stood at the photocopier, scanning some blueprints for an upcoming build when the door to the copy room closed with a click and a soft hand brushed the back of his neck. He jerked back in shock to find the Waif behind him. ‘Oh, jeez, it’s you,’ he stammered.

She stalked towards him, her small, bony figure moving silently as her dark eyes focused on his face. ‘Waiting for me, where you?’ she whispered.

Gendry took a shaky step backwards. ‘Actually I was just using the copier, but since you’re here I’ll just-’

She continued to stalk towards him.‘Don’t be in such a hurry to run away. But if you want to run, I’ll just follow you. I like games.’

‘Oh, I’m not, I just really need to get these copies to Brienne-’

‘I was thinking,’ she interrupted, running her fingers along the top of the copier, collecting dust, ‘that we should make this official. We’ve been pining after each other for so long now and we should really do something about it.’ Her tongue darted out to slide over her gapped teeth. ‘The company retreat. I’m going. You’re going. Maybe we can be roommates.’ 

The architectural firm put a ‘retreat’ on every year for their staff over a long weekend. It was mainly an excuse for the whole office to get drunk together on company money under the guise of ‘team bonding and strategy planning.’ Gendry had taken Jon one year and it had been supremely awkward when they’d realised they’d been booked into a room with a double bed, rather than the two singles they’d requested.

Gendry’s eyes widened in horror. ‘I don’t think that’s a good idea.’

She leapt at him, pinning him against the filing cabinet. ‘Why not?’ she breathed in his ear. Gendry managed to wiggle free of her grip, spinning around to the door.

‘Look, this is insane. You’ve got to leave me alone.’

The Waif licked her lips and fixed her gaze on him. ‘Give me a reason.’

He panicked. 'Because I have a girlfriend,’ he blurted.

Her eyes narrowed. ‘That’s okay. She doesn’t have to know. I’m good at secrets…’

‘And- and I’m bringing her to the retreat.’

The Waif halted in her steps towards him and her eyes grew hard, a look of barely concealed disgust on her face. ‘Who?’

Shit. Gendry hadn’t thought that far ahead. He was too slow to make someone up and because he was a fucking idiot now he needed to actually take someone with him. Brienne was his boss, that would never be believable for a myriad of reasons. Sansa! No, that wouldn’t work, the Waif would have seen her in the office when she came to visit Pod. He cycled through the other possibilities: Margaery, no, Yara would eat him alive for that; Shireen, no way, she was his cousin, he might have been desperate but that was just weird; so that left-

‘Arya Stark,’ Gendry blurted out. ‘My girlfriend is Arya Stark.’

The Waif’s eyes narrowed in suspicion. She considered the name for a moment and Gendry knew that she’d be wondering how on earth he had managed to score a date with the daughter of Ned Stark. The Starks were basically royalty - an old money family with a heavily vested interest in politics. Ned Stark had been the main leader of the opposition party that had pushed for an independent North following the reunification of the seven Westerosi states by the Dragon Party. They’d succeeded and the North was thriving under the leadership of Robb Stark, Ned’s son who had chosen to follow in his father’s footsteps.

The truth was the Gendry came to know the Starks by chance - he had lived in the same halls as Jon at university, when Gendry was an architecture student on a scholarship and Jon was studying geology. Jon had been adopted by Ned and his wife when he was a baby and raised in the North, only travelling South to study at the prestigious University of Riverrun. Jon’s adoptive mother, Catelyn Stark, was a descendant of one of the founding members of the University and all of the Stark children had or would study there in the future. Gendry and Jon had stayed in the area after they graduated, Jon taking up a position with an environmental company as a hydrogeologist and Gendry with a architectural firm. They got on well with Gendry’s easy personality being a good counter to Jon’s frequent bouts of brooding. His sister Sansa had moved down for uni a few years ago, with Arya being the latest arrival.

‘Well,’ Waif hissed. ‘We’ll see how long that lasts. She’ll get bored and you’ll come crawling back.’ She stalked out of the room, the door slamming behind her.

Oh fuck. He was so fucking stupid. Arya, of all people? He should have bloody said Shireen and faced the humiliation of asking his cousin to pretend to be his girlfriend for a weekend. But no, he’d had to go and say her name and now he was going to have to convince her to spend the weekend with him. Pretending to be in love with him. He might as well be asking her to cut off her own face.

Gendry let himself into the house he shared with Jon to find Arya sitting cross-legged on the kitchen counter eating cereal, Jon's dog Ghost sat patiently at her feet. She flicked the white dog a few pieces of cereal and he snatched them out of the air with a click of his teeth. Out of all the Starks, (except for Jon, who wasn't even a real Stark) Arya was Gendry’s favourite. She’d turned up on their doorstep one night in Riverrun with a sour look on her face that had evaporated as soon as she’d seen Jon and inserted herself neatly into their lives from that moment on. Arya regularly appeared in their house without announcement (neither Gendry nor Jon could figure out how as they’d never given her a key) - she seemed to prefer their house to the flat she shared with Sansa a couple of streets over. It was no secret that the sisters didn’t have the best relationship and Jon was Arya’s favourite brother, so she regularly sort refuge at their house, spreading her uni work out on their kitchen table, using up all the milk in her cereal and sleeping on their sofa.

She was outspoken, loud, completely immune to embarrassment and a total pain in his arse, but Gendry had developed a fondness for her that he hadn’t for the other Starks. When he was lying to himself he’d say that he loved her like a little sister, that Jon was like his brother so Arya was like his sister and that was were the protectiveness he felt for her came from. But after wallowing in a few beers, he’d admit the truth to himself - he was pretty much in love with Arya and it most likely had something to do with how stormy her eyes got when she was furious, the way her face scrunched up and her surprisingly high-pitched giggle when she was laughing at him and calling him stupid, the set of her eyebrows and her stubbornness whenever she encountered something she didn’t like. But she was Jon’s little sister and a good five years his junior and she trusted him, Jon trusted him, so he had learnt to put those feelings aside, to fold them up carefully and store them at the very back of his mind. It had grown easier over time and some days he fancied that he had never been in love with her at all. But by telling the Waif she was his girlfriend - well, it was like he’d turned the key in the lock and let all of his longing thoughts about being with Arya out with free reign.

‘What are you doing here?’ he asked, dropping his bag on the floor and pulling a beer from the fridge.

‘Avoiding Sansa and Pod,’ Arya said through a mouthful of Dragon Eggs. ‘Sansa hasn’t quite got the hang of the sock on the door rule yet.’

Gendry grinned. ‘Beer?’ he offered.

Arya nodded and he gave her his bottle, grabbing another from the fridge for himself.

‘So I think your advice worked,’ he said, leaning opposite her and sipping from the bottle.

‘Oh yeah?’ Arya was digging through her bowl, trying to fish out the dragon-shaped marshmallows.

‘Yeah. Telling the Waif I had a girlfriend got her to back off pretty quickly.’

‘Nice.’ She’d managed to collect a handful of marshmallows on her spoon.

‘I told her you were my girlfriend, actually,’ Gendry said casually.

Arya snorted. ‘Nice one.’

‘So I’m going to need you to come to the company retreat with me next weekend.’

Milk and cereal dribbled out of Arya’s mouth and back into the bowl as she stared at him open mouthed.

‘Lovely,’ Gendry said lightly, sipping his beer.

Arya wiped her mouth on the back of her hand. ‘Excuse me?’

Gendry sighed. ‘I may have accidentally told her that you were coming with me to the company retreat. As my girlfriend.’

‘Why the fuck would you tell her that?!’ Arya screeched.

‘I panicked!’

‘Well tell her we broke up!’

‘I can’t,’ Gendry said desperately. ‘She won’t give up. She’ll sneak into my room and turn up naked in my bed or something. If you come with me and she thinks you’re my girlfriend she’ll leave me alone.’

‘Can’t you just not go?’

Gendry shook his head. ‘I have to go. Brienne’s put me forward for that promotion from assistant to junior designer. If I don’t show up they won’t think I’m committed.’

‘Isn’t it essentially a chance for you all to get high and binge drink?’ Arya said archly.

‘Yes. So if you come with me it’ll just be how you usually spend your weekends anyway.’

Arya shot him a withering look.

Gendry stepped forward and set his hands on her shoulders. ‘Come on, Arya, please,’ he pleaded. It’s just a few days. It’s in this really fancy hotel in Lannisport and there’s a spa and it’s right by the beach. You’ll come with me, schmooze with my colleagues for half an hour and then you can spend all the time I’m in meetings ordering really expensive room service on the company’s money.’

Arya huffed and crossed her arms. ‘Can I order porn on the TV?’

Gendry beamed. ‘You can watch as much porn as you like.’

Arya narrowed her eyes. ‘Fine,’ she grumbled. ‘But I want a massage. And a new dress if I’m going to be meeting your work friends. And you’re paying for both.’

Gendry grinned. ‘Anything else m’lady?’

‘I want to borrow your car whenever I want for a month.’

‘Deal.’ Gendry dragged her in for a hug, to which Arya grumbled. Her cheeks looked flushed when he pulled back. ‘Phew. I thought I was going to have to threaten you with telling Jon that you keep your pot in our spice rack.’

‘Please,’ Arya rolled her eyes. ‘Jon thinks it’s oregano. I saw him putting it in his spaghetti bolognese once.’

Chapter Text

When Gendry and Pod picked up Arya and Sansa from their apartment on Friday morning, the two sisters were already stood on the side of the road with their luggage. Well, with Sansa’s luggage. The redhead had a large suitcase, an oversized tote bag and an elegant handbag over her arm. Arya had a backpack and scowl on her face.

‘Oh boy,’ said Pod. ‘I think you might have your work cut out for you this weekend. Remind me again how you convinced her to be your girlfriend for the weekend?’

‘Bribery,’ said Gendry through gritted teeth as he slowed the car to a stop. They got out and Pod kissed Sansa sweetly, taking her bags and depositing them into the boot of the car. Arya stomped over and threw herself into the passenger seat without a word to any of them. Sansa sighed dramatically.  

‘Ignore her. She’s being a bitch because she didn’t realise I was coming too,’ she explained, rolling her eyes before slipping into the backseat. Pod threw a sympathetic look at Gendry before sliding in after Sansa.

The journey to Lannisport was a long one, about seven hours in total. Arya slept through the first three and a half, her face pressed up against the window, eyebrows furrowed in her sleep. She only woke when they stopped at Golden Tooth to fill up on gas and to get something to eat. She was silent through lunch, merely grunting at any attempts at conversation the others tried to make with her. When they were back on the road and Pod and Sansa had fallen asleep on each other’s shoulders in the back set, Gendry turned the radio down.

‘So, what the fuck is your problem today?’

Arya turned from where she’d been glaring out of the window to glower at the windshield. ‘Nothing.’

Gendry scoffed. ‘Like hell. You’ve been a miserable sod all morning. Is this because I forced you into coming?’

She was silent for a while. ‘It’s not that,’ she said quietly. ‘Sansa can just be a bitch sometimes.’

Gendry knew that Arya and Sansa had a volatile relationship - they were very different, but both equally headstrong. There had been numerous occasions when Jon had had to play mediator when neither of them were willing to bow to the other.

‘I’m sorry you didn’t know she was coming,’ Gendry said. ‘I guess I just assumed you already knew because of Pod.’

She sighed. ‘It’s okay. It’s your fault.’

‘Besides,’ Gendry tried to reassure her. ‘You probably won’t see much of her. No doubt they’ll be shacked up in their room for most of the weekend.’ He jerked his thumb over his shoulder at the sleeping couple.

‘I’m not mad at you,’ Arya said gently. She reached over and squeezed his thigh. Gendry shivered at the contact.

‘I hope not.’ Gendry was quiet for a moment. ‘This was a bad idea, this whole fake relationship thing. Maybe we should just forget it-‘ 

‘Don’t be stupid,’ Arya interrupted. ‘I said I’d do it and I will. I’m just being a cow. My fake boyfriend is going to treat me like a queen, what could I possibly be mad at you for?’

‘Well, there is one thing…’

There was only a double bed.

Granted, it was probably the biggest bed Gendry had ever seen in his life, but there was still only one bed in the room.

‘I, er, I’ll sleep on the sofa,’ Gendry stammered.

Arya rolled her eyes at him and threw herself on the bed. ‘Don’t be stupid. It’s huge. There’s room for both of us.’ She patted the quilt. Gendry hopped up next to her. She flopped back on the pillows and closed her eyes. She looked almost angelic, her dark hair fanning out on the sheets. Luckily Gendry knew her better than that. ‘Besides, it won’t be the first time we’ve shared a bed.’

A group of them had gone to King’s Landing to see The Night’s Watch play and had decided to book into a hotel so they could have a few drinks. Jon, Sansa, Gendry, Pod, Theon, Arya, Margaery and Yara spent the train ride down to the capital playing a ridiculous drinking game Theon had concocted (‘So, half of us are lobsters and half of us are sharks,’ he’d explained. It was not a simple game.) It was still around a five hour trip on the express train so they definitely smashed by the time they got there. Theon threw up on the train, Sansa wouldn’t stop giggling and Margie couldn’t walk in a straight line. Gendry could barely remember the gig but he did remember Jon furiously making out with a redhead in a display of very uncharacteristic behaviour, who he then brought back to the room he was sharing with Gendry, leaving Gendry with a difficult decision to make - sleep in Theon’s room or Arya’s. Arya was the safer option - there was no telling what or who Theon was doing in his own room (the explicit reason why he’d insisted on not sharing with anyone). She had merely rolled her eyes at him when he’d knocked on her door and he’d spent a restless night feeling the weight of her small body so close to his and had eventually drifted to sleep with the scent of her mango shampoo in his nose.

‘I could get used to this,’ Arya murmured, eyes still closed.

‘Me too,’ Gendry replied, trying very hard not to think about the hidden meaning behind his words. He really should have mentioned the sleeping situation when he’d asked Arya to come with him, but some sick part of him had kept it secret. He was a bastard. Sharing a bed with her for three nights was going to be absolute torture. Even if it was the world’s largest bed.

‘So.’ Arya sat up. ‘What’s on the itinerary?’

Gendry got up and picked up the welcome pack from the desk, opening it up and laying out the contents on the bed. He scanned the schedule. FRIDAY: Welcome drinks, Management Team presentation, Dinner…

‘Looks like drinks downstairs and dinner later for you.’

Arya took the schedule from him. ‘There’s a management presentation thingy. I’ll come to that.’

Gendry raised his eyebrows in surprise. ‘Really? It’ll be pretty boring for you.’

Arya shrugged. ‘Sansa will be going to everything with Pod, I should do the same with you. You know, play the supportive girlfriend.’ Gendry’s breath caught in his throat. ‘The Waif will be at all of this, right?’


‘Then we should probably get our story straight,’ Arya suggested. ‘So when people ask us about us we know we’re saying the same thing.’

‘Okay,’ said Gendry. ‘So…’

‘Well, we should keep it simple and as close to the truth as possible, right? That would make it easier,’ Arya said. ‘We’ll just say that I’m Jon’s sister and we met when I moved down for uni.’

‘That is the truth,’ Gendry said helpfully.

‘And then we can say we got together....what, six months ago?’


‘And that you were scared to ask me out so I had to ask you.’

‘What? I wouldn’t be scared!’

Arya smirked at him.

‘Okay, fine,’ Gendry grumbled. ‘You can emasculate me by saying that you asked me out.’

‘It’s not emasculating for a woman to ask a man on a date,’ Arya said fiercely. ‘I’ll just say you were too bull-headed to notice my extreme flirting so I had to resort to more explicit methods. So how do you feel about PDA?’

Gendry coughed. ‘PDA?’

‘Yes,’ Arya said, looking at him expectantly. ‘Do you want to kiss me this weekend?’

Yes. I want to kiss you all the time.

‘Is that necessary?’ Seven hells, you are a spineless fucking arsehole.

Arya shrugged. ‘It’ll be more believable. It’ll look weird if we’re not at least a little bit touchy feely.’

Gendry paused. ‘Would that make you uncomfortable? I mean, I’m a lot older than you.’

Arya laughed. ‘Honestly, Gendry, I know you live with my brother and he likes to insist that I am a perfect young lady but I can assure you I am not. I’ve been with guys older than you.’ A red haze came over him at the thought of her kissing some pervy old man. Now I’m the pervy old man. ‘I’m pretty sure I can handle you kissing me.’

You might be able to but I sure as fuck won’t.

‘Can I ask you something?’


‘What have you told Sansa?’

Arya paused, before starting to pick at the skin next to her nails. ‘I told her that you asked me to be your fake girlfriend for the weekend. And that I said yes.’

‘And she was okay with that?’

‘Sure,’ Arya said flippantly. ‘Why wouldn’t she be? It doesn’t mean anything.’

Gendry fell silent.

‘Can I ask you something?’ she countered.

‘Of course.’

‘What did you tell Jon?’

‘I told him you were coming with me.’

‘But you didn’t tell him about our deal?’

‘Of course not,’ Gendry said incredulously. ‘He’d probably get Ghost to eat me alive.’

Arya grinned affectionately. ‘I’d protect you. Everyone knows Ghost loves me more. Ugh, I smell like car. I’m gonna have a shower,’ she announced, flouncing off the bed towards the bathroom.

Soon Gendry heard the water running and Arya’s out-of-tune humming and tried hard not to dwell on the fact that she was likely extremely naked behind the thin door that separated the bedroom and the bathroom. He threw himself back onto the pillows with a groan. He was the stupidest man alive to ever think this weekend was a good idea.

Somewhat surprisingly to everyone but Gendry, Arya charmed his colleagues. She chatted with them during the welcome drinks and listened attentively during the management presentation welcoming the staff and their families. She even made conversation with Gendry’s boss, Brienne Tarth, who appeared to take quite a liking to her, particularly after she had discovered Arya was on the uni’s fencing team. Brienne had been on the national team in her youth and they spent a decent amount of time over dinner exchanging stories and debating the merits of foil, epee and sabre (Arya prefered sabre; Brienne favoured epee). Arya told the fake story of how they started dating with ease, embellishing each time she met someone new and Gendry began to wonder where she’d learnt to be so comfortable with lying. She held his hand and sat close to him at dinner and touched his shoulder when he made a joke, throwing her hair back and laughing with that gorgeous smile of hers.

‘Having fun?’ he asked her when they were sat in the bar after dinner and she plopped down on the sofa next to him.

‘Yes,’ she said decisively. ‘Your friends are fun.’

‘They’re not really my friends, you know,’ he teased.

She rolled her eyes. ‘Colleagues. Whatever. That dude Bronn keeps buying me shots.’

‘I’m pretty sure he wants to get in your pants.’

Arya snorted. ‘Yeah, I was getting that.’

‘What? What did he say?’

‘That he's always had a fantasy about two sisters, but if he had to pick one I’d be his first choice,’ Arya said lightly.

‘I’m going to kill him.’

‘Relax,’ Arya laughed. ‘I told him I was already shacked up with someone. Before I punched him in the dick.’

She touched his face lightly with her fingertips and pressed a kiss to his cheek. Gendry felt his cheeks grow warm. ‘In case I forget to say it later, thanks for asking me to come with you,’ she murmured. ‘Even though I am only your fake girlfriend. This is fun.’ She flitted off to the bar to get them another round of drinks.

Sansa raised an eyebrow at Gendry from her position on Pod’s lap. ‘Seems like it’s going well,’ she said lightly.

‘It’s Arya that’s doing well,’ Gendry said. ‘Pretty sure no one suspects a thing.’

‘That’s not what I meant,’ Sansa replied. ‘Are you two sure this is a good idea?’

Before he could ask her what she meant, Arya arrived back at the table clutching their drinks. ‘Gods, I’m glad we’re not the ones paying, it’s like Iron Bank interest rates here,’ she grumbled, passing Gendry his beer and taking a deep drink from her glass before leaning back against him.

Pod cleared his throat. ‘Um, don’t look now, but we’re about to be accosted, in three, two, one-’

The Waif appeared in front of them, her face masked with a simpering smile. ‘Well, hello,’ she said. ‘Gendry, Pod, good to see you. Sansa, always a pleasure.’ Sansa rolled her eyes.

‘And who is this?’ she said with a glint in her eye, turning to Arya. Gendry opened his mouth to introduce her but Arya cut in before he could.

‘Arya. Arya Stark,’ she said smoothly. ‘Gendry’s girlfriend.’ She placed her hand on his knee pointedly.

‘Well, well, well, the two Stark sisters together. Aren’t we honoured,’ the Waif sneered.

‘I’m sorry, I don’t think I caught your name,’ Arya said, meeting her stare steadily.

‘I’m sure you already know,’ the Waif said. ‘I’m sure Gendry’s told you all about me, now that he’s decided to parade you around this weekend in front of me.’

‘That’s funny,’ Arya sweetly, ‘Gendry has never once mentioned you.’

The Waif narrowed her eyes at Arya. ‘That’s right, sweetheart. Keep playing your game. I’m good at games too.’ She stalked off.

Pod whistled. ‘Seven hells.’

Arya removed her hand from Gendry’s leg and his skin hummed at the loss of contact.

‘Are you two really going to keep this up for the whole weekend?’ Sansa asked.

‘That’s the plan,’ Arya answered.

‘What happens when we go home?’

‘We break up,’ Arya said firmly. ‘Gendry can dump me in whichever humiliating way he chooses to make himself look the manliest.’ She sipped her drink. Sansa didn’t look convinced and Pod was giving him a very pointed look that he definitely didn’t want to meet. Arya turned to face him. ‘That’s the plan, right?’

‘Right,’ Gendry managed to choke out. He didn’t want to think of the weekend being over already; it was only Friday evening. The sick, twisted part of him wanted to make this last as long as possible, to enjoy every last minute of pretending he and Arya were a real couple, to play out the fantasy of what it would be like if they were really together. He didn’t want to think about what it would be like on Monday morning when he had to go back to the bachelor house he shared with Jon, alone.

Arya wasn’t kidding when she’d joked about the retreat being an excuse for binge drinking and recreational drug use. Pretty soon an elaborate drinking game was started up involving six pineapples, a packet of gum and a lighter. Gendry wasn’t sure on the rules, but Arya and Sansa had teamed up and were weirdly good at it. Gendry and Pod sat watching them as they forced their opponents to do shot after shot, screeching with laughter and high-fiving every time they scored a point.

When Brienne decided strip karaoke was definitely the best decision she’d made as Executive Director in a long time, Gendry knew it was time for them to call it a night. It was already well past midnight; Sansa and Pod were making out on the sofa and Arya had started yawning about half an hour ago. She was several drinks down (thanks to Bronn, that lecherous bastard) and was leaning heavily against him, her head resting on his shoulder.

‘Come on, you,’ he murmured in her ear, extracting himself from her arms and standing to help her up.

‘I hate you,’ Arya groaned, allowing him to pull her to her feet.

‘We’re calling it a night,’ Gendry called to where Sansa and Pod were entwined together. Sansa tore herself away from Pod’s mouth and delicately wiped her mouth with her hands. Pod discreetly adjusted his pants.

Arya snorted. ‘You guys probably should too if you want to keep things PG.’

‘Gendry.’ Sansa caught his arm and held him back as Arya and Pod made their way to the lifts up to their rooms. ‘Look,’ she started. ‘I know we’re not really close, but I just want you to be careful, okay?’

‘What do you mean?’

‘I know you’re in love with Arya.’

Gendry gaped at her. ‘What- how did- I’m not in love with her,’ he stammered.

Sansa rolled her eyes. ‘You can give up the act, I’m not an idiot. And I think what you’re both doing is really stupid for the record.’

Gendry sighed and ran a hand through his hair. ‘Shit. Is it really obvious?’

‘Only to people with eyes,’ Sansa said drily.

Fuck. Do you think Jon-’

‘Jon couldn’t see sexual chemistry if it ran up to him and punched him in the dick. My brother’s longest romantic relationship with his dog. I think you’re safe.’ She put her hands on her hips. ‘Just promise me that you’ll be careful. This little arrangement has the power to really fuck up a relationship, particularly if one of you is a little more invested in the other. Trust me, I’ve seen enough romantic comedies to know. Just be honest and talk to each other. Then you guys have a chance of coming out the other side with a shot.’

‘A shot? What do-’

‘You coming, Sans?’ Pod called from the end of the corridor.

‘Be right there!’ Sansa called back.  She turned back to Gendry and said insistently, ‘just talk to her, okay?’

Gendry nodded and Sansa ran to catch up with Pod and shrieked as he swept her up into his arms and carried her towards the lifts.

‘Ohhh,’ Arya moaned. ‘This bed is like a marshmallow.’

Gendry towelled off his wet hair and grinned at her. She was snuggled so far down into the bed that he could only see her face peeking out. The look on her face was one of pure bliss.

‘I’m serious, get in here!’ She threw back the covers and beckoned him to join her. Gendry hesitated.

‘I can sleep on the couch…’ he started.

Arya rolled her eyes. ‘For fuck’s sake, Gendry, stop being so stupidly honourable and get into bed.’

He turned the light off and slipped beneath the sheets before turning towards her, pulling the soft quilt up to his chin.

‘Hey, Arya?’

‘Yes, Gendry?’

‘Thanks for coming with me this weekend.’

She rolled onto her side to face him and tucked both hands under her cheek. ‘You’re welcome. But it’s not exactly a hardship.’

‘It’s not?’

She smiled slightly. ‘I’m sleeping in an actual marshmallow, I get to eat for free and drink all the booze I want and hang out with you all weekend. I should be thanking you.’

Gendry tried to ignore the way his heart lifted in his chest at her words. She means as friends, he told himself firmly. Practically your little sister, remember?

She observed him quietly for a little while, before closing her eyes and letting out a sigh. ‘I’m tired,’ she murmured.

‘Then sleep,’ he said.

‘I’m not sleepy.’

Gendry chuckled. ‘It certainly looks like you are.’

‘Tell me something,’ Arya demanded, still with her eyes closed.

‘Like what?’

‘I dunno.’

‘You’re the one asking.’

Arya was quiet for a little while, thinking. ‘What’s your mother like?’ she asked sleepily. ‘You never talk about her.’

Gendry hesitated. ‘She was soft and sweet and probably even more stubborn than I am. She’s dead now.’

Arya’s eyes fluttered open. ‘I’m sorry.’ She gently reached over and laced her fingers with his.

‘It was a long time ago.’

‘And your dad?’

He let out a sigh. ‘He didn’t want me. Lives in King’s Landing, has another family. We don’t talk much.’

Arya squeezed his hand gently. ‘We’re your family now.’

Gendry felt his warmth flooding to his chest. If only she knew how much he wanted that statement to be true. Soon, her breathing slowed and her brows knitted together the way they did when she was asleep. Gendry watched her for a little while, before reaching out and smoothing her hair off her face. The scent of her mango shampoo drifted towards him and he fell asleep easier than he had that night in King’s Landing.


Chapter Text

Breakfast the next morning was an ordeal. When Gendry stepped into the dining room of the hotel was pretty sure he was the only one who wasn’t sporting a raging hangover. He was lucky that his size meant he could handle his alcohol and he’d stuck to beer last night, which had helped. Pod, who had made the mistake of going from wine to beer to tequila, back to beer and finally finishing with whisky was slumped over a table desperately sipping a mimosa through a pink straw. Gendry was fairly certain he was still wearing his pajamas. Sansa was sat bolt upright next to him, her white blouse smooth and unwrinkled, primly spreading butter on a crumpet.

‘Good morning, Gendry,’ she said brightly as he sat down opposite the couple.

‘You’re cheery,’ said Gendry, pouring himself a cup of coffee. ‘And apparently not hungover?’

‘Oh, no I am,’ Sansa replied. ‘I’ve got the worst headache.’ She raised a perfectly pale, perfectly manicured hand to her perfectly coiffed hair. ‘I’m sure I look an absolute state. Where’s Arya?’

Gendry took a sip of his coffee. ‘She was still asleep when I got up for a run this morning.’

‘A run? Oh, you should have asked us to come with you!’ Sansa cried delightedly. ‘That definitely would have sorted Podrick’s hangover.’

Pod let out a groan.

‘He’s feeling a little worse for wear,’ Sansa said sympathetically, patting his arm and smoothing his hair.

‘Get me some fucking coffee now,’ growled a voice. Gendry turned to see Arya wearing his uni sweatshirt, pulling out a chair and flopping into it. Her hair was a mess and last night’s mascara was smudged around her eyes.

‘Wasn’t sure if you’d make it,’ said Gendry, pouring her a cup of black coffee. Arya proceeded to dump five packets of sugar into it and threw it down her throat, wincing.

‘Fuck, that’s fucking hot,’ she said, coughing.

Sansa sipped her tea demurely.

‘How the fuck do you look like that?’ Arya spat at her sister, clutching her head in her hands.

‘Well, good morning to you too, dear sister,’ Sansa said cheerily.

‘Even your fucking makeup is perfect!’

‘You may have noticed that Arya can’t use anything but the word ‘fuck’ when she’s hungover,’ Sansa said archly.

Gendry chuckled. ‘I’m aware.’ This was not the first time he’d seen Arya after a night of heavy drinking.

‘Guuughhh,’ said Pod.

‘Where the fuck were you this morning?’ Arya grumbled at Gendry.

‘I’m an early riser,’ he said. ‘Went for a run.’

‘You were gone when I woke up,’ she mumbled unhappily, stealing a crumpet from Sansa’s plate.

‘Hey!’ Sansa cried.

Arya just winked before shoving the whole thing in her mouth. ‘What’s on the agenda today?’ she said while chewing.

Sansa fixed her with a glare. ‘We’ve actually got a 10:30 spa appointment while the boys are in meetings.’

Arya halted mid-chew. ‘We? What do you mean we?’

‘I’ve booked us massages. And facials. And manicures.’

Arya spun around and turned to Gendry. ‘You! This is your fault!’

‘What did I do?’ asked Gendry, trying not to laugh at how ridiculous she looked, swamped in his hoodie, crazy hair and a wild look in her eye, brandishing a crumpet at him.

‘You told her about the spa!’

Sansa sighed dramatically. ‘Actually, when Gendry told me you were coming I called ahead and booked us some appointments. Honestly, Arya, there’s no need to act like such a child. I thought it might be nice to have some sisterly bonding time this weekend. Maybe actually try and get along for once? If we can’t get manage it on a free weekend away, wrapped in white robes and sipping champagne then we haven’t exactly got a chance at home.’

Arya was silent. She appeared to be contemplating Sansa’s peace offering. ‘Fine,’ she huffed. ‘But you’re not allowed to tell me my nail polish is outrageous, or stupid, or inappropriate. And don’t talk to me when I’m getting my massage. I want to nap.’

Sansa rolled her eyes. ‘Fine.’

Arya plucked a piece of toast from Pod’s plate. ‘So what are you two doing this morning?’

Gendry pulled out their schedule from his back pocket. ‘Strategy meeting, project updates, followed by… Oh, shit.’

Arya glanced at the crumpled piece of paper from over his shoulder and burst out laughing.

‘Team building obstacle course,’ Gendry read aloud.

‘Nooooo,’ Pod moaned.

Unsurprisingly, completing an obstacle course with 90% of the staff all sporting hangovers was not the best team bonding experience. Gendry threw himself off the top of the wooden pyramid he’d just clambered up, landed in a puddle of mud and narrowly avoided being thrown up on by Anguy from Business Development. He gave a hand to Cass from Legal as she struggled to reach the next platform they had to climb up. He was filthy, sweating and cursing the fact that he’d ever decided to come on this fucking trip.

Pod was collapsed at the top of the platform, laid out flat on his back and groaning. ‘I can’t do it, Gen. Just leave me here to die.’

Gendry sat down for a moment, waiting for the rest of his team to catch up. He raised his hand to his eyes to block out the sun and saw someone waving from him from large veranda at the back of the hotel. It was Arya and Sansa, tucked up in soft white robes and slippers, sipping glasses of champagne and laughing at them. Fuck this, Gendry thought and jumped down from the platform. He jogged over to them, passing Hot Pie from Construction Admin who was passed out face down in the grass.

Arya grinned up at him from her lounge chair. Her face was clean and free of makeup and her eyes looked huge on her pale face, her dark hair piled messily on top of her head. She eyed him. ‘You should only wear this,’ Arya quipped, quirking her eyebrow at him.

Gendry plopped himself down at the end of her lounge chair and looked down at his sodden clothes. The shorts and vest he’d put on were caked with mud; he was pretty sure it was all over his face. He ran a hand through his hair, shaking out the filthy water. ‘Not quite the mud bath I had in mind.’

‘I don’t mind getting dirty,’ Arya said casually, smirking at him.

Sansa, who had been desperately trying to pretend she was absorbed in her book and not eavesdropping snapped it shut and stood up from her chair. ‘Going to get a top up,’ she trilled, picking up her glasses and stomping back inside.

Arya subtly inclined her head backwards and over her shoulder Gendry saw the Waif sat glowering at them beneath an enormous sun hat and glasses.

‘She’s been following me all morning,’ Arya murmured.

Gendry winced. ‘I’m sorry.’

‘It’s okay. I made sure Sansa and I had a looong conversation about yours and Pod’s talents. If you know what I mean.’ She winked conspiratorially at him. ‘I mean your dick.’

Seven hells. Arya talking about his dick in nothing but a white robe was basically one of his fantasies.

He changed the subject quickly before his mind could delve further into inappropriate territory. ‘How was the spa?’

‘Well Sansa lasted about 10 seconds with the no talking rule, but actually, it was kinda nice,’ Arya said.

‘Yeah?’ Gendry smiled.

‘Yeah,’ she said. ‘We never really do anything fun together. Usually we’re just arguing about why I haven’t done my dishes. Or why I used all the milk without buying more. Or where her green sweater is. So basically she just yells at me.’

‘You seem like you’re feeling better.’

‘Nothing a facial and some hair of the dog can’t fix,’ she winked, raising her glass to him.


Gendry turned to see Brienne beckoning him from the finish line. ‘Looks like I’m needed.’

‘Run along,’ Arya trilled sweetly. ‘I’ll just be here watching you run away.’

Gendry reaches his hand out and cupped her cheek, swiping his thumb across her cheekbone, leaving a muddy smudge. ‘See you later.’

Arya was still wrapped in her bathrobe when Gendry emerged from the shower in a cloud of steam. She was sat cross-legged in the middle of the bed, eating a bowl of french fries and flicking through the TV.

‘What do you think this afternoon’s viewing should be, Chitty Chitty Gang Bang or Laurence of A Labia?' she asked.

‘How about The Lord of Light: The Night Is Dark and Full of Boners?'

‘A refined choice! I’ve heard good things about this one,’ Arya said gleefully, setting the film to play.

Gendry slipped a t-shirt over his head and joined her on the bed. Next to the plate of french fries she was working her way through at an impressive pace was a tupperware box with some homemade brownies. He went to reach for one but Arya grabbed his hand.

‘Hmmm, you might not want one of those if you have more meetings to go to.’

‘Why not?’

Arya grinned wildly at him and winked.

‘Oh, fucking hell, Arya,’ Gendry groaned. ‘They’re pot brownies aren’t they?’

Arya cackled.

‘You’re actually getting high and watching porn?’ he asked incredulously.

‘Yes. Gendry, it’s the best way to spend an afternoon.’

‘How many have you had?’ Gendry asked, eying the box.

‘Only one,’ she said innocently. ‘But I may have given one to Sansa.’


Arya giggled.

‘Seven hells, Arya, does she know?’

Arya shook her head. ‘Nope. But her eyes got really dilated and she wouldn’t shut up about this article on micro-loans she’d read and then she went to find Pod. Sansa gets turned on by financial jargon. I’m pretty sure they’re probably having some crazy sex right now. Want one?’ She held out the box to him.

‘I’ve got a design strategy meeting in half an hour.’

‘Come oooon.’ She picked a brownie up and waved it in his face. ‘Just a little bite. Have fun with me.’

Gendry took in the sight in front of him - her eyes were like saucers in her face, her cheeks flushed prettily and her dark hair was a tangled mess. Her robe was slipping off and exposing one soft, pale shoulder. His resolve melted like butter.

‘Fuck it,’ he growled, taking the brownie from her. Arya clapped her hands in glee.

Pretty soon he started to feel warm and relaxed. Arya was right, this was a great way to spend the afternoon: lazing about in the marshmallow bed, eating french fries and making fun of the tenuous storylines and ridiculous plots playing out on the TV. The fact that he was doing it all with Arya made it even sweeter. For a little while he allowed himself to believe that this is what they would be like together: comfortable and silly and in love.

‘You know, there’s a Stark Sisters one.’ Arya popped another fry in her mouth, her eyes focused on the screen where the Red Priestess was stripping the young Lord naked for a spell. Gendry wasn’t sure he’d heard her correctly.


Arya smirked. ‘Yep. They called it Winter is Coming.'  She snorted. ‘It’s not very good. I’m way too tall and they didn’t get Sansa’s hair right.’

‘You’ve watched it?!’

Arya shrugged.

Gendry actually couldn’t believe what he was hearing. ‘Isn’t that, like, really disturbing?’

Arya rolled her eyes. ‘It’s just porn, Gendry. They basically use our names once at the start and then it’s just two chicks fucking. I showed Sansa. She thought it was funny.’


‘Well, no. She was cross that they couldn’t get someone who actually had red hair, they just stuck a wig on someone. Once she got over her offence at that she thought it was funny. Hey, maybe I should send it to that guy Bronn?’

By the time the film had finished they were stretched out in the bed, facing each other the way they had the night before, their feet brushing whenever one of them shifted.

‘I’m worried about Jon,’ Arya mumbled. ‘He’s so fucking emo.’

Gendry laughed. ‘He’s emo all the time, in case you hadn’t noticed. I think it’s his natural state of being.’

‘I’m worried he’s lonely.’

‘What makes you say that?’ Gendry asked.

Arya pushed her hair back from her face and bit her bottom lip. ‘I know he’s never felt like he properly fits in. You know, with our family. Mum can be a real bitch to him sometimes. And it’s been a long time since he dated anyone. He had those few dates with Ros which ended disastrously. But no one since. Has he mentioned anyone lately?’

‘Not really.’

Arya’s brow furrowed. ‘I just don’t want him to be alone.’

‘Being alone isn't so bad,’ Gendry said quietly, thinking of his mother and his arsehole of a father.

Arya’s eyes softened. ‘Sorry,’ she murmured.

‘It’s okay. You’re my family now, right?’ Gendry smiled at her. ‘And Jon is your family. He’s your brother. He has you and Sansa and your brothers, and Ghost. And me.’

A small smile crept onto her face. ‘What about you?’ she asked.

‘What about me?’

‘You haven’t dated anyone. At least, not in the time I’ve been in Riverrun.’

Gendry hesitated. They were veering into dangerous territory now. He couldn’t tell her that the reason he hadn’t dated anyone since she’d arrived for uni was because he was hopelessly pining after her, that no other woman would ever compare.

He settled for shrugging. ‘There have been girls. Just hasn’t worked out.’

‘Why?’ she challenged.

‘Circumstance,’ he said lightly, willing his voice not to shake. ‘What about you?’

She copied his shrug. ‘Not really.’

‘What, no guys on the fencing team? What about that blonde dude?’

Arya snorted. ‘Ned? Not my type.’

‘Why not?’

‘Because half the guys at uni are pricks and only care about the fact that I’m Ned Stark’s daughter and the other half are too scared of me because I’m Ned Stark’s daughter.’

Gendry chuckled. ‘I don’t think they’re scared of you for that reason only.’

She frowned. ‘What do you mean?’

‘Arya,’ he said, laughing, ‘you literally stab people for fun and you look like a baby deer.’

‘What has that got to do with anything?’

‘Because you’re this absolute nightmare wrapped up in an adorable pint-sized package,’ he grinned. ‘You look sweet and yet you’re a total menace. That’s ridiculously intimidating, particularly to our fragile male egos.’

Her face grew stoney. ‘You’re not scared of me.’

‘That’s because I actually know you,’ he replied. ‘And I am scared of you, for the record.’

‘Good,’ she said fiercely, ‘you should be.’

At some point Gendry must have fallen asleep, because when he woke he was lying on his back with Arya tucked against him, absentmindedly picking apart her split ends. She must have felt him stir, because she turned around to face him, laid on her front, her chin in her hands. From this angle, Gendry could pretty much see all the way inside her robe. Not that he was complaining. ‘Hi,’ she said.


‘You’re cute when you sleep.’

‘I am?’

‘Yeah. You make little snuffly noises.’

Her hair had fallen in front of her eyes and before he knew what he was doing he reached up and brushed it behind her ear. Her grey eyes widened slightly and he thought he heard her breath catch a little. His hand brushed over her hair and across her cheek and his head was still a little foggy and she was so beautiful and fierce, an evil genius for bringing pot brownies with her and her eyes were soft and he wasn’t sure he’d ever seen her eyes that soft before, and all he wanted to do was pull her close and-

‘I have to meet Sansa,’ she breathed. Gendry’s hand dropped from her face. She met his eyes steadily, before pushing off the bed and standing shakily. ‘She’s going to help me get ready for tonight.’

The firm was throwing a formal dinner at a restaurant along the beach and as promised, Gendry had given Arya his credit card so she could find a dress to wear. She was about to slip out the door when she turned back to the bed and wrapped her arms around him. She pressed a kiss to his cheek and whispered, ‘see you in a little while.’

Chapter Text

It was getting harder and harder to pretend that Arya was only his fake girlfriend. He’d so badly wanted to kiss her that afternoon. Had he been dreaming or had she been learning in too? Had her lips parted in anticipation? Gendry shook his head, you sick bastard, certain he was letting his feelings cloud his judgement. Arya had always been comfortable around him. She practically lived in his house most of the time, for Gods’ sake. He’d seen her in every mood: furious, upset, giddy, mischievous, brooding. He’d seen her scowling when Margaery had done her hair and forced her into some ridiculous dress for Sansa’s birthday party; he’d seen her face flushed with laughter when she got home from fencing practice, stinking and sweat sticking strands of hair to her forehead.

But this weekend, she’d been sweet with him when they were alone, and Arya was rarely sweet. She’d kept up the gentle touches in private that she’d been displaying in public, touching his hands and leaning up against him, brushing her feet along his legs when they were laying in bed. She hadn’t been awkward or uncomfortable with him once and had slept soundly next to him last night (although he suspected the amount of alcohol in her system may have accounted for that). She was the one who had brought up PDA, saying that if he wanted to kiss her he could, but he hadn’t been able to bring himself to actually to it. It would be too much, it would be too close and he knew that if he started he wouldn’t be able to stop. And that was definitely one way to royally fuck up a friendship.

Why the ever living fuck had he given Arya’s name when the Waif asked him who he was bringing? Dealing with her showing up in his room naked would have been easier than the emotional turmoil he was going through right now. This was literally the worst fucking idea he’d ever had and that counted the time he’d let Theon throw him a birthday party. They hadn’t been able to get the body paint out of the carpet for months.

He heard a knock on the door and opened it to find Pod, clutching his dress shirt and suit.

‘Can I change in here?’ he asked. ‘Sansa kicked me out.’

‘Sure thing.’ Gendry stepped back to allow him in.

‘Thanks,’ Pod said, chucking his suit on the bed.



Gendry grabbed one of the miniature bottles of whisky from the mini bar and poured equal measures into two glasses. He passed one to Pod.

‘To the Stark women, who have us both by the balls.’ Pod raised his glass, a glint in his eye.

‘I’ll drink to that,’ Gendry said dejectedly as they lifted their glasses in toast.

‘Gods,’ Pod choked as the liquor burned his throat. He set down his glass and started to put his shirt on. ‘So, how’s it going with the little Lady Stark?’

Gendry sat down heavily on the bed. ‘Honestly… I have no idea.’

‘You know, Sansa’s pretty convinced that you’re in love with her,’ Pod commented.

‘Sansa would be right,’ Gendry said sadly.

Pod nodded. ‘She is, unfortunately, the smartest woman alive,’ he said wistfully, a dopey smile on his face.

Pod and Sansa had been together a little over a year. Gendry had actually been the one to introduce them. He had met Pod when he’d moved to Riverrun to join the firm and had invited him to a party at his and Jon’s house. Pod was pretty much the nicest guy Gendry knew. Smart, sensitive, a little bumbling and a man of few words, he was the perfect antidote to Sansa’s perfectly curated neuroticism and uptightness.

‘How the fuck did you manage it?’ Gendry asked. ‘I mean, one minute Sansa is completely broken by that fucking blonde shit for brains she dated in uni and the next she is totally blissed out and chill and completely in love with you. Seriously, what’s your secret?’

Pod shrugged. ‘I’m great in bed.’

Gendry burst out laughing.

‘Arya’s different from Sansa though,’ Pod noted. ‘They’re both really strong. But Arya doesn’t need someone to calm her down like Sansa. Arya needs someone who can keep up.’

Gendry pondered this for a little bit. Pod was right - Arya was an adventurer. She had always blazed her own trail; Gendry was sure that her family had been shocked when she’d said she was going to study in Riverrun like the rest of the Starks. They’d all been expecting her to leave, to run off to Essos and never be seen again. But though Arya was fierce and independent, she was also smart. She knew that leaving for Essos when she was eighteen wouldn’t get her where she wanted to go or not very far when she got there, so she was studying Economics with a side of Braavosi because if she had a career in money she could go to the lesser-travelled places that didn’t have stable financial systems like Westeros. She could see parts of the world that hadn’t been properly explored yet. In the two years he’d know her he’d learnt that she didn’t do things conventionally. She was almost single-minded in her determination not do things the way people expected her to. That was why she’d agreed to be his fake girlfriend for the weekend. That was why Gendry loved her. He’d never want to tie her down. He loved her because she was free, because she knew her own mind and wanted more than just a little corner of Westeros. He just hoped that if he was ever lucky enough to have her, that she’d come back to him every once in a while.

‘Jon is going to kill me,’ Gendry groaned.

‘Jon is less likely to kill you than Arya,’ Pod said. ‘Jon will come around.’

‘Didn’t he threaten to cut your dick off if you ever hurt Sansa?’

‘Jon is protective of Sansa and I think he has every right to be after Joffrey.’ Pod was so reasonable. ‘But do you honestly think Arya is going to let Jon stop her from getting what she wants? When has Arya ever let anything anyone said stop her from getting what she wants?’

‘Who says Arya wants me?’

Pod was thoughtful. ‘I’m not sure what you were hoping to achieve with this little scheme of yours,’ he said slowly. ‘Stark women aren’t easy. But they are more than worth the trouble.’

Gendry sighed. ‘I’ve really got myself into a mess, haven’t I?’

Pod clapped him on the back sympathetically. ‘You sure have, pal.’

When Arya and Sansa arrived to meet them in the bar before dinner, Gendry was fairly certain that he might still be high. Arya was dressed in red lace, thin shoelace straps threaded over her shoulders. Her hair was down and curling loosely, her skin gleamed and her eyes, which seemed even larger than normal, dark and dusty, were fixed on him. He felt his heart stutter in his chest.

‘Wow,’ he breathed. ‘You look…’

She smirked up at him and punched him in the shoulder. ‘Don’t swallow your tongue, Gendry. You’ll be needing that.’ She placed her hand firmly in his.

‘You’re welcome,’ Sansa sang as she took Pod’s arm and kissed him on the cheek.

‘Oh fuck off, Sans,’ Arya sniped, but she couldn’t hide the smile that crept onto her face.

Dinner was torture. Brienne was trying to discuss the upcoming promotion opportunity with him but Gendry couldn’t take his eyes off Arya. She was turned slightly away from him, sipping a glass of wine and laughing with Lommy from Accounting. Her hand hadn’t left Gendry’s nee and the gentle weight of it was completely distracting. Every now and then she’d break from her conversation to turn and look at him with shining eyes, a small smile dancing on her lips.

When she left their table to go to the bathroom, the Waif slipped into her chair.

‘Hello, lover,’ she purred.

Gendry sighed tiredly. ‘What do you want?’

The Waif twirled a lank strand of hair around her finger. ‘I’m just wondering when you’re going to give up this little game of yours.’

‘Excuse me?’

‘I know you’re not really with her.’

Gendry looked up sharply.

‘Honestly, it’s very sweet, that you’re doing this all for my benefit. Trying to put me off the scent,’ she drawled. ‘Are you paying her? I didn’t think she needed the money, what with Mummy and Daddy paying for university-’

‘I think you’ll find,’ hissed an icy voice, ‘that you’re in my seat.’ Arya was glaring down at the Waif, who sniggered and stood up to face her.

‘Just keeping it warm for you,’ she sneered.

‘I think it’s time you left my boyfriend alone, don’t you?’ Arya countered.

The Waif barked out a laugh. ‘Oh sweetie. We all know this isn’t genuine. You think that by putting on a pretty dress and embarrassing yourself that we’re supposed to believe you two are in love?’

‘Watch your mouth,’ Arya snarled.

‘Come on, Gendry,’ the Waif turned to him. ‘You expect us to believe that Ned Stark’s daughter is going to date someone like you? A commoner? You’ll never be worthy of her. You deserve someone like me. An equal.’

The Waif pushed herself up and squared up to Arya. Arya’s face was positively murderous, her hands screwed up into fists. ‘Come on then, Lady Stark,’ taunted the Waif. ‘You want us to believe you? Then prove it.’

Gendry rose from his chair and was about to drag Arya off before she punched the Waif in the face but before he knew it Arya was in front of him, slipping a soft hand around his neck to pull him to her level and then she was kissing him, her small body pressed to his, hands lacing into his hair and tongue dancing against his lips. Gendry’s hands automatically went around her waist to anchor her to him and he kissed her back, his mind totally blank, void of all thoughts of the Waif and the fact he was kissing his best friend’s little sister, the girl he had been in love with for so long in the middle of a restaurant surrounded by his wasted colleagues.

They broke apart and Arya pressed her forehead to his, breathing heavily, her hands still tangled in his hair. Gendry looked over her shoulder.

‘Well, that’s one way to get her to leave,’ he breathed.

Pod was gaping at them in disbelief. Sansa’s eyebrows had disappeared into her hairline.

‘After that performance I’m think she’ll be convinced,’ Pod chuckled. ‘Seven hells, Arya, you deserve a bloody Oscar.’

Arya untangled her arms from his shoulders and downed the remaining contents of her of wine. Gendry noticed her hands were shaking. ‘I think,’ she said quietly, ‘that we need to talk.’

She grabbed his hand and dragged him outside with her, pushing him down to sit on a bench overlooking the ocean. She was only just taller than him with him sat and her standing. It was still mild but Gendry could see goosebumps erupt across her bare arms. She crossed them across her chest and he noticed her eyebrows were drawn together in the way they were when she was annoyed about something.

‘What’s going on here, Gendry?’ she asked furiously.

‘What do you mean?’

‘I mean what’s going on with us? I thought we were friends.’

Gendry paused. ‘We are friends.’

Arya stared at him. ‘Friends. Really? Because I’m pretty sure friends don’t kiss like we just did back there.’

Oh fuck. She’d caught him. He’d poured every ounce of his desire for her into that kiss and she could fucking tell. And she was furious. Poor bastard, he thought sadly, this is how you die.

‘Well?’ she demanded.

He leaned forward on his knees, running a hand desperately through his hair. ‘Arya, I- shit.’ Might as well just come out and say it, so she can murder you now and get it over with. ‘I think I’m in love with you,’ he confessed, his voice shaking. ‘I didn’t mean for this to happen, Arya, I swear . It wasn’t my intention when I asked you to come, it really was just as friends, but… fuck, I think I’ve been in love with you for a long time.’ He looked up to find her staring at him. Her body had gone slack.

‘But you’re my best friend’s little sister,’ he continued desperately, ‘and I swore I would never do anything, never say anything. This was the worst fucking decision I’ve ever made, I took advantage of you and I know I’ve ruined our friendship and I’m so sorry-’

‘Oh for fuck’s sake, Gendry!’ Arya shouted, interrupting him. ‘I fucking love you, okay?’

He stared at her, open mouthed. ‘You- what did you say?’

Arya glared at him. ‘I said I love you, you fucking moron.’ She huffed dramatically and sank down onto the bench beside him. His mind had gone blank with shock.

‘Look.’ She turned to face him, her grey eyes searching his blue ones. ‘When you asked me to come this weekend it honestly was just an opportunity to spend time with you. I swear. I didn’t think anything of it. But then Sansa talked to me before we left and pretty much told me this was a horrendous idea because she knew how I felt about you.’ Arya sighed. ‘I told her she was fucking crazy, that you were my best friend and that was it, but then she said that was how she knew she was in love with Pod and that he was her person. When he was her best friend and she didn’t want to be around anyone else but him. And she was right, the bitch. I don’t want to be around anyone but you. That’s why I haven’t dated anyone since I got to Riverrun. It’s why I break into your house all the time and eat your cereal. You’re my person.’

Gendry could only stare at her.

‘Sansa told me this was a stupid idea and it was only going to end badly if I was more invested in it than you were, which was why I was so mad on the way down here,’ she continued. ‘I was mad because I knew she was right, because you never treat me like anything but your little sister. I was sure that I liked you more than you liked me, at least, in that way until this afternoon.’

They’d almost kissed. He’d been so close to taking her head in his hands and pushing her robe off her shoulders-

‘Sansa said that I should be subtle about it.’ She rolled her eyes. ‘That’s the last fucking time I’m ever taking relationship advice from Sansa. Pod actually understands nuance. You appear to be the largest idiot in Westeros.’


‘Come on , Gendry.’ Arya rolled her eyes. ‘The fake story about how we got together? About you not responding to any of my flirting?’

‘What are you talking about?’

Arya huffed out a breath in exasperation. ‘I’ve been flirting with you all fucking weekend! Touching you all the time, kissing you on the cheek, deliberately watching porn when I knew you’d be around, staying in my bathrobe all afternoon in the hope that you’d realise I was fucking naked under there! Asking you if you wanted to kiss me? How more obvious could I have been? And then all the effort tonight.’

Gendry’s brow furrowed in confusion.

‘For fuck’s sake, Gendry,’ Arya said crossly. ‘I let Sansa put me in a fucking dress and do my hair! When do I ever let Sansa within ten feet of my wardrobe? Are you really that stupid?’

His mind was reeling. ‘You’re saying… You’re saying you did all this because...’ he trailed off.

Arya laughed at the confusion on his face. ‘Yes, stupid. Because you’re my best friend and I’m pretty sure I’m in love with you and you are quite literally the densest man in the entire world. Gods, if I’d known how much effort this was going to take I wouldn’t have bothered.’

Gendry felt his heart swell and warmth flow through his body. It was like a dream. She loved him. Not just as his family, not as a friend or as a little sister would love a brother. He could barely believe that she was real. But she was and she was so utterly furious, and fierce, and bold and brave and beautiful, completely and wonderfully Arya. And she loved him, stupid and bull-headed as he was.

‘I’m older than you. A lot older than you. And Jon will hate this. And your parents, the Waif was right, they won’t think I’m good enough for you.’

Arya arched one eyebrow. ‘Seriously? You’re going to let my clueless brother who puts pot in his spaghetti and that bitch’s antiquated notions of class get in the way of being with me? Bloody hell, Gendry, it’s 2019. Are you fucking serious?’

He pulled her onto his lap and cupped her face in his hands, his finger tips running over her cheekbones, her eyelashes, her lips. ‘You mean it?’ he said earnestly. ‘You love me?’

Arya rolled her eyes hard, let out a little exasperated huff and pressed her mouth to his and it was all the answer he needed.

They stood patiently, hand in hand, as Jon gaped at them like a goldfish.

‘No,’ Jon stuttered. ‘No. Stop it. Break up. Break up right now.’

‘Jon,’ Gendry said gently. ‘I love her.’

Jon’s eyes bugged out of his head. ‘But this weekend! You said you were just going as friends!’

Arya rolled her eyes. ‘Honestly, Jon, he asked me to be his fake girlfriend. What other outcome did you expect this to have?’