"Can you tell us your name and why you've decided to come on the show?"
"My name is Arya and I'm here against my own free will."
Arya is going to kill Sansa.
"...ok you can't say that."
"Why not? It's the truth."
Arya shifts in her seat. The big lights standing around her are starting to make her sweat and she's wearing her nicer leather jacket, the one without any incriminating pins in it, so she's boiling. The producer is frowning at her.
She's going to kill Sansa.
Her beloved sister, her flesh and blood kin, signed her up for a dating show.
Normally, Arya gets along well with people. Making friends is easy for her. Right now, however, she's never felt more uncomfortable or out of her depth in her life. She loves making friends but dating? Dating makes her nervous. She can't help but tug on her sleeves as the producer goes back over their pages of notes.
"It says here that your sister signed you up?"
She swallows. "My sister is a romantic and hates that I've never been in a proper relationship. She loves the show and seeing as she's happily married, instead of her being on the show she decided I should be." She replies.
"Ok… so what do you look for in a man?" They ask, flipping through the pages of their clipboard.
Arya frowns this time. She crosses her arms.
"What I look for in a partner is someone loyal and good. I like people who have basic common sense and know who they are and are loyal to those around them."
The producer at least looks a little apologetic. Better than nothing she guesses.
"I'm sorry Arya, of course, I meant a partner. But what about physical looks. What do you like and dislike?"
"Looks aren't important."
"Look, Arya." say the producer. "I know you don't really want to do this, which is why the network loves you. A lot of people think the show is stupid and pointless and that the people on it are actors. You're the most honest person I've spoken to today to walk through that door and if anyone can convince the audience this is real it's you. If you don't want to be here that much why are you?" they conclude with a wave of their hand.
Arya sighs and uncrosses her arms. "Do you really want to know?" She asks.
She grabs her phone out of her pocket and pulls up a picture of Sansa holding a piece of paper with a big grin on her face and a thumbs up and hands it to the producer.
"My sister is 4 months pregnant and promised me if I go on this show she'll name the baby after me. I got it in writing and everything."
She doesn't know what she expected, but it certainly wasn't the producer and two camera workers pissing themselves laughing. She sits there, confused, until they calm down.
"You've told us next to nothing about what you're looking for or who to choose for you and I haven't met anyone who made it this far who's not want to be here more than you, but by the Seven, I want you on this show. Have you even watched an episode?" They finally manage to choke out between residual chuckles.
They laugh harder.
[shot of a young woman, very short, wearing black tailored pants and a leather jacket over a white shirt and bright blue Oxfords with short brown hair walking down the street]
[cut to the same young woman, now sitting in the studio, slightly to the left of the camera and facing slightly to the right]
Competitive Kickboxer, the North
"I'm Arya, and I am here against my own free will."
[cut to a shot of the woman, Arya, pulling open the door to the First Dates Storm's End Restaurant]
"I've come here because my big sister, Sansa, signed me up without my knowledge. I haven't ever really had a proper relationship and she decided to try and fix that by sending me here."
[cut to Arya in the studio]
"What I look for in a partner is someone loyal and good. I like people who have basic common sense and know who they are and are loyal to those around them. Looks aren't important."
[cut to Arya, now approaching the First Dates Storm's End host, Davos Seaworth. She speaks hesitantly]
"Hi, I'm Arya."
"Hello Miss Arya, welcome to the First Dates Storm's End Restaurant. If you could please follow me? Your date will be meeting you at the bar shortly."
[Davos offers Arya his elbow, she accepts it with a warm smile.]
[cut to Arya in the studio. She has a pensive look on her face]
"I'm a classic middle child. I'm the 3rd of 5 children but I also have an older foster brother and an older cousin who grew up with us as siblings, so everything in my house was loud and crazy and you never had any privacy. Which is why Sansa decided to do this for me, I think."
"Out of my 6 siblings, only 2 others aren't in long term relationships, and one is because he's 12. I'm so happy for my sister and brothers, but I sometimes wish I had what they have.
[cut to Arya being seated at the bar and handed a drinks menu by Davos. She looks nervous]
"I've never had a relationship last longer than a month mostly because I'm so focused on my career. I've won two world championships and multiple nationals in Kickboxing and have competed all over Westeros and Essos. I've had dates that have told me I shouldn't be a fighter because of my height, or sometimes because I'm a woman. I think I scared those ones off but I guess that's not a bad thing."
[cut back to Arya in the studio. She's smiling]
"I won't pretend that two weren't scared off by my family, though."
[cut to Arya at the bar. The bartender turns and greets her and they both freeze, staring at each other. The camera zooms in on her shocked face]
Arya can't kill Sansa because of Arya II but she will remind her via text for most of the night that that is the only reason why.
She's sitting at the bar of this too-warm restaurant, staring at the drinks menu and wondering if her date will be bothered if she gets some ale. She hates dating. She hates wondering if they won't like the smallest things that make her who she is. The minefield of the first few weeks when you find out what they do in between the discovery that they hold their fork weird and the discovery that they like to drink milk when eating seafood. Plain milk. She did not go on a second date after that one.
"Anythin' caught your eye?" a gruff voice asks her.
She jumps a little at the question, unaware of the bartender's approach as she reads to settle her nerves. She looks up to order when she sees what could very well be, in her very honest opinion, the hottest man she's ever seen in her life.
He's tall, towering over her even as she sits on her raised stool, feet well off the ground. He's in uniform, all black pants and a button-up that he, dear Gods, has rolled up the sleeves to his elbow. His arms are thick, the shirt looking like it's one good flex from tearing, and she can see the edges of a tattoo running down the underside of his arm. All this combined with his black hair and jaw that looks like it was handcrafted would make her at least double take if she saw him in real life, but it's his intense blue eyes that catch her attention.
They are both staring at each other, taking each other in.
He finally jolts and repeats his question, looking at his feet sheepishly, when a producer patches into his earpiece loud enough for her to hear it from her place across the bar. She mumbles something about ale and he moves far from her, past the taps next to her perch and down to the ones set up right next to the kitchen. He's flushed, the red creeping up the back of his neck and turning his ears red.
"Hey Sam, hold off on Ned's introduction for a second. The producers want to see how something plays out."
"Sure thing, Rod. Ned on standby."
She's firmly inspecting the bottles behind the bar, which clearly has a camera tucked in between them, when he returns so it doesn't look like she was staring. Which she definitely wasn't. He places her ale in front of her and does a quick double take at her arm, now bare as her jacket rests on her lap.
"Is that Ice?"
The question threw her a little. Not many can recognise her tattoo at a glance. She lifts her arm up to better show the sword running along the inside of her bicep. "Yeah it is. How'd you know?" She asks, a smile growing on her face, her discomfort from the cameras fading away into the background.
"I know historical weapons." He said, grabbing a cloth to start polishing glasses.
"Sure, but this is a very special and rarely seen historical weapon seeing as it's still in the family's possession, so…" She said, leaning forward on the slightly sticky wood.
He huffs for a moment, before conceding defeat. "I'm doing my masters at Storm's End university, specialisin' in 15th century weaponry and metal crafting. I recognise it because I'm doin' my thesis on similar Northron swords."
She blinks. She didn't expect that. "Are you really?" she blurts out.
He scowls at her for a moment. "Yes." he says, eyes down as he scrubs vigorously at a poor undeserving wine glass.
"Have you seen Ice? It's damn well preserved if you're studying 15th century Northron weapons." She asks, feeling elated she's found someone with similar interests to her. It's a shame he's not her date. Not that she's thinking about that.
"Can't. It's like you said, it's still kept by the family. I've requested to get up close, but they are unbelievably careful with who sees or touches it. They aren't going to let some dirt poor rat student from Storm's End get close to the most valuable historical artefact of the North."
"Do you know why they are so protective?"
"Yeah, I mean, it's entirely fair. The sword, 'sides being one of the greatest works of art ever produced in Westerosi history, it's a symbol for the family and a representation of who they are. The North are family-oriented which is why the Starks chose the wolf for their coat of arms and why a wolf is carved into the handle. Nothin' suits more than the animal best known for operating in family-style groups as a means of survival."
"The pack." She says.
"Exactly. The Southron houses valued family as a means of political power, the North saw them as vital to the needs of the people. I guess that's why I love Northron weaponry. I know most people would think I'm readin' too much into it, but I feel like the values of the North are shown in what they created, and it makes me wish I was a part of it, that pack life."
He stops, frowning to himself. "Sorry, said too much. I didn't mean to talk this much about me, we're not meant to or the producers will have my ass. Let's talk about you so I don't get in shit. Why do you have Ice on your arm?" He says.
She weighs her options. Choosing the far more fun one, she replies, "Well, I have to show my Northron pride somehow, and I'm a professional fighter and a Southpaw, so when I land a hit with my left arm, it reminds me what I fight for."
"And what's that?"
"Family," She shrugs. "My own family and the North. You're right, in the North, your pack is everything and when I fight I do it for mine and what better way to show that then by punching poor Southron flowers with the symbol of the might of the North and it's most powerful family?" She finishes with a smirk she tries to hide behind her glass. He's watching her intently, as if trying to figure her out. She smiles harder.
"I-" He starts, when a blond man around her age approaches her.
"Hello, I'm Ned. You must be my date!" The man says, an easy and wide smile across his face. She startles, completely forgetting where she was and why. The bartender grimaces before drawing Ned's attention and taking his drink order. Ned offers her his elbow when the waiter arrives to seat them and she reluctantly slips off her stool. Before he could lead her away, she stops and turns to the bartender, his seemingly permanent frown once again turned to his poor glasses.
"It was nice talking with you…?"
There's warmth growing in her chest. This is bad.
"It was nice talking to you, Gendry." She says. She's rewarded with a small smile and it feels incredible. Oh Gods she's an idiot.
"Same to you ...?"
"Arya. Arya Stark."
The shock on his face was worth it. She smirks.
"I hope one day you get to see my family's greatest treasure, Gendry." She says with a laugh before allowing Ned to lead her to their table. She can feel his stare burn her neck as she walked away.
This is very bad.
"Can I get cameras on Gendry at the bar please? I want you to record everything he does tonight while she's here."
Ned is lovely. It's a bit weird to be on a date with a guy with the same name as her father, but he's nice and looks her in the eyes when she's talking, so she'll let it slide. He's been a perfect gentleman the whole evening, flashing her charming smiles to try and put her at ease and making jokes about the ridiculousness of the food (whoever thought oysters were an aphrodisiac is wrong and disgusting) when the waiter was out of earshot. He's truly perfect, which is why she's in the bathroom freaking out.
Her hands are sweating and the producers have instructed her to make a phone call to someone to discuss the date in the bathroom halfway through, something that is apparently standard. She has to have it on loud speaker as well, which is why she calls Sansa and not Jon, as Jon is well known for swearing like a sailor and she doesn't think they will appreciate having to bleep out the entire conversation, though that's sounding pretty good right now as she clicks Sansa's contact.
"Are they hot?" Her sister asks immediately after 2 rings.
"I'm going to kill you."
"That sucks for Arya II, she's going to miss me when she's grown."
"You are a terrible person."
Her sister's laugh is melodic, even through the phone.
"So tell me. Are they hot?"
Arya groans. "Sansa," she says, head in her hands, "Sansa, I'm a huge idiot."
"Why? What happened? What did they do?" Sansa's voice becomes sharp and concerned, playfulness slipping away to be replaced by her now intensified urge to protect. Motherhood is going to do wonders for her.
"Nothing, nothing. He's literally the perfect date. He's really nice and funny and is a football coach for the Under 10s in his hometown. Honestly, Sansa. He's the perfect guy."
"So what's wrong?"
Arya sighs and glances at the camera in the corner. She's never felt more exposed in her life.
"I don't like him that way." She finally says.
There's a pause.
"...ok… Just… how are you an idiot then?"
Arya wipes a hand down her face.
"I really like the bartender."
"Oh! Gendry the hot bartender? Yeah, everyone's into him. He's got a bit of a fanclub."
"No, Sansa! I like, really, really like him. We spoke for like 2 minutes and I've never wanted to get to know someone more. I feel so bad, Ned is so nice and sporty and funny but I keep wishing Gendry was my date, not him." Arya's pacing the bathroom now.
"I want you to know I'm choosing to ignore the fact that Ned's name is Ned."
"And I thank you for that. Sansa, Gendry recognised Ice. He explained in detail in like a minute the importance of family in Northron culture before realising I am Northron, like, it wasn't to impress me. I can just feel it, he gets me."
"Ok. Are you sure this is not just because he's literally so hot?"
Arya stops and waves her hand, even though she knows Sansa can't see it. "No it's not just because he's hot! Gods, Sansa, you know I'm not fussed about that."
"Yeah but no one you've dated in the past looked like that."
Arya sighs and climbs onto the bench next to the sink. The producers will be back soon.
"He is hot, isn't he." She says.
"Gods yes. Give him your number if you like him so much. I have to go now but you NEED to call me back the minute you leave, ok?"
"Ok. Give Lady a kiss for me." Arya says, smiling.
"Stop trying to steal my dog." Sansa says before hanging up. Arya sits for a moment longer, enjoying the silence of the room. The producer pops their head in and waves her out, seeing as she's done. The bathroom faces the bar and as she walks out, he catches her eye from across the room. She offers him a small smile, fighting temptation just to go over to him, and receives one in return.
Yeah, she's getting his number no matter what.
[Cut to the studio. Two people enter the room, Arya and her date Ned, who take their seats on the provided stools. An off-camera producer speaks]
"So how was it?"
[Arya and Ned share a look before facing the producer. Arya speaks first]
"It was a really nice night, I had a lot of fun."
[Ned is nodding in agreement]
"Same for me, I really enjoyed talking with you tonight."
[the producer speaks again]
"So do you think you'll go on a second date?
[Arya noticeably looks uncomfortable. She goes to speak before being interrupted by Ned]
"If I may? I've really enjoyed tonight and would love to see you again, but I think it should be as friends and a few months from now so you can tell me all about how you and the bartender are going."
[Arya's mouth is open in shock]
"Wh-... I-... What do-?"
[Ned holds up a hand to stop her]
"You clearly like him and he would not stop glaring at me all night when you weren't staring at each other. Go back and give him your number, and make sure you text me and tell me what happens, ok?"
[They both are smiling at each other. Arya gives him a hug. Arya turns to the producer]
"Ok, I have something I need to do! Can I go back downstairs to the restaurant?"
[cut to a shot of Arya walking back into the First Dates Storm's End Restaurant and up to the bar, where Gendry is tidying up for the night. He looks sad]
"Someone please, for the love of the Seven, please tell me we still have cameras on in the restaurant."
"Yeah Rod, we still have one date going on. Why?"
"Get any available ones on Gendry immediately. We need to record this."
"Do you have King Robert's warhammer on your forearm?"
Gendry whips up from where he was filling the fridge at her voice. He's obviously shocked and she's hot under his gaze.
They stare at each other for what feels like forever until his face broke out with a huge smile, crinkling the corners of his eyes.
"No, I have the warhammer of one of his bastards, a blacksmith, on my arm. It was handmade by the bastard himself, one of the best examples of the craftsmanship of blacksmiths in the 15th Century." He says.
She nods. He's literally the perfect man for her. Gods, where has he been all her life? Pulling out her phone, she opens the phone and hands it to him. "Call yourself." She demands.
"Why?" He hesitantly takes her phone from her hand.
She rolled her eyes. "So I can invite you on a date, stupid. Call yourself so we both have each other's numbers."
"What about your date tonight?" He says while typing.
"He told me to do this, actually. Seems I prefer huge men who do nothing but frown and like to discuss my family's heirloom sword without knowing I have direct access to it and have already gotten their application to study it approved."
Gendry, having dialled and hung up by now, nearly drops her phone in shock. "What?" He asks, disbelief on his face. She can't stop smiling.
"We'll talk more at dinner." She says, throwing him a wink as she walks away.
Sansa is the best sister in the world.
[Black screen. Two photos appear, both of screenshots from the post-date interview of Arya and Ned in the studio. A third appears in the middle of them in a cafe having lunch together and smiling. White text appears below the photos that reads]
"Ever since their date, Arya and Ned have remained close friends and hang out regularly."
[The three pictures and text fade to black and are replaced with three new pictures, the first of Arya and Gendry at the bar in the First Dates Storm's End Restaurant, the second of the two of them with the famous sword, Ice, and the third of the two smiling with a baby. The new white text reads]
"Arya is now living her boyfriend, Gendry, who she met on the show. They spend their time going to museums and babysitting her new niece, Arya the second."
[Fade to black. The credits roll]