"I'm telling you, Shireen. This isn't a good idea." Arya is being not so subtly dragged across campus at this point, and walking arm in arm would work better if Shireen could slow the hells down.
Shireen scoffs, "It's gonna be fun. You love competitions, and you're so quick. The other teams won’t stand a chance." Seeing that Arya is unimpressed, the eternal optimist comes out, "We are going to win unlimited coffee, and you can drown yourself in espresso at Balerion's for the rest of the semester. This is a fantastic idea."
Arya should have never agreed to this. Shireen knew what she was doing when she asked though. Trivia was fun, and Arya would have agreed to be on her roommates team just for an evening away from her Bravosi textbook, but at 4am the prospect of winning a year's worth of free drinks from the campus coffee shop had Arya registering immediately, no questions asked. Which if it hadn't been for the fact that she was in need of an IV drip of straight caffeine at the time, would include questions like, "when is it?" and "what's the theme?" and "who else is on the team?". If she had slept more than 7 hours in the last 3 days, Arya would have found out that he was going to be on their team for a "Love and War" trivia night on Maiden's Day. If her brain hadn’t been slightly melted from her applied statistics' exam, she would have realized that Shireen had conned her into a pseudo-double-date with the only person on campus that didn't like Arya Stark.
It’s bad enough that Sansa knows she’s single on Maiden’s Day. She did not need the gods mocking her like this
Arya can see Balerion's Skull come into view as the reach the top of the hill, and normally she'd be ecstatic, but right now she just wants to be going anywhere else. "I'm telling you he hates me, Shireen. It doesn't matter how fast I buzz in if my teammate won't talk to me. We're gonna lose."
"Gendry doesn't hate you!"
"I tripped into him one time, Shireen, ONE TIME. And maybe I spilled some ale on him, but I APOLOGIZED! And I have tried to make up for it." Arya huffs, "Do you realize how many parties we've been to in the last 5 months? And I have tried to talk to him at every. last. one. HE JUST IGNORES ME, SHIREEN! I can try to make conversation until my face turns blue, and he barely grunts in my direction. Then he stares at me all night like I'm the asshole."
"Gendry's just shy."
"Shy people don't tell me 'At least you didn't trip' after it was my waterdance scores last weekend that qualified us for for Nationals. He hates me." Arya realizes that they've stopped halfway down Rhaenys's Hill when she finally takes a breath.
"Look, Gendry is--well, Gendry's just being Gendry. He's stubborn and shy and awkward sometimes, but I promise you, Arya, he by no means hates you." Shireen confides gently.
"Even if he doesn't hate me," Arya has to struggle to get that lie out, "this is going to be a miserable Maiden's Day watching you and Devan being gross the entire time." The gasp from Shireen tells her the topic has successfully been changed.
"We are not gross!"
Arya continues walking down the hill. "Shireen, there is a reason I am never at the dorm when he comes over to study." She knows Shireen is Lannister red without having to turn around.
"I'll have you know--" Shireen finally moves to catch up with her "that we are actually studying!"
"Oh, I know." Arya scoffs, "and instead you’re just eye fucking him the entire time for knowing the chemical composition of wildfire. It's the weirdest shit I've ever seen!"
"Like, I'm not trying to kink shame you Shireen,--you do you--but most people get turned on by big dick energy, not big brain brain energy." Arya can't hold in her laughter anymore. "I do not trust either of you to be able to keep it in your pants at a trivia night." She chances a look at Shireens face and now Arya's howling. "I swear to all the gods, old, new, red, blue, drowned, any fucking god you want, that you are THE grossest couple in Westeros!"
Shireen is still redder than her father's god, but she's giggling when they open the door to Arya's nightmares.
The band posters and exposed brick that Arya loves about Balerion’s are now covered in pink and red hearts. A huge "Happy Maiden's Day" garland is hanging behind the register, and someone must have put together a love song playlist just for tonight, because "My Feather Bed" is playing when Shireen spots Gendry sulking on Arya's favorite couch in the corner. Shireen tries to catch his attention by over-excitedly waving at him. When he notices them, he nods at Shireen before visibly recoiling at the sight of Arya. He continues to stare at her while the two girls navigate around the other couples and decorations. Gendry is glaring so hard it looks like he's in pain, and all Arya can do is roll her eyes and remind herself why she's here: winning free coffee.
They finally make it to Arya's study nook, and she plops down in her regular spot, completely ignoring the bull of a man currently taking up most of her couch. At least he had the decency not to sit on her side. The old loveseat is normally comfortable when Shireen and her are studying side by side, but now it's just cramped. Arya may as well be sitting on his lap with how much room he's taking up, but she's already giving up her evening to the oaf; she's not giving up her couch too. Shireen said Gendry was stubborn, well, two can play at that game. Arya refuses to look directly at him, opting to ignore him like he's been ignoring her for months on end.
Shireen sets her purse down on the arm chair across from Arya and says she's going to call Devan to see what he wants to drink before walking back towards the door, her pink skirt swaying behind her. Arya crosses her arms and takes a glance around the room. Everyone looks festive all in shades of red and pink, and Arya is glad that Shireen forced her to wear the dinosaur sweater so that she mostly fits in.
“You changed your hair” a gruff voice states beside her.
She can feel his blue eyes blazing a hole into the side of her head, but she refuses to look back at him. Acknowledging him would be accepting defeat, and Arya is far to competitive for that.
“It looks really pretty on you. The pink brings out your eyes.”
Arya’s is surprised she didn’t break her own neck with how fast her head whips around. All she can do is gawk at the changeling sitting next to her masquerading as Gendry Waters.
He looks absolutely terrified to be making eye contact with her so suddenly. “I-I mean, not that you weren’t pretty before.. You always look hot--what I--y’know I always liked your brown hair--not that my opinion matters--” his mouth keeps moving though the connection to his brain seems to have been entirely severed now as no sound is coming out.
She is sure her eyebrows must be up to her hairline and her eyes as wide as the Sunset Sea, but she thinks Gendy just called her pretty. Surly, stubborn Gendry Waters, who hates her, definitely just called her pretty. Gendry that is tall and strong with a jawline she could cut a diamond on thinks Arya Horseface is hot?! He has the audacity to look flustered now after months of being a grade A douche bag.
“I’m stupid. I’ll shut up” he finally mumbles, breaking himself out of whatever glitch he was stuck in, and Arya could swear he looks almost as red as Shireen when he turns away from her gaze.
“You don’t hate me?” slips out of her mouth as her brain begins rearranging their interactions over the last semester and a half.
Gendry’s eyes are back on her as he bellows “WHAT?!” attracting a number of nearby teams’ attentions. “You think I hate you?” He asks at a much more normal volume though his face makes him look more like he’s in pain than confused.
“I tripped and spilled my beer on you at Beta Omega Beta’s welcome back party, and you have hated me ever since.”
“I caught you, and Anguy still makes fun of me for asking about you the rest of the night.”
“You wouldn’t talk to me though”
“We’ve talked at every party this year..”
“I have talked, you have grunted in response”
“You sat next to me in Applied Statistics!”
“And all you did was glare at me!”
“Can you blame me for staring?!”
“Yes, at you. Who else can look like that?”
Gendry and Arya are looking at eachother both abundantly confused when Gendry breaks eye contact to look Arya up and down then shakes his head like his point is already proven.
Before she can think better of it, Arya blurts out something she has not told anyone in the last 5 months, “I missed that step because I was checking you out.”
They just stare at each other for a moment that feels like a fortnight to Arya. Then, Gendry smiles.
Grumpy Gendry Waters smiles wide enough that his eyes crinkle and the blue of his irises shines. “Really?”
“Yea,” Arya barely breathes, lost in his bright expression and the warmth from where his thigh is pressed into her knee, “Really.”
“Do you-- I mean, would--” his breath comes out more as a chuckle as he composes himself. “Can I take you out for coffee sometime?”
Arya bites her lip to keep her grin at bay. “You know, stupid--” she doesn’t break eye contact as she rests her hand on his arm, “--if we win tonight, we can get coffee whenever you want.”
His breath warmed her cheek. “Is that a challenge, m’lady?”
“Who ever said I was a lady?” She smirked.
“I didn’t--What I--Arya, I--”
“Shut up, stupid.”
Her other hand brushed his jaw as she closed the distance between them, moving her lips in tandem with his. His hands coming to rest on her waist and upper back as he pulls her flush against him. He’s strong, she thinks while his fingers strum her side and he nips at her bottom lip.
“AND YOU SAID WE WERE GROSS!” Shireen squeels causing the two to jolt back to reality.
Arya is suddenly aware that she is no longer practically in Gendry’s lap, but fully strewn across him now.
Shireen cannot hold in her giggles. “I told you Gendry didn’t hate you” Devan put a hand under Shireen’s mug to ensure it didn’t spill.
As she settled herself back beside Gendry, it was Arya’s turn to blush now.