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As You Wish, M’lady: Charting Arya/Gendry’s Epic Game of Thrones Romance

Their fathers would be proud, but who cares?
Arya/Gendry kiss in Game of Thrones season 8

Relationship: Arya Stark and Gendry Waters (a.k.a Gendrya)
Fandom: Game of Thrones (TV Series, 2011-2019)
Where to Watch: HBO
Time Investment: 73 (one-hour) episodes over 8 seasons
Recommended for: Friends-to-lovers junkies with a high tolerance for pain and a vision for the long game

Note: This post contains spoilers for all aired episodes of Game of Thrones.

“I have a son; you have a daughter. We’ll join our houses.” With these prophetic words, King Robert Baratheon and Lord Eddard Stark set the stage for a superior ’ship in Game of Thrones. That’s where the credit due to them ends, however, because Robert and Ned were short-sighted. Whereas they imagined pairing up Joffrey and Sansa (yikes), fate had other plans. Indeed, what these misguided fathers would never know was that their last best hope of a Stark/Baratheon union actually lay with another combination of their progeny, one brought about only in the aftermath of their untimely deaths: Arya/Gendry.

Are they the likeliest couple? Hardly. Arya Stark, Ned’s youngest daughter, has always sworn off a traditional noblewoman’s destiny of marriage and children in favor of swordplay and adventure. Gendry Waters, meanwhile, happens to be one of Robert’s many illegitimate and unacknowledged sons, a talented blacksmith with no clue he’s descended from aristocracy, let alone royalty. Then there’s the sizable age gap (somewhere around 8-10 years) and height difference (he’s toll, she’s smoll) between them. Basically, they have little in common on the surface and really shouldn’t work.

And yet as soon as Arya and Gendry meet as accidental Night’s Watch recruits, they just…click. He’s fascinated by the small-but-fierce she-wolf; she recognizes a kindred spirit in the smart, honorable boy with the bull’s helm. Allies by necessity at first, they become friends by choice soon after. For a while, they make an unbeatable team, the two of them vs. the world…right up until the Red Woman interferes to set them on different paths for years. The joke’s on her, though, because not only do they find a way back to each other older and wiser, but they finish what they started years ago: They fall in love. And that payoff is worth. The. Wait.

So yeah, while it very well may be that their fathers, or even fate, were somehow responsible for bringing them together, Arya and Gendry owe their powerful, enduring relationship to no one.

How will their story end? Will we witness a besotted Baratheon wed his Stark dream girl, banishing the ghosts of their lookalike ancestors Robert and Lyanna for good? Will they ditch the expectations of society entirely and carve out their own Happily Ever After, ’cause fuck tradition? Or will they rip our hearts out with a tragic goodbye from which we’ll never recover? Their future is still anyone’s guess at this point in the final season of Game of Thrones, where anything can–and probably will–happen. No matter what, though, we’ll always have proof that Arya and Gendry’s love was pure and true. To that end, let’s just lose ourselves in this timeline of Gendrya’s super-slow-burn friends-to-lovers romance:

Arya meets a bastard named Gendry

Season 1, episode 10: “Fire and Blood”

Imagine meeting your soulmate at 9 years old! Wild. Not that Arya knows this back then, of course. Traumatized by the beheading of her father and running for her life, the young girl’s unsure of who to trust, if anyone. Arya being Arya, though, she can’t stay out of trouble for long, which is how she ends up facing down to bullies who are plotting to steal her beloved sword Needle. Enter Gendry Waters, a former smith’s apprentice who overhears a precocious “Arry” defending herself against two (much bigger) bullies.

Without hesitation, the boy steps in (“You like pickin’ on the little ones, do you?” he says menacingly to the bullies) and chases them off, winning major points in Arya’s book. Sure, Gendry thinks she must be some kind of thief at first, to have castle-forged steel in her possession; that doesn’t stop him from treating her respectfully, or admiring her spirit and sass. Yeah, their first meeting is also the first sign that they’re MFEO…eventually.

Gendry reveals he’s always known “Arry” is a girl–and vows to keep her secret.

Season 2, episode 2: “The Night Lands”

You know that Maya Angelou quote “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time”? Well, Arya sees right away that Gendry’s one of the good ones, at least when it comes to looking out for those smaller than him. Still, it’s hard for her to trust anyone with the secret of her true identity, given that the ruling family of King’s Landing has just murdered her family and are out for her head too. So when Gendry casually reveals that he’s known she’s a girl posing as a boy all along, she’s understandably freaked.

Deciding to give up the denials and confess that she’s Arya of House Stark is a big step, and a sign of how much she’s already come to rely on Gendry. For his part, Gendry proves himself to her again by swearing to keep her gender and name to himself–and then keeping his word, even when it might benefit him to leverage that information. If he also takes this opportunity to tease her mercilessly about being a highborn lady who’s not at all ladylike? Well, who could blame him? He’s clearly delighted when she knocks him on his arse for daring to call her “m’lady.”

Gendry laughs after Arya pushes him down in Game of Thrones
Gif by softly-kastle.tumblr.com

Arya lies to Lannister soldiers to protect Gendry’s identity.

Season 2, episode 3: “What Is Dead May Never Die”

Surprise! Arya isn’t the only one with something to hide. Gendry may not understand why the Lannister army is so interested in him, but he’s smart enough to know it can’t be for anything good. As he tells Arya, two Hands of the King came to his master’s forge asking questions about his mother…and two Hands of the King wound up dead shortly thereafter.

Once the gold cloaks kill Yoren and capture his surviving Night’s Watch recruits, threatening to kill them one-by-one until they give up Gendry, he clearly figures he’s done for. He has no reason to expect Arya–or anyone else in the group, for that matter–to risk her life for his. Yet that’s exactly what she does. “You want Gendry?” she asks the Lannister men, ignoring Gendry’s panicked face. “You already got him,” she says, nodding toward Lommy’s body. And for the finishing touch, she adds: “He loved that helmet.” She didn’t have to do that for him, but she did. It’s official: Gendry and Arya are now BFFs.

Arya critiques Gendry’s fighting form (and appreciates his chiseled physique).

Season 2, episode 5: “The Ghost of Harrenhal”

Let’s be clear: Arya’s too young, when the series starts, for an honorable guy like Gendry to have any romantic interest in her. And he doesn’t. That doesn’t prevent a teenaged Arya from crushing on him, though, and why not? He’s handsome, kind, and brave, and he doesn’t expect or want her to be anyone other than who she is. A perfect encapsulation of their evolving dynamic is when Arya, on a break from serving Lord Tywin, seeks out Gendry at work in the Harrenhal forge.

Supposedly there just to visit, she nevertheless takes the opportunity to correct his fighting stance. (“You’re practicing for a fight–you should practice right,” she mutters when he protests that he’s not actually fighting anyone.) And while she’s clearly trying not to be obvious about it, she totally checks out his bare torso, which is glistening with sweat, totally ripped, and right in her field of vision so what else is she supposed to look at anyway??? tl;dr Arya’s growing up, and she’s starting to see Gendry with new eyes.

Gendry takes his life into his own hands by preventing Arya from killing the Hound.

Season 3, episode 5: “Kissed by Fire”

No one understands Arya as well as Gendry, and he proves it by anticipating her reaction to an opportunity to kill the Hound while he’s down. It all starts after their escape from Harrenhal, when Arya and Gendry face capture again–this time by Lord Beric Dondarrion and the Brotherhood Without Banners, who serve the Lord of Light. Arya’s not especially keen on the situation until Lord Beric enters the fighting ring with someone much higher up on her kill list: The Hound. Suddenly, she’s Team Brotherhood and rooting for Beric to slay the Hound in combat. Failing that, Arya’s prepared to take him out herself as vengeance for the gruesome murder of her friend the butcher’s boy back in King’s Landing.

Now, Gendry knows Arya’s fearless, but he also knows she won’t get out of a fight with the Hound–even a weakened Hound recovering from his fight with Lord Beric–in one piece. So as soon as Arya takes off toward him, Gendry runs around to cut her off and bodily pull her away from the man. She screams and tries to fight him off, but Gendry holds firm. Once more, Gendry demonstrates that he will always have her back, and the fact that she doesn’t hold this moment against him, not really, shows how much she trusts and respects him. No one else could have pulled this stunt and avoided being placed on Arya’s kill list. She seems to recognize deep down that she needs someone to balance out her recklessness and he’s it.

Arya breaks Gendry’s heart with a tearful “I can be your family.”

Season 3, episode 5: “Kissed by Fire”

Love is pain, so naturally one of Arya and Gendry’s most heart-melting exchanges is also one of the most soul-crushing. The night before they’re supposed to resume their journey north to reunite Arya with her brother Robb, Arya finds Gendry mending Lord Beric’s armor for some reason. As it turns out, he has made his own arrangements, and they don’t include her; Gendry’s planning to remain behind to smith for the Brotherhood. For the first time since they met, they’re on completely different pages, and Arya cannot wrap her head around it. She’s incredibly hurt.

Arya tells Gendry she can be his family in Game of Thrones
Gif by softly-kastle.tumblr.com

Gendry tries to make her understand, explaining that with the Brotherhood he’d have a chance to escape a life of servitude to highborns and maybe even become part of a family. This only upsets her more. “I can be your family,” she tells him tearfully, vulnerable in a way that she hasn’t allowed herself to be since her father died. What she means is that she loves him and wants desperately to keep him in her life. She doesn’t really need to put it into those words anyway, though, because Gendry clearly feels the same. The way he swallows and stares at nothing after she walks away says it all. As do their hopeless expressions when Gendry is betrayed by the Brotherhood and handed over to the Red Woman for what turns out to be experimentation with his “king’s blood.” If this episode hurt your feelings…get in line.

Arya watches Gendry march into Winterfell with heart eyes.

Season 8, episode 1: “Winterfell”

Five (or so) long years after the Red Woman dragged Gendry out of her life, he confidently rides right back into it. Maybe because she feared she’d never see him again, but definitely because he looks like a total SNACK, Arya notes his presence in the dragon queen’s procession with shining eyes. She dreamed of showing him around Winterfell, of introducing her to her family, and now he’s HERE. No wonder she’s a little overwhelmed–she spent her entire adolescence trying to get back to her remaining loved ones, and now they’re all in one place. It’s a lot to process, especially for a girl who hasn’t allowed herself to feel much of anything in order to survive.

Gendry, meanwhile, doesn’t pick up on her presence in the crowd, but maybe that’s for the best–he may well have fallen right off his horse. You have to imagine that Arya is on his mind right that minute, trying to view Winterfell through her eyes and remembering that she invited him home with her once. Does he already know she’s alive and in residence, or is he merely hoping? Has he pelted Jon with questions about her, or has he kept their friendship to himself, unsure of where they stand after all this time? The only thing we know for sure, from his comment in 8×02 about how he “took the long road” to Winterfell, is that he has indeed thought about her over the years.

Gendry reunites with a full-grown Arya Stark and nearly swallows his tongue.

Season 8, episode 1: “Winterfell”

Unlike Arya, Gendry has no time to prepare for coming face-to-face with his one-time best friend. One minute he’s in the Winterfell forge listening to the Hound try to wind him up about making weapons for the Freefolk, and the next he’s whipping his head around to catch the sound of her saying “Let him be” (a callback to the way they met in A Song of Ice and Fire books, btw, awww). Then his world turns completely upside-down because there’s little Arya Stark, the ghost from his past he’s never been able to put to rest. Only, she’s 100% woman now. Gendry’s shook, plain and simple. He usually had the upper hand in the beginning of their relationship, given that he had about 10 years on her and more world experience, but my, how the turntables. It’s deeply satisfying to see him so bowled over by her that when she remarks he’s gotten better as a smith, he unthinkingly utters “So have you,” fand follows it up with “I mean, you look good.”

Arya, for her part, is clearly entertained by the effect she’s having on her first (and only?) crush even as she openly admires him in return. The poor boy does eventually recover from his shock, and gets back to the business of giving Arya as good as she gets. Falling back on their old ways, or trying to, he at one point teasingly asks her, “Is that a command, Lady Stark?” while a huge, eye-crinkling grin spreads across his face. As expected, she responds by asking him not to call her that, to which he responds with something you just k n o w he’s been waiting YEARS to say: “As you wish, m’lady.” From the way she suddenly smiles shyly and ducks her head, it’s obvious Arya’s learned to recognize a genuine endearment when she hears it. Is that…are they…flirting?! Oh yes, oh yes. Suddenly, the game is ON and they both know it.

Gendry calls Arya "Lady Stark"
Gendry flirts with Arya
Gifs by gentlesleaze.tumblr.com

Gendry and Arya flirt over deadly dragonglass weapons because of course they do.

Season 8, episode 2: “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms”

Knife-throwing as foreplay? HELLS YEAH. Even as teens, Arya and Gendry were drawn to each other, but now, as adults, that innocent attraction has given way to raw UST. Not for the first time, Arya takes a moment to watch Gendry work, and if her hungry gaze is any indication, she likes what she sees. A lot. Likewise, his expression becomes downright wolfish when he catches sight of her leering at him from across the forge, and his gruff “Don’t you have something better to do?” only betrays his pleasure at having her there. Their eyefucking here is just–and I cannot overstate this–OBSCENELY sexy. As if that weren’t enough, after Arya inquires about her requested weapon and cockily demands it be stronger than the ax she’s holding, Gendry—rather like a peacock spreading his feathers to tempt a mate—slams the ax into a stump with more force than strictly necessary and declares it “strong enough.” She’s suitably impressed and turned on. GET A ROOM, YOU TWO.

Yet lest we forget their relationship is built on a foundation of feeling much deeper than lust, their conversation about the looming battle reminds us. Amid all the banter, you see, Gendry reveals the true source of his hesitation in fulfilling her wish: his fear for her safety in the battle to come. Arya takes his comment about it being safer for her in the crypts in stride, probably because she knows it truly comes from a place of love (yeah, I said it!) rather than typical male condescension, which just isn’t him. He confirms this by explaining that while he knows she wants to fight and isn’t afraid of human monsters, this is Death. He’s genuinely scared for her, and it is CUTE. To put him at ease (and/or to flash her own feathers), Arya treats him to a masterful demonstration of her wicked-deadly marksmanship by tossing out a few dragonglass daggers with deceptive casualness as she recounts that she’s seen Death and his many faces and looks forward to seeing this one. Now it’s Genry’s turn to be marked down as scared and horny, and he promises to get right on making her weapon. Mmm mmm mmm!

Arya seduces Gendry–and he happily follows her lead.

Season 8, episode 2: “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms”

Of course. Of course it would take the end of the world for these two dramatic hoes to admit they wanna jump each other’s bones. Nothing less would do, if we’re being honest. So finally, on the eve of the Battle of Winterfell, on what may well be her last night on earth, Arya makes a decision about how she wants to spend her final hours–and with whom. Still, rather than seek him out, our mature and self-possessed Arya lets Gendry come to her, which he does. And since turnabout is fair play, a cleaned-up-nicely Gendry pauses in the doorway a moment to admire the view as she squeezes in a little last-minute target practice. Once they dispense with their flimsy excuse for this visit (him delivering her weapon, her deeming it acceptable), Arya gets right down to the business of propositioning her man.

Now, you could interpret Arya asking Gendry about the Red Woman and his other experiences with women in various ways, from clear-cut jealousy to a calculation of whether he’d be able to show her a good first time. Perhaps she simply needed to throw him off balance to even the playing field before she could put herself out there by admitting she was a virgin. Whatever the case, her pointed questions do lead a charmingly flustered Gendry to blurt out shocking truth: He’s Robert Baratheon’s son. Even this, while interesting, only gives her the slightest pause, because she’s never been interested in him for his pedigree or lack thereof. No, she suddenly leans up to kiss him because she trusts him, she wants him, she loves him.

Gendry kisses Arya back
Gif by wonderrbat.tumblr.com

Any hesitation on Gendry’s part–like the desperate way he pleads “Arya, I–” right before her lips crash onto his–melts away under her confident if inexperienced kisses. He doesn’t give her any time to second-guess herself or his interest, because suddenly he’s right there with her, returning her kisses passionately and removing her belt as she tugs at his shirt. And when Arya–in a divine nod to the first time she showed him who’s boss–shoves him down so that she can remove her own clothing, he only stares up at her with equal parts awe and desire. As always, he’s happy to let her take control. If his brow furrows momentarily at the sight of her battle scars, well, he doesn’t let it overshadow this intimate moment. Instead, he seems to file it away for later and just enjoy the bold way his girl straddles his hips and leans down to softly capture his lips again… Whether or not they can say the words yet, they show their love in these tender moments that are for them alone.

Later, Gendry must drape his cloak over Arya before falling asleep beside her; or, alternatively, she pulls it over herself, because this is Arya Stark we’re talking about here. Either way, it means they’re basically MARRIED by Westerosi custom. Their fathers would be proud, but who cares? They’re writing their own story now, and I, for one, can’t wait to see what the next chapter holds.

***

P.S. The Game of Thrones/Song of Ice and Fire fandom is home to some of the most talented creators around. If you’re in the market for more shippy Arya/Gendry content than canon provides, allow me to recommend a few of my favorite Gendrya things (just beware of spoilers if you’re not caught up on the series!):

2 comments

    1. @jenniferproffitt89 — You not only can, but probably *should* if you like your heart intact! The gifs and fic and vids are truly excellent in the GoT/ASOIAF fandom, so I would 100% support experiencing them through that first and foremost. <3

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