Theon continues to unbutton his shirt, relieved that the bruises on his torso have faded enough that he no longer has to keep retiring to the bathroom to undress. They’re still visible, but light enough now that he can dismiss them as stupid injuries incurred at the gym or around the house should Robb ask.
(Not that he particularly relishes the prospect of lying to Robb. But what else could he say?)
His boyfriend’s fallen silent again and Theon glances over at him, hoping that the day’s events haven’t taken too much of a toll on him.
And oh. There’s a heat in Robb’s eyes that Theon certainly hadn’t been expecting.
If his command or tone had left any room for doubt as to Robb’s intentions, the pointed unbuckling of his belt certainly clears that up. Theon feels a strange fluttering of excitement in his chest.
“Robb? You – are you sure?” Still, even as he voices his question, he finds himself obeying his earlier demand, crossing the distance between them as if in a trance.
Theon’s still not entirely convinced he hadn’t just dreamt the past several hours.
It hadn’t been all that long ago that he thought the most dramatic thing his future held was moving to New York to be with Robb. That was supposed to be their chance to be together at last, their happily ever after.
Now – martial law, Scottish independence, Ned’s death, Ramsay (no, he can’t think about that, not now, not -), and now –
No one had barely said a word to one another the whole journey back to Winterfell. Theon had spent the entire car ride mentally willing someone to speak, but no – both Starks had kept their gazes firmly trained out the window, Catelyn’s silence unmistakably solemn, whilst Robb’s expression was completely unreadable, even to Theon.
Feeling like a spare part was becoming all too familiar to Theon these days.
It’s not until they’re alone that Robb finally pipes up, and Theon practically slumps over with relief. He even manages to crack a meagre smile.
“I doubt that,” He pulls off his own tie, thumbing open the first few buttons of his shirt as he does. Fucking finally – that choking feeling had dogged him all day. “This whole bloody country loves you. They’re going to be having street parties, I reckon.” He chuckles, flinging his tie haphazardly onto the floor. “Gonna be like Obama all over again.”
Robb rolls his eyes in dry amusement when Theon mentions Obama - what a weak comparison, really. He wonders if anyone is actually willing to discuss the fact that he’s a twenty-three year old, the man that now is in charge of an entire country. I’ve never done my own laundry, he thinks, bordering on hysteria. I get mad when I order a pizza and there’s no olives.
The company is his, though, he tries to tell himself. Like he’s said back in the conference room, he’s been preparing himself for it his entire life, he’s more than qualified for it, and it’s his right. Maybe he won’t assume the same position as his father did, now that he has Scotland to look after, but he’s adult enough. A corporation, a nation. It’s the same thing, just different scale. He just has to get the hang of it, that’s all there is to it.
Robb swallows loudly, his throat dry. There’s an odd sort of energy running through him, like adrenaline but ten times more intense. He feels itchy, with clumsy limbs, skin tight over his tense muscles. When he looks up at Theon, and Theon looks back at him still with that hint of a wry smile, something snaps inside of Robb and heat licks at his body.
He needs to get rid of it.
He needs to discharge.
"Come here," he tells (he orders) Theon, voice low and purposeful.
Pointedly, as if every sense is just focused on that single and simple task, he starts unbuckling his own belt.
They avoid talking about it, for a while. Outside the office, on the car ride home, inside Winterfell after Catelyn leaves them alone to go to bed. They have been mostly silent, even though Robb feels like he could say a thousand words.
He’ll have to get used to them, the words. Prime Ministers usually have to talk a lot. Speeches and interviews and all that political business.
He silently wonders what Alys will do when she finds out. Scream? Jump in joy? It is a good opportunity for her career; surely when she applied to be PR to the Stark family she had been aiming high, but there was big corporation high and then there was leader of a country high. Robb’s head spins a little and he tells Theon to follow him to bed.
Tomorrow will be a big day.
He’s tugging at the collar of his shirt to get it off when it finally dawns on him that maybe they should talk about it.
"Well," he says, and sits down on the edge of the bed, fidgeting with the shirt. It honestly feels like some sort of sick joke he’s trying to pull on Theon, but Theon is not smiling. Neither is Robb. "I give it two days. This is bound to cause riots."
At the rate everything’s been going on lately, he can only hope he doesn’t die in one of them.
[as maege mormont]
[Maege is silent for a long time. She listens to the arguments, listens to each and every argumentation, trying and taking in all accounts. It’s a hard job to be rational in the midst of tempers flaring. It certainly doesn’t help that when she sees Robb she sees a toddler crawling on all fours in Winterfell. He’s a man now, the man Eddard would have wanted him to be. And despite the young age, Maege sees the right in his words: he was trained for this, given duties to prepare him to take that seat one day.
It is unfortunate that he should do it under such grim circumstances, but not unexpected in the least. Part of her looks at him now and feels like this was always meant to be. Eddard wanted it to be this way.]
Rickard is right. [She doesn’t chance to look at Catelyn.] It was not peace Stannis Baratheon was after, the day he threatened to shoot my daughter down. It was not peace the Lannisters asked for when they plastered Sansa’s face on national television. [Beat.] And it is not peace that will give us dignity. A truce will only make us seem weak.
[Maege remembers how her hands had trembled fearing for her daughter’s life, and the rage is still vivid. How can Catelyn hope to broker a peace, when it seems no one but Scotland cares about Scotland?]
We need a leader for the Stark Group, yes, but we need something more. Someone to fight for. Someone to lead.
[She is looking at Robb now, and it feels natural. Almost as natural as it was the day they all looked at Eddard, asking much the same of him.]
You are your father’s son.
Robb watches, as if in a daze, how everyone agrees and nods and speaks in his favour, and the look on Greatjon’s face is the sweetest triumph so far. Later, no doubt, they’ll need to have a reunion of their own so they can get over any grudges they might hold after this meeting, but for now Robb allows himself to feel victorious and, in truth, a little bit smug. This is what he was trained for, this is what he’s good at. For once, thinking about his father doesn’t hurt. He’d be proud of me.
It’s not until Marge Mormont says ‘someone to lead’ that Robb realises.
"I…" He clears his throat, his voice was so hoarse. "Me? Lead the… country? I’m not-" He shakes his head, frowning. "I’m not a politician. I do business, my place is here with the company." I’m twenty-three, he thinks, remembering how Greatjon had called him a boy. Him? Prime Minister? Robb hopes he’s just misunderstanding what they meant. If they truly are saying what he thinks they’re saying, then they might as well name Rickon PM. “Any of you is more qualified for this. I haven’t even properly lived here since I was twelve. I don’t have any practice in politics, I’m no diplomat.” Swallowing hard, Robb looks down at the table, at his hands. “I’m not my father. Just my father’s son.”
Theon has to suppress a shudder at Robb’s touch – it’s innocent, yes, he knows that, but having him so close and talking about that particular kiss…
If it hadn’t been for what had happened only a few hours, Theon’s very aware of the fact he’d be in an incredibly awkward position now – trying to explain a boner to a boyfriend who he’d only just argued with over bloody sex.
Still, it doesn’t keep the smile from his face.
“Maybe he did in the past. I’m not so sure about now. Reckon we’ve both fallen victim to the Stark charm – maybe we should start a support group or something. Personally vindicated by the Stark family has a ring to it, don’t you think?”
He turns over, never breaking contact with Robb, but just so that they’re lying face to face now, chests pressed against one another, sharing each and every breath. He feels kind of dizzy from it all – after everything that’s happened tonight, it’ still –
It’s all so much.
God, but he’d meant it. When he’d asked to stay here, he’d meant it with every fibre in his being. All he wanted was for time to freeze, let them stay just like this, happy and content and wrapped in one another and –
“Not a bad idea. Might even get my current boss to like me a bit better.” His grin widens, and he pecks Robb’s lips. “He’s a real hardass, that one.”
He practically purrs in happiness, completely pleased by how close they are, how warm and intertwined. This is all he wanted, Robb thinks; since he was a teenager he fantasized with finding this kind of love, the one that makes you want to never leave bed. That toe-curling, stomach-flipping feeling. How curious, that what he was searching for was there all along, quite literally in this very same room. It’s not the first time Robb wonders what would have happened if he’d known about Theon’s feelings earlier, and it won’t be the last. He wonders if they would be here right now anyway, all entangled on his bed, with several years of a relationship behind them instead of a few months. Would he love Theon more?
His hand comes up to brush over his stubble.
No. I’d love you just as much.
"I heard he’s really hot," he jokes, pecking Theon on the lips right back. "Shame he’s taken, though. Fell head over heels for some guy he met at school. So clichéd, hm?" He rolls his eyes mockingly. "I heard his boyfriend is really hot too. All blue eyes and dark hair - just my type. Don’t get jealous though, I love you the most."
[as rickard karstark]
[Rickard is no more impressed by the insistence that the Greyjoy whelp stays than any of the others are, but he appears to be the only bloody one in the room that remembers there’s more important things at hand. Let the boy try and steal back to England with word of what he’d heard. Let him just try.
Barbrey, at least, finally manages to get matters back on track, which earns her a gruff noise of approval. The Greatjon, however, is rewarded only by a derisive snort.]
And what do you bloody propose, Umber? Your arse in Ned’s chair instead? [He leans forward in his seat, knitting his fingers before him on the table and fixing the larger man with a glare.] Or maybe not? Maybe you’d prefer we scarper back to Baratheon, tail tucked between our legs and begging his forgiveness? Have you lost your taste for freedom already?
[He leans back now, shaking his head.]
No. Robb is young, but… He’s Ned’s son. Stark blood in his veins. That’s what this company has been built on.
[He turns in his seat, regarding the boy curiously. Young, yes. But…]
Not to mention half the country holds him personally responsible for Scotland’s independence in the first place.
Robb is so caught off guard by Jon Umber’s words that at first he can simply stare blankly as Rickard Karstark jumps in his defence.
He’s always considered Greatjon a friend to the family - his father had introduced him to Robb when he wasn’t even old enough to read, and it was that same surname that made Robb approach Smalljon at Eton and befriend him. He can’t remember a time in his life when he didn’t know the name of each of the members of the board and looked up at them with silent admiration, knowing that they were the pillars to his father’s hard work and golden success. Even Roose Bolton, who had always scared him, had a place for Robb’s respect.
It seems that the feeling is not mutual.
Robb stands up, resting his hands on the cold surface of the table, his eyes focused on Greatjon and Greatjon alone.
"I’m probably mistaken, but I think I just heard you say that I can’t take care of the company? The company that my father led for more than half of his life? And maybe I am mistaken in this too but, if I recall correctly, I am the one my father trained for almost two decades to replace him. I may be the youngest board member, but I am not a boy, and I am certainly more than qualified for this.” He straightens up, voice firm like iron and a gaze of steel. “I’ve been preparing to be the head of this company my entire life; tell me, who else in this room can say the same about themselves? Can you, Umber? I led the offices in London, every single one of them of our second most important headquarters, and I was the one who was going to expand the Stark Companies to America before our current situation demanded my presence here. All closed deals for the past three years, I’ve been there. Every time we hired a new person, their profile was sent to me for approval. Everything that happens in this company, from the biggest operation to the smallest detail, my father made sure that it was always run by me as well. It was always me who was going to succeed him, and that does not change simply because it’s happening sooner than we expected. I’ve been taught by the best, the man that all of you chose as Prime Minister of our country in this very same room some weeks ago. This is not only a privilege for me, it is a duty, and I will not allow anyone to insult my father’s memory by ignoring all the hard work he poured into making me his heir. This is the Stark Group of Companies - do not forget that there’s a Stark standing right here. If you want me out of the way, it’ll take more than calling me boy.”
He can’t help but grin.
“Well. We’ve got to start somewhere. The living here part will involve sleeping too, y’know.”
Robb shifts, lets the bed take the brunt of his weight and leaving below Theon’s neck exposed. He turns his own head, burying his face in Robb’s hair, allowing his lips to press against his scalp. He sighs, his own breath warming his skin, still half-frozen from wandering the streets of Scotland. Robb, at least, is doing a decent job of warming him up.
He wishes he could change his clothes. But he’s fairly sure there’s nothing wearable in this room that would come remotely close to fitting him.
“Like you said, he murmurs, slipping the hand trapped beneath Robb’s body under his boyfriend’s own shirt so as to skirt over his spine. “We’re together now, at least. Even if it took us long enough.” He chews his lip, thoughtfully. “I wonder what would have happened if you’d stayed. You never know. It might not have worked. You might have changed your mind. Maybe we…” He turns his head, thoughtfully regarding the ceiling. “Maybe we needed that time to figure out what was really important. What we wanted.”
Theon doesn’t add that he wouldn’t have needed it.
He’s known what he wanted all along.
He smiles, his fingers now toying with the hair right below Theon’s navel.
"You think so? I think it’s pretty clear you want someone when you shove your tongue down their throat and grind them against a table." He bites his lip. "Though, to be fair to myself, I was having a hard time coming to terms with that. It could have been normal, for all I knew! I’m sure Jon Umber says goodbye to everyone the same way."
Nuzzling at Theon’s shoulder, he tries to get even closer. “Though I guess that looking back on it, it was pretty romantic. All those flights to see each other…” He snorts. “It was like one of Sansa’s movies. Well, with more sex and more fuck-ups, I guess. You could say I practically commited treason for you, eh?” he squeezes Theon’s waist, affectionate, his voice high with humour. “Theon Greyjoy, proper English man… helped with Scottish independence. Should go in your CV.”