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.”
[as roose bolton]
[He watches, owl-eyed, as they enter. When Barbrey sits down beside him, he casts her a long look. Wonders what she knows. They haven’t spoken. Not since the night Eddard died, and even then, with that reporter found murdered and the killers fading into the Scottish rain, he hadn’t dared to trust the phone line. Better to speak to her in person, after this circus.
Robb enters and sits in his father’s seat and something settles within him. The dice have fallen. He can read their faces now. The simple movement and the assurance behind it has introduced an idea into the minds of those assembled. Doesn’t Ned’s boy look good occupying his father’s chair? Couldn’t he do that again? And again?
He turns his head, sharply, further to the left.
Maege says something. Roose ignores it. He raises his hand halfway to silence her query.]
What business does he have in being here?
[To hell with Maege’s immediate concerns - is no one going to raise an issue at all with the fact that Balon Greyjoy’s heir is sitting near the head of their conference table? A boy who is not even an honourable son of the north? A boy whose ownuncles are the reason Scotland is floundering to right itself? Who stole passage into the country from Wyman Manderly’s own granddaughter?
Oh, he almost feels the dull rage of anger when he considers it.]
The Greyjoy stalemate in the North Sea oil fields is a major contributing factor to Scotland’s economic instability. With all due respect, I do not find it appropriate that one of them should be here to witness this discussion which will forge the country’s future.
Anger flashes through Robb’s body, red and hot like boiling blood. Roose Bolton’s always inspired in him an intimidation bordering on fear, so this is not something Robb is familiar with. His hand has stopped trembling. He knows that everyone is looking at him right now, that they expect him to apologise and send Theon out of that room but - he cannot do that. He will not. Maybe bringing him to this meeting was a mistake, but he knows that kicking him out is not right either.
He adjusts his tie.
"And with all due respect to you as well, Bolton, the Greyjoy in this room has nothing to do with what his family is doing to our country. Putting the blame on his shoulders only because he is the nearest English man available will not solve any of our dozens of conflicts." Robb leans forwards, the fingers of his hands entwined over the table. "He left his country to come here, because he believes in what we’re trying to do and he knows that Scotland needs now more than ever the support of anyone, Scottish or not. If today it’s ‘One of them should not be here in this room’, what is stopping it from becoming 'One of them should not be in this country’? My father tried to be a good leader for as long as he could do it, and maybe he would agree with you if he were here - I cannot and will not speak for the dead. But what I do know is that he always tried to do what was right, and if we’re going to decide our country’s future right now, I know that what is right is forging a nation where anyone who stands with us can do so not only in mind but also in body, if that is their wish. Scotland will always be home to those that are loyal to her.” He straightens up, looks in the eye of every member of the company. “I sincerely apologise to each of you if my invitation to Theon Greyjoy offended anyone in this room, but I was not aware of what exactly this meeting would entail seeing as no one informed me. I thought that our conflict with the Greyjoy Group could be discussed and it’d be appropiate to do so with one of its rightful heirs present. We want peace, not war.” He pauses, tries to show the same authority his father did. “Greyjoy stays here. Let’s use this misunderstanding on my part in our favour as a gesture of that peace we are seeking.”
Robb’s gazing at him with such adoration that Theon has to suppress a shudder – he’ll never get used to this, he thinks, no matter how old they may grow together. He was never a person particularly used to getting what he wanted, let alone that which he wanted more than anything else in the world. His fingertips are soft, and Theon leans into them instinctively.
If he could get what he wanted sometimes, could he not get his wish that they stay here forever? Happy, wrapped up in one another and most of all, safe. Surely he could be granted that.
Robb’s kissing him in a way Theon didn’t think he ever would again and – it’s everything. He was so sure that he’d pushed Robb too far away to ever recover the night before, that he’d ruined everything again with his typical foolish selfishness. And maybe he had ruined everything, with what had happened only a few hours ago, but – at least right now, he can allow himself to forget about that.
Well. As much as he could.
(It’s like that kind of buzzing of a light bulb when you enter a room, lingering at the back of your mind, never quite allowing you to relax. Keeps you that bit on edge, refuses to let you ignore its presence. But this carries a darker presence, one that makes his throat seize up in a mix of sickness and terror whenever he remembers.)
His kisses turn more purposeful now, mouth pressing harder against Theon’s lips, tongue curling with his own. Theon tangles his own hand in Robb’s curls, allowing his boyfriend to take the reins, more than willing to surrender to him completely. Christ, but the last thing he’d expected when he’d returned to Winterfell that night was this.
He pulls away – just for a moment, just enough to be heard – eyes still closed as he bumps his nose against Robb.
“Can we sleep here tonight? It just feels…right.”
The words send a strange sort of buzzing feeling echoing in his bones. The bed had always been big, but they had only slept there together once or twice in the past, and that was only when they got drunk in secret after stealing some of his father’s alcohol from the cabinet in his studio. Catelyn Stark had never liked the idea of her son sleeping in the same bed as the Greyjoy kid (and, it seemed, her fears had been quite accurate) so whenever Theon slept in the same bedroom instead of the guest room they had for him, he did so in a smaller bed next to Robb’s.
The thought of sleeping here, in his childhood bed with his boyfriend, makes Robb feel almost dizzy with want. Not that kind of want, but something different, something softer. This is their place, the room that saw them grow up. Quite literally, he thinks, when he catches sight of the height chart still adorning the wall.
"Of course," he says gently. His father’s funeral is still a pulse in the back of his mind, beating without stop, but tonight he’s not going to let it take over. He won’t. "Just sleeping, though? I thought you said we should live here. Already regretting your own requests, Greyjoy?" He bumps their noses together and finally lets his head fall against Theon’s shoulder as he shifts so that most of his weight is resting on the bed instead of on top of Theon, and his thumb traces circles under Theon’s shirt.
"God, at least now we’re together for good. Whenever I think about all the time we lost when I was in New York…" he sighs heavily. "I should have stayed. Especially after that goodbye kiss."
More and more, the tears are becoming a really serious threat. He can’t help it, he doesn’t – he doesn’t deserve all this, not this kind of attention, not Robb, who he could never be worthy of in a million years. He feels strangely guilty – he knows he’s not worthy of it, not any of it, but he can’t bring himself to give it up. Let Robb find someone that’s halfway decent, doesn’t fuck up as spectacularly as Theon always manages to.
I’ve put you in danger, he wants to tell him, unable to do anything but watch as Robb rains kisses across his knuckles. I might have put your whole family at risk. God, you’d hate me if only you knew what I’ve done.
Instead, he says nothing, just tightens his hold on Robb, sighing contently as the other man buries his face in Theon’s neck. He gazes over Robb’s shoulder, settling on the shelves on the other side of the room. Nothing’s changed since the last time they were in here, just after Eddie’s death – of course it wouldn’t have, no one comes in here except for Catelyn to ensure the room doesn’t gather too much dust – but the photos stand out to him, just as they always had. The two of them with their arms slung around one another the day they received their A-Levels results, Robb’s grin ridiculously wide whilst Theon regards him fondly at his side. The photo is surrounded by others, all of Robb’s family, and it had always made Theon ridiculously glad that Robb thought him important enough to hang his image by their side.
God, how could he have managed to endanger all this?
His gaze is promptly ripped away, and he pushes Robb away, just enough to look at him properly. There’s nothing but sincerity reflected back at him in those big blue eyes, and Christ, there really is a lump beginning to form in his throat.
Sometimes Theon thinks his love had consumed him utterly, but then he manages to fall harder ten times over.
Robb reclaims control of the situation, swiftly enough, rolling them over so that he’s lying on top.
I’m glad you’re with me.
Just as he’d told Theon, at only fourteen years of age, clutching his hand tightly in the darkness.
Theon wishes he could tell him the truth. That he shouldn’t be glad at all.
Instead, his treacherous hands slide up Robb’s back, following his spine, until they find his neck, one resting there whilst the other settles on his bicep.
“I love you,” is about all he can manage, and he really does have to swallow thickly now before he can continue. “So much. You have no idea, I can’t –“ His thumb grazes his pulse, wishing he could find the fucking words. “I – I’ll be here. Be yours. Now and always. Remember?”
His smile widens. “You better. It’s no fun being someone’s if they aren’t yours too, is it?”
For a moment, they just stay like that: Robb running his fingers slowly through Theon’s hair, Theon looking up at him with a look that sends warm shivers of pleasure down Robb’s spine, makes his knees feel a bit weak. Good thing he’s lying down. He traces with his index finger Theon’s profile: from his temple, to his cheekbone, down to his jaw. Suddenly, he can’t stop looking at his lips. When his eyes finally meet Theon’s again, Robb could swear he could come apart with the love he sees reflected there.
"Now and always," he finally replies, and leans down to press their lips together. It’s just that at first, the simple press of his mouth against Theon’s, so very chaste and soft, and he sighs against it contently. He pulls back for a moment, grins wickedly, and kisses him again, gently pushing his lips apart with the tip of his tongue. He runs it over his teeth, gently seeks Theon’s, but the moment Theon makes to return the kiss, Robb withdraws his tongue and waits for Theon to follow.
He does. They make little wet obscene noises as they kiss, Robb’s fingers tightening in his hair as he tries to pull Theon up so he can kiss him a bit deeper, a bit harder, a bit better. It may be a heavy kiss, but it’s all slow swipes of tongue and pleased hums, lips fitting against each other like a puzzle. He touches Theon’s face with his hand, tenderly, and breaks apart with a gasp just to look him in the eye.
“Always,” he repeats breathlessly, and sinks back down to kiss him again.
He mirrors Robb’s action, kicking his shoes off before crawling up the bed and laying his head against the pillow. Robb is quick to cuddle up to him, something Theon’s hardly going to complain about. They’re so close that they’re practically one, and Theon lets his eyes fall closed, just for a moment. He needs to – needs to let this sink in, absorb it as much as he possibly can.
He wants so badly to feel content. To just lose himself here, wrapped in Robb’s arms – the only place he’s ever felt happiness.
But he can’t forget. No matter how much he tries.
Still, it doesn’t stop him from making the attempt. He lays his palm flat against Robb’s chest, feels the steady beat of his heart that belongs completely to him. Sometimes it’s so hard to believe that this is real. After so many years of loving Robb from afar, he still finds himself in a state of disbelief that for once, he’d gotten what he wanted. Who he wanted.
His eyes open, meeting Robb’s impossibly blue gaze. He moves his hand, slips it around to cradle the small of his back, tugging him closer still. Their legs are tangled together and they’re sharing every breath and Theon feels like he’s never loved him more.
I’d do anything for you, he thinks, brushing one of Robb’s auburn curls behind his ear. I will do anything for you. I won’t let anyone hurt you. Not ever.
“Yeah, well,” he chuckles, “it’s not really fair on the rest of the world, is it? Keeping you all to myself like this.” He smiles against Robb’s mouth, feels the scratch of his stubble. “They’ll have to learn to deal though. I’m not letting you go, not ever.”
He sighs then, lays his hand to Robb’s cheek.
“We should just stay here. Not leave this room, not ever. Just stay right here, just like this.”
Robb grins a bit, presses the softest of kisses to the corner of Theon’s mouth, lips hovering over his skin.
"Fuck the rest of the world," he says. "Let’s do what you say. Stay here, just the two of us. I mean, I will need food but nothing a quick trip to the kitchen can’t fix. Some alcohol for you and we’re set."
He turns his head to kiss the palm of Theon’s hand. Then he takes it with his own so that he can bring his knuckles to his lips. He presses a gentle kiss to each one of them, remembers those very same knuckles breaking his nose and almost laughs. They have certainly come a very long way from that fight at the bar more than a year ago. He pulls Theon’s hand away, just he can intertwine their fingers, thumb stroking Theon’s. He wants every existent part of his body in contact with his boyfriend’s, wants to melt into him. He nuzzles his neck, making a soft pleased sound and squeezing his fingers.
"I wasn’t kidding, you know. What I said that day at the office. I will marry you, at some point. We have time." He presses an open-mouthed kiss against his pulse point. "You don’t have to say anything now, I don’t want to ruin this. But… just letting you know."
He suddenly rolls so that he’s on top of Theon now, and he buries his fingers in his dark hair, smiling down at him. He pecks him on the lips briefly. “Thank you for being here. Even if you think you’re doing nothing… you are. Having you here makes me happy. I’m glad you’re with me.”
Theon literally feels like he’s crumbling, coming apart at the seams, so fucking overwhelmed with love that he can barely speak. He’s practically breathless with the relief that had consumed him when Robb returned his embrace, hadn’t really even expected him to do that much. He hadn’t even been thinking when he sought out Robb’s arms, just knew he needed them with every fibre of his being. Funny how they’d only been together the night before, but so much had happened since that it feels like centuries.
He’d pretty sure that Robb’s arms are doing more to ease the current pain of his injuries more than any painkiller possibly could.
He follows Robb’s guide willingly, sitting back down on the bed and Jesus, Robb doesn’t even give him a second before he’s crawling on his lap, raining kisses on his face with more tenderness than Theon merits.
The tears really do well up at his words. Fuck, but Robb was so wrong. Theon didn’t deserve a damn thing and it’s tempting to tell him that. He didn’t know what had happened, didn’t realise how much danger Theon had put him in, didn’t –
I don’t deserve you, he thinks, swallowing the lump that’s beginning to form in his throat . It won’t do if he actually does cry – Robb would only inquire as to why, and Theon couldn’t tell him, doesn’t even know what kind of excuse he could make up. His shaking hands come up to hold Robb’s head, fingers resting on either side of his face, bumping their foreheads together
“I don’t know why you put up with me,” he mumbles. “You’re too good for me. I’m too greedy to let you go though.” His lips brush against Robb’s, softly. “Let’s lie down – I mean – I don’t want to – you know. I just want to hold you.”
Robb chuckles breathlessly against Theon’s mouth - they aren’t even properly kissing (yet) but they’re so close, foreheads pressed together, that when he laughs he’s sure Theon must taste it on his own lips. The grief, the pain, it’s all still there but somehow, right now, he is the closest to happy he’s been in days. And he clings to it with all he’s got.
"You just try that. Seriously, try to let me go. I’ll kick your ass, Greyjoy.”
He’s somewhat amused that Theon feels the need to clarify that he doesn’t want sex, and there’s a smile playing on his lips the whole time as he kicks his shoes off, lies down on the bed next to Theon. No matter how small their children were, the Starks have always had gigantic beds in every bedroom of the house, and he’s grateful for that. Not that it really matters, though - they’re so close to one other that Robb supposes they would fit in an individual bed effortlessly. He slots a leg between Theon’s, throws an arm over his waist and slides closer so that they’re practically glued to each other.
"I don’t know why you say you’re greedy like it’s a bad thing though. I want you to be greedy with me." He brushes his lips over Theon’s jawline, noses at it with a contented murmur. "Why shouldn’t you be, with something that is completely yours?"
And Theon nearly fucking cries.
Which is strange, really: he can’t remember the last time he’d shed a tear. Certainly not for his father’s death – nor his brothers’. Had he cried during either of Robb and his splits? He can’t quite remember, but suspects not. Theon never really cries, but all of a sudden, the tears keep threatening to fall. He’d almost wept when he realised Robb had lead him to his childhood room, just the sight of that stupid height chart, his bed, the floor where he’d spent so many nights curled up on his camp bed at Robb’s side. It was ridiculous how much meaning could be attached to just one room, and none moreso for Theon than this one.
His shoulders visibly sag with relief, all the breath rushes out of him in a sigh. He hadn’t even realised he’d been holding it. It feels like he has been since he escaped Ramsay’s flat.
“I’m – “ and his voice is shaking nearly as much as his hands are, “no, I’m the one who should be apologising, not you. I’m – I’m so sorry. I don’t know what I was thinking, I should’ve known – of course you wouldn’t – you wouldn’t want that. I’m such a fucking idiot, I always fuck up like this I know. I just – I hate seeing you hurting so much and – I don’t know –“ He’s babbling and he knows it, and none of the words are good enough, can possibly convey a fraction of the emotion and regret that he feels.
So he finds himself practically falling forwards, arms seeking out Robb’s neck instinctively. The movement hurts his side, still sore from Ramsay, but he doesn’t even fucking care.
All he cares about is right here.
This is what was important.
“I shouldn’t have done it,” he mumbles into Robb’s neck, “shouldn’t have-“
Shouldn’t have done any of this. Should never have walked into that bar, should have never accepted that drink from the man he thought was Reic. Should never have gone to his flat. Should never –
You liked it.
Theon wonders how it’s even possible one person can make so many bad decisions.
Robb’s arms practically envelope Theon the moment Theon is within reach - he closes them tightly around his waist and squeezes him as he closes his eyes and presses his lips to Theon’s hair. Relief fills him instantly, hitting him with a solid fist, almost as real as Theon’s body pressed against his. He brings a hand up to bury it in his hair, kisses his head more purposefully this time. Sometimes he thinks the love he feels for this man is made of the same thing that makes the sea always come back to the shore.
"It’s okay," he murmurs, "it’s okay. We’re okay. I love you. We’re okay." Disentangling himself from Theon is an actual physical effort so he doesn’t even try it: he merely pushes against him gently, makes him walk backwards towards the bed. "C’mere." The moment Theon is sitting on the mattress, Robb straddles his lap and clutches him close. He presses soft kisses to his temple, his cheekbone, the corner of his lip, his hand resting just over his heart.
"I don’t want to have sex with you like this because when I make love to you, I don’t want you to be a distraction, or a way to take my mind off things. You deserve better than that, Theon."
[as rickard karstark]
Rickard can’t help but wish that he was anywhere but here.
I should be with my daughter, he thinks numbly. My last remaining son. He knows the importance of this meeting all too well, but it does little to lessen his pain.
All he can do is cling to what it might mean. Vengeance. His fingers tighten into fists. Vengeance for my boy. Robb Stark was his friend, surely he wants it too, surely he will promise me that. He must.
Ned had not understood. He prays his son will be different.
The others have already arrived, slipped into their usual seats at the boardroom table. The chair at the head of the table is conspicuously empty – Ned Stark’s former seat – and wonders how easily his successor will sit in it. He wrings his hands as he slips into his seat, casts his gaze across his companions. None of them appear too concerned, yet, there’s a heavy weight hanging in the room all the same.
Everyone knows that this meeting will change everything.
“He’s late,” he says by way of greeting. “I’m tempted to begin without him.”
The car is silent as a grave and, Robb thinks darkly, the occupants could pass for corpses too. He doesn’t know what it is about cloudy days that makes people seem pale and ghostly and their edges sort of blurred, as if they had left a part of them behind tucked safely in a warm bed with a cup of hot tea in front of the fireplace. His mother wears a thin layer of make-up, but it can’t quite disguise the prints grief has left on her face: heavy eyelids, mouth turned into a perpetual frown, her cheekbones sharp against her skin. Catelyn Stark’s lost weight. She sits next to the driver, Robb and Theon beside one another in the backseat - sometimes Robb sees his mother’s blue eyes watching him with concern on the mirror, and he replies with a reassuring smile that she doesn’t return. It’s raining, the sound outside the car faint and soothing like a lullaby, and Robb uses the sleeve of his suit jacket to rub at the window and take a look outside. What he sees is gray, shades of brown and a sea of black, a city mourning in disturbing silence. Or maybe it’s just his own grief that tricks his senses. Robb’s not sure he can tell the difference anymore.
They had called Robb and Catelyn for a meeting in the headquarters of the company, with little to no explanation. Some decision making, some changes to be made, nothing Robb hadn’t heard before. Nothing out of the usual except for his mother’s presence, who most of the time tended to leave the business reunions to her husband - Robb supposed they had extended the invitation to her as a gesture of sympathy for her loss. Robb himself had taken the liberty to invite Theon as well, without asking anyone. He figured that since they were having a meeting, they might as well start talking about the Greyjoy situation, and why not invite the only Greyjoy in Scotland. It didn’t really seem fair, talking about Theon’s family without him there.
Robb opens the door to the conference room just in time to hear, I’m tempted to begin without him.
He wonders what his father would have said to that, if those words had been directed at him, and Robb finds himself muttering, “Next time, maybe, Karstark.” It’s so unlike anything his father would have said, that Robb could almost laugh. The pressing silence that follows that reply is so sharp that Robb clears his throat somewhat awkwardly instead. “Good morning, everyone. Theon Greyjoy will be joining us today.”
Before he can say anything else, Catelyn and Theon have taken the two remaining chairs.
For a moment, Robb considers spending the whole meeting just standing there on the spot. He eyes his father’s place and feels sick as he realises what he has to do; as he walks towards it, as he pulls the chair back and sits down and looks at every face in front of him. Maybe there really is something ghostly about rainy days. He could swear his father’s ghost is still sitting on that chair.
His hand, under the table, trembles at the sight of Roose Bolton.