Introducing Theon to Jon had been an experience. Like presenting two vague acquaintances determined to be difficult with one another, and yet for all Theon’s ease with meeting new people this was perhaps the most natural he’d seen him. In fact, Robb had completely lost track about what they were debating, content with watching the engaged expressions on Theon’s face and the way he toyed with the beer bottle against his lip each time he drank.
By the time they returned back to the room, Robb’s head was swimming. He stood in front of the windows, intending to close the curtains but having become distracted, watching as the snow drifted down and melted in the steam of the hot spring just across the small veranda. Each of the suites separate from the main building were built beside the smaller pools.
“You were wonderful, thank you,” he told Theon, glancing at the reflection of his lithe figure in the glass. He really was beautiful.
Theon smiled softly in a way that was new to him. “When you’re used to my family ones like yours are a doddle,” he said, walking through to the bathroom.
Robb pulled the curtains to and then turned to look after Theon. Would asking him what he meant be too intrusive on his private life? Was he being impolite not asking? He’d opened up that line of conversation but then he’d promptly left. Robb couldn’t very well follow after him… even if the bathroom door remained open. Could he? Curiosity got the better of him. He paced across the room to hover outside.
“Do you not get on with them?” He called inside over the sound of the shower turning on.
“I speak with my sister,” Theon answered, his voice melancholy. The shower curtains rings scraped against the rail as it was opened and closed behind him. “Come in the room if you want, I won’t bite.”
Robb hesitated before taking him up on the offer. He then lifted himself up onto the bathroom’s counter. Theon knew a great deal more about his family than he did about Theon’s. He considered that this was out of practicality, but it didn’t stop him probing further. “What's your sister's name?”
“Asha, she’s now the eldest and takes the responsibility very seriously,” Theon said fondly, his finger pulled back the fabric slightly so that he could look out at Robb. The water ran down his face, dripping from his nose and chin and accentuating his sharp features. “Not unlike yourself, I think.”
“And your parents?” Robb asked, watching as Theon’s head disappeared.
The following silence was tangible, he could sense Theon turn still under the cascades.
“Sorry, ignore me,” Robb said hurriedly, cursing himself inwardly, “I shouldn’t have asked that.” He didn’t know why he shouldn’t, only that it didn’t feel right.
“No… no… “ The movement started back up and Theon’s hand tried to grasp at a shampoo bottle just out of reach. Robb held it out to him to take. The excitement he felt at the feel of the accidentally graze of fingers didn’t bode well. “It’s just a little difficult to articulate sometimes. Dad’s a drunk… My mum’s… she was--”
“... she was the best. I can’t remember much, I can just remember how I felt when I was with her. You can still tell when you see her… but things have been difficult since, well, she lost my two older brothers. I was about 8? Never been the same since.”
Fuck. What on earth could he say to that? He said it as though this was a normal average life. Robb couldn’t imagine not having the stable presence of his parents. “Gods… I’m so sorry… That sounds tough.” Robb’s eyes stared at the pattern on the fabric separating them, longing to remove the barrier. But what even could he do then? Make one of those ridiculous sympathy faces?
“I don’t know,” Theon sighed heavily, “I sometimes wonder what I’m doing. I should be caring for her… I just don’t feel capable. It sounds like I’m one of those rich dickheads if I say I try to pay for the best for her right? Like one of those people who just can’t be arsed, right?”
“No,” Robb told him gently. “No, not at all.”
“I’m sorry, I shouldn’t be bothering you with this,” Theon said eventually, turning silent.
Gods. Was he taking advantage of this situation? He must have dwelled on this quite some time as the next thing he knew the shower had turned off.
“Hey, would you pass me a towel?”
Robb hopped down, sourcing a towel and passing it through. He tried not to look, he really did. And when he realised he was looking he really did try to avert his eyes. Had Theon seen? The smirk on his face as he climbed out of the shower, the towel tied low around the waist, suggested he had.
Starting to feel his cheeks heat up, he backed out of Theon’s way, and out of the room, with his guest attempting not to laugh. “I’ll give you some space.”
When Theon had left the bathroom he’d found Robb fast asleep on the very edge of the bed, threatening to tip over on the floor, on top of the quilt and under a spare blanket. How, when he woke up in the morning, Robb had come to be tucked up beside him, Theon didn’t know. Robb’s breath tickled his ear he was that close. He looked a whole lot more relaxed while asleep. Theon found himself quietly taking in his features.
The corners of Robb’s mouth curled into an infectious smile as he slept, causing him to automatically respond despite the little voice telling him he was being a bit of a creep. The voice did eventually prompt him to move to sit in the bed as he mentally prepared his sleepy body to get out.
Robb’s hand reflexively reached out to stop him, settling lazily atop his thigh. “Humph,” he grumbled despite the playful quirk of his lips. The hand burnt against Theon’s skin, with nothing but its own weight and the sweep of its thumb it willed him to stay.
As Theon slipped out from under the sheets, Robb made a move for his now empty space. He rolled onto his front and pulled the pillow Theon has been using into him, burying his face, his bare shoulder becoming uncovered as he did so.
Theon stood by the bed, looking down over him. He gave a small and unusually nervous breath of a laugh. Well, shit. In the years he’d been doing this he’d never seen something so domestically intimate. Tearing his eyes away, he dressed quietly and waited for Robb to wake in his own time.
He had a tendency to wake early. Kyra told him he was too subconsciously anxious to sleep soundly in bed with another. But it never seemed to make any difference who was there with him.
Lighting a smoke, he sat back in the swinging chair amongst the cushions and blankets. Small birds hoped along the ages of the pool, taking advantage of the radiating warmth. It was quiet here. It lacked the crashing waves of Pyke and incessant noises of King’s Landing’s traffic and crowds. He could lose himself sat here, but that wasn’t to happen.
The crunch of a stone path alerted him to the presence of others before he noticed Arya on the opposite side of the pool beckoning him to follow her back to the main building.
“I’m not surprised you’re awake with that oaf in your bed,” she laughed merrily, stepping through a door into a dining room already seating the majority of the Starks. He already found things easy with her. Turning to Gendry by her side, she elaborated for his benefit. “You should hear how loudly he snores!”
“What are we talking about?” Sansa asked as they sat down next to her, forking a piece of melon from her plate.
Gendry smirked, glancing back at Theon before turning to Sansa, “Robb. Arya’s taking advantage of him sleeping in.”
“Robb’s always slept well. As a boy, he used to potter around the place asleep - sleepwalking… sleeptalking,” Catelyn told him. Theon smiled, wanting to stay in her good books. Her eyes lit up when she spoke of her children. “Used to creep back downstairs and crawl up into my lap.”
“Or try to squeeze into Grey Wind’s bed!” Robb’s eldest brother, Bran injected, laughing.
“Yes,” laughed Cat with him, until she spotted the puzzled look on Theon’s face. “Grey Wind is Robb’s dog… he’s had him years.”
“Ah, of course,” Theon said hastily and turned to concentrate on pouring out a coffee, avoiding her eyes. “I’m terrible with names.”
Ayra snorted, “would’ve thought you’d remember that one.”
Theon took a gulp of black coffee and said nothing, willing himself to become more alert. It might be best not to invite further conversation.
“Ah, speak of the devil!” Cat greeted her eldest son as he approached the table wearily.
Robb looked different to the day before, which a very definite but endearing touch of bed head to his curls. The navy cable knit jumper he wore brought out the blue of eyes.
“You aren’t talking about me, are you?” Robb asked, quite rightly suspicious, and took the seat beside Theon.
“Just your sleeping habits,” laughed Gendry, piling his plate high with food.
Swallowing nervously, Robb looked to Theon. “Sorry, I forgot to warn you,” he said in a hushed voice under the chuckles of his family. “Did I- Are you-”
Theon cleared his throat, raised his voice to demonstrate things were ok, and set a hand reassuringly on Robb’s knee under the table and leant close as he did so to highlight it to the family, feigning easy intimacy. “I’m told you’ve always been a deep sleeper.”
“Ah,” Robb responded sheepishly. His cheek flushed as he leaned into Theon’s ear. “Sorry, I’m a spooner.”
Theon snorted. “Now I’m feeling neglected,” he teased and reached for the cafetiere and a mug for Robb, setting the filled cup down in front of him.
“You drink coffee now, Robb?” Sansa asked curiously.
Robb looked between her and Theon’s apologetic face. “Uh, yeah,” he confirmed, topping it up with a lot of milk and sugar. Theon cringed. “Only occasionally though. One, at breakfast sometimes.” To his credit, he managed to take a glug without betraying his taste too much.
Ned, having been so far quiet with an occasional smile, looked up from his food. “Do you ski, Theon?”
Did he fuck.
A couple of hours later and he found himself on a snowy mountainside, skis at his feet. He thought he’d got it, for a moment or two, and the look on Robb’s face was worth the trauma of the ridiculous outfit he’d had to get in, the drive out into the mountains in the packed car, and the ordeal of the ski lift. He’d forgotten that he must be on the smallest slope possible.
And then there he was suddenly, back against the snow and looking up into heavens above. It hadn’t hurt, not really, not physically. His pride may have taken a bruising. Suddenly, Robb appeared above him, replacing the blue of the sky with that of his eyes. It was short-lived, Robb’s breath billowed in front of him as he laughed, having found him unhurt, obscuring Theon’s view of him.
Theon tugged at the goggles with his hands hindered by the thick poufy gloves and pulled them up onto his helmet. “I think I might just stay here now.”
“I wouldn’t recommend it, unless you want to freeze your arse off and have a collision with a small child. Come one, take my hand.”
“You could’ve warned me about this,” muttered Theon irritably, like that would’ve mattered. What would he have done? It wasn’t like he could’ve practised and he highly doubted he would have turned Robb’s proposal down.
“I sorry,” Robb told him and bit his cheek. The sound in his voice filled Theon with guilt and made him want to immediately retract the comment. “I suppose there was a good chance this would happen. They just wanted to make sure you didn’t miss out while you were up here.”
He took Robb’s outstretched hand and began the attempt to stand on wobbly legs. “I’m just quite conscious that you’re now stuck with me and I’m not exactly worth having here if you can’t show me off.” Theon winked despite himself and promptly lost his balance, having not been concentrating.
Robb’s hands caught him at the ribs, allowing him to take hold of his biceps. Theon looked down at the boots, skis and snow feeling dejected. He could admit that he was a perfectionist and was unwilling to engage in things he wasn’t necessarily a natural at.
“Hey,” said Robb, “look at me.” Theon met his eyes warily, any sign of the confident airs he liked quickly dissipating right when he needed them. “You’ll have an easier time if you doubt yourself less and look where you want to go,” Robb told him kindly, an easy smile on his face. Theon’s eyes fell to his plump lips before he caught himself and looked away to find Robb had done the same. He leant in for the kiss he expected only to be disappointed when Robb made it only half and failed to close the gap between them.
Robb cleared his throat and forced a weak smile as though nothing had happened. “Let’s try that again.”
Let’s, Theon thought bitterly, wondering if it could be a let’s if it was only him having to try.
Theon did improve somewhat but flitted between irritation at feeling patronised by Robb’s praise and flattered. He longed for warmth.
The hot springs of Winterfell were one of those things a person could take for granted. And Robb had, despite a good amount of the families income coming from the resort built around them, until he moved to King’s Landing that was.
Robb took a beer from Arya with thanks and smiled along at the conversation around him. He couldn’t seem to focus on what was being said on the topic, and it wasn’t the fault of the alcohol. His brain replayed moments from the past two days, Theon’s sultry voice repeated ‘Most of all? I enjoy fucking and getting fucked’, a ghost of a lip ran along his jaw. He felt the pull as he’d almost kissed him on the slope, the fingers on his wrist and the look in Theon’s eyes as he said ‘If you did want to change the terms…’. And then… there was the sound of the cash machine whir as he waited for the extra money he’d contemplated paying. His stomach turned as he thought about it.
“Alright, mate?” Jon asked with concern, his eyebrows raised as the scanned Robb’s face.
“Just tired, that’s all,” he lied and smiled weakly for the benefit of the others. Bran and Sansa especially eyed him with suspicion.
He’d managed to persuade the others to come to them, avoiding dragging Theon around in the cold. It was only partly self-interest; the getting out was the worst and he’d rather be able to get back inside as quickly as possible.
Theon leant back against the stones containing the water inside the pool, stretching himself out as cat might. His arm came to reach out towards Robb along the back and he sank lower. “It was a challenge to even getting me to stay upright,” he joked, he’d not been nearly as bad as he made out. His hair flowed out around him in the water.
“That’s not true. I meant it, you were a decent beginner. A few more times out there and you’ll be able to match me.” His smile was strained. Theon was unlikely to come back here with him. They probably wouldn’t see each other again after the wedding was over with.
That was the crux of the matter when he thought about it. How was he to know what Theon truly thought? Was it all an act or was there a connection between them? If he gave in to the desire would he find himself worse off when the money was taken from the equation and Theon walked away? Even worse was the idea that in the short term he considered whether the craving was strong enough not to care if it was all about cash. This was what had led him to the withdrawal.
“I bet you’re knackered, are you?” Gendry asked Theon. “I remember the first time Arya dragged me along. You wouldn’t have thought it would make your muscles ache quite so much.”
Slowly the group scattered and left for their respective beds until he was left alone with Theon. Having been sat next to Robb, Theon moved out into the water, taking advantage of the new space they’d been left with.
“I needed this,” Theon said and ducked his head under the water. He pushed back his hair as he resurfaced and then wiped the water from his face like he was the object of fancy in a film. He must have caught the look in Robb’s eyes if the spreading grin, complete with a dimple, was anything to go by. Slowly, as though approaching an animal that might get spooked by sudden movements, he approached Robb.
Robb’s breath caught. He’d been waiting for his siblings and partners to leave, he’d been hoping Theon might make some advances again, and now he struggled to act.
“How long have you been skiing?” Theon asked as he settled between Robb’s legs. He placed a hand on each.
“As long as I can remember.” He’d been told once that he’d been out there as soon as he was steady on his legs.
“You must miss it.”
“Yeah…” Robb admitted wistfully, he’d not found anything down south that gave him as much of a rush, “I do.”
“What made you move away?”
“I’ll end up here eventually… I would imagine. My family is quite traditional,” he explained, struggling to concentrate on the conversation and not his mounting arousal, “I’m the eldest…”
Theon nodded, listening attentively. His hands stroked him gently under the water, using the movement to drift ever so slightly up his thighs. “I see.”
“I wanted to see what I could do without being handed something. To learn more about the world outside the bubble.”
“You doubt yourself,” he pointed out, echoing what Robb had told him earlier that day. The difference was the refreshing way Theon lived in the present.
“I’m a worrier,” admitted Robb.
“Stop,” Theon almost whispered, sending a shiver throughout Robb.
Unable to resist any longer, Robb pulled Theon into him with an urgency Theon responded to enthusiastically. He held him tightly and launched them into a kiss, Theon’s lips immediately gave to the passionate onslaught, welcoming the invasion of his tongue. They slid against each other, bodies slick from the water. At the first sign of him moving to climb on to his lap, Robb’s hands impatiently dropped to take Theon’s thighs and lifted until he straddled him.
When Theon ground instinctively against him, Robb cut the kiss short, biting his lip as he looked down to watch his body move and arch. “Fuck… we should--,” he groaned, “we should go inside.” Theon’s lips explored his throat up to and along his jawline, taking his earlobe. Robb grasped at his arse, encouraging the rhythm despite his better judgement.
Seemingly able to control himself better than Robb, Theon silently left him and got out of the pool. Walking to the door, he pulled down his swimming trunks on the way and left them where they fell. He looked back over his shoulder questioning whether Robb was following and cracked an amused smirk as he hastily pulled himself out of the water and raced after him through the cold with nowhere near as much grace.