Chapter 1: Beginnings
He arrived during the height of the long summer.
The air was crisp and fresh and the sun was lowering in the sky, coating the world in a waterfall of pinks and purples while a fiery core burned the horizon. The sea had begun to grow dark, the waves hitting the pitted rocks down below in a chant as old as time. The deep blue hues of the water reflected the glow of the sun, and what lay beneath the surface was a mystery; full of terrors and wonders; of new beginnings and grand adventures; of death and sorrow and life and happiness.
What lurked in the sea had always intrigued the young Lord. He used to make up stories about what lived below, grand adventures that mixed with the folklore he had been told as a child and the imagination he had coveted since he could walk. The ocean had been his friend and his enemy. It has given him companionship and a constant, but had stolen the love that he had needed. It replaced what it had taken.
Of course he was too old to think about such things. There was nothing more than rocks and creatures, some he had seen and others no one but perhaps the Greyjoys knew about. But Renly could not help but wonder, as he stood in the main chamber awaiting the anticipated guest, if his little squire from Highgarden would enjoy the ocean as much as he did.
The boy arrived as soon as the sun had set. The room was light using candles and torches, and Renly had been about to ask for more light when the doors opened and in strode the boy, purpose behind his gate as men with golden roses stitched upon their doublets followed suit. The proper protocol was immediately seen to, introductions made and formal courtesy displayed, and it was some time before the lord had time to look at his new squire.
He was small for his age—slight of build and small in stature, but he was still young, the pains of growing having not yet begun. Only one and ten he was still malleable, easily shaped and moulded into the perfect knight under the guidance of the perfect lord. He had come to Storm’s End on high recommendation, and despite his size and the almost overbearing arrogance he seemed to exude, there was something there… something that kept Renly intrigued. Behind the mass of golden brown curls and wind kissed cheeks lay bright hazel eyes; eyes filled with intelligence, life and an eagerness to please. There was also a spark of mischief— of playfulness and a quick wit that was masked behind a well-bred disposition that had no doubt been instilled in him at a young age.
Renly could almost imagine the lecture the boy had received from his father before he arrived.
“He is certainly a delicate little thing…”
“…even lift a sword?”
“Did you see that look he gave me?”
“My word, he is a Tyrell, isn’t he?”
“He seems well mannered enough, but I heard his father…”
Ignoring the incredulous looks and hushed judgements (gods knew he had heard enough gossip in the courts already to know how vapid most of the speakers were), he readied himself for the task at hand. Loras was small, arrogant, and stubborn, but he would be Renly’s summer knight.
“What do you think of the sea?”
He thought it was rather cold and smelt funny. “It’s nice, I suppose.”
He heard a snort beside him, and Loras knew it did not come from the horse. “You suppose?”
Turning his attention away from the sea down below, Loras raised a brow at his Lord and shrugged. “Well it is nice…” If Loras wanted to be completely truthful, he hated the sea. It was cold and loud, and the wind it picked up was unrelenting. There was no such thing as a calm breeze at Storm’s End. And it had a queer smell, like rotting fish and salt. He missed the smell of the rose gardens back home… “Do you like the sea?”
“I grew up with it,” Renly replied, pushing away some hair from his eyes. It was useless, though, and the wind ended up putting it right back where it was. “It’s all I can really remember. I just thought that you would have become used to it… it is certainly impressive, no?”
Loras could hear in Renly’s voice the need to be validated, but did not know how to go about replying. His mother told him to be courteous and amenable with his Lord, but Renly had told him to be truthful and upfront only days after he had arrived. It had been six months since he had come, and Loras was still adjusting to the new setting. He knew why he was sent and he knew above all else that he wanted to become a knight—it was the only thing he had really wanted and it was all he had thought about since he was given his first wooden sword as a small boy. To be able to ride chargers, wear beautiful suits of armour and fight those who wanted to harm others was all Loras thought and dreamed about.
But before he could become a knight, he had to train as a squire. A fact he had been told as a small boy, but one he never really thought about until his father told him on a warm summer’s night that he’d be going to Storm’s End at the end of the month. He had been nervous and unsure about it at first, and that nervousness had only increased when he was told how old his lord was. Renly was close enough to his age that Loras, for perhaps the first time in his life, was intimidated. What if Renly did not like him? What if he wasn’t as good at sword practice as he had been lead to believe? What if he was made fun of for his size? Loras was not a fool and knew he matched his little sister in size and appearance more than his older brothers. They were tall and broad of chest, with arms that could wield a sword and skills with horses that went unmatched. But he was slight and petit, his fingers delicate and thin and his features as soft and fair as Margaery’s. If he was made a fool of because of things he could not control, Loras was certain he would never return to Storm’s End no matter what.
So when he arrived he acted as strong and as in control as he could. He thought of how Garlan would walk and talk, and kept it in his head that he was a Tyrell and they were to be respected. Of course his arrogance lasted until his Lord laughed at him when he ran into a door on the way to his room.
After that, Loras had been significantly humbled in Renly’s (as well as three servants’) presence. Although he still held his head high and acted in accordance to what he had been raised to do, he was beginning to grow more comfortable in Renly’s presence. Something about him made Loras feel at ease. Perhaps it was because of how funny he was. Loras hadn’t laughed so much in his entire life since he came to Storm’s End and was introduced to what many called the ‘Baratheon Wit’.
“Impressive is a good word,” he replied, finally having decided on the best course of action. It was true, though. Despite it bringing in cold winds and strange smells, seeing so much water that stretched out further than the eye could see was ‘impressive’.
Unfortunately, most of it was lost on Loras, who just wanted to ride back to the keep and practice archery.
“Will you show them to me sometime?” Renly’s voice broke Loras away from his silent admiration of his older Lord’s freedoms and independence, and he smiled back when Renly broke out into a large grin, his blue eyes shining with amusement. “What are you staring at?”
“N-Nothing …” he replied quickly as he looked away, a blush creeping up on his cheeks. He admired Renly a great deal, but did not want to admit it to him. It was embarrassing. “If you would like, I would enjoy showing you the gardens, my Lord. Have you never been to Highgarden?”
“Never,” he said, slowing his cob down as they neared the keep. “Strange, isn’t it? Being the lord of mine own keep I should have all the freedom to do what I want. But alas, for the first six years I was subject to the rules of the maester and other men and women who decided what I would do, where I would go—even what I would wear. It has only been the last few years in which I’ve received my own freedom, but—” Stopping his horse outside the gates, Renly slid off of his horse as the posterns were opened for their arrival, and gripped the bridle of the horse before leading him inside by foot, greeting the guards as if they were close friends. Loras followed suit (as he always did), and watched the feet of the horse before him as Renly continued to ramble (as he always did). “—so that was when I visited King’s Landing once more, which is rather a long journey but it is through some beautiful countryside. I don’t know why I even went there right away; it wasn’t as if I had never seen it before—“
Entering the stables, they hitched their horses before Loras got to work on taking care of the two animals, his squire duties taking effect. He enjoyed the work, though—horses seemed to like him, and he liked them in return. Besides, the stables were one of the few places where the overwhelming smell of the sea did not reach.
“—she’s a beautiful woman, I will grant you that, but she’s terribly boring and I don’t know if she is really that slim or if her handmaids to a good job of fitting her into her bodice—“
Running his hands along the supple leathers of the saddles, Loras unbuckled the straps and slid the saddle off of Renly’s mare before doing the same for his filly. Putting them away he returned with a brush, and started to comb away the sweat and dirt from the white and dappled hairs.
“—I wasn’t completely naïve to think that he would just let me walk back; he’s my brother and if I said no he could most likely beat me like brothers do and then where would that get me? A black eye and a bruised ego, not to mention I might have bled. I hate the sight of blood. So instead I—“
Running the brush along the back of the mare, Loras admired the spotted patterns on its rump and haunches, nodding every so often as Renly continued to speak about whatever it was he was going on about. Loras had become accustomed to his Lords strolls through his mind that manifested itself through a verbal onslaught. Kneeling he went to work on the legs of the beast, but fell backwards as the horse shifted to the side, making him press his hands into the dirt and straw on the floor. Glaring, he looked up to see what had caused the horse to move, and saw a grinning face looking down at him while arms dangled down the side of the animal. “So that is why I’ve never been to Highgarden.”
“Oh, I see,” Loras replied. Picking himself up from the ground, he brushed his dirt covered hands against his riding pants before continuing his chore. “You should visit sometime, my Lord.”
“I’ll visit with you.” Once again the horse shifted, this time away from Loras as Renly moved around the animal to stand beside him. Crouching down to his level, Renly pushed his hair out of his face and peered at Loras. “Do you miss home?”
Shrugging, Loras tried not to look at him, and instead turned his attention to a spot of dirt above the horses hoof. He did miss home—he missed it a lot. But he did not want to admit it. He was a grown man (or he liked to think of himself as that), and it was not fitting. Besides, Renly had just talked about how much traveling he had done, and he never sounded like he had been homesick. “I miss my little sister.”
That was a more acceptable answer. Missing your younger sibling showed concern and maturity.
“Your sister… Margaery is her name, right?”
“Yes… she was crying when I left,” he said, brushing the dirt away. “She used to follow me around all the time at home when she had the chance. I thought it was annoying when she did it, but now I miss it a bit…”
He missed it a lot.
“Do you not like it here, Loras?” The tone in which Renly asked it made Loras look up from his job, and he noticed that his Lord looked hesitant and a little worried, his dark brows pressed close together while the usual smile on his face was gone, instead replaced with a frown. He looked younger than his fifteen years.
“No, my Lord, I like it here well enough. I am grateful that you have taken me to be your squire, and… and I enjoy your company as well as your hospitality.”
That made Renly smile, and suddenly Loras could breathe again. “You should stop pouting so much, then. Your bottom lip is always jutting out—just like that!”
Loras immediately sucked in his bottom lip and glared. “I do not pout.”
“Yes, you do.”
“No, I do not.”
“You are doing it right now!”
“I am not pouting, I am glaring.”
“You can do both at the same time you—Hey! Hey, you can’t do that!” Picking the straw that had been thrown at him out of his hair, Renly gave Loras a shocked look, one that was mirrored exactly on Loras’ own features. He had just thrown dirt and straw from a stables floor at his Lord. When his Grandmother told him not to do anything brash and moronic, he knew throwing dirt at the man who decided his future fit under the categories of ‘brash and moronic’.
“I am so very sorry, my Lord—so sorry, I did not mean to—I mean, I did not want to. It wasn’t something I had intended… Please, my Lord, I am sorry,” Loras blurted out, eyes wide as he attempted to bow in the crouched position he was in. Images of Renly calling an executioner ran through his mind, and Loras began to panic thinking about how he’d be killed for throwing dirt and straw at his Lord.
He was about to get up and leave the immediate area, when a handful of straw and dirt hit him in the face, causing him to cough and splutter. Brushing the dry granules off of his cheeks and away from his eyes, Loras looked up to see Renly grinning triumphantly back at him, bits of straw hanging in his hair and dirt smudged against his cheek.
Loras could have left it alone—he had deserved it, and it was better to let Renly throw dirt at him rather than be executed—but Loras had a tendency to rush into things without thinking. He also had a tendency to let his pride get the better of him. No one threw dirt at a Tyrell.
Scooping up a handful from the floor, Loras chucked it at Renly before he had a chance to get away, and laughed when the dirt moved its way down the front of his Lord’s shirt, causing him to make a decidedly feminine squawk as the cool earth slid down and tickled his skin.
Standing up, Loras made a break for it, knowing fully well there would be retribution, but didn’t get far out of the stables before Renly was on him, his longer limbs carrying him further and faster than Loras was capable of. He heard a guard cry out in an attempt to get them to stop running, but all Loras saw was a startled looking servant girl before he was tackled down to the ground, a heavier body landing on top of his own. Letting out all the air in his lungs, Loras lay stunned on the ground, his entire body having almost collapsed under the weight of Renly. He was going to complain or yell, perhaps even fight back, but before he could do any of that Renly had gotten up and stuffed a handful of dead leaves, straw, dirt, and whatever else was on the courtyards floor down the back of his shirt, bursts of laughter coming out as he did so.
Loras couldn’t help but laugh himself, but it came out as more of a chocked sob as the air that had left his lungs in a rather aggressive manner tried to make its way back in between the merriment. The sound he made must have frightened Renly, who immediately stopped laughing and was now busy rolling Loras over while calling for a guard.
“I-I’m fine,” he gasped out, squinting up at a halo of straw and wild, tangled hair that floated above.
“Are you sure?” Renly asked, his features manifesting themselves in front of Loras. He looked so worried that he had damaged Loras, that Loras found himself suddenly embarrassed. He hadn’t meant to worry Renly, even if the turn of events had been in part caused by him as well. The courtyard had also filled with onlookers—some of them guards, others servants, and a few who lived in the castle as guests. Loras suddenly felt very exposed as he lay in the middle of the circle, covered in dirt and gasping for air as his Lord fretted above him.
“Did you just tackle your little squire?” Loras recognized the voice as one of the women who worked in the upper floors cleaning the rooms. Renly had called her Naddy.
“I did not tackle him… I landed on him… on purpose,” Renly replied, and Loras tried to get up only to have a hand push him down.
“Why are you two covered in mud and straw? You do realize I have to clean this out of your clothing,” Naddy chided, and Loras looked over to see her standing over the two of them as the crowed that had gathered slowly dispersed. “When Lord Tyrell sent his son over here I doubt he wanted you to wrestle him and get him covered in mud.”
“We were just having a bit of fun,” Loras explained, finally able to speak. Now he had gotten Renly in trouble, all because he couldn’t keep his manners in check. Throwing dirt at your older brother was acceptable, but not your Lord.
“Exactly—just a bit of fun. A run around, a bit of play fighting—it’s what boys do, you know. You always tell me to act more like a man, and here I am, running around in mud and straw, ruining perfectly acceptable clothing. See, I think I’ve completely damaged this shirt beyond repair! You should be proud, Naddy.” Renly flashed her a large grin as he helped Loras sit up, apparently satisfied that he hadn’t broken him and he was capable of at least sitting upright.
Naddy looked less than impressed, and Loras had flashbacks to his mother’s glare as she left them in a whirl of skirt and displeasure.
“Are you sure you’re alright?” Renly asked, his hand grasping Loras’ chin to make him look at him. Loras did not know what to say or do, and simply sat there as the guard Renly had called over stood over Renly’s shoulder, seemingly feeling a little out of place.
“Yes, I am fine. I have taken worse,” he recited, as if he had been in numerous battles and not just play-fought. “I am sorry if I scared you, my lord.”
“Don’t apologize!” Renly said, laughing as he got up and helped Loras stand. Sending the guard away, Renly thanked him for his quick response before returning his attention back to Loras. The two of them must have looked like quiet the pair. Dirt coated them, bits of straw sticking out of curls of light brown and tangles of jet black, and Loras noticed that Renly had, indeed, ripped the cuff of his shirt. “You apologize far too often, Loras. You should relax a little more; treat this keep as if it were Highgarden, and treat me like one of your brothers.”
“Are you sure?” Loras asked, an eyebrow raised as he attempted to fix himself up to respectable order.
“Positive.” Renly nodded in affirmation.
“Well then…” Loras began, before he kicked behind Renly’s knees, using a technique Garlan had shown him before he left. It had the desired effect, and Renly’s legs gave in from under him, sending him to the ground in a grand display.
Loras did not wait around this time, and went rushing down the courtyard, the sounds of laughter and hurried footsteps following not far behind.
And the chase was on once more.
Chapter 2: Roses and Arrows
The pluck of the bowstring and the whiz of arrows sounded in the field, followed by a few shouts of a competitive nature. Playing with the silver ring on his thumb, Renly spun it around and around as he walked towards the practice field, two guards trailing after him. It has been a busy morning and he had spent most of it inside behind a desk, speaking with numerous different men who all seemed to think that because he was sixteen he knew nothing and should be ‘guided’ to fit the course of action that would benefit them the most. He was used to the hypocrisy, of course—he’d grown up with people trying to feed him ideas and move him into the perfect position in which to exploit his power like a pawn. He was used to it, but that did not mean he had to like it.
In fact he hated it. He hated sitting around in a stone building while men and women alike bickered and fought and schemed their way into his good graces. He hated it, but he let it happen. He would smile and nod, make the proper comments and strive for a laugh or two, because what else could he do? He was a puppet in many ways; a strung up young Baratheon who was favoured because at least he wasn’t the other Baratheon. It was easier to get on Renly’s good side and, subsequently the realms good side, than it was to kiss up to Stannis.
Sometimes Renly wished he could tell some of those men and women what he really thought about their petty differences and a desire for drama, but instead he made snide remarks hidden with sarcasm and an open smile.
“Bloody politics, bloody scheming, bloody fucking lordship, and bloody buggering piece of horse shit kingdom,” he mumbled under his breath, eyebrows furrowed as he trudged down the path, kicking away small stones and a clump of horse manure. Turning the wide corner around a patch of blueberry bushes, Renly readied himself to once again play the role of the kind Lord, and straightened his back, brushed away the hair from his eyes, and relaxed his face as he came upon the young boys practicing their archery in the field.
Oh how he longed to be out in the field once more, not caring about his duties or his manners. If only he could pick up a makeshift cape and run about like he did when he was five… he imagined he could do that now if he really wanted to, but he’d probably be looked upon as if he were some fool or insane…
It might be worth it to see the faces of the people, though. Renly Baratheon, younger brother to King Robert, has finally lost it. Only took sixteen years.
But reminiscing and getting irritated about his rather cushy lifestyle was not the purpose of going out to the practice field, and Renly was reminded of that fact when he saw Loras standing near the end of the line, bow in hand and eyes narrowed as he drew the string back, arrow in its proper place while he focused on the target up ahead.
Watching him from a distance, Renly slowly made his way to a wooden bench set up behind the boys where the bowman would sit and critique. Brushing off some of the dirt, he sat down readjusted his cloak as his guards took up position behind him. He never used to have guards tail him at all times of the day, but things had been getting tense in King’s Landing, which meant things were getting tense all over. Robert insisted that Renly keep guards close by at all times, and while Renly doubted it was really Robert’s orders, the point still stood. What the King wanted, the King got, even if it was pressing into Renly’s personal freedoms.
“What do you think of him?” Renly asked his guards, nodding his head in Loras’ direction just as the arrow was let go. It hit the target perfectly.
“He seems like a good lad,” one of them replied, and there was a bit of admiration in his tone near the end as the arrow found its mark.
“He’ll make a fine knight under your lordship,” the other said, and Renly couldn’t help but roll his eyes.
“You know, when they said I would have a squire of my own, I thought I’d be training him myself. You know, showing him all of my skills and worldly knowledge—foolish idea, no? All he does is follow me around when he has to, brush my horses and practice with the other boys. He’s just my personal… helper,” Sighing, Renly flicked a small beetle that had scuttled up his leg off of his knee. “It is his name-day today.” There was silence from his guards, and Renly rolled his eyes again before speaking. “How many times do I have to tell you that when I am talking to you, you are fully capable of replying back? I don’t need to give you permission to speak—everyone has an opinion.” That was one thing Renly liked to make clear to the people who served him: They, just like any noble born person, had the right to speak their mind and act like a human rather than some creature made to serve and protect. Renly had always treated the people at Storm’s End with courtesy and friendliness, because for the longest time the only friends he did have were his servants and guards. There were no children running around who were his age, and his brothers were older than he by fifteen and fourteen years. The only companionship he had were his servants and his own imagination.
Because of this, Renly insisted that those who worked in the Keep be given the same amount of respect and relative freedom as anyone else. To Renly, they were no different than he was, save for perhaps a well to do name and certain hereditary luck.
“Terribly sorry, m’ Lord, it’s just…”
“Well, we aren’t… used to this… to speaking so frankly to a lord of your standing.”
Smiling, Renly shrugged and looked over his shoulder up at his new guard fresh from King’s Landing. “I can see why you never spoke frankly up in King’s Landing—they’d no doubt chop your head off and stick it up on a wall if you were to comment on how our dear Queen Cersei always looks as if she has a gourd stuffed up that cunt of hers.”
That made the guards laugh. Although it was laced with a heavy dose of nerves and paranoia.
Turning back around, Renly returned to watched Loras practice, his attention completely on the task at hand. He was a dutiful boy, but one with a rebellious streak that came out now and again. He was also ambitious and willing to work hard for his rather lofty but not unattainable goals. With the right guidance and a little freedom, Loras was beginning to come into his own at Storm’s End.
It had only been eleven months since he had arrived, but Renly could already see a dramatic difference in both his personality, as well as his appearance. He had learned to relax and laugh and joke more, and the arrogance he had come to the Keep with had all but disappeared—or, at least, it had left when Renly was around. He still heard tales from a few people of how Loras had all but insulted them with some sort of remark or look, but Renly found his moments of absolute haughtiness endearing in its own way. It helped that it was rarely directed at him, and it was also helpfully that many of the retorts Loras wielded in his witty repartee had come from Renly’s own. But instead of blind arrogance and a superiority complex, Loras had begun to respect and even get along with many members of the Keep, so much so that many of the ladies and maids had begun to dote over him.
Another arrow had hit its target.
Naddy told him that Loras had given flowers to a few of the girls, and that it sent them all in a tizzy of excitement. When Renly asked why he had given them flowers, Loras simply shrugged and said it was something that was expected of him. Oddly enough he seemed less than enthused by all of the female attention he was receiving, but Renly knew that in due time he’d be interested in their flirtatious stares and pursed lips soon enough. Most boys turned their attention to women eventually… most, but not all…
A third hit a little to the right.
Then there was Loras’ physical appearance that had started to transform. All of the hard work in the practice yard was beginning to have an effect, with muscles appearing where baby-fat had once sat and strength manifesting itself in the way he walked and how he stood. He had also grown somewhat, the pains working its way through his bones and muscles at night. A few times Renly had caught him wandering the keep after dark, and when pressed as to why he was ‘skulking’ around, Loras told him it hurt less when he was moving about.
After that, Renly would often join Loras for those midnight strolls, remembering what it was like to have your body ache with no reprieve.
The fourth hit its mark once again.
All in all, despite the fact that Renly had very little to do with Loras’ actual training, he believed that Loras would become the summer knight he had always wished for. After earning his place at the tournaments, Loras would carry both the Tyrell name as well as the Baratheon one—a good situation for the both of them.
“What do you think?”
Turning his attention away from Loras, Renly looked up to see the bowman standing beside him, arms crossed over his broad chest as he too watched Loras. “Well he can certainly shoot a bow; that much is obvious.”
This made the bowman laugh and rub his jaw. “Ay, he can do that. The weapons master tells me he’s also good with a sword and the morning star.”
“He’s also improving with a lance,” Renly added, a little pleased Loras was impressing so many men.
“Looks like you’ve picked a real good one to train! He’ll make up for what you lack in skill.” The cackle the man made after that caused Renly to playfully smack the man’s side. Perhaps he was giving his people too much freedom.
Then again, it was good to be humbled now and again. It was true, though—Renly had never been very good at jousting. He fared well enough, but when it came down to it he lacked the enthusiasm for it. He preferred to sit in the stands and watch the events take place. He liked to admire the armour and soak in the atmosphere that surrounded him, while getting in a few good bets here and there as well as some entertaining banter. But he jousted when it was expected of him, just like everything else.
“Is he almost done for the day? It is his name-day and I was hoping I’d have time to give him his gift before I get pulled back into the daily drudgery of lordship life.”
“I can pull him off for a bit if it would please, m’ Lord.” Stepping away, the bowman approached Loras with a certain amount of caution (the boy was holding a bow and arrow), and they conversed a moment before Loras rested his bow against a wooden pedestal and jogged over, a large smile spread across his features.
“My Lord, I did not know you were here,” he said as Renly stood up and dusted off his clothes. “If I had known I would have—“
“Shown off more?”
That made Loras laugh, and Renly couldn’t help but smile a little brighter. “Perhaps I would have shot an arrow just for you.”
“I believe this is one of the few days in which you get to do something for yourself rather than for your Lord,” Renly said as he led Loras away from the practice range. “Walk with me a moment.”
“As you wish, my lord” Loras replied. They moved down a shady path between great elm trees and weeping willows, the songs of birds twisting through the branches while the sun that had managed to break through the clouds light up spots between the leaves. It was a cool but refreshing day, the smell of green and sea mixed in the air, with a hint of wild flower and wet underbrush from a recent morning shower. Breathing in the scents, Renly smiled to himself and hummed a quick tune before speaking.
“It is your name-day, is it not?”
“Yes, I suppose it is… How did you know?”
“I know everything… Well, at least, I get told a lot of things and I remember them if they’re important enough, which this is,” Renly explained with a wink as they approached a fork in the road. Stopping, he turned around and asked his guards to wait, before pulling Loras down one path and away from prying eyes. “I bought you a gift,” he said, stopping in the middle of the trail.
“A gift? You did not have to do that for me, my Lord.”
“Call me Renly when it is just the two of us,” he said as he untied a pouch from around his belt. Passing the green velvet bag to him, Renly dropped it in his smaller palm. “It’s nothing much, really. I was going to buy you something more… extravagant, but then I thought of this and I believe it will suit you.”
“It’s not a necklace, is it?” Loras asked as he opened it, the prospect of a necklace sounding less than impressive given the tone of his voice.
“No, it is not a necklace.”
Reaching in, Loras felt around before he pulled out a variety of different coloured rose petals. “You got me rose petals?”
The way in which he said it made Renly toss his head back and laugh, the accompanying face to go along with it too much for Renly to handle. The arrogance was still there, it seemed. “No, not just rose petals! I bought you roses, Loras. Real roses—rose plants, if you will.”
“You bought me a rose plant?”
“Not just one, but multiple—five, actually, and all of them different colours. I spoke to the maester here who dabbles a little in gardening and herbs, and he told me a few varieties of roses that fare well in this area. You always mention how much you miss the roses back home, so I thought I would bring them to you instead. They should be sitting on the balcony of your room right now, ready for you to admire when you’re done your training.”
Loras was silent after that, and Renly thought perhaps he had done something wrong. Maybe he had overstepped his boundaries. The roses would probably remind Loras even more of home, and that sickness he had been feeling would increase tenfold. For someone who prided himself on being able to read people, he was really rather terrible when it came to Loras—buying him roses when he missed home, like that could possibly help at all?
“If you don’t like them I can—“he began, but stopped as soon as a pair of arms wrapped themselves around his waist and a body pressed in close.
“Thank you,” Loras mumbled against Renly’s chest, his face pressed into the folds of the forest green cloak he was wearing. A little shocked, Renly froze for a moment, trying to comprehend that Loras, arrogant and prideful, was hugging him right now. Hugging him and thanking him in a tone so honest he could hardly believe it…
“You’re welcome,” he finally said as he hugged him back. It didn’t last long before Loras was pulling away, a blush on his cheeks as he stuffed the rose petals back in the pouch, most likely an excuse to busy himself. “I hope they smell nice. You should have a red, pink, yellow, orange, and white roses soon enough to give to all of the maids.”
Snorting, Loras rolled his eyes and tied the pouch on his own belt, obviously intent on keeping it. “I give a few girls a rose and suddenly it’s what I do?”
“Well, it could be. Once you become a famous knight you could give a rose to the girl you favour! Loras Tyrell, the Knight of Flowers!”
Laughing, Loras shoved him playfully and walked back down the path towards the guards who were milling about at the fork. “That’s a ridiculous name… But thank you again, my Lo—Renly. When the first rose blooms I will give it to you.”
“Hopefully it’s a white rose—it would go best with my hair.”
“And you’re the Knight of Flowers.”
Chapter 3: A Friend
Disclaimer: All characters and settings in the below piece of fiction belongs to George RR Martin, and I am in no way profiting off of this
Authors Note: Thank you for all of the positive feedback, you guys! I really appreciate it. Our boys are getting closer and closer, so without further ado...
There was something wrong with him. Something that was bothering him and whatever it was had put Renly in a foul mood.
Yes, he attempted to hide it behind smiles and kind words, coupled with the usual humorous comment, but Loras knew something was troubling him. Along with the mirthful displays came tense shoulders, furrowed brows and a heavy frown when he thought no one was looking. Such expressions were becoming more and more frequent, and Loras was getting worried. After knowing his Lord for two years, he had begun to notice the subtle shifts in his behaviour, but never once commented. It wasn’t his place; he was there to squire, not to pry into Renly’s business, no matter how much it bothered him.
But today was different. Today Renly looked more tense than usual, the smiles more forced and the conversations stilted and awkward. No one seemed to notice, of course, and they left their discussions with their Lord happy and laughing, while Renly was left looking melancholy.
Renly’s attention flicked up to Loras briefly, his attention leaving the scrolls in front of him in an instant. Immediately he put on the mask and smiled brightly as Loras walked further into the room. “Loras, how nice of you to visit me! If you give me a moment I can walk you to your room—I am almost done signing these documents.”
Frowning, Loras agreed despite wanting to talk to him right away and went to go and sit across from him at his desk, hands locked together on his lap while the sun set off in the distance. Twiddling his thumbs, he listened to the scratching of a quill against parchment and watched the flicker of the candle light dance across the intricately carved desk. Minutes passed in which nothing was said before Loras sighed.
“Are you alright?”
Looking up quickly, Loras raised a brow and gave Renly a quizzical look from overtop the ink well. “I am fine, Renly, why do you ask?”
“You sighed… I was curious. How was practice today?” Their eyes locked and Loras was about to broach the subject of Renly’s increasingly downtrodden mood, but the moment was broken when Renly went back to his work, attention once again returning to the quill and parchment.
“It was enjoyable,” he began, deciding he’d ask after, “I’m getting better with the lance and I knocked a few boys of their mounts today.” That, at least, brought a genuine smile to Renly’s lips as he continued to scribble across the sheets. If Lordship took this much paperwork, Loras was glad he was furthest in line to inherit Highgarden. “I’ve also been practicing more with the morning star—I’ve been getting more control with it and have been working up the proper muscles to wield it… The orange rose bloomed today as well.”
“That’s good.” His voice was distinctly distant, and Loras couldn’t help but roll his eyes. Why continue speaking when the person you were talking to wasn’t even going to pay you the proper respect and listen? Granted, he had a tendency to tune Renly out on occasion. One thing was for certain; Renly liked the sound of his own voice.
“I might be with child, as well. I just thought you should know. I fell for the wrong boy and he buggered me in more than one way.”
“Don’t say buggered, Loras—you’re only thirteen.”
“I’m old enough to say ‘buggered’… and you’re not even curious who impregnated me?”
A sigh. And a smile. “Perhaps…”
“Well I won’t tell you until you put down that quill of yours and look at me.”
Another sigh. “I’m almost done—give me a few more moments and you can explain to me how you became pregnant.”
Groaning, Loras rolled his head back and stared at the ceiling, before standing up to wander about the room, hands linked behind him as he inspected the small collection of books resting beside Renly’s bed. Running his fingers along the spines, he picked one of them up and flipped through the sheets before landing on a drawing. The page was bright and colourful, the edges of it lined with twisting vines and bright gold, while in the center there were two… people? Frowning, he turned the book around, trying to figure out what was going on. There were hands, and… two men were lying—oh.
Slamming the book closed, Loras cringed slightly as the binding cracked, but tossed the book back in its respective place before turning around to look at Renly. “Yes?”
“I’m done,” he said as he stood up from his desk. Running a hand through his hair, he flashed him a weary smile before stepping out from behind the desk to look over Loras’ shoulder. “What were you looking at?”
“Nothing,” Loras replied quickly, a blush appearing on his cheeks. “I was just admiring your collection of books.”
“Oh, my books. I don’t have much time to read, but occasionally I’ll flip through one of my favourite adventures and let myself get caught up in the story.”
“Yes, I imagine you do…”
“So, who do I have to find and demand they wed you before you give birth to a bastard child?” Putting his hands on his hips, Renly quirked a brow and put on his best serious expression, seemingly intent on going along with Loras’ desperate attempt to get him to at least pay attention.
“It was… Are you alright?”
“I don’t know any person by that name.” Loras found it hard not to roll his eyes and smack him.
“Stop being so difficult—just answer the question.”
Frowning, Renly looked Loras up and down before throwing his hands up in the air. Walking over to his bed, he sat down at the foot of it and tilted his head to the side, eyes half closed as he calmly answered. “I’m perfectly fine, Loras, just a little tired today. I did not sleep well last night.”
“If you’re going to use that excuse you’d had better say you haven’t been sleeping well for the last week,” Loras said, “you have bags under your eyes and I’ve seen you staring at walls for longer than acceptable. You’re usually not this… distant.”
“You’ve been watching me?”
Blushing, Loras looked away from Renly and clenched his fists. “I haven’t been watching you… I’ve just noticed things. For instance, the other day you stared out the window for five minutes before you’d speak to me. I let you have your break, but I had to say something before you even noticed me. And two days ago you almost yelled at one of the serving girls when she dropped a bucket of water. You also look terrible.”
The last part made Renly glare, but at least it was an emotion passed feigned serenity. “You have been watching me.”
“That is not the point, Renly.”
“Well what is the point, then? Clearly something is bothering you, so just tell me what it is so we can bloody move on.” The tightness in his voice and the clenching of his jaw made Loras pause for a moment, whatever he was going to say lost as his Lord began to show an emotion other than polite courtesy and smug satisfaction. He actually looked close to yelling, and while most people would try to prevent such an outburst, Loras began to push.
“The point is: you’re being a cock.”
“I’m—what?” The look on Renly’s face could only be described as dumbfounded.
“You’re being a cock and a prick—you’re treating everyone as if they are your play thing and hide your feelings behind snide remarks and passive-aggressive quips.” Crossing his arms over his chest, Loras pushed his bottom jaw forward and glared down at Renly, daring him to deny it.
“You shouldn’t be saying these things to your Lord.”
“Since when did that matter?” Loras asked as Renly stood up and practically towered over him despite the now minimal height difference. “You always tell people to speak to you frankly, but I guess that’s only if it involves stroking your massive ego and telling you everything you want to hear.”
“You’re pushing it, Loras.”
“Pushing what? Pushing away that calm exterior? W-Well good—this needs to be said and you need to stop being such a stuck up, arse licking prick.”
For a moment Loras thought Renly was going to hit him, and wondered if this was really such a good idea. But then Renly moved away from him, fingers running through his hair as he laughed. But there was no joy behind it—no mirth or merriment—it was bitter. “That’s really something coming from you, Loras—the boy who thinks he’s better than everyone and goes through life with his nose in the air and not a damn bit of respect for his fellow man. The boy who strings all the girls along and plays with their feelings because it’s just a ‘game’,” Turning around, Renly glared at Loras as his voice rose in levels, his temper finally showing through, “you tell me all of these things like I don’t already know it myself; as if I don’t know that I’m hiding my weaknesses and anger behind a smiling façade. But I do know—I know it all too well.” Striding forward, he got up close to Loras, eyes wild as he bore down on him. Loras, for his part, stood his ground, arms straight at his sides as he let Renly vent. This was what he had hoped would happen, but that didn’t mean he wasn’t the least bit intimidated.
“I keep it all bottled up because I can’t tell anyone, Loras—I can’t inform anyone or share my feelings because I’ve never been allowed to. No one cares, don’t you see? I’ve always hid behind smiles and wit because it was all I had—it was all I was good for. I’m a puppet; a pretty, trussed up little puppet my brother likes to use against Stannis and the rest of the bloody kingdom, and I have no choice but to obey. Nothing I do matters and rather than yell and rant and scream about it like some petulant little child I bloody well deal with it. I make my remarks, I laugh at the world, and I move on because that is all I can do and all I am good for. No one cared when I was a child if I cried and no one cares now!”
The room was left in silence after that, the only sound that of the waves crashing against the shore down below, masking Renly’s heavy, distressed breathing.
This was the first time Loras felt like he actually saw Renly. Not his Lord or the youngest Baratheon. Not a man who could get him where he needed to go, and certainly not a ‘pretty, trussed up little puppet’. No, for the first time since Loras had come to Storm’s End, he saw Renly. Behind the name and the reputation lay a boy who had never had friends or known true companionship—a boy who lived in his own imagination and hid behind his quick wit in order to protect himself from a world he understood better than Loras ever would. Renly was just a man, nothing more or less. But he was a man that Loras was coming to care for deeply.
Standing in the middle of the room, calm hazel eyes stared into desperate blue, the two of them not saying or doing anything until Loras, very steadily, opened his mouth to speak. “I care.”
The tension in Renly’s shoulders and face seemed to recede as soon as Loras spoke, as if his voice had snapped him from the self- loathing world he had entered and brought him back to reality. Nothing was said for some time, but the tension had gone as quickly as it had come, and all that was left was two boys standing in a room, their pride and their public appearances brushed aside in favour of honest truth and acceptance.
“Thank you,” Renly finally said, his voice incredibly soft. Smiling he reached out and cupped Loras’ cheek, a tender expression on his face. For a moment Loras forgot to breath and all he could do was stand as Renly’s impossibly hot palm cupped his jaw, the contact sending little sparks throughout his body. Finally breaking eye contact, he looked down at the floor, his heart beating in his chest.
He saw movement out of the corner of his eye and was about to move out of Renly’s way before a kiss was applied to his forehead. Gentle and sweet and innocent. “No, really… thank you, Loras.” Finally pulling away, Renly went to sit on the edge of his bed once more, fingers clasped together as he leaned forward. A nervous laugh escaped his lips, followed by a groan. “I should not have yelled at you, I’m sorry.”
“Don’t apologize—I wanted you to yell. My older brother Willas would always do that. He’d push me until I finally exploded, I suppose. I felt better after,” he explained, the burning of his cheeks refusing to recede. He could still feel Renly’s lips on his skin…
“Your brother sounds like a good man. I think I would like to meet him sometime. Perhaps when I visit Highgarden?”
“Perhaps.” Sitting down on the bed beside Renly, Loras looked down at the stone floor and willed his heart to calm down. It was just the nerves from what had happened, nothing more. It was normal to feel exhilarated after such a confrontation, and the kiss on the forehead?--that was just display of friendship. Coughing, he tugged at a curl. “I really did mean that I care, Renly. If you need someone to speak to, I’m here.”
“I know you are,” Renly replied, his attention still resting forward. “Next time I feel… overwhelmed, I’ll be sure to accost you with things that don’t matter and feel sorry for my privileged lifestyle.”
Frowning, Loras studied Renly’s profile, upset that he thought his troubles were of little consequence. Perhaps they weren’t if one wanted to study all the issues in Westeros, but that wasn’t what was being examined. “Don’t say that. You’re a good man, Renly, and you are allowed your weaknesses just like anyone else. Just because you’re a lord doesn’t mean you have to be perfect all the time,” Looking down at his hands, he fiddled with a loose piece of string before speaking again, “I admire you, and I… dislike seeing you upset.”
Running a hand over his face, Renly seemed to ponder what Loras had said, eyes closed and mouth tight. A shaky sigh was heard before he lifted his head and once again stared out the window. “You know, when they said I’d be having my own squire, I never thought that meant I’d be getting a friend.” Renly’s voice was so soft Loras thought he was hearing things, but when he looked at Renly he was met with a hesitant, appreciative smile.
Not knowing what to say or do, Loras returned the smile before speaking. “My sister would ask me to braid her hair when she was upset—did you want me to braid your hair?”
The laugh that came forth from Renly was worth the strange offer. Throwing his head back, he fell on to his mattress, eyes shut as he giggled. Loras simply sat, a little bemused as Renly had his fit.
“Y-You’re so queer sometimes,” Renly managed to get out, the laughter having subsided. Running a finger under his eyes, he whipped away what few tears that had succeeded in escaping.
“I am not queer, I’m… unique.”
“Unique is just a nice way of saying queer, Loras.”
Glaring, he stared at the wall and tried to calm himself before speaking, jaw clenched. “Do you want your hair braided or not?”
Chapter 4: Higher Stakes
Disclaimer: All characters and settings in the below piece of fiction belongs to George RR Martin, and I am in no way profiting off of this
Authors Note: Once again, thank you for the support, peaches! It's all very much appreciated and cherished.
“He’s going to be the one to knock me off of my horse.”
Raising an eyebrow, Loras peered across the way to stare at a white tent with a prancing golden lion embroidered on the side, crimson tassels swaying in the gentle breeze. Outside of the tent sat a man, honey blonde hair that shone in the setting sun covering his eyes as he fiddled with a blade, arrogance and cool confidence in every flick of his wrist as the steel slid across the wet stone. The flap to the tent stood ajar, letting in light and air, and one could make out a pure white cloak resting beside tournament armour.
“Ser Jaime Lannister?” Loras asked, turning his attention back to Renly who was currently tossing an apple back and forth in his hand. “The Kingslayer?”
“The one and only. Surely you’ve seen him before?”
“Of course, but it has always been from afar or when he was in full suits of armour. He’s a member of the Kings Guard, is he not?”
“Yes, but he’s been given leave for the last few days in order to make a mockery of half the knights here.” Biting into his apple, Renly gave Loras a beaming smile with apple stuffed cheeks before continuing on his way down the path lined with tents of all sorts. It was tournament season, or so King Robert liked to call it. Any excuse for a tournament was used during Robert’s reign, and this time the excuse was that it was Cersei’s name-day. Never mind the fact that Cersei seemed to abhor the thought of another tournament in which the people had a chance to gaze upon the strength and might of her husband. It was a well-known fact that the Queen hated attending the jousting and mock-battles, but that did not stop Robert from holding one in her ‘honour’.
Renly, of course, was expected to attend and even compete, and while he would have moaned and groaned about it a lot more, he thought it a good time to bring Loras to a large, extravagant tournament for a change. Loras had told him he’d been present at a few of the tournaments at King’s Landing, but never when he was squiring. He had attended to his squiring duties for Renly when tournaments were held at Storm’s End or the surrounding area, but everyone knew that the revelry at the capital was the largest and most economically fruitful, and therefore it was the biggest event in all of Westeros. Subsequently Renly thought it the perfect time to bring Loras with him to soak in the atmosphere in order to prepare him for what he would experience when he became a knight.
So far it was having a rather large effect on Loras. While most people would only see confidence and that ever present haughtiness Tyrells seemed to shit, Renly knew the key to Loras was through his eyes. Masked behind the easy grace and slight indifference lay excitement and curiosity that appeared to radiate from the gold and green hues in his eyes. A small smile was always tugging at his lips, and at night he seemed to flutter about, as if he was unsure of where he wanted to be; inside with the people of Storm’s End to play a few games, or out amongst the village of tents where nonstop revelry was had.
It has only been two days and yet Loras looked as if he had already reached his limit of excitement. Renly was actually afraid he might explode.
“Why do you think Ser Jaime is going to knock you off?” Loras asked as they dodged a whore who came running out of a tent, giggling and laughing as a drunken man fumbled after her, his pants half off. The sun was setting, and with it came the drunks and the prostitutes.
“Simple— it all goes back to money.” Tossing the apple core off to the side he brushed his hands together. “I am being practical. I could very well say I’d win this tourney, but I know I won’t because there isn’t any money to be made off of my winning—it’s all about bets. Whoever has the most riding on him will most likely win, either because he really is that good, or because the opposing knight may be bribed into giving it up. It just so happens that in this instance… well, the insufferable smug bastard of a Lannister is actually better than me.”
“Don’t you want to win, though?” Entering his tent, Renly tossed his money pouch on the desk set up directly at the entrance before turning around to look at Loras. He seemed irritated with the conversation, and he couldn’t help but feel a little bad. Loras had some rather… strict views on chivalry and knighthood, and while Renly could admire that, it was hard to reason with him when it came down to it.
“Of course I’d love to win. I would also like to toss my nephew off a cliff—it doesn’t mean it’s going to happen.”
“You could, you know.”
“Toss prince Joffery off of a cliff?”
Renly heard a distinct growl rumble from the boy, and he couldn’t help but smile as Loras rolled his eyes. “You know what I mean, Renly.”
Shrugging, he wandered further into his tent, the plush carpeting softening his footsteps as he strode towards the forest green and gold couch that rested near the bed. Flopping down on to it, he relaxed in an elegant pose, one leg dangling casually from the arm rest while a hand caressed the carpeted floor. Twirling a lock of hair around his finger, he watched as Loras went to stand near the desk, his palm sliding against the smooth surface. He had never won at a tournament—not for lack of trying, of course. When he was new and eager he had wanted to win and came close numerous times, but as time progressed and interests changed Renly came to realize he wouldn’t be victorious and did not really care. He had other talents such as buying clothes, indulging in fabrics that brought a little colour into his life and giving a bloody damn about the people around him. Charm, grace, and sheer charisma were his talents.
“I appreciate your enthusiasm, Loras, but I really don’t care if I win or not.”
“Why not?” Loras asked, his voice sharp and to the point. Raising an eyebrow, he watched as Loras approached and crouched down to rest on his knees so he was level with him. Gripping the armrest, his hand pressed into the plush fabric near Renly’s shoulder as he leaned in close, determination in his stare. “Why don’t you want to win? Why are you so willing to admit defeat? You’re capable of anything, Renly. I’ve seen what you do and I’ve seen you practice; I am not saying this because you are my Lord or my friend, but because you’re also a competent warrior who deserves a chance to win. Who cares about the money or the expectations; you should defy them. Make all of the smug pricks who think of you as nothing but the Kings younger brother reassess their opinions of you when they’re lying in the dirt looking up at you.”
Taken aback, Renly stayed still on the couch, his fingers no longer playing with his hair. Instead he couldn’t take his eyes off of Loras as a hunger burned behind bright eyes. No one had ever said this to him before. No one had any reason to, after all. He was willing to go out, wear the beautiful suit of armour with its golden horns and bright green gilding, ride a few times and then sit back and take in the rest of the show. He wasn’t competitive by nature and was fine with the status quo.
But Loras—Loras was hungry for the win. There was a desire that practically hummed off of his body, jolting Renly and making him pay attention to the boy who was becoming a man. Light from the candles in the room reflected off of honey brown curls while the shadows dipped and caressed the angled lines of his features, highlighting the masculine beauty that was slowly melding with handsome femininity as he grew and developed. Full lips remained parted, and high cheekbones donned a minor blush that brought youth and vigour to his cause.
Unable to stop himself, Renly moved to cup his cheek, a gesture that had become familiar to the both of them. Brushing back his hair, he tucked curls behind his ear and watched as Loras moved into the touch. Rubbing his thumb against a cheekbone, Renly shifted so he was lying on his side on the couch, cheek pressed against the armrest and lips close to calloused fingertips that continued to grip the armrest like a lifeline, their gazed locked firmly on one another. His hot breath brushed Loras’ hand, but Loras did not pull away or startle.
This was dangerous—he knew this. It was dangerous and foolish and completely irresponsible. Loras was his squire and young—impressionable and easily manipulated into believing anything. He worshiped Renly, anyone could see that, and what he was doing right now was out of curiosity. The way he was leaning forward, expecting something not even he comprehended completely, reeked of inexperience and experimentation. Loras was too young, Renly told himself—he was too young to understand his emotions and his feelings, despite the fact that Renly had known he liked men, it seemed, since forever.
He’d flirt and he’d dance and he’d charm the women around him, but there was no real joy behind it. Perhaps a part of him relished in the power he had in a simple smile and an easy caress, but it was all trivial. The women were playing the game just as much as he, and while they never got what they were looking for, neither did Renly. They could never satisfy him, he knew this. He had tried but it never worked. He was bound to be different, but Renly accepted it with ease like he did most everything. Because again—what could he do?
But Loras… Loras was… Loras. He was pure and innocent, but with a wicked streak hidden behind his manners and chivalric code. He was honest and supportive and entirely too gorgeous for something like this. It wasn’t easy being what many liked to call a ‘cock sucker’, and Renly did not want to ruin him. Loras’ love deserved to be in the sun, not in the shadows and behind closed doors.
Or so Renly told himself.
Sitting up seemed to take an eternity, and Renly had to look away from Loras as he cupped his chin and applied a gentle kiss to his forehead instead of his lips. Standing, he left him sitting by the couch and attempted to distract himself by filling a glass full of wine from a jug left by the servants he had dismissed for the night. Taking a sip, he tried to calm the shake of his hands and the heavy beat of his chest before he dared to turn around and look upon what he had given up.
“You should go to sleep. I joust tomorrow and I need your assistance early.”
He could hear movement and turned around just as Loras was standing up. His actions were tight and tense, fists clenched at his sides while his bottom jaw flexed back and forth, as if he were chomping at a bit like a frustrated destrier. “As my lord wishes,” he said, voice even and crisp despite the frustration. Taking a long drink from his cup, Renly emptied it of the spiced wine quickly enough and had a silent moment of understanding with his King brother.
“You don’t have to go to bed, I mean. You may go…” Waving his hand around, he indicated to the ‘outside’ where the parties had once again began. He had planned on going and joining the celebrations with a few of the other knights, but what had just happened ruined the festive spirit. Loras, however… perhaps Loras would find a woman to enjoy the night with.
The thought of those amber eyes looking at anyone else with desire made him reach for the wine jug once more. Why couldn’t he long after whores and ladies in waiting like everyone else?
“No, I believe sleep is a good idea.” A few shouts of excitement went up a little ways away, and Renly wondered if Loras would be getting any sleep. But before any more could be said Loras was leaving, body still tense but head held high as he pushed the tent flaps away and disappeared.
Letting out a breath of air he hadn’t realized he’d been holding, Renly ran a hand through his hair before turning around to kick his desk, making the candle holder rattle and threaten to knock over. Slamming his cup down, he leaned forward and stared at the grain of the wood, willing the image of Loras’ dejected stance leave him.
He had done the right thing… or so he made himself believe.
This wasn’t normal.
What he was feeling and thinking and experiencing wasn’t what a Tyrell did. He was supposed to be attracted to women; he was supposed to want to touch and caress their soft skin, to run his fingers through their hair and charm them with roses and kind words. It was all part of chivalry and it was what was expected of a knight. He wasn’t supposed to be having these feelings for another man—his Lord no less. Instead of feminine laughter and the swell of breasts under his hands, all he wanted was to feel a hard body against his own, harsh but exhilarating kisses and masculine moans. He wasn’t supposed to want this. He wasn’t supposed to feel this. It was all falling apart because he was going off the beat and track.
What he was meant to be was the prized son—the tournament winner and the womanizer. He was told from a young age that he would carry the Tyrell name and that he was going to make the family stronger and prouder than it had ever been before because it was expected of him. His older brothers were intelligent, capable and talented, but he was the one everyone would remember; with his pomp and bravado and ever increasing skill level he would sweep Westeros by storm. How could he begin to explain to his family?
He couldn’t tell them; they wouldn’t understand. He didn’t understand himself. He had known there was something different about him. He’d known but he never stopped to think or ponder on it for too long because he didn’t have the time or he was afraid of what he might discover. But he’d seen it, even though he refused to think about it. He always admired women but watched men with a different intensity.
It was all falling apart because he couldn’t be normal. He was a Tyrell and he wasn’t different. Better, but not different—not like this. Different was not the Tyrell way. Tyrells married and made names for themselves. They lorded over their land and swayed all those around them with their charm and grace; they were popular and in control at all times; admired and respected.
They did not lust after other men.
At first he thought it would go away. Whatever he felt when he looked at Renly was nothing but admiration. The increased heart beat and the desire to do better when he was around was excusable and easily explained. But that night in the tent when he looked at him that way, his deep blue eyes containing barley restrained desire sparked something in Loras. He wanted to feel the brush and warmth of his lips against his own. He wanted it so badly it physically hurt to think about it.
And that was Loras’ issue. No matter how many days and nights had passed since Renly and pulled away and rejected him, Loras couldn’t stop thinking about it. What could have been, what could have happened, how he was so confused and lost and angry. Angry at himself and at the seven gods for making him feel this way. Angry at Renly for leaving him like that—for pushing him away and acting as if none of it had happened and that there wasn’t anything there between them.
Loras wanted desperately to just stop it all. To not feel what he was feeling and go back to when things made sense and when all he wanted was to become a knight and fulfill the expectations that had been placed upon him.
Unfortunately, what Loras wanted and what would happen were completely different things, and he was left wrestling with his thoughts and his emotions while working as a squire to the one person who made it inherently worse than it had to be. Renly behaved as if nothing had happened, his smiles still warm and his courtesy still present. He joked and laughed with Loras, and to anyone who wasn’t Loras he appeared in good spirits. But the casual touches and well-meaning personal quips were less and less frequent. The kisses to the forehead had stopped, the cupping of the jaw and the subtle bump of swaying hands no longer occurred, and Renly hadn’t asked to have his hair braided in months.
And it frustrated Loras. On the one hand he missed it all—he missed it desperately and it worried him. It worried him because he wanted it back and more. But he wasn’t supposed to want it back. He wasn’t allowed to feel this way because it wasn’t what a knight did. All he had wanted in life was to be a knight and to have songs written about it. And now that things weren’t working out like he thought they would he began to panic.
He was scared.
Scared of what could happen. Scared of what his feelings and desires would mean if anyone ever found out. He wanted Renly and he wanted normalcy. He wanted to be what his father told him would be and he wanted to be with another man. He wanted it all and at the same time began to wonder what ‘all’ was.
Mostly, though, Loras just wanted to understand.
“I think that pile of hay is dead.”
Spinning around, Loras almost dropped the practice sword in his hand, his frustrations and confusion having gotten the better of him. Brushing a mass of curls away from his sweat slicked forehead, he glared at his weapons master, annoyed he had been caught off guard. “There is nothing against using the practice dummy.”
“I’m not saying there is.” Spitting out a wad of saliva, the master brushed a hand under his nose before hooking his fingers under his belt. Stepping back from the spit, Loras did not try to hide his disgust. The man was brilliant with a sword, but he lacked an inordinate amount of manners. Loras wondered if as soon as you had won a few battles and killed a few men you suddenly lost all desire to adhere to simple public decency practices.
“Then why did you stop me?” Growing impatient already, Loras bounced the sword in his hand, deciding that he couldn’t be bothered with being socially acceptable, either. Usually he was polite and courteous to those around him, but today was just not a good day.
“Just wanting to make sure I have this right—you’re leaving for Highgarden tomorrow, right?”
“Yes, my brother is getting married and I was given permission to leave in order to attend it. Besides, our Lord is gone for some time and I feel… strange being a squire in a place with no lord.”
Humming, the weapons master looked out across the yard, eying the other boys who were practicing. “Dorne, right?”
“He went to Dorne, did he not? Something about keeping good relations on the King’s behalf or some other bullshit?”
Sighing, Loras nodded, silently agreeing with the last part of the man’s statement. Two weeks ago Renly had been asked to visit Dorne and left Loras back at Storm’s End to train further. Under normal circumstances he would have been more than happy to stay behind, his attitudes and impression of the Martell family less than flattering given the status of his brother. While Willas seemed more than willing to move on from the dangerous joust that had cost him the use of one of his legs, the rest of the Tyrell family held a very obvious and still very present grudge against the Martell family. Loras from a young age was fed the resentment and animosity, and had found it hard to push back his feelings on the family when they were mentioned.
But he would have been more than willing to ‘play nice’ if it meant he would get to speak to Renly. The more and more he sat on what was going on between them (or the lack thereof) the more and more frustrated he got. The sudden distance between them, coupled with the fact that Renly hadn’t even wanted him to come, was making Loras especially irritable. Never mind the fact that he got to return home after being gone for so long.
“Yes, he went to Dorne,” he practically growled out.
Raising a brow, the weapons master squinted at Loras from under the bright sun before waving his hand back to the practice dummy. “Go back to work, then.”
Nodding, Loras turned around but stopped when the man called his name. Spinning around, Loras tried to reign in his temper and simply stood, waiting for the man to continue. “You should get angry more often.”
“You should get angry more often when you train. You’re a better fighter when something or someone has right bloody pissed you off.”
Chapter 5: Upside Down World
Disclaimer: All characters and settings in the below piece of fiction belongs to George RR Martin, and I am in no way profiting off of this
Authors Note: This chapter is very short, and I apologize for making you wait for such a short one. But in order to have the story flow properly this needed to be placed in the middle. I make up for it in the last two chapters-- I promise! Here is just a little bit of Renly's inner thoughts on Loras and the budding feelings.
“Do you think Stannis had a squiddly little underwater creature stuffed up his arse?”
“E-Excuse me, my lord?”
“I think it would explain his somewhat pinched expression with the occasional burst of anger. I think the vein that throbs in his forehead can be attributed to when the creature makes a desperate attempt at breaking free.”
“I… I don’t know how to reply, my lord.”
“It’s probably best you don’t say anything.” Winking at his guard, Renly shifted on his saddle before stretching his back out, a loud pop accompanying the action. It was a warm summer afternoon on the path, and Renly was glad for the shade the trees provided down the well-worn trail. He had almost died in the sweltering and unrelenting heat in Dorne, having forgotten how hot it could get, and was more than happy to return to the Storm Lands where rain and shade were a common occurrence. It wasn’t as if he didn’t like Dorne, he just much preferred not having sand everywhere.
He left to return to Storm’s End a week ago, and was happy to be finally going home. The meetings had gone well, at least. Renly did his best to smile and charm the ‘Sand Snakes’ as some of their women were so affectionately called, and tried to please Prince Doran and let him know that he was still a valued allies despite this family’s autonomy from the realm. They all knew the trip was not going to create stronger ties of allies, but it was still enjoyable despite a few awkward moments.
The least of which were caused by the princess Arianne.
Renly could admire a beautiful woman—it wasn’t as if his preference of sleeping with other men meant he was blind to the beauty of a woman. She was small and petite, but a strength rested underneath that told all those around that she was in control of herself. Her olive coloured skin and dark ringlet hair shone under the brightness of the sun, and her dark eyes had a desire for power hidden beneath.
She was also young, however. Barely a woman, and awkward despite her strength. All of her advances were untrained and the talent it took to seduce a man just budding. Renly spent most of his time confused as to what she was attempting to do. He felt bad, of course, but there was little he could do. He was not interested in women, and certainly not such a young, petite Dornish princess.
He had been approached by ladies before—it was not uncommon for one woman from a smaller house to try and seduce him in hopes of marrying into the Baratheon family. Whether it was the wishes of her family or genuine attraction that made her attempt to court him he was never sure, but what he did know was how to kindly deflect their attention. Unfortunately, Arianne’s attention was a little more direct than he was used to.
“It is nice to be out of the heat, is it not, m’ lord?”
Letting out a happy sigh, Renly nodded. “Terribly nice—I thought for a moment I was going to be consumed by sand. I really have no idea how anyone can live there.” Turning around in the saddle, Renly watched the troop of men and those women who decided to come along follow behind one of the larger wagons at a leisurely pace. Renly’s caravan had started out relatively small, but a few stragglers were allowed to join, and soon there were ten men with fifteen women and six children who had come to walk with the guarded caravan. Strength in numbers—especially when bandits stalked the roads.
“Did you… have a good time, m’ Lord?”
Giving his guard a quizzical look, Renly arched a brow. “I did have a good time, thank you for asking… Why are you asking?”
“I just thought—I did not mean any disrespect but I thought I could speak freely, and I was—“
Chuckling, Renly shook his head. “Stop, stop—do not worry yourself. I was simply curious, it was not meant to be accusatory. Believe me, if I was displeased you would know.”
That seemed to ease the guard, and he relaxed a little more in his saddle, one hand constantly hovering over the pommel of his sword. “Thank you, m’ Lord.”
“Do not thank me for letting you speak like a human being. In any case, I did have a rather enjoyable time, although those Dornish women are certainly a breed of their own. I think… fiery is the best term to describe them. So many women in the Storm Lands are so meek and polite as if they actually believe they have no brain in their heads and are not allowed a thought of their own. I suppose it is to be expected though. Men do like to stick their pricks in whatever they can and if it’s a pretty face that does not talk back it’s all the better. Give me a competent, strong, intelligent lover any day. Tell me, do you have a wife?”
The guard shook his head at that and he seemed pained for a moment. “I did, but… it is a harsh life out there, sometimes, m’ Lord. She grew ill shortly after we were wed, and she was not strong enough to fight it.”
Frowning, Renly fiddled with the silver ring on this finger, sympathetic to the man. He had never lost someone to an illness, and he probably never would. He was fortunate to live in a place where all of his and those whom he loved needs were met—a sickness of any sort could be cured with the right maester and the right amount of coin. It wasn’t fair that those with special privileges lived a longer and healthier life, regardless of if they deserved it or not. “I am sorry for your loss,” he said, and reached over to pat the man’s shoulder. “She must have been a good woman.”
“Ay, she was. She had hair like wheat and a smile that light up the room… she was a special one.” Coughing, the solider straightened up and lifted his chin, seemingly intent on changing the subject. “Do you have a… what would you call it, a lady in waiting, m’Lord?”
Shaking his head, Renly smiled softly to himself, amused with his own private life. Oh what would they say if they knew he preferred knights in shining armour rather than ladies in silk dresses? “No, not yet, but I imagine I will be betrothed to someone in due time. Perhaps have a few kids of my own, even! Three sons, all of differing ages and personalities, who will squabble and fight and completely disregard the youngest, until they’ve fought so much they realize they never really loved each other like brothers are supposed to,” Winking, Renly gave the guard a roguish grin, entirely out of place given what he had just said. “Baratheon’s are very good at producing tight, family bonds as you can well see.”
“I… yes, m’ Lord.”
“Of course if I ever have children I’d want them to be the exact opposite of my own family. Hopefully they will take after their mother, whoever that will be…” Sighing, Renly ran a hand through his hair before patting the neck of his mare. All of this talk about his supposed future family life and partners made it impossible for him not to think about Loras, a fact that was making him more upset than it had any right to.
Loras wanted him, Renly wanted him in return, but Renly also realized that it was an infatuation on Loras’ side—nothing more. He would be taking advantage of him, or so Renly continually told himself anytime Loras was in the room looking so bloody elegant and striking. Loras knew he was attractive, but he couldn’t possibly know exactly how beautiful he was.
“May I ask you a question?” Renly asked, gaze forward as they ambled down the road, the sun moving out from behind a cloud.
“Of course, m’ Lord.”
Nodding, Renly coughed softly in his hand, clearing his throat as he thought about how he wanted to phrase the question. He supposed it was strange asking a servant about advice with relationships, but it was safer than asking a nobleman or lady. Gossip was always in fashion. “Let us pretend for a moment that you have a lady friend whom you adore very much. She is your friend, but you thought of taking things a little… further. But the only trouble is that she is younger than you, she tends to jump into certain situations without thinking, and she works for you. Or, she assists you with every day chores, and you feel that the only reason she would have any interest in you is because she admires you and feels a bit… obligated to like you back should you show interest. What would you do?”
The guard said nothing for some time, and Renly watched him out of the corner of his eye. His mouth was turned downward, bushy brown eyebrows furrowed as he pondered the question. Time stretched on, and Renly was just about to tell him to not think about it too hard before he finally replied. “Well, I think I would ask her how she felt about me, and tell her my fears. If I liked this lady enough, than I would trust her to tell me the truth and I would also trust her to be able to decipher her own feelings.”
Sometimes the most daft things came from the mouths of those who were supposed to rule, while pure brilliance and simplicity were uttered by those who served for a living.
Once again Renly was struck with how utterly turned upside down the world could be.
Chapter 6: Marriage and Honeycombs
Authors Note: It's the second last chapter! Longer than the last, and hopefully you'll all enjoy it! Thanks for your support, once more. Much appreciated.
Resting his elbows on the balcony overlooking the garden, Loras took in a deep breath and held it in. Hands clasped before him, he allowed himself a moment of calm as the warm, gentle breeze tousled his hair and caressed his cheeks, the harsh wind from the sea a distant memory as he tried to reacquaint himself with the place he used to call home.
Letting out the breath he had been holding, he sagged a little against the stone railing before breathing in the scent of roses and fruit trees once again. He missed this—more than he had let himself believe. The entire atmosphere of Highgarden was something else—something he could not rightly explain. It wasn’t as if the buildings themselves were different from most keeps or castles he had been to, or that servants were more hopeful of the noblemen more courteous. It wasn’t as if it was really that different, and yet… it was home.
No matter what, the smell of roses and citrus trees would ground Loras. Bring him back to a time when things were easy and simple, and everything made sense. To a time when he did not worry or stumble, fret or despair. It brought him back to a time when he did not wonder what would come next beyond the next day’s adventures.
And with his eyes closed and the smell of lemons and life heavy in the air, Loras could pretend he was still the young boy who had left for Storm’s End years ago.
“Loras, are you in there?” A muffled voice carried through the heavy oak door, snapping Loras from his moment of peace. Pulling away from the balcony he ran a hand through his hair, trying to make out whose voice it was that had taken him from a much needed rest.
“Come in,” he finally said, deciding to let them enter. If they would be a bother he would dismiss them. But as soon as Garlan walked through, all thoughts of dismissal were gone. Unable to contain himself, he rushed forward and was immediately pulled into a hug, strong arms pulled him into an embrace he had missed terribly.
It wasn’t the same, of course. Loras was taller than when he had last seen Garlan, and instead of being able to tuck his head under his brother’s bearded chin he was left resting it on his shoulder. His arms, too, found themselves wrapped around his waist and up his back, fingers touching—a feat he had never been able to achieve when he was eleven.
He had missed Garlan terribly. More than he thought he ever could, really. He had always admired Garlan, of course, and had been distraught when he had to leave without saying his proper goodbyes with Garlan having left to serve at another lord’s court. He admired his entire family, but Garlan, Garlan had always been special—he was like the knights in the stories; strong and powerful; kind and intelligent; brave and daring and with a strong sense of right and wrong. When he was little, Loras believed Garlan could do nothing wrong.
He had wanted to be just like him for a time, deciding that he would become a powerful warrior just like his brother. He would spend hours attempting to imitate Garlan’s fighting technique, despite the fact that his movements were meant for someone stronger and larger. Loras was soon broken from that, though, and told to use his slim build and speed as an advantage, but that still did not stop him admiring his older, wiser, more chivalric brother.
Garlan the Gallant.
“Thought you could hide in your room for the rest of the night without saying hello?” Garlan asked, ruffling Loras’ hair as he pulled away to hold him out at arm’s length. Squeezing his biceps, Garlan gave him an appraising look, wide mouth open in a brilliant grin. “By the seven how you’ve grown! You’re fifteen now, and when I last saw you I could pick you up with one arm!”
Laughing, Loras resisted the urge to reach up and fix his hair, and instead took the time to look at Garlan. He was taller and older, his chest broad and his face matured. The plump cheeks that had haunted him through his childhood had all but gone, replaced with high cheekbones and a strong jaw that was covered by dark brown hairs that formed a bushy, well groomed beard. Green eyes that were so like their mother’s stood out beneath his heavy brow, admiration shining through.
For a second Loras felt as if he were looking at a painting of his father when he was that age. It was striking the similarities.
“You look well, brother,” he said, pulling away. Fiddling with his hair, he ignored Garlan’s snort and walked over to the balcony to sit down on one of the chairs. Taking the seat opposite him, Garlan stretched his legs out and loosely grasped the arm rests, sighing happily as he did so. Letting him spread out, Loras crossed his own legs and rested his hands on his lap.
“I look well, but I’m a nervous wreck,” he said, knocking his feet together gently. “Who thought getting married could be so stressful”
“Most everyone, actually.”
Grinning, Garlan winked. “I see you haven’t lost that smart arse tongue of yours up in Storm’s End. Not surprising given the tales I hear of lord Renly.”
Smirking, Loras shrugged. Renly certainly… fostered an environment where verbal quips were accepted. “I think it will only get worse as time goes on. As you age isn’t is customary for a Tyrell to become a little less courteous and a little more willing to say what needs to be said?”
“I wouldn’t disagree with that statement; do you know what grandmother said to me when I came back? First thing she said was: ‘Garlan, what is that on your face? It looks as if you’ve decided to become a bear while you were away. Tell me, is it fashionable to be a bear in the courts now, and if it is, do the women have to dress as honeycombs in order to attract you?’” Shaking his head, Garlan laughed softly and pinched the bridge of his nose. “Enough about that, though! How have you been?”
“I have been well,” he began, unable to lose the grin on his face. “I have been training every day, learning how the courts worked and who I should please and who I should avoid. Jousting seems to agree with me, as does sword fighting and using the morning-star. I’ve heard the word ‘prodigy’ uttered about Storm’s End. So I suppose you could say things are going well.”
Laughing, Garlan pressed a hand against his eyes before sliding a palm down his face. Groaning, he finished his dramatic display with a loud snort. “I see you have not lost that arrogance.”
“Well you asked how it was going and I told you—it is not as if I am the one saying all of the praise. Besides, is it really arrogance when it’s true?”
That caused Garlan to laugh even harder, and Loras couldn’t help but join in. It was good to hear that low baritone of a laugh once more—rich and deep as it washed over you like warm water. When Garlan was happy, everyone knew. “You may look different, but you’re the same Loras I grew up with.”
“And you’re the same Garlan I grew up with, only with a little more hair on your face.”
“You’re just jealous you can’t grow anything.” Rubbing his chin, Garlan sent Loras a cheeky grin.
“Yes, I am terribly jealous I cannot look like a bear.”
“It is a good thing my bride to be is a honeycomb.”
Snorting, Loras rolled his eyes and hid a smile. “I have not seen Lady Leonetta before. Is she as small as they say she is?”
Nodding, Garlan pursed his lips. “She’s only a little taller than Margaery, but she has some fire in her. She plays the harp, actually, and is polite and… kind.”
“You haven’t talked to her much, have you?” Garlan shook his head. Nodding, Loras cracked a finger and looked out at the garden. The price of being noble born—arranged marriages, a fate they all had to accept, ladies and lords alike.
Soon, he too would be expected to marry. He was a man after all—or almost one. No longer under the care of his family…
Suddenly Loras felt ill, his hands beginning to shake and his breathing becoming frantic as reality set in. Swallowing a thick wad of spit, he looked out at the garden and stared at the sky as the walls around him felt like they were closing in; trapping him and pushing him out into a direction he did not want to go.
He knew he would have to get married eventually. It’s what was expected of him and he could see no possible way out of it. His father would eventually find him a lady to marry and she would be a ‘good match for the family’. A lady who he would have to court and smile and kiss and fuck and pretend to be in love with, all while wishing she weren’t a woman but a man. A horrible, treacherous thought that made Loras want to scream. She would not deserve that, and he did not want to have to be the one to give her such treatment. But he knew that no matter how he tried that love would never come. He could hear his father tell him it would happen eventually—that such marriages take time and soon he would love his wife just as his father loved his mother—but Loras knew it would never come. It could never come. He would have to look upon her with affection and kindness and he would do his best, but it would never be enough…
Would he even get to know if she played the harp and was polite and kind before he was expected to wed her? Would he even get to see her before their wedding day? Would he even get a say? And would she? Would she know as soon as they consummated their marriage that he wasn’t there with her? That it was a duty and a requirement but one he took no pleasure in? How could someone do that? How could they pretend to love someone when all they could think about was black hair and laughing blue eyes, a masculine body and a rich, deep voice that made him laugh and smile and love?
How was he expected? How could he—
“Are you alright?”
Opening his eyes, Loras looked over at Garlan, his brother’s eyebrows furrowed as he studied him with concern. “I am fine,” he said, sitting up straighter in his chair. Removing his hand from his chin, Loras smiled amiably and took a few steady breaths, hands still shaking but the nausea relenting. “I was just thinking.”
“You look pale.”
“I am fine, brother. You should be concerned with yourself—after all, you are getting married in two days. It’s a big step for you.”
“I suppose…” Loras could see he was not convinced, and tried to smile just a little brighter in order to appease him. It did not. “Tell me your worries, Loras.”
“I-I’m not worried,” he retorted, and looked away quickly, hating that intense stare of pity he was receiving.
“Then why won’t you look at me? Something is troubling you, Loras—I can see it written all over you.” Leaning forward, Garlan clasped his hands together and rested his arms on his knees.
“You should not concern yourself with my troubles on a day like today. We haven’t seen each other for years and you’re getting married,” he said, trying to be reasonable. He knew that if he said anything to anyone, it could mean the end of his career as a knight before it even started. Family or not, he had no idea how Garlan would react knowing he was having these feelings for his lord.
The tone in which he said it made Loras turn his attention back to him in an instant. It wasn’t threatening or menacing, nor demanding despite the use of words. It was open and honest, and Loras found himself unable to refuse such a request.
“I am… worried about marriage for myself,” he stated carefully, voice wavering only slightly. He had to be cautious about this.
“Everyone is, Loras. You shouldn’t have to worry about that, though. You’re still young—it will be years until father even mentions marriage.”
“But I don’t want to get married.”
Garlan simply smiled. “You’re young yet. Give it time and you’ll want to—“
“No,” Loras cut in, his eyes locking with Garlan’s. “I don’t want to marry ever, because I will never be able to love my wife.”
“Some marriages don’t start with love but eventually—“
“It will never happen with me, Garlan.” He was getting desperate, his voice tight and his nostrils flared as he frantically tried to make Garlan see without saying it. He wouldn’t say it out-loud—he couldn’t voice his worries so directly. He was supposed to be a grown man and he wasn’t supposed to be so afraid of this. Of what these feelings could mean. “Don’t make me say it, Garlan.”
“Say what?” The intensity in Garlan’s gaze did not make Loras shy away, despite the tremble of his hands and the rattle of his breathing. No matter how many times he breathed it never seemed enough.
“I can’t marry anyone— ever. I just can’t, Garlan,” he said, hating how much he was shaking.
“Is it because you’re in love with another person?”
Swallowing, Loras nodded slowly and looked at Garlan for answers that he did not even know the questions to. “I am.”
“And you can never marry them, because…?”
“Because…” Because he is your lord? Because he’s Renly Baratheon, younger brother to King Robert Baratheon and Minister of Laws. Because he’s everything you want and nothing you can have. “Because he is a man.”
The words fell from his lips in a rush, heavy and solid and deafening to his ears despite the hushed tone. As soon as he said it he broke their gaze, his eyes flicking down to his hands that were gripped together, fingers slipping apart as they shook and trembled. He had said it, and yet there was no relief.
Nothing was said for what felt like an eternity, the rustle of the leaves on the vines that trailed up the pillars the only sound as judgement weighed heavily on Loras’ shoulders. Nothing was said, until...
Laugher broke out.
Hard, loud, ‘toss your head back and let it out’ hooting burst forth from in front of Loras. Snapping his head up, he watched in wonder as Garlan sat back in his chair, hands on his stomach as he cackled and rolled around, his breathing becoming laboured as the laugher got in the way of his breathing. And still he laughed, body shaking and eyes squeezed shut, cheeks pink with merriment. Watching him, Loras did not know what to do, his entire mind blank as he tried to process what had just happened. Garlan was laughing as if what he had said held no bearing at all. As if falling in love with a man was simple and easy and to be accepted.
“You’re a prick,” Loras ground out, and moved to stand up before Garlan sat up and grasped his arm and tugged him back down. He was still smiling, and the occasional chuckle came forth, but his eyes were serious and his expression still as warm and caring as ever. That alone made Loras relax a bit, his mind having conjured visions of Garlan’s face a contorted mask of resentment and disgust.
“I was wondering when you were going to tell me,” he said before he began to chuckle again, short little bursts of amusement.
“What do you mean?” Loras snapped, eyebrows furrowed as Garlan tried to calm himself—a feat he was finding difficult to achieve. Loras’ perception that Garlan could do no wrong was quickly becoming false in his eyes.
“Loras, my dear little brother—it’s been obvious for years,” Garlan explained, his larger hand closing around Loras’ smaller one. “You always looked at the other boys you sparred with, with certain… intensity, shall we say? I thought it was jealousy but I soon realized you would be more interested in your own kind than any of the ladies around.”
“J-Just because I look at other men did not mean I liked them,” Loras said, trying to defend himself when he had no reason to. He wanted acceptance and he was receiving it, but for some reason it was making him uncomfortable. How come Garlan got to know before he did? How was that fair at all? This was his mind and his attraction, and yet those close to him had figured it out before he had?
“No, it doesn’t, but clearly it does in your case.” Smiling, Garlan let out another soft laughed and moved to ruffle Loras’ hair. “Don’t look so dejected, Loras.”
“Why shouldn’t I?” Shoving Garlan’s hand away, Loras pulled back, eyes narrowed. “How am I supposed to deal with this, Garlan? How am I supposed to j-just marry and move on and pretend I love breasts and cunts instead of cocks and bollocks?!”
“How charming—did they teach you those words in Storm’s End? I should speak to lord Renly about your dislike of cunts and your love of cocks—see what he says about that uncouth language.” Garlan was teasing, of course, but the mention of Renly made Loras even more frantic.
“D-Don’t tell me what I can and cannot say, Garlan! The point remains. I cannot possibly marry a woman—I just cannot do it. It would be unfair and terrible to take a lady whom I will never be able to love in the way a husband and a knight should!” Running a hand through his hair, he stood up and began to pace, his anxiety coming out in full. He had never had the chance to voice his concerns like this before, and now that he did it was coming out like puss from an old wound— more than a little messy and entirely off putting, but needed none-the-less.
“Loras, calm down!” Ignoring his brother’s pleas, Loras continued to pace, his fingers getting stuck in his curls. “Loras!”
Feeling a hand on his arm, Loras spun around and stumbled slightly as Garlan pulled him into a hug. It was awkward and uncomfortable the position they were in. One of Loras’ arms was pinned against his brother’s chest while the other dangled uselessly at his side. Garlan did not seem to mind, however, and wrapped his arms around him and kept him close, his steady, even heartbeat the complete opposite of Loras’ own. He struggled for a moment, finding the sudden stillness tight, but soon enough the calm aura that Garlan exuded began to have an effect on Loras’ own frantic one. Trying to steady his breathing, Loras gazed over Garlan’s shoulder and into his room, the setting sun casting the walls and furniture in soft pinks, oranges and yellows. Staring at one of the pillows on the bed, he concentrated on calming himself as the ‘thud’ of Garlan’s heart hit the side of his clenched fist, the rhythm steady, even and mundane.
“I don’t think I can do this,” Loras whispered after a time, his body relaxing in Garlan’s arms. “I don’t know how I can live with these feelings.”
“I know this is… strange for you. It’s something you’re not used to, and it’s something you cannot perfect. You’re used to being good at everything and knowing your way with everything—struggle and confusion has never been a concept for you. You walked through life knowing yourself up until this point, and now that you’ve been confronted with something you can’t just practice to get better, you worry. You worry and you pace and you almost kill yourself by breathing so heavy. I swear, you’re little attack there is worse than when mother would find us playing in the mud in our best clothes,” That, at least, made Loras smile. “It’s not hard to live with this, Loras. Do you honestly believe you’re the first boy to feel something for another man?”
“No,” he mumbled. He had not really thought about it at all, actually. He was so caught up with the worst scenario possible that the idea that other people, including Renly, went through the same thing he did made it a little easier to bare. If Renly could come to terms with the fact that he would marry, why couldn’t he?
“You’ll live with them because you’re strong, Loras. You’re a Tyrell and you were born brave and powerful, and something like this is not going to keep you down.” Pulling away, Garlan rested one hand on Loras’ shoulder. Slowly, Loras looked away from the pillows on the bed and stared at Garlan, those familiar green eyes holding an inner strength Loras desperately needed.
“I still don’t want to marry,” he finally whispered, and smiled a little as Garlan rolled his eyes. Squeezing his shoulder, his brother shoved him gently before smiling.
“Have you never heard of the Kingsguard?”
Chapter 7: Summer Knight
Authors Note: This is it! The last chapter! I hope you guys all enjoyed it, and hopefully you like my writing enough to read a few of my other RxL fanfictions. I have one that is an AU setting I should be posting soon, so check it out if you're so inclined! Thanks again, peaches.
“Did you really try to stick horse shit in your brother’s boots when you were a child?”
“Well I certainly did not attempt to stick them in my own!”
“And did you? I mean, did you succeed?”
“I did. I grabbed a ball of the stuff and ran into his room where I proceeded to crumble the clump into them. Of course I did not factor in the idea that he wouldn’t wear the boots for at least a few days. So poor Stannis spent the next couple of days wondering what in seven hells smelt so bad! I’ll never forget when he stormed into my room, dragged me into his room and asked if I smelt horse shit, and when I said no he looked as if he was losing his mind! It took another two days until he looked into his old pair of boots to discover the shit, and by that time I was off visiting a court on the Island of Tarth.”
Laughing, Loras shook his head, brown curls bouncing as he did so. Calming quickly, he looked down at a silver coin in his hands, a soft smile playing at his lips. “You’re utterly ridiculous.”
Grinning, Renly shrugged and leaned back against the wall of the keep, the rich fabric sliding against the abrasive stone as a leg dangled off the edge of the ledge. They were sitting in one of the larger windows of the keep, the shutters pulled back to let the light and wind come in. Renly would sit here for hours as a child and look out at the sea, despite his maester’s pleas to stay off of the ledge and on to the floor where it was safe. He never listened, of course. “I don’t believe that is what Stannis called me, but it will do.” Scratching the back of his head, he slid his hand down and cupped the side of his neck, rubbing it as he watched Loras play with the coin. Thick eyelashes brushed against his pink cheeks, bringing out the boyishness of a face that had become handsome and masculine almost overnight. Sighing, he looked away as soon as Loras glanced up, and turned his attention to the sea.
“What did he call you?”
“’Cock sucking brat’ was what one of the servants told me. I can’t even imagine Stannis saying the word ‘cock’ outside of the context of an actual rooster, but it’s been known to happen when he’s incredibly affronted. He probably didn’t know how true his words were,” he said, trailing off at the end. Loras heard them, though, and Renly saw him shift out of the corner of his eye, his attention leaving Renly’s form to once again play with the coin.
“I heard that the king asked you to move to King’s Landing… something about joining his council?” Loras asked after the awkward moment had passed.
Groaning, Renly nodded and squeezed his eyes shut, sighing in a dramatic fashion. “Yes, yes he’s asked me to move all of my things to serve in his small council with the most vile and manipulative men of all of Westeros while he fucks and eats himself to death. The only one on that council who is worth anything is Littlefinger, and that is only because I love seeing his face contort after a particularly good jest. Whenever he thinks he has the upper-hand I enjoy knocking him down and seeing him try to pick himself up.” Smiling to himself, Renly pictures Littlefingers pointed face losing that ever present smug grin for just a split second.
“You don’t like this Littlefinger I take it?”
“No, I like the man well enough—I just enjoy trying to kick him off of his pedestal. He does the same to me; it’s all good fun, really. I mean, what else am I going to do on that council? Attempt to reason with my brother and maester Pycell? Please, I’d rather fuck Stannis’ wife than attempt that… although, on second thought…”
Loras’ laughter broke Renly from his feigned musings, and he opened his eyes to watch him rub a hand over his face. “You should really watch your loose tongue, Renly—someone is bound to use that to their advantage soon enough.” Shrugging nonchalantly, Renly waved it off and tapped his foot against the ledge. “So… will you be leaving soon, then?”
Shaking his head, Renly scooted his foot forward and knocked it against Loras’ boot. “Not yet, and it is all because of you!” When Loras gave him a quizzical look he continued. “I said I was not able to attend to my duties while you were my squire, and so I was given permission by the sweet king of Westeros time to get you knighted before I ship myself off to his services. As soon as you’re a knight, which should be soon, I get to watch my brother run the kingdom into the ground first hand, while you get to court ladies and joust and partake in all of that wonderful frivolity.”
“Sounds like fun,” Loras mumbled, rolling his eyes before eying Renly. “I’ll be a knight soon, did you say?”
“Soon, I hope. If what I hear is true you’re a born natural, Loras, and being so gifted makes it so you naturally excel at what is required. While most men would take a few more years to achieve what you’ve accomplished, you’ve done it at an almost record speed. I would wager that in a few months, perhaps two, you’ll be a knight.” Renly felt as if no time at all had passed since Loras had arrived, as if Loras had always been a part of his life and the life at Storm’s End. The thought that soon it would all be over left Renly feeling slightly morose, but he hid it behind the pride and admiration he had for Loras. He deserved it.
The news obviously made Loras proud as well, his back straightening a little while a smug smile tugged at his lips. Looking out at the sea, he flicked the coin over his knuckles, deft fingers working the silver along the bones as he became lost in thought. Renly figured he was thinking about what sort of suit of armour he’d wear as a knight.
Renly hoped for something with flowers.
“How was your brother’s wedding?” he asked, snapping Loras from his daydreams.
“You’ve asked that twice already,” Loras replied as he slipped the coin in the small green pouch he had kept on his twelfth birthday. “And it was good, just like the last two times you asked.”
Chuckling, Renly shrugged and knocked his head back against the wall gently. “Sorry, I was just… wondering, I suppose. Did anything happen while you were there?”
“No,” Loras said it so quickly that Renly couldn’t help but quirk a brow. “I mean, nothing important, no. Why do you ask?”
Renly did not really know why he did. It was just… there was something different. Something had changed with Loras when he came back to Storm’s End. He looked relaxed and rejuvenated, as if the troubles that had been plaguing him for months had finally left.
Perhaps he had found himself a maid whom he was beginning to court, and all of those frivolous thoughts of being with him were gone. The idea pained him more than he cared to admit. “No reason really, you just… you look good. Refreshed.”
“It was nice to see my family again. My little sister, she wouldn’t leave me alone,” Loras looked out at the sea, a fond smiling tugging at his lips. “My mother kept telling me how proud she was of me, and my grandmother actually said a few kind words about my new skills. Father was, of course, telling me how much good I was doing for the family… And my older brother, Garlan, he gave me sound advice. Willas and I went hawk hunting as well, and—”
Watching Loras talk about his family brought about a whole new light to him. He was practically glowing, his entire face light up as he watched the sea and spoke with his hands, eyes distant but bright and alive with love and admiration for his entire family. Renly envied that bond he had, and wished he had someone close like Loras did. Someone he could talk to and confide in—share his personal moments with. Loras was lucky to have the people he did.
“You’re very lucky,” Renly whispered, and Loras stopped talking immediately, his attention returning to him in an instant.
“How do you mean, Renly?” he asked, eyebrows furrowed as he studied him.
“That you have a family so close that you can talk to. It’s a gift, Loras, so you must treasure it.”
“You have a family, too,” Loras mumbled.
Snorting, Renly shook his head and looked down at his lap, his thumb twirling around a silver ring on his forefinger. “I have a family by blood, but that is it. My brothers… we do not love each other. Not as brothers shoulder. I don’t have anyone like you do, Loras.”
“You have me.”
It was so soft and innocent in the way he said it, and Renly thought perhaps he had made it up. But slowly looking up he was met with fierce hazel eyes that bore into him. Loras mouth was tight and his shoulders tense, but there was tenderness and something else in his movements—something that Renly could not quiet read but understood on some level. A breeze from the sea pushed a few hairs in his face, and without thinking Renly moved forward to brush the curls away with the tips of his fingers, his hand moving forward and palm sliding against his cheek to cup it. “I have you?” he whispered, his own voice wavering slightly.
“Always,” Loras whispered, voice strong despite the tremble in his body. That word made Renly stop breathing for a moment, the raw sentiment and emotion behind it thrilling. No one had stayed with him—no one had every promised they’d return or they’d be with him. Robert left to fight his war, Stannis left to serve and resent, and with him went their maester, a man who raised and brought Renly up when his parents had left never to return.
No one stayed and Renly became used to it. But hearing Loras say those words made him realize how much he had needed to hear it. To know that someone cared beyond what was needed and what was expected of them.
“Thank you,” he whispered, thumb rubbing his cheek before he pulled away. Swinging his leg back over the ledge he stood up and dusted himself off. “I really do mean it, Loras—I appreciate your—“
Whatever else he was going to say was cut off abruptly as Loras jumped down from the ledge, grabbed his arm, turned him around and kissed him. It was awkward and hard, Loras’ lips tight body stiff, one hand grasping his arm while the other cupped the back of his head, calloused fingers pressing into dark locks. Unable to think properly, Renly stood still, the two of them not moving as their relationship turned around on them in a split second.
Pulling away slowly, Loras’ face was tight and his eyebrows furrowed. He looked offended more than anything—offended and aggressive, but determined. Renly had no idea how he must have looked, still shocked that Loras had kissed him, his mouth slightly parted and eyes wide.
Loras had kissed him.
Loras had kissed him.
Not the other way around.
It was awkward and harsh, their lips tight and their bodies taught, but it was a kiss. A kiss that held so much promise and so much potential—a kiss that told Renly exactly how stupid he had been to try and push away someone who did not want to leave; who never wanted to leave. Not because he felt obligated to stay or because he thought it his duty to reciprocate his lords feelings. No, Loras stayed and Loras kissed him and Loras looked at him with such love and compassion that he thought his heart might break because he was Loras; Because he was beautiful and kind and talented and just a little vain and cocky, and because he took what he wanted when he wanted, and he wanted Renly. He was not some blind fool easily manipulated into believing he loved his lord because of admiration. Loras kissed him and Loras was kissing him again because he refused to be frightened by the ‘what if’s’ and the possibilities that it couldn’t work and would never work.
Loras was kissing him because he saw what Renly was and did not mind. He did not see the flash and the glamour, the pomp and bravado. He was Renly, his friend and his partner, a man who would frighten and scare and doubt himself just like any other person. He saw him and he wanted him still.
And Renly wanted him in return.
Wrapping one arm around his waist while the other cupped his cheek in a motion so familiar to them both, Renly opened up under Lora’s breath, lips parting and head tilting to the side as he kissed him back in the presence of the rolling sea.
When they broke Renly couldn’t help but laugh. It bubbled forth without him being able to stop it, and he cupped Loras’ face with his hands and knocked his forehead against his gently, their eyes locked as he continued to laugh and Loras continued to smile.
“Why did you do that?” he asked, unable to stop smiling as the kiss spread through is limbs, making him feel dizzy and giddy.
Shrugging, Loras reached up and pressed his hand over Renly’s own. “My brother gave me sound advice, as I said before. I thought you would never do it, so I took it into my own hands.”
“You’re a bold bugger, did you know that?”
Loras laughed and moved in for another kiss—quick and simple. Renly felt as if they’d been doing this for years. It felt so right and he couldn’t resist kissing him again and again between laughter. Finally pulling away, Loras bit his bottom lip before moving towards the stairs to his room. “I’ll be right back.”
Not even being able to ask where he was going, Renly watched Loras run up the stone steps, skipping every other one before he was around the bend and gone. Moving to sit on the ledge, back to the sea, Renly touched his lips gently, still tingling, a smile still tugging at the corners. Playing with a ring, he waited for some time and began to wonder what Loras was up to, before he heard footsteps coming down the steps at a quick pace. Looking up just as Loras rounded the corner he pushed away from the ledge and approached him, meeting him half way.
One hand was behind his back, and his hazel eyes were bright with excitement and mischief—a look that Loras would soon reserve only for Renly. “I have a gift.”
“A gift?” he asked, an eyebrow raised as he tried to see behind Loras’ back.
“A rose,” he said, pulling a beautiful dark red rose from behind his back. It was freshly cut, the stem still beading at the end, while the petals were soft under his touch, like satin. The bloom itself was large and fully open, the bud in the center tight while the outer petals were wide and spread, easily covering the palm of his hand. Taking the rose, he smelled it, the perfume from it almost overpowering.
It was almost as beautiful as the man before him. “Thank you, Loras,” he said, his hand covering Loras’ own. “Is this from a new rose? I haven’t seen one this dark and rich a colour…”
“Yes, but it wouldn’t bloom,” he began, a slight growl in his voice. “The buds would come but they would never fully bloom, that is, until this one. I took it as a sign.”
“You shouldn’t have cut it just for me,” Renly said, bringing Loras’ hand up for a kiss. “You should have saved it.”
“It will wilt eventually—this way it can spend some time in the hands of someone worthy enough for its beauty, rather than on a balcony where only servants and I may admire it. Besides, a rose such as this should be given to someone whom I truly cherish and adore. If I could, I would give you all the flowers in the world, but hopefully this will suffice.”
Loras said it with such conviction and passion, that Renly could not help but stare, once more enraptured by him. Everything Loras said and did drew Renly in, and this time he did not resist the pull, moving in to kiss him, his hand gently holding the rose. Pulling away slightly, he knocked their foreheads together and broke out into a soft, pleased smile. “A gift from my summer knight…”
“A gift from your summer knight,” Loras repeated, catching his upper lip in a kiss.