Robb Stark: Since the moment Robb Stark knew he would be a lord someday, and that his house is the most important in the North, he has never gone out of his way to hide it. He fantasized (also loudly) about the day he’d come to rule as a child, and he grows up knowing that he’s above most people in the house (with his parents’ exception, obviously). It’s not that he’s rude to them, lords aren’t supposed to be rude, but he doesn’t play it down or behave as if he’s talking to equals, either.
After he starts noticing girls, he takes to the act of bedding them quickly enough. He doesn’t hide his face or his identity whenever he visits the nearest brothel (though he knows how to be discreet), and he isn’t a stranger to most of the maids in Winterfell. Not even to the serving wenches (or the miller’s daughter). He never has much of a relationship with his bastard brother, even if he doesn’t mind that he’s raised along with Lord Stark’s rightful heirs – he’s no menace to him or his title, so why should he care either way? He likes his brothers well enough, but there’s enough difference of age between them that he never develops much of a relationship with them, either. And his sisters are women – what would he have in common with them at all? His lord father isn’t too happy about the entire household knowing about Robb’s tendency to bed any willing woman he’ll find (or to pay for one), but he never says much about it – Robb is still his heir and he hopes he’ll grow out of it.
But while Robb likes being a lord, he likes being the firstborn and he likes every advantage that comes with it, he can’t help resenting a bit that everyone (his parents included) doesn’t really know him. They all see him as Ned Stark’s heir, but not as Robb Stark. Sure, he brought it upon himself – he knows that his attitude isn’t the easiest to deal with, but that’s how he is and he can’t certainly change just for the sake of pretences – but sometimes it gets tiring to never being able to talk to someone without feeling as if they don’t know you and never will. It feels tiring to smile pleasantly to the rest of the world just so that they don’t know what’s wrong with you. People say behind his back that he always smiles as if the world is his own private joke. Robb doesn’t find it entirely wrong. But there is someone that gets it.
Robb is almost seven when his father comes back from some war in the Iron Islands with a kid slightly older than him – he learns that he’s Balon Greyjoy’s son and that he’s his lord father’s hostage. His mother warns him not to get attached. Ironmen aren’t worthy of much trust, and some of them are beasts – who knows if taking a hostage wasn’t useless? Robb pretends to care about it and then sets on observing Theon Greyjoy with utmost interest – after all, he isn’t a bastard, and he still comes from a great family, so he’s an acceptable person to spend time with, and while Robb doesn’t mind being alone most of the time, sometimes he thinks he’d like some change. Turns out that his impression is right – the Greyjoy heir is maybe a bit too eager to please and cares too much about his house’s honor or past glory, but he’s a great sparring partner, a good listener and he seems so very pleased that they spend time together. Robb worries for a while that he might get tired of him after a while, but that never happens. He just likes Theon a lot, and he keeps on liking him through the years – also because he’s the one person who never spends all of his time telling him to behave like he should, or to stop chasing girls, or to be a bit more like his lord father. Theon’s the only person he feels completely comfortable with, the only person around whom he doesn’t feel like smiling all the time, and probably the only one at whom he smiles for real. It’s a bad thing, he always figures, that he’ll have to go back to the Iron Islands at some point – but maybe when he becomes lord of Winterfell in name he could always marry Sansa to him. Or he could convince his father to do it first – his sister likes Theon well enough after all, surely better than she likes him – not that Robb cares any. He’s the heir, he doesn’t need his siblings to like him, or anyone to like him (even if he wants Theon to).
Theon Greyjoy: When Theon Greyjoy arrives in Winterfell, a hostage after his father’s rebellion failed, he’s a terrified boy of ten who tries his hardest not to let it show. And who mostly can’t help himself from wondering if his father thought so little of him, since the moment Ned Stark demanded a hostage, Balon Greyjoy was quick when deciding who was to be sent away. He never was close to his father, true enough (his father always favorited his two older brothers, and Theon hadn’t grown up as built and strong as the two of them, even if he was quick and agile and good with a bow), but he had been close to his elder sister, and his mother never made him feel as if he was any less than his brothers.
Before he was to leave, she had taken him aside and told him to never forget that he came from a great, honorable family. Everyone thinks of Ironborns as lesser men, as savages, and Theon should prove them all wrong, for his house’s sake. Theon had sworn to himself that he’d honor her request, because you should always honor what your mother asks of you, but he hasn’t found much of a welcoming atmosphere until now.
Everyone looks at him with distrust and it makes his heart sink in despair – he has done nothing to displease these northmen after all, why should they hate him when everything he wants is to try and show them that he isn’t some kind of beast? Lady Stark is nice to him but not overtly so, her husband is kind but detached (understandably so), their two daughters don’t show much interest in him either way and Ned Stark’s bastard son spends most of his time with other commoner kids. Theon doesn’t expect Robb Stark to be the first one to befriend him (or better: two days after they meet, Robb Stark had come to see him, declared that he liked him well enough and ordered him to come to the courtyard. Theon had been too out of his depth to say no). The Stark heir doesn’t have much of a good name between the servants – Theon has overheard them wishing that the little lord was a little less demanding and a bit more courteous – but Theon finds out that he doesn’t mind much.
Sure, the little lord is demanding, he won’t hear no for an answer and he always takes all of the decisions, and doesn’t look up at him even if he’s younger – at best, he looks straight at him as if he was his peer. But his presence still brightens up a room, and he never makes Theon feel alone or put aside. And he always smiles, his lips always curled up; Theon can already see that girls will fall at his feet in some years, but what’s the harm? The Iron Islands never were famous for being a place where people are happy as a given mood and being around someone who smiles all the time isn’t so bad.
Theon also doesn’t miss that Lord Stark isn’t as bad to him as he could have been – aside from his distance, he never makes him lack for anything, says that he’s a ward to everyone who asks. Other than that, things get better as years pass. He does win both the Stark daughters over – Arya by teaching her to use a bow when no one was around and Sansa by stealing extra lemoncakes from the kitchens for her. The two little Stark boys like him because he’ll spend time with them and sneak into their room to read them one more story at night, and Jon Snow has warmed up to him, too. Theon doesn’t dislike him at all – they get on well enough, and after all it wasn’t the lad’s fault if Ned Stark has been dishonorable once in his life.
He doesn’t expect Ned Stark to take him aside, one day when Theon is almost eighteen and Robb fourteen, and tell him to please keep an eye on his eldest whenever he can’t – after all, Theon’s a responsible person and Robb obviously still hasn’t learned what responsibility means. Theon answers that of course he will, his heart soaring when Lord Stark tells him that he’ll make a good ruler when he goes back to the Iron Islands. Even if, to be entirely honest, Theon doesn’t miss home as much as he thinks he should – he doesn’t dislike the North, Winterfell has been more of a home than he thought it’d be, and it took some time but everyone trusts him now, even lady Stark. And while Robb can be an arrogant little prick at times, Theon still likes him best, with his lovely charming smile (and Robb always has one for him), with his tales about the girls in the brothel or some serving wench or the miller’s daughter, and with his dreams of greatness. He loves Robb like a brother, he does, and he knows he’s like some moth drawn towards a fire as red as Robb’s soft, bright hair. He’s the only one around whom Robb doesn’t smile all the time. He’s the person Robb goes to when he has something to share or to say, and it’s the same thing for him, and all things considered, coming here hasn’t been the worst thing that ever happened to him.