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the devil won't let me be

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“Stark!” Theon Greyjoy is racing towards him, red and white track jacket unzipped and fluttering in the wind, something clutched in his hand.

Gangly and knobby-kneed, with a mouth that’s quick to smile, Theon lives down the street from the Stark family. Robb never asks why his parents don’t invite them to their dinner parties, because if he did he would get a look from his mother and a scolding.

“You forgot this at school today,” Theon pants, breathless, and he smiles as he presses the tiny wolf figurine into Robb’s hand. “I think it’s pretty neat that you painted this all by yourself, even if the other kids don’t.”

The others make fun of Robb for his love of models, and he feels an answering smile tugging at his mouth. “Really? You mean it?” Theon nods, and Robb knows that this is the beginning of something special. “I’ve got a Supermarine Spitfire model that Dad got me for my birthday. D’you want to help me put it together?”

---

After that, Theon and Robb are nearly inseparable. They spend their afternoons putting together model airplanes, and Theon becomes a familiar face at the Stark house.

If his mother has any objections, she never tells Robb.

Things begin to change when they are fifteen--Theon becomes distant, and when he does come over he doesn’t help with the models anymore.

“My brothers say models are for poofters,” he mumbles as an explanation, and it’s only then that Robb noticed the dark smudges underneath Theon’s eyes.

“Theon, mate, are you alright?” He reaches to lay a hand on his shoulder, and Theon flinches away.

“I ought to scarper,” he says, clearer now, but he doesn’t look at Robb when he gathers up his coat and rucksack and slips quietly out the door.

---

Robb’s father is a member of the Metropolitan Police Service, and when Robb is sixteen Ned is promoted to Inspector. He is transferred from a local station to the main borough station, and the commute is too much--they are going to move to a house that’s closer to Ned’s work.

“They can’t just make me go, can they?” Robb can’t see quite Theon’s face in the gloom, only the dim glow of his cigarette’s lit end, but he hears the angry exhale.

“They’re your parents, Robb. You can’t just stay here, and my dad wouldn’t want you staying with us.”

Robb wants to ask why, but it’s an unspoken rule between them: Theon never brings up his parents, and Robb is never to ask about them. He sighs instead, and nudges his shoulder against Theon’s. “I’m not gonna leave you, you know. There’s such things as the Tube.”

The joke falls flat, and Theon turns. The cigarette is flicked out the car window, and in the dim light from the streetlamp Robb thinks he sees Theon frown.

All of a sudden Theon is tangling a hand in his hoodie and jerking him close, mouth sealing to his, hard enough that Robb’s mouth fairly aches from it. After a moment Robb settles a hand at Theon’s collar, and when Theon’s tongue swipes at his bottom lip he opens up, lets Theon lick inside.

Theon pulls back too soon for Robb’s liking, and Robb follows him blindly for a second before Theon is pushing him back into his seat. “You should go, Robb. Dad doesn’t know I nicked the car, and I have to get back.”

Robb blinks owlishly, unable to believe his ears, and opens his mouth to protest. Theon’s hand closes warm over his wrist, thumb brushing the bottom of it for a moment, and Robb can’t breathe. “Call me when you want to meet up, yeah? Don’t know what I’d do without you, you wanker.”

---

Robb calls and they meet a few times, but as school begins again and Robb starts studying for his A-levels they lose contact.

Three years pass, and the phone number he has for Theon is disconnected, the house where the Greyjoys lived is sold to another family.

Robb goes to university and decides to do his coursework in aeronautical engineering, and nearly forgets about Theon entirely. He dates other people, men and women, and has a grand time of it.

He often lays in bed and remembers the first heady press of Theon’s mouth to his, and realizes that he’s let the one thing he has always wanted slip between his fingers.

---

They meet again, but it isn’t how Robb ever envisioned it.

His father is shot in the midst of a robbery turned shootout, and Theon Greyjoy comes to the funeral.

Robb stares at him, cataloguing every change that he can find; Theon is taller, but still thin, eyes just as clear but now sports longer hair and a beard. His tongue feels two sizes too large for his mouth, and he drags Theon away from the casket with a hurried look at his mother.

“Why are you here?” Robb wants to be angry, but he only sounds hollow and sad, even to his own ears. “After four years...”

Theon’s eyes are cool, but his hands wring together anxiously. Robb waits, and finally an answer comes, so quiet that Robb thinks he’s heard wrong. “I think my father had something to do with your dad’s death.”

Robb recoils, and suddenly he is angry; angry that Theon left him and never bothered to find him, that his father is dead, that Theon is involved in this somehow. He moves, and his fist is connecting with Theon’s jaw hard enough that it hurts but it’s a good kind of hurt because it means Robb can still feel.

Blood is trickling from Theon’s split lip, and Robb wants to crush their mouths together, to lick the blood from the wound. He hits him again and Theon lets him do it, eyes impossibly calm, and that only serves to make Robb angrier.

“Get the fuck out!” he yells, and Edmure is there, dragging him away by the back of his collar, already going on about how it’s bad form to fight at a funeral, especially at your own father’s, but all Robb can see is Theon’s pale, pale face and he knows this is only the beginning.

---

He spends the weeks after the funeral throwing himself into his work, the designing of the new model for British Airways the only thing that is constant. His mother is a mess, Sansa is kicking off, and the younger boys don’t know what to do anymore.

They look to Robb for guidance as the oldest, but he doesn’t even know how to deal with it himself.

Theon’s words replay over and over in Robb’s head, and he has always been too curious for his own good, and this is Theon. Theon wouldn’t have come if he didn’t have a reason, and this is what prompts Robb to try to find him.

---

“Hello, Asha Greyjoy speaking.”

“Asha, hey, er... This is Robb Stark.”

“Theon’s little friend, right? I remember him nattering on about you.” She sounds smugly amused, but wasn’t that always Asha? Robb didn’t even want to think about Theon nattering, because Theon didn’t natter, and he frowned into the receiver.

“Right. I need to get in touch with him--it’s important. Do you have his cell number?”

Asha laughs, and Robb scowls, knowing what will come next. “What for? Didn’t you have a falling out?”

Robb rubs at the bridge of his nose, “I’m getting married. I figured it would be good to send an invitation, for old time’s sake.” He can’t even think of Jeyne, sweet pretty Jeyne, and he suddenly feels nauseous.

He gets an address for his trouble, thank God, but ends up vomiting into the wastebasket that sits by his desk.

Robb hopes this is all worth it, but at the moment he can't be too sure.

---

Jeyne notices the distance between them, and she presses close to him in their bed, skinny arms wrapping tight around Robb’s chest like she means to keep him there.

“Tell me what’s wrong,” she murmurs in his ear, hair fanned out across the pillow, and something twists hard in Robb’s chest. He can’t look at her, and he feels terrible for thinking of Theon in their bed, but he’s a spectre between them with his wide, fearless grin all the same.

Jeyne cups his face with one small hand, and Robb kisses her but it feels hollow. “It’s my dad,” he eventually says when he can’t stand to feel her questioning eyes any more, voice a pitiful rasp in the silence of their bedroom. “I just...”

Jeyne gathers him up, head to her chest, and strokes a hand through his hair. “Shh,” she says, “It’ll all be okay.”

It won’t be okay, Robb wants to say. How can it ever be okay again?

He falls asleep pressed to Jeyne, but when he dreams he dreams of quicksilver smiles and Theon’s mouth pressed to his.

---

Robb does mail a wedding invitation to Theon’s address, but he expects it to come back; Theon had told him once to never trust Asha, and Robb wasn’t about to start now.

He never expected to come home from work to find Theon sitting on his couch, nursing a cuppa and making small talk with Jeyne.

Robb’s heart nearly stops, and Theon smirks at him but it doesn’t quite meet his eyes. Jeyne laughs and presses a chipped mug into his hand as she takes his briefcase. “Robb, darling, I didn’t realize you had invited a friend over. Warn a girl next time, would you?”

He kisses her, but can’t take his eyes off Theon. Theon, who watches him with a smiling mouth, secrets tucked into the vast blueness of his eyes, and I think my father had something to do with your dad’s death. Robb backs away with a polite smile, and takes a sip of his tea to ease the tightness of his throat. “I’d planned on taking him out for dinner, if it’s all the same to you.”

Theon gets to his feet, lazy and slow, and sets his empty cup on the coffee table. “Important wedding business, y’know.” He winks at Jeyne, and Robb wonders what on earth he’s missed.

Jeyne grins back, dimples appearing, and it’s wicked. “Right, have fun you two.”

“Jeyne, what’s--” Robb cants his head, confused, and Jeyne laughs.

“Robb, honestly. Just go have a good time, yeah? Lord knows you could use it.”

---

Theon takes him to a nightclub, all fluorescent lights and loud music, and Robb is still at a loss. He sips at his whisky, eyeing Theon as he waits, sure that there will be some sort of explanation to come.

He’s on his third whisky when it does, Theon leaning close over the tabletop, eyes impossibly blue. “You’re getting married. Never pegged you as the marrying sort.”

“Things change,” Robb retorts, the underlying anger seeping through, turning his words bitter. “People change, and I grew up. It’s normal.”

“I’d’ve waited for you. I did wait for you, but you never came back.” Theon isn’t looking at him now, and he sounds so pathetic that it hurts.

Robb drags him close and Theon’s drink spills, but neither of them care because Robb is kissing Theon like he wants to devour him, and it’s like the four years they’ve been apart have never happened.

Theon makes a desperate, needy sound, and Robb swallows it as he explores Theon’s mouth, mapping it out like it’s his. When Robb pulls back Theon stares at him, eyes blown wide with desire, and they both move toward the toilets as one, pausing every so often to kiss, but it isn’t so much kissing as it is devouring.

“Robb, Robb,” Theon gasps when Robb has him pressed to the side of the bathroom stall, mouth sucking purple bruises into the pale skin of Theon’s neck. “God, I need you...” He breaks off with a whine as Robb bites hard, body arching against Robb’s helplessly. “I need you to fuck me.”

“No,” Robb says easily, and he is pleased by the anger he sees writ across Theon’s face. Theon, who thinks he can waltz back into Robb’s life and everything will be as it was, and Robb is having none of it. He sinks to his knees, hands making short work of the the button and zip of Theon’s jeans, shoving them down just enough that he can get a hand on Theon’s cock. Theon groans, and his hand makes to tangle in Robb’s hair; Robb slaps it away impatiently.

He licks from the base of Theon’s cock to the tip, tonguing the ridge below the head, and Robb hears Theon’s head fall back with a quiet thunk. “Robb, stop... Stop teasing,” Theon begs, but Robb isn’t in the mood for being told what to do. He wraps his mouth around the head and sucks, lazy and slow, hands tightening on Theon’s hips when they buck up.

Eventually Robb tires of playing coy, and he sucks Theon down with all the finesse he’s perfected in the last four years, years when they could have been together, and isn’t that a kick to the gut? Theon is gasping, hands scrabbling at the wall, and it isn’t long before he comes.

Robb leans over and spits neatly into the toilet bowl, and his knees ache when he gets to his feet. Theon is slumped against the wall, boneless, and Robb kisses him, forces him to taste himself on Robb’s tongue. He bites down on Theon’s lip hard enough to draw blood, and Theon’s hand is creeping toward the front of his jeans.

Robb stops it, leaning back as he licks his lips, the tang of blood metallic and heady. “Tell me about my father and your father,” he says, expression serious. “Tell me everything.”

---

Robb tries to tell himself that it isn’t true later, that this is all some elaborate story that Theon’s spun so he can work his way back into Robb’s life. He doesn’t sleep that night, or the night after when he has sobered up, and Jeyne doesn’t say a word.

The only problem is that Robb knows Theon, and while Theon is prickly and too quick to smile, he has never once lied to Robb.

It has to be true then, and the thought of that makes Robb feel ill.

---

Theon’s flat is small, cramped, and dingy but he’s got a nice bed. Robb steals his cigarette and takes a drag before passing it back, pushing up on his elbows so he can scoot back to sit against the headboard. Theon tucks his head against Robb’s hip, hair a mess, expression serious for once as he stares up at him.

“Your dad... A mobster? You’re not taking the piss?” Robb knows that Theon isn’t lying, but it’s a small comfort to ask. His childhood, their friendship, whatever this is between them, is taking on a whole new light.

“I’m serious,” Theon says after a beat, reaching to stub out his cigarette in the ashtray that sits on the nightstand. “My brothers, my sister...” He scrubs a hand over his face before he continues. “Me, for a bit. It started when I was sixteen. My dad deals with gun running, and I’d go with him to be a lookout. Asha’s better at it, y’know.” He catches Robb’s eye for a brief moment, and turns his head to tongue over the purpling bruise on Robb’s hip. “After I started, I felt so guilty. I knew your dad was a cop, and so did Dad, and he didn’t want me to have anything to do with you. ‘S why I lost touch with you, Robb, not because I wanted to.”

It’s too much, and Robb curls his shaking hand in Theon’s hair, mouth finding his as Theon surges up to meet him. It’s surprisingly tender, and Theon wraps an arm around Robb’s shoulder, but stays close to Robb when they part, forehead to forehead.

“Which is why I’m going to kill him.” Theon is watching him, and Robb stares back, uncertain as to how to respond. “He kept me away from you, and your dad was the closest thing to a father I ever had.”

“Theon...” Robb pulls away, but Theon follows. This time the kiss is rough, with tongue and teeth and it hurts. Robb gasps when he pulls back, and Theon’s eyes are bright with something that Robb doesn’t want to call tears.

“He kept me away from you, and now you’re getting married. He took our happiness from us, Robb.”

Robb doesn’t tell him that he would leave Jeyne in a heartbeat if he asked, but he kisses his cheek, his chin, the corner of his mouth, and hopes that Theon understands.

---

Weeks go by and it’s like Theon has fallen off the face of the earth. Robb doesn’t receive a call, a text message, and Theon isn’t about to come around Robb’s flat again now that he knows about Jeyne.

Jeyne doesn’t comment on Robb’s moodiness, but he can see the confusion in her eyes. He nods and smiles as she tells him about the bridesmaid dress fittings, about how pretty Sansa had looked in the blue Jeyne had picked for their wedding color.

It’s only later that he realizes she’s called in support, when Sansa’s ringtone is filling his small office with its’ tinny, upbeat chime. Robb considers not answering, but it’s Sansa and it would only arouse more suspicion.

“Hey there,” he says into the receiver, trying for cheerful and ending up sounding tired. “What’s going on?”

“Don’t play that card with me,” she counters, voice tense. “Do you have any idea what you’re doing to Jeyne? She’s called me twice today--sobbing her eyes out might I add--because she’s terrified that you’re going to call off the wedding.”

Robb isn’t surprised; he knows how this must look, but hearing it makes guilt coil tightly in his stomach, and he sighs heavily. “I know, Sansa, but there are some things you don’t know and I can’t tell you.”

She huffs angrily, and Robb braces himself for what’s coming. “Robb, I’m not thirteen anymore. I’m not naive, and I sure as fuck can handle whatever it is you’re not telling me. Is there another woman?”

“Theon thinks his father is responsible for Dad dying.”

There’s silence for a long, terrible moment, and Robb thinks he did the wrong thing by telling her, that this was a mistake.

“It’s Theon, then?” Her voice sounds tight, in a way Robb hasn’t heard since their father’s funeral, and he frowns.

“You don’t understand, Sansa...”

“Robb, do the right thing and break the wedding off now. Don’t be a prick and leave Jeyne at the altar. At least give her a bit of dignity.”

She hangs up and Robb wonders how he can be so transparent, if this means everyone knows he’s wildly, madly, and stupidly in love with Theon Greyjoy.

He hopes for Jeyne’s sake she hasn’t figured it out, and as for the rest he doesn’t care what they think; he has waited long enough to be happy, and Theon makes him happy. How could that be wrong?

---

Jeyne takes it badly, but when she asks why Robb can’t bring himself to lie to her. He’s done so much lying, both to himself and to her, that it’s almost a relief to explain who Theon is, how they know each other, and how he’s sorry that it came to this.

She leaves with a suitcase, and Robb throws himself into his work, sleeping on the tiny couch he shoved into a corner of his office.

All of Jeyne’s things are gone in a week, but all Robb feels when he goes home to his empty, bare apartment is a sense of loss.

Jeyne is gone, Theon is missing, and Robb has never felt more alone.

---

Theon shows up on his doorstep the next night, and when Robb opens the door he barely recognizes him. Both eyes are blackened, lip split, jaw bruised, and Robb ushers him in quickly, dead bolting the door behind him.

“What the fuck happened?” Robb curls a hand gently around Theon’s neck, angling his face so he can see the extent of the damage. Anger flares bright in his chest, but Theon taps his cheek with an index finger and Robb focuses on him, mouth a thin line.

“I did it,” Theon says, like it’s the simplest thing in the world to kill your father. “It went pear-shaped though. Rodrik and Maron got in the way, and Asha...” He tapers off, and Robb gathers him close, arms looping gingerly around Theon’s neck. “Asha let me go, but she promised she’d come after you if I didn’t leave London.”

Theon twists free from Robb, hand raking through his messy hair, and it’s then that Robb realizes he’s speaking at the floor, unable to look at Robb. “So I came to say goodbye--I almost didn’t, but...”

Robb kisses him then, soft in a way that the majority of their kisses aren’t, and when he pulls back Theon is looking at him with an awestruck expression. Robb darts in to lick at his bottom lip, mouth stretching into a grin as Theon kisses him tentatively, like he’s not sure this is actually happening.

“You’re such an idiot, y’know that?” Robb is grinning now, and Theon is at a loss for words for once, but his eyes never leave Robb’s. “I broke it off with Jeyne because of you, you great bloody pillock.”

Theon frowns for a moment, and Robb is afraid that he’s going to turn around and leave, but then Theon is moving closer to put his mouth in line with Robb’s ear. “Come away with me then, Robb Stark. We’ll go where you want, to the sea perhaps--I know you always wanted a house near it. Come with me, because I can’t bear to be without you.”

It’s the closest Theon will ever get to an outright declaration of love because it’s Theon, who smiles that secretive smile just for Robb and can’t put his feelings into words.

What they’ve got can’t be put into words, Robb thinks, but actions do just fine. He kisses Theon’s cheek and mutters a quiet, “Yes,” because he would follow Theon to the end of the earth, to the bottom of the ocean, just so they could be together.

Theon smiles that familiar smile, boyish and charming, and Robb knows this was always where he was meant to be.