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More than just blood on our hands

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He can smell blood out on the field, and it's the blood of men he knows, thick and clotting cold in the predawn air against torn skin and open wounds. There is a boy lying dead a few paces from his feet, helm still on, homemade axe resting in his open palm, and Jon stands there trying to reason himself out of the urge to vomit.

It's not the smell or the sight that does it - though he wonders, vaguely, doubled over and clutching his knees in white knuckled fists as he is, where such an obviously lowborn lad had gotten such a sturdy, shining helm and, alternately, what he might think of it now that it's got his brains splattered all over the inside and leaking out through the visor. That's not truly what makes Jon sick, though, just makes him wonder.

What does it is the sound.

He can hear horns of ale being slammed together, drunken shouts of victory, booming cries honoring the Heir of Winterfell and all that he stands for. They had entered the wood silent as spirits hours before, but now that the battle has ended, now that the ground is strewn with bodies and the Kingslayer is in chains and there is a victory - just one single victory - for Robb Stark, suddenly it is all joy and laughter and songs, and the boy with the mysteriously well-fashioned helm and the caved-in skull is forgotten by most all of the soldiers in favor of something to drink and a whore to fuck.

Jon thinks, not for the first time, that he is not the type of man meant to fight in wars.

Robb passes by with his company of bannermen and advisors, and nods softly to Jon, maybe motioning for him to join them, maybe gesturing that he stay where he is - Jon can never really tell these things. He just stands there as the men pass, hears the Greatjon's booming voice and the return laughter of Theon Greyjoy, who has abandoned his near permanent fixture to Robb's side in order to hang back, taking stock of the carnage. His eyes pass right over Jon, and it's clearly a purposeful slight, meant to enrage or insult, but they've shared a home long enough for Theon's childishly competitive amusements not to make much of an impression anymore.

Theon's about to continue on, and Jon's about to resume the ongoing battle with his rolling stomach and clenched throat, and all will be as it should. But after Theon takes his first step, he stops again, eyes catching on Jon - or, no, something just left of Jon, who still pretends he isn't paying any attention to what the hell the other man is doing as walks over and leans down, smiling at whatever he's picking up. Theon's always smiling at something.

Only when it's hit by the first sharp rays of sun that slip over horizon, alighting the metal of the helm with a bright glare that beams straight into Jon's eyes, does he realize what it is. Theon's standing there, mouth curved and eyes alight, tugging the helm off of the dead body of a brutally murdered boy - a child, more or less. He wrinkles his nose slightly at the bits of crushed skull, brushing them aside to reveal the expert craftsmanship of the piece of armor, and smiling.

Jon stares at him, and Theon, after a few more moments of admiration for his new prize, appears to notice.

He glances over. "What?"

And it doesn't really matter to Jon in that moment where the boy had gotten the helm, or who had killed him, or that horrors far more gruesome than scavenging from the dead had gone on all across the battlefield that night - in that moment, all of this feels like Theon's fault, the war and the death and the thick scent of blood that sticks to the air itself. Jon has just enough presence of mind left over to realize that he no longer feels sick, just brutally, fiercely angry - before he launches himself at Theon.

They sprawl across the bodies of two other dead men, landing with a sickening crunch and a sharp gasp, as Theon has what must be all of the air knocked out of him. He looks dazed for a moment, like he's not quite sure what's just happened, and Jon's not entirely positive he is, either. That doesn't stop him from drawing back his fist and slamming it into Theon's face, knuckles colliding brutally with the hard line of his jaw and making the both of them groan in pain. Theon's limbs fly about aimlessly as he tries to scramble out from under Jon, clearly not putting as much thought into defensive movements as he is into getting the fuck away. Jon doesn't let him, doesn't even consider it, just pulls back his aching fist once again and lets all of that sickness, all of that fear and hate and anger, come out in another blow to Theon's cheek

There are a few men gathered around by the time Theon shoves him off, most of them cheering and laughing, and Jon hears someone yell that they ought to draw swords and settle it like men. They both hurry to stand, glaring and snarling and Theon still has the helm clutched tight in his fingers, although he doesn't altogether appear to notice it.

And even as reason returns, even as Jon wonders what he's doing, he still hates Theon terribly for not seeming to realize why it was that Jon had hit him.

"What the hell is wrong with you?"

Theon's eyes go almost comically wide, and if his lip wasn't torn, he might have done one of those awful, mocking smiles. "Wrong with me?" he asks, as if the words don't even make coherent sense to him, just before he flies at Jon, fists swinging. "What the hell is wrong with you, Snow?"

They tumble down again, and this time Theon lands on top, finally dropping the helm and using his freed hands to pin Jon down, slamming a knee into his chest. Of the two of them, though, Jon is the larger, and he manages to throw Theon off enough to struggle up, still bristling, even as the words repeat in his head. 'What the hell is wrong with you, Snow?' Part of him is wondering the same thing.

His breathing is labored and his hand is aching something fierce as he pushes himself to his feet, Theon doing the same a few paces away. The helm lies forgotten a little to his right.

"You just took that off a dead boy," Jon says, pointing at it, and the accusation sounds so much less horrible out in the open air, with Theon staring at him like he's a madman, with a small portion of Robb's army gathered around to watch the show.

"So?" Theon says, like he's no idea what the hell Jon's getting at with this. "He's not using it."

Jon bends down to grab the damned thing from where it lies, holding it up with a look of revulsion on his face that implies that it must be some damning evidence of Theon's ultimate betrayal. "It's still got bits of his brain on it," he nearly shouts.

"I was going to wash it," Theon says, sounding almost defensive.

"That's not the point!" And Jon is yelling now, feeling almost embarrassed, yet still unreasonably, unfathomably furious. He barely notices when he throws the helm to the ground.

Theon's face darkens, bloody lip curling in a sneer. "This is war," he says. "If you wanted to sit around doing needlework and singing songs, you should have gone to King's Landing with your sisters." He bends down, and even Jon can see the obvious pain in the movement, battered muscles stretching to pick up the discarded helm and dust it off a bit. It's easy to see he's only retrieved it in order to ruffle Jon's feathers, even easier to see that it's worked.

Jon frowns, jaw grit and fists aching, and he's going to respond, maybe even hit Theon again, before he notices Robb approaching. The ever-growing crowd parts for him easily, and Jon feels suddenly ashamed, retort dying on lips. 'What the hell is wrong with you, Snow?' he thinks.

Either Theon doesn't notice his Lord's approach, or does and just doesn't care to stick around for explanations, because he shoves past Jon, knocking their shoulders and saying, "Or to The Wall, like you ought to have."

And he sees the look in Robb's eyes, and the glint of the dead boy's shining helm as it's carried away, and thinks - loathe as he is to admit it - that Theon is probably right.

 

---

 

Robb doesn't say anything about it immediately, just drags him back to the meeting going on in his tent and sits him down in the back, before promptly continuing on with his strategy plans. Jon slumps there, only barely listening, trying to disappear into the shadows that do very little to conceal him. They all know he's there, all know he's just been tussling with Theon Greyjoy, who, Jon is aware, is the one who usually frequents these war councils. He can feel Lady Catelyn's eyes boring into him the whole time, no matter that she doesn't glance at him once.

They finish up the session shortly with a plan to recommence once everyone's had some sleep - or a drink and a fuck, as is more likely. Jon lingers there, like a child who knows he's in for a chastising, and watches on silently as Roose Bolton hangs around a few moments extra to murmur something in his quiet, sharp voice about 'bad blood' that makes Robb frown even as he nods his thanks to the man for his advice.

When it's finally just the two of them, Robb's entire demeanor shifts, going from victorious and strong to utterly exhausted in not a minute's time. He uncorks a bottle of wine and pours them each a mug-full, before collapsing opposite his brother.

Jon sips the drink, more because he feels he ought to than that he has any desire for it. "Sorry," he starts.

"Don't," Robb cuts him off. "I don't care what you two were fighting about, I really don't." He sighs, and Jon feels immeasurably guilty for causing him even more trouble than he's already got. "As your Lord and Commander, I know I should be reprimanding you right now." And Jon knows that, has to physically prevent himself from apologizing again as Robb continues on. "But, as your brother," he says, almost smiling, "I know that Theon can be a real ass sometimes. He's… difficult to get on with, to say the least."

Jon knows that to be true, but he also knows that the incident just now had been very much Jon's own doing and not the other man's.

"It wasn't his fault," he confesses, "not really. I just… a lot of good men died tonight." It's all he can think of to explain - to excuse - his behavior.

Robb nods, takes a deep drink from his cup. "And a lot more will in the battles to come." He pours himself another drink, and Jon, too, even though his cup isn't empty. "Jon," he says, "I know you didn't want to march. No, listen," he cuts off, clearly seeing the way Jon's mouth opens, prepared to protest, to deny the truth of the statement. Clearly, Robb knows him too well to let him try. "I know you wanted to join up with The Watch, and I know the only reason you didn't was because I asked you not to. I know - "

Jon knows he knows, and he doesn't want to hear any more of it, even if there's a part of him that's sure it knows what Robb is getting at. This is the second person today to tell him he doesn't belong here, and that's not even counting himself. "That was before," he insists. Before Robert's death, before their father's imprisonment, before Sansa was held a hostage, before any knowledge of Arya's whereabouts was lost. Before feels like such a long time ago.

"I know," Robb repeats, "and I'm not saying leave, and I'm not saying go off to The Wall. I'm saying thank you."

Jon looks up, not quite sure if he'd heard right. Robb has this earnest, true look about him as he stares back. "What," Jon says, "have you got to be thanking me for?"

Robb smiles a tired smile at him, like Jon's being deliberately obtuse or something, but still doesn't bother to explain. "Much and more, brother," is all the clarification he gives, "and I'm going to ask now for just one other thing."

Anything, Jon wants to says, but it sounds ridiculous even in his head, so he holds his tongue, nodding silently.

"Try and get along with Theon," he asks, like it's an enormous favor, like it's an impossible feat that Jon will have to use all his reserves of strength to accomplish. "Just try. Please."

"Of course," he tells Robb, because it's the very least he can do, isn't it? After all, Theon's not so bad, really - if you manage to avoid being around him, that is. "You should not even have to ask this of me," he continues, "I'm sorry - "

"Jon," Robb begins, but Jon doesn't let him continue.

"No, I am, truly. You've got battles to fight, a war to win, and here I am getting in childish fights over nothing." Only when he says it does he realize how very selfish he's being, how very useless it had been to stand around the battlefield feeling sorry for a dead boy with a pretty helm, when he should have been here, doing anything he could to help Robb out. "You're leading armies, and you shouldn't have to - "

"Jon," Robb says again, this time louder, setting his mug down and leaning across the table, leaving no room for interruption. "I am not ordering you as your Commander, I'm asking you as your brother." He says the words in such a way, as if to outline an intense distinction. Jon's not sure there is one.

But either way - orders or requests, demands or pleas - he'll do whatever Robb tells him.

 

---

 

The raven comes not hours later, and the annoyances of Theon Greyjoy seem suddenly minute in comparison to the news it brings.

Jon is not a Stark, but he is his father's son, and his father's head is now on a pike outside of the Red Keep for all the world to see and Jon revisits that sick, angry feeling from just after the battle, only tenfold this time, and with an added sense of gnawing helplessness to go with it. He stands there, staring at the Maester who gives him the news like he's just stabbed him through the chest.

He shakes his head slightly, not quite believing it. "The letter," he says, "I want to see the words themselves."

The Maester - whose name Jon cannot be bothered to remember at that moment, even though he's sure he's heard it a thousand times - gives him this sad, sympathetic look, and says, "I'm sorry, but Lord Robb took it from me after I read it to him. My condolences - "

Jon shakes his head, interrupts. "Where did he go?" He couldn't give half a damn about the man's condolences at the moment, he just needs to find his brother, needs Robb as he's sure Robb needs him.

The Maester says he doesn't know where Lord Robb has gone off to, and apologizes again, but Jon's not listening, spinning around and shoving out of the tent. It's loud out there, still the laughter, still the joy. They don't know yet, he thinks, and envies them terribly - and knows Robb won't be among them.

He searches his brother out around the outskirts, slipping through the trees and finally coming upon him at the clearing through which the noonday sun is streaming in bright white. The urge to go to him, to share their grief, to just see the damned letter that had brought the news - maybe that will make this feel real, because it doesn't feel real - is nearly overwhelming, but Jon stops short. Robb is already sharing his grief, almost sobbing, struggling to hold himself up against his mother. Lady Catelyn's got her son's head clutched to her shoulder, her arms around his back, and is not looking altogether far from a tearful collapse herself.

Jon stands there, staring. Good, he forces himself to think, this is good. Robb ought to be with his mother at a time like this.

Before he can think to turn around, to find somewhere else to go, some other hidden away spot where he can deal with this his own way - he hasn't seen the letter yet, but it doesn't matter, does it? His father is not any less dead because of it - but before he really manages to make a retreat, the possible last person that he wants to speak to, at this moment or any other, clears his throat.

Theon's not far away from where he is, and Jon wonders suddenly how he hadn't seen him before, standing there in all his dark finery against the golden brown of the forest.

"You heard, then?" is all he says, which is a bit shocking considering their fight this morning, which, as much as Jon would like to pretend otherwise, hadn't altogether been Theon's fault. But then he processes the words, realizes what Theon is talking about, and suddenly feel very thankful that he's managing to leave that silly, stupid rivalry of theirs alone at a time like this.

Jon nods, doesn't really know what to say. Then, he realizes, that if Theon is here now, face turned to stare at Robb and Lady Catelyn the way he is, he must have been there already when Jon had arrived.

"What are you doing?" he asks.

Theon almost snorts, but seems to give up halfway through the gesture, so it just comes out a strange, choked, cynical sound. "Same thing as you, I'd imagine."

Jon wants to deny it, but then looks from Theon, back to Robb, and to where he himself stands - and realizes it's quite an accurate observation.

"I wasn't - I didn't mean- " he starts, feeling like an idiot for caring what Theon thinks of him at a time like this.

"Yeah, yeah," Theon interrupts, "you were just late to the party," he says, nodding through the trees at the two Starks who now seem to be talking to one another. "So was I." And then he pauses, and his voice takes on this brutal sort of amusement, a kind that isn't really funny at all - and Jon should know, as he's been on the receiving end of it often enough in his lifetime. "Which is a bit funny, because I was the only one there when he got the letter."

And Jon thinks maybe Theon's trying to get at some kind of point with that, but his own mind snags on letter and all he can reply with is, "What did it say?"

Theon sort of laughs at that, because they both already know what it said, don't they? Jon is asking for details, of course, but either Robb had taken off before Theon could get them, or for all their common grief, Theon still takes the opportunity to piss Jon off, because all he does is shrug and say, "Dark wings, dark words."

That makes Jon exponentially angry, despite having thought the same thing only minutes earlier. He frowns.

"I hate that saying," he says, not even looking at Theon, eyes trained on Robb instead. "It doesn't even makes sense. All ravens have dark wings." Except for the white ravens, and those bring around the worst news of all.

Theon sort of laughs, but he doesn't sound very happy at all. "Well, it's always bad fucking news, isn't it?"

Jon can't argue with that, doesn't even really want to at this point. And while part of him wants to walk away - from the sight of Robb and his mother, from the sight of Theon's damned face - another part doesn't know where the hell else he should go. Theon doesn't appear to moving, either, though, leaning as he is against the trunk of a large oak. So Jon just stands there, not saying anything.

It's a good enough place to grieve as any.

 

---

 

He can smell the stench of death again, but this time he's not sure if it's because of the corpses all around him, split open and leaking their insides out across the field - or if it's just the blood that's splattered across his face.

The battle's just ended, and they're still gathering prisoners, but Jon can hear the beginnings of delight starting up at the ends of the solemn post-battle discussion. It will devolve, as it did before and seems always wont to do in the wake of a victory, into mad, drunken celebration, and by mid-day, half the celebrators will have forgotten what exactly they're celebrating, who exactly they're raising their cups in toast to. Jon had resolved not to let it get to him this time, reminding himself that such is just the nature of man, but in his pre-battle planning, he hadn't had the thick, crawling scent of death all over him.

He, once again, attempts not to vomit. It's not any easier than it had previously been. He does manage to stand up straight this time, but that's probably less to do with the strength of his stomach, and more because his eye catches on something that stops him before he can quite get to it.

In the midst of all this death, all this fear stitched up behind masks of bravery that are thinning by the day, it's a such a stark contrast to see something so downright… amusing. Jon's not sure whether to continue on retching, or laugh.

Theon must see him, and more specifically see the half grin on his face that gives away that he himself has seen Theon, because he chooses that moment to continue his struggles with the utmost violent enthusiasm. If anything, it makes it more hilarious.

"Seven fucking hells," Theon curses. "Damned cunting fuck." He's quiet, much quieter than he usual is with his bawdy yelling, maybe trying to draw as little attention to himself as possible, but it's too late and they both know it.

Theon is trapped under a body. And not the usual body, under which he tends to find himself quite voluntarily, but a dead body. A monstrous thing, long and broad and heavily armored, and giving The Hound a run for his money in height, if not The Mountain. It's almost horrific, the way it's collapsed on top of the much smaller man, near crushing him beneath it's weight. Theon continues to struggle, which makes sense, because considering the axe in it's back, the body's not going anywhere anytime soon.

Jon wants to laugh, wants to find one of the many singers who follow the camp around and have them immortalize this moment, wants to rub it in Theon's face for the rest of time and then some. Instead, he finds himself bending to one knee next to where he's sprawled, hand extending to help move the enormous fallen man aside. Part of it's not even his promise to Robb, nor the solemn truce that he and Theon had come to on the day that the news of Lord Stark's death had arrived - Robb is Lord Stark now. No, King in the North - nor even an attempt at tentative kindness. No, part of it's just instinct.

Theon scoffs at him, looking away, which is a hard thing to do from where he's trapped against the ground, but he makes an admirable effort anyhow.

"Need help?" Jon asks, trying not to laugh. Not only would it piss Theon off royally - which isn't actually much of a downside - but it would an incredibly insensitive thing to do over the dead body of a man whose name he does not even know. He's a Lannister soldier by his dress, but that doesn't make smiling at his death any better.

"I'm fine," Theon snaps, and Jon notices that only one of his hands is free, the other trapped with the rest of his body from mid-chest downward.

"Yeah, you look it," Jon replies, keeping his voice even.

"Fuck you."

"Did you kill him?" Jon asks, before he can stop himself. And maybe it's more than just natural curiosity that does it, because there's something so gruesome and sad about a man being trapped under a dead body and unable to escape, that Jon might feel less guilty for being amused by it if Theon had gotten himself into the situation by putting the axe in the poor man's back. Jon would have readily killed the man in battle if the elements had allowed it, but there's something about Theon that makes his doing it seem less brave and just and more underhanded and cruel.

So, when Theon spits, sneering, and says, "Of course," Jon chooses not to pay attention to the telling tremor in his voice, and instead feels justified for taking slight pleasure in his misfortune.

Then he winces, before putting his weight onto his knees, bending his elbows to grasp the left side of the body and begins to roll it off. It says something about his growing tolerance that he doesn't immediately feel sick. He doesn't think about the dead man, doesn't think about the way Theon's saying, "Fuck off, Snow, I don't need your help," even as he looks terribly relieved - just thinks about Robb, and how he'd be proud that Jon put aside his differences with Theon in order to help him.

And it's not as if he won't be able to lord this occasion over Theon for the rest of the foreseeable future.

"Just stop moving," Jon snaps.

"You stop moving," Theon responds, petulant as always.

Eventually, Jon shoves the huge man away enough that Theon can scramble out from under, wiping his hands at his armor as if that's going to get the stink of death off of it, then pushing the dirty ends of his hair out of his eyes and giving Jon a look like he's not sure whether to thank him or swear him to secrecy.

Jon makes the decision for him. "You're welcome," he says, and then, "and no, I won't mention this to anyone."

Theon's brow creases, maybe not to sure what the think of it - though Jon's not positive that Theon actually thinks at all, still considering it a viable possibility that there's nothing between his ears but seawater. Eventually, he nods, not offering a single thank you, just shoving past Jon. "I need a drink."

And Jon's just about to roll his eyes and be on his way, thinking typical fucking Theon, when he hears the words called from a few feet away. "You coming or what?" Theon's not stopped his slow trek off the battlefield, but his head's tilted slightly and he's glancing back over his shoulder at Jon, who just raises his eyebrows, shocked a bit silent.

At length, he decides that Robb must have had a talk with Theon about getting on with him, as well, because otherwise this might be Theon actually saying thank you, and Jon's not completely prepared for that possibility.

 

---

 

Jon sits lightly down on the bench across from where Theon slumps roughly, slamming two flagons in front of them and not looking Jon in the eyes.

"Drink," he says.

Jon's had a rule against doing anything Theon tells him to since he was eleven and Theon had convinced him and Robb that jumping into Winterfell's lake and holding their heads under the water would make them true warriors. When it hadn't worked, Theon had just shrugged and done that awful fucking smile of his, saying something like, "Must have to be seawater."

But that was years ago and he's not doing this for Theon, he's doing it for his brother, and what's the worst thing that could happen if he gets drunk? Jon frowns, and decides not to finish that thought. He just drinks. Theon smirks, filling his own cup again and then filling Jon's, even though it's not empty. So like Robb, if only in that way.

"You've got blood on your face, Snow," he says, like it's a casual conversation topic. When you're in a war, Jon supposes, it is.

He tries to ignore the baiting part of the words and the smile that accompanies them. Instead, he takes another drink and says, evenly, "You've got blood all over you. Greyjoy." And he does, most of it likely from the enormous man whose dead body had been doing its best to crush Theon when Jon had found him.

Theon smiles a thin smile and rolls his eyes. "Gods, you're fine company," he mumbles, but in a way that Jon is obviously supposed to hear him, and the annoyance in his voice. "Don't you ever get tired," he begins, pausing to knock back another drink, and then removing a half-full horn of ale from the hand of a man passed out on the bench, downing that as well. By the time that's done, it takes him a bit to remember what he was saying, and Jon takes those moments to darken his expression and brace himself for the inevitable.

"Don't you get tired," he begins again, "of always feeling so damned fucking sorry for yourself?"

Jon tries to keep his expression unmoved, but he knows his frown deepens at the words. "What?" he asks, and Theon stares at him like he's done him some personal offense just by existing.

Theon leans back, his posture changing slightly, and when he speaks his voice is different. "I'm Jon Snow," he says, and Jon is ready to hit him again after just three words, but he clenches his fist and hold his ground, if only for Robb. "I'm a bastard who by all rights should have grown up on a farm or in Flea Bottom or somewhere of the like, but instead my father brought me home to his castle, tutored me, taught me to sword fight, inflicted me on all of his other, trueborn children - not to mention his hostage - but because they call me Snow rather than Stark, even though those words sound more or less the same if you're slurring, I'm going to go mope right now, so please don't anyone have any fun, you'll interrupt my brooding." Theon ends this with another gulp of ale that is likely not supposed to be part of the impression.

Jon doesn't say anything for a bit, and when he does, it's not what he might have said under different circumstances, but here, after a battle, covered in blood, and ever slightly drunk - his mind catches on one word and doesn't leave it alone.

"Hostage?"

Theon pauses, looks angry for a moment, maybe before he realizes that Jon wasn't calling him names, but only repeating what he'd said.

He looks away. "What?"

"You said 'hostage' instead of 'wa -"

"I said," Theon begins, slamming his drink down, then changing his approach. "I said that you're an ungrateful cunt, is what I said."

Jon can't help himself from being slightly amused. "You didn't say that."

"It was implied."

"Theon," Jon starts, without actually meaning to. It's usually, almost exclusively, 'Greyjoy.'

"Snow."

And Jon could defend himself, could tell Theon that being a bastard probably isn't all to different from being a ward, or a hostage, or whatever the fuck it is that Theon sees himself as. Jon could also tell him to go fuck himself, that the Others are welcome to take his bloody monologue and do what they will with it - but he doesn't do or say any of that.

"Did you really kill that man?" he asks, and from the look that Theon gets, Jon can tell they both know which man he's talking about.

"Fuck off." Theon frowns, drinks again, then as an afterthought, says, "Yes."

Jon stands, setting down his cup and nodding, before taking Theon's advice and fucking off. If he's telling it true and actually had killed the man in question, causing his own unfortunate but amusing circumstances earlier on the battlefield, then surely that makes him cruel and unsympathetic, an ass who deserves to drink himself into a fit and wake up in a pool of his own vomit. On the other hand, if he's lying, if he hadn't killed that man, if getting stuck under that body was just some horrific accident, then, Jon wonders, what exactly does that make him?

 

---

 

It's hours later, after going off to drink with the other men and then a bit of aimless wandering in which Jon concludes that he's not particularly drunk - though nor is he particularly sober - he purposefully stumbles to the entrance of Robb's tent, pushing inside. He's not sure why he's here, beyond the obvious desire to see his brother. Part of him thinks that it's about Theon, that he wants to ask about him, that he wants to know why. Why is he so important to you, Robb? Why do you give a shit whether I get on with him or not?

Why am I starting to hate him less?

Then there's another part of him that's telling the first part to shut it's damned mouth.

Whatever the reason is, though, it loses importance pretty quickly when Jon walks into his brother's tent to see him bent over his mattress, one of the camp followers beneath him. She's got her head tossed back, smiling, and doesn't even seem to mind when she notices Jon standing there, gaping. Robb, on the other hand, stops mid-thrust, suddenly looking terribly embarrassed.

"Fuck- Jon," he says, like it's his fault for not instinctively knowing when his brother's getting - uh, when his brother's doing… that.

"Sorry!" Jon replies, quickly, looking away and backing up. "I'll come back later."

"Where the fuck is Theon?" Robb snaps, pushing the whore's hands away when she runs them down his chest.

Jon's not really quite sure how to respond to that. "Uh…"

"He's supposed to be at the entrance. You know, standing guard." And Robb looks awkward when he says that, less like a king with one of his whores and more like a boy who's rather embarrassed about sex on the whole, and that makes Jon feel a bit better about being terribly embarrassed himself.

"Right, I'll find him," Jon says, will take anything to get out of there, but only once he's back out in the cool dusk air does he realize what he's just promised.

He looks around, and it's not as if he wasn't sure before, but now he's quite positive that Theon is nowhere around here. Part of him just considers taking on the job himself, humiliating as it will be when Robb finally emerges, but it seems far better than the alternative of having to go hunt Theon down, only to drag him back to his guard post so that he can stand around while Robb has sex. Imagining the crude comments alone is enough to make Jon want to quit the whole war and take a horse back to Winterfell as quickly as possible.

Still, he told Robb that he would, and he's meant to being trying to get on with Theon, anyhow, so he takes a deep breath and starts to look around. He wouldn't put it past him to have gone off to find himself his own whore out of some strange form of jealousy. Theon's like that.

A few minutes later finds Jon somewhere beyond the main encampment, where the tents start to give way to trees, and he's more or less given up the search for a lost cause, when he hears it - heavy breathing and maybe groaning. At first he thinks Theon's hurt, eyes catching on him slumped there against a tree-trunk, head tipped back and hand clutching his leg - oh, no, not his leg. Oh.

Fuck, fuck, fuck. And it's not as if Jon hadn't walked in on his own brother doing something of the like not ten minutes earlier, not as if it hadn't been terribly embarrassing then, but this is easily far, far worse. Robb is Robb, and with him Jon knows he can laugh it off without much awkwardness on either side, but Theon is a whole different animal, and Jon can't imagine any confrontation on the subject as being anything but ten shades of mortifying. Maybe in theory it's worse to be caught with a whore than with your own hand, but in this situation it feels as if another person there, in between Jon's wide eyes and Theon's closed, oblivious ones would make things it a bit less… strangely intimate.

The way Theon's body quivers, down there in the dirt, with the sky hanging heavy and dark above him, skin sliding against skin - it makes Jon feel things that he'd best ignore if he likes his sanity how it is. He resolves to step back quietly, take on the role of Robb's guard, never mention any of this to Theon, and never think of it again himself. He's just about to make good on the plan, lifting his foot to take he first soft footstep, when he hears something he's not quite sure is real.

"Robb," Theon gasps, word slipping out from between his lips, and the first time Jon could maybe pass it off to his own ears as just a meaningless syllable uttered unconsciously in the throes of passion, but when it's repeated, louder and clearer and far more wantonly, it's all Jon can do not to drop his jaw. "Robb, Robb, please - Robb!"

The name is unmistakable, and it's barely repeated a fifth time before Jon is upon him, once again grabbing at him in anger, but this time he catches Theon even more off his guard, fingers snatching at the material of his shirt and pulling him up by it.

"What - ?" Theon mumbles, hand flying off of his cock to grasp his way around, trying to get his bearings, blinking blearily up at Jon like he's the one doing something ridiculous and disgusting or something.

"Snow? What the fuck?" he demands, struggling, but not only does Jon still have the advantage of strength on him, he's the only one of the two of them that's standing, un-rumpled, and fully clothed.

"Are you," Jon begins, then swallows back some of what he's feeling - confused thoughts and unfounded reactions that he's not sure what to do with - and lets that anger, that disgust boil to the surface at full force. "Are you touching yourself while thinking of my brother?"

He says it like the gravest of accusations, like the whole war might as well be given up now because their side is so irrevocably, unalterably damaged by Theon Greyjoy's very existence.

"What?" Theon says again, dumbly, but even if the word had been convincing, the way his eyes drop and he struggles even harder give him completely away.

"You were, weren't you?" Jon says, and even he can hear the weird sense of wonder in his voice, like he's at once terribly confused and terribly fascinated. He has to admit, he almost likes the idea - Theon wanting Robb and unable to have him. It feels just, somehow.

"No," Theon snaps, bucking wildly, but not in pleasure so much as panic. "Fuck off, Snow. I swear - "

"I know you were standing guard for him," Jon says, catching one of Theon's fists as it flies and him and pinning it to the trunk of the tree. "Did you watch?"

"No," Theon says again, but everything in his voice, in his body language, in his struggles - all of it betrays him.

"You did, didn't you?"

"No. There was a girl," he says, "I watched the girl. The whore." He sounds almost as if he's trying to convince himself of this as well. Jon vaguely notices the way his cock is still hard against his thigh, but it doesn't quite register in his mind, too caught up in the idea, the completely new and never before considered idea of this whole scenario.

"Uh-huh," Jon says, not hiding his skepticism. "What did she look like, then?"

Theon's brow creases, and he takes too long to respond.

"What color was her hair?" It was blonde, Jon remembers, spilled out across the bed in waves. Not a Lannister gold, nor a Targaryen white, but somewhere in between. "You don't know, do you?"

"Well, I wasn't exactly looking at her hair, was I?"

"You're lying," Jon says. "I heard you say his name."

Theon looks up at that, jaw grit and eyes protesting, and says, "Brown. Her hair was brown."

It's a good guess, Jon supposes, the likelihood of any given girl having brown hair is probably quite a bit higher than any other color, but he's still wrong. "No," is all he says.

Theon meets his eyes for just a bit longer, clearly understanding his defeat, then glances down at his lap. Jon's eyes follow his. "Let me finish, at least."

Jon's eyebrows shoot up. "No, you disgusting - you - I can't believe you would even - Robb asked a favor of you, and you just come out here and - " He's working himself back into anger with every word, and he's near back to fuming by the time Theon renews his struggles.

"Let go of me, Snow," he says, and gives it the weight he would have if he'd yelled it, but he doesn't raise his voice beyond a sharp whisper, and Jon's not sure if that's conscious or not, but it certainly points to the conclusion that he'd rather Jon attack him than let anyone else discover him in this predicament.

"What do you plan to do? Hold me down all night?" Theon asks, decreasing his struggles and changing his tactics.

And, honestly, Jon hadn't quite thought of that yet. What is he going to do? "No," he says, but even he knows he doesn't sound convinced.

"Then get the fuck off!"

"No," Jon repeats.

And then Theon sighs, sort of rolling his eyes. "Seven fucking hells," he says, and leans up and kisses Jon.

Maybe it's a distraction, a new way to throw him off, and maybe Theon really is just that horny, but either way, there's tongue and teeth and a sloppy sort of sucking on his lips that feels at once both disgusting and terribly good. Jon doesn't respond, but nor does he immediately pull away, maybe shocked so completely that he's forgotten how to move, or think, or properly guard himself against this sort of… of assault.

That jars something in his brain, and all at once he's flying back, away from Theon and his lips and his hand that had somehow found its way out from Jon's grasp and into the strands of his hair. He lands in the mud not a few steps away, breathing heavily, eyes wide and gaping at a suddenly far less cornered and far more amused Theon.

"What," he begins, "what are you doing?"

Theon shrugs, looking self-satisfied, and sits up a bit. "I'm going to come either way," he says, which only draw attention to fact that he's still hard - but no, Jon's not looking at that. "You can stick around and help, or not."

Jon cannot see his own face presently, but from the bend of his features, he imagines his expression must be fairly close to aghast. He's scrambling up, prepared to get away from there as fast as possible and not look back, until -

Until he realizes that's exactly what Theon wants. It's another strategy, and a far better one at that, one that may just work. But no, if Jon leaves now, then not only does Theon win, but he'll - he'll probably just go right back to thinking about Robb, and it's more or less Jon's brotherly duty to prevent that happening, isn't it?

He climbs to his knees, and he can tell by Theon's expression that he's sure Jon's about to run far, far away, so when he leans forward, grabbing Theon's collar once more and dragging him closer by it, the only thing more satisfying that his reactionary gasp is the way it's muffled when Jon's lips close over his.

Jon's kissed girls before - not many, but enough to have a fairly reasonably idea of how it's done - but he's never kissed a boy before tonight, and even if he had, he doesn't think that that or any other possible experience could have prepared him for kissing Theon Greyjoy.

His mouth is a lot less bitter and a lot more warm than Jon could have imagined it ever being - if Jon were to have imagined the inside of Theon's mouth, which he's quite sure he never has. He can almost taste the shock, followed by the inevitable anger, in the way his tongue reacts to Jon's being there, in the way his back goes from stiff to arched, and his hands go from shoving to grabbing.

The kiss is slick and wet and messy, and it makes the blood buzz thick and warm through Jon's head, filling him with a dizzy sort of hunger that he can't quite control. It makes him want to move and grab and grind and pull and do all sorts of other things that he ought not want to do, especially not here, in this place and with this person that he tries to tell himself he's still quite disgusted by.

It's clear that neither of them want pull away for fear of losing to the other in some way, but eventually breathing through the nose becomes rather strenuous and Jon can feel spit slipping out from the side of his mouth and down his chin, and he can find no other choice but to bodily shove Theon back and away from him, so that his shoulders slam into the trunk of the tree and his hands have nothing to grab onto but open air.

Theon blinks his eyes open and stares at him, and Jon stares back. There's a lot of staring in general really, and heavy breathing and Jon's starting to think that his flight instinct will win out over that of his fight any second now, and he'll be running his way through the forest and as far away from camp as possible, when the world is suddenly rushing past him and then his back is suddenly colliding with the ground - in a hard thump that knocks the air straight out of him - and his front is suddenly quite full of Theon.

He's climbed on top of Jon, pushed him onto his back and is kissing him again, roughly and seemingly without a hint of hesitation, his thighs struggling across Jon's lap, apparently unable to decide if they want to straddle his hips or shove between his legs, and when one dips, however accidentally, in between his own and rubs against the laces of his trousers, only then does Jon realize he's just as painfully hard as Theon.

He tries to think, he really does, but then he thinks - fuck it. If he's going to do this, then he'll not do it halfway, he'll not be frightened and pinned to the ground and unsure of what he really wants.

He grabs Theon by the hair and pulls him back, until is back is arching and he's easily knocked off balance, and Jon pushes him to the side and slams him down on his own back, climbing his way on top. From the groan he gives out - this one far less of pleasure than the others - Jon can tell that had to hurt, and maybe feels a bit bad, because he'd promised Robb he'd get on with Theon, hadn't he?

Then one of Theon's legs is wrapping around the back of his own and his bare cock is grinding it's way against Jon's hip, and Jon bites back a moan and thinks that maybe this is as well as they'll ever get on.

It's not long before he's tugging off his own laces, shoving his trousers down around his hips and sliding his own cock - Gods - hard against the slick skin of Theon's stomach. He thinks he means to kiss him when he tilts his head up towards his face, but the movement creates such glorious friction that he forgets what's even happening halfway through and his forehead falls against the curve of Theon's neck, pressing into the hollow between jawline and shoulder.

Jon bites his lip to keep silent, but Theon bothers with no such decorum, groaning and gasping and whispering unintelligible things that Jon's sure he wouldn't want to hear even if he could. And maybe it's his own fancy that he hears Robb's name slip between Theon's lips once again, and maybe it's not, but either way, it stirs something angry and insensible in Jon that normally makes him want to hit Theon, but when combined with his current state of arousal, only makes him bite down, hard, against his neck.

Theon groans louder, so loud Jon's sure the whole camp will come running, and then his body goes stiff underneath him and Jon can feel the wetness flooding against his hip as Theon gasps and tosses his head and looks altogether far too blissful for the moment, especially when Jon has yet to come.

It's all he can think about really, in those moments. Reasonable concerns and functioning thought processes have given way to nothing but, more and yes and Theon and close, close, so close.

It's not long before it all spirals, like a snowball rolling down a hill, getting bigger and heavier and oh god, just crashing at the bottom of a cliff.

He comes hard, all over Theon's stomach, and he can't even be bothered to care about the where or how or why, so good does it feel.

The world comes back very slowly.

First in sound - the sounds of celebration and cacophony not so far off as they had seemed just moments ago - then in sensation - the stickiness around his thighs and stomach becoming uncomfortable very quickly - and finally, in thought. And his first thought is Theon.

And his second thought is fuck.

When he finally works up the fortitude of mind to pull himself off of the other man, he finds Theon there beneath him, just staring at him. He's got this look on his face, like he's part confused and part all-knowing, because Jon's just gotten off with him, and even if Theon's got no idea why, he must know it's got to be for some very shameful reason - as shameful, at least, as the act itself - and even if Theon has no idea what that reason is, knowing it's there, and what it resulted in, is enough to make him smile his horrible, amused smile.

And Jon doesn't know what else to do, so he just gets up, standing on shaky legs and trying to lace his trousers properly, and walks away. He's not sure if he's going back to camp or deeper into the surrounding forest, but he knows he has to go somewhere.

He doesn't look back, but he's fairly certain Theon just stays on the ground.

 

---

 

There is another battle. There is always another battle, but this one feels worse somehow - heavier, darker, bloodier. There are men that Jon had taken supper with the night before strewn across the grass, and no matter how many times it's happened, he's never quite gotten used to that.

Jon thinks, not for the first time, that he is not the type of man meant to fight in wars.

He's not seen Theon in days, apart from a few quick glimpses of him across camp or noticing him by Robb's side during council meetings. He's not seen much of Robb, either, has no idea what he'd say to him or if he should even say anything at all. It - what happened after that last battle, last time he spoke to Theon - has been like an enormous, pressing weight on his mind and in the pit of his stomach, making him feel sick and confused every time he's thought of it, but now - after the battle, with sweat in his hair and blood on his hands - it just seems so minuscule to Jon, so laughably unimportant. Towns are burning and children are starving and men are giving their lives or taking the lives of other men, and here Jon's been fretting about Theon Greyjoy's cock next to his own.

It seems so far away, in fact, so completely separate from the battlefield that Jon stands on - this time quite resolved not to even think of vomiting - that when a hand lands on his shoulder and pulls him around to face Theon, his mind cannot quite comprehend him being there at first.

When it finally sinks in, when it hits him how he's not more than a few steps away from the person he's been avoiding for the better part of a fortnight, Jon's not exactly sure what to do with himself. His resolve not look away or blush even slightly is pushed to the background of the matter, though, when he takes a good look at the state of Theon. His armor is broken at the left shoulder joint and falling off of him, revealing long cuts on his arm that are being quickly covered up by the blood that drips from the ends of his hair, and there's a look on his face that is so far from the usual smile that he looks almost a different person.

"Come on, then," is all he says, more quiet than usual, "I need a drink," before walking away.

Jon hesitates. He doesn't particularly want to be drunk around Theon again, but he doesn't really want to be sober anywhere - so he follows.

 

---

 

They drink in silence for a long while, the usual celebration going on around them, merry and loud as always. The entire camp is moving, yelling and drinking and dancing in an aimless cacophony and they just sit there, like the stationary point that the rest of the army orbits around.

Jon can't take it. Theon's quietude might be the only thing in the whole of the world he hates more than the gay delight of the rest of the men.

"I don't understand," he murmurs into his cup, if only just for something to say. "How can they be so happy? So many men died out there, good men."

Theon looks at him like he's broken some unspoken rule or something by speaking, never mind the illogic of the idea. He seems to debate whether or not to just ignore the statement and go on with whatever silent brooding he's been doing, then finally shrugs, takes another drink and says, "A lot of men lived, too. I'd wager that's worth a bit of celebration."

Jon frowns, blunt fingernails picking at wood of the table. "They're just battles. The war's not won."

Theon laughs then, and it's stark and sudden after his previous expression, seemingly genuinely amused. "As if they care about the war," he says. "They may chant Robb's name, but the only thing they're really thinking about right now is themselves, their own lives. That fact that they made it another day."

Jon's brow furrows deeper. "Well, then that's even worse, isn't it?"

He's not sure why they're talking about this, but he'd rather this than anything else they could find to converse over. Between brawling after a battle and rubbing their cock's against one another, this is probably the most civil encounter they've ever had.

"Why?" Theon asks, not looking at Jon. "Not everything is about your brother, Snow."

And Jon just sits there and says nothing, because he's not sure what he's meant to think of that.

 

---

 

It's many hours and much more wine and they're stumbling through the entrance of Theon's tent, grabbing at each other's clothes and biting at each other's skin and laughing drunkenly, because this is far too ridiculous to be real. It feels less real this time, and maybe that's because the lights from camp are dimmed in here and it's harder to see each other, and maybe it's the drink that does it, blurring their minds and clumsying their hands far more than it had the last time this had happened. And maybe it's because he can feel the dried blood on Theon's skin when he touches him, gritty as dirt and salty on the tongue.

Either way, it passes in a whirl of hands and mouths and cocks and the only coherent thought that Jon can truly manage is that, "Snow," and, "Stark," really do sound alike when you're slurring, and so he can't quite tell which Theon is mumbling against his neck when he fists him in his hand and jerks him roughly. And he's not really sure he wants to know.

Jon comes first this time, because Theon sucks him off, and he's not sure if it's out of courtesy, or just a surefire way that they don't have to look each other in the face, but it's quite nice, either way. He's sure Theon comes, too, he remembers the groan and the feel of it against his thigh, but he's not sure when or how or if he'd even helped or not - just that when they're lying there afterward, breathing heavily and not looking at each other, Jon's so busy trying to decide whether or not to get up and leave, that he doesn't really notice when he falls asleep.

 

---

 

The sun hurts his eyes when he wakes, sitting up in a bed that's not his own. His head is pounding with the effects of last night's drink, and it's made worse by the glare of something shiny lying in the corner of the tent, as the light from outside catches on it and makes it send bright, searing light straight into Jon's eyes. It's minutes before he realizes what it is, and when he finally does, he can't help but laugh.

That fucking helm, that poor, dead boy's fancy helm that he'd gotten from Gods know where. Jon remembers tackling Theon, remembers being so angry with him for so many reasons that he supposes really had nothing to do with the helm at all. He's kept it, but Jon's never seen him wear it, and as Theon yawns himself awake, stretching his way right into Jon like he hasn't yet noticed he's there, Jon wants to ask why.

He also wants to ask if he'd really killed that man, that giant Lannister soldier that had fallen on him and nearly crushed him on the battlefield. Jon doesn't think he did, and he remembers a time when that would have been important, would have gone somewhere on that scale he kept in his head on whether or not Theon was a horrible person. Not much has changed, not really, but somehow Jon doesn't think he has need of that scale anymore.

So, he asks something else, instead.

"Did you think about Robb last night?" he says abrubtly to a barely coherent Theon, who just stares up at him for a few moments.

"And if I did?" he responds, slowly.

Jon just shrugs, looks away.

Theon laughs almost, sitting up and scratching at his head. "I couldn't if I wanted to. Brothers or not, you're really nothing like him."

And Jon's still not completely decided on Theon's not being a horrible person, but this is an answer that he's okay with. For - for Robb's sake. It's not as if he can have people going around having sexual fantasies about the King, now can he? He's just doing his brotherly duty.

It's not a few moments later before Theon's pushing him onto his back, struggling to hold his hands down and slip a knee between his legs, and Jon's having to do some more brotherly duty.

 

---

 

It's weeks later and Robb wants to send Theon to Pyke.

Jon protests. He says he doesn't trust him and that Robb shouldn't either, and even if he's not sure if that's entirely true, he is sure that it isn't because he's going to miss him or something of the like. The sex does help with making him feel less awful after a battle, and Theon's not bad company when he's not talking, or smiling, or able to make any gestures - but that's still got nothing to do with Jon's protestations against his leaving. He just doesn't think it's a good idea, is all.

Anyhow, Lady Catelyn, for perhaps the first time in Jon's life, agrees with him, and outnumbered by both his brother and mother, Robb concedes. He says he'll find someone else to send to Lord Balon. Theon will stay.

Jon pretends not to feel as relieved as he does.