Margaery meets a guy almost as soon as she gets to uni, and naturally she immediately texts Loras. Totty acquired. Date tomorrow. Bet you won't get a better offer with a picture that was obviously hastily-taken. It shows a handsome, bearded man.
It's not completely in focus. The man is talking, probably to Margaery, and the angle makes Loras have to tilt his head to see it properly. His eyes are blue. His hair and short beard are brown. Loras has never seen such a gorgeous man in his life.
He texts back I won't take that bet. You've bagged the hottest man in England. Lucky cow.
Margaery rings him late the next night. "Oh, Loras, it was magical," she says. He knows what her movements sound like, and as she says it he hears her fling herself onto her bed. "He took me to the theatre and walked me home, and held my hand, and kissed me goodnight. Didn't even try to come up to my room. He's such a gentleman."
"Yeah, or gay," Loras says, wildly hoping.
Margaery laughs. "You wish. Sorry, darling, but he's all mine. We're going out again on Friday, and we might have a picnic by the river at the weekend."
"I knew you'd find some amazing boyfriend in the first five minutes," Loras says. "Meanwhile here I am, in second year, and every cute man I've met turns out not to be boyfriend material."
"You'll find someone special," Margaery says, as she always does. "It just takes time."
They both go down for a weekend in November, and Margaery brings her boyfriend. She's told Loras about every date they've been on, practically every conversation they've had. She really likes Renly. Loras has decided to like him just as much, because Margaery never calls anyone heavenly unless she's blissfully happy. She calls things heavenly all the time — blue skies, expensive wine, a book she's enjoying — but not people. Her phone calls about Renly, however, are a symphony of how beautiful and heavenly he is. Loras would be sick of it if he could find the heart to do anything but smile happily back at her.
That, of course, is before he actually meets Renly.
He gets to the house first. Their father is waiting himself on the front steps, along with the butler, who spent a lot of Loras's childhood dragging him and Margaery away from whatever trouble they were getting into at the time. Loras hugs his father and salutes Rowan, and after he's hauled his bag up the stairs he comes back to wait.
Margaery drives up half an hour later. While she's getting out of the car, Loras is too busy running at her to notice the other door opening. He snatches her up and swings her around, Margaery squealing happily. "I missed you," Loras says, hugging her properly and squeezing a bit. She squeezes back.
"I missed you too. Uni is stupid." She pulls away. "Darling, this is Renly. Renly, my brother Loras."
Loras finally gets a good look at Renly as he's holding his hand out. The pictures Margaery has sent him haven't done him any justice whatsoever. He's more handsome in the flesh, but mostly what takes Loras's breath away is how sexy he is. It hangs around him like a gorgeous smell, like roses and good aftershave and leather jackets. He's wearing a dark green suit with a grey-blue shirt and matching dark green tie. His hair is tousled, adding to his sexiness. He doesn't smile for a second, but when he does, his whole face goes from handsome to beautiful.
"It's nice to finally meet you," the sexiest man in the world says.
"You too," Loras says, smiling awkwardly. As they're walking up to the house, Margaery chatting about the journey and holding Renly's hand, Loras reminds himself that this is his little sister's boyfriend and nothing is ever going to happen ever, even if he isn't straight. And he is not allowed to hope they break up, not for a second.
The weekend goes well. Their parents like Renly immediately. Loras spends a lot of time with him, because he hasn't seen Margaery in two months so he's glued to her side. Renly is not only gorgeous as fuck, he's also the most laid-back, good-natured person Loras has ever met. He's a good boyfriend too, always holding Margaery's hand and kissing her cheek and smiling at her. He clearly likes her a lot. By the time Loras drives home on Sunday night, it's started tearing at his heart.
Margaery always rings him after their dates, but more and more in the morning when Renly's left or she's got back to her room. They agreed years ago never to discuss sex beyond establishing that everyone is clean and everything is safe, so she doesn't give any details. Loras is immensely grateful. Alone in Cambridge, he can be happy for Margaery, then put the phone down and be sad for himself. He sleeps with a few gorgeous men, but nothing comes of any of it, and by Christmas it's pretty clear that trying to fuck anyone who isn't Renly is an exercise in futility.
Renly comes down for New Year, and hugs Loras when he sees him. Loras leans into it and holds on, but manages to tear himself away before it gets weird or awkward. Renly dances with him a few times that night, but it's Margaery he kisses at midnight. Loras watches from the bar, swigging his lemon vodka and seething with jealousy.
It's even worse at Easter. Margaery has met Renly's family and declared them all ghastly — "Honestly, Loras, you wouldn't believe how beastly his brothers are." — so she rescues him by bringing him home for the entire month. Loras keeps walking in on them cuddling and whispering together, and has to duck out of the room before they see him so he can find somewhere private to nurse his breaking heart.
Two weeks into the hols, he's in the kitchen when he hears someone come in behind him. It's Renly, on his own. He smiles. "Maggie sent me for paracetomol," he says.
"That cupboard, second shelf," Loras says, pointing. "She okay?"
"Yeah, just a headache." Renly smiles at him and reaches for the tablets.
"Should I go up?" Loras asks, thinking perhaps he'll read to her.
"Yeah," Renly says, looking at him like he's the best thing Renly's ever seen. "I think she'd like that. She's always talking about how good you are at looking after her."
"It's my job," Loras shrugs.
There's nothing special about the moment. It's just Renly, saying, "I'm the youngest in my family, and my brothers aren't exactly protective." And that's it. Loras is in love with him. "It's really nice seeing you with Mags. She talks about you all the time."
"She talks about you all the time too," Loras says. No one's ever called her Mags except him, but he supposes now Renly does, too. Maybe they're the people who love her the most. His heart rips a little bit more. "Um, I'd better go up there."
Term starts again. Loras feels guilty about how relieved he is when Renly and Margaery leave two days before he has to, but for those two days he gets to wander around despondently without Margaery's bizarre perception skills honing in on him. Every corner of his childhood home now has a layer of Renly associations. The old model aeroplane in his room that he showed Renly on the third day. The table on the patio where the three of them laughed an entire afternoon away making up a round robin story about a prince and a castle and a dragon. The dining room, where Renly's eyes shone as he talked politics with Father. The kitchen, where he fell in love. Loras drifts around everywhere, reliving the memories, feeling utterly wretched when he realises he's mentally editing out Margaery.
In the third week, he'd been passing her bedroom door on the way to his own room. Coming back from the bathroom, mouth tingling and tasting of mint, stumbling sleepily, but he'd heard it. Margaery gasping, moaning quietly. He hadn't heard any sounds from Renly, but maybe he's quiet. Maybe he was going down on her. Either way, Loras had fallen into bed and let himself cry for a minute, stupidly in love and stupidly broken-hearted and wishing he'd never met Renly Baratheon.
He throws himself into Easter term, surprising all of his lecturers. He chose his degree almost on a whim, mostly at Cambridge for the rugby and rowing teams, but reading History is actually turning out well. All the dates and battles and religious reforms and living conditions for rich and poor are the perfect distraction. He gets a bit vehement in notes for Montaigne, but no one else will see them, so it doesn't really matter. He channels his frustration and guilt and everything else into his rowing arms, and the coach starts talking about potential. "The race is in the bag next year, Tyrell," he says, and Loras wishes he could be more happy about it.
He rings Margaery after his last exam that year, flopping onto his bed. "My brain has melted," he says. "I keep forgetting electricity exists, and we can travel around in cars now instead of boats and horses. Not that we ever travelled in horses, that would be weird."
"Loras," she says. "I've got something to tell you."
His immediate thought is that she's pregnant. "What's up, darling? You sound excited."
"I am." She takes a deep breath. "I'm getting married!"
"Married! Wow — congratulations." He firmly squashes the urge to say To Renly? Of course she's marrying Renly. She'd have told him if there were someone else. "I suppose I'll have to get you a present," he says, grinning.
"Oh shut up. We're thinking maybe at the end of the summer, or next year. There's so much to organise. You'll be there, won't you?"
"What a question," Loras laughs, "you know I will. You're my Mags."
"And you do like him, don't you?"
"Of course I do. You'd have to be made of stone not to like Renly." He closes his eyes, glad she can't see his face.
Renly's staying with them for the entire summer, because when Margaery rescues someone, they stay rescued. Renly seems adorably grateful. "This," he says, floating on his back in the swimming pool, "is much better than trying to make conversation with my brothers. While Robert ogles my fiancée and Stannis continues to lack a sense of humour. And Selyse stands around awkwardly, being pious."
Loras is on a sun lounger, eyes lingering all over Renly's body. Loras is wearing sunglasses, and he feels rather creepy about it, but Renly is mostly naked, just wearing swimming trunks. And they leave almost nothing to the imagination. His seething jealousy is increasing by the second. "Your family sound like a barrel of laughs," he says.
Renly snorts. "You know that Monty Python sketch about the army general who complains about the jokes?"
"Stop that," Loras puts on his best Graham Chapman. "It's silly."
"That's the one," Renly grins at him. "Stannis is like him, only with even less humour."
"And you're Captain Johnson," Loras says.
"You know Monty Python off by heart," Renly says, something that isn't quite wonder in his voice. Fond, Loras realises, that's what it is. He said it like he really, really likes him.
"Some of it," Loras says. "I do go to Cambridge. They might kick me out if I didn't at least know the Dead Parrot sketch."
"Oh, everybody knows the Dead Parrot sketch. And the Four Yorkshiremen, and the theme tune. Life of Brian, Holy Grail. Not everyone knows the random link jokes."
In a falsetto, Loras says, "I think it's overrated." In his normal voice, he adds, "They didn't write the Four Yorkshiremen, theirs is just the best-known version."
"I think I asked the wrong Tyrell to marry me," Renly says. Loras doesn't care that he's joking. He takes that moment and seals it in a bubble, salve for his broken heart.
"I know all the songs, too," he says.
"Be still my heart." Renly has his hand on his chest. "Sing me a bit of one."
Loras's brain flips between three songs, but suddenly all he can remember is the most inappropriate one of all. Still, he opens his mouth and sings, "Sit on my face and tell me that you love me," and Renly cracks up.
"I'll sit on your face and tell you I love you too," he joins in.
"I love to hear you oralise," Loras sings, getting louder and adding illustrative hand gestures, "when I'm between your thighs, you blow me away."
Margaery chooses this moment to walk out of the house. "Am I interrupting?" she says, grinning. She sits on the lounger next to Loras's and puts her sunglasses on.
Renly swims up to the side and folds his arms on it, smiling at her. "Did you get what you need?"
"Mm, thanks." Margaery blows him a kiss, and he catches it in his hand. Loras closes his eyes, so he can't see what's making her giggle.
A week later, Loras is going up to his room to grab a book Renly wants to borrow. They've been sitting in the beautiful coolness of the library for hours, talking about literature. They got onto the subject of gay lit an hour ago, and Loras is trying not to read anything into Renly's interest in the subject. His chest is sort of fizzing, though.
He stops dead in his tracks when he sees the under gardener's boy coming out of Margaery's room. She kisses him, and he slips off towards the servants' stairs.
Margaery's going back into her room, but Loras says, "What?" and she turns.
"Oh." She glances after the boy. "I suppose you saw that."
"Yeah. What the hell, Mags?" He moves closer, lowering his voice. "You're cheating on Renly?"
She sighs. "Come in. Shut the door."
Her bedroom has changed a lot since she went to uni. She's wearing an Oxford t-shirt and her boyband posters are gone. And she's cheating on her fiancé. Loras shuts the door and sits next to her on the bed. "Why?" he says.
"It's not exactly cheating," she says. "It can't be cheating if he encourages me, can it?"
"He what?" Loras stares at her.
"Listen." She takes his hand in both of hers. "I know we agreed not to talk about sex, but is it okay to now?" Loras nods. "Okay, well the thing with Renly is, he's impotent. Chronically. We keep trying, and he's more relaxed here so things have been more promising, but — we've never had sex. I'm sure some day we will," she says, in the way she has of conveying optimism she isn't feeling. "But he can't. I think it's the pressure, from his family, from Oxford. He's going to be a politician, and he's making inroads into his party but it's not easy. He gets stressed a lot."
"But I heard you," Loras protests. "When we were here at Easter, I was going to bed one night and I heard you."
"You heard just me, didn't you?" she says, smiling sadly. "After — we always try, and it's never any use, and after that he gets embarrassed and turns over. He's good about being okay with me finishing myself off." Loras makes a disgusted face and she pats his hand. "I swear we won't talk about sex again after this. But you need to know this, all right? And you did ask."
"Suppose I did." Loras steels himself. "So where does the under gardener's boy come in?"
"Dylan? He's gorgeous. And Renly knows I have ... needs." Loras makes a disgusted face again, and Margaery laughs. "God, you're so squeamish. I am an adult, Loras, with sexual urges. He understands that I need sex, so we agreed that I'm free to sleep with other men, as long as it's just casual, everything stays safe, and I don't go near any other relationships unless they're open ones. It stops him feeling so guilty about not getting it up."
"Oh." Loras looks at their hands. "Well. I'm glad you've got something that works."
"It does," she says. "We'll have a good marriage."
Something about the way she says it makes him look up. He's been avoiding watching them together, and when he can't force himself to look away it's always Renly he's focused on. But he knows Margaery, better than anyone except herself. "Are you in love with him?" he asks.
"What? I'm marrying him."
"Yes, but are you in love with him? Look me in the eye, Mags, and tell me. Are you?"
She looks him in the eye and says, "I love him."
"That's not what I asked. You love Will's dogs, you love me, you love bacon and tomato sandwiches. Are you in love with Renly?"
She doesn't answer for a minute. She just looks at him. "Are you?" she says.
He's taken aback by the question, but even if he'd been expecting it, he couldn't lie. Not about this, and not to her. "Yes," he says, raw emotion in his voice.
She hugs him. "I'm so sorry. This must be agony for you, him being here all the time."
He hasn't told anyone, not a single person, not even Willas. Margaery understanding opens the floodgates. He sobs, clinging to her.
"Oh, Loras. I've seen you fall for men before, but not like this."
"I've never been so in love with anyone in my life," Loras says. He's still sobbing, suddenly unable to help it. "I can't stop thinking about him, Mags. He just fills up my head until there's nothing left, and I shouldn't ever feel jealous of you. Not you, not my Mags," he clings harder to her. "You're my best friend in the world, I love you more than almost anything, but when you're with him, I just want to shove you out of the way and I hate it."
"Oh, darling." Margaery rubs his back soothingly. "I'm sorry, I'm so sorry."
Loras starts to get a grip on himself. "I'll be okay," he says, gulping down sobs, pulling away from the hug. He wipes his wet cheeks with his arms. "Really, I'm — I just hadn't told anyone before."
She runs her fingers through his hair. "Do you remember when we were kids, we'd go everywhere together, and you'd always get there first. Jump higher, land harder. You were always the one with bloody knees, me running back to the house to get someone to help." She smiles. "We're sort of still doing that. You've fallen in love with the man I love, and you've fallen harder faster." Her smile is sad, now. "To answer your question, no, I'm not in love with him. But I do love him. Enough to marry him. I'll fall in love in time, and if I don't, just plain old love is enough for me."
Loras doesn't know what makes him say it. Some pettiness in the jealousy, probably. "I'll always love him more than you do."
She sighs. "Maybe you will. God, I am so sorry, Loras. If I'd known how you'd feel, I wouldn't have brought him here all the time."
"No," Loras says, sniffing, almost back in control of himself. "You did the right thing, not leaving him with his family. I'll survive my broken heart. I do want you to be happy, really. I can't say I don't mind, I mind more than I can put into words, but you're still my baby sister. My Mags. You know I'll always be there for you."
She hugs him again, and helps him cover up that he's been crying, so he can go back downstairs with an excuse about it taking forever to find the book.
Renly comes with them to France, of course. For three weeks every year, the Tyrell family summers in their villa on the south coast. It's Loras's favourite time of the year. He loves France, their villa is gorgeous, and he discovered a few days ago that Renly used to paint, so he's working on persuading him to take it up again. Just thinking about sunny afternoons talking to Renly as he paints the landscape keeps him smiling the whole way down.
He's in Garlan's car, with his wife, who's just found out she's pregnant. She and Garlan talk about cots and brain development and names for the entire length of France, and luckily they don't require much if any input from Loras. He sticks his headphones in, cranks up his music, and daydreams about Renly. Covered in edible chocolate paint, Loras slowly licking and biting it off his naked body. He remembers the way drops of water cling to his skin when he's getting out of the pool, and daydreams about kissing him in the water. He looks out at the French countryside without really seeing it, and imagines taking Renly to the tree he's liked to hide out in since he was four, kissing him lying among the roots. Renly is always discreet about kissing Margaery in public, never more than a fond peck on the lips or cheek, but when Loras imagines kissing him, it's always urgent and fast, or deep and slow. Always with tongues. He hasn't had a really good kiss in months, and he almost aches for that more than he does for sex.
Renly and Margaery are already there when Garlan parks in the drive. Their parents and Willas haven't arrived yet. Renly helps Garlan take Leonette's bags up to their room. Loras said he'd walk her inside, and he does, but she smiles and says, "I can walk up some stairs, you know. I'm only two months gone."
"I know, but I promised." Loras doesn't take her arm, just walks with her. He meets Renly and Garlan on the landing.
"I can take her from here," Garlan says, taking her hand.
"I can still walk, Gar, I'm not the size of a house yet." Leonette laughs, but she lets him lead her to the bedroom to sit down.
"Now there's a couple adorably in love," Renly smiles.
"Yeah. Think you'll be like that with Maggie when she's pregnant? If you have kids, I mean," he backtracks. Margaery hates it when people assume she'll want children without asking her first.
Renly laughs. "I think Maggie'd be the one helping me to sit down."
They all get settled in. Grandma Redwyne lives there full-time now that her joints need the heat, and she throws them a dinner party to celebrate their first night back. "It's so good to have my family around me again," she says, as if she's old or something. Loras is pretty sure she's immortal. An immortal badass, he and Margaery agreed when they were kids. Willas calls her a battleaxe. "And a new one this year," she says, eyeing Renly. "I hear you're to marry our Margaery. I do hope you'll treat her well."
No one can threaten sweetly like his gran. Loras smiles at her proudly, almost missing Renly's apprehensive, "I'll do my best."
"You'll do better than that," Grandma Redwyne says. "Treat her like a princess, and I won't have to remove your bollocks while you sleep."
Father, Mother, Garlan and Leonette laugh. Loras and Margaery grin at each other. Willas is smiling indulgently when Loras looks away from Margaery. Renly's the only one who looks faintly scared. "I'll treat her like a queen," he says.
"He already does." Margaery takes his hand and smiles up into his eyes.
"Good," Grandma Redwyne says, and Loras grins at Renly.
They're doing the washing up later, the women ensconced in the lounge, Willas outside with Father and Garlan. "Your gran's scary," Renly says, leaning over to whisper it.
Loras glances around. "Walls have ears, but don't worry, she knows she's terrifying. You got the seal of approval, though."
"I did?" Renly sounds surprised. His face is still close to Loras's. Loras can't stop staring at his mouth.
"Yeah," he says. "Believe me, you'd know if you hadn't."
There's a sudden loud sound as the plates shift in the sink. Loras realises he'd been leaning towards Renly, and pulls himself away, eyes back on the washing up. There's awkward silence for a minute, and then they start talking about the book he lent to Renly, and it's easy again.
The next afternoon, Loras gets back from the shops to find the house almost deserted. He knows his parents and gran have gone to an orchard, and Garlan and Leonette went with them. He passes Margaery asleep by the pool and Willas swimming, and dumps the food in the kitchen. He feels like being indoors, where it's cool and quiet.
He's just heading up to his room when he almost trips over Renly. There's a bend in the stairs, and he's sitting in the blind spot, reading. "Oh — sorry," Loras says, catching himself on the wall.
"I didn't realise anyone was home," Renly says, closing the book and standing up. "I shouldn't have been in the way."
"No, it's fine," Loras says. He glances at where Renly is in Maurice. "Do you still like it?"
"Yeah. It's really good."
"Well, I'll leave you to it." Loras makes to go further up the stairs, but Renly turns to him and he halts.
"Maybe we could do something. Talk, or," he fiddles with the book. "I don't know. Everyone else is out."
"Will's in the pool," Loras says. "Maggie's asleep, but you could still go down there."
"I know," Renly says. "I want to talk to you."
"What about?" Loras is uncomfortably aware of the small space they're in. Renly moves up a step, closer. Loras gets caught on looking at his mouth again.
"Fuck," Renly whispers, and kisses him.
It's nothing like how he kisses Margaery. This is desperate, Renly almost clutching at him with his mouth. He backs Loras against the wall and presses close. Loras is making small moaning sounds in his throat, their tongues curling around each other, faster than he likes it but fuck it's amazing anyway. Renly whimpers as Loras tugs him by the waist, their crotches crashing together. Loras breaks the kiss in surprise when he feels Renly's erection against his stomach.
"I thought you couldn't get it up," he says, panting.
"I always get it up around you," Renly says, leaning in like they've got magnets in their lips. Loras kisses him, pleading. "Every day," Renly mumbles into the kiss. "I've had to buy looser clothes since I started staying with you."
"Oh, fuck," Loras whispers, voice almost squeaking. He can't deal with the thought of Renly being hard for all that time. He scrambles with the waistband on Renly's shorts, getting his hand inside fast and wrapping it around Renly's cock. "Fuck," Loras whispers, moving his hand and watching Renly's face. He's closing his eyes, opening his mouth, and Loras leans in to suck on his lower lip.
"Loras," Renly pants, pure relief in his voice. "I had to," he licks his lips, "I had to keep making excuses to go and wank."
"Fuck," Loras says, leaning his head back against the wall and jerking Renly off faster. It only takes a couple of minutes for Renly to come, and Loras looks him in the eye as he licks every bit of spunk off his hand. Renly whimpers when Loras slides one finger into his mouth and out again.
"I really hope that's a promise," he says, watching Loras's tongue.
Loras finishes licking his hand, leans in until he's breathing on Renly's earlobe, and murmurs, "I will if you will."
Renly doesn't even hesitate, just drops to his knees. He tugs Loras's shorts down and a second later his mouth is on Loras's cock and he's sucking incredibly. They give identical groans of relief in unison, and Loras thunks his head back against the wall.
Renly sucks and licks at the head, the shaft, working the base with his hand. This is not his first blowjob, or if it is, it's a debut worthy of awards. Loras comes fast, already far too turned on when he started. Renly swallows around him, which makes Loras whimper in his throat, high-pitched.
Renly stands up and pulls Loras's shorts back into place. Loras takes his hand and says, "My turn now," practically running with him to his room. Renly laughs, but he stops laughing when Loras shuts the door behind them and kisses him firmly, walking him over to the bed.
"You were serious," Renly says, when Loras has lain him down and is taking his clothes off, kissing over the newly-exposed skin.
He looks up. "Yes, Captain Obvious. That okay?"
"Do I even need to answer that?" He tilts his hips up.
Loras sucks him to full hardness and then takes his time, pulling off to lick when Renly sounds a bit too desperate. He can make a man last at least an hour this way, listening to the sounds they make, watching how they move. He hasn't had a boyfriend in so long, someone whose body he can get to know, learn how to make him come within seconds or last forever. He's always liked doing that, but with Renly, he wants to dedicate years of his life to the study. He wants to make art of Renly's body, craft sighs and yells and bucking hips until he's shaking so hard Loras knows he can't take any more. He wants to kiss him until the taste of his tongue is so familiar the smallest thing will make him think of it.
He's holding Renly near the edge, but not quite on it, Renly writhing and begging, when he hears the front door shut. "Loras?" Margaery calls. "Renly, you in here?"
Renly goes silent. Loras sucks him over the edge in two seconds, Renly biting his arm to muffle the sounds, and they scramble up. Renly yanks his clothes back on and Loras grabs two books, throwing one to him. "We're up here," he calls, opening at a random page.
Renly makes a motion with his hand, and Loras wipes his own chin. There was come on it. He licks it off his fingers, wipes his hand on his shorts, and pretends to read.
Margaery appears in the doorway. "I found this on the stairs," she says, holding up Maurice.
"Oh, thanks," Renly says. "I forgot I left it there." He's flushed, hair all over the place.
Margaery laughs. "What have you two been up to, wrestling?"
"Yeah. I had to fight him for this," Renly grins, holding up Of Human Bondage. Loras smiles weakly, but he can't look her in the eye.
"My consolation prize was Walt Whitman," he says.
Margaery ruffles his hair. "You're so gay," she says, fondly.
Loras cannot believe his own behaviour. After that first time, he and Renly keep sneaking away together. They have rather dangerous hand jobs in a tree, blow each other in the wine cellar while they're supposed to be grabbing some red for dinner, and the first time they fuck, really properly fuck, they both cry off a family outing to a village thirty miles away with a world market. Loras slips out to the garden when everyone's leaving, and scatters flower petals in his bed. He fucks Renly sitting up, kissing him all through it, and his bed smells of daisies and sex when he goes to sleep that night.
They make up an outing to Nice, and some excuse as to why no one else should come. It's far enough away that they can't drive there and back in one day, and when Leonette brings that up, Loras shrugs and says, "We'll find a hotel. Don't worry, we'll be back the day after."
They stop at the first hotel in Nice that has vacancies and looks decent, and don't leave the room until they have to check out the next morning. Renly fucks him bent over the bed, in the shower, against the wall. Loras fucks Renly over the bath, on the floor, across the bed. He's never had so many orgasms in one day. He buys a postcard on the way out of the town, and sits in the car to write it to Margaery while Renly gets them some ice creams.
At the end of the three weeks, they all say goodbye to Grandma Redwyne, and Loras wonders if this affair with Renly will carry on when they're back in England. He doesn't have to wonder for long; Margaery gets a call from a close friend and has to hare off to Essex to pick up the pieces of a break-up. Renly waits for a few hours, then finds Loras and says, "Fuck, I want you. Right now."
Margaery knows something is up. She always knows. The guilt is eating away at him, and in the moments when they let the outside world shine in, he can see it's eating up Renly, too. "We should tell her," Loras whispers, one night near the end of summer. They're stealing kisses in the kitchen, on washing up duty, the cutlery abandoned in the sink.
Renly sighs. "I know. I can't stand all this lying, especially not when I know about her sleeping with other men — but it's different." He shifts closer, kisses Loras softly, and says, "I love you."
It's the first time he's said it. Loras's heart skips a beat. "I love you too," he says, closing his eyes and leaning their foreheads together. "Fuck, I've been in love with you for months."
"I'm not in love with her," Renly whispers miserably. "I love her, she's wonderful, but I'm not. She's not in love with me. And I thought it was enough," Renly slides his hands into Loras's hair, "but it's not any more. Not now I have you. I'm so in love with you I can hardly think straight." Loras kisses him deeply, wrapping his arms around Renly's shoulders, tongue curling just where it should always be, against Renly's.
"Oh," says a voice in the doorway. They jump away from each other. Margaery is standing there, holding an empty glass. "Well," she says, "that explains it."
"Mags —" Renly starts.
"I don't think you should call me that," Margaery says. She turns to Loras. "Nor you."
"I'm so sorry, Maggie," Loras says. "We were — tonight, we were talking about telling you, we — I didn't want you to find out like this."
Margaery nods. She looks sort of numb. "You tried to warn me, did you know? I don't think you meant to. But when you told me you loved him," her eyes flick to Renly and back to Loras, "you said, 'I love you more than almost anything.' I think I know what you love more than me."
"No — wait, Maggie, please —" Loras starts after Margaery, who's turning away.
She turns back, pushes past him, swings her arm back and punches Renly. "I would have been fine with it," she says, anger flooding her voice, "if you'd just told me."
"I tried," Renly says, hand to his cheek. "I did, so many times."
"You could have tried harder. I know, it's different, you're in love with him. I didn't have to hear it, I've known it since France. That's when it started, wasn't it?"
Loras nods, eyes down. "I'm so sorry," he repeats.
"I expected more honesty from you," she says. He winces at the hurt and anger in her voice. She takes a deep breath. "No one is going to know. When you two have fucking made it up to me, then we can talk about what happens next. But while you are making it up to me, there will be no touching each other, no kissing, no being alone together. Is that understood?"
"Yes," they chorus. Loras knows better than to ask what she means about what happens next, but the hope sparks in his chest.
"Right." She takes another deep breath, flicking her hair out of her face. "You are both going to stay out of my way until I've calmed down, and then you are going to grovel. A lot."
"Yes, of course," Renly says.
It takes her until two weeks after term starts again to calm down. Loras dutifully stays out of her way, deflecting questions from Willas, which are far too pointed for him not to have worked it out. It's easier to steer clear of her when he's back in Cambridge, but more difficult for him to grovel. He has a plan, though. When he gets the text — Right, commence grovelling — he goes immediately into action, ringing up florists and getting bouquets of her favourite flowers delivered fresh every morning for a week. He sends her every picture of Robert Downey Jr and Jude Law he can get his hands on. He reserves seats for her favourite plays, lets her know when to pick the tickets up from the box office, making sure to ask beforehand when she's free. He doesn't talk to Renly, but he's sure she's getting similar things from him. Only he's there in person to deliver them. He feels a stab of jealousy and squashes it. He has no right to be jealous. She is the one with the prior claim.
She rings him, near the end of Michaelmas term. "Fine," she says, "I forgive you. I know how you feel about him, and I know how you feel about me. It must have been hard to lie to me."
"It was unimaginably awful," he says, putting all of his emotions from the summer into it. "God, seriously, I've never lied to you before that, and it was something so huge, and I hated myself every second. I don't love him more than I love you, you're my sister, it can't be compared. He's the love of my life, but you're my sister."
Margaery's quiet for a second. "The love of your life?"
"Yeah." Loras sighs. "I know I'm only twenty-one. I've got my whole life ahead of me, and a lot of people would say I'm too young to know what I'll want when I'm eighty. But I'm not too young, I do know what I want."
"And what do you want when you're eighty?" Margaery asks, quiet.
"Renly," Loras answers immediately. "To be in one of those complexes for old people, or a bungalow or something. I want to remember where he put his dentures, I want him to tell me I put my glasses on my head when I can't find them. Stuff like that. I want to still be kissing him when neither of us can get it up any more."
"Oh, Loras," Margaery sighs. "You make me want to stand aside and say here, marry him in my place."
"I would," Loras says.
"I know. But I can't stand aside. I do love him, darling. Not like you do, and maybe some day I'll fall madly in love and divorce him and you can marry him, but right now, I love him and I want to marry him. And he still wants to marry me."
"Oh." Loras swallows against the lump in his throat.
"He explains it better than I do. He's told me everything, about being gay, about why he can't come out, everything."
"He did?" Loras fiddles with the cord on his hoodie. "He didn't tell me that stuff."
"Well, from the sounds of it you were busy," Margaery says. "Listen, I've forgiven you both, and I think we can work through this. I'm bringing him home for Christmas this year, we'll talk then."
"All right," Loras says. "I do love you, you know."
"I love you too, darling," Margaery says. "It's going to be okay. I promise."
Renly phones him about an hour after he hangs up with Margaery. "Fuck, I've missed your voice," he says as soon as Loras picks up.
"God, I've missed yours too." Loras curls up on his bed, holding the phone to his ear. "How's Maggie?"
"Not angry any more," Renly says. "Listen, I need to talk to you about things. I've explained them to Maggie, but I owe you an explanation, too. I should have talked to you first, but I couldn't. Phone ban."
"Yeah," Loras says, instantly feeling better.
"The thing is, I'm going into politics. It's what I'm good at, it's what I want to do, and it means I can't be myself. Not publicly."
"There are gay politicians," Loras protests. "Out ones, even."
"Not ones whose brother wants to be Prime Minister. Not ones who want to be Prime Minister themselves." Renly sighs. "I don't want to always be a back-bencher with an out-of-the-way constituency, and I can't be leader of a party if I'm out. We're getting more acceptance, in general, but in the Houses of Parliament? With all those other MPs fighting for the exact same job I want, you have to be certain things to come out on top. One of those things is a family man. I need a wife, at least the appearance that I'm trying for kids, and the public would see through a sham marriage in a second."
"But yours will be a sham marriage," Loras says. His voice comes out small. He's curling further in on himself.
"I do love her," Renly says, voice gentle. "I'm not in love with her, but I do love her. That's enough."
"You said it wasn't," Loras says, almost a whisper.
"It has to be," Renly says. "I love you more than anyone in this world, Loras Tyrell, but I have to marry your sister."
Loras starts crying. "You said," he sniffs, not caring how pathetic he sounds, "you said you're so in love with me you can't think straight. You said it wasn't enough, now you had me."
"No, Loras, don't cry, don't — fuck, I am so in love with you I can't think straight. I am, I can't believe I'm doing this, but — I want to be Prime Minister some day."
"So you're giving me up for some political dream," Loras says. Tears are starting to drip onto his phone. He hopes they short it out.
"No, no, I'm not giving you up. Margaery's doing some thinking, and we'll talk at Christmas. There's a chance for us, Loras."
He sniffs, wiping at his eyes. "There is?"
"Yeah," Renly says. His voice is so soft, so loving, that Loras stops crying. He has to sniff a few more times, and wipe his eyes and clean his phone on his shirt, but he isn't crying now. "You okay?"
"Yeah," Loras says. "Sorry, I get a bit emotional when my future happiness is at stake."
"As soon as I'm allowed, I am going to kiss you so hard you'll need to push me off to breathe," Renly says.
"Not if I kiss you first," Loras says, starting to smile.
When he gets out of the car, home for the Christmas holidays, Margaery comes running out of the house and flings herself into his arms. "I hated being angry with you," she says as he swings her around. "Let's never do that again."
"I promise," Loras says. "I won't lie to you, not ever."
"Come inside and kiss him, he's been insufferable all day." Loras pulls away from her to stare. Margaery laughs. "We were supposed to talk and negotiate it out like adults, but we can do that after. Yes, you can have him. We'll work out the details in a minute, go on."
Loras races indoors, skidding to a halt in the hall. Renly is standing there, breathing hard. They close the distance in two strides and in less than a second they've slotted back together, the way they fit so perfectly. Loras's arms around Renly's back and shoulders, Renly's hands in his hair and on his hip. Their mouths slotted just right, tongues curling. He tastes familiar, except for the mince pie.
He loses track of time as he kisses Renly, all the months of longing pouring into it. Renly's fingers slip under the waistband of his jeans, dipping, sending delicious shivers through him. He starts yanking Renly's shirt up out of his trousers, and that's when Margaery clears her throat.
They break apart. "Clearly we need to keep you two from kissing in public," she says, eyebrows raised.
"This is just frustration," Loras says, a little breathless.
"No, this is how I feel all the time around you," Renly says, and Loras has to beam at him for a while.
"Loras," Margaery says, snapping him out of it. "Didn't you have bags in the car?"
"Eh," he waves a hand, "I have clothes here. Or I can get them later." He can't take his eyes from Renly's. Renly's smiling at him, a beautiful warmth in his eyes.
Margaery walks over and flicks them both on the arm. "Living room. Now. We are negotiating this, and then you are getting your bags from the car."
"Yes, sarge," Loras grins.
They set down some ground rules — no giving the press cause to out him, which means no kissing or touching in public; Margaery can still have sex with whoever she wants, as long as she's discreet; Renly and Loras can have as much sex as they like, as long as they are discreet and she never has to hear them; if at some point they do decide to have children, Renly will then have sex with her, but if all else fails they can use a turkey baster. "And be happy," Margaery says, looking with fond exasperation at them both. "And no more lies."
"Agreed," Loras says.
"Definitely," Renly nods.
"Right then," Margaery claps her hands together. "Brother dear, go and bring your bags in. Husband-to-be, you have a new boyfriend to shag. I will keep the parents occupied with colour swatches for the bridesmaid dresses. Ooh, or the seating arrangements, we haven't even looked at those yet. Be back for dinner."
"I love you," Renly says, kissing her cheek.
"Love you too," she smiles. "Now go. I'll cover for you."
Renly takes Loras's hand and grins. "I think we should do as the lady says."
"Do you think you'll have to make a speech?" Loras asks. He's got his head on Renly's chest, Renly playing with his hair.
"At the next party conference?" Loras nods. "I don't think so," Renly says. "I'm not that important yet."
"But you will be," Loras says. "Some day you'll be giving all the biggest speeches, and I'll sit next to Maggie and clap the loudest."
Renly kisses his hair. "You've got such faith in me," he says.
"Well, you're brilliant," Loras says.
"I know, but I'm forever doubting myself these days. It's terrifying, actually trying to work my way up. Then I come here to see you, and it's like you fill me with this confidence, because you're so sure I'm wonderful."
"Of course you're wonderful," Loras says, shifting to kiss near his nipple. "You know I think you're the best thing basically in the world."
"I know." Renly smiles at him, and Loras leans up to kiss him. "I don't know what I've done to deserve such amazing people as you and Mags."
"Been you," Loras says, beaming. "That's all. It's about time you had people adoring you, after the way your family's always treated you."
"Oh, they're not so bad," Renly shrugs.
"They don't love you," Loras says. "They don't deserve you."
Renly strokes his fingers through Loras's hair. "I love you," he says, softly.
Loras answers by shifting up his body to kiss him again, this time not just a peck. He's starting to get hard, and rolls on top of him.
Renly breaks the kiss to say, "Again?"
"Yes please. I've only got you for the weekend," Loras says, moving his hand to touch along Renly's thigh where he likes it.
Renly bites his lip. "You're the best thing that's ever happened to me," he says.
"Mm. Do shut up and fuck me," Loras says, and Renly laughs, rolling them over and pinning him, hands on his wrists.
"Anything you say," Renly grins, and leans down to kiss him.
Margaery is two minutes out from the church and Loras is engrossed in thinking about his dissertation when Garlan leans over to whisper, "Where's the groom?"
Loras looks up. Renly and Robert have disappeared. "Where's the best man?" he whispers back. "I'll look for them."
"Thanks." Garlan shifts aside to let him pass, and Loras starts his search.
He finds them half way up the bell tower. When he opens the door to the stairs, he hears Robert saying, "Oh come on, you can't be telling me you're so gay you won't even get married."
Loras shuts the door behind him. "Renly? What's going on?"
"Loras," Renly says, rushing down the steps. Loras thinks for a second he's going to hug him or kiss him, but Renly just cups Loras's face in his hands. "I can't do it."
"What do you mean, you can't do it?"
"I can't," he says, leaning his forehead against Loras's. "I love you so much, I just can't go through with it. I want it to be you." He kisses him. "Will you marry me?" he says.
"Yes," Loras answers. "God yes. But we can't. Your political career. Stannis."
"Fuck my political career," Renly breathes, and kisses him again. "None of it means anything without you."
Loras gently takes Renly's hands from his face. Four months ago, he'd have killed to have this moment. "I can take it from here," he says to Robert. "Stall them for a minute."
"Fine," Robert says, squeezing past and shutting the door after him.
"You have to marry Mags," Loras says. Renly opens his mouth to protest, but Loras says, "No, listen to me. Last summer was amazing, but we were so busy being guilty we forgot to do anything but have sex. These last four months with you," he runs his fingers through Renly's hair, "they've taught me a lot about you. How passionate you are about the public, about changing things for the better. I see you working so hard to make those changes some day, and it makes me love you more. And you can't do that if I'm your husband."
"I can," Renly says. "I could make a difference in a tiny constituency, you know I'd be happy doing that."
"Not as happy as making a difference to more people," Loras says.
"But," Renly cups his face again, "I could fight for it, be the first out gay Prime Minister. Be a hero to queer politicians and kids everywhere."
"It'd be a long, hard fight, and you'd lose a lot more privacy." He takes a deep breath and says, "And so would I. I'm not looking forward to thinking about whether a phone's being tapped or where an email's sent from or what can be traced where. I'll hate every second of hiding and lying and not getting to be right there at your side." He leans their foreheads together and forces himself to say, "But it's the right thing to do. You'll always have me. And maybe some day we'll come out and we can get married then. Work on opening up marriage to any couples first," he says, smiling.
"I love you," Renly says, voice pleading.
"I love you so much." Loras closes his eyes. "But do you know who else loves you? The woman who's spent the past year planning this wedding. She'll be here by now, probably stalling at the front door. She looks so beautiful, you'll fall over when you see her. And you will have a great marriage, and I will be your boyfriend, and we'll each have our favourite part of your heart." He smiles. "Besides, if you leave her unattended for too long, I think Robert will move in on her. And I know for a fact that she doesn't go for lechy drunks."
Renly laughs. "You're right. I'm being an idiot."
"No," Loras says. "You're being romantic. I can't believe you were going to call off the wedding to marry me."
"I would have. I still could."
"No, Renly." Loras kisses him. "Go out there and do our Margaery proud. Ignore me if I blub. And I will see you tomorrow, when I coincidentally have a holiday in the same hotel you're on your honeymoon in."
Renly nods. "Right. Okay." He squares his shoulders. "One last kiss."
"All right, but a short one," Loras says, and kisses him properly. Renly hums into it, kissing back, lips soft and so familiar.
Loras straightens his hair and his tie and slips back out into the church, Renly following a second later. The organ starts to play when Renly is back in his place. Loras turns to the back of the church, and Margaery starts down the aisle on Father's arm. He gives her a tiny thumbs up, and she smiles.
Loras glances over at Renly. He's gazing at Margaery, but every few seconds his eyes flick over to Loras. Renly smiles, at both of them, and Loras settles into his seat to enjoy the wedding.