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Under String Lights

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Working a double shift to cover for one of his best friend's "sick days" was the diligent Jon Snow. Jon was a good friend, always lending a hand when he could and often times going out of his way to do so. He was ever the handsome fellow, too, always managing to earn the attention of the locals and tourists who stopped by the establishment. And how could he not? He was a relatively tall fellow with a decent muscular lean that was often exposed by his somewhat tight-fitting black uniform shirt. His dark pants also did his legs and rear end many favors in the ways they gripped his body, especially when he walked. With skin as fair as the winter snow itself, he truly was the embodiment of his last name. His hair hung down in soft black curls all the way to his shoulders, only occasionally tied back in times of unprecedented workloads in the restaurant.

Tonight, his hair was tied back with very few curly strands hanging loose near his neck.

Waiting on impatient and hungry guests under the carefully hung string lights was certainly a mixture of environments. The manager insisted on having the outdoor dining area decorated with them to create a warm and inviting mood that everyone could enjoy. Her intent was to also generate a romantic setting that the inside of the restaurant did not provide.

For the fast-approaching summer heat, there were several fans hung here and there from the main support beams. It was more than enough for a guest who was seated and chatting away or eating their fill. For the employees who were running rampant, however, it was nowhere near enough.

Sweat dripped down Jon's thick brow as he stood at the bar and talked to his best friend, Samwell. Samwell was a stark contrast to Jon. Where Jon was very toned and tall, Sam had some extra weight and was just short of average height. His hair was dark, but short. His looks couldn't turn heads, either. Not that he ever wanted them to. He also wasn't super confident in his skills as a bartender, compared to Jon, who was versatile when it came to this job. In fact, it was Jon who had trained Sam on the bar.

Often, people gravitated towards Jon when the two of them were serving drinks together. Sam didn't mind. They shared their tips, and he wasn't the most confident when people, especially women, came over to him to order anyway. He was perfectly fine letting Jon take the lead, as it meant he could clean and prep and stock the fridges with drinks. He often thought of their roles as that of a tree. Jon was the outer growth that absorbed the sunlight and braved the storms, while he was the root system that held everything in place and kept the system strong.

"Ya shouldn't have covered for her, you know." Sam said mildly as he cleaned some glasses out, avoiding looking at Jon.

Jon's dark eyes turned to Sam and he raised an even darker eyebrow. "If she's sick, I don't mind. Besides, the extra hours will put me at overtime. Ya know I've been saving for university."

Indeed, Jon had graduated high school four years ago. He knew university wasn't a realistic option since he'd moved out here on his own. He'd been given the option to move out across the sea when his parents decided that's where they wanted to live, but declined because the university he wanted to attend was here. So when he graduated, he packed his car to the brim and moved out here to a cozy little studio apartment. This job was an easy get, considering the manager saw it as a beneficial to have a "mostly attractive" staff working. She'd said something along the lines of "putting your best foot forward". It wasn't long after moving here that Jon met Sam, and then Ygritte sometime after. Ygritte, his free-spirited friend, got him the job here, and he returned the favor for Sam.

Since moving out here and taking this job, Jon had been saving left and right to be able to afford the tuition and other costs involved with attending Midland University. It was nice knowing his other family members were somewhat close, namely his uncle, Ned Stark, and his family. They lived a few hours to the North, but the family often visited in the summers. Apparently they had a sizeable summer home in the woods, overlooking the lake on one side and the coast on the other. Given the last summer was five years ago, he had just missed them when he moved here.

"I know. Have you picked a major yet?" Sam asked as he ran a dry towel over the glass he'd just washed.

"Something with art, probably. I'm thinking about sculpture. I've always liked building things." Jon replied, grinning as he recalled the time he appropriated some things from around the house to create a wolf sculpture. He'd always had a fascination with them, especially since it was the sigil of his mother's house.

"You're kidding, right?" Sam said knowingly.


Sam set the glass down and gave a look, "You're not just going into art because Ygritte is a painting major, are you?"

"No, it's not like that. You know I don't…" Jon sighed after trailing off, unwilling to keep explaining how he wasn't interested in dating Ygritte. "Cut it out." He ordered as he saw Sam grin.

"Jon, we've got a group coming in!" his manager called, "Break's over!"

Jon looked over his shoulder with his eyebrows a bit high on his forehead. He could see them coming into the outdoor area, being led by the new girl, Gilly. Gilly was a sweet girl. Jon knew it from the few times he'd spoken to her. But he also knew she was quite a firecracker when provoked. While she wasn't a model by anyone's standards, he knew Sam had a crush on her. Unlike Sam, however, Jon didn't tease.

The group Gilly brought was seated in the back. When she'd done her part, she weaved her way through the other seated customers to get to the two of them.

"You've got a table full of college students tonight." She said to Jon, patting him encouragingly on the back before taking a seat at the bar.

Sam's cheeks turned, and Jon winked at him as he grabbed up his notepad and left them alone together.

As he approached the table, he took note of the group. Of them, one of the men caught his eye. This man wasn't far off from a ginger, like Ygritte, or like the cousin he knew he had, Sansa. His light auburn hair was incredibly curly, but seemingly well kept. As he got closer, he noticed other things that he wished he hadn't. His smile was young, his teeth were white and very straight. The beard he sported was short, but thick and just as auburn as his curly hair. It gave him a rugged look, and was a little unkempt like wild grass. His skin was pale-pink, touched only gently by the sun he'd likely been spending time in. The muscles he had were run over by his white t-shirt, and a necklace hung round his neck and ran down the center of his chest muscles. His light blue skinny jeans were almost as bright as his t-shirt, but torn all over.

He seemed to be making the majority of the noise, and much of the attention was on him. His arm was draped casually over a girl with dark hair and dark eyes, the same as Jon. She was enjoying herself, but didn't seem as boisterous as the others at the table. She had fair skin and he could tell she had freckles when he was upon them.

The man's crystal blue eyes found their way to his when he stopped to greet them.

"Evening, how's everybody doing today?" Jon spoke his rehearsed lines. Of course, he had no true desire to know how these loudmouths were doing.

"Margaery, get off the phone." Another guy in the group said loudly to interrupt her call. He was probably the most arrogant in the way he looked at Jon. His hair was about the same length as Jon's, too, but much lighter. He also had blue eyes, but they hadn't caught Jon off-guard like the other guy's did. They were far more tamed and less vibrant.

"Wait," Margaery said, holding her hand up and turning to be less rude.

There were two other men among them. One had curly hair as well, but it was tied back. He was wearing a shirt that read 'Thorns' on it. He wasn't a bad looking guy, nor was the one right beside him, who had short dark hair and a relatively appealing complexion.

"Robb will have the tossed salad. But he likes to toss it, if you don't mind." The arrogant one commented suggestively.

Jon raised an eyebrow, looking the handsome one he'd first noticed over again. Coincidentally, his oldest cousin's name was Robb. Robb stomped the guy's foot under the table and gave him the finger for his comment. "You really are a cunt, Greyjoy." He spat.

"Stop calling me that, you fucking prick! Theon isn't a hard name to remember!" Theon said, pulling his foot back in pain. "I guess a bonehead wouldn't remember it, though!"

"Can we go anywhere without becoming a spectacle?" the one with dark hair cut close to his head said disapprovingly.

"Pretty boy over here is embarrassed." Theon mocked.

"Our house special tonight is the fried pork sandwiches." Jon interrupted, having had quite enough of this bickering.

His outburst caught them all by surprise. Theon became quiet, wearing a concealed smirk. "Go on, Robb. Order the man's pork." He said.

Robb turned to his girlfriend. "You can order first, Talisa." He told her, then kissed her cheek gently.

Talisa smiled and took the menu into her hands. "Can I just have a chicken salad? And breadsticks? For my drink, I think I'll take a large water if you have one."

Jon wrote that down for her, then moved on. "And you?" he said to Robb.

Robb leaned in and looked at Talisa's menu very briefly. "I'll take… the special. Give me some rum with that?" he replied.

"Of course. And you?" Jon said to Theon.

Theon handed Jon his menu before ordering. "I wanna try the steak. Medium rare, and toss in some potatoes with that. Give me rum, too, if ya please."

Jon wrote that down and looked at Margaery, "For you?"

Margaery put a hand over her phone's speaker and replied. "I'll have a salad as well, extra chicken please, and a glass of diet coke. Can I order a chicken sandwich, some fries, and some lemon cakes to go?" she asked.

"Of course." Jon told her.

Her order seemed to catch Robb's attention. "Are you ordering for her?"

"Yes, someone has to. You'd think you would for your own sister. She'll be hungry when she gets into town." Margaery nearly snapped, then smiled at Jon.

"Anything else?" Jon asked her.

"No, that'll be all. Thanks, love."

Jon unintentionally let a small smile escape. Not everyone in this group was a complete asshole. In fact, it seemed only the Theon character was the difficult one.

After taking the orders of the other two, now identified as Loras and Renly, Jon gave a smile and assured them their food would be ready shortly, then left them. As he left, he couldn't help but take a brief look over his shoulder, only to notice Robb's crystal blue eyes following him as he went.

While true, Robb did not prefer the company of Theon Greyjoy, he did admit that things usually were more interesting with him around. Robb was a Stark, of the North, and very proud of himself and his family. He recently entered Midland University, though he opted to take online courses for the past semester to remain in the North. He wasn't quite ready to move down here yet. There were still things he needed to learn about his House, since he was the one to lead it someday. His father, Ned Stark, was the Warden of the North and Lord of Winterfell. What would it look like if his son abandoned him to pursue studies in the Midlands?

Robb Stark was the eldest of his siblings. He was the strongest, the most determined, and much of his parents' expectations fell on his shoulders. Someday he would have to become Lord of Winterfell and Warden of the North and marry a lady to begin a family and continue the Stark name. Robb also had to be looking out for his four younger siblings: Sansa, Arya, Bran, and Rickon.

While his younger brothers only needed brotherly advice and guidance, his sisters were a different matter entirely. Robb had to be constantly watching out for Sansa, who was often the target of romantic pursuers. He'd heard a rumor that the prince of the Capital kingdom had caught her eye, and that simply wouldn't do. The royal prick would never stick his cock in Robb's younger sister. As for Arya, Robb hadn't known her to be showing any interest in romance just yet. Unlike Sansa, though, Arya was very private and careful about her personal life. So much so that Robb wasn't even sure if she was interested in men.

And on that note, Robb himself had some secrets of his own.

While he'd fucked his share of women in the North, and even here in the Midlands, he couldn't find himself satisfied with the idea of settling down with any one of them. Not even Talisa, who was quite ladylike like his mother or stubborn sister.

On more than one occasion, Robb found himself engaged in private trysts with men here and there. He never felt shame while in the heat of the moment. Not once. And he'd been somewhat honest about his open sexuality with his mother and father. Catelyn, his lady mother, disapproved. Even so, she insisted she couldn't stop him if she tried. His lord father, Ned, did not judge him, although Robb knew he would prefer to see a lady on his arm rather than a man.

There rumor about male relationships in Westeros detailed something along the lines of their fleeting existence, occurrence without significant meaning, and morally impure foundation. Most who were of religious background disdained men sharing a bed because of the Seven-Pointed Star—a book Robb was never partial to in the first place.

Perhaps there was some truth in the rumors… Robb had never once heard of a lasting relationship between men in all of Westeros. Even his own meetings had been hook-ups and nothing more. However, he knew this was likely due to the overall association men have with same-sex desires. A man with men was oft seen as sinful and wicked, so who would choose to stand out and declare their love under such harsh pretenses?

His crystal eyes found their way to his friends, Renly Baratheon and Loras Tyrell. Of course, everyone here was aware they were dating, even though neither of them had ever come out and admitted it. The way they talked to each other, often wound up hanging out together, and the little secrets they seemed to share were very telling. At parties, they often found their way off to some place outside where they just sat and talked and drank the night away.

Robb envied them greatly.

He wanted to try his hand at finding a suitable man to date. A proper boyfriend, and not a series of secret trysts that led to nowhere. As for his current situation, frankly, he'd fooled himself into thinking he wanted to stay with Talisa. She was good and kind and forthright above all else, but he didn't see a future with her. So for now, he stayed with her because he did care for her, still. Among the women he'd dated in the past, she stood out and made him feel like none of them ever had before. And the time they shared was generally happy.

But he knew the end was in sight for them… Perhaps she knew it as well. She had been a little distant lately.

Robb was so withdrawn that a gentle caress on his arm shook him.

"Are you alright?" Talisa asked as a confused but amused smile graced her pretty face.

"I'm fine." Robb was quick to reply. He had never once discussed his sexuality with Talisa. Gods, he'd reluctantly done it with his parents.

"You sure? You seem distracted, bloated even. And your face is red." She continued quietly, attempting a private conversation among their group. She didn't particularly enjoy Theon commenting on every single thing. She didn't even understand why Robb continued his friendship with him.

"Yes, I promise." Robb assured her, aiming a toothy smile her way. He truly was a handsome man, and his smile often got him out of trouble. Neither of his parents knew where such cunning behavior had come from, and they still wondered to this day.

Talisa returned the smile and kissed his cheek, "Good." She told him.

When his girlfriend turned her attention elsewhere, Robb took the chance to seek out their waiter, who was sitting across the way at the bar and chatting with his coworker. He observed him carefully, hungrily even, under the warmly-lit hanging lights. His black hair was tied back in a tight bun and was as dark as the night itself. Robb wondered what it would look like set loose at his shoulders. The occasional smile he threw at the bartender was nothing short of beautiful; even more beautiful than his own lovely girlfriend's. His lips were desirably swollen, too. Robb watched him take a drink of water, entranced by the way his Adam's apple jumped up and down as he did.

Truly, Robb had never been so enchanted in his young life.

Jon… Robb wondered what kinds of people Jon liked. What kinds of women drew his dark eyes? In what ways did he like to be touched? What sort of things brought a smile to his gorgeous face? What things sparked his interest and held his attention? What were his dreams and aspirations? Surely, they must have been as beautiful as he was.

His heart nearly jumped from his chest as Jon turned and looked his way. Their eyes locked briefly before it became a little too much for him, and he turned back to his group. Theon was pulling something shady with the salt and pepper shakers, grinning like an idiot whilst doing so. Margaery was still on the phone, most likely with Sansa. He learned long ago not to ask Margaery about what she was on the phone discussing. She'd once given him a forty-minute rundown of information he never needed to know about girls he would never know. Loras and Renly were engaged in a talk about something. It seemed like they were talking about a video game. Gods how he envied them…

As Talisa pulled out her phone and grew absorbed in it, he grew more curious about Renly and Loras. Since he didn't live in this city, he didn't see them very often. He spent just enough time with them to consider them friends, but not enough to consider them close.

Indeed, they were discussing a new title that had been released. He wondered what it was like for them to connect on a level where they could share something as time consuming as video games. Essentially, it seemed like they were best friends and in love with each other at the same time. But that was just him on the outside looking in… They never let on just how into each other they were because they never once admitted to the fact that they were dating.

He hoped someday he could also know what it was like to be so deeply connected to someone.

"Here you go," Jon said as he handed out the group's food and drink. He made sure to serve the ladies first. He served Robb his food last, catching his brief gaze after doing so. "You folks need anything else?"

"We're quite good." Margaery said with a smile and lingering stare.

"Gods…" Loras muttered, rolling his eyes at his sister before he started to eat.

"Alright, then this is where I leave you. Enjoy your meals." Jon told them, then collected his empty trays and went on his way. This time, he didn't look back. Even so, this didn't prevent him from feeling those eyes on him again.

"How'd that go?" Sam asked when Jon found his way back to the bar.

Jon pulled a glass of water from the other side of the bar and drank from it. "I could be at home relaxing right now." He replied flatly.

"You had to be the good guy." Sam shook his head at his friend. "Just another hour and a half to go."

"Kill me now and be done with it…"

"Got some more guests coming in." Sam pointed out.

Jon exhaled and deeply regretted bailing Ygritte out. He shaped up and waited for Gilly to lead the group to their table before going over to them. Gods, today had been all too exhausting and his feet were killing him.

Once Robb and his group were done with their meals, Jon swiftly came to take their emptied dishes. He asked them if there was anything else they needed, specifically any dessert. The group had decided on ordering a lemon meringue pie to split, and Jon was off to retrieve it for them.

"I'm going to do it." Theon said as he saw Jon approaching with it in his hand.

"Theon, don't…" Margaery said.

Robb's brow furrowed. He knew what was about to happen, but before he could stop it, it did. Just as Jon arrived at the table with their pie, Theon stuck his foot out and caused him to trip and spill the meringue topping all over his face and shirt. Theon immediately apologized and pretended like he was about to get up to go to the restroom, explaining that was how his foot came to be in Jon's path.

Stuck behind Talisa in the booth, Robb asked her to move aside so he could help Jon up.

Jon refused and got up on his own. His handsome face was covered in white, as was his shirt. Robb watched feeling almost responsible for this. He should have been able to save Jon from the embarrassment, or at the very least control Theon. When Jon took his empty tray and returned to the kitchen, marching with clear annoyance in his stride, Robb noticed he'd dropped something on the ground. He carefully picked it up and looked it over.

A charm? he thought, confused by it. He'd never known a man to wear a charm before. Yet in the palm of his hand was a white little wolf charm that had fallen off of his waiter, Jon.

"Realize I want you. In the strangest way, I create you. But I couldn't dream you up... No I couldn't dream you up..." Persuasion by Sucre

Even though the night had been ruined by Theon's immature prank, Robb wasn't completely disappointed. In his right pocket, he kept the charm that Jon had dropped. When he and his friends paid their bills—the unanimous vote being for Theon to cough up for the pie—they exited the restaurant and took to the charming streets of their city.

Talisa walked a little ahead of Robb, talking with Margaery about something. Robb wasn't exactly paying attention to them. His mind was still full of thoughts about Jon.

He pulled the charm out of his pocket and rolled it between his thumb and index finger a few times. It was metal, but felt as light as a feather to him. Though small, he saw detail in it. The wolf's face was well defined and the eyes as red as blood itself. Robb wondered where on Jon this had fallen off of.

As he stared at it, his walking pace slowed until his friends had become lost from him in the crowds of people. He stood in place for a while, then made up his mind to try to find Jon and apologize to him for Theon's actions as well as return this charm to him.

He turned on his heel and hurried back to the restaurant like a child eager to open presents on Christmas morn. Upon his return, he greeted the hostess and asked if he could enter. She didn't seem to want to let him, but he assured her he was going to buy a drink from the bar. When she let him enter, he smiled at her and made his way to the outside bar.

Just before he got to it, he did happen to notice the mess that had been made was gone. The place also seemed to have far less customers than when he and his friends were here.

"Can I get you a drink?" Sam asked, coming over to him.

Robb looked around briefly for Jon, then turned to the man. "Where's Jon?" he said, the sentence coming out like he was looking for a friend he'd known for ages.

"Jon's gone home for the night. We're closing in twenty minutes, but he was involved in a spill and…" Sam paused, realizing he didn't need to be revealing information about Jon to a stranger. "Umm, who are you?" he said instead.

"I…" Robb had no honest reply that would earn him further information. "It doesn't matter. Just let him know we're sorry about the spill, and I hope he has a good night." He said with a defeated childish grin.

"Aaah…?" Sam gave a half-smile, even though he was confused. "Will do. Thanks for your concern." He said.

"Take care," Robb waved and then left the restaurant, passing Gilly, who squinted at him.

He found himself on the streets again, now wanting to return to his friends. But before he started walking, he pulled out his phone and fastened the wolf charm to it. Since he was in town for the long summer, he figured he had ample time to find his white wolf, Jon.