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Live my Life as it's Meant to Be

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*

To: Margy
Roommate is single hottest man have ever seen in life. Pol-sci 3rd year. FML.
Sent at 17:46 05/10/2012

To: Loras
Why FML? Also, pics???
Sent at 18:49 05/10/2012

To: Margy
He has a girlfriend ofc. Will send pics when can do so w/o being creepy.
Sent at 18:50 05/10/2012

To: Loras
:( . Don’t worry I’m sure you can turn him. U r creepy though.
Sent at 18:52 05/10/2012

To: Margy
But I don’t want him to know that!
Sent at 18:52 05/10/2012

To: Loras
g2g but will phone you tomorrow at some hour when your hangover has subsided.
Sent at 18:52 05/10/2012

To: Margy
Fine abandon me in my hour of need. Talk to you tomorrow xxxx
Sent at 18:53 05/10/2012

 

To: Loras
REMEMBER PICS xxx
Sent at 18:53 05/10/2012

*

“All unpacked?”

Loras practically dropped his phone as the object of his trouble and desire re-entered the dorm room.

“Pretty much,” he said, making a mental note to delete his message history. His roommate — Renly — smiled and dropped a book bag on his bed, pulling several heavy volumes off and shelving them. He had a lovely smile, Loras noted a little helplessly. Crap.

Quite apart from the obvious sexiness, Renly seemed, well, nice. Here was this mighty 3rd year, apparently totally at ease in his university life: his side of the dorm was fully furnished and unpacked before Loras even got there, books and files in tidy order, a more messy desk and a bulletin board tacked with notes and photos. The photos were mostly from places around campus, and featured other students, including the pretty blonde girl he’d seen Renly so friendly with earlier. Yet if he was bothered by getting stuck with a lowly Fresher, he concealed it very well, going so far as to ask if Loras had everything he needed, knew where the dining hall and the admin offices were, and what he was studying:

“English Lit.”

It always came out the tiniest bit defensive, in the face of people doing sciences and economy and all that. Renly’s subject was obvious from his bookshelves, though Loras did notice the odd crime or thriller fluff tucked away amongst the hardbacks.

“Oh that’s cool,” he said, and didn’t sound like he was making fun. “And will you try out for the Blues?” He nodded at Loras’ rugby ball, taking pride of place on his own shelf already, and the kit printed with TYRELL hung up neatly on the cupboard door.

“Definitely,” Loras grinned. “I’ll make it too. To be honest, English is just because you’ve got to study something. All I really want is to make the Blues. I wouldn’t have worked hard enough to get in here otherwise. I mean, my family expects it, but still. My brother, my oldest brother, he played for the Blues. He had a tryout for the England squad, but then he was in a car accident. He’s fine; I mean, he’s all right now, this was years ago, but his knee won’t ever be right again so that was his rugby days over. So now I’m the sportsman of the family. I expect I’ll go at least semi-professional.”

“And so modest about it!” Renly laughed. Loras shrugged and felt himself blush a little. He realised he had just divulged a great deal of information and still knew next to nothing about his roommate, not even a last name.

“And have you got any siblings?” he asked.

“Two,” said Renly. “Hey, Hall closes in fifteen minutes. If you want dinner you’d bet get some.”

 

*

 

To: Margy
Re: Pics
WELL?
Sent at: 10:18 07/10/12

 

To: Loras
Re: Re: Pics

Hot.
Sent at 10:21 07/10/2012

 

Re: Re: Re: Pics

Would not say hottest in world though.
Sent at 10:21 07/10/2012

 

To: Loras
Re: Re: Re: Re: Pics

Was expecting hotter
Sent at 10:21 07/10/2012

 

To: Margy
R U BLIND
Sent at 10:22 07/10/12

 

To: Loras
Aw, is my little brother in love?
Sent at 10:23 07/10/12

 

To: Margy
Am not your little brother
Sent at 10:23 07/10/12

To: Loras
Mental age :P
Sent at 10:23 07/10/12

To: Margy
Anyway I have known him for like 2 days
Sent at 10:24 07/10/12

To: Loras
And txted me like 200 000 times
Sent at 10:24 07/10/12

 

*

“But I didn’t come to Cambridge to work,” pontificated Sansa, “I came to Cambridge to marry someone rich so I wouldn’t have to.”

They laughed. Sansa Stark was one of Loras’ fellow English students, the kind of popular pretty girl who had already gathered her own group to her. Her father was the MP for some Northern county, Loras forgot which, and frequently made the papers for his uncompromising moralism at parliament.

“Seriously though this is nuts,” said a girl called June or something, one of Sansa’s new clique. She gestured around them to the arced ceiling, long wooden benches, and portraits of prestigious alumni staring down from the walls. The dais at the head of the hall was reserved for fellows, and the servers in formal black lit candles and presented dishes on silverware. Loras was only marginally impressed: he’d been to family formals for Willas and Garlan at Kings and Christ’s respectively, and so far as conspicuous wealth went, Emmanuel was actually one of the more moderate colleges.

“Loras is rich,” said Sam Tarly helpfully.

“No I’m not,” Loras lied.

“It’s not your fault,” Sam consoled him. “We won’t not like you or anything.”

“Do you think it’s gonna be like that,” said a boy called Podrick uncomfortably. “Like in the end, it won’t matter how smart you are, it will all be about who you know?”

“Nah,” Loras said. “I think all the Cambridge connection stuff is exaggerated. I mean, I’ve been here a week now, and I haven’t met anybody important.”

Sam stared at him. “Yes you have.”

“No I haven’t,” Loras frowned.

“Uhh, Loras, you really have.” Sansa was nodding, wide-eyed. “Your roommate?”

Pause.

“Renly?”

“Yes!” Sansa raised her eyebrows and speared a piece of mushroom with her fork. “Your roommate is Renly Baratheon, isn’t he?”

Baratheon. Loras put down his wineglass.

“He’s…related to the prime minister?”

An awkward silence fell over the table.

“Oh well don’t tell him we told you,” June-or-something looked upset. “I mean we just thought you knew.”

“The prime minister’s his brother,” said Sam apologetically.

Loras literally felt his jaw drop. “No way,” he said.

“Way,” Sansa corrected. “Quite an age gap, I know, but it’s hardly unheard of.”

“But! Why does he live with me then? I mean, in North Court!” Loras willed himself not to blush as Sansa and friends giggled. “Why doesn’t he live in a mansion or something? Also….?” How did I not know that?

In the past week, Loras had seen nowhere near as much of his roommate as he would have wanted. Renly seemed to be extraordinarily busy, between 3rd year classes, societies and a hectic social life. Renly seemed to be friends with everyone on campus, from the first years to the dons, though he hadn’t brought a single person back to the dorm room for — well, any reason whatsoever. He was unfailingly polite, and nice, and friendly to Loras — in a much more distant and formal way than Loras would have preferred. On the one night they’d gotten changed for bed at the same time, Renly went into the bathroom fully clothed and emerged in full-length striped pyjamas, which was kind of ridiculous for a guy in his early 20s. It was pretty much indecent of him to act like that and go around being so gorgeous all the time. It was forcing Loras into some very extended showers, to the annoyance of his other dorm-mates.

“Because he’s not like that,” interjected Brienne, an extremely tall awkward girl who coloured as soon as she realised she’d drawn attention to herself. “He’s genuine. He actually cares about the people and one day-” she broke off, and returned her gaze assiduously to her plate. Loras narrowed his eyes.

“Careful, Brienne, you’ll make Loras jealous,” someone called from the next table. They all laughed, and then thankfully someone changed the subject.

With that revelation, Loras’ fascination with his roommate took on new and painful dimensions. He’d had crushes before, obviously, the context was different: in high school, he was the cleverest and best-looking person in his year in addition to being a rugby star, and had generally gotten whatever — and whoever — he wanted. But that had mostly been physical. He’d never wanted a person before the way he wanted Renly, and Emmanuel College seemed to be entirely comprised of attractive and highly intelligent young people. Most were older than him – better read, better travelled, better at life in general.

Oh my God, he thought, one night stumbling in by the small wooden door North Court students referred to as the Hobbit door with Sansa on one arm, and Brienne, who’d drunk nothing but tonic water, holding the door open: I’m ordinary.

“Sansa, I’m ordinary!” he wailed.

“It’s just Cambridge Shock, dear,” she patted his arm.

“No but,” he turned to her: “I want Renly to notice me. How can Renly notice I exist if I’m so ordinary?”

“Oh,” Sansa giggled. “I wouldn’t worry about that.”

“WHAT?” He grasped her forearms. “Sansa. What do you know?

“Oh I couldn’t tell you.”

Tell.

“Well it’s just,” she giggled again. “You know my brother, Robb? He and Renly are both captains in the debat- the detab – the speech club. Sometimes I go to chambers. Anyways there was a pub crawl after this big thing and we were drunk and got talking and … he knows you exist.”

“But then! What! Why won’t he talk to me? Apart from. Like. ‘How are you, Loras, are you settling in? Enjoying Freshers’ Week?’” He tried to approximate Renly’s niceties in a manner that was both mocking and suitably attractive.

“Oh dear Loras,” Sansa sighed. “It’s complicated. You and I are quite lucky really you know … not everyone can be an English student.”

“I’m going to bed now,” Brienne said, “I have a lecture at nine o’clock. I really think you two should as well.”

“Yes.” Sansa detached herself from Loras and clung to Brienne instead, who lived on her floor. “Let us do that.” She leaned over and gave Loras a kiss on the cheek. “See you in the morning.”

*

To: Margy
I’m in love with the Prime Minister’s brother.
Sent at 10:01 08/10/2012

 

To: Loras
What about the roommate u slag???
Sent at 10:05 08/10/2012

 

To: Loras

OH.

Sent at 10:05 08/10/2012

To: Loras

I’m sorry.

Sent at 10:06 08/10/2012

 

*

 

Loras was studying under a tree. It was all very romantic, and the older students warned him to make the most of the balmy October before winter winds started streaming in from the ocean. You weren’t supposed to bring food on the paddock but everyone did, and a cheeky cluster of ducks was hanging around and making intermittent sallies at his bags in search of provisions. The Emmanuel ducks were something of an unofficial mascot, being kept on top-quality feed by the porters holding the right to waddle free over any lawn they pleased. As a result they were unbelievably brazen, lording it over the pond, streams and paddocks harassing people in comedic duck style, and even venturing into the buildings sometimes.

Loras had been flippant to Renly about his commitment to English, but the truth was, he really couldn’t bear to been shown up at seminars, and it smarted every time he received a critical comment on a written piece. There was something to be said for this Cambridge Shock business, he mused. In high school, every essay was returned with a ‘great work!’ ‘excellent!’ and a flurry of red ticks. His first written piece at Emmanuel had been returned to his pigeonhole with the comment, ‘Many good points but much to take issue with’. Take issue with’, he brooded. What was that supposed to mean, exactly? He supposed he’d find out at his weekly seminar, which was why he was trying to concentrate hard on Stephen Knight’s Marxist critique of the Miller’s Tale (which seemed frankly a bit far-fetched).

A familiar voice caused his head to snap up. On the other side of the paddock, Renly was coming out of the library with his girlfriend. Her name was Cersei Lannister, Loras had learned from Sansa’s brother, and she was a grad student. Ugh. It made way too much that he would be dating a gorgeous female grad student. She was laughing about something and had her hand on his arm. They kissed briefly and parted. Very briefly, Loras couldn’t help but note with a little spark of interest. Hmm.

Renly noticed Loras, who hurriedly pretended he hadn’t been watching. He smiled and jogged over.

“Hi.”

“Hi,” Loras supposed that as he was the one who had been staring he was supposed to carry this conversation. “That’s your girlfriend?”

“Cersei, yeah,” Renly didn’t exactly light up at the mention of her. “I see seminars have started.” He gestured to the book in Loras’ hand. Loras nodded:

“It’s harder than I thought it would be,” he admitted.

“That just means you’re doing it right,” Renly assured him. “Trust me, I’ve seen people start out thinking they’re professors already and crash and burn in two months. A bit of humility goes a long way around here.”

“I suppose there’s always sports,” Loras said philosophically.

“Which reminds me,” said Renly. “Isn’t tomorrow your Blues tryout?”

“Yes!” Loras grinned, delighted that Renly had remembered. “At ten o’clock. On impulse he asked: “Will you come? As my supportive roommate to cheer me on?”

Renly hesitated. Something like doubt flashed in his dark eyes, and disappointment must have shown in Loras’ face because Renly conceded: “I’ll try. At the very least I’ll try to get there for the end, make sure you haven’t been smashed to a pulp or anything. You’re kind of small for a rugby player,” he teased.

“That is such a stereotype,” Loras said, rolling his eyes. “Besides, I play wing.”

“I’m going to pretend really hard that I know what that means,” Renly said, nodding solemnly.

“Sit down,” Loras offered boldly. Renly hesitated, then sat. They weren’t close to touching, yet Loras’ whole body prickled with awareness. To his mother’s endless despair, Loras rarely wore anything but old jeans, sweatshirts and rugby shirts, but Renly dressed in a neat preppy style with a hint of affectation. Today he wore black skinny jeans and a blazer, a tasteful but clearly expensive silver-chain watch on one wrist. With his slender build, quick dark eyes there was something almost elfin about him, not Loras’ usual ‘type’ at all, yet his close physical presence was an exquisite torment and a sore test of Loras’ thankfully good character.

“How’s third year?” Loras asked like an idiot.

“Interesting,” said Renly.

“Have you got plans for afterwards? I mean, not that you should. I’m sure some people don’t even think about it until after they graduate. Just you know with the economy and everything…” Here he managed to stop talking. It wasn’t really a fitting time to punch oneself in the face, but Renly didn’t seem to mind Loras’ idiocy.

“Yeah, I’m going to work for my brother,” he said.

“That’s so cool!” said Loras. “I mean, if it’s what you want and all.”

“It is,” Renly nodded. “Or, I want to get straight into politics. Working for my brother is rather another matter.” He gifted Loras with a crooked smile.

“You don’t get on?” Loras asked quietly.

“I don’t really see him enough to say whether we get on or not,” Renly shrugged. “I don’t agree with all his policies. Last Christmas I called him irresponsible and he called me a self-righteous brat.” He reflected. “I suppose it would be fair to say we don’t get on,” he amended.

Loras was horrified. “How could he — how could anyone — you’re not a self-righteous brat,” he exclaimed.

“It’s not my preferred self-image.” Suddenly he changed. Gone was the half-serious student, and in his place a passionate young politician: “The right-wing demonization of the working classes and the poor are getting out of hand. Even if benefit fraud operated on the scale the Sun says it does — which is preposterous, it’s nothing like it — even if you added together every penny spent on healthcare for immigrants and asylum seekers, overestimating for good measure, it still adds up to a fraction of a percentage of what tax evasion costs us. Not to mention the bloated military budget. The Conservatives have people fighting over crumbs whilst their friends in big business steal the bread from under their noses.” He stopped and looked sideways at Loras. I want to fuck him right here, right now, Loras thought, and wondered if Garlan had been right that time he called Loras shallow.

“So, yeah,” said Renly almost embarrassedly. “You might say I have issues with my brother’s way of doing things.”

“But you’re brother’s not a Conservative,” Loras said. It was pretty much the best political insight he had right then.

“No, but he isn’t doing nearly enough to counter the opposition. He’s losing the people, you know? They believe the Sun and the Daily Mail. Don’t tell anyone I said this, but he won’t last the next election.” Renly looked down.
“I won’t,” said Loras, and on impulse, put his hand on top of his roommate’s. It wasn’t even in a creepy way, it was just that Renly looked sad for a second and Loras didn’t like it. The Tyrells were a tactile family, all the siblings as likely to hug and kiss as to slap or pinch or punch each other on the arm. It was just how they expressed themselves. Renly looked startled, and Loras guessed there hadn’t been a lot of that in the Baratheon household. But Renly wasn’t pulling away. On the contrary, he met Loras’ eyes with an expression of — interest. Excitement? A jolt of electricity ran from their joined hands directly to Loras’ dick, conveniently bypassing his brain, and then they were leaning in and then —

“QUERRRRRK!” An enormous fat mallard imposed itself, almost in Renly’s lap. Renly burst out laughing.

“Get off, you fatty,” Renly pushed the duck off, but it came back, reaching determinedly for his book bag where it obviously expected to find food.

Cock-blocked by a duck, Loras thought morosely. This is a low point.

“So you in or out tonight?” Renly asked.

Depends what you’re doing, thought Loras, but he said, “Probably in. Got to get a good sleep before my one big shot and everything.”

“Cool, maybe see you in Hall,” Renly said, then stood, distracted by yet another of his friends/admirers calling him from the direction of the awnings.

 

*

 

If anything could distract Loras from Renly, it was rugby, and the morning of his big tryout dawned clear and perfect and fresh. He’d spoken to both Willas and his father the previous night — any awkwardness he might feel with the former, discussing the great prospects that were now denied to Willas, was dissipated by his brother’s generous enthusiasm. Willas seemed perfectly happy in his City job, managing accounts for a publishing company, but Loras couldn’t believe he never felt a hint of jealousy or regret. Father disguised his excitement badly, tacking on the “just do your best, son, we’re very proud of you” at his mother’s background prompting.

Loras expected success. It was generally how he went through life, and (with the exception of a certain ridiculously desirable roommate) it generally served him very well. He had to balk, though, when he got to the grounds and noted the skill, speed and precision with which some of the other prospective were ‘casually warming up’. They were big, too — Loras had never exactly been the biggest player on the field, but some of these guys must be fifteen stone of pure conditioned muscle. A horrible thought occurred to him that he could fail — spectacularly, even, he could be humiliated out there.

And Renly could be watching.

“No!” he determined suddenly. Fuck that. He’d be awesome. He’d complained often enough at high school that he couldn’t get a real challenge – well, here it was. He began with a series of stretches, pointedly ignoring all the other players but scanning the stands with one eye. A handful of students had turned out wearing college colours to cheer on their friends, but so far Renly was not among them. A whistle blew, and the coaches called everyone over to register, then they were assigned sides and the tryouts began in the form of a friendly match.

Once the game started, Loras forgot about being nervous, forgot about being watched, even forgot his roommate. Everything was the game, the sensation of being entirely alive and entirely focused. His teammates quickly realised that for all he wasn’t as strong as some players, he as nimble, evasive and fast. His crowning moment came when he received a clever pass from the fly half just as the defence was tied up in a scrum, and in a glorious moment of holy clarity, the field was open before him. He ran, and then their defence were breaking free and thought they could tackle him, but fuck that, he was too fast, and he made the goal with a good meter to spare.

These moments, when the cheers from the spectators and his teammates could have been the roar of the England stadium in his ears, reminded him why he loved this game. He knew then, beyond all doubt, that he’d made the team, and okay if he was entirely honest a tiny bit was luck, but a lesser player would never have made that opportunity. It was nearing full time when he glanced up, and realised with a jolt that Renly was watching, and he’d come alone, a rare state for him. he was sitting on the end of a row in a quiet part of the stands, bundled up in a coat, scarf and hat with his chin in one hand, smiling a little. Loras grinned back exultantly and waved, then forced his attention back for the final moment, high with success.

His side narrowly lost, but it didn’t matter – the head coach was looking directly at Loras when he said the final listings would be posted on college bulletin boards on Monday.

“Did you see that?” Loras dashed over to Renly and pretty much flung his arms around him – totally inappropriate, both because they hadn’t exactly hugged before and because Loras was drenched with sweat. “I was awesome!”

Renly laughed, and returned the hug just a little awkwardly. “You looked very impressive,” he said. “It was all very impressive, actually.”

“Were you here when I scored?”

“Um…I don’t think so. I’m sorry. Unless the scoring was in some subtle way we non-sporty types wouldn’t know about.”

“Oh.” Loras was slightly disappointed, but: “Well, never mind. There’ll be plenty of chances to see me score this season.”

“I’ve no doubt. And am I expected to turn out to your practices like a dutiful girlfriend?” Renly teased, and a frisson of excitement ran through Loras’ adrenalin-charged body.

“I should hope so,” he teased back. They were sitting side by side now, but Loras hadn’t entirely released Renly’s hands, his cold fingers held loosely in Loras’ own warm ones.

Renly sighed theatrically. “At least I can get some reading done.”

“Hey!” Loras slapped his leg. “You enjoyed it, admit it.”

“It was more exciting than I thought it would be,” Renly said. “But that probably just because you were playing.”

They stared at each other for a moment. Loras’ pulse seemed to be taking a very long time to come down from the match exertion.

“We should celebrate,” said Renly suddenly, removing his hands from Loras’ and tucking them into his pockets. “Skip hall tonight. I’ll take you somewhere the third years eat.”

Loras blinked. ‘Take you…’ Had Renly just asked him out? No, that couldn’t be. He had Cersei. The beautiful perfect postgrad.

“I – that sounds great,” he said slowly. “I’d really like that.”

“All right then. Meet me at six at the porter’s lodge?”

“Definitely,” said Loras. He was suddenly aware of how he must look, flushed and with his hair like some kind of radioactive birds’ nest. He ran a hand through it self-consciously. “I, uh, need to shower.”

“Yeah,” Renly grinned. Some of the other players were already calling Loras back to dissect the match with them.

“See you tonight.”

“It’s a date.”

 

*

 

It’s a date. It’s a date. It was all he could think about, even as he told Willas on the phone:

“Yeah, it went great. I scored and all. I’m definitely on the squad. What? Of course I’m happy.” His brother could be far too perceptive sometimes.

“So what’s bothering you?” Willas asked.

The PM’s perfect brother, who happens to be the man of my dreams. Also my roommate’ Loras considered saying. “Nothing,” he snapped.

“Is Cambridge harder than you thought it would be?” Willas teased. “Is your brain hurting? Is— oh, Margaery wants to talk to you.”

“Margaery’s there?” Loras asked.

“Yeah, she wanted to go the open day at London Metropolitan, so she’s staying at mine tonight—”

“Hi,” said Margaery, evidently having snatched the phone.

“London Met?” Loras wrinkled his nose. “Really?”

“They have some of the best fashion courses in the UK,” Margaery told him. “Including fashion journalism.”

“Gran would go mental.”

“Yes, well,” he could hear her elegant little shrug. “I’ll just have to manage her, won’t I? Anyway I’m only looking. Hey,” there was a muffled sound, and a door closed. She must have taken the phone into the guest room. “What’s going on with Renly?”

“We’re — um — going out to dinner? ”

Margaery squealed. “When?”

“In like an hour. And it’s not like that,” Loras said miserably. “I mean how can it be? He has a girlfriend, everyone says they’re practically engaged, but they don’t even act like they like each other and then he was all ‘it’s a date,’ and I almost wish he hadn’t said that now—”

“Loras,” his sister instructed, “Breathe.”

“I’m breathing.”

“Now, I’ve been doing some digging for you. The internet is a beautiful thing when you know how to use it.” There was a pause, and he could hear Margaery shuffling something. “To be perfectly frank, dear, I wouldn’t worry too much about the girlfriend.”

“Why not?”

“It’s a political relationship. Her name is Cersei Lannister. As in, the only daughter of banking magnate Tywin. Her father practically funds Robert’s party single-handedly. She and Renly actually hate each other, which gives me a fair bit of faith in your soon-to-be boyfriend, because so far as I can see this Cersei seems like a Grade-A bitch.”

“How could you possibly know if they hate each other?” Loras asked, though he had to admit that his heart leapt a little with this new information.

“Oh, it’s totally obvious. Every time they’re papped together you can literally read the hatred. And yes, Renly does get papped. Pick up a magazine sometime.”

“Really? That’s nuts. What else did you find out?” He felt only a tiny bit bad about asking.

“Nothing terribly juicy. Bit of a sad childhood, obviously.” Even Loras wasn’t oblivious enough not to know that the Baratheon seniors were long dead. Being an orphan, and the way he’d supposedly raised his two brothers, had been a PR gem in Robert “Man of the People” Baratheon’s rapid rise to power. Five years ago, he’d been the media’s darling. “Some stuff about ‘family feuds’ and ‘brothers at war’ pops up from time to time, but it’s all ‘allegedly’ and ‘question mark.’ If he’s dating Cersei for them, he can’t be too estranged from his brothers. Overall he seems pretty good at staying out of the headlines. Which will be better for you, once the two of you are a couple.”

“Hmm,” Loras said absently. All of a sudden, he felt sad, and an unfamiliar swell of protectiveness towards his roommate. Renly’s polite guardedness made a lot more sense now. And then he felt bad for discussing him with Margaery like this. “I’m, uh, gonna go. And get ready.”

“Oh don’t thank me or anything.”

“Thank you Margaery, most favourite sister in the world.”

“You can repay me with details.”

Loras paused. “You wouldn’t actually sell them to a tabloid right?”

Margaery laughed. “Nah. I don’t need the money.”

“Margaery, if this happens,” Loras said, “I mean, with Renly….I can count on you to be responsible, right? To be — discreet, I mean?”

“You can,” she said, suddenly serious. “I won’t even tell mum and dad if you don’t want me to.”

“Well, hang on, I’m not his bit on the side,” Loras protested. “It’s not like we’re having a sordid secret affair.”

“You won’t be if you don’t go get ready, in any case,” Margaery said.

“Oh. Right. Bye. Love you lots.”

“Love you lots, little brother.”

They hung up, and Loras surveyed the contents of his wardrobe. This wasn’t him — he wasn’t that guy who got hung up on what to wear. Renly wouldn’t exactly be dressed to the nines, he reminded himself — the debate team met on Saturday afternoons, and he wouldn’t even have time to come back and get changed afterwards. But Renly always looked — good. Margaery would have a name for it. Like the clothes he was wearing were supposed to go together, or something like that. Unless that was just the way he wore them. Focus, Loras told himself. In the end he selected a pair of dark jeans and a shirt Margaery had given him, not dressy like shirt-and-tie style but not like a t-shirt. It was probably designer.

He was four minutes early at the porter’s lodge, and didn’t see his roommate. “This is ridiculous”, he told himself sharply, making a distinct effort not to pace, checked his (empty) pigeonhole just for something to do, then returned to the entrance.

“Got a date?” asked the porter, a big bald man with tattoos peeking incongruously out from the sleeves of his black jacket.

“No,” said Loras quickly. “No, no just… meeting someone.” Am I that obvious?

“Sorry, am I late?”

“Renly! Hi, no, you’re exactly on time,” Loras grabbed Renly’s arm and more or less propelled him out onto St. Andrew’s Street.

“Don’t be scared of Mike, he’s a teddy bear,” Renly said. “They say he got kicked out of bouncer school for being too nice.”

Loras smiled. Renly looked as casually well-put-together as always, in his usual black jeans with a knit vest over a shirt that somehow didn’t look like something Loras’ late grandfather would’ve worn. He was even pulling off the leather satchel, which Loras was quite sure would make most men look like an idiot.

“So,” he said, “Where are we going?”

“It’s a surprise,” Renly said, and they turned off St. Andrew’s onto one of the narrow cobblestoned streets. Past a closed bookshop with an actual medieval-style hanging sign and a bike-repair kit, the a small cozy pub called the Hart cast golden light onto the pavement. Night was falling, and Loras found the setting for their date/not-date exactly on the dubious borderline between romantic and not.

Damn it.

“Bit of a secret, this place,” said Renly. “I know it doesn’t look like much, but they seriously do the best pub food this side of the Cam. Beer’s pretty good too.” Indeed, the selection of beers was rather above Loras’ understanding, so he ordered a Carling, and the bar guy was classy enough not to smirk at him.

“How was debate?” Loras asked when they’d gotten a little table – out of the way, close to a window, and he scored that for the “Romantic – yes” column in his mind. Renly rolled his eyes:

“Fine. But they’re talking about getting my brother in to speak at the Union next term.”

“Robert?” Loras’ eyes widened.

“Ha! No, my other brother. The Chancellor.”

Loras’ desperately racked his mind for the man’s name. S – Samuel? “Is that bad?” he asked.

“Well, it’s – Stannis is difficult.” Phew. Renly sipped his own drink, something deep amber and imported. “And it means I’ll have to talk to him, and probably take him to dinner or something,” he rolled his eyes. “Ugh, let’s not talk about it. This is about you, Mr. Sports Star. Congratulations,” he offered a toast, and Loras grinned and clinked his glass. “May the Varsity match be your oyster.”

“So tell me about yourself.” Once the food had arrived, Renly turned to Loras intently. “I feel like I’ve been a terribly neglectful roommate. I am sorry, it’s just third year has been kind of crazy.”

“No no,” Loras assured him. “Not at all. Um….” It’s just that I’d rather have all your attention all the time, to be honest. “Well, I’m from Hampshire.”

“I say, how spiffing,” Renly teased him.

“Uhhh, like you can talk, Mr. Baratheon.”

“We’re not actually posh, you know. Try lower middle class.”

Loras made a sceptical face.

“We all went to comprehensive school.”

“Oh, you did not.”

“Don’t you remember Robert’s campaign? He wouldn’t shut up about it,” Renly grinned. Then his face fell. “Not that he seems to remember it nowadays. Stannis says he’s ‘lost all moral sense’, which is a completely Stannis thing to say of course, but not entirely untrue….anyway, where in Hampshire?”

“….Lyndhurst.”

Renly cracked up. “Oh I knew it. You are posh as hell. And so pretty too. I bet all the pushy mothers were throwing their sixth-form daughters at you.”

“Yeah, like that was gonna work,” Loras said dryly.

There was a pause.

“I thought so,” Renly said quietly. “And, listen, Cambridge is a great place to be out. At least, Emmanuel is. The LGBTQ society is really active and-“

“Oh God no,” Loras groaned. “No societies. No rainbows, no petitions, and definitely no pride parades. It’s just not me, and besides – I want to be a rugby star, Renly.”

“So?” Renly demanded. “All the more reason. You could be an icon to a generation of—”

“Why don’t you?”

It was out before Loras could stop it. Renly broke off, startled. Then he said, quietly and deliberately:

“Because I’m marrying Cersei. Probably next year.”

Loras stared at him. “Well, that’s…” dishonest, he wanted to say. Unworthy of you. Unworthy of the person I’m so rapidly falling for.

“It’s what?” Renly asked. “Cersei knows what she’s getting into. Believe me, that woman is nobody’s fool.”

“But then,” said Loras a little desperately, “Why can’t we -…why should she care if…”

“No,” Renly said. “Definitely not. You’re not going to be anybody’s dirty little secret, Loras. You’re worth more than that.”

Loras looked down at his plate, the remains of his dinner suddenly disgusting him. How had things turned so bad so quickly?

“I don’t understand how you can do it,” he said softly. “You’re basically condemning yourself and her to a miserable marriage. When we –…. “ We could be happy, he thought. If you tried.

Renly sighed and ran a hand through his dark hair. “Look,” he said. “You’re young, and away from home for the first time, and I didn’t mean for it to happen but you seem to have put me on some kind of pedestal here. Please ... don’t – this should be a great opportunity for you. You’re clever and gorgeous and funny and kind and a sports star. Like I said, Emmanuel is a fantastic place to be out and you should be dating, exploring, finding yourself.”

“Spare me the speech. I had that from my grandmother.” He hadn’t meant it to come out so nasty. But he was hurt – Renly thought he was a stupid child after all.

“This is upsetting you. I’d really like us to be friends, Loras, but you have to understand it can’t be more than that. Even if I – even if we wished things could be different. Can we still be friends? Please?”

“Well, it’s going to be pretty weird being roommates if we hate each other.”

“I can request a transfer,” said Renly quietly.

“What? No!” Loras was just being bitter and lashing out in his disappointment. The last thing he wanted was for Renly to leave. Then he’d never see him, and life would be dull and grey. “We can be friends.” He reached out and touched Renly’s hand. “I – I do understand. And I’m sorry.”

“No, I’m sorry. Believe me, if…” he shook his head. “Anyway, truly, Loras, I’m not worth getting heartbroken over. I know I probably seem quite exciting, what with my brothers and all-” he rolled his eyes.

“That’s not why,” Loras cut him off. “I wanted you before I even knew who you were.”

Renly blinked. “Oh. Well, that’s – that’s unusual. But, look, I’m not that interesting. Or that nice. And I’m going into politics, which is a vicious and dangerous world. Just enjoy your first year. Enjoy the rugby team. Soon enough you won’t remember what you saw in me.”

 

*

 

To: Loras
??????
Sent at 08:51 20/10/10

 

To: Margy
Not going to happen.
Sent at 08:54 20/10/10

 

To: Loras
I’m sorry. . He’s not worth it.
Sent at 08:54 20/10/10

 

To: Margy
That’s what he tried to tell me.
Sent at 08:55 20/10/10

 

To: Loras
Elinor Fossoway’s brother is in second year @ Kings and on the varsity team. He got really hot!! Not spotty at all anymore. You should hook up.

Sent at 08:55 20/10/10

To: Loras
Call me?
Sent at 08:59 20/10/10

 

*

 

Having spent the first few weeks of term wishing Renly would spend more time in their room, Loras suddenly couldn’t escape him. Was he deliberately avoiding me? Loras wondered, Until we were all clear where we stood? Now, instead of the library, Renly had taken to studying at his desk, and brought food back instead of eating out all the time. Once or twice Cersei turned up, immaculate and dour, to “liaise” regarding answers to reporters concerning wedding plans. Her eyes flicked over Loras with the briefest nod, acknowledging and dismissing his existence all at once.

 

“I really don’t understand why you insist on living in halls, Renly,” Cersei stepped over a textbook and one of Loras’ trainers. “You’re almost twenty-one. Start behaving like the adult you’re supposed to be.”

“Maybe when you start behaving like the charming gracious lady you’re supposed to be,” Renly returned sweetly, and she rolled her eyes. Loras considered “accidentally” spilling his Coke on her Prada handbag. He dealt with it all by training – and it was training at a whole new level now, with real competitors and professional coaches. The first match left him exhausted and exhilarated and aching, full with the knowledge that this was what he was made for, and maybe if he could have it – just maybe – the pain of Renly’s rejection would fade away one day. Harry Fossoway had gotten hot, he was able to notice – tall, fair and well-built, with nice brown eyes and longish dark-blond hair he kept tied back for matches. In high school, Loras would have been all over that.

He was still jerking off to thoughts of Renly in the shower.

If it was purely physical, he could have dealt with it. But he couldn’t stop liking Renly. He couldn’t stop admiring him. He couldn’t stop the way his heart leapt when he caught sight of his roommate in the stands at a rugby game … it either upped his game or ruined it, depending on the day. Well - ruined was an exaggeration. Loras Tyrell never played badly.

He was stomping back to the dorm room after a game followed by a late seminar in which the tutor had basically ripped his latest essay to shreds, wondering why he didn’t take that place at Warwick where he could have continued being the best. It was dark and freezing and he so wasn’t in the mood to deal with Renly being all perfect and –

Oh.

Well, Renly wasn’t being perfect, anyway.

“Are you all right?” Loras asked uncertainly. Renly was sprawled backwards on his bed with a half-empty bottle of what looked like scotch by one dangling hand, staring at the ceiling. The room smelled like alcohol.

“Ugh,” said Renly and lifted one hand to rub at his eyes.

Loras dropped his backpack and closed the door.

“Did you drink all this?” he picked up the bottle and, alarmed, gauged what was left.
“Don’t worry, I’m not gonna die. High alcohol tolerance. Inherited.”

Loras put the bottle aside. “What….why are you drunk?”

“Cos I drank a lot of alcohol.”

Loras rolled his eyes. “Yeah, I got that. Why exactly did you down enough straight scotch to tranquillise an elephant?”

Renly raised his head and regarded Loras with narrowed, bleary eyes. “Are you calling me fat?” he asked. That was it: Loras burst out laughing. This was too ridiculous.

“Sit up.” He tugged on one arm until Renly was propped reluctantly against the headboard, hair sticking up like the feathers from one of the paddock ducks where it had been flattened against the pillow. He continued to glare desultorily, so Loras got him a glass of water and told him to drink it.

“Now,” Loras said. “What exactly is going on here?”

Renly sipped the water and put it aside. Then he said, “I can’t marry Cersei.”

Loras’ eyes widened. That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you! he wanted to exclaim. Instead he just asked:

“Why?”

Renly shook his head. “It’s – I can’t – her father’s a — the incest, I could have dealt with, but—”

“INCEST?”

“Oh yeah, she fucks her twin brother,” Renly said matter-of-factly. “But you know, whatever. Long as they spare me the details and I don’t have to see his face.”

“That’s disgusting.”

“I know, right? But I could have dealt with it. But now I know….”

“What?”

“Tywin Lannister is an arms dealer.” Renly looked him directly in the eyes and said flatly: “He’s selling weapons to the Gaza Strip, central Africa, and fuck knows where else….to both sides of the conflicts. My brother’s party is funded by blood. And – Cersei will be his heir,” he gestured expansively. ”I went to her today and told her the charade was over. I can’t do it I’ll – Loras,” he reached up and cupped Loras’ face. “I don’t know what to do.”

Loras’ heart hurt. He supposed he ought to be hurting for all the suffering that the all-powerful Lannisters did and would inflict on the world, but in truth he was just hurting for Renly.

“I know what you should do,” he said.

“What?” Renly smiled sadly.

“Stand against them. Stand as an independent candidate against Robert.”

Renly laughed a bitter laugh. “Oh Loras. You have no idea.”

Anger flared suddenly: “Then tell me. Give me an idea. Let me in, Renly. Leave that Lannister bitch and her evil family and let me in.”

Renly’s hand was warm against his face. He turned it slightly so that his knuckles grazed Loras’ cheekbone. Loras grabbed the hand and without thinking pressed it to his lips. It was a strange gesture, almost chivalrous. Renly’s skin felt unbelievably right against his mouth.

His hands moved of their own volition up his roommate’s arms and shoulders to frame his beautiful face.

“I want to,” Renly whispered. “But.”

“But?” Loras demanded.

“But you’re so lovely, Loras. And so young. And my life is so – it’ll ruin you.”

“Impossible.”

Renly closed his eyes. “God, you tempt me.”

“You can have me.” Loras pulse was racing. He moved so that he was on the bed next to Renly, leaning in, close enough to feel his body heat and the way Renly’s chest rose and fell with every breath … he was hard as granite inside his jeans, and he couldn’t resist glancing down to affirm Renly’s similar state.

“No,” Renly said and pushed him off.

Loras could have screamed.

“Why the fuck not?” he demanded instead.

“It’s too dangerous.”

“Dangerous? Dangerous how?”

Renly gave him a sharp look, not seeming remotely drunk anymore. “I’ve just told you what the Lannisters are capable of.”

Loras gaped: “What the hell? You’re suggesting they’ll assassinate me? What is this, some kind of crappy crime novel?”

“No, it’s politics. It’s reality. When I broke up with Cersei today, she threatened me. It was veiled, but definite. A Lannister always pays his debts. That’s what they say.”

“Renly,” Loras said, “Do you think I’m stupid?”

“No. Of course not.”

“Well, I’m telling you that as an intelligent legal adult, I want to be with you. I realise that your family situation is complicated and maybe dangerous and I still want to be with you. But,” Loras drew a deep breath. “I’m getting tired of being rejected. It’s — it’s not fair, and it hurts. So…” it took all his courage to say: “This is your last chance. You’ve broken up with Cersei. I’m available. But if you don’t want me…” he was horrified to hear the tears in his voice. “Then I think I’m going to request that room transfer.”

Renly visibly swallowed. “I’m scared,” he admitted finally.

“I’m not,” said Loras.

“Are you ever?”

“Not particularly.”

“One of us,” said Renly carefully, but he leaned it, “is being really dumb.”

“It’s you,” said Loras, and then they were kissing.

Loras wasn’t an inexperienced kisser. He believed very much in skill and practice as opposed to fireworks born of a magic connection. Renly tasted like scotch, but it was good scotch, and even half drunk he certainly knew how to kiss. The contrast of his state with Loras’ own sobriety made him guilty, and with strength he didn’t know he possessed, he pulled away.

“Oh god,” groaned Renly, and grabbed the back of Loras’ head to pull him back. “Don’t you dare.”

“You’re drunk,” Loras said. “It’s wrong.”

“I am slightly drunk,” Renly said. “Not as drunk as I was, and nowhere near as drunk as a normal person would be if they drank as much as I just did. Take it from a pol sci student. I am totally, completely in compos mentis, and I would very very much like for you to fuck me.”

Loras swallowed.

“You’re a top, right?”

“I do top,” Loras said, “but I like either way.”

“Will you fuck me?”

“Jesus Christ.” Loras couldn’t get his jeans off fast enough. Renly was fumbling with his shirt, saying, “You have no idea how much I wanted this...”

“I have no idea?! Holy fuck, Renly, you’ve been driving me insane—”

“Driving me insane—”

“You were avoiding me—”

“Because I was afraid I was going to jump you—”

“I tried hard enough to make you. Mmmph!”

They’d been shedding their clothes frantically as they talked, Loras kneeling astride Renly’s hips with the clear evidence of his roommate’s arousal pressing against his arse, sending thrills up his spine. At that last, Renly sat up abruptly and pressed their mouths back together. One hand went to Loras’ nipple, sensitive at the best of times, and right now it was enough to make him arch his back and whimper into Renly’s mouth.

“Oh god,” he said, breaking the kiss. “If you want me to fuck you we’d better get on with it.”

Renly laughed. But instead of changing position he just bent his head and replaced his fingers with his mouth. Loras took the opportunity to slide both hands down Renly’s back, glorying in the feel of soft skin and toned muscle. Most of Loras’ previous partners had been sports stars, and Renly certainly didn’t have their physique, but he found himself delighting in the differences, even a tiny bit thrilled by the knowledge that if he wanted to he could overpower Renly.

“Want me to blow you?” Renly mumbled against his chest. “I’m good at it,”

“If you blow me I will come in three seconds,” Loras warned.

“Ah, to be eighteen,” Renly teased, then: “Next time.”

 

“That better be a promise.” Loras was fascinated by the nape of Renly’s neck. But he really was getting desperate already – it was kind of embarrassing. “Lube?” he asked.

“Bedside drawer.”

“Seriously?”

Renly shrugged. “Told you you’ve been driving me crazy.”

Loras reached out with one hand and grabbed the little bottle. “How?” he said.

“I want to look at you,” Renly admitted. “but … it’s been awhile.”

“Get on your knees then.”

“Bossy,” Renly shot him a wicked grin.

“Please.”

Loras worked him open with one hand stroking his dick, clever fingers finding the sensitive places, and from the sounds Renly made he guessed the procedure was more pleasure than painful. He thought it would be hard to restrain himself from going too fast, but his desire to not hurt Renly kept him in check. He’d had one bad experience himself when both he and his partner were young, dumb and over-eager and he had no wish to repeat it from either perspective. Nonetheless once he was inside it was all over pretty quickly.

“Is – was that okay?” he asked after he’d come down, having collapsed beside his – partner? Boyfriend? “Roommate” hardly covered it anymore, and he really didn’t like “fuck buddy”.

“Better than okay,” Renly assured him. He had finished a few moments afterwards with Loras’ hand on his dick. He didn’t say “it was the best sex I’ve ever had,” which was frankly how Loras felt.

“I’m sorry I wasn’t—”

“Shh,” Renly smiled and traced Loras’ lips with his fingertips. “You were perfect. Exactly what I need.”

“Am I?”

They regarded each other a moment.

“I think so,” Renly said.

“Because if you’re not sure I can’t—”

“I’m sure,” said Renly quickly.

“Alright,” Loras blew his breath out. “So – when do I get to meet your brothers?”

“Oh Gooood….—”

“I’m joking, joking!” Loras laughed and retrieved the pillow Renly was attempting to smother himself with. “You have to meet mine though.”

“Yeah, that will go down well. Dirty old man who corrupted their perfect golden boy.”

“Old m – you’re twenty. My parents are coming up at mid term, probably my sister too. You have to meet them, okay?”

“Can we – can we at least start going out first? Like – on dates and stuff?”

“Aren’t you worried about the press?”

Pause.

“Yes,” Renly admitted. “We’re going to have to talk about that. We’re going to have to talk about a lot of things, in fact. But right now….I need a shower.”

“Can I come?”

“Loras Tyrell,” Renly said as he offered a hand to help him up, “You are something else. You will either be the death of me or the making of me.”

“Well,” Loras said as he leaned in for another kiss. “I can try for both.”

END