The One with all the Starks
Robb really thought they could skirt around the issue, pretend it was just a normal Sunday breakfast, only with everyone in front of a screen instead of sitting around the big table in his parents' kitchen. Mentally, he patted himself on his shoulder for the foresight to put on his headset. Making it impossible for Theon to hear how the whole family discussed and evaluated the new development of their relationship.
“I can't believe he posted this on his Instagram story before you even told us!” Sansa tried her best to sound offended. The wide grin on her face confirmed the opposite. He knew she just couldn't help herself, being her whole life just hopelessly romantic.
In another window Robb saw his mother commenting on what’s been said with a deep frown, but nothing reached them than the movement of her lips.
“Mum, you're still muted,” Robb said again, for the fifth time during the whole conversation, pointing at his ears as well as all his other siblings.
She rolled her eyes, then leaned forward as far as possible, now almost her entire window filled with her right eye and the corresponding half of her face. When the sound was finally back, everyone heard Ned laughing in the background.
“As if you knew better,” she muttered with a small grin and then turned back to her children. “What I was saying is that of course I'm happy for you Robb. It's just that Theon has lived a very, well let's say experimental love life in the past and I don't know if he’s really ready for a serious commitment. Maybe he never will?”
She had a good point there.
And it wasn't as if the thought was news to Robb. Every day, every hour, he thought about whether Theon knew what he was getting into. After all, they were both men. And he had never been with a man before, had he? And as much as Robb enjoyed their time together, the thought of what would happen when the lockdown was lifted gnawed at him. When dating other people was again an option, when Theon no longer had only him, but could move on, on to new adventures and conquests. Would he still call him his boyfriend or was it just another phase?
“Oh, um sorry,” he stuttered, “just remembered something.”
“Yeah, we've seen that,” Arya deadpanned.
He knew he was flushed as he felt his cheeks burning, but for now he'd put the worst behind him. The announcement was the worst. At least for now. What came next was... iffy.
His family really liked Theon, he belonged to them, had been a part of Robb's life for so long, that they cared about him as much as about any other family member. But he was sure that if Theon would hurt him, whether intentionally or not, they'd still tear him to pieces. Jon's stern expression confirmed just that.
He really hoped they would all be spared from this.
Then, with a small cough, he finally tried to change the subject, “enough of me, what about the rest of you?”
Of course, it was not that easy. Sansa started a few more attempts to lure more details about their coming together out of him, but finally gave up and told instead that she and Margaery had decided to start a charity by sewing masks. And donating the money to the retirement home where Margaery's grandmother lived.
As much as everyone praised her for it, it also triggered the urge in their father and Bran to again point out the fatal decisions of the government. Their favorite topic nowadays to clarify which measures should actually be taken, as evidenced by the current figures and statistics by the latter.
Arya moaned loudly and rolled her eyes so much that they ran the risk of getting stuck in the back of her head. “I thought we said no more statistics!” Ned chuckled at that, while Bran bit his lip. “So please,” she continued, “subject change. Again.”
The rest of the conversation passed off rather relaxed, while Catelyn continued to communicate only half of her contributions and the rest fell victim to her mute microphone. While it annoyed the others, Robb could get a little laugh from it. And felt with her. He hated technology just as much.
They went from analyzing Rickon's puberty to Jon suggesting to share his photos from the Iceland vacation he took with Ygritte. They had to cut it short due to the current crisis. Still a few impressive pictures were shot he was pretty eager to show. Unfortunately, he couldn't turn off the screen sharing after that, so for the rest of the talk they had to speak with a sign that said: High Rate of Moose crashes next 35 Miles.
Even if it was not the same, it felt good to hear the familiar voices, make the typical jokes. As they later finished the meeting Robb's cheeks were aching from all the smiling. He closed his laptop happily, crossed his arms behind his head and enjoyed the feeling that he had mostly after all their gatherings. Safe, calm, peaceful. All in all, he really was a lucky man.
Out of the corner of his eye he saw his phone blinking and when he unlocked the screen, he recognized a short message from Jon, making him grin once more.
Tell Greyjoy if he hurts you, I'll break his legs …
Scratching his neck with a light chuckle, Robb texted back, I sure as hell won't. He'll rub your nose in it forever.
Fair point, Jon said, tell him anyway …
When Robb did as he was told later that night, Theon laughed for 15 minutes straight.
The One with the distraction
By now the whole internet was full of useful tips and tricks to keep people from losing their minds in home office. And Robb really appreciated it. It didn't take him more than two days to realize that without them he would lose his job pretty soon. Because he just couldn't get anything done. Procrastination, a word he had never been able to understand before, now felt like it was carved into his forehead. That's why he needed the rules and tried his best to stick to them every single day.
- Create a permanent workplace. It is called "home office" for reason.
- Dress for the job. You would not come to work wearing sweatpants.
- Fixed working hours are important. Try to establish a routine.
- Specific tasks for each day.
- Communicate properly. Find out which channel is best suited for which information.
- Take breaks.
- Do not allow yourself to be distracted.
The problem was, distraction now slept right next to him and put his weaker self to an unprecedented test, one he was losing a little more the further this whole quarantine thing went on.
Still he tried. Hard.
His routine involved a salad he prepared every day at half past twelve on the dot, similar to the one he would normally get from Marino's across the street from his office. He ate it outside on his balcony while reading the next chapter of his latest thriller novel. At least he tried to do so, if it wasn't for the distraction.
Because exactly this very same one was lying opposite him in the hammock, long tanned legs stretched out, wearing nothing but some sweats, with a bag of everybody's nuts! on their lap, trying to catch them with their mouth after throwing them in the air. The whole floor was already covered with salt and pepper pistachios, Grey Wind sitting nervously at the door and staring at it. Though the dog was well trained, in contrast to Theon.
With a slight sigh, Robb bookmarked the passage he had now skimmed over for the fifth time and yet did not understand, put it aside on the table and watched his boyfriend with a lopsided smile. “Aren't you supposed to be working?”
“I do,” Theon replied as another nut flew in the air, almost demanding a pike jump from him. It caused the hammock to wobble dangerously, but finally landed on the floor with the rest.
“Oh really, and what you're doing there exactly?” Robb snickered.
The answer came without him looking. “Brainstorming.”
Clicking his tongue, Robb pricked his salad one last time and let the pepper crack loudly between his molars. “I can't believe you actually get paid for this.”
“Best job ever, I suppose.” After the last nut fortunately landed in his mouth and the bag was empty, Theon turned on his stomach to watch him. Trademark smirk in its usual place, Robb couldn’t help but smile back.
They shared one of those long looks that would have made Robb glow just a few weeks ago. A staring contest he had always lost for fear of revealing something. Now he resisted Theon's gaze, challengingly raised one brow. Ready for any flirtation that would come his way.
But what came was the buzzing of Theon's phone. A sight that put a strange knot in Robb's stomach.
He fished it from the ground and read his message with another crooked grin.
It could be anything. Someone from work, a friend who sent some funny message. In the past, he'd just asked without thinking about it. Now it felt wrong. Like spying, like he was starting the whole thing between them with suspicion. That's why he didn't say anything. Poked around in his empty salad bowl instead.
A feeling in his belly like everything was upside-down, Robb waited way longer than necessary to look back up. And huffed a laugh, maybe also because he was little nervous, when he caught Theon staring again. He nodded to the bowl in Robb's hands. “Are you finished with this?”
“Do you want to see what I'm really working on?” Like the message never happened. If it hadn't interrupted something that might have been more.
Robb shook it off. He was just insecure, because all this was new, for him as well as for Theon. So, he pointed his palm at the door and then followed Theon inside.
His work had always been fascinating to Robb, even if it was mostly either disturbing or funny. They both had professions that required them to put themselves in other people's shoes, to find out what drove them to do things. But adopting this from two completely different angles. Because while Robb had chosen his job out of a desire to make the world a better place, Theon's only aspirations were money and success.
An attitude that made him very popular with his clients. All different kinds of clients, versatile as life itself. So, Robb was keen to know what to expect this time as they sat down on the couch with Theon's laptop on his knees.
“So, it's a campaign for a condom company,” he announced without beating around the bush. “It's a real pity we couldn't do a photo shoot, but I think our graphics department did a remarkable job, considering that they only had stock photography to fall back on.” Robb just nodded as he watched Theon's slender fingers slide across the touchpad, clicking through a few folders.
“Here we go.”
A presentation opened in front of them on the screen, a deep red, not gaudy but still provocative with white letters, asking the viewer if he was wondering what to do with his spare time now that he was staying at home.
“I got a feeling I already know the answer,” Robb commented, while the next slide appeared.
You know what to do.
But still you don't want to.
Because you don't feel safe.
“Oh, don't I?” he added, biting his lip to suppress his laughter.
“Of course not, danger lurks everywhere,” Theon replied, pretending to look serious.
Now a man and a woman were shown, their eyes on each other, but both making a face, insecure, almost disgusted, with a pale, unhealthy complexion, yet in a meaningful position. Because although the photo was cut in such a way that you won't consider giving it an R-rating, it left little to the imagination. Robb arched a brow.
“Wait,” Theon said, “now comes the good part.”
Here's your solution.
Robb burst out in a fit of laughter as the presentation switched to the next slide. Now showing the same couple in the same position, but all smiling, completely wrapped in what looked like two oversized purple condoms.
Lustex's Best – now also in XXL.
It ended with the company logo, including a slightly modified claim.
Stay Home. Stay Save. And wrap it up with Lustex Condoms.
When Robb looked to the side, he saw Theon smirking, obviously pleased with himself. “They sent me a test kit and I can assure you, they really are extra extra large.”
Robb snorted, “I think this is by far the most immoral thing you've ever produced.”
“Seriously? More than the baby who gets hit by a bus?”
Thinking about it, it probably wasn't the most immoral thing after all. Maybe not even in the top ten. For lack of words, Robb decided to do the one thing, he had always wanted to do when all he could think of was a sermon. He leaned forward and kissed him.
“It's disturbing in an exhilarating way,” he then breathed against his lips.
Theon smiled, “then I am off duty now.”
Though Robb was not, right now distraction could no longer be ignored.
The One with all the Doing
Robb let his headband snap one last time, obviously unsure if it was too tight and would cause him a headache, or too loose and disappear into his neck a short time later. Either way, it served its purpose, banished his long curls from his face, at least for now. Theon knew he was annoyed, but Jesus, if he could see himself through his eyes, he'd definitely no longer complain.
“Shit Robb, you look so hot,” he commented from the back, lurking in the door with a smug grin on his face. In response Robb cocked a brow at him in the reflection of the mirror.
But it was true, he looked like fucking David Beckham, risen from a wet fantasy from Theon's teenage days. When he had always dreamed to do him and Posh at the same time, somewhere down in the locker rooms at the football stadium. Hot and sweaty. Maybe this should have given him the first clue that he wasn't as straight as he'd thought he was.
These days he knew better.
Every moment, every second he wanted to tell Robb how crazy he was about him. Let comments like that escape from his mouth. But he tried to hold back. It was no longer the casual flirtations that featured their entire friendship. Flirtations with the only purpose to make Robb blush, to tease him and to lure him out of his reserve. Now they meant something, and Theon was afraid that it was getting too much too fast.
But it was really fucking hard to keep his mouth shut.
Because damn was Robb a fit bastard.
Theon knew what he himself looked like and what effect he had on people. Reality confirmed this often enough. He was handsome, the type of guy who could do ads for perfume or maybe even underwear. But Robb, Robb was a real man. With his broad shoulders and big hands. He could be safely placed next to a chainsaw; nobody would doubt that he knew how to use it. Now, on top of that, came those long red curls, because he couldn't get a haircut because of the quarantine. In combination with his thick beard he looked like he'd cut down the next best tree any moment and then quickly chop the wood afterwards.
And Theon loved it, told him every day at least once. But also suppressed it at least five times more.
In order not to appear too lost, he made up for it with a few little pranks. Still loved to tease him as much as to do some naughty things to him. For example, after seeing Cast Away a few days ago, he started to hide behind random doors, then jumping out with a volleyball in his hand, yelling “WILSON!” at the top of his voice right at Robb's face.
It was those moments when he felt that they were still them. Just best friends, with no pining, no insecurities, no relationship stuff.
But actually, Theon liked the stuff. Because fuck, how couldn't he? If only he wouldn't screw this up.
He came closer, wrapped his arms around Robb's waist and settled his chin on his shoulder, crooked smile still on his face. The little bit of height Theon had ahead paid off now, their bodies fitted perfectly together. Robb smiled back, “I'm this close on taking the razor and doing a Britney Spears.”
“Better do me instead?” Theon grinned even wider. He just couldn't help it.
“I don't think I'll be able to do anything later,” Robb replied, and Theon really hoped he was wrong about that. Even if he had a strange feeling that he maybe went out on a limb.
“Don't be ridiculous,” he said then, “it's a girly workout. And we're men in the best shape of our lives. I'm sure we'll do fine.”
But deep down, they both knew, they were definitely not.
Even though they did sports on a regular basis, went jogging with Grey Wind, went to the gym once or twice a week (not anymore, of course, but in the past), Robb would never be as fit as he was when he was captain of the football team back in high school. And it was similar with Theon. Adulthood with parties and alcohol, and a lot of desk work, hadn't exactly done his body much good, and that made itself noticeable, even if he didn't want to see it.
After all, he was almost thirty, the best years, at least as far as his physical fitness was concerned, were practically over.
He couldn't let Robb see that. Which is why he had pompously agreed when Arya asked him to join her morning Instagram workout session. He had to, after he had assured her that it was certainly exhausting but easily manageable for him, after all it was for girls.
How wrong he'd been.
Twenty minutes later, the sweat ran from their foreheads, their breath rattling and fierce, while Arya announced another round of planking on the screen in front of them without even looking strained. It was a nightmare. His arms were shaking like a leaf.
“Only ten seconds left, nine, eight,” Arya said, smiling into the camera.
“I hate you,” Theon muttered, let out another frustrated growl and bit his lower lip hard to distract himself from the pain in his arms. He saw Robb smiling slightly beside him. No less flushed, no less sweaty. God, how Theon wished another activity had caused this image.
When Arya had finished her countdown, they both collapsed on the floor like two dying fish. Their bodies flushed, panting. And Theon expressed inner praise for the headband manufacturer, his own bun already destroyed in minutes after all the jumping, black strands sticking to his face.
“You want to feel my heartbeat?” he breathed, turned his head at Robb, so that they could look at each other, half of his face still pressed onto the parquet.
“I think I can already hear it,” Robb gasped back, “you wanna quit?”
And fuck how much he wanted it. Wanted to hop in the shower with Robb and get them both a little dirtier. But something held him back. The urge to prove he could hang on. That he was man enough to pull off that ridiculous workout. Man enough for Robb as well.
“All right,” Arya announced, still looking fresh like in the very beginning, even her ponytail was still intact. “Drink some water and then get on your back.”
Theon raised his head to see that the break was over in only five seconds.
He finally got up, out of pure defiance and lay on his back. From the corner of his eye he saw Robb shaking his head, but then he did the same, nevertheless.
They held out until the end, their heads bright red, in Theon's case cursing loudly in Robbs quietly. But finally, with aching limbs for the next two days.
Nobody had to say anything. Obvious, that nobody would do anybody any time soon.
The One where Lady Gaga just wouldn't shut the fuck up
It was a disaster. His hair had become like a raven's nest on his head, something one couldn't even describe as anything but a mess. It was so long, Robb could tie it up in a little bun in the middle of his head, making him look like... well, like Jon. He went for the snapback instead.
When he left the bathroom, he found Theon on the couch with Grey Wind. As so often with his phone in his hand, his lower lip between his teeth. Robb slumped down next to them, actually expecting Theon to give him his attention. But that didn't happen. And again, the uncertainty with whom he was texting grabbed him, but why not just ask. What could happen?
“Anything interesting?” He tried his best to sound particularly calm. Instead of looking at him, he scratched Grey eagerly behind his ears.
Theon drove his hands through his long black curls. Soft curls, which Robb could now touch whenever he wanted. One would think. “I'd say funny rather than interesting, so –” he started, but then stopped, held up a finger. “Ah, here we go again.”
Their neighbor from upstairs had been home for about a month just like them. A nice woman, in her mid-forties, who always told them when craftsmen were coming and when she swept the stairs, mostly did theirs too. Robb really liked her, but she had a weakness. A weakness that could no longer be tolerated. A weakness that, together with the obligation to clean the house, came to light every day around noon. Even on Sunday. The Fame Monster, Deluxe Edition at that.
“I know that we are young, and I know that you may love me. But I just can't be with you like this anymore, Alejandro,” Theon mouthed his lips to the lyrics, pressing his hand at his heart in an almost dramatical way. Then the bass hammered through the ceiling and Mrs. Harris started vacuuming.
“Do you want to echo something back?” Theon asked, grinning.
I want to know who you text with, Robb thought. But only shook his head. It usually didn't last that long. “Not worth the trouble.” And yet she couldn't have started cleaning her apartment at a worse time. Because now, the subject was off the table and Robb would not ask about it again. It would be too intrusive, too nosy.
He started chewing on his cheek, as he often did when he felt discontent. Caressed Grey Wind further as he listened to Lady Gaga saying goodbye to all her past boyfriends. Maybe it was also better for them to just say goodbye, back to before, when everything was so much easier and more relaxed.
If it wasn't for the kisses. Theon who kissed like he was born to do so. Warm and passionate and consuming. With the bristles of his beard scratching against Robb's skin, his tongue so talented, never too demanding, never too soft. Robb uttered the sigh that he had actually only heard in his head. And Theon looked back up from his phone.
“You all right?” His concern was underlined by a new song, Poker Face. How appropriate.
“Yes, sure.” Robb knew exactly that his smile didn't reach his eyes, then looked away faster than he should have.
“Oh, come on,” Theon said and poked his foot against his ribs, “spit it out.”
Still hesitating briefly, he finally did, starting with another sigh, straightened up, now sitting on one leg, “okay … who are you texting with?”
“Really?” Theon's brows shot up and his grin broadened some more, “that's it? Nothing to worry about, babe.” The way the pet name rolled over his lips as if it were something very common, as if they had been calling each other that for years. It did something warm to Robb's heart that he wanted to keep there forever. “It's just some random girl on Tinder. She asks me to be her quarantine buddy. I told her I already got one.”
So, forever didn't even last five seconds.
“You're still on Tinder?”
“I, um … yea?”
“Why?!” His voice was so hard and angry. But he couldn't even think about how he sounded.
“Well, for fun?” Theon shrugged as if it was a silly question and yet quite obvious. Maybe it was. And suddenly Robb was no longer just angry with Theon, but with himself as well. How stupid he had been. How long did they know each other? He should have known better.
“Where are you going? Hey?” Theon called after him as he stomped furiously to his room. But it was no longer his room, it was their bedroom now, with Theon's stuff just everywhere. Bad Romance warbled from above and Mrs. Harris was probably right about to dust the shelves now. It was a nightmare. He wanted to run away, but he couldn't, because they were supposed to stay at home.
Out of pure desperation he went back into the hallway, grabbed the broom from the storeroom and knocked it violently against the ceiling. Plaster crumbled down on him, but he did not care. “Turn it off!”
“Robb, cut the crap, you're gonna break the ceiling.”
Theon had come to him and now looked at him as if he had lost his mind. He could not bear the look. Instead, he turned around again, went back to his bedroom. But Theon apparently had other plans and followed him. Still he didn't dare to come close to him, so they ended up standing at one end of the room, Robb leaning against the window, Theon against the door and staring at each other.
“Won't you tell me what's suddenly the problem?”
That only annoyed him even more. “Okay, how the hell do you not know that?”
“You're the problem, you and your stupid bitches. And me thinking that you call me your boyfriend in some story would mean something.”
Then Theon looked like he just slapped him. “But it does means something. What are you talking about? About Tinder? It's just boredom. I'll stop if it bothers you.”
“And what else do you do when you're bored? I mean …” he crossed his fingers in his neck, pressed his head against them in frustration. “How can you not know? Why do I even have to tell you?”
“I don't know what to say,” Theon then said. He took a step forward, then back again. He ran his tongue over his teeth, then bit his lip. Robb could read him like an open book and slowly felt the anger subside. He really had no idea what he had done wrong.
“What is it you want?” he asked quietly. And yet he was afraid to hear an answer he did not want to hear at all.
Theon snorted, “what kind of question is that? I want you, of course.”
“Just for sex? And just for now when you can't get anybody else?”
It hung in the air like lead. Filled the room, filled the air. Made it difficult for him to breathe while he waited for Theon's answer.
And then Robb saw it flitting over Theon's face so obviously that he was even a little relieved. Like a light bulb had turned on over his head. Understanding. It clicked. And then he smiled. Of course, he did.
“I don't want anyone else,” Theon said. It was the way he always spoke when he wanted to calm him. The way it always worked. “Not now, and not in the future.”
He finally freed himself from his position at the door, walked towards Robb, reducing the space between them. Until his hands met Robb's crossed arms. He untied them. “I'm sorry for being such a crappy boyfriend. I knew I'd screw it up. But I promise improvement.” Robb could feel the smile on his lips when Theon laid them on each other, “perhaps you could teach me? And I'll show you something else in return?”
“That's all that matters, right? Getting into my pants?” He relpied it with a wry grin of his own, finally kissed him back.
“Sure, have you looked at yourself?”
He rather looked at Theon instead. Or stopped looking at all, like now. When he closed his eyes and pressed himself against him. Tongue lazily dancing, testing if they still fit together. But of course, they did. Because that was just a fight and not the end. One more step to make them happier. To understand each other better.
And really, Theon was a good kisser, but could someone kiss like that and not mean it?
Robb was still a little scared. Would probably stay that way for a while. Because not only Theon worried him. His whole life, the whole world was uncertain and frightened at the moment. But fear was there to be overcome. Facing it. Just like Lady Gaga told them from above.
From the looks of it, they still had plenty of time to practice.