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“Are you sure about this?” Robb asks for the fourth time. Theon rolls his eyes, but it’s not in the same way he used to before a psychopath kept him locked in a cellar for three months.

“I told you, yes. Come on, it’s this once. Your precious fiancée will never know. And I’ll never get over it if I don’t do it.”

Robb sighs. “I still don’t get why it has to be me.”

Theon rolls his eyes again, huffs, moves so that he’s straddling Robb. “Because I trust you, idiot. And I’m not sure I trust anyone else. Come on, it’s just sex and it doesn’t have to be more than this one time.”

There’s something in his eyes that suggests Robb that Theon isn’t telling the whole truth. Then again, he’s getting married in five days to someone he doesn’t even care about, just because he was too stupid to say no when it meant getting his father a new powerful business partner, and he never had much of a chance with Theon anyway. Even if he had thought about this for a long time. But Theon has always been into girls, and he’s asking him because of the whole trust issue, not because he’d do that otherwise.

“Fine,” Robb says, his hands going to Theon’s shoulders. “Fine.”

Later, he’ll curse himself for not having seen through it. He should have realized that Theon was a bit too desperate, a bit too eager, a bit a lot of other fucking things he should have noticed.

But as he takes off Theon’s shirt and runs his hands along his bare skin, he’s just thinking about making the most of it.

--

“I’m an idiot,” he whispers, but idiot doesn’t even cover it. If only he had been just that. No, saying idiot is underestimating it.

“Well, yeah,” Jon tells him, his tone somber. “Seriously, at least he’s got an excuse – that he was fucked up enough before Ramsay Bolton and even more after, but you don’t. Seriously, you never even suspected it?”

Robb shakes his head, and Jon’s right, how did he even buy that speech? How didn’t he see it for what it was?

If only it was the problem.

“I can’t marry her,” Robb says. “I just – I can’t. Walder Frey can suck it up. If I do, he won’t – no one will –”

“I know.” Jon doesn’t tell him not to do it.

Good.

Robb takes a deep breath.

“I’ll cover for you. As long as I can,” Jon offers. Robb nods, planning already.

“Listen, I’ll – I’m going to get my car, then I’m going to empty my bank account. And put half of the money on another. Then – then we’re going to leave. For now. I’ll call you from another number. Don’t – don’t give it to anyone. Not even dad. Especially him. I can’t risk anything.”

“Won’t you have problems with –”

“I’m his emergency contact, for fuck’s sake. Am I not? If I want to get him out, no one’s going to stop me.” He hates the sound of his own voice.

--

Theon’s eyes are unfocused when Robb walks inside the hospital room. He looks horrible. Pale, still so thin, and he remembers what the nurse said. No way it wasn’t a suicide attempt. They caught him for some kind of miracle, but right now he’s mostly unresponsive to anything they try. And he hasn’t said a word once.

And it’s all his stupid, damned fault. Well, fine, some of it is Bolton’s, but that’s not it. He should have seen.

“Theon?” he asks as he sits on the bed’s side, his hand barely touching Theon’s cheek, not expecting an answer.

But then Theon opens his eyes, slowly, as if it hurts to do it. He blinks twice and Robb notices that his eyes are totally bloodshot, among all the rest. He looks terrible.

“Robb?” he rasps, sounding as if he doesn’t believe it.

Well, that’s more than he had hoped to get. Good. He takes a breath again.

“Yes. It’s me. And I’m not going anywhere.”

Theon looks at him as if he can’t even process it.

“You are,” he croaks again. “I know you are.”

“I’m not,” Robb answers, trying not to show that he’s this close to start crying. “I’m not doing it again. I was stupid enough the first time.”

“You can’t. I know – shouldn’t you – I don’t remember why but that’s not how it goes, it’s not what was supposed to –”

“Theon.” He isn’t expecting it to work, especially because he wants to sound calm and collected but he doesn’t think it’s the case, but Theon stops talking and looks at him again. Okay. Good. “Stop worrying. You don’t have to do it anymore, if I can help it. And you know, you only had to ask.”

He gasps when Theon’s hand reaches out blindly, and he’s quick to grasp it before the moment is gone.

“It’s always been you, you idiot,” Robb says. “You’re just – fine. It’s fine now. We’ll deal with it.”

“You’re staying?” It’s so hopeful, so ridiculously not like the Theon he knows who spends most of his time cracking jokes, and Robb really, really wants to cry.

“Yes. Yes.”

--

When Robb doesn’t need his left hand, he doesn’t keep it on the wheel. (He’s glad he went for an automatic, when he bought the used car. He couldn’t have kept on using his.) If he doesn’t need it to drive, his fingers are usually tangled with Theon’s, over the gearshift.

He doesn’t quite know what to make of this entire thing when Theon willingly touches him a lot more than he ever was comfortable with, but he doesn’t even think about putting a stop to it.

--

The way Theon curls into him the moment they’re alone and on a bed should seriously scare him, considering how not big Theon’s always been on touching other people. But it’s not just that. He’ll lean heavily against Robb if they walk, if they’re grabbing dinner somewhere he’ll sit on Robb’s side and not in front. And he does it as if he has no fucking doubt about what he’s doing.

Instead of being worried, Robb is just glad that Theon trusts him that much even after what went down. Good thing, when you don’t realize that your best friend since you both were five is in love with you. He hates himself, most times.

--

“Where the fuck were you?” Theon shouts in his face the moment Robb gets back inside the motel room. Robb swallows, trying not to look threatening, and merely holds up the paper bag that he had brought with him.

“I went to get us breakfast. I was hoping you’d still be asleep when I got back.” He keeps his voice calm, his eyes on Theon – Theon’s face goes from furious to devastated in the span of three seconds. (Before, he’d have never shown that much emotion just like that.) He reaches out, grabs the bag and looks inside.

“That’s – you got me coconut mushrooms? I haven’t – I haven’t had any in ages,” he says under his breath, and Robb knows. He also knows that Theon was addicted to the damned things, he’s been since Robb met him. But really, if he makes a big deal out of it, it’s not going to end well.

“I should have left you a note. I’m sorry. Really.”

“You shouldn’t – don’t, I should be sorry, I was so stupid –”

“Hey.” Robb moves forward, grabs Theon’s wrists without much strength. “It’s fine. I know I should have told you before. Surprises are overrated, aren’t they? I was an idiot. Let’s just forget it. Do you want to have some now or later?”

“… later? Please?”

“Later it is.” Robb grabs the bag from Theon and puts it over his nightstand. He curses himself – it was five minutes isn’t an excuse. He should have left a note just in case, and fuck it if the surprise breakfast in bed thing didn’t work out.

“Don’t be mad at me?”

Oh, shit. He shakes his head, feeling like the most horrible person on this planet. He turns back towards Theon, who has ended up sitting on the edge of the bed, and goes sitting next to him.

“I never was. Forget it.” He’s ready for it when Theon presses up against his side, shaking all over. Robb drapes an arm around him, brings him down so that they’re both laying on the bed. And as much as he tries to say that it doesn’t matter, it takes him fifteen minutes before Theon stops saying that he’s sorry.

--

“I’m not going anywhere.” It’s the dead of the night, it’s raining outside and they’re in some small village in Wales – all the worst clichés rolled into one, Robb thinks.

“You should,” Theon whispers against his shoulder. “It’s not worth it.”

“Shut up.”

“I can’t be worth it.”

Robb pushes hair out of Theon’s forehead, carding through it, wishing he hadn’t been so late. And wishing he could punch Theon’s dad in the face, because from what Theon always told him, he has an idea of why he’s saying that out of everything.

“You always were.”

--

“His sister wants to talk to him.”

Robb sighs. That’s exactly the last thing he needed. At least Jon didn’t give her his number. “Is she there?”

“Yeah. And she was very – uh. She won’t go until she talks to him. Or you.”

“Put her on.”

A moment later, a very, very angry Asha Greyjoy is shouting in his ear. “Stark, what the fuck have you done?”

“Oh, because you have a right to talk? I don’t remember seeing you at the hospital once, after they arrested Bolton. Or am I wrong?”

“That’s not – you can’t just kidnap someone. Who’s also not in their right frame of mind.”

“And leaving him there on his own to rot in an hospital bed is better? Or for fuck’s sake, it’d have been better if one of your uncles took care of it? Because I know your father won’t. Don’t give me this crap, Asha. I’m not coming back.”

“I want to talk to him.”

Robb sighs. “I’ll ask him.”

“You will what?”

“Ask him. Wait.”

He wishes he didn’t have to do it, but she’s still Theon’s sister. And he can’t tell him that she didn’t call.

“Your sister wants to talk to you,” he says as he walks back into their motel room.

Theon looks at him with wide, sad eyes.

“My sister.”

“Yeah. She’s on the phone. Do you want to take it? You don’t have to.”

“I haven’t seen her in three years.”

“Well, as stated, she’s on. Do you want to talk to her?”

Theon holds his hand out and puts the phone to his ear.

“Asha?”

Robb can’t hear what she says, but after maybe twenty seconds Theon starts shaking his head, his other hand curling up in a fist.

“Fuck you,” he shouts into the receiver before closing the call.

He’s shaking all over as he puts his head in his hands, and Robb wishes he never even thought about handing him that phone. He shuts it off for good, then sits next to him on the bed, pulls him close, kisses his hair and tries not to think at how many missed calls he’ll find on the phone when he turns it on again.

 

--

“You put him up to that.”

“Asha, believe me, I didn’t. He’s – dammit, he’s not fine and you know what, maybe he’d be better off if any of you had given a shit about what happened to him. Or even if any of you had given a shit before then, but that’s not my business.”

“I wasn’t even in the country, they didn’t tell me!”

“Yeah, except that I did try to reach you and I never got an answer. And I don’t really care about your family business, but if you didn’t know it’s not my fucking problem. When he wants to talk to you, if he wants to, I’m calling Jon and letting you know. But until then, just don’t, okay? Don’t.”

He closes the call. Asha doesn’t try to call again.

Good.

--

“Kiss me?” The request is barely audible, but Robb hears it fine – he can’t sleep if Theon hasn’t fallen asleep first, and he obviously wasn’t even close to it.

Robb reaches out for Theon’s shoulder, curls an arm around his waist, kisses the back of his neck, trying to keep it as slow as he can, and when Theon turns his head towards him, he finds his mouth. He doesn’t push it, only using tongue when he feels Theon’s tentatively touch his lips, but he doesn’t stop at his mouth. When they part, he moves to Theon’s cheek, then forehead and neck and eyes, and then he goes back to Theon’s mouth, all the while thinking why didn’t I do this before?

He doesn’t speak, or he’ll risk dropping bombs that neither of them is ready to hear.

He doesn’t expect it when Theon’s gloved left hand reaches up and covers the side of his neck.

“Can I take it off?” he asks. Theon always has the damn thing on except when he’s taking a shower, and Robb doesn’t exactly see him when that happens.

“Do you really want to?”

“Yeah.” He doesn’t add anything.

“It’s ugly,” comes for an answer, and Robb thinks he wants to cry for the umpteenth time since they ran from London.

“I don’t care,” he says, miraculously managing to keep his voice even. He isn’t sure that denying said ugliness is a good idea, which is why he sticks to the other answer.

Theon takes a breath, moves his hand away and puts it between them.

Robb doesn’t even try to waste time hesitating – he peels away the glove and throws it on the ground.

And then he moves his head down and kisses the empty space where Theon’s ring finger should have been before curling his own fingers around Theon’s.

He doesn’t say anything when Theon hides his face against his shoulder, and Robb doesn’t sleep at all that night.

--

Robb drives while Theon sleeps in the backseat, bare feet resting against the door.

He wishes he knew what he’s actually doing here, he doesn’t know if going with his gut was a good idea or not, but he has a feeling that this won’t blow in his face. Hopefully.

After he parks, he gets out of the car and calls Jon.

“His dad wants your head, you know that?”

Robb takes a deep breath. “Why do you think that this is the third time I change my number?”

“Well, at least you thought it out decently. In theory he can’t do anything – you were the emergency contact and it’s not like he can press charges against you. I think. But he’s not going to let it go.”

“He can go fuck himself for all I care. What about the rest?”

“Your mom is devastated, Sansa thinks you’re the best person ever not to mention that knights in shining armor have nothing on you, Arya keeps on saying that you’re crazy. Dad is – well. Not too happy but he gets it. I think. Are you ever coming back?”

“I don’t know,” he answers truthfully. “Not now, though.”

“Well, if his dad sends someone after you I’ll let you know. If I find out, obviously. How is he?”

“Bad.”

“Getting better?”

“No clue. Sometimes it seems like it, other times it’s one step forward and two steps back. But I’m not letting this go.”

“Good luck,” Jon tells him.

Robb puts away the phone, opens the backdoor and crawls inside the car so that Theon’s head is resting on his thigh. His hair is getting long, Robb thinks inconsequentially, and as his fingers card through it, he asks himself if he should try to give it a cut.

Then again, it’s not like they can stop for it.

When Theon wakes up and looks up at him, Robb tries to smile convincingly, smoothing a line over Theon’s forehead.

“Hey,” he says. “Do you want to take a walk?”

“Do I have to put shoes on?”

Robb doesn’t even blink – he’s adjusted to that kind of apparently inconsequential questions by now.

“Not necessarily.”

It’s just a bit of concrete before the sand, anyway – if something happens, it won’t be nothing that he can’t disinfect later.

Robb kicks off his own shoes and pushes the door open.

The concrete is warm and rough under his feet, and Theon’s eyes are wide and clear as he looks at the empty shore in front of them.

(Robb knows he likes the sea. He also knows he hasn’t been there in a year if not more.)

The water is cool as it laps at Robb’s feet. He breathes in for a moment, and then someone is pushing him and he’s drenched in icy-cold ocean water.

When he turns as he coughs, his heart almost stops. Theon’s looking at him with the smug expression he hasn’t seen on his face in months, his mouth curled up in a small smirk, and Robb just can’t – he can’t

“So, do you want a war?”

He doesn’t let himself think – he grabs Theon’s elbow and drags him down, the two of them getting soaked all over; he gets a splash of water in his face and while he’s careful not to do anything even remotely dangerous, that doesn’t stop him from pushing Theon backward and splashing his face back.

By then, they’re both laughing hysterically, and Robb knows he had this one right. His fingers are tangled in Theon’s too-long, wet hair, and he’s almost tempted to kiss the smirk off his face, to throw the both of them on the ground and stay there for a while, but they’d get sand everywhere and there isn’t a motel around here. He can’t afford to get the car too dirty, if they have to sleep in it. He does have a change of clean clothes though, and he has no quibbles with changing in the middle of the road if he has to, and so it ends with him on his back on the shore and Theon on top of him as he laughs against Robb’s shoulder.

Robb wishes he could stop time here and now, but he isn’t stupid enough to do it for more than a handful of seconds.

--

Robb changes into dry clothes standing outside the car, on the side facing the shore – there was no one else on the other, as well, but better safe than sorry. Theon does the same inside the car and it takes a lot more time and contortions, but Robb knows better than offering to help if there’s the need. When he’s done, he looks almost small in some oversized black hoodie, threadbare jeans and bare feet (and still wet, too-long hair), but at least he hasn’t put the godforsaken glove back on.

Robb drives until they find some halfway decent place to get take-out from, they eat outside the car and sleep in the backseat, Theon curled against him in a precarious balance – if any of them moves too much, they’re going to fall off. Which is why Robb is on the outside – better that it happens to him, if it has to.

He isn’t sure that he wants to sleep in the car anymore.

Actually, he’d just like to rent someplace on the shore and stop, but he can’t. Not here. They’d be found, sooner rather than later. And changing country would get them found anyway – he doesn’t have any false documents, and how would they get to France? If only they could drive somewhere else, but as it is, they can’t.

--

“Do you hate me?”

Robb curses internally.

That’s not – that’s not what Theon should be thinking about.

“No.” Short, curt, no frills. “I never could.”

“You should.”

“Didn’t I tell you to stop worrying? I chose it. I don’t regret a minute of it.”

“But – you shouldn’t. I’m all wired wrong. You know I am.”

“Oh, for – I love you,” Robb blurts, his hand reaching out, closing around Theon’s left.

“You what?”

“Why do you think I told you that you only had to ask? I don’t care that you think you’re wrong. Wrong. What even. I’ll be damned before I fuck things up with you again.”

“You – you really do?”

Robb tugs him close, repeats it until he’s sick of saying it all over, and when he moves back a bit, there’s something in Theon’s eyes that Robb can’t name, but that is making his stomach flip backwards.

“I dreamed of you saying it,” he whispers, his voice shaking, same as his hands, and Robb kisses him, because what else can he do?

--

“I hate this.”

“I know,” Robb replies, trying to keep rage out of his voice as he presses his mouth over Theon’s head.

“Make me forget?”

Robb thinks that it might be the hardest thing that’s ever been asked of him.

But he said he wasn’t going to fuck up again, and he won’t. “Get over here,” he says, bringing Theon on top of him – best position, if he wants to get away.

He doesn’t even attempt touching below the waistline, but he runs a hand over Theon’s spine all over until he can feel him relaxing a bit. The other goes to Theon’s hair, angling his head so that Robb can kiss him once, twice, before moving to his neck and behind his ear. It doesn’t take much – in seconds Theon is melting against him, almost boneless, and Robb doesn’t think he’s going to stop anytime soon. He keeps on carding through his hair as he presses his lips wherever he can reach, lingering on Theon’s mouth but not for too long.

“Better?” he asks against the empty space in Theon’s left hand, as he presses his mouth to the still reddening scar, and when Theon moves and crashes his mouth against Robb’s he guesses the answer was yes.

--

He buys the rope after three months, in a small gas station somewhere in Scotland, more or less around the time he comes to terms with the fact that this kind of lifestyle works just in American movies. There aren’t many motels on the highways, or not as many as there could be, and they’re on an island – he doesn’t have an endless stretch of road in front of him that he can drive through without ever stopping. He doesn’t know how long it’ll be before someone recognizes them or catches them, and Robb wonders if it’d really be this hard to get to France and start all over again from there. But he needs fake documents for the both of them, he needs a new car or at least new plates, and it’s complicated.

He calls Jon.

“Your girlfriend,” he says. “Does she still know that guy who did – well, not exactly legal things to help migrants get into the country?”

“You want to leave England?”

“Someone’s going to recognize us, Jon. This isn’t America. I can’t risk it much longer.”

“… I’ll call you back.”

He gets back inside the motel room, just before Theon wakes up. And when he does, he looks relieved the moment his eyes meet Robb’s.

“I always think you might be gone,” he confesses.

“I know,” Robb says, and pulls the rope out of the paper bag.

--

He winces as he ties it around Theon’s waist – fuck, how can he still be that thin? Theon’s fingers shake as he ties the other end around Robb’s middle. It’s a red rope, out of all the colors Robb could find.

And he knows they will just make themselves more noticeable when it’s tied, but he figures he’ll be more careful.

--

Jon tells him that the guy is willing to meet them in Dover. He says the name is Mance – might be true or not, but Robb couldn’t care less.

They talk for one hour in a seedy pub while Theon is passed out on Robb’s shoulder and at least Mance doesn’t comment on it. In the end, Robb pays half up front for false identity cards and new car plates. Mance tells him to wait – he’ll be back in a few hours.

Theon wakes up ten minutes after he’s gone and he doesn’t even ask what are they doing in there or why they aren’t leaving. Robb grabs his hand under the table and orders two sodas. It’s going to feel like a long wait.

Mance does come back two hours later, with documents that Robb couldn’t distinguish from his regular ones, and the address of a mechanic that is willing to change the car’s plates. Robb pays him the rest and hopes that this goes smoothly.

--

Robb drives and thinks about renting a small bungalow somewhere south.

France is nice, the weather is warmer, and seeing the sun for five days in a row after months of almost perpetual rain is enough to lift Robb’s spirits up at least some. He has more than enough money left in his secondary account, and driving around forever isn’t an option. He needs to think things through.

“What if we stopped?” he asks Theon as he pushes on the accelerator. The rope is still tied around their waists.

“Stopped?”

“I was thinking. We could go south. It’d be nicer than back home. Maybe rent a small place. It doesn’t have to be like this.”

“You want that?”

“I was asking you. It’s not about what I want.”

There’s silence for maybe the next five minutes.

“Just the two of us?”

“’Course. I was thinking on the sea, but it can be wherever. You don’t have to decide now.”

“No, it’s – okay. Yes. I’d like it.”

It comes out in a rush, as Theon’s left hand shakes visibly. Robb slows down – he isn’t adjusted to driving on the left side, but he couldn’t exactly go around with a British car if he didn’t want to be noticed.

When he’s sure that he won’t kill the both of them, he reaches out with his right hand and curls it around Theon’s.

--

He knows that’s it the moment he sees it.

Two storeys, lilac walls, a small, private beach in front of it, already furnished, and it’s less than an hour to drive to Montpellier. And it belongs to a young couple that divorced after maybe seven months of marriage and who will sell it at any price just to get rid of it.

He explains the situation, leaving out the fine details, and tells them that they’d have to sell to his brother instead of him. They agree to it, especially when Robb offers a bit more than the starting selling price.

He gets Jon to fly down there to sign the deal after giving him the details of his secondary bank account.

--

It had been the private beach selling the deal, and Robb doesn’t regret having offered more than the starting price. It keeps people out and no one tries to come close to private properties anyway, and so what if sometimes they walk out of the house with the rope tied around their waist? It’s not like anyone can see them.

He doesn’t even know why some days Theon insists on putting it on and not on others, but Robb has learned not to ask that kind of question. It’s – well, after months of doing this, he has come to terms with the fact that Theon does have a logic for what he does, which is not the same kind of logic that he used to follow before he tried to fucking kill himself. It’s also logic that Robb will never get, but he’s learned to go along with it – it makes it easier for the both of them. If it means that sometimes he spends an entire day walking with a rope tied around his waist so be it. If it makes Theon happy then who is he to object? If it means that at times they spend an hour sitting on a beach, maybe a meter or so between them, the rope falling into the soft sand and their hands brushing over it, Robb doesn’t complain. He thinks he’s come to like it.

He had thought that it would be harder, though. He hadn’t expected to fall into some kind of weird routine where he wakes up first but makes sure that he’s at least in Theon’s line of sight when he follows, where he cooks and Theon insists to do the laundry when he isn’t having a particularly horrible day, where he reads on the porch (actually, it’s a book he bought that assures him that he’ll have learned some basic French when he’s done – he doubts it’ll work, but he has to learn at some point) while Theon sits cross-legged in the sand.

He’s almost scared that it won’t last, because who is he kidding – someone will find them at some point, and Theon is still far from fine, and two people barely seeing anyone else (correction: he barely sees other people when he goes to town in order to buy groceries or things that the internet won’t deliver) should be a recipe for disaster.

Except that it’s not. No one comes searching for them, and Robb isn’t stupid enough to use the credit card with his name on it when it’s necessary – he has a back-up one for his alias and it’s worked until now. Maybe it’s that he’s known Theon for pretty much all his life, but neither of them goes stir-crazy now that they aren’t moving anymore. He learns enough French to buy groceries without causing confused reactions and he comes back home to find Theon on the beach and the bathroom tiles shining (that’s mildly worrying, Theon never was a cleaning freak, but his logic isn’t the same as it was before and Robb lets it go). And – well. On top of that, Theon is actually doing a damn lot better than he was before. It’s not anything definitive, and Robb knows that he’s never going to be the same as he was before Ramsay Bolton and before – before the rest, but he sleeps through the night most times, he has stopped asking Robb why does he even care (or well, sometimes he still does but they’re becoming lesser and lesser), he has put on some weight (finally) and he doesn’t freak out if they aren’t in the same place for more than half an hour. Which is enough of a good improvement as far as Robb is concerned.

This, until someone does find them.

He’s sitting on the shore, his newly acquired French grammar opened at his side while Theon is sleeping, his head on Robb’s not-covered-in-a-stupidly-heavy-book leg, and then he looks up at his left and sees Asha standing right outside the driveway where Robb parks his car.

Damn. He never put an alarm at the entrance because there are more small wild animals than people around here anyway and it would have just driven the two of them insane, but now he regrets it. He puts a finger on his mouth and shakes his head, motioning that he’s going to come over. He runs a hand through Theon’s hair before moving as slowly as he can and hoping that he doesn’t wake up. He doesn’t.

Then he remembers that today is one of the days where he has a rope tied around his waist.

Well, it’s not like Asha’s opinion of him can get worse.

“So?” he asks when he’s next to her and out of reach. The rope is long enough that it’s still not pulling.

“You’re a hard man to track down,” she replies, but she doesn’t sound as pissed as she used to be. “But you’re also not very observant. I’ve been here for two hours.”

“Doing what exactly?”

“Mostly, watching the two of you in the living room. You should put on some curtains, sometime.”

Well. Point taken.

He curses himself for not having noticed her, but it’s not like he can undo it.

“Asha, what do you want? I realize that –”

“That’s what I wanted to do,” she cuts him short. “Then I had a good look at the two of you.”

He holds his breath, waiting for her to go on.

“Well, I had thought – let’s not go into it. Just answer me this – how long are you planning to play house here?”

Robb doesn’t have to think about it. “As much as it takes. And if it means that – that things are never fixed… there are worse places where I could live. I bought the house, it’s not like someone can kick me out.”

She gives him a curt nod, then huffs. “All right. I thought – well, you know what I thought. But – then I asked myself if I would be willing to do what you’re doing right now. Or if anyone in our family would.” She stops, takes a breath. “And I suppose it doesn’t say good things about me. But I also like to be honest with myself. The answer was no. I love him, I do, but – I couldn’t. And you were right when I talked to you back then. You were there all along and we weren’t – I have no right to fuck things up for the both of you if it’s working.”

Robb lets out the breath he had been holding. “So –”

“I’ll get my dad off your case, Stark. Don’t worry. It’s not like – well, it’s a question of principle. I love him, too, and I know how he is. But I’m not an idiot and I’m not going to fuck my brother up further just because my dad can’t stand the idea that he always liked you better than the rest of his family.”

“It’s not –”

“It’s true. And why wouldn’t he? Shut up, Stark. I’m not going to get offended. Well, I did my speech, now I guess it’s time I leave.”

Robb is kind of surprised that she hasn’t mentioned the rope once, but maybe he ought to give her more credit.

And to be honest, he doesn’t want to – fuck, she’s Theon’s sister and she obviously gives a shit even if she couldn’t show it for the life of her, and he doesn’t want to be the reason they don’t have a relationship.

“Fuck, Asha, seriously? Just stay over for dinner.”

“What?”

“Come on, who do you think I am?”

“The last time I talked to him he told me to fuck off. I’m not sure he wants to see me.”

“Yeah, and what did you tell him?”

“… that he was doing something very stupid?”

“Right, and it wasn’t even one month after – after. I know you’re smarter than that. If I told him that you were here and then disappeared without even saying hi he’d probably punch me for letting you do it. Seriously, go inside and make yourself some tea or whatever. Stay over for the evening, at least.”

She shakes her head before giving him a nod. “You’re incredible, you know that?”

Robb shrugs. “I do my best.”

Then she goes inside and he goes to wake Theon up, trying to find the least harming way to break the news.

Considering that it ends with Theon slamming the front door and the two idiots hugging in a way that suggests that they actually never did that before, Robb figures he did all right.

--

Asha leaves in the evening. Before walking back to her car, that she left somewhere not too far, she tells Robb that after all it was everyone’s luck that her brother put him as the emergency contact, and then she drives away.

“Do you think she meant it?” Theon asks that night, his back flush against Robb’s front.

“She’s your sister, I figured you’d know if she was lying. But I don’t really think she was.” He’s not lying – it was obvious. He should probably call Jon and tell him, but he can do that tomorrow.

“Yeah, well.” Theon doesn’t say anything else and Robb doesn’t press. He kisses the back of his neck, his ankle hooking with Theon’s, a piece of rope stuck in between.

--

“Are you sure about this?” Robb asks for the fourth time.

(He really, really doesn’t feel like fucking it up all over again. So he’ll ask. More than he strictly needs to.)

Theon rolls his eyes, and it’s not in the same way he did it when he and Robb fell into the same bed for the first time.

“Robb, I know – fuck, we both know how it is, but I’m not that fucked up. I wouldn’t have asked you if I didn’t want it.”

Robb sighs. “You’re not half as fucked up as you think you are. Or at least it’s nothing I didn’t know. I just – you know that I don’t want to –”

Theon shakes his head, stopping the flow of words here and there. He brings himself up to a sitting position, moving so that his knees are around Robb’s thighs. But he’s still fully dressed this time. “Why do you think I asked you that first time? You said – in the hospital, you said there hadn’t been anyone else. It – it’s the same for me. If you don’t want to then –”

“What – you – of course I want to, that’s – don’t even try to assume that I don’t, okay?”

There’s something in Theon’s eyes that makes something inside Robb’s stomach clench – it’s need, but it’s also something desperate, and then again – if it goes wrong, they can always stop. He’s gotten good enough at recognizing signs, and he’d know if Theon was faking it. And he doesn’t. And fuck, Robb – Robb does want to do this the way he always wanted to, slow and nice and thorough (the first time, it had been hard and fast and merciless and hot, but it’s not what Robb is fishing for here).

“Fine,” Robb says, his hands going to Theon’s shoulders. “Fine.”

He moves a hand behind Theon’s neck, bringing him closer, their lips touching, while the other reaches down, tracing Theon’s side until it arrives on his hip. Then he reaches out for Theon’s free hand, their fingers curling together with a red rope tangled in between, and as he squeezes, he’s planning all the ways in which he could make Theon see stars, and knowing that there will most probably be a next time makes him sure that he doesn’t really need to make the most out of this one.

End.