a/n: okay so I don't know where this came from and I'm sorry. I don't even ship Robb/Theon, but this just sort of… happened. Set right at the beginning of A Game of Thrones, after the Starks have found the direwolves but before the king comes.
disclaimer: I quite clearly don't own A Song of Ice and Fire. All characters, plots, creatures and settings therein belong to George R R Martin and I make no claim to them.
you are the one that makes me lose it all. —This, Ed Sheeran.
He is Robb and you are Theon and your story was never supposed to go like this. Brothers, that's probably the way you should see each other. The way you see Bran, the way he sees Jon. Something there between you a bit more than blood. Something that says, we are one.
But the way you feel when you are around Robb – that's not something that brothers feel. The way your heart does a funny double-thump when he smiles that certain way; the way you can't drag your eyes away when he's lost in swordplay, feet quicker than should be possible and face twisted in concentration; the way you feel the spots where he's touched you for days after like a third-degree burn.
There are days when your longing is so intense you cannot believe he is unaffected. Those days you ache in ways you don't understand and sometimes you don't even want to leave your bedchamber. You shiver despite your layers of furs and you don't look at Robb and he doesn't look at you. He must know, you think, he must he must.
He's a soldier but not stupid, a northman but not emotionally stunted. He's bold and he's passionate and he's (oh Gods, he's Robb, he's so Robb) and you wish you could hate him the way you were so sure you would when you first arrived here at Winterfell. But you don't, so there's that. And you think, some days when you catch him looking at you out of the corners of his eyes, some moments when you are laughing together and his hand lingers when he claps it on your shoulder, you think that maybe he knows and maybe he does a little bit more than know, maybe he feels—
Maybe he wants—
Probably not though. Stark men live for their honour and he would never risk tarnishing that, not even in the privacy of his own heart. There is no honour in considering the friend you would die for in that way, you are sure. You can't be sure though – you're just an ironborn, and from the stories Lord Stark talks you reckon ironborn aren't particularly good at the honour thing.
There is a day when the longing is particularly bad. You have spent the morning hunting with Robb and other men of Winterfell through the woods and there were too many moments when you caught yourself staring. Robb is in his element when hunting, you're aware of this but you still find yourself surprised by the vibrancy of him when he's out on the chase. When he took the stag down with one sweep of his sword and his direwolf dragged the beast down the final drop, teeth fastened in its neck, when he threw his head back and laughed with the sheer savage joy of it all, you found yourself examining the strong line of his jaw and the way his hair was a little bit red in the sunlight filtering through the leaves.
When he leapt down from his foaming horse and wrestled Grey Wind playfully to the ground, laughing all the while, the stag's blood transferring from the direwolf's jaws and face to the rough skin of Robb's cheeks, you had to turn and ride away before you embarrassed yourself.
You are riding back into Winterfell now. Robb is at the head of the small column, blood still all over his face and grinning with the sheer exhilaration of it all, hands freezing around his reins but a smile that could put the world to rights making things like that not seem important. You are at his side, as usual. This is your place. You with Robb. Things are best like that.
Your stomach feels like it is twisting into knots as you watch him leap down from his horse, pluck Arya up from where she is trying to tug a toy sword away from Bran, and twirl her around and around until she is dizzy and breathless and giggling even as she pushes his bloody face away with cries of disgust. Robb is laughing loudly and deliberately brushing his cheeks against hers, leaving her bloody like him, until they are both laughing helplessly and red with gore and you think right in that moment that Starks are too wild for their own good. They play by rules older than most men can remember and they belong to the snow and the cold and the wild. Seeing Robb breathless there with Arya does things to you that you can't understand.
You dismount your horse quietly and disappear into the castle without drawing too much attention yourself. You discard your clothes at the entrance to one of the small, dark bathchambers where hot water bubbles up from under the earth and into large tubs big enough to swim in. You shut the door behind you, light one of the torches on the walls, and then in the flickering light you plunge straight into the water and sink beneath it.
Under the water, looking up, the surface has a silver skin that distorts the firelight to the colour Robb's hair goes in high summer. Everything, you think angrily as you break the surface with a groan, everything comes back to him. You slick your wet hair back from your face and give vent to your feelings as best you can by striking your palm flat across the water, sending spray arcing up to splash you in the face. It feels good, so you do it again and again. And then again. Soon you find you are repeating the motion mindlessly, the action somehow taking the edge off the dull longing ache in your stomach.
And then, naturally, the door opens and Robb comes striding in. He shuts the door behind him and starts shedding his clothes like you are just brothers washing together – which you are, you are – and you try not to look once he is fully naked. He steps into the water rather than jumping the way the two of you used to when you were little.
In the firelight, the blood on his cheeks is as black as the night.
He gives you this smile, this little Robb smile that tells you nothing of what he is thinking, and then he submerges himself underwater and scrubs vigorously at his face with his hands to try to rid himself of the dried blood. You watch him, the water refracting the image until he looks no more than three feet high, and you hope he is too absorbed in what he is doing to notice the way your body is reacting to being this close to him.
He resurfaces suddenly, gasping for breath, pushing his hair out of his eyes, sodden and flat on his head. You know from experience that it won't take long before the heat has his curls reshaping themselves, and you're not waiting for that eagerly or anything because that would be pathetic even by your standards.
"You're quiet today, Greyjoy," Robb says suddenly, breaking your concentration, and your gaze flickers from his hair to his eyes (to his mouth, shut up) and you give your best cocky Theon grin in return.
"Hard to get a word in edgeways around you bloody Starks," you retort, raising an eyebrow insolently, swirling water around with your left hand, "And you still have blood on your face."
He shakes his head at you in exasperation or something and gives one more futile rub at his cheeks before giving up.
"I'll get it off later," he decides, sinking lower in the water as he takes a seat on the stone bench that runs around the bath, propping his arms up on the side and regarding you seriously. "Seriously, though, Theon. You are being quiet. Usually I can't get you to shut up."
You shrug in response, don't meet his gaze, hope he's not watching you too closely, "Tired. Didn't sleep well last night."
"That'll teach you to sneak out to the brothel," Robb says, and there is low laughter in his tone and you don't bother denying it. You have this thing where you think maybe if you screw as many girls as you can get your hands on then this whatever-this-is with Robb will just go away. Obviously it's just because you're lonely or homesick or something. Obviously.
You meet his gaze quite unintentionally and hold it for about three seconds before you splutter with laughter and he does the same and as you let the chuckles snort out of your mouth in a most unattractive manner you don't think at all about him in any way other than as a brother and a best friend. But then you catch his eye again, and there is something there suddenly, something, something, but oh Gods—
What is it—
Why can't you breathe properly—
Why does it matter that he's looking at you like that—
That his gaze is fixed firmly on your mouth, on the way your lips stretch over your teeth as you laugh—
And then before you know what's happened he's rearing out of the water and pulling himself out of the bath and splashing across the small dark bathroom to the door, grabbing a towel but not stopping to pick up his clothes.
He is gone before your brain catches up with the situation. You call his name but he is long gone, and the thick wooden doors of Winterfell are not designed to facilitate shouting. You don't chase him out though. You don't dare. Because if you did – oh, Gods, if you had the courage – then something would change, something too big to think about, and you know that that is not the best thing for either of you.
So you let him go and that evening when you see each other at dinner there is no trace of blood on his clean-shaven cheeks and his eyes are very green in the torchlight. He is looking at you in a way that makes you physically ache and you want to return the look, to let your face burn with the promise of it all, of what you could do, of what you could be—
But he is Robb, and you are Theon; you are ironborn, and he is a northman. He wears blood on his skin like war paint from the wild places and his honour is his life and he runs with wolves as big as horses. And you – well, you're Theon. You're good with a bow and arrow and you hate the cold and basically you're ordinary. You are ordinary, and he is Robb.
You don't meet his gaze for the rest of the night, and in the morning you speak to him as though nothing is different.
(But you know it is, now.
It is, it is, it is.)