The stupidest thing about the whole mess was that Robb was the host and he still can’t figure out who Hot Jack Skellington was.
“We should throw a Halloween party,” Robb had announced in the living room fifteen minutes before dinner on a Wednesday.
Jon looked up from his phone. “We should?”
“I think it’d be a good time. It’s been way too long since everyone’s been together, someone ought to do something about that.” He shrugs. “And we’ve got the biggest house.”
Jon had made unsure noises, his usual protests of not being a party kind of person ringing hollow after Arya’s last birthday, but Robb’s mind was made up. And when, later that week, Ygritte expressed approval, he knew he had won.
Honestly, they could get Jon to do nearly anything as long as both of them agreed. Some might call it taking advantage, but Robb called it intelligent strategy.
And so, in-between his job at Winterfell, Inc. and marathoning romantic comedies with Sansa, Robb spent the latter half of October preparing for the best Halloween party he could manage—on a budget, and with the hope that nothing would get so out of hand that his parents would reprimand him for inviting his little brothers to a bacchanalian rave.
“Do we even know enough people to have a party instead of a family reunion?” Jon asks ten minutes into figuring out a guest list.
Shit. “We know people,” Robb protests. “Surely we know people.”
“There are eleven people on this list and we’re related to four of them.”
Robb looks down at his screen. “Oh.” He spares a morose stare for the stark proof of his lack of a social life, then takes out his phone. “It’s okay, I know what to do.”
Robb to Baby Starks Doo Doo (6:32 p.m.): We’re having a Halloween party, please invite people (so long as they’re nice)
Jon (6:33 p.m.): DON’T invite anyone who’ll trash my house @Arya
Arya (6:34 p.m.): Fuck off I’ll trash it myself
Jon (6:34 p.m.): :’-(
Arya (6:35 p.m.): >:|
Sansa (6:41 p.m.): Loras will want to bring Renly is that OK?
Robb (6:43 p.m.): Sure, friends of friends are alright
Arya (6:43 p.m.): Margery can’t bring the asshole
Jon (6:43 p.m.): As long as Margery doesn’t invite Joffrey
Arya (6:43 p.m.): JINX BITCH
Bran (6:45 p.m.): They broke up, actually
Robb (6:45 p.m.): Really? Thank god for her
Sansa (6:47 p.m.): Yeah, she told me about it last weekend
Sansa (6:47 p.m.): Wait, Bran, how do you know?
Bran (6:48 p.m.): The three-eyed raven knows all
Bran (6:50 p.m.): It was on twitter
Rickon (6:51 p.m.): Guys I’m on a date can you shut the fuck up
Robb (6:51 p.m.): WHAT
Jon (6:51 p.m.): WHAT
Sansa (6:52 p.m.): OH MY GOD
Arya (6:52 p.m.): Say hi to Shireen for me loser
Rickon has left Baby Starks Doo Doo (6:52 p.m.)
Bran (6:53 p.m.): He’ll be back
After that, the invite list fills up in no time. He’s a little rattled by the clear evidence that his younger siblings have a lot more friend than he does, but it’s thanks to them that enough people are invited that Robb felt comfortable actually calling this a party, and thus comfortable enough to dedicate his time to buying decorations, planning food, and making a playlist.
“This is ridiculous,” Jon says when Robb asks him which Nightmare before Christmas song he should include.
“You’re right, I’ll just put all of them.”
Jon sighs, and fidgets in his seat. “No I mean—don’t you think you’re getting a little too into this, Robb?”
“It’s just—well, it’s only a party.”
Robb looks up, blinking at Jon. “I know that,” he says, then frowns. He hadn’t thought he’d been going overboard, but maybe—“I just want it to be a good one, is all.” He looks down at the multi-hour playlist he’s still adding to, and thinks of the pile of decorations in the dining room corner. “Is it too much?” he asks, voice quiet.
“No,” Jon says, shaking his head. “No, you’re right, it’s going to be great.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yeah, of course.” Jon smiles, almost reassuring. “Without all the Halloween stuff it’d just be a bunch of assholes standing around in costumes.”
Robb laughs. “It’ll be that anyway, but thanks.” He exits out of the playlist for now—Jon’s right, he ought to take a break from it. “Speaking of, have you decided what you’re going as?”
Jon hesitates, pointedly looking anywhere but at Robb. “Ygritte and I are going as Gomez and Morticia Addams.”
“Oh!” Not really what he had been expecting, but it was cute. “Cool.”
Jon flushes bright pink. “I’m Morticia.”
“Ah!” Robb exclaims, grinning. “That’s way better.”
“It was her idea, but I think I like it.”
“I’m sure you’ll be the best couples costume there.”
Jon just shrugs. “What about you?”
“I’m thinking Hercules, from the Disney movie?” He had the hair to pull it off, at least. Plus last year he’d worn armor that ended up being stiflingly sweaty and he figured a cape and skirt thing would be a lot more comfortable.
“Fuck you,” Robb says cheerfully.
“Does that mean Aunt Cat’s finally going to get you to shave that thing?” Like he could talk—she’d been trying to get Jon to shave his perpetual stubble long before Robb grew out his beard.
“Nope,” he says, leaning back into the couch. “Just like I’m sure we’ll be seeing a Morticia with a five-o-clock shadow.”
Jon throws a pillow at him.
After dropping off Grey Wind and Ghost at his parents and promising to have the boys back home by tomorrow afternoon, Robb has all afternoon to prepare. He gets Bran and Rickon to set up the speaker system because it’s the task involving the least number of knives that he can think of, and starts hanging ghosts and streamers all over the first floor.
When he’s finally finished setting up—maybe ten minutes before the thing is supposed to start—he has to grant that Jon may have had a point. There are the streamers, multiple pumpkins, and some arrangement of skeletons on nearly every surface. Halloween explosion might be an understatement.
It’s maybe a bit overboard for a party for mostly twenty-somethings. But decorating had been fun—made him happy, even. He got to hang out with his brothers and make something fun for his friends. Forgive him if that’s all he really wants.
Jon comes home, Ygritte in tow, the both of them wearing clothing they must have pulled from the other’s closet. Ygritte has a tiny moustache drawn above her mouth, and Jon’s wearing red lipstick that he’s probably going to complain about all night.
“Well, it’s definitely too much,” he says, and Robb sighs. “I think in a good way, though?”
“Don’t be a shit,” Ygritte rebukes him. “It looks great, Robb. Love the ghosts.”
“Thanks. You and your handiwork over there look good as well.” He nods at Jon. “Since you’re here, can you two mind the door while I get ready?”
“Brilliant. Also, the boys are around here…” He looks around them. “Somewhere? I’m not quite sure.”
“Did you lose them?” Jon calls as Robb makes his way up the stairs. “How could you lose two—Gah! Holy shit Rickon how did you fit there?” Robb just snickers at Jon’s startled yelp and shuts his door.
He changes into his costume in the relative silence of his room. It doesn’t take too long—luckily, considering how long he’d been setting up. The cape has snaps at the shoulders that hold the whole thing together and it only takes him a minute to figure out how to fasten them. Then the headband, sandals, and the armband, and he’s done.
Robb moves for a glance in the bathroom mirror just to check that he looks alright and—
He’s looked tired, this year, since breaking up with Jeyne and everything that led up to it. His parents have mostly stopped looking at him like he’s going to break—something that had been annoying at the time but in retrospect was worryingly reasonable. Even he wasn’t quite sure he wouldn’t.
There’s still a little bit of shadow in his eyes, but part of him wonders if that isn’t just a consequence of growing up, growing older—just growing. He feels… Well, he feels good. Like he’s healed and healthy and ready to face the next adventure. Ideally not the same adventure, and he’ll probably always flinch a little when someone mentions Jeyne, but still. He’s ready.
He can go the distance, he thinks, and laughs at his own joke.
A few people have shown up while he was upstairs, the rest arriving in a steady trickle as the evening goes on. Robb greets the first dozen or so, but eventually there’s enough people and enough noise that he doesn’t bother to keep paying attention. The door is unlocked, and he’s not particularly worried about people wandering into their secluded house on their own.
He’s stopped and chatted with a few of his friends, but he’s mostly doing the rounds, wandering through the party making sure everything is set up properly and dipping into conversations when he feels like it. Robb’s nearly done with drink two when he ambles through the quieter living room and notices Bran, flocked by the Reed siblings.
“Meera, Jojen,” he greets once he’s near enough to hear them. “Happy Halloween.”
“Hello Robb,” Meera says, Jojen nodding beside her. “Nice cape.”
“Thank you,” he smiles. It is a nice cape, and he was correct in assuming it’d be a lot more comfortable than last year. “And you two are…?”
“Rock,” Bran says, then “Paper” from Meera and “Scissors” from Jojen.
“Shoot,” Robb grins. “That makes loads more sense now that I can see all three of you.”
“I think Rickon wanted to kick me when we explained,” Bran says with far too much glee.
“Rickon wants to kick all of us, all the time.” Robb takes a sip of his drink. “It’s why he’s dressed as… uh, some football player I’ve never heard of.”
“I thought that was just because he’s an ass.”
“Don’t be mean,” Robb pretends to chide, “or he’ll have an excuse.”
Bran waves him off, and Robb chuckles, leaving the three of them to whatever conversation they were having. He heads toward the hall, sees Arya making faces at a petulant Jon and decides against getting involved in whatever’s going on.
“I still can’t believe you invited your aunt,” he overhears Arya say. “That’s like if I invited your mum.”
“Daenerys is younger than me,” Jon protests. “And actually really cool.”
“I know, she has like, three dogs. Shame you didn’t inherent her awesome.”
He passes them by and goes into the kitchen, hunting vaguely for a refill. Rickon is sitting at the table, staring at his phone. He doesn’t look up when Robb puts his cup down and starts pouring.
“Hey, is your girlfriend coming?”
Rickon rolls his eyes. “She’s not my girlfriend.”
“She’s my friend who I also date. We aren’t putting a label on it.”
“Oh…kay?” Sometimes Robb doesn’t understand his youngest brother. More than just sometimes, really.
“And no, she’s not coming,” Rickon scowls. “Her dad thinks I’m going to get her drunk and pregnant or something.”
Robb’s face goes hot and his hands go cold. He feels a little like he’s sweating and shivering, and also like his brain is trying to come out of his ears. He’s maybe a little too drunk for that comment to just roll off. It must show on his face, because Rickon takes one look at him and winces.
“Sorry,” he says, “I didn’t mean—”
“It’s okay,” Robb interrupts, giving a shaky smile. “I know.” His brother still looks concerned, so Robb smiles and reaches a hand over to mess up his hair.
“Hey!” Rickon’s hands fly up to protect his pile of curls as he shoots a glare at Robb.
“Too slow, little brother.” Rickon bats his hand away and Robb laughs, picking up his drink. He bites his lip and then, as he’s leaving, says “Please don’t get your not-girlfriend pregnant, though. For my sake.”
Robb makes his way to an empty wall and leans against it, sighing. He really has moved on from it, he just hadn’t been expecting the flippant way Rickon had made the comment, hadn’t had the warning to prepare himself. Not that Rickon, in any way, meant for it to throw him, but. It was maybe still more of a sore subject than he expected, even if it hadn’t been about him at all.
He’ll just take a second to catch his breath.
“Better or worse than fighting the lion?”
Robb turns his head. Standing beside him is a tall, lithe man dressed as—of all things—Jack Skellington. He’s wearing white gloves and a suit that fits him very nicely, if Robb’s opinion is worth anything, but the most striking part of the whole ensemble is the black and white skull painted on his face.
Robb must’ve been noticeably staring, because Jack Skellington quirks what is probably usually an eyebrow and asks, “Do I have something on my face?”
“Just a smidge,” Robb says, jolting himself back to reality. “Also—sorry—lion?”
The man smirks and Robb’s not ashamed to admit it sends a trickle of want down his spine. “The twelve labors of Hercules, right? Kill a lion, something to do with apples, be a stable boy. Though I suppose he didn’t do them in the movie.” He shakes his head with exaggerated ruefulness. “Terribly historically inaccurate.”
“Yes, I’m sure the real-life Hercules is horribly disappointed.” Robb replies dryly, grinning when it startles a laugh out of his company. It’s a nice laugh, one Robb wouldn’t mind hearing again, so he turns his grin self-deprecating and continues: “Though, any closer to historically accurate and I’d be walking around half-naked.”
“Pity,” comes the rumbling response, and Robb shivers a little under the hot, lidded gaze that sweeps over him. “Though I suppose there are children about,” the other man concedes. Yes, children. Children who are also his siblings, and probably somewhere in this room, Robb forces himself to remember.
He coughs, ears hot. “So tell me Pumpkin King, how does this measure up to the Town of Halloween?”
The man—who Robb is privately starting to refer to as Hot Jack Skellington, because he has eyes and ears and a pulse—makes a big show of looking around the room and considering all the decor. Robb tries not to be obvious about how invested he finds himself in this stranger’s opinion of his decorating skills.
“Not enough corpses,” Hot Jack proclaims with affected authority. Then he breaks, laughing, and turns his shoulders toward Robb. “Honestly, it’s actually pretty nice. Whoever set it up must’ve put in a lot of effort.”
“You don’t think it’s a little bit much?”
“Mmm, maybe,” Hot Jack shrugs. “But it’s a bloody Halloween party, I’m not going to judge someone for wanting to have fun.”
Robb beams at him, feeling like he’s glowing. Hot Jack blinks a little, then smiles back, looking thoroughly bemused. Robb flushes, taking a drink to hide his face.
“So,” he starts, clearing his throat. “Big fan of Nightmare before Christmas?
“A bit,” Hot Jack says, rubbing the back of his neck. “I’ve been watching it a lot lately, since it’s Halloween and all. My sister caught me watching it like, twice in a row last week. That’s why she dragged me here, actually.” He makes a face. “Says I watch too many movies and need to get out more.”
“Do you?” Robb asks, and then almost immediately regrets it. As if he’d want someone asking him the same thing.
“Well, it’s working out for me so far,” Hot Jack smirks, and Robb’s relieved the other man’s managed to dodge his terrible question. “In my defense, though, watching movies is kind of my job. I’m a Media Studies student. Graduate student,” he adds at Robb’s tiny wince.
“Oh, good. Good, that’s good.” Way to be eloquent, Robb. “I’m, uh, not a student of any kind. Well, any more.”
“Not even a student of life?” Hot Jack asks wryly.
“Not when I don’t learn my lesson.” Robb jokes. And then, because Hot Jack is only getting more interesting by the minute, and he’s curious: “Why Media Studies?”
“I watch a lot of movies,” Hot Jack answers with the obvious, “and read a lot of books. I think it’s fascinating how fictional stories can resonate so deeply with people.” His white glove is stark against his colorful plastic cup when he fidgets with the rim. “I’m actually doing my thesis on how certain kinds of media can help people with PTSD work through their trauma—uh, but it’s a bit boring, I know.”
It sounds far more thought-out than anything Robb had ever done in school, and—maybe because it’s actually interesting, maybe because of who’s talking, maybe a little of both—he desperately wants to hear more. “So, Nightmare before Christmas—”
“Is a great example of what cultural appropriation looks like,” Hot Jack chimes in. “Also, is just a great movie in general.”
“Can’t disagree with that.” Robb nods at the other man, gesturing at his costume, “and Jack’s the best character in it.”
Hot Jack scoffs. “Sally’s way better.”
“Then why not dress up as her?”
“Just because I think Sally’s better doesn’t mean I can’t emphasize with Jack,” Hot Jack says primly, then shrugs. “Also, I already had the suit.”
“Practical,” Robb agrees, then bites his cheek. There’s something he wants to know, spurred by the part of him that wants to learn as much about this man as he can. “Do you mind if I ask what you mean, that you empathize more with Jack?”
Hot Jack blinks at him, then hesitates. He fiddles with his gloves, tugging them on more securely though Robb hadn’t noticed them falling off. He’s just about to say it’s okay to say no when Hot Jack takes a deep breath. “It’s a little odd, maybe, but, well, he’s this bloke who gets a bit lost, fucks up royally, and nearly ruins everything because of it—but he still gets a happy ending, you know?”
Robb had never really thought of it that way but: “Yeah. That’s fair.”
“Why Hercules? Just the red hair and the—” Hot Jack gestures vaguely around Robb’s shoulders—”or something else?”
“The hair helped, I won’t lie.” He looks around at the overly decorated room and the people having conversations he’s spent all night avoiding. “But uh, naïve dork who has to learn how the world works in order to be useful? I’ve been there,” Robb says, trying to laugh it off.
“Yeah.” Hot Jack smiles, small and understanding and achingly tender. “I can imagine.”
The rest of the night passes in a sort of focused haze. Robb’s aware of talking with other people, but Hot Jack Skellington is a constant presence in his mind, and they fall into one-on-one conversation more and more as the evening drags on. Hot Jack is fascinating, easy to talk to even when they disagree, and an endless source of wry observations and quick-witted humor. Robb likes the way talking to him feels; he’s funny and smart, but not in a way that leaves Robb feeling dull or stupid. He hasn’t clicked like this with someone in a long time, and he’s giddier on his company than his drink by the time they move to the living room and claim the last empty space on the couch.
It’s not quite big enough for both of them, so Robb is pushed up against the arm and the warm line of Hot Jack’s body is pressed against him. Robb’s permanently flushed now, but at least he can blame it on the heat of the party and the alcohol in his system. His arm around Hot Jack’s shoulders—ostensibly to make it easier to fit but wholly self-indulgent—feels like the most important thing in the room.
He doesn’t think he’s alone in feeling like there’s something happening between them. Hot Jack is turned on the couch, all but tucked into Robb’s side, and there’s a softly fond grin on his face that only disappears when he’s smirking at a joke one of them has just made. The face paint at his hairline has rubbed off, a little, not in the least because he keeps pushing his black hair off his forehead.
Robb brushes it back for him when Hot Jack is halfway through a joke, and he stops, blinking, then apologizes when he can’t remember the end of it. His hair is soft and thick, and Robb doesn’t really care about the forgotten punchline. He’s sure it was funny, but right now he can only think about threading his fingers through Hot Jack’s hair—so he shifts the hand behind the other man and slowly, lightly, does just that.
Hot Jack’s mouth parts, just a little, and Robb watches as his tongue darts out across lips. It’s very pink against the black and white of the face paint, the contrast enthralling him. Then Hot Jack’s eyes flutter close and he leans back into the hand in his hair, and Robb is gone.
Only, he feels a bit ridiculous referring to him as Hot Jack Skellington, even just in his head. He opens his mouth to sheepishly ask the other man’s name when—
“Hey,” Hot Jack says, grey eyes sparkling, “do you think there’s a bedroom upstairs we could make out in?”
Robb flushes red and grins wildly. “I know there is,” he breathes, all thought of conversation forgotten.
They wind around the other people in the living room and hall, and Robb leads Hot Jack up the stairs to his room. He’s nearly closed the doors behind him when there’s a shattering sound from downstairs.
“Shit,” he says, turning apologetically to Hot Jack. “Back in a second?”
He waves at Robb to go, so he hurries out of his room and down his stairs. It looks like someone’s knocked a bowl from the table onto the floor. He’s about to find the broom when Jon catches his gaze and rolls his eyes.
I’ve got it, he mouths, and inclines his head back toward the stairs. Robb sends him a grateful smile and a silent thank you. Bless his cousin—he’s got to remember to do something nice for Jon later.
Robb makes his way back to his room, broad grin returning. He steps inside and shuts the door with a soft thud.
Hot Jack’s standing by his desk, back to the door. “Is this your family?,” he asks.
Robb walks up to him and leans over Hot Jack’s shoulder. He’s holding a framed photo from a vacation they’d taken when Robb had been fifteen or so, one of the few where everyone had been still and smiling at the same time. “Yeah, that’s me, Jon, Arya, and Bran, Rickon, Sansa,” he says, pointing at each of them in turn. “The whole lot’s downstairs right now, actually. Well, except my parents and the dogs.”
“Huh,” Hot Jack says, voice sounding oddly choked.
Robb hooks his chin over Hot Jack’s shoulder and his arms around his waist. “Are you going to look at my photos all night or are you going to turn around and kiss me?”
“Are you sure?” Hot Jack Skellington turns in his arms, looking suddenly nervous. “I’ll probably get face paint all over you.”
Robb giggles, high and giddy. “Promises, promises,” he says, putting a hand through the short black hair and pulling the other man into a kiss.
Hot Jack Skellington kisses like a lightning bolt to the spine. He tastes vaguely of face paint, but that’s overpowered by the warm wetness of his mouth and the press of his hands against Robb’s chest. It’s a fairly chaste kiss, but when Hot Jack breaks away from it, grey eyes dark and focused, Robb’s heart is beating like he’s just performed an actual act of godly strength.
“Do I have something on my face?” He asks, grinning playfully. Hot Jack laughs, a low and rumbling sound that makes Robb shiver.
“Just a smidge,” he says, running a gloved thumb across Robb’s lips.
He grabs ahold of Hot Jack Skellington’s lapels, pulling him back until Robb’s sitting on his mattress and Hot Jack’s knees are bracketing his hips. He nudges at Hot Jack’s shirt collar with his nose, kissing the bits of unpainted skin that his exploration exposes. Hot Jack makes a lovely, breathy sound, then lowers his weight to Robb’s lap and pulls him in for a kiss that’s far less chaste then the last.
Robb is going to wrote poetry about this man’s tongue, honest.
They kiss in a push-pull slide of lips and tongues and the occasional scrape of teeth. Hot Jack shifts his hips up and pushes him back, cupping a hand behind Robb’s head before it hits the wall. Robb slides his hands under Hot Jack’s suit jacket, untucking his shirt so he can mold his palms to his hipbones, skim his thumbs beneath the front of his waistband. He’s rewarded with bucking hips and a quiet ah!, then Hot Jack pulls away from Robb’s mouth to trail sloppy kisses down his neck.
“Does this come off?” Hot Jack murmurs, and Robb takes a second to realize he means the top of his costume, where the cape hangs from his shoulders.
“Yeah, there’s snaps.” He reaches up and flips one side open. Soon enough, Hot Jack is running his gloved hands across Robb’s bare chest and back, a maddening play of fiction and texture that has Robb gasping, arching his torso away from the wall.
“Christ,” Hot Jack bites out, then huffs a laugh. “Or should I say Zeus?”
“Don’t make fun,” Robb says, pressing his thumbs into the dips of Hot Jack’s hipbones in reprimand.
“Believe me, I’m not.”
Robb flushes, then leans up to capture his lips in another kiss. He’s really enjoying kissing Hot Jack—and it’s mutual, if the other man’s enthusiasm is anything to go by. There’s something about the way he touches Robb that sets his skin on fire and simultaneously makes him feel soft and melted. It’s both urgent and languid, like Robb wants to touch every part of him he can as soon as he can, but also like he wants to pet his hair and let each caress drag on into forever. It’s maybe the best kiss Robb’s ever had, even with the face paint it’s so good he could swear his ears are ringing—
“Shit,” Hot Jack swears, leaning back and pulling a phone out of his pocket. “Sorry, I have to—” Robb nods. “What?” Hot Jack answers the phone, settling himself back onto Robb’s lap. “Really? Are you—fine. Fine, I’ll be there in a minute.” He slides the phone back into his suit and smiles wryly. “Sorry.”
“Eh, sort of, my sister’s downstairs and she—Well, anyways, I’m afraid I have to leave.”
“Oh,” Robb says, heart sinking.
Hot Jack shifts on top of him, and Robb sucks in a breath, tilting his head up when the other man pulls him in for one last, scorching kiss.
“Call me?” Hot Jack Skellington asks, voice low and rough. Robb just nods, breathless, as Hot Jack climbs off him and hurries out of the room.
Robb sits back, heart racing. His costume is slumped around his waist, his hard-on noticeable even through the folds of fabric. He’s pretty sure there’s face paint smeared across his mouth and neck, over a blush that’s no doubt staining his entire chest. He feels, for lack of a better term, debauched.
When he wakes up the next morning it’s November, fall sunlight sliding through the slats on his window and over his face. He rolls over, pushing his face in the pillow and burrowing into his warm blankets, content. He is warm and rested, his siblings all got home or slept over, and the party last night was a resounding success.
The party last night.
Robb flips over, wide awake, groaning when he has to squint to keep the light out of his eyes. He reaches a hand out of the blankets and grabs for his phone, looking through his contacts for the thrill of seeing the new one, and—
There are no new numbers in his phone. He scrolls through again, slower, and then a third time just be sure.
Nothing. Robb slumps back into his bed, distraught.
He doesn’t have Hot Jack Skellington’s number. Hot Jack Skellington never gave him his number. Why would Hot Jack say call me if he hadn’t given Robb his number?
Oh, god. He doesn’t actually want Robb to call him.
Great. The best night he’d had in a while, the best kiss he’d ever had, and the guy he spent the last night half falling for didn’t want to see him again. Typical fucking luck.
He shambles his way through breakfast, wakes up Bran and Rickon, and piles them both into his car. The dogs jump on them as soon as they open the door at their parents, and the boys wander off to their bedrooms to go back to sleep.
“Mum? Dad?” Robb calls, hunching down to pet Grey Wind.
He walks through the house, Grey Wind and Ghost following at his heels, to find his father making tea. Robb slips onto a bar stool on the other side of the counter, leaning his elbows on the surface.
“Robb,” His father greets. “The boys go back to bed?”
His dad pours them both a cup of tea, handing a mug off to Robb. He takes it with a quiet thanks. “Good night?” his dad asks.
Robb thinks about kissing Hot Jack Skellington, then about Hot Jack leaving without giving him his phone number. “Good enough,” he says, taking a sip of too hot tea and burning his tongue.
“Only good enough?”
“It was just a Halloween party, Dad.” Robb says, wrapping his hands around the mug and willing it to cool. “I had a lot of fun, really,” he adds, more to the tea than to his father.
“Yes, that’s convinced me.”
His dad’s always been able to see through his bullshit, even when Robb had put a lot more effort into hiding it that he currently is. Robb likes to think it’s just because his dad pulled all the same bullshit when he was younger, but maybe it was a sixth sense granted when you had your first child. Or your fifth.
“I… thought I hit it off with someone, but they didn’t leave me their number, so. Guess not.” He shrugs as nonchalantly as he can.
“Maybe they forgot.”
Robb makes a face. “Maybe.”
“Or maybe they thought you already had it?”
“Well, I’m sure it’ll work out.”
“Thanks Dad.” The tea’s finally cooled, so they sit in silence for a little while, Grey Wind and Ghost taking turns shoving at Robb’s knees until he reaches down to pet them. “So, mum put you up to this?”
His dad winces. “She’s just worried about you,” he says, tapping his fingers on the counter. “We both are. You’ve seemed a bit… sad, since you and Jeyne broke up.”
“I’m fine, really.” He is fine, at least when it comes to that, and he doesn’t want his parents worrying needlessly.
“It’s okay to not be fine,” his dad says, tone edging into what all the Starks know as his fatherly advice voice. “No one will think less of you.”
“I know, Dad.” Though it’s nice to hear the reminder. “It’s just been a long year, you know?”
His dad sighs, smiling resignedly. “Yes. I suppose it has.”
Robb finishes his tea, then bids his dad goodbye and wrestles the dogs into the car. When he gets home, he fills up their water bowls, shoves off his shoes, and falls face first onto the couch, groaning.
Jon finds him like that five minutes later.
“You drink too much?”
Robb shakes his head against the cushions.
“Maybe he’s just sad.”
He lifts his head up, spots Ygritte, and drops back down to the couch.
“He’s sad,” she states.
“I’m not sad,” Robb says, rolling over. “I mean, I guess I am, but it’s—” he waves his hands around instead of finishing the sentence.
“Uh huh,” Jon says. He sits in a nearby chair, hesitating awkwardly. “Do you want to talk about it?”
No. Yes. “It’s nothing.”
Ygritte snorts. “Sure it is.”
“Only, I think I met the love of my life last night and I don’t even know his name.” The words rush out of him in a cascade of whining.
“Ah,” Jon says.
Robbs sighs and heaves himself up into sitting position. “It’s fine, I’ll get over it.”
“Was this that skeleton bloke?” Ygritte asks.
Robb blinks at her. “Jack Skellington, yes.” He frowns. “Have you never seen Nightmare before Christmas?”
“Have I never seen what?”
He looks at Jon. “Really?” Jon just shrugs. “Okay, that’s what we’re doing today, you’ll love it.” Ygritte rolls her eyes but doesn’t complain.
They pull together a breakfast of leftovers and eat on the couch as the movie plays through the opening sequence. They pause for Ygritte to get up to get a drink, complaining of thirst, and Jon bumps his shoulder into Robb’s.
“You sure you’re okay?” he asks, voice low.
“Yeah, just some morning-after melancholy,” Robb says, smiling. “I’ll be fine.” He swallows, and quietly doesn’t emphasize with Sally for the rest of the movie.
His morning-after melancholy lasts about a week and a half before someone finally gets fed up.
He’s at lunch with Sansa, a semi-regular thing they do to stay updated on each other’s lives, when she sets her drink on the table and gives him a level look.
“Okay, what is going on?”
“Sorry?” he asks, fork halfway to his mouth.
She just raises an eyebrow. He sighs and leans back in his chair.
“Do you remember the Jack Skellington at my Halloween party?”
“The one you kissed? Yes.”
“How did you know—”
“The two of you went upstairs alone, when he came back all the paint around his mouth was smudged, and when you came back you had just washed your face.” She rolls her eyes at his baffled look and explains. “Your beard was still damp, Robb. I’ve kissed enough people while wearing lipstick, I know what that looks like.”
“Wait, who are you—”
“Are you trying to figure out how to ask him on a date?” she interrupts, unimpressed. “Because really Robb, just call him.”
“I don’t have his number.” Sansa makes a face, and Robb winces. Embarrassing himself in front of his little sister, what a month this is shaping up to be. “He did ask me to call him, I think he just forgot.”
“I swear, I think he meant it. I know I’m horrible at picking up when people are interested in me, but I’m usually pretty good at telling when they’re not.”
“I know, I know.” She bites her lip, tapping her nails against her glass. “You really think he wanted you to call?”
“I do,” he says, realizing it’s the truth as he says it. “I like to think I wouldn’t have gotten so hung up on him if he genuinely wasn’t interested.”
Sansa sighs. “Normally I’d tell you to respect his boundaries even if you like him, but…” She hesitates, then nods. “I believe you.”
Rob smiles with relief. “Thank you.”
“Well, it is kind of romantic,” she says, smiling dreamily. Then she grabs her phone from her purse and points it at him. “Now, we’re going to call in reinforcements to figure out his name so you can Facebook stalk him and see if there’s actually something worth pursuing.”
“You’re my favorite sibling,” he proclaims as Sansa starts typing on her phone.
She smiles up at him, pretty and wide. “If you do find him and you two fall in love, I get to be in the wedding.”
Sansa changed Baby Starks Doo Doo to Help Robb Find Hot Jack Skellington (12:26 p.m.)
Jon (12:26 p.m.): I KNEW you hadn’t gotten over it
Jon (12:26 p.m.): You could’ve said
Robb (12:27 p.m.): I’m not not over it
Sansa (12:27 p.m.): You’re not over it
Sansa (12:27 p.m.): Did anyone invite someone who was dressed as Jack Skellington to the Halloween party? Or someone who brought someone else?
Jon (12:28 p.m.): Dany brought her girlfriend
Robb (12:28 p.m.): Hot Jack was not a girl but thanks
Jon (12:29 p.m.): I’m eating the rest of the snacks and you deserve it
Arya (12:40 p.m.): Hot Pie and Gendry don’t have any other friends
Arya (12:40 p.m.): I guess Jaqen might’ve
Bran (12:45 p.m.): I don’t think Meera or Jojen invited anyone
Rickon (12:50 p.m.): No
Arya (1:00 p.m.): Hey Robb sorry you lost your boner
Arya (1:00 p.m.): That must suck a skele-ton
Robb (1:05 p.m.): :-|
Sansa (1:06 p.m.): Boo
Bran (1:06 p.m.): 2/10
Arya changed Help Robb Find Hot Jack Skellington to Buzzkill Junction (1:07 p.m.)
Rickon liked this (1:08 p.m.)
Robb manages another week before he’s lying face-down on the couch again.
No one seems to know anything about Hot Jack Skellington.
Bran confirms that, as expected, neither of the Reeds invited anyone along. Rickon says he never even talked to the guy, and Jon just shrugs and says that Robb’s met everyone he invited. Arya agrees to check with her friends, though she tells him not to get his hopes up, a warning that proves judicious when Jaqen, apparently, only replies with A man invites no one.
Robb doesn’t really know what to do with that, truth be told.
He gets desperate and texts everyone he invited himself, but none of them respond with a positive ID—though some of them do confirm they saw Hot Jack with him, so his private worry that he made the whole mess up is thankfully squashed. He asks Margery’s help—if Hot Jack was someone that any of them knew, then she’d be the one to know it—but even she can only make sympathetic noises and suggest he look through the online invite list.
So he does, for the third time. And, for the third time, finds absolutely no one who could possibly be Hot Jack. Either he remembers their costume, or they don’t have the same build, or there’s some other factor that eliminates them. And no one has quite the right eyes.
He shuts his laptop, puts it on the side table, and flings himself down on the couch. Grey Wind shoves his nose at the side of his face, but Robb just raises a hand and pets him until he sticks it in his ear instead. That’s how Jon finds him—face in the cushions, dog in his ear, life in shambles.
“Budge up,” Jon says, prodding at his feet. Robb bends his knees, lifting his lower legs up long enough for Jon to sit down. He settings them back down and Jon pats his calf absently.
“Is this related to the last time you were hiding in the couch?”
Robb whines in assent.
“Still can’t find Mr. Skellington?”
He whines again.
“Want to talk about it?” Jon asks. Robb pauses, thinking, then shakes his head. “Want to play Mario Kart?”
Robb doesn’t always deserve Jon, but that’s okay. He appreciates him nonetheless.
He sits up, rubbing at his face. “Yes please.” Jon hands him a controller.
He’s—he’s just disappointed, that’s all. There had been this brief, glorious promise of opportunity, and he’s just recovering from the wake of it’s disappearance. He’ll get over it, move on. He’s a grown, mostly functioning adult—he’s not going to spiral into ever-sadder whining about a man he’s only met once. He’s got a life to live, and he’s never going to do it by sitting around mourning for might-have-beens.
And if, late at night when he’s feeling lonely, he does choose to cast his mind back to Halloween night and the warm promise of possibility, well. That’s more about him than it is Hot Jack.
“Thanks,” he says, eight or so races in.
Jon just lobs a red shell at him.
Robb and Jon—and Ygritte, as an official plus-one—arrive at his parent’s house with a bag of presents and a container of something Ygritte calls a family recipe and Jon calls unsettlingly delicious.
His dad greets them, in his usual sweater-vest and antlers, with the air of someone who just got off the phone with Uncle Brandon. “Oh, good,” he says when sees them. “They’re on the warpath.”
Robb rolls his eyes, shoves his coat on a hanger, and gives his dad a quick hug before heading to the kitchen. Behind him, he hears Jon ask already? and his dad respond since five in the morning, I swear.
“—and then she told me I ought to just buy the pudding instead of making it from scratch,” he hears his Uncle Benjen say as he draws near the kitchen.
“Bloody heathen,” his mum responds, and Robb laughs as he walks up to them.
“Doesn’t everyone in Westeros know it isn’t Christmas without Benjen Stark’s pudding?”
“Damn right,” his uncle says from where he’s peeling potatoes.
“Robb, dear, could you stir this for me?” his mum asks, turning toward him.
“’Course, mum,” he says, kissing her cheek as he comes near and taking the wooden spoon from her grip. “Are we the last to arrive?”
“Neither of the girls are here, or at least they haven’t come to say hello.” She brandishes a dish towel at him, and like she does every year, says “I’m not saving them anything if they don’t show up on time.”
“I’m sure they’ll get here right after all the work’s done,” he smirks, sharing a glance with his uncle. “You know Arya wouldn’t risk us running out of cranberry sauce before she gets some.”
His mother goes stock still in the middle of the kitchen. “Cranberry sauce,” she mutters, eyes wide. Robb look at her, confused, then at Uncle Benjen, who shrugs.
“I forgot the cranberry sauce,” she says with horror.
“So we’ll start it now,” Benjen says, but his mum shakes her head. She makes for the fridge, then the cupboards, rifling through everything inside them. Then she sighs, pinches the bridge of her nose, and yells: “Ned!”
His father slides cautiously into the door frame. “Yes, love of my life, mother of my five increasingly wonderful children, and the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen?”
“Hey!” Robb cries, “You think Rickon’s the best?”
“I’m not angry with you,” she says, smiling fondly, “I only want to know if you remember seeing cranberries in the house?”
“Ah,” his father says, “no.”
“Yes, me neither,” his mum sighs, crossing her arms.
“Should I run out and get some?”
“Someone probably should,” she admits, frowning.
“I’ll go,” Robb volunteers. “I haven’t even taken my shoes off, it wouldn’t be a problem.”
“Thank you Robb,” his mum says, relief evident. His kisses her on the cheek, grabs his coat and keys, and heads out the door.
The first shop he drives to is closed on Christmas day, of course, but luckily the second is open until 4:00 p.m. He walks inside the mostly empty stop—surely more people than this had forgotten some essential ingredient or another?—and heads over to the produce.
There are oranges and bananas and even bloody pineapples, but he’s still searching fruitlessly for the cranberries when he overhears a woman further down the aisle.
“You’ve been moping about this since Halloween,” voice carrying easily even though she—and the man she’s talking to—are turned away from Robb. He should probably move away so he’s not eavesdropping on the only other people in this section, but he still hasn’t found the fucking cranberries and he’s not going back to his mother empty-handed.
The man says something Robb can’t hear—probably I’m not moping, if the tone he’s using is any indication, and the woman scoffs. “Oh, Asha,” she says, voice pitched high, “he put his arm around my shoulders and we talked about my media studies thesis and he’s just so wonderful!”
Robb feels like someone has electrocuted his brain. His feet are stuck to the floor, his muscles frozen. He holds his breath, desperate to hear the rest of their conversation.
“Fuck off,” he thinks the man—the maybe Hot Jack—says.
The woman—Asha, why does that sound so familiar—sighs. “Look, Theon, I’m sorry he didn’t call, but you’ve really got to get over it.”
“Holy shit,” Robb whispers, because—because of course. Hot Jack Skellington is Theon Greyjoy.
Theon Greyjoy, who Robb spent most of his fourteenth summer following around with skinned knuckles and a grin too big for his face. Theon Greyjoy, who was two years older and infinitely cooler and made that one of the best summers he could remember. Theon Greyjoy, who was—in retrospect—probably Robb’s bisexual awakening.
His hair is shorter than it was when they were kids, and he’s taller, obviously, but now that Robb is looking, it’s undeniably him. Standing in the produce section with—with Asha Greyjoy, of course—holding a bag of cranberries.
Robb could cry. Or break into hysterical laughter.
He does neither of those things, instead walking as quickly as he can toward them, and clearing his throat.
“Um, pardon me,” he says. They both turn to look at him, matching grey eyes fixing him in place.
“Fucking hell,” Asha says, then grins manically. She grabs the shopping cart and turns it around. “Wow, look who it is, Theon, why don’t you stay and have a chat while I go get the, uh, Christmas ham.” She practically runs off in the other direction, pushing the cart with one hand and pulling her cellphone out with the other.
“But we aren’t having ham,” Theon mumbles, wide eyes still looking at Robb. He doesn’t have the face paint, nor is he wearing the suit, but his voice is the same and the worn-in leather jacket he’s wearing—really not weather appropriate, Robb wants to give him a scarf and scold him about keeping warm—makes his shoulders look just as nice. Robb thinks about the ratty pajamas he spent the morning in and is suddenly quite thankful his mum insists on everyone wearing something nice for Christmas dinner.
“Hi,” Robb says.
“Been a while, hasn’t it?” Robb says, lightly as he can. “I thought you were still on Pyke?”
“I moved north a few years ago,” Theon says, worrying his lower lip. Robb wants, with an absent jolt of clarity, to kiss him. It is an unsurprising revelation.
He clears his throat, shoving his hands in his pockets and smiling as pleasantly as he can. “You should’ve said something, I would’ve loved to meet up for a drink.”
Theon winces. Robb feels his smile go a little tight at the edges in worry. “Um, yeah. I wasn’t… the best company at the time.”
Shit, shit, shit. Somehow, maybe because of the time or lack of costumes or the unflattering reality of florescent lighting, Robb seems to have lost all the ease of conversation he had with Hot Jack. Or, with Theon, but before he knew it was Theon.
He really doesn’t want to let this slip by him again, so he musters up any conversation he can think of that won’t immediately scare Theon off.
“So, last minute shop on Christmas day?” He gestures around them.
Theon—thank god and Catelyn Stark for Robb’s people skills—looks relieved. “Yeah, Asha and I—well, spontaneous Christmas dinner and all that. Neither of us has any clue what we’re doing, really, but.” He raises the bag he’s holding and wiggles it around. “Cranberries.” He may not have a proper coat, but at least he’s wearing gloves.
“Me too.” Robb laughs. “I mean—I’m also here for cranberries. My mum forgot them and I volunteered to leave the house.”
Theon makes a sympathetic face. “Six kids, right?”
“And varying aunts and uncles, yeah.”
“Rough,” Theon says, a small smile creeping across his face. “Still, I’m sure your mum’s cooking is better than anything Asha and I’ll come up with. It’s an achievement we’ve picked up food and not just alcohol and chocolate.”
“The most important holiday food groups,” Robb jokes, grateful that Theon finally seems to want to talk to him. “Though from the way my sister acts, you’d think the whole holiday would fall apart if we didn’t have cranberry sauce.”
“And she’s obviously right.” Theon gestures between them and his own bag. “Think of the shame it’d bring on your family.”
“We’d have to hide our faces until April, at least.” He nods with false solemnity “Lucky we’ve only one guest this year, though, so there aren’t too many witnesses.”
“Easier to hide the body,” Theon agrees.
Robb laughs. “Nah, Ygritte’s cool enough not to care about our sauce-less shame.” And then, because he really does want to know, and Robb’s never been one to let something go unaddressed when he could force it to the light: “I think you two met at my Halloween party?”
Theon doesn’t blush the way Robb and his siblings do, but there’s the sheerest coloring of pink on his cheeks. It’s really quite becoming, and Robb is grateful for the lack of face paint that lets him see it. “I—yes.”
He grins. “You know, I’ve been trying to find you for over a month now.” Was that a bit much? “In the least stalker-y way possible, I mean.”
Theon bites his lip. His eyelashes are dark against his cheeks, and if Robb weren’t already a bit gone on Hot Jack Skellington, knowing he was Theon Greyjoy would have definitely done it. “Um, well. I did ask you to call me.”
“I didn’t have your number,” Robb says. “I mean, I didn’t know that I had your number because I didn’t know you were you.”
Theon’s face falls. “Oh. Well. That explains a lot, actually,” he mutters down at his bag of cranberries.
“Not that I would have been upset!” Robb cries, probably a little too loud for a grocery store conversation if the looks being shot his way are any indication. “I’d actually have been very much not upset. Because then I would have known how to contact you.”
Theon blinks, grey eyes wide.
“So I could ask you on a date. Because I want to. Do that.” God, it’s like he never graduated past sentence fragments. Robb takes a deep breath, and puts on what he hopes is his most charming smile. “Would you like to go on a date with me?”
There’s a space of about two seconds—even if it feels infinitely longer—where Theon just stares at him. Robb could swear he goes through every stage of grief in those two seconds—denial, anger, all the way to acceptance—and he’s just about to open his mouth and say something idiotic like that’s okay, never mind when Theon startles, lurching forward one step.
“Yes.” He blurts out. “Yes, absolutely.”
Robb grins, wide and beaming. “Brilliant. Wonderful.”
“Fantastic, even.” Robb says, and Theon laughs. It’s throaty and gorgeous and Robb wants to hear it every day he possibly can.
Robb to Christmas is Coming (2:56 p.m.): I FOUND HOT JACK SKELLINGTON
Robb (2:57 p.m.): Oh and the cranberries mum wanted
They go out to lunch before the New Year even turns.
Robb is horribly grateful to notice that all the awkwardness from their unexpected meeting Christmas day seems to have disappeared. It’s just like talking on Halloween again, but better; this time, Robb can see the tiny quirks of Theon’s smile, the hint of stubble on his jaw, the dark sweep of his eyelashes. This time, he knows it’s not just the costumes and the alcohol and the atmosphere.
“Hot Jack Skellington?” Theon asks, quirking an eyebrow over his crooked smirk. “Really?”
“Well I didn’t exactly know your name,” Robb protests, smiling. “And the face paint is surprisingly obscuring, not to mention it’s been ten years and you look different than you did at sixteen.”
Theon’s eyes flicker down toward his still-gloved hands. “Yeah, I guess I do.”
“Not bad different!” Robb hurries to make clear. “Very much good different… Not that you weren’t also hot at sixteen, uh, which maybe twenty-five-year-old me shouldn’t be saying so I’m just going to stop now.” He’s definitely blushing again, but at least Theon looks more fond than upset.
“I still can’t believe you didn’t just ask my name.”
“It’s not like you asked mine!”
“I guess that’s fair,” Theon says, letting loose one of his breathtaking laughs. Robb can feel himself grinning dopily at the sound of it. “But if I had known Mr. Half-naked Disney Prince was Robb Stark before I was already in your bedroom I probably would’ve run away.” He rubs back of his neck. “I nearly did when I saw that family photo.”
“I’m glad you didn’t.” Robb flushes as he says it, but he doesn’t want to take it back. He can see the hint of a blush high on Theon’s cheeks, and the bitten-off smile it accompanies make him melt a little. There’s a pause—both of them trying and failing to hide their expressions in their food—then Robb remembers something else. “Also by the way—I tried calling the number I have for you and it’s disconnected.”
There’s a moment of realization then Theon puts his face in hands. “Oh, shit.”
“I got your number from Sansa’s friend Jeyne, I hope that’s okay?”
“Yeah, no worries.” Theon says, then rubs the back of his neck. “I guess I forgot, but I actually changed my number a couple years ago.”
“Call me he says, and then thinks I’ve blown him off when I don’t even have the right number,” Robb mocks, grinning.
“Fuck off,” Theon says, biting back a smile.
Robb spears his chicken with a laugh. “So,” he starts when he’s swallowed. “Was it Jeyne that invited you to my party, or…?”
“Oh, no. See, Asha is dating Daenerys Targaryen—who I guess was already invited? So Dany invited her and then they dragged me along. I had literally no clue it was your party until, well, your room.”
“Your sister is dating Jon’s aunt?”
Theon raises his eyebrows. “Apparently so.”
“Huh. Well, lucky for me, I guess.”
“Yeah.” Theon bites his lip, and Robb is not looking forward to whatever that tone means. “Look, Robb—I’m sort of a giant mess, um, relationship-wise. And life-wise, really.”
“So am I,” Robb lets slip, then coughs. “I mean, I think, so is everyone, really.”
Theon smiles wryly, face twisting. It’s the reaction of someone who doesn’t really believe what they’ve just heard, but doesn’t want to say it outright. Maybe it’s a little early for Robb to share why, exactly, Theon should believe him, but if not sharing it is going to end a possible relationship with Theon before it even starts, well. He doesn’t want this to turn into another what-might-have-been.
“If we want to compare past relationship damage, then I should probably tell you that I got my last girlfriend pregnant and we broke up once she got an abortion.” It’s a buzzkill of a confession, so Robb hurries to complete it. “I was totally in support of her, neither of us were ready to have a kid, and it’s her body, you know, but uh. It was kind of the death knell for that relationship.”
Theon blinks at him. He opens his mouth, then closes it, like he doesn’t know what to say. “I’m sorry,” he seems to settle on.
“I’m not, is the thing?” He’s never really mentioned this part to anyone else, but maybe it’s because Theon didn’t know Jeyne, maybe it’s finally far enough in the past, or maybe there’s just something about Theon that has him feeling ready to share. “I mean, it was an emotional period of my life, but mostly I’m relieved. Which makes me feel like kind of a shitty person.”
Theon smiles sadly. “That doesn’t make you a shitty person, Robb.” He tilts his head, raising his eyebrows. “Actually, you’d be a lot shittier if you expected her to go through with it even though neither of you wanted a kid—or even if you just didn’t want a kid with each other?”
“Little of both, really.”
Theon clears his throat. “Still, if we’re sharing about shitty people and failed relationships I think I might have you beat.” Robb tilts his head curiously. Theon hesitates, then seems to make up his mind. “Don’t freak out, though, okay?”
“Yeah, well,” Theon says, then pulls off one of his gloves.
The top of his hand is weirdly scarred, almost like part of the skin had been ripped off, and his pinky finger is bent a little crookedly. Robb had gotten his hand caught in a door once, and remembered it as excruciating. Whatever happened to Theon, it must have hurt.
Robb sucks in a breath. “This is me, not freaking out,” he says, then reaches a hand out toward Theon’s. “May I?”
“Uh, sure.” Theon says, blinking quickly.
He takes Theon’s hand in his as gently as he can. Hopefully he would have said no if it still hurt, but Robb isn’t going to push it.
His hand is soft and warmer than Robb’s own. The scars are slightly raised from the rest of the skin, but they aren’t unpleasant to the touch. It’s obviously a hand that’s been through something, possibly multiple somethings, but it’s still a very nice hand, and touching it—touching Theon—makes Robb’s heart beat a little quicker.
He glances up at Theon, checking everything’s okay, then slowly, clearly, laces their fingers together. “Still works,” he says, as lightly as he can. Theon lifts his other hand, then, and Robb does him the courtesy of looking at their hands instead of watching him rub at his eyes.
“I—I do actually still drop things.” Theon says after a pause, sounding a little choked.
“I dropped Jon’s favorite mug on the floor about a week ago. Whole thing just shattered into pieces.”
Theon smiles, head dipping. “The other one’s worse,” he says. Robb stays silent, just brushes his thumb across Theon’s knuckles and watches him. “They’re, um, related to why I changed my number.”
“Yeah,” Theon sighs. “Me too.”
The silence that follows is not awkward but settling, which says a lot about how comfortable with each other they seem to be. Robb hadn’t expected this lunch to be a baring of both of their baggage, but he can’t think of anywhere else he’d rather be.
“Sorry, do you mind if I—” Theon picks up his empty glove. “It’s not you, it’s just—” he cuts off, nodding his head at the people around them.
“Of course,” Robb says, but he gives a brief squeeze before letting go.
Maybe this will be the pattern of the two of them—one of them nudging out of their comfort area, the other waiting to hold their hand whether they rise or fall. Maybe they’ll lose each other to the whims of fate, maybe they’ll spend a decade orbiting just out of reach. Maybe both of them are a mess and together they’ll be even more of one.
It'll still be worth it, he thinks, as Theon sends him a cautious, beautiful smile.
It’s February before the next time Jon finds him face down on the couch.
“I thought we were past this,” he says. “Isn’t he babysitting Grey Wind until maintenance is done? What are you upset about?”
Robb shoves his phone toward Jon’s voice. Jon takes it, and then there’s a minute of silence while he looks the screen.
“I swear to god, Stark, I thought you were having an actual goddamn problem.” Robb’s phone hits his lower back with a painful smack.
Robb lists his head. “I’m dying, I’m having heart palpitations and I’m dying,” he whines, dropping his face back into the cushions.
“I’m never being concerned over you again.”
Robb sits up after Jon leaves, grabbing his phone. The world was out to get him and his own cousin doesn’t even care.
Ah well. He’s got a dog to spoil and boyfriend to lovingly bother, he’ll just have to survive.
Theon has sent an attachment: greywindandgreyjoy.jpg (5:33 p.m.)
Theon (5:33 p.m.): He loves me more