Storm’s End was named for a good reason.
Loras Tyrell stares out his window. Outside, the sky is the deep blue-black of a fresh bruise, and winds seem to sob as they tear at the windows.
Not for the first time since the gale began near noon, Loras thinks of his home, of Highgarden. There, it was never dark and cold and stormy- on occasion there was a light dusting of rain, but it’s only really so the flowers and trees that give the castle it’s name can get the water they need to grow- or so the Maester always said. Loras nearly laughs at the thought that the howling winds and pounding rain are to help flowers grow. There aren’t many trees or bushes or flowers around the castle, and like as not, the gale would kill anything brave enough to withstand the weather.
Sighing, Loras makes his way away from the window. There are thick panes of glass in the frame, but even so, they rattle and hum with every pulse of the wind. Loras wishes there were drapes or curtains, anything, really- he thinks longingly of the pale pink rose-patterened silk that dress the windows of his home- but Storm’s End is a bare place, and clearly curtains were a bridge too far.
At least I have a comfortable bed. The thought pops into Loras’s mind as he peels off his boiled leather sparring clothes, and thick breeches, and pulls on his soft nightclothes (when he holds them to his face, he can even smell Highgarden in them). It is a relief to be out of the heavy garb of the day, for even though his official training as a squire was put to an end when it became too stormy to practice outside (although they had practiced through a hard rain before the lightening and thunder began), Loras had been needed about the castle, helping out his Lord, Renly.
At the thought of Renly, Loras’s full pink lips curl into a slight smile, although he can’t for the life of him put his finger to why. Renly is a year or two older than him, and the youngest brother of the King, no less, but he is as kind as Loras’s own brothers. Loras thinks he must have been lonely, all alone in the great windy castle. He himself cannot imagine growing up without Margaery and Willas and Garland to keep him company, and Loras misses them terribly.
Outside, the sky rattles and a fork of lightening ignites the sky for a moment. Loras shrinks into his bed, pulling the covers around him.
His room is dark- a draught blew out the candelabra lighting the room, and now only the warm glow shed by a single guttering stub of a candle, stubbornly planted in a glass jar, battles the blue darkness of the room.
As Loras lies in bed, listening to the storm outside, his thoughts wander to Renly. His room is next door, as is befitting of a Lord and his squire, and Loras imagines that he can hear Renly’s soft breathes through the wall separating him. I wonder if he is thinking about me. As soon as the thought appears to Loras, he wants to send it away, for it is not at all right to be wondering these things about one’s Lord, not right to feel a warm tingle or the slow crawl a smile come unbidden.
But Renly is more than just the young man to whom Loras is squiring, right? Loras tosses and turns in bed. The storm outside is swirling but his mind is raging harder. He has never stopped to think of these things before, but the rush of the night and the quiet in his room is opening the door to rooms in his mind he thinks perhaps he should not go into.
Sighing to himself, Loras half-sits up and punches at the pillows, a half-hearted attempts to make them more comfortable. Not as if they are not luxurious, though. Highgarden it might not be, but Renly had certainly gone to every length to make his young squire’s chambers at Storm’s End as comfortable as possible.
Just as the light-haired boy is settling back down, stubbornly attempting to block out the raging storm and go to sleep (for it will be a long day tomorrow, that much is for sure), the sky splits in crashing white flashes. The lightening hovers for a moment, illuminating the waves tossed up against the sharp cliffs, and the sheets of rain, and, for a second, also a dark shape, crouching in the corner of Loras’s bedchamber.
And Loras doesn’t scream. Or squeal. No, of course he doesn’t. He is a squire. He utters a much more… masculine yelp. He leaps atop his bed, heart suddenly racing as if he has run a mile, stomach clenched and flooded with a hard fluttering feeling.
“Are you alright?”
Before Loras can even begin to calm himself down, the door to his bedchamber is opening and a familiar voice is drifting into the room. When there is no answer, the door opens all the way, and none other than Renly himself is stepping into the dark room.
“Loras?” Renly is wearing a robe and smallclothes but nothing else, and Loras studiously avoids looking at his pale, wiry chest. His hair, something which Renly takes pride in carefully sweeping to the side each morning, is sleep-mussed and sticking up in all directions. When he speaks, the young Lord’s voice is sleepy and confused, and Loras nearly blushes thinking of how endearing the whole picture is.
Nearly. Because he is still perched atop his bed, heart pounding from a mere glimpse at something in the room, looking for all the world, like a great fool.
“Oh-err, yes,” says Loras after a moment, gingerly sitting down on the bed. His palms are sweating and he wipes them on the bedclothes beside him. No need to look the fool anymore than already.
“Really?” Even in the darkness, Loras can hear the smirk in Renly’s voice, the way his eyebrows must be arcing upwards towards his hairline. “Would that be why you screamed near loud enough to wake the whole bloody castle?”
“I-I didn’t scream,” Loras stutters, praying that his Lord cannot see the red flush in his cheeks. When Renly does not respond, he continues, “I merely caught a glimpse of something that- that surprised me.”
“Do you always sound like a ravished maid when you are shocked?” Renly laughs quietly. “What was it that scared you so?”
“The-there was a thing. On the ground. And it was moving.” As soon as he explains, Loras feels like not only a fool, but a craven fool. He was sent to train to become a knight, to be the best knight in the land, and here he was, scared of some dark thing on the ground.
“Well then, let’s look for it, shall we?” Renly turns for a moment, and then he has picked up one of the glass-held torches from the hall outside, and raises it high, casting a reddish glow about the room.
Loras runs his fingers through his hair, suddenly self-conscious in the light. His hair, longer than his shoulders and normally brushed to shine, is down around his shoulders in a loose plait his sister taught him to do before he left for Storm’s End, and he is aware that his nightclothes are less than beautiful.
Renly, however, is not looking at him. The other boy is on his knees, leaning down to pick up- something- from the ground beneath the desk in the corner. He grunts to himself, and then sits back up, turning to face Loras.
“Is this what scared you?” Renly smiles as he holds a small gray kitten aloft.
Renly’s tone is light, but Loras feels his cheeks burning with shame. He turns away, arms folded against his chest. “It was dark,” he mutters in his defense. The kitten meows plaintively.
“I know, I know.” Renly pauses, and then comes to sit next to Loras on the bed. Normally, Loras would say something light and witty, but he can’t think of anything to say. No doubt Renly will go back to his chambers and laugh at your cravenness.
“You don’t have to pretend to be concerned. I know I was foolish.” Loras’s voice is as bitter as he feels, but he regrets the venom in his words as soon as they are uttered.
“Oh- I-“ Renly sets the torch down on the low table next to the bed, and light fills the room. He runs his fingers through his hair, and Loras notices with a shock that he, too, is flushing. “I’m sorry, Loras. I didn’t-didn’t mean to sound rude.” Renly looks away, and Loras is struck by the loneliness in his Lord’s face. Loras knows that Renly is the babe of the Baratheon family, with both of his brothers much older and living across the realm, and that his mother died when he was small, but until now, he had never contemplated what that might mean. But one look at miserable look in the other boy’s eyes was far more telling than anything.
“I- no, it’s, it’s really okay. I’m fine.” Loras doesn’t even think before he places a hand on Renly’s shoulder. He realizes, belatedly, that all the other boy has is a thin layer of something silken on his pale skin.
“Really?” Renly glances back towards Loras with all too much hope in his glimmering greenish eyes. Loras tries to imagine his home without Margaery giggling and hugging him and Willas and Garland telling their stories and sparring in the keep. Highgarden, for all its loveliness, wouldn’t be half as lovely if he was alone.
Loras barely contains a smile, because Renly, who is so full of charm and smooth confidence, is blinking at him like a lost pup. “Yes, of course.” He pauses, and for a moment he can’t believe that his mood has shifted so much, but then Loras decides not to question his instincts. “I was merely somewhat ashamed, you know, that you were seeing me in such a pathetic situation.”
Loras holds his breath, waiting for Renly to make some witty remark. The moment of his shame has passed, but feels some tingles of shame even now as they sit side by side in the bed.
Much to his surprise, Renly turns and tucks his legs towards his chest, sitting so that he is facing towards Loras on the bed. “You should never be ashamed around me.”
The thing about Renly is that while he is a fount of charm and the very model of a diplomat, what makes him truly wonderful is that he never sounds insincere. Even when he is just discussing tired small talk with the bannermen, or thanking a maid for some small task, Renly always sounds like there is nothing he feels more passionate about than whatever it is that he is saying. Now is one of those times.
Light floods the room and dapples the walls, even whilst the storm continues to rage outside, and Renly smiles a smile that could win over the Iron Throne. His lips part and his teeth glint, and his whole face alights, corners of his eyes crinkling as the green sparkles brighter than ever.
“Thank you,” Loras responds after a moment, wondering why his voice feels so choked up.
Renly doesn’t respond, but he curls backwards onto the bed. “I suppose this might be somewhat improper, seeing as you are my squire, but perhaps I shall stay here tonight in case the kitten returns?”
Loras thinks that maybe his breath has caught in his throat (even though his feelings are absurd and confusing and yes, Renly looks splendid in his robe – not that he ever doesn’t) but he doesn’t let his traitor feelings cause him to panic.
He clears his throat, and matches Renly’s light, half-teasing tone. “If my Lord commands it.”
The smile Loras gets in return is, if anything, even better than the kind he has already been subjected (or rather, privileged). If Renly’s usual smile is a thousand torches glinting off a million mirrors, this is the shy quiet glisten of a candle through glass.
“Come-“ Loras doesn’t feel foolish as he slides over to the other side of the bed, even though he knows that by all rights he should be.
Renly shrugs off his robe and Loras studiously does not stare at his even, milk-white chest, not muscled like some knights, but thin and hardened. Renly’s feet are cold when they brush against Loras’s under the thick covers, but Loras knows that he would deal with ice blocks for feet if that meant he could fall asleep to Renly’s soft breathing, and his almost… fruity smell next to him.
Loras nestles back into the pillows. The bed is luxurious wide, but still not big enough that two boys who are nearly men grown at three-and-ten and five-and-ten to lie without touching.
Renly edges closer to Loras and Loras doesn’t even have time to wonder about what he is doing when he cuddles up next to him. If asked, the chill of the storm can always be blamed.
Renly moves for a half a second (and Loras nearly stops breathing when that happens), but it’s only to blow out the candle.
The room is plunged back into darkness and Renly slides back over next to Loras.
Outside, the storm has quieted to a soft patter of rain against the windows, and the wind has subsided to a gentle hum.
Just as he begins to drift off, Loras thinks he hears a quiet voice next to him whispering that he’ll save him from the kittens.
Then again, he might already be dreaming.