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The oceans do not freeze.

Men may walk across rivers and lakes but never the sea, and no man knows the sea so well as the Ironborn, whose wounds taste of brine and blood alike. They are made anew in water, born to sail upon it and rule.

Theon Greyjoy is of the sea, and even in the North where no man is his friend, he will not change. He will not let the cold winds freeze him – the Starks are made of ice, but he does not need to be a Stark to survive the winter.

He lets them bury him in dark furs, wears their leather and pretends he does not shiver because he dreams himself like them.

The direwolves of Winterfell are not the only ones who know how to endure.

He is never in the sept, but neither can he be found in the godswood.

(He went once. He was 12 and Lord Eddard led him to the white-barked weirwood tree, but Theon saw only the pool of murky water and knew the Drowned God had never graced it.)

Prayers have never brought him anything he wants, only told the world how best to hurt him.

Let them be kind to my sister,” when he was a boy and knew no better – thought that being his father’s last son meant anything, might protect him.

The Northmen don’t take Asha, because Lord Greyjoy gives them Theon instead.

Things are not meant to grow in salted ground but Robb Stark is patient and unweary, waits until a seed of politeness sprouts into faint affection, until no man is Theon Greyjoy’s friend but the boy who will be Winterfell’s lord.

Sometimes Theon rides alongside him thinking of Sansa with her pretty candle-fire hair, and how marrying her would make Robb his brother for true. (Robb warns him off with a sharp look, and Theon never bothers explaining.) 

The room Lord Greyjoy has given his son is damp and dark, the sound of waves crashing upon the nearby shore reaching him through the gaps in the stone walls. Theon’s fingers are stained with ink as black as his house’s banners, and the letter in his hand is illuminated in gold by the single candle on his desk.

The flame dances, and his hands tremble. He must burn the paper, he cannot betray his father for –

(Dark blue eyes, “Don’t touch, Theon,” hair as bright as candle-fire and just as tame, Grey Wind’s quiet growl at his master’s side-)

He blows out the wick with a quick puff, lets the letter fall uncharred, drops himself onto the bed and thinks, for an odd moment, that Pyke is perhaps too warm for his liking.

The oceans do not freeze except, Theon learns, in the far corners of the world where the entire ground is frozen through. So perhaps, some (not all) of the sea in his veins has turned to ice as well. Ice is denser, harder to break, and Theon realizes it does not make so much of a difference. It is still unforgiving, still deadly.

He is not a wolf, but a kraken would die in the cold winds with no water to be found, and Theon did not.

No man is his friend, but the King in the North is not just a man.