“My lady. He’s awake .”
The maester’s voice sounds muffled over her heartbeat, but Sansa rises to her feet at once and rushes out.
There’s an intricate labyrinth of pitch-black hallways that lead to the infirmary, but Sansa knows exactly where to go without even needing a torch. Despite the years she spent away from home, Winterfell is part of her, and she knows those hallways and dark rooms by heart.
When she enters the infirmary Theon is laying there, almost in the exact same position he was when she has left him the night before. His eyes are shut, but she can tell he’s awake by the way his chest rises and falls.
She gets closer, her step light as a snowflake and her heart heavy with pain as she studies the dark circles under Theon’s eyes, which throw livid shadows over his eyelids. He looks so pale, so fragile. The battle against the dead drained almost all the blood from his veins, and the cold sucked away his life till there was barely any of it left.
When they found him in the snow, injured and unconscious, they thought he was dead. By the grace of the gods, there was still the phantom of a heartbeat keeping him alive as if he wasn’t ready to leave this world, not just yet. Sansa had watched over him day and night, bowed over his bed, her auburn hair spread over the fur cover as she squeezed his hand. Eventually, they had to force her out of there because she refused to rest.
Maybe she should say something, she thinks. She should probably be praying, that’s what a lady is supposed to do. But she doesn’t pray anymore, and all she wants to do right now is to scream in anger. Because the Night King did not almost kill Theon, it was his own honour that did it. Ah, heroes and their stupid honour. Wouldn’t it be better to live at the side of those who love you, despite not being the most honourable of men? Sansa surely thinks so. Valour almost ripped her love away from her.
Theon’s voice is weak and croaky, and it’s clearly difficult for him to speak, but he immediately cracks a smile as he catches sight of her.
“ You’re alive ,” she breathes out, and it’s the first time she’s let herself saying it out loud.
He moves a little, just enough for his hand to brush against hers, and his smile grows brighter. “ You’re here. ”
The corners of Sansa’s mouth quirk up a little and she glances away for a moment before speaking again. “How are you feeling?”
She has a soft, kind voice. All the anger and frustration have disappeared, melted along with the lump in her throat.
Theon chuckles, trying not to wince in pain. “I’ve seen better days.”
He tries to recall the events of a few nights before, but everything in his mind seems blurry and dark. Did he fail to protect Bran? The thought makes him shudder with terror. Are Jon and Arya alright? And what about his Queen? He groans when he tries to sit up and falls back on the bed. “The battle… what happened?”
“It’s over. We won, the dead have been defeated.” Our home is safe, she wants to say, but instead, she squeezes his arm in an attempt to reassure him that she’s speaking the truth.
Theon’s jaw tenses as he searches for her eyes. The Tully eyes, they say, with the colours of the rivers, like the eyes of her mother Catherine. Same as Robb, whom he had once called ‘King’… those were the eyes he had followed into battle, right before betraying his brother and his home. Now he’s almost too scared to ask, but his mouth moves on its own accord.
“ Bran? ”
“He’s alive.” The words linger in the air, and Sansa let them sink in before grabbing Theon’s hand. “You protected him, Theon. My brother is only alive because of you. Thank you. ”
There are a few tears in her eyes, and a rebel strand of her flaming hair fell on her face. She looks lovely, so lovely. ‘Kissed by fire’, that’s what they call people with red hair among the Free Folk. While he feels his heart burning for her, Theon can’t help but think that she’s not the only one who was kissed by fire.
He cannot tell her, though. Not just yet. He cannot confess that he’s only breathing because of her, and that the fear of never seeing her again made him hold on to such a cruel and sorrowful life.
The wooden door opens and Sansa quickly let go of his hand, turning away.
“I’m sorry for interrupting, my lady, but the wounds need to be cleaned.”
“I’ll do it,” she assures after a moment, eager to be left alone with Theon, so the maester gives her the clean gauzes and leaves.
Sansa is not a maester, but she can handle cleaning wounds. She had to learn the hard way. Her fingertips lightly touch Theon’s skin while she removes the old bandages, soaked with death and half-dried blood. The cut is deep but the edges are clean, and the blood ceases to pour to out almost immediately as she eases the injury. As soon as she starts wrapping his chest with silk, Theon flinches.
“I’m sorry, I-” she stumbles on her apology, mortified, but he shakes his head.
“No, it’s alright.” He’s silent for a minute, while she continues her task. Suddenly, his lips curve into a sad smile. “I think I forgot what human contact felt like?”
It comes out as a question as if he’s not sure and he’s waiting for her to correct him. In reality, Theon is not able to remember the last time someone touched with such tenderness and care. In fact, he’s pretty sure no one ever did.
Sansa doesn’t say anything, she simply stares at him in silence, her hand resting on his bare shoulder. He knows she understands, and she knows how he feels. Mostly because she feels the same, most of the time. Ramsay really did break them, didn’t he? They’re stronger, now, but still broken. Some shattered parts of them will never be fixed, nor forgotten.
Sansa looks down, clenching her jaw. “It doesn’t seem infected, but I’ll have the maester check on you again. Rest, now.”
“Don’t,” blurts out Theon before he can stop himself, and he reaches to grab her hand as she’s standing up to leave. “Stay with me. Please. ”
The pleading in his ocean blue eyes hits her, sweet and bitter, just like their story. A most loving smile graces her features and she once again sits at his side.
I won’t leave you and you’re not allowed to leave me, either. Your place is at my side and in my heart, Theon Greyjoy.
Their story hasn’t ended, yet.