Actions

Work Header

skating on thin ice

Work Text:

i

The rink was empty save for Sansa and her trainer. They had another six months until competition, but she knew as well as anyone that perfection came with time. Her Wednesday sessions were always the most trying, though she tried to make the best of her situation. The week was half way over and before long, she would get to curl up on her couch with her dog and a hastily made grilled cheese sandwich. She only had to do this one more time and she was home free. She glided across the ice lithely, preening under Shae’s praise from the sidelines and was just in the middle of performing a salchow when her inner left blade caught on something.

An indent in the ice. She screeched, just barely catching herself when her spin went awry; regaining her balance was easy once she got away from the telltale mark that whatever amateur skater or idiot hockey player had scratched into the ice before her session. Gods, did she hate them. Some people had real contests and training to do rather than just muck around in the rink.

She fumed to herself as Shae shouted words of encouragement to her, feeling spectacularly unsatisfied that this was the way she would be ending her session. As a perfectionist, the notion of leaving on a sour note irked her all the way to the seven hells and back. She wouldn’t have another practice until that Friday, and she had no doubt that she would psyche herself out from the anxiety of flubbing a move, no matter whether it was her fault or not.

Just then, she nearly slipped on the ice again, just barely catching herself as her blade dug into the ice beneath her. Flushing a bright red, she squeezed her eyes shut and willed herself to calm down so as to not make a scene in the middle of the ice rink. One… two…. three…

Suddenly, laughter sounded from the far side of the rink, a sound as coarse and mocking as it was when she first heard it at eight years old in her family’s sitting room.

“Nice one, Stark!” Theon Greyjoy called from a behind her, clearly enjoying the sight of her messing up, as if he needed more of a reason to take the piss out of her than he already did.

They had clashed for just about their entire lives, bound together by the fragile ‘we love Robb Stark’ commonality they had and little else. It was like a cosmic joke that they both ended up finding their calling on the ice and even worse yet that they had back-to-back sessions scheduled once a week. Her others weren’t so bad, but Theon was insufferable enough that she tried to get off the rink before he even got a chance to put his gear on. Today, it seemed she wasn’t so lucky.

She tried to shake her mortification off as she swiveled in her spot, steeling her expression as she caught sight of him. He was clad in his blue and grey hockey jersey, watching her with the same shit-eating grin that he had plastered on his face ever since his youth; he was a dickhead when he was a kid and he was a dickhead now. “Don’t you have anything better to do, Theon?”

He rolled his eyes at her tone, making no move to move his bags from the players' bench as he waited for his turn on the ice. “Then watch you fall on your ass? Not really.”

Crossing her arms over her chest, Sansa fought to keep the judgment off her face.

Keeping conversations to a minimal with Theon was the best way to avoid getting into arguments from her experience—they were long past the days when he would make fun of her tutu and grab at its end mockingly during their overlapping practices when they were teenagers. He was always a pain in her ass, especially considering he had practically moved in with her family when he met Robb in middle school. For the longest time, she had been forced to share a roof with him only to rush to move out of Winterfell as soon as she got the chance to leave.

He ended up leaving too, from what she heard.

Robb was gutted over Theon’s choice to deflect from The Wolves to The Krakens, even though the trade-off only lasted a season before Theon came running back to Winterfell with his tail tucked between his legs. He wasn’t a bad player from what she had heard, but it wasn’t like either of them ever made an effort to see the other in competition or games before.

They weren’t friends or enemies or anything in-between anymore; they merely coexisted and interacted with each other when they had no choice but to exchange pleasantries and occasionally band together to make fun of Robb when he did something particularly stupid.

She spared a glance at Shae before making her way over to the gates of the rink, only moving forward when it was evident that her coach was probably texting her wife about their dinner plans. Shae wasn’t the best coach in the world by a long shot, but she gave Sansa a freedom that Madame Mordane never did when Sansa was her student. Even when she was taking phone calls from Ros in the middle of practice, she was ten times the coach Mordane was.

“How long have I got?” Sansa sighed as Theon stood a little straighter, his hockey stick carelessly passed between hands as he checked an invisible watch. When she steadied herself against the gate with two hands to the cool metal of the rink, he was still watching her carefully.

He clicked his tongue as if just to irritate her further. “Ten minutes ago.”

Sansa furrowed her brows. Her time couldn’t be up already, especially when she made a point of setting an alarm on her— Oh. She internally groaned in remembrance of the Facetime chat she’d had with Arya for well over two hours, just glad to have gotten ahold of her sister considering how she always seemed to go off the grid every now and then. Nevertheless, it resulted in her phone dying moments after she took her routine pre-practice selfie in the locker room mirrors.

“Why didn’t you say something?” She asked, feeling a little awkward now that it was becoming apparent that the imposition was her own rather than Theon’s. There was no way she was apologizing to him for this, no matter that she was in the wrong for overstaying her practice.

To his credit, Theon merely shrugged rather than say anything to provoke her like he would have done when they were teenagers. “Thought I’d let you have your fun before I kicked you out.”

Sansa eyes him warily, not quite believing him though she supposed he had no reason to lie to her. In fact, it would have just been easier for him to turn it around on her anyways. “Thanks.”

“It’s nothing,” Theon brushed it off like he couldn’t care less about whether Sansa stayed or went in anticipation of his already-late session, shifting his helmet a little bit from its spot under his arm. “How long’s Rick out of commission? You’ve got a thing coming up soon, right?”

Sansa huffed a laugh at the reminder that her baby brother eloped with his girlfriend just a few days ago, celebrating his eighteenth birthday with an impromptu wedding that no one had even known about until he posted about it on Instagram. Their mother was sure to give him an earful whenever he got back from Skagos, especially given the meltdown she’d had when he replied to her questioning text message with a simple ‘lol’ rather than the explanation he gave his siblings.

“For another two weeks, yeah.” She was admittedly a little surprised that he remembered she even had a competition coming up, though it seemed that she was always training for something or another. It wasn’t that much of a leap to assume she was training for something, especially since she was at the rink practicing. “I’ve still got a few months to go, but… you know.”

“You can never be too perfect, yeah,” there was a glint in Theon’s eyes as he shifted his weight from one foot to another, a ghost of a smile flitting onto his lips. “I know how it goes.”

“Do you?” She asked, cocking her head while he fiddled with the straps of his helmet as he geared up to finally take over the time he had reserved in the rink for himself.

At her question, he merely barked a laugh and shrugged as nonchalantly as everything he ever did. Rather than answer her question, his hand pressed down on the small white gate between them, pressing down on a button to pop it open. Instinctively, she felt herself shuffle to the side to give him enough room to get in, but paused when he purposefully brushed past her shoulder on his way onto the ice. “See you later, Stark.”

ii

Family Friday was always either the best or the worst day of Sansa’s week, and it didn’t seem that there was a middle ground when it came to the event. Her mother started the tradition about a decade ago when Robb and Jon had first gone off to college and it stuck somewhere down the line, now just an excuse for the grown-up clan of Starks (and the extended family) to get an evening of free food and people to spend it with now that pretty much everyone was on their own and out living real lives. Growing up and living their own lives was a terrifying reality, especially considering the first of them to get married ended up being Rickon of all people.

All in all, it was just a family dinner that was vaguely reminiscent of a mixer.

Aunt Lyanna and Sansa’s uncles visited when they could, though Jon’s father had gotten into some scuffle or another with Uncle Brandon that resulted in a set of unspoken rules being defined for the gathering, the most important of all being relative sobriety (or as Catelyn liked to call it, her ‘three drink limit’ that she would impose on guests that were becoming too rowdy) and a strict vetting process of new additions that was implemented after Joffreygate.

No one had really brought anyone by since Robb introduced Talisa to the family a year ago and his newest girlfriend tonight; Lya Mormont had been coming around since she was practically in diapers, so her relationship with Rickon had never been particularly groundbreaking (at least not until they eloped), and the same went for Jon and Jeyne in her transition from Sansa’s BFF to Jon’s girlfriend. The only real outsider to be integrated into the group was Gendry, and he had only been over a handful of times because of traveling conflicts and Arya’s assertion that dragging him there every week was weird.

Sansa had a set of rules and boundaries in place for relationships: photos on Instagram were only acceptable after the six month mark, they couldn’t go Facebook official until at least a year in, and they wouldn’t come to a family dinner unless they were engaged. So far, no one had gotten there yet. 

Harry had cheated, just like she always suspected he would despite the countless times he assured her that she was just being crazy, and he was the closest she got to finding someone she was serious about. It was hard not to feel lonely when she was standing in the middle of a festive gathering and seemed to be one of the only single people present other than Uncle Benjen and Theon.

A holiday-themed song was playing on the record player in the sitting room, a deep voice drawling something about ‘good cheer’ out as everyone mingled with one another ahead of dinnertime.

Sansa observed the partygoers with little interest, smiling just the slightest bit at the sight of Meera and Jojen laughing along with Bran’s animated story about the dog he and Shireen had just adopted to keep Summer company at home, all four of them huddled in front of the fireplace like they were out of a Hallmark movie. It was sweet to see all of them having such a good time together, especially with Arya and Rickon’s absences more noticeable than ever seeing as nothing had been knocked over or broken yet, nor had there been a display of public intoxication.

Jon lounged on the loveseat beside the group of them with Jeyne Poole perched on his lap as if it was a second nature to them and not the strangest thing Sansa had seen since she had come back from King’s Landing with her hopes dashed and dreams crushed. She recalled the nervous way that Jeyne wrung her hands together when she confessed it to Sansa just a few months prior, as if she could ever be angry at either of them for finding happiness with each other, no matter how strange it was that they had just happened to run into each other and reconnect at The Gift.

Considering the gooey eyes that they were giving each other, Sansa sighed and figured that making small talk with them before her meal wasn’t an option. It was a shame since Arya was her usual buffer at family dinners. Ever since they were in high school, they took to sneaking in as much champagne as they could manage before dinner without getting their mum’s attention, and gods, did Arya make these dinners somewhat bearable for her when they could just make fun of Aunt Lysa and Robin for hours on end together.

But Arya was in Essos now.

Robb’s arm was slung carelessly behind his girlfriend’s chair as they chatted away to Ned and Uncle Benjen, a tad too comfortable for a couple that had just gotten together, though she supposed Robb was never one to take things slow. She remembered his brief stint as an engaged man when he was nineteen when he and The Other Jeyne came to dinner one Friday with rosy cheeks and dreams more outlandish than even Sansa had ever entertained. The engagement ended two months later in a blowout fight on the patio of the house, and Robb had nursed a broken heart for months afterward.

Now, he was dating Margaery.

Father had introduced her to him a few weeks prior when Robb grudgingly dropped his forgotten keys off at work. Sansa recalled playing a game of rock-paper-scissors with him to determine who would go; a news station wasn’t the most entertaining of places and they both had better things to do than to visit their dad at work in their adulthood.

One of her favorite memories was when she was seven years old with pigtails and a bright yellow dress, brought onto his segment on the show for one day as her father pointed to various cities on the screen depicting the North. Winter is coming, he had said to her sweetly when she pointed at Last Hearth clumsily, to which she let out a delighted squeal.

She recalled bragging to her classmates for weeks about how she was on the telly and how her dad, the ‘meteor man’ controlled the weather… she missed the simpler times.

Anyhow, Robb had gone in her stead and met the newest weather forecaster on Ned’s team. Before long, they were exchanging numbers and going on dates and suddenly, she seemed to be all that was ever on his Instagram feed. Sansa was happy for them, if a little jealous that she hadn’t gotten the chance to meet Margaery first, but she was wary of it all. It wasn’t that she thought Marge would hurt him, but he fell for her so fast that she couldn’t help but worry.

“I hate your dad for making that happen,” Theon’s proclamation broke through the overwhelming sound of her thoughts from next to her. She turned to him as he downed the rest of his glass of wine in one go, well on his way to getting sloshed by the looks of it. “They need to just find a room and go at it to spare us from having to watch them eye-fuck all night long.”

“You’re not happy for them?” Sansa asked gently, wondering what qualms Theon could possibly have with their relationship. He liked Talisa and Roslin well enough, and Margaery was… kind of perfect. She was beautiful, charming, and cared enough about Robb that she would willingly put herself through one of their family’s dinners. She actually liked Margaery a lot, especially after the other woman had insisted on scheduling weekly brunches for them to bond over.

Theon threw her a bewildered look before glancing back at the happy couple. “Of course I am. I'm just bored now that the only person I talk to at these things abandoned me for a weather girl.”

She followed his gaze to see Margaery squeeze Robb’s bicep, laughing airily as he practically choked on his drink at whatever joke had just been told. They were cute in their own way, even if the PDA was a little sickening. New relationships were always like that, though; Sansa had been single for a little over six months but still recalled how difficult it was not to keep her hands off her ex-boyfriend whenever they went out together. She had never brought him to a family dinner though, opting to be cautious over impulsive after everything that went down with the first person she brought to Family Friday. She wouldn’t bring someone here unless she was sure.

“So you’re settling for me instead?” Sansa threw him a coy smile as she lifted her glass of rosé to her lips. It was tangier than she usually liked it, but her mother was so particular about what wine she bought that she had no place to argue. She was just glad she had something to drink at all.

“Ding ding ding,” Theon’s voice imitated the sound a bell would make so comically that she nearly snorted into her drink. Oddly enough, he was more tolerable when they both had a little bit of alcohol in them—he was still an asshole, but not nearly as much. “Right on the money.”

She cracked another smile and jerked her head to where her cousin was whispering something into Jeyne’s ear as she squirmed on his lap. She didn’t even want to think about what Jon was saying to her, especially now that Jeyne’s cheeks were progressively reddening as they practically ignored the world around them. “You could always keep Jon company.”

Theon made a face as if he had eaten sour fruit—at the prospect of interrupting the lovebirds’ mating session or just generally spending time with Jon, she couldn’t be sure. “Very funny.”

“It’s a talent,” she quipped as she sipped more of her wine, flashing Jon a smile when he looked up at her as if sensing he was being spoken about. He wasn’t so bad, especially now that they were older and less prone to getting into stupid arguments. Even though he was shagging her best friend (and well, by the way Jeyne told it despite Sansa’s protests that she really didn’t want to know), he was still her family. Despite the fondness she felt for both of them, she couldn’t stop herself from cringing when Jeyne affectionately peppered upwards of a dozen kisses all over Jon’s cheek despite the presence of other people. “Gods, they’re practically glued to each other.”

“Sickening, right?” Theon chimed in as he poured some more red wine into his glass.

“Tell me about it,” Sansa tore her eyes away from them and focused back in on Theon. He was wearing jeans and a long-sleeved shirt. It was a basic look, but it was way better than the embarrassing saggy pants and backwards caps he always used to wear as a teenager. If she had to be honest, she did kind of miss how all-out he used to go with his clothes in college when he decided that he was confident enough in his masculinity to wear whatever the hell he wanted.

If anything, the sequin jacket was one of his better looks no matter how much flack it got him. It was one she would wear, though she supposed figure skaters had it easier when it came to outlandish costumes than hockey players did. The duality of ice sports always got to her in that regard- what was it that made skating inherently ‘feminine’ whereas hockey was perceived as a man’s sport? If anything, doing elaborate jumps and twists in the air was more difficult than fighting to get a puck into a half-heartedly guarded net. What she did was more than just a sport; it was a dance, a craft that was rated for every single moment and movement she made.

“You still with Harry?” Theon asked out of nowhere, quite effectively snapping her out of her reverie. She frowned and figured that by now, everyone in her extended family had already heard about their messy break-up. If not the cheating, then the fact that he made a pass at Shae of all people while he was already on thin ice with Sansa, and effectively confirmed every stereotype she had ever heard about pilots. Narrowing her eyes at him, his own clouded over with alcohol, she tried to figure out what his angle was.

Was he just curious? Bored? Interested?

“What’s it to you?” Sansa goaded him, uncertain as to why she enjoyed getting on his nerves so badly. Frustratingly, his face remained relatively blank with just a hint of a smile at his lips.

“Just trying to see if I’ve got a shot now,” Theon joked in between slurping his wine and winking so poorly at her that she was half sure he would cross the threshold from ‘mildly drunk’ to ‘super drunk’ before they even got to the first course of whatever her mother was making for them.

“With me or with Harry?” Sansa smirked, knowing better than to take Theon seriously. He was always like this at his most insufferable, toeing the line between teasing and flirtation all because it flustered her worse than any insult ever could do to her; so she played his game, and so it went.

For a moment, he didn’t respond and just smiled in that indecipherable way of his.

After a moment, he snorted into his drink. “You’re a piece of work, Stark.”

Before she could think to respond to him with a retort of her own, her mother was coming out of the kitchen with the water pitcher and demanding that anyone with a free hand help her set the table for dinner.

iii

By the time the afternoon rolled around the next week, she was redoing the same axel jump over and over again in an attempt to get it smooth enough to actually work into her routine. It was a difficult one, and a move she never would have even tried to perform in a public forum a few years ago. But now was the time to try new things. She was twenty-four years old and had nothing to lose except for her carefully crafted reputation of near perfection in the skating community. But again, it wasn’t a big deal. She could be a risk-taker if she wanted to be one.

She busied herself with unlacing her skates as Theon approached her from where he had been lounging on the sidelines as he waited for her to finish up her session. They only overlapped on Wednesdays, but he typically didn’t come over to talk to her unless Robb had a message he wanted to pass along or Theon felt like bugging her to give him some form of entertainment.

“Not hogging the ice for once?” Theon drawled, decked out in his color-coordinated practice gear complete with shin pads and all, so she figured it was the latter. “Color me shocked.”

Sansa shot him a glare as she yanked one of the skates off her foot. “I was late one time.”

“Yeah, and you cut into my practice time,” he reminded her, though there was no malice in his tone. For a moment, she really did try to steady herself and refrain from taking the bait, though she couldn’t help the irritation that burst within her at the remark. Who did he think he was?

“I might be able to get done quicker if someone didn’t scuff up the ice every couple of days.” She couldn’t help the jab though she knew the marks had probably been left by Myranda or Elinor and her daughter seeing as they were usually there before her practice even started.

“Don’t pin this on me. At least thirty people practice here, Sans, and I’m extra careful.” Theon raised his hands in the air as if to tame the miniature can of worms that he opened just to prod at her. He smirked down at her while she unfastened her other skate and freed her feet from their prison for the past few hours. “Promise, cross my heart, all that shite.”

It was true. Kids practiced there all the time, but there was something behind his eyes that made her distrust his words, conjuring up the impossible image of him sneaking onto the rink before her practice to carve indentations into the ice that would drive her halfway to madness.

“Right.” Her eyes zeroed in on a rather large button nestled onto Theon’s jersey, one with Robb’s smiling face plastered across it and the words ‘STARK FOR SENATE’ popping out at her in blocky yellow text beneath. Robb’s campaign wouldn’t start for another few weeks, though she supposed it was nice that Theon was already showing his support for him. With opponents like the Boltons, he was in for a tough race. “What are you wearing that for?”

“Have a little faith in me, will you?” Theon laughed as he puffed his chest out with pride at the trinket, showing it off as if it was his own accomplishment and not Robb’s risky bid for a seat that his father previously occupied. “I’m showing my support. How come you’ve not got one?”

Sansa gestured down at her skin-tight outfit, figuring that poking a hole and sticking a pin into any part of it would do nothing but distract her from her routines. It wouldn’t do her any good if it got her a sprained ankle and broken wrist. “It doesn’t exactly match the outfit.”

Theon rolled his eyes at her as if her response was exactly what he expected from her. Something about it rubbed her the wrong way in spite of knowing he wasn’t being serious. “Gods forbid it clashes with the sequins.”

She ground her teeth together as she got back on her feet, skates in hand, and leveled him with an unimpressed look. This was just how he always was, no matter how well they got on every now and then; she would think they almost came close to making peace and then he would ruin it. “If you’re so hung up on me not cutting into your time, you should probably get on the ice already.”

This time, she didn’t wait for him to respond before she headed back into the locker room.

iv

The next week was significantly stranger.

Most of it passed by uneventfully, just living a routine of working out, rehearsing, taking Lady on walks, unenthusiastically making pasta (and occasionally soup) for every meal she had, and counting down the days until Wednesday. Her practice went by gruelingly as she performed twist after twist and loop after loop, just waiting for it to be over until she could get out of there.

Her sister was coming back from her latest trip to Qarth with her boyfriend of a couple years in tow, and Sansa had been delegated the responsibility of picking them up at the airport. It was Gendry’s first time coming back to Westeros from Essos, and she had already picked up some of Arya’s favorite chocolate chip raspberry-infused cookies in anticipation of getting to see her sister for the first time in ages.

“What’s the rush, Red?” Theon was leaning against the wall as Sansa frantically shoved her tennis shoes on, not even bothering to turn her socks the right way around as she struggled to get out of there as fast as she could. She wanted to be there to greet Arya at the gate, and being late to that would only make her feel guilty about not prioritizing her sister enough to be punctual in picking her up; for all the differences they had as children, she loved her sister so much now.

Perhaps it was absence that made her heart grow fonder or just the realization that their brothers seemed to pass the same lone brain cell between the lot of them that bonded them together. Either way, they were close enough now that they DMed each other memes every now and then, especially since Arya couldn’t be bothered with Facetime while she was roving through Essos.

“Picking Arya up at the airport,” she answered without thinking, her braids swishing back and forth as she tied her laces as quickly as humanly possible. “She’s gonna be here in two hours.”

“Cute,” he commented as she double-knotted her shoe before moving onto the other one. She merely hummed in acknowledgment, already internally working out how much time she would have to get to the airport and whether she’d get a chance to pick up a cappuccino on her way there. He cut through her thoughts like a blunt knife. “I like the braids. They look good.”

“What?” Sansa spared him a glance, mostly just trying to figure out what he was playing at.

Did he want something?

He shrugged as if there wasn’t anything even the slightest bit off about his turn of phrase, just watching her as she finished up on the bench. Gods, for someone who hassled her about getting out of the rink on time every week, he took his sweet time actually using his time to practice.

“I said it looks nice,” he gestured at the sides of her hair that were pinned back into two messy braids on either side of her head. Sansa couldn’t see them for herself now, but she fancied they probably looked pretty roughed up at this point. Not that he would have any way of knowing, considering he had never grown his hair past his shoulders. “Is that a French braid?”

Her brows shot up at his attempt at small talk as she shoved her skates into her duffel bag a little slower than before. “Uh, no,” she laughed briefly, mostly out of shock. “Dutch braid, actually.”

“Cool,” he nodded thoughtfully (though he probably couldn’t care less about the specifics of different braids) as she zipped the bag up and slung it over her shoulder, standing up as soon as the act was done. Was he high or something? She felt like she was in the twilight zone when he reached a hand over and thumbed at the end of one of her braids before letting go. “S’pretty.”

She blinked and before she could stop herself- “are you flirting with me?”

“So what if I am?” Theon shot back defensively and for a moment she was rendered speechless.

Her jaw dropped the slightest bit as he shifted on his feet, staring smugly at her as if he knew something that no one else did and that it was hilarious, and she couldn’t stand it. Was he fucking with her? Was this some sort of game he was playing just to jerk her around and have a laugh about it later? She merely stared at him, and his grin widened with each second of silence.

“I-” her voice was hoarse when he tried saying something—anything—to him when she recalled just why she had been in such a rush earlier. “Shit! Arya, I have to- I’m picking her up.”

The smile he threw her was equally effortless as it was enraging. “See you around, Stark.”

v

Theon was noticeably early for their next overlapping practice. She knew that for a fact, seeing as she had just done a time check with Shae. Something had shifted in their dynamic since the braid incident that she had spent nearly a week freaking out over, coming up with a wide range of conspiracies ranging from ‘Theon’s on mind-altering hard drugs’ to ‘he’s playing an elaborate prank on her for unknown reasons’ until she drove herself halfway to insanity by overthinking it.

Confiding in Arya about it had done her no good, considering her sister merely barked a laugh and proceeded to make kissy faces at her whenever Theon did so much as look at her during Family Friday.

There had been something simmering underneath their interactions with each other ever since middle school, it was true, but she thought that door was closed (slammed, really, and barred, protected, and locked with the key thrown away) seven years ago during one of the most mortifying nights of her life at The Kneeling Man bar when she visited Robb at university. She was in the process of selecting her own and visiting him which had been Ned’s idea, or more a last-ditch effort, to try to persuade her against moving across the country for school.

About halfway through the night, she found herself sloppily making out with Theon in the gender-neutral bathroom after a night of drunken flirting, running her hands through his hair as he pressed her up against the wall beside the paper towel dispenser.

They had kept at it until the bartender angrily knocked at the door and told them to take it somewhere else. It had been her first real kiss since Joffrey and she had never felt so alive as she did with Theon’s hand squeezing at her waist and his lips on hers. Every drop of frustration and attraction between them was heightened by the unspoken Robb can’t know that zapped every touch and kiss they shared like an electric current.

When she went to sleep in Robb’s bed that night, her older brother opting to sleep on the floor beside her for the sake of Sansa’s comfort, she felt anticipation buzzing through her veins—she had made out with her brother’s idiot best friend and actually liked it, and her mind was racing with the possibility of getting to be something with him, filling her head with silly, dreamy snapshots of them sharing hot chocolate and going skating as a couple, and being together.

The next morning, it was like it hadn’t happened at all.

Theon made fun of her for her bedhead and Robb stumbled into their kitchen groaning about his hangover, and Sansa did her best to hide her hurt under a sardonic smile.

She went back home the next day and after another two weeks, resolved to take a leap of faith and accept her admission to university in King’s Landing rather than in the North like she had planned.

And they had never really spoken about it. He had joined The Wolves shortly after while she was busy training at the capital under Madame Mordane’s tutelage, and he deferred to his sister’s team about a year before she was set to graduate. She pretended not to care until she no longer did, just zoning out whenever Robb would rant to her on the phone about how he hadn’t responded to his texts in weeks. When he came back to Winterfell, she had bigger things to worry about than an ill-advised makeout session with a family friend when she was eighteen years old.

He was always an antagonistic presence in her life, never quite a friend and never quite an enemy.

When she thought of Theon Greyjoy, she associated him with being ten years old and sniffing as he mocked her for spraining her wrist on the ice during a particularly grueling practice; with being twelve when he laughed at her for getting bubblegum stuck in her hair and cried all the way through her mother cutting it off; with being a stupid fifteen-year-old girl with a ridiculous crush on him just to get her heart flattened when she walked in on him getting a blowjob from some blonde girl on Robb’s bed; with being sixteen and screaming at him for getting into a fist-fight with Joffrey at Family Friday; with being seventeen and feeling shame well up inside of her as he wordlessly handed her an ice pack to place over her swollen eye because Robb and Jon would have grilled her about it, but Theon never pushed her to tell him anything; with that night in the bathroom and the embarrassing morning afterwards.

As adults, they hadn’t had much to do with each other. They merely existed in each other’s orbit rather than being pulled one way or another, but now it felt like he was there everywhere she went. When she pulled her car keys out, she noticed the squid keychain he had given her for her birthday a couple of years ago, and had to throw out the old to-go cup of coffee he had left there when she drove him to the metro from Family Friday, and heard his laugh louder than anyone else’s when he would joke around with Robb and Margaery about Ned’s attitude on-air.

It was infuriating and made her feel like she was eighteen all over again, with an idiotic fascination with a guy she had no business being into after all these years.

Sansa danced across the ice, each move practiced as if to spite Mordane for urging her to achieve perfection when she could do it by herself without having to overwork herself, and let her feet guide her in her loop. She would only slip up if she overthought it, so she allowed her body to guide her as she skated backward, using her right tiptoe to propel herself into a lutz jump.

She imagined herself like a swan as she moved, building a mental image up in her head of fantastic white feathers spreading out around her as she transitioned into a loop, and another spin after that, leading her into an axel jump that she had probably spent days stressing over when she counted the hours up. Sansa could feel his eyes on her, following her every move as she spun in the air for a rotation and a half, landing crisply on the ice as her routine began coming to a close.

She wanted him to see how good she was, to know how much better she was than anyone else, to watch her with awe rather than judgment. She wanted his respect and admiration and validation; he was the only person who shared her love for the ice, who could understand how hard what she did for a living was, and the feeling of his eyes roving over her every movement made her jittery.

As the routine came to a close, she extended one of her legs forward while spinning once more, this time shrinking closer and closer towards the ground as the music on Shae’s iPod faded out.

Clapping came from the other side of the rink, loud and enthusiastic as Shae always was whenever she would perform. No matter how many times she saw the routine, it was like Shae never got tired of it, whooping along like it was her first time seeing it. Her camera was focused on Sansa as always, probably having filmed the end of it for an Instagram boomerang or Twitter video, though Shae shouted at her amidst her thrilled laughter. “That’s my girl! Beautiful!”

Ros was clapping as well, her cheeks rosy and her hair covered by a huge beanie that she wore whenever she visited her wife in the rink; she was never one to cope well with the cold, often huddled up in her coats whenever she would sit it on Sansa’s practice sessions. She ran a flower up near Deepwood Motte and from the few visits Sansa made there, had a nice little setup.

“Woo, Sansa!” Ros joined in, her voice cracking as she tried to muster up the same enthusiasm that her wife had, her gloved hands coming together to cheer her on.

She breathed heavily, grinning as she reached up to untie her hair from its bun, glad to be free of its constraints now that she had fulfilled her goal for the week. With just a few months until competition, performing it well already gave her enough time to master it and make edits whenever necessary; perhaps she would even turn her axel into a double axel if she could manage to get it right. Performing a move like that the right way would ensure she placed.

When she turned back to where Theon was leaning against the gate and locked eyes with him, there was a crack—in the ice, in her head, in her heart. There was something in his stare she couldn’t quite decipher but then again, no matter how well she knew Theon, there was always an uncertainty as to what he was actually thinking. His eyes were dark, trailed on her as if she was all he could see and all he wanted to see. He licked his lips and she hated him just a little bit.

She had a mind to get her money’s worth from the rest of her session and to practice again and again until her ankles felt like they would pop out of her skates. She wanted to ignore him and his presence and his eyes, but her legs moved of their own accord. She glided towards the edge of the rink, her hands colliding with the cool metal of the sidelines. They maintained their odd eye contact, something they had long buried in the ground bubbling bizarrely to the surface.

It was like a river met the sea when they locked eyes, deep and intimate and scary and confusing, and she needed something from him but she couldn’t put her finger on what it was.

vi

She hated him, she hated him, she hated him.

It was the mantra she repeated to herself as he pushed her up against the pale blue lockers, his hand cradling the back of her head as he mouthed at her neck. She moaned aloud as he rolled his hips against hers, struggling with his spare hand to unzip his jeans as the metal of the lockers behind them clanged with each frenzied movement they made. She fumbled to yank his pants down when he got them undone, taking his underwear with them as he rutted against her, now bare from the waist down and breathing shallowly as she tightened the leg hitched over his waist.

Time passed like liquid as he sucked at her neck, whining as she grabbed him in her hand and began pumping him desperately, just wanting more and more and more.

Getting here had been a whirlwind of following each other into the locker room and immediately beginning to make out like they had been starved of any sort of physical affection for years; it felt like a dream, dizzy and improbable, though his hot breath against her neck confirmed for her that yes, this was really happening. She hated him and she wanted him and she hated herself for wanting him, but they didn’t address their non-relationship in favor of locking the door and going for what she now suspected she had been wanting for a while now.

This was just an itch she needed to scratch; once they were done, she would feel better and they could go back to pretending nothing had happened and teasing each other at Family Friday like they always did.

For now though, she couldn’t think about anything but the feeling of his hand in her hair and on her body, and didn’t spare so much as a glance at her black pants and flower-patterned white underwear as they too pooled in a clump of fabric on the ground near the bench closest to them.

Within seconds of breathy affirmations about using protection, and then the grueling process of tearing the condom wrapper open and sliding it on and taking forever to do it, he was hoisting her leg further over his hips and lining himself up with her. He locked eyes with her as if to give her an out, and for a moment, she was painfully reminded that this was Theon; the same Theon who grudgingly helped her with her geometry homework and taught her how to use a fishing line, and had basically grown up with her.

Could they do this and just move on from it?

This was more than just a drunken makeout that he probably didn’t even remember.

But the warmth she felt pool in her belly, the feeling of the tip of his dick against her center, his hand cradling her head like she meant something to him (though she knew it was just how he was and wouldn’t mean anything like her brain was trying to tell her it did)… she didn’t think she could walk away from this now and not regret it for years to come.

She needed this right now.

Sansa nodded breathlessly, her hands finding their way to his neck as he surged forward to attach their lips again, slowly pushing into her as they found each other’s mouths again.

It was messy and hard and a combination lock was pressing into her back uncomfortably, but the sensation of him inside of her overpowered all else. Her breathing stuttered as she gripped at his shoulders, her nails digging little crescent moons into his skin.

He stilled for a moment, his mouth slotted against hers almost like it belonged there, and she couldn’t take it any longer.

She felt her hips start to swivel against his to which he groaned into their kiss, hands now seeming to splay all over her body before one stopped at her right breast and the other gripped at her butt, holding her to him as he thrust into her and quickly established a rhythm.

It was so much, vaguely uncomfortable yet at the same time, exactly what she wanted- little bursts of pleasure shot through her as she pushed against him more forcefully, her head falling to his shoulder so that it wouldn’t hit the metal behind her. She sucked the skin she found there, reveling as he began grunting, the control he had of his own movements wavering as he began losing himself in the feeling of her. Her teeth grazed his neck as he drove into her, rolling her breast with his fingers as he nudged his nose to the side and pressed open-mouthed kisses against her cheek, just seeming to want to get closer to her. Despite the anger and frustration and tension behind the way they were fucking each other, there was an intimacy to what they were doing.

He was too close.

She pulled him closer, ignoring every warning in her brain in place of the temporary pleasure she would receive from having him close. He smelled like the cologne he always wore and like the cigarette he snuck behind the rink every now and then, and like the ice and the sea and the salt-

“Fuck, I’m-” he gripped her tighter to him, his hips snapping forward so quickly that the lockers behind them seemed to shake with each movement they made. She nodded against his neck, sweaty with the exertion of bouncing up and down on him while he attempted to hold her up as best as he could while multi-tasking—it was so different than how she was used to doing this; she didn’t think she had ever done it out of a bed before, but now, she couldn’t imagine why.

“Shit,” he breathed against her as she leaned back far enough to kiss him on the lips, more passionately and sloppy than the kisses they had shared nearly a lifetime ago. He sunk into her, a strangled guttural sound leaving him as he came into the condom inside of her, fucking her so fast that her vision began to blur, a strange keening sound leaving her lips out of her own control.

Eventually, he slowed, his breathing still uneven as he pumped the last few thrusts against her—suddenly, the chills that caused goosebumps to litter themselves all over her arms began to fade, and she felt a warmth seemingly from inside of her. She was wet, so much so that it almost hurt not to have the relief she desperately craved. She just barely registered a soft kiss against her lips before he was moving from within again, inflicting a tantalizingly slow pleasure upon her.

Then he spoke, so low that she had to strain to hear him.

“Touch yourself,” he urged her as his hands roamed all over her thighs, softer now than they were before, so gentle and sweet that it took her by surprise for a moment.

She complied, more for herself than due to his pleading, her hand snaking from his back to between her legs. As if it was what she didn’t know she had been needing this entire time, all of the tension in her body left her as she began rubbing at her clit with her right hand, circling around and around and around while he shifted within her until-

“Gods,” Sansa moaned, squeezing her eyes shut as she leaned back against the cool metal, the feeling only amplified when he slowly began thrusting into her again as if to goad her to her own orgasm. “Gods, gods, gods, gods, gods, I- Theon, gods, please, please, please.”

“Just like that,” he urged her, pressing soft kisses to her neck as she felt her climax crash down on her, practically driving her into a frantic state of moaning and bouncing until relief swept through her. It was so much and it wasn’t anywhere near enough, and she wanted it again and again despite the feeling like her legs were filled with jelly rather than blood and bone.

The moments afterward were awkward.

It was impossible to avoid his eyes, hooded and dark and intimate, as he let his hand dip below her bare ass, holding her up as he pulled out of her. She winced at the loss, inhaling sharply once his now-softening cock flopped down, covered partially by the used condom that he quickly began doing away with as soon as he set Sansa back on the ground. Sansa watched him as he tied the rubber at the end and disposed of it (and their abandoned condom wrapper on the ground) into the rubbish bin on the far side of the locker room.

She couldn’t help but let her eyes fix on his bare ass as he made his journey over there, nearly obscured by his jersey, before realizing that she was still naked and well past her afterglow now that everything was coming back into focus; they had sex in a locker room, complete with the unflattering fluorescents and all.

She released a sharp breath as she quickly pulled her underwear back on, slipping her bra back on over her head before going about finding her duffel bag of street clothes.

From the corner of her eyes, she could see him retrieve his jeans from the ground, shoving them on carelessly as she pulled her sundress that she had packed for today over her, adjusting it where it needed to be.

He kept glancing at her and she kept pretending not to notice. A couple times, she saw the stupid smile that wormed his way onto his face as she shoved her socks on her feet, and she couldn’t help the startling realization that she just had sex with Theon in a locker room, in broad daylight.

He saw her naked and had sex with her, and she was going to know him for the rest of her life.

“This doesn’t mean anything,” She announced as if trying to convince herself that they would be able to move past this as friends or whatever it was that they were to each other before this.

His grin didn’t falter as he strolled over to her, helping her get an arm through her denim jacket as she struggled to get it on under his scrutiny.

Gods, she had slept with him. And worse yet, it was good.

Theon tucked a strand of hair behind her ear with more intimacy than was necessary from the action before he withdrew from her to go about his own pre-practice ritual.

“Right,” he smirked like he knew something she didn’t, and gods, did that frustrate her to no end.

vii

It was like he had weaseled his way into her thoughts and she wasn’t sure how to get him out.

She texted him the next night, bored out of her mind and tipsy enough on her two glasses of red wine that she thought asking him to come over was a good idea. She was tired of her usual routine of things and craved intimacy. She wanted to feel his hands on her again, to feel that familiar stranger’s kiss on her lips, to feel wanted by someone she wanted in return.

Sansa glanced down at the text she had just sent, glaring up at her on her too-bright screen as the three telltale bubbles of Theon typing something came up for about two straight minutes. The wait was driving her crazy and she wasn’t sure that her pride would be able to recover if he rejected her now; he was inside her head and under her skin all at once. She hadn’t planned on hooking up with him again—she hadn’t the first time either, though—but it felt like an inevitability.    

SANSA: come over?

THEON: ill be there in 20

True to his word, a knock came at her door in between her watching compilations of different Love Island Pentos lie detector videos. She swung it open after taking a moment to compose herself, inadvertently smoothing her hair out on her way to greet him.

He was standing there with take-out food in his hand, leaning up against her doorway in a manner that looked a little too casual to not be a façade. Was he as nervous about this as she was? She analyzed his expression as his face broke out into a smile upon seeing her, waving the bag around as if presenting an offering to her. “Brought you some noodles and chicken.”

“Thanks,” she gestured for him to come inside, awkwardly closing the door behind him as he made himself at home, placing the bag of food on top of the countertop adjoining her kitchen with her sitting room. He pulled two white containers out of it before moving to the couch.

She usually didn’t eat on the couch, but she figured she would make an exception just once.

He chanced a glance at her television and raised his brows at the sight of several people standing round in bikinis and swimming trunks while another guy was strapped to some sort of machine in the television screen that they were all staring at with curiosity. “Whatcha watching?”

“Love Island,” she responded as she settled on the sofa next to him, accepting the container from him with a grateful smile as she unpaused the video. Good. Good, they didn’t have to do this right away, if at all. She could back out if she wanted to. Rather than give herself a chance to overthink the proximity between them, she chose to explain the show to him. “They’re making Florian take the lie detector to see if he’s really as committed to Jonquil as he’s telling everyone he is.”

“Do you think he is?” Theon played along with her interest in the show where he might have once made fun of it, probably considering the fact that he had a better chance of getting some action if he was passably nice to her rather than annoying out of his mind. “Into her, I mean.”

She shrugged and turned back to the television, distinctly aware of his eyes still glued to the profile of her face. “He could be. I guess it depends on whether he’s in it for the money or not.”

A moment of silence passed as Florian was asked the first question.

He passed the test, smiling to himself as he confirmed that he thought Jonquil was the best looking girl in the villa.

“I think he is,” Theon declared to which she turned to him bemusedly. “See? He’s got that look in his eyes- the one that says ‘I’m fucked’ and he doesn’t even care who knows it.”

She snorted at his reasoning, watching the next half-hour with Theon (a scenario she never thought would even happen, let alone one that she would enjoy doing) as Florian admittedly did prove his loyalty to Jonquil, especially when the next pair got strapped up and totally bombed it.

As someone—she wasn’t quite sure seeing as she stopped paying attention a good ten minutes ago— started giving their in the moment interview, she found herself looking at Theon. His face was angular and sharp, his hair fluffier than it had been when they were younger. He had bags underneath his eyes but then again, so did she. His lips were tugged up into an unrestrained smile, even as he watched one of the dumbest shows on television just because she called him over. Who was he and what had he done with the Theon Greyjoy she knew and loathed?

He was… pretty, in a sense.

This time, it was him who caught her watching him. There was complete silence as his eyes darted to her lips and then back up, and she found that she wanted nothing more than to pin him down and do what they had done a little over twenty-four hours prior. What was stopping her?

Without giving herself time to second guess herself, Sansa surged forwards, kissing him soundly on the lips despite the taste of wasabi in his mouth and the take-out boxes between them. He pushed them out of the way and bent towards her. When he cupped her jaw with his hand and moved in his spot so that he could comfortably immerse himself in the kiss, she felt a familiar stirring inside of her.

He leaned back just the slightest bit and grazed his mouth along her jaw. “Do you wanna-”

“Shut up,” she interrupted him haughtily before clambering onto his lap, pushing him back against the couch as she moved to straddle him. He complied quickly and returned her angry kiss with an impassioned one of his own, his hands sliding down from her face to grip at her hips as the kiss became something decidedly less chaste and more desperate than either of them foresaw.

His hands seemed to scorch every part of her skin that he touched. 

They had sex twice on the old couch that her brother gifted her with after he graduated college.

When Theon leaned back from the languid kiss they shared while the remnants of their last orgasms faded, the same existential crisis as before hit her harder than she anticipated. She twisted in his arms, enjoying his smell and body heat from where they were wrapped up in each other. Sansa took her time catching her breath, unable to conceive that she was cuddling with Theon Greyjoy, of all people.

Sansa was about to say something before he interrupted her thoughts with a squeeze of her hip and a coy kiss pressed to one of her nipples that had her squirming with laughter. “Do you wanna keep the leftovers or can I?”

The abrupt shift in tone felt so much like whiplash that she felt a bark of laughter come out of her throat. Immediately, she waved a hand as she shifted off his lap, reaching for the shirt that was hanging off the armrest of the couch. Friends could have sex sometimes without ruining the dynamic between them, right? There were tons of movies about it, so it’s not like it was taboo.

“Yeah, go ahead,” she fought not to smile, wondering why she ever thought that this would get awkward. Before she could even get her sweatpants back on, he had zipped his jeans up, gathered his food in his hand, and saluted to her jokingly on his way out of her apartment.

It wasn’t weird at all.

viii

She tried not to be obvious about it at Family Friday.

They did a good job of avoiding each other while everyone was mingling and reverted back to old habits; Theon was standing with Jon and Jeyne in a corner, stretching his arms out animatedly as he talked to them about the game he had coming up soon, and she was laughing along with whatever Robb was saying to her while Arya went searching for more booze.

All she wanted was him, no matter that they were surrounded by at least forty people. Hooking up in the bathroom would be too risky, and there wouldn’t be a way to be sneaky about getting him to leave with her before Catelyn had even served dinner. Gods, they had only been hooking up for two days and she already felt like this was the hardest secret she had ever kept.

If she told Arya about it, she would tell Gendry, and Gendry would tell Jon, and Jon would freak out about it to Robb and also probably to Jeyne, and Jeyne would get angry with Sansa for not telling her, and Robb would throw the biggest fit any of them had seen from this event in years.

It was just easier to keep this to herself, at least for a little while.

It wasn’t fair that she had to settle on watching him from the corner of her eyes when all she wanted was for him to look at her and kiss her in the soft way that contradicted pretty much everything else about him, and grip her hips and-

“Mind if I squeeze past you?” Theon’s voice sounded from behind Robb and suddenly, he was leaning over her to grab a wine cooler from the freezer to her left. He looked good. She held her breath as his body heat seemed to exude from his body to hers, warming her up and sending a chill down her spine simultaneously. He locked eyes with her as he grabbed at the bottle, the hint of a smile quirking at his lips for just a second before it was gone again.

She swallowed, praying to every god that Robb didn’t notice the way she tensed up at their proximity, nor at the way her entire sense of sanity seemed to burst just by being near him.

Thankfully, Robb kept talking. “And I was telling Marge that Loras would be an awesome campaign manager, you know? I mean, he’s got this swagger about him that just pops, but she said I’d do better with the older demographic if I got someone older to work on the bid with me. She said she knows a couple people that’d be good for the job, but I really don’t know, Sansa.”

He started going on about wanting to trust a Northerner in the position, but she just couldn’t get her heart to slow down. When she glanced in Theon’s direction, he was going about his business as usual, tipping the drink back as he subjected himself to Jon and Jeyne’s never-ending PDA.

She tore her eyes away from him, forcing herself to nod and hum in agreement with whatever it was Robb was saying about Rodrik Cassel now, willing herself to just stop thinking about Theon. Just because they were sleeping together didn’t mean anything at all. They were barely friends, let alone anything else, and…

Gods, what was wrong with her?

ix

She hung around until he was done with his session on Wednesday, playing games on her phone to entertain herself while he took shots at the unguarded goal. He had a game coming up, she knew, and was going harder on himself than she had ever seen before. It wasn’t like she had ever paid much attention to Theon’s training habits, but it was hard not to notice how much he was exerting himself to perfect his aim. As she watched another puck swish into the net, she felt a little guilty for never having seen him in action before.

Would it be weird to ask him to go?

She tapped at the cupcake on her screen a few more times before a shadow loomed over her. She looked up to see Theon grinning broadly at her—and gods, did she hate it that her heart fluttered a bit at the sight— as he yanked his mouthpiece out of his mouth and leaned exhaustedly against the sidelines. His eyes were crinkled at the edges as he caught his breath. “Ready to go?”

They ended up eating at a little diner they had both been to a thousand times but never with each other. It was nice, and she wanted to jump him all over again when he asked the waiter to add a scoop of oreo to her chocolate-banana shake. She slurped at the drink happily, practically draining the milkshake within minutes of having it set down in front of her.

He kicked her shin lightly with his boot to which she returned the kick halfheartedly.

Where she might have once wanted it to hurt, now she peered up at him coyly as his legs tangled with hers underneath the table. She bumped his ankle with her own and nearly giggled (giggled!) when he shot her an over-exaggerated wink, shoving a handful of her fries into his mouth all while doing it. It was hard not to fall for him a little bit when he laughed so hard that his sprite came shooting out of his nose and onto the unwitting table they were sitting at.

x

She felt spectacularly out of place as she gripped onto Robb’s arm, following him through the packed crowd of spectators lining up at the rink in Karhold. It wasn’t as big as the one at Winterfell, but it seemed to attract a large crowd, nonetheless. She sighed with relief as they found their courtside seats, plopping down in her own as Robb juggled their hot dogs and soft drinks in his hands.

She tipped her wolf-themed cap forward, trying to feel at ease in the old jersey Theon had given her from the time before he had deflected to his sister’s team. It felt intimate, to wear something so special to him, and like a secret that was only theirs to share. It smelled like him even though he hadn’t worn it to a game in years.

It had a bright blue ‘8’ on the back, and the word ‘Greyjoy’ written right above it.

Though he had a different number now, she felt strange wearing it at all. They had hooked up over ten times by this point, and Theon’s excitement at her asking to come to his game was unparalleled; he had practically thrown some The Wolves merchandise at her and swore to get her the best seats he could, probably just thrilled that hooking up with him finally prompted an interest in hockey.

Robb didn’t seem to find it odd considering that he had his own customized ‘Stark’ jersey that he’d had made in his brief stint trying hockey out before he decided it wasn’t for him.

Her brother slung an arm around her, jostling her lightly and ignoring her protests as some of her coke spilled onto her lap. “Ugh, I’m so glad you’re here. Felt like a fucking loser coming to these alone. I mean, Marge would’ve come but she’s not that into this kinda stuff, you know?”

“Yeah,” Sansa agreed enthusiastically as Robb grinned at her as if he was thrilled that they had something else that they could share together outside of a shared hatred for the same politicians. “I’m willing to try it out. It’s up my alley, what with the ice and skates and all that stuff.”

“For sure,” he bumped the tip of his cap against hers before taking a large sip of his drink and shoving half his hot dog into his mouth. “I’m just surprised you came, considering.”

“Considering?” She raised her brows to which Robb snickered under his breath.

“I mean,” he seemed to be looking for a way to word it gently as an intrusive sound came over the loudspeakers, to which the audience rushed to get to their seats. “You and Thee kinda hate each other. Never thought I’d see the day where you’d come to one of these without me having to force you. Not that I’m complaining, but…” he shrugged and grinned at her, his upper lip covered in mustard. “I’m just glad. My two favorite people, getting along for once.”

She tried not to feel nauseous at the sudden churn in her gut.

“Yeah,” Sansa forced a laugh as the players came barreling out of the entrance she would always use at the start of a routine, immediately catching sight of the ‘14’ that she didn’t even realize that she was searching for. When Theon looked to where she was sitting, it was like her heart had been put through a blender. “I guess we’re kind of friends now.”

xi

When he invited her to go out to the pub for celebratory drinks with the team, she couldn’t find it in herself to say no.

She wanted to see his world, just as he had seen glimpses of hers whenever he would watch her routines from the sidelines of Winterfell’s rink. Robb had gone home to catch a late-night dinner date with Margaery, and so, they were alone for the night.

She was on her second beer on the house when a man with a scruffy beard and a buzz cut ran up to them, clapping Theon on the shoulder jovially. “Having fun yet, squid-boy?”

Theon rolled his eyes at that, having just finished off his IPA, but laughed nonetheless. Most of the team was attempting to drunkenly shoot darts on the far side of the bar, though men in blue and white were scattered all around the establishment, drinking and singing raucously in celebration of their narrow victory against The Giants from Braavos.

“You fucking know it, Tarly. Oh, uh,” he nodded at Sansa beside him, to which Dickon’s seemed to notice her for the first time since approaching them. “This is Sansa. Sansa, this is Dickon. He’s our goalie and a damn good one at that when he’s not pissing himself over some-”

“Cut me some slack, man, that was one time,” Dickon protested to which both men seemed to laugh at whatever inside joke they were referring to. She smiled politely, though it curved into a real one at the sight of Theon having so much fun. The sight of him enjoying himself in his element so unabashedly made her want to watch him play more often, no matter how boring sports usually came to her. “Don’t believe a word he says, got that? He’s a total tool.”

“Oh yeah,” Sansa agreed, never missing out on an opportunity to give Theon a little grief. She snaked an arm around his waist, to which she could feel his surprised eyes swivel over to her questioningly. She glanced up at him, all smiles, and squeezed his side. “He’s the worst.”

“What’s that?” Another guy approached them, stumbling a little on his feet before Dickon steadied him with a helpful hand. “Greyjoy’s the worst? Yeah, that’s not news, lass.”

“Come on,” Theon whined, laughing in spite of being the target everyone was homing in on.

Dickon snorted, grabbing his friend by the arm to stop him from wandering back towards the bar. He shot them a knowing smile and steered the red-haired man back in their direction. “This is Tormund. Bane of our existence, but he’s one of the best out there. Dunno what we’d do if he got drafted somewhere else, especially since-”

“I’d never leave you fuckers,” Tormund cut in, slurring his words as he jabbed a finger into Dickon’s chest before turning to them. “Even you, Greyjoy, and…” he blinked blearily at her for a moment before lighting up. “Ygritte? By the gods, is that-”

“Shut up,” Dickon guffawed as Theon shook with laughter beside her, his arm coming up to rest easily over her shoulders. She tried not to shoot him a look at the clearly thought-out action, enjoying the feeling of him touching her like that in front of people he knew and respected. “Gods, you dumbass, Ygritte’s still up North. Touring, remember? This is Theon’s girl, Sansa.”

She could feel her cheeks warming at the introduction, but did nothing to correct him, instead just accepting the bear hug the other man pulled her into. What was the point of making any clarifications when all it would do was confuse these strangers more than they already were?

Or at least that’s what she told herself when she moved back from the embrace towards Theon, shooting him a look as if to say I want you. There was something exhilarating about belonging to him, and him belonging to her, and she had never wanted to stake a claim on someone as badly as she did watching him mouth along to the 80s pop song playing over the jukebox in the bar.

He was an idiot, but he was her idiot, regardless of the fact that they had yet to try to define their relationship.

He caught on quickly enough, a spark lighting in his gaze as she eyed the door with purpose, complying with the unspoken request in no time. His hand lingered on the small of her back as she led him to the parking lot.

She hastily jerked him off in the backseat of his car, pressing open-mouthed kisses underneath his ear as the windows fogged up around them.

As his own hands dipped underneath the waistband of her underwear, she realized that he hadn’t done anything to correct Dickon either.

xii

She stretched on her side of the bed as the light streaming through the window burned at her eyelids. Turning in her spot, she burrowed closer to the arms wrapped around her, enjoying the rare intimacy for what it was. He never slept over at her place and she rarely slept over at his, only doing so when it was too late for her to take the metro back home. They hadn’t really talked about it the night before, just settling into the comforter on his bed after their third round of going at it. It was lightyears better than trudging back to her home just to fight off a hangover the next morning, especially with the comfort having someone else in bed brought her.

It would be a few hours before she had to go back home to feed Lady before practice, but she couldn’t help but want to savor this. It wasn’t that she liked Theon in any particular way, but she enjoyed having someone to hold her and kiss her and whisper sweet nothings into her ear, and if it happened to be Theon that gave her that, who was she to complain?

He was attractive, surprisingly good in bed, and cared about her. What more could she ask for from a hookup buddy that she occasionally went on dates with and wanted to kiss all the time?

It wasn’t a big deal.

They were just killing time and stress with each other, and it was a better arrangement than she could have ever asked for; she wouldn’t do anything to spoil it now that it was… like this.

Theon was sleeping soundly, his curls obscuring his eyes, ever the deep sleeper no matter what was happening around him whether it be construction or vacuuming or anything loud. She smoothed his hair out over his forehead affectionately before mustering up the energy to get out of bed and get to making something to celebrate his big win. He wouldn’t have another match for a few weeks and deserved better than a spread of toast and jam when he woke up.

She swung her legs over the side of the bed and pulled his abandoned hockey jersey off the floor.

After finishing her morning routine with the extra toothbrush and hairbrush she had left in Theon’s apartment the first time she slept over, she ambled her way over to the kitchen.

Sansa pulled a carton of mostly-full almond milk out of his fridge, smiling softly at the fact that Catelyn had put them all in the habit of using it rather than the ‘real milk’ that they used to get at the grocery store before she insisted this was an alternative that was healthier and tasted better. Reaching over to the top cabinet, she yanked some unopened flour out of it and got started on gathering all of the ingredients she needed to make some crepes. It was his favorite when they were kids, especially with Nutella spread throughout the middle of it.

She had just put the fifth crepe on the plate and poured the sixth one onto the pan when she felt a set of arms wrap around her and a chin on her shoulder. The stove was turned on the lowest setting but even then, she made sure to be vigilant that she didn’t burn it. She tested the edges of the concoction with her spatula, relaxing somewhat when it was still too raw to be flipped over.

“What’s this for?” Theon asked lightly as if he couldn’t believe that anyone would make him crepes for any reason, and her heart thrummed relentlessly with affection for him.

“You’re a winner,” she responded simply, trying her best to keep her expression even. So what if she liked him a little more than she should? This kind of thing was normal when two people were intimate together, but it didn’t have to mean anything. “And winners deserve pancakes.”

Sansa could feel him smiling against her neck as he watched her prod at the edge of the unfinished crepe again, his breath tickling her as he spoke. “I can’t argue with that.”

xiii

They had been hooking up for a little over two months when it happened.

As dangerous as it was to toe the line between friend with benefits and boyfriend, she couldn’t help but indulge her growing feelings for him. They watched movies together and snuggled up to one other as if it was natural to them, and they laughed it up on the ice, once even squandering their back-to-back sessions on Sansa trying to teach him the basics of a couple’s skating routine as he laughed and fumbled his way through every jump, and she kissed him no matter that Shae and Ros were watching her with surprise from the sidelines.

Was it bizarre to be proud of a relationship that didn’t even exist?

“I can’t get you out of my head,” he whispered into her ear as he pushed her leg back further so as to get a better angle as he pounded in and out of her as if she was his lifeline. “So fucking beautiful, Sans, you are.”

It was a Saturday afternoon at Theon’s place and things were happening the way they usually did whenever they were alone. His jeans were hanging around his ankles and her dress was bunched up at her waist, and he was thrusting inside of her while some shitty Netflix original movie played on his television. She clutched at the fabric of his shirt, spreading her legs back further as he sucked at her neck, and then her jaw and then reattached their lips once more.

They were lost to the world and to every sound, responsibility, and reality around them.

“Theon,” Sansa gasped as he hit a particularly sensitive spot inside of her. “I want you so-”

“What,” a voice that definitely wasn’t coming from the television sounded from across the living room, almost as if pulled from one of her worst nightmares. “The actual fuck?”

For a moment, her eyes met Theon’s and all she could do was gape at him.

“Get the fuck out!” She heard herself screeching as Theon uncomfortably pulled out of her, standing directly in front of her as if to shield her nudity from their intruder’s eyes. When the other man made no move to leave, as if he couldn’t believe he wasn’t having a horribly twisted dream of some sort, she felt hysteria build up at her throat. “Robb, seriously, get out!”

“Holy shit,” Robb choked out as he sprinted into the kitchen, eyes covered as if he had seen the seven hells themselves and not his best friend having sex with his sister. “Holy shit, holy shit, holy shit.”

Robb was still talking to himself when she swiftly pulled her underwear back on, cursing her luck that he would just choose now to wander into Theon’s apartment with the spare key he never used. She tugged her dress back over her knees as Theon got the last button of his jeans done up, straightening his shirt out as if clean clothes would suddenly make this better.

Theon wasn’t as scared shitless as she thought he would be in this kind of situation, or as nervous as she was as she eyed the iced coffee that Robb spilled all over the ground in his accidental interruption of their intimate moment. If only they had moved to the bedroom, maybe Robb would have just heard what was happening and left of his own accord…

Not that it made any difference now.

He had seen what he saw and there was nothing they could say to spin it.

Theon seemed calm, resigned almost. He pressed a soft kiss to Sansa’s cheek when she eyed him inquisitively, wondering what the hell they were going to tell her brother. It wasn’t like they could lie and say they were dating without digging a hole for themselves, nor could they just come out and say they were screwing considering Robb would probably attack him for it.

“You guys decent yet?” Robb’s gruff voice came from the kitchen.

She sighed and bowed her head as Theon responded to the question. “Yeah.”

Robb was staring at them as if they had each grown two heads when he came back into the sitting room, glaring at the spot of the couch where he had seen them fucking just moments ago.

When no one said anything, Robb’s brows shot up as he gestured between them confusedly. They were standing far enough apart that it wouldn’t set him off, though that fact didn’t seem lost on Robb as he frowned at them with their swollen lips and disheveled hair. “What the hell is this?”

They glanced at each other briefly and Sansa could feel herself begin to freak out a little.

“I-” she started, immediately regretting that she spoke before shaking her head. “I, um-”

Another moment passed and she felt her cheeks start to heat up.

“We haven’t labeled anything,” Theon jumped in, to which she felt a weight lifted off her, despite the hesitance in her heart at the concept of telling Robb the complete truth. He fumbled through an explanation of whatever the hell they were calling themselves. “We’re just uh… playing it like we’re feeling it, you know? It’s just… we’re seeing each other, kind of.”

Robb’s stare was stony. “So you’re sleeping with my sister and she’s not your girlfriend.”

“Listen, man-” Theon started, to which Robb immediately cut him off.

“Don’t listen, man me,” he spat out with a hostility she had never seen him treat Theon with, crossing his arms over his chest defiantly. “What I’m hearing is that after all the shit you know she’s been through, you’re using her to get your rocks off. Seriously, Theon? I didn’t think you-”

“It’s not like that,” Theon protested, stepping towards Robb pleadingly. There was a sincerity in his voice that almost took her aback as he approached his best friend with the caution of a man who knew he’d get punched in the face if he said the wrong thing. “You know I’d never do that.”

“Then what is it like?” Robb pressed him. “C’mon, Theon, explain it to me. If you’re not just screwing her because she’s-”

“Cut it out,” Theon pinched the bridge of his nose just like Ned used to do whenever one of them would get a detention slip at school and bring it home to put on the ‘fridge of shame’, which did more to encourage the minute crimes than it did dissuade them. “Robb, I’m really into her, and I-”

In that moment, she would have given anything to hear the rest of what he started to say about either her or their not-relationship, or about how he felt about her, or… any of it, really. He stopped himself as if just realizing the gravity of what he had said. 

“No, tell me. Please, I’m dying to know what you think you’re doing with my sister if it’s-”

“Robb, stop it.” Sansa interrupted him heatedly, inserting herself into the argument once it became apparent that it was going nowhere but in circles. “I appreciate that you care, but I’m a grown woman. If I want to have sex with Theon on his couch, it’s my business to do that.”

Silence pervaded the air.

Robb’s mouth opened and closed at her assertation, his brows furrowing as if he wasn’t sure how to approach any of what she just said. Even Theon seemed frozen in place at her bluntness.

What was it to Robb if they hooked up anyway? It was one thing if it had been when she was younger and Theon was considerably less considerate of other people’s feelings, but she was halfway through her twenties and was well-versed enough in good, bad, and mediocre relationships to make her own choices. She hadn’t said a word about Jon and Jeyne, nor had she tried to intervene in Robb’s relationship with Margaery. It shouldn’t matter what Sansa did.

So she continued. “Besides, if you’re going to show up, it’s only polite to text first. Maybe you could have spared all of us this conversation if you had just popped a text over to him-”

“I didn’t know you two would be going at it when I came in,” Robb spluttered, “besides, what’s wrong with the bedroom? Gods, Sansa, you’re my little sister. I didn’t need to see any of that!”

“Again,” she placed both hands on her hips, scolding him in the best impression of their mother that she could manage. “You should have texted first. This isn’t anyone’s fault but yours.”

A few moments passed before Robb let out a defeated sigh. “Fine.”

“Fine?” Theon asked, to which Robb shot him a dirty look for speaking at all, evidently needing a little more than five minutes to forgive his friend for what he had just accidentally witnessed.

“I’m not happy about it,” the words seemed to pain Robb to say but he was getting them out anyways. “But it’s not my business. Whatever. I still need you two to Venmo me, though.”

“What?” Sansa asked immediately, surprised at the proclamation. “Why?”

“The coffee,” Robb stated matter-of-factly as he gestured to the iced coffee that was forming yet another stain in Theon’s already damaged carpeting. “And also for the emotional labor you just put me through. Also add on some tax for me being cool about it. I think it’s only right.”

Theon exhaled and shook his head to himself. “Fair enough.”

xiv

“It’s whatever,” Theon assured her as Robb eyed them queasily at Family Friday the next week, trying and failing not to glance over at them every few moments. “He’ll get over it, Sans.”

She frowned, glancing down into her wine glass as he leaned against the wall next to her.

No one thought anything of them talking to each other, considering everyone made their rounds every few weeks to catch up with everyone in the family. Even Jeyne and Arya were laughing together near the record player, a sight Sansa once would have bet against ever seeing happen in her lifetime. She couldn’t get the confrontation from a few days before out of her head, replaying every moment of it to herself in fits of both anxiety and mortification at being found out that way. Most of all, she couldn’t let go of that one thing Theon had said before Robb cut him off.

“What did you mean before?” She couldn’t help herself from asking him, though she knew it would either open a can of worms neither of them was prepared to deal with or kickstart an even more humiliating conversation. “When you were talking to Robb, you said something.”

“Sansa,” Theon sighed resignedly, as if he had been fearing this conversation every day since the argument with Robb had happened. They had spent every day of it together aside from Tuesday, but the nature of it weighed on her as the very thing she had feared happening since he pulled her braid between his fingers nearly nine weeks earlier. “Don’t worry about it, okay?”

“Theon.” She spoke firmly, ignoring the boisterous laughter and cheer around them. “Please.”

“I’ll be whatever you want me to be,” he assured her, inadvertently confirming what she had probably known for weeks now but couldn’t bear to admit to herself. His voice was strained as he addressed their not-relationship for what it was and what it had become. “You know I care about you. Isn’t that enough? You don’t need to worry about my feelings, Sans, I swear.”

It hit her like a train.

“How do you feel about me, Theon?” She asked him quietly despite the setting, needing to get it on the table now for reasons she couldn’t begin to explain to herself. Even she wasn’t sure what she wanted to hear from him; confirmation would only make her feel worse about using him, and denial would break her heart from the inside out.

She was happy with where they were; with falling in love with him when there was nothing at stake, nothing to lose, nothing to risk.

If they took a leap now and it didn’t work out, how would they even go about dealing with each other at Family Fridays? How could they both hang onto Robb, to Father, to Rickon, to Bran if they couldn’t even stand to be around each other? And what if they dived into a relationship (a real, open, public one) just to find that they didn’t actually have feelings for each other after all?

Robb knew now and with Robb would come Margaery and Bran, and Catelyn and the line would keep going until everyone knew and they would have no choice but to allow outside influences into what was something just for them. Her brother was a catalyst for the realization that people were going to find out about them eventually, some way or another. It was only a matter of time.

The possibilities were endless and only a couple of them didn’t end with heartbreak.

He averted his eyes. “You know how I feel about you.”

“Theon,” her voice broke on the word, unable to stop her heart from squeezing at the way he said it. Gods, when had she started caring so deeply about him? “Theon, I- I don’t want to hurt you.”

Theon didn’t say anything to that, seeming to know where this was going.

“Maybe we should end this,” she whispered, hating herself for even thinking the words let alone saying them out loud. She didn’t want to end things; she wanted to wrap her arms around him and kiss him in front of everyone, and get to follow through on Dickon’s assumption about them mere weeks ago.

She cherished him so deeply, but the risk of hurting him worse down the line, or of opening herself up to a hurt she didn’t know she could cope with after all that had happened already… it wouldn’t be possible to recover from that. Ending things now might spare them the pain of having to do it later. “Theon, I...”

“Okay,” he bit his lip and nodded, looking away from her again. “If that’s what you want.”

She didn’t want that.  She wanted to kiss him and hold him and make love to him and build a life with him and do everything she wanted to do with little regard for how it could end up if things went awry. No matter what she wanted, she couldn’t be selfish. Not with him.

Her lower lip wobbled as he shoved his hands into his pockets, not seeming to know what to do with them when there wasn’t a glass or a hand for him to hold. “Do you need a ride home?”

She blinked with surprise at the question and she fought not to throw her arms around him.

Shaking her head no, she rationalized to herself that Robb could take her home if she asked him. If not him, Gendry could always drop her off. She wouldn’t put Theon through having to do that for her, especially since she knew there was a fair chance that she wouldn’t be able to spend a half-hour in a car with him without jumping him or worse, begging him to forgive her for making a decision based entirely on what could go wrong as opposed to acting on impulse.

She had done that before, though. With Joffrey and Ramsay and Harry, and all of them had ended up breaking her heart and damaging her irreparably in some way or another.

Sansa wasn’t sure she could take it another time, especially not now that he was looking at her with watery, devoted, beautiful eyes and all she wanted to do was fall deeper in love with him until they were as sickening as Jon and Jeyne were, feeding hors d'oeuvres into each other’s mouths and going on couple walks with their dog together (and gods was it terrifying that Lady seemed to love him so much whenever she got to see Theon) and acted like a real couple.

She wanted it but it terrified her.

“I’m gonna go, okay?” Theon touched her elbow with his hand, smiling gently at her as if he had been expecting this from the first, and she wanted to scream. “I just need some… time.”

Before she could ask him to stay—in the room, at the house, in her heart—he was grabbing his keys off the counter and heading out of the front door without saying a word to anyone.

xv

He didn’t show up to his session the next week.

Sansa took an extra long time getting changed in the locker room afterward, practically breaking down in remembrance of their first time in here and how angry and passionate it had been in comparison to the tender way they had held each other on Thursday night a week prior.

She had made a mistake by ending things. She knew that the moment he walked out of the door and left her to her thoughts. She wanted him to show up at her place and hold her like nothing had happened at all. 

Risks were dangerous and could hurt. She knew that better than anyone considering how many she had taken just to get burned.

But him… she missed him.

She missed the way he would laugh into their kisses as if he couldn’t believe she was real, and the way he made fun of her for the way she folded her omelets, and the way he would coo at Lady when he thought he was alone.

She might love him just a little bit.

Or a lot.

It took her an hour of waiting to realize he wasn’t coming at all.

xvi

He didn’t come to Family Friday either.

xvii

She missed him.

Sansa was curled up on her couch, patting Lady gently as her dog snored away and some show about a gang of kids doing magic played on her television. She drafted half a dozen texts to him, just managing to resist sending them for the sake of her sanity and his own.

It wasn’t right for her to say anything to him when he gave her everything he could without outright saying it. I’ll be whatever you want me to be, was stamped into her mind with permanent ink as if to remind her of how deeply she had fucked up by getting scared.

Maybe they could have avoided this if he had been upfront with her about his feelings the night of his game. That was when she remembered it shifting for her; that everything seemed to fit into perspective with an arm around his waist—a touch she had initiated in a moment of weak selfishness.

Gods, why hadn’t she just told him how she felt?

She knew him well enough to know for certain that he wouldn’t have rushed her no matter how she told him she was feeling. And gods, she felt like she knew every expression on his face and every gross or strange habit he had when he thought no one was paying attention and every insecurity he had confided in her about belonging with The Wolves and with the Starks while they were laying in bed together.

Scrolling through the selfies they had taken together made it even worse. She faltered when she got to the ones where they were half obscured by her sheets and half nude, laughing and making out to her impromptu photoshoot that no one would ever see.

There were more— of him in his cartoon octopus-patterned underwear making omelets, of them in their beanies and scarves when they went to that Volantine place on third street for dinner, of them making out in the arcade they used to go to when they were younger, of them laughing selfie after selfie.

I don’t want to hurt you, she had said, as if she hadn’t already done it to both of them by breaking things off.

xviii

She ran into him three weeks after their last conversation, as she was leaving her practice session and he was going to his own. Though she had spent a fair amount of time refreshing his Instagram over and over in hopes that he would post something, seeing him in person nearly took her breath away. He was wearing his jersey and looked the same as he always had.

He smiled the smallest bit at her as he made his way towards the ice.

There was hurt in his eyes but he didn’t say anything, instead just opting to get down to business rather than make an attempt to make small talk like they were still friends after what had happened. She wasn’t sure that she would have been able to forgive someone who chose to run away from her rather than give a relationship between them a fighting chance; why should he give her the time of day when she made her choice weeks ago? Had they ever even been friends?

Yes, she decided, recalling the ice pack and the geometry homework and the fishing line and the banana-chocolate milkshake. We were friends.

xix

She was out at lunch with Robb when he asked her the question that she had been dreading. It was like an elastic band between them, being tugged on harder and harder until it eventually snapped. The topic was sore still, and she suspected it would be for quite some time afterward.

“Have you talked to him?” Robb’s eyes were unreadable as he dug his fork into a piece of iceberg lettuce, twisting it around with no real intention of actually eating it. She squared her jaw as he continued, wanting nothing more than to disappear. “He told me you guys broke up.”

“Yeah,” she confirmed dryly, not knowing what else to say.

“Why?” He frowned as if there was something deeply troubling about it. They had gone back to mutual tolerance with limited interactions at family gatherings, just like they had done when she was eighteen and nursing the hurt of a forgotten make out session in the bathroom of a shitty bar.

If anything, Robb should have been glad that nothing had to change.

She shrugged lifelessly, swirling the contents of her cocktail as she summoned up the will to drink the too-strong drink.

She didn’t have it in her to regurgitate the same lie she had told Margaery when her friend inevitably asked her about it. It wasn’t even a breakup, really, but it felt worse than any of the relationships she had ended before.

Her heart ached even a month after the fact, her wounds reopening the moment she would catch a glimpse of him on the rink or across the dinner table. “I was scared.”

“But you love him,” Robb implored and if looks could kill, he probably would have been dead thrice over. She adored her brother, but this line of questioning did nothing but singe her heart more than she had already burnt it herself. He looked at her with thinly veiled concern. “Right?”

Sansa swallowed, suddenly regretting ever agreeing to get lunch with her brother. Anger bubbled up within her at the nerve of him, asking these questions when he knew she was still hurting over it. She couldn’t help but ask the question on her mind. “Why are you doing this?”

“He’s a mess without you,” Robb admitted cautiously. “And he’d kill me for saying this but I don’t wanna see either of you like this anymore. I’ve never seen him like this about anyone, Sansa. If you love him even half as much as I know he loves you, you’ve got to text him and make it right.”

Her mouth went dry at the turn the conversation had taken, every suggestion he made sounding more and more like he was speaking in a foreign language.

”What if he...” Sansa started, trailing off at the possibilities in their near-month apart. What if he moved on? What if he found someone else? What if he couldn’t trust her enough to ever let her in again? What if he stopped caring?

”He loves you,” Robb assured her sternly, not looking any more uncomfortable than he had when he first caught them together. “He told me so. He doesn’t care about anything but you. Trust me, he’s even watching those stupid Bachelor shows you always loved.”

Her heart felt fit to burst.

“I know it’s my fault this happened,” he continued awkwardly, “and I won’t say I’m thrilled about you two being… you know, together, but I think you should be. If that’s what you want. And if it’s not, go ahead and tell me so, but I’m pretty sure you’re looking at me like that because you wanna be with him and you don’t know why you’re wasting your time here.”

Within seconds, she was grabbing her coat and dashing out of the restaurant, leaving her older brother to fend for himself when the bill came.

xx

He was on the ice when she found him, not doing much practicing at all in anticipation of seeing her again. She was practically heaving with exertion at the distance she had run to get here, having made the trek across town just to get to catch him before he left, despite the assurances he texted her that he would still be at the rink by the time she got there.

Theon zigzagged his way over to her as soon as she entered, discarding his stick immediately over the edge of the gate. His voice was breathless when he spoke, his hair messy from having worn a helmet earlier, and each syllable sounded like a symphony. “Sansa.”

She wanted to hug him and hold him and apologize for ever being afraid to take a chance on him.

“Hey,” she announced, her hands trembling as she held onto the edge of the metal bar in front of her. She wasn’t sure how to say this, though she had gone over monologue after monologue in her head the entire way here. What could she even say to him now that he was standing there, looking like the sun shone only because she told it to?

“Hey,” he responded, smiling softly as he opened the gate, minding his step with skates on.

“Theon, I’m sorry,” she started, getting ready to launch into a tirade of apologies when he took her hands in his, offering her more compassion than had expected after the cool way they had avoided each other over the past weeks. For a moment, she thought to give him the elaborate explanation she had come up with on her way here when she decided she didn’t need to do that. “I love you. I’m sorry that I ever-”

She barely got a chance to get the last word out when he was suddenly leaning over, kissing her like it was all he ever wanted to do. Sansa melted into his touch, kissing him back just as she had the first time she had led him from this rink into the locker room to their left.

“Don’t be,” he murmured against her lips, cupping her cheeks with both of his hands, warmth seeming to pool in his eyes. “You needed time. I get it. As long as you need, I’ll love and wait-”

Unable to resist, she connected their lips once more.

His lips were cold and chapped but it was perfect. There was so much that remained unsaid between them, but they had nothing but time. What was love without some kind of a risk? Without putting something on the line?

When he laughed against her lips, she pulled away slightly. “Do you want to get some food? On me?”

Theon nodded, leaning his forehead against hers as they breathed each other in. “Yeah.”